Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" grows up and mixes with some gay guys sex life - possibly mine.
Her name was Janet; the boys called her Janet the Planet behind her back, and sometimes when en masse, to her face. About forty pounds overweight for her diminutive frame, her face sprayed with an assortment of acne, blackheads, and freckles, she was not one of the lucky ones. She was not one the boys would pray the spinning bottle would stop before,and the few girlfriends she had would turn on her the moment peer pressure would rear it’s insistent head. This was especially true when the boys were around and the girls were out to confirm their cool by divorcing themselves from all things uncool - like Janet.
Her life at home was not much of a respite from her teen-angst. She lived with her adoptive parents, the mother of whom was bipolar. Her mother’s bouts of depression and anger were
followed by manic episodes of excessive drinking, while in these phases she would smoother Janet with an exaggerated kind of drunken love. Janet became a human incubator for low self-esteem. She journeyed into womanhood removed from her parents and ridiculed by the boys whose attentions she was covertly starting to crave.
As is often the case with those more fragile, Janet sought out the strong. The boys in the park, with their faux-fearlessness, their testosterone-deadened personalities, they were the
boys that emerged in Janet’s nocturnal flights of fancy. With them she would be accepted; she would be cool by association. Mostly she would be safe. Safe from distant parents,
disingenuous friends, and boys like them. Of course the boys saw her mostly as an object of ridicule, they were busy with the Heathers, those early bloomers who walked out of their
houses one warm spring day with newly sprouted breasts. They wanted the girls who were always surrounded by other pretty girls; the ones the other boys wanted. Janet may as well have been a far away planet as distant and cold as her fourteen-year-old life often felt.
By the age of fifteen Janet discovered blowjobs, the one thing sure to get a guys attention and keep them coming back for more. It was the old tradeoff of sex for love, but with a dark twist. This was not rooted in the usual peer pressure to be a non-virgin, or the typical if you love me you would proviso that desperate boys put on love, this was an unspoken contract: do it and he’s here, don’t and he’s gone. So she did it – a lot. Sometimes to more than one guy a night, sometimes successively. The boys no longer picked on her, at least not to her face, and Janet got their attention, at least in fifteen-minute spurts – so to speak. Whether by design or by some natural survival instinct, her former tormentors were now her lovers – well, kind of.
Danny is twenty-eight-years old, obviously Irish with his red hair and fair skin, a lithe, slightly V-shaped body courtesy of Bally’s, and the bluest eyes you’ll ever see. He poses
with his back to the bar, a beer bottle in his hand and his head imitating a lighthouse as it scans the bar: left to right, right to left, for the better part of the night. “All Marys, not a man in the place.” He comments unenthusiastically. Danny can’t stand Marys, which is pretty odd
for someone who would rarely be mistaken for straight. If I didn’t know that he belongs to every gay rights group in New York City I would swear he was a self-hating queer. As Danny often puts it “Queens just don’t do it for me, if I’m going to be in bed with a man I want him to be a man, not a little girl with a dick hanging off her.”
We go back some fifteen years or so, some kind of indiscernible gay-gravity pulling us closer to each other than to the other guys we hung around with. Cindi Lauper CDs and immense future plans cemented our friendship, as did the fact that we both sucked on the
handball court. The guys we considered our friends could be pretty cocky and cruel at times, and more than once referred to us as “the faggots”. They were especially cruel to the defenseless Danny, not that I was any more intimidating than he, I just happen to have two older bothers that they feared. He was a quick road to male prowess for the other boys; they could easily boss and beat him, all in exhibition to show the other boys they were not afraid to fight, and to prove to girls that they were men and able to protect.
Danny exited his closet at the age of twenty, two years earlier than I. Having front row seats to his gay life is a bit like watching a drunk gamble, so high and hopeful till once again
he realizes he’s placed it all on the wrong number. Life has been a succession of men who were at best inaccessible, and at worst malicious. Married men and other closet cases,
straight posers at the porn theaters and the parks, and the tough guys left when the bar closed, these are what pass through his door in the early morning hours. Too cemented in their closets to fuck, but they’ll take a blowjob – because that isn’t really gay, and Danny is always more than happy to oblige. Eventually even the idea of Danny blowing them soon
frightens them, and they stop coming around.
It would be easy to paint him a victim of circumstance, to pity his unfortunate fate that brings him such pathetic pickings of lovers except for the fact that he continually seeks out
these kinds of men. Exclusively. They are the clichés of manhood that he was raised with; they aren’t little girls with dicks. They aren’t the shiraz drinking, Broadway bound, summer-
share sissies that colonize the expensive neighborhoods. These are beer guzzling, slightly sweaty, dirty-sneakered boys of Brooklyn; today’s incarnates of the boys who picked on us
so many years ago. His former tormentors are now his lovers - well, sort of.
It defies logic, yet it so permeates the gay world; we’re hot for straight boys. From our personal ads to our porn sites, straight-boys abound. Click here for hot straight boys from
the eastern block; click there for drunk naked frat boys, hot straight marines: only $3.99 for a three-day trial. These teasers flash at you from very major gay porn site. And the personal ads, I’ve never seen so many self-described “straight acting” queers in my life. Where are they all, and who the hell is doing all the lisping in the bar? If we were all so straight acting Abercrombie and Fitch and Nair for Men would be out of business. I can see being attracted
to these straight boys, their inaccessible broodiness, their false bravado, even the rhythmless dancing can have its charm: but we are not them. We’re too well dressed
With freedom of choice being what it is, it’s hard to cast Janet and Danny as victims of circumstance; we live in a society that allows us the freedom to choose with whom we share our hearts and our beds. A more plausible label would be "casualty of culture". Various rights movements aside, we still exist in a largely male dominated society. A brief glance at
Forbes’ Top Ten List, or a flip through the Who’s Who in American Politics and you get the message. Across the board the straight males still hold the monopoly on power, whether that power be financial, worldly respect, or brute strength. Those of us less powerful by nature or indoctrination, tend to form a symbiotic relationship with the big boys: it is power by association, second-hand testosterone.
With feminism taking ill in the eighties, and hobbling to its eventual death in the nineties, young girls have gone back to the days of Mystery Date, perpetually spinning the
doorknob and hoping that Mr. Right will appear this time. Gays and lesbians who enjoyed a phoenix’s fire of solidarity and lesbian chic in the nineties have been pushed back in their
closets by an administration giving voice to the most homophobic of religious zealots. Laura Croft, Barney Frank, and Hillary Clinton aside, the recognition of women and gay men in this country are token recognitions at best, and of these three only Barney Frank seems comfortable in his own skin. Laura Croft is too filled with silicone to have any true worth as a
feminist icon, and Hillary Clinton addresses only those women’s issues that pertain to women as a family appendage. Do we vilify them or do we simply admit they do what they must to get ahead in this culture?
Until women and gays rally and demand an acceptance based in who they truly are, the Vassar educated, Lawyer/Senator Hillary will pretend to be some housewife harpie, outraged by the constant threat of flag-burning. in a culture that designates them to roles of sweet subservience and buffoonery, Hillary will ignore the true issues facing women and stand strong on her platform of anti flag burning drivel. Gay men will be visible only as the gay equivalent of Amos and Andy on some nightly shitcom. Straight men will continue to be
the image of power. Until we find some way to level the distribution of power there will always be those who inherit it, and those who will do what they can to acquire it. Perhaps we should get up off our knees, look our straight brothers directly in the eyes and tell them that it’s their turn. Or stay down there on our knees, but only because we like it.