Monday, January 5, 2009
Another long and winding road
I ran across this story buried in the fashion and style section of Fridays' NYT.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis's America Anonomyous chronicles the struggle of eight men and women from around the country as battle their addictions.
Denizet-Lewis's story revolves around his addiction to gay chat rooms for sexual hook-ups.
It is very sobering. For anyone who has ever struggled with addiction or ever known some one close they were unable to help, this looks like an enlightening read.
Reading that article made me think of another book: The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, (1997) by Daniel Harris. I couldn't help but see them as (loosely) related.
In The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, Daniel Harris ponders the fate of gay male culture in the face of its entrance into the mainstream. Library Journal describes Harris book:
"Harris compares various aspects of the pre- and post-Stonewall subculture, ranging over topics such as underwear ads from Ah Men and International Male catalogs; pornographic literature and film; After Dark and Out magazines; the transformations of hypermasculine S/M leather culture and hyperfeminine drag...; and, finally, "The Kitschification of AIDS."
At the time the internet was only beginning to reshape the ways people meet. Of course by 2003 this shift was all but complete. Gay culture is now deeply enmeshed with the internet.
Singles meeting socially have gradually been overshadowed (in gay circles at least) with online cruising. Denizet-Lewis's story is just one of many sad tales circulating about the dangers of slipping into addiction.... the recent increase of cystal-meth abuse stands out in particular. Denizet-Lewis's story is important because is focuses on softer methods... I mean, seriously, hook-up sites are the new bars. Younger people are coming of age with these sites as the social norm... there isn't the stigma anymore...
I forget who joked...Graham Norton, I think... "hook-up sites have convinced half the population to get naked for the delight and enjoyment of the other half."
That's only the half of it.... Some sites are worse than others. Gaymusclebears for one feels much like a social network, while something like Manhunt is singularly focused on quick sex. There are dozens if not hundreds of sites that canvas the range...
I love the internet... I think it is amazing that people can find each other and meet in so many and different ways... but I am concerned for those who get lost...
It is all part of a larger arch in the ongoing cultural shifts. I'd like to many more positive and supportive communities will emerge than rabbit holes for people to lose themselves in.
Harris's book is interesting for it's discussion of the history and evolution of gay cultural paradigms, which logically leads to the kind of vacuum that people like Denizet-Lewis has struggled in.
While I disagree with portions of Harris's thesis, I do think he brings up very interesting issues about the ways people relate and the roles they assume to validate themselves.
I would like to see and hear more about this... anybody interested in a conversation?