not a problem for lesbians since we don't have sex.
recent events conclusively demonstrate, a sexual relationship
involves vaginal penetration by a penis. I am so relieved,
and so is my mother. It was just, these last 30 years,
fooling around. What constitutes sex has always been
a messy business. Jimmy Carter had lust in his heart,
Clinton had orgasms in the wrong orifice, and I don't
have a dick. In high school, first base was kissing,
second was breasts, third was hand-genital contact,
and the home run was It. Masturbation, well, no one
talked about masturbation. One of the most revealing
aspects of the national sex opera has been the glib
way "phone sex" became current. What, exactly, is phone
sex? Would it fit? Phone sex is masturbation, of course,
but Ken Starr can't accuse Clinton of jerking off while
talking on the phone because if jerking off is sex,
even Ken Starr starts to look guilty. He may not be,
in those morning walks down by the river, reading psalms.
a lesbian perspective, adultery is like a right-handed
school desk: it doesn't quite fit. Adultery is a legal
concept, not a moral one, and an offshoot of marriage,
which is a contract. Since lesbians can't get married,
no adultery! But O.K., let's make that desk fit. Although
the legal aspects of nonmarriage matter greatly if you're
gay --around, for instance, issues like parenting, property,
power of attorney --we'll focus on the emotional component:
trust, promises, betrayal.
gay people are left-handers in a right-handed world,
we have the opportunity to rethink assumptions. We are
outside the box, so to speak,and our commitments may
or may not resemble heterosexual marriages. I know three
men who have been happily "married" to each other for
many years, and several lesbian couples for whom sexual
fidelity is not a requirement.
unencumbered by the fear of unwanted pregnancy, more
that the defining moment of sex
is not a man's ejaculation.
unencumbered by the fear of unwanted pregnancy, more
easily discover that the defining moment of sex is not
a man's ejaculation. Sex is not an act but a state:
one's physiology changes, one's consciousness alters.
Consequently, the facts of sexual interaction often
sound bizarre or shabby; another person's desires can
be difficult to identify with. As Yeats wrote, "Love
has pitched his mansion in/The place of excrement."
I would assume that most people have done something
at least as racy as Bill Clinton's game with his cigar.
If not, get busy. Sex expresses a great range of intents:
from exquisite love to vicious violation, from appetites
satisfied like hunger to fantasies enacted or reenacted.
sexual impulse can be amoral and ferocious; it is powerful
enough, literally, to create other people. In a condition
of full-blown lust, judgment may get suspended or, as
the president's woes illustrate, utterly lost. I offer
my students this fruit born of my own woes: be careful
who you go to bed with. You might bond with somebody
you don't even like.
and love may not be synonymous, but they are painfully
entangled, as anyone gored by betrayal will report.
the early seventies, while radical lesbians were busy
smashing monogamy, my first woman lover asked me what
I thought about jealousy. I don't know, I said, never
felt it, only to find out a few hours later that she
had made this inquiry in front of another woman she'd
been having sex with. Fooling around with. Making love
with. Fucking. Jesus, was I mad. This was such a primitive,
howling rage that I socked a plaster wall and injured
my hand. So much for theory.
betrayal can cause fury and guilt and sorrow, but sexual
commitment is like promising to drive a certain car
for the rest of your life; even a Rolls or a Ferrari
would get tiresome, and it's so easy to rent a Mustang
when you're out of town. What's a grown-up to do?
would assume that most people have done something at
least as racy as Bill Clinton's game with his cigar.
If not, get busy.
is one option. Or at least minimizing, and keeping the
details out of the injured party's knowledge. My idea
of a sane marriage is that two people promise to stick
with each other no matter what, and of course that would
include "adultery." Since I am thin-skinned and bestial
in these matters, I hope my partner remains faithful;
if not, please don't feel the need to share. Leslie's
idea of commitment is different: she wants honesty from
me, so I will do my best with fidelity, partly because
I have been around the block more than a few times,
but mostly because I want to be trustworthy.
Hillary Clinton stays with her husband for the same
reason that Lillian Hellman stayed with Dashiell Hammett
and I would stay with Leslie no matter what she did.
In adult relationships, commitment is a working fact,
not a question. That doesn't mean Hillary wants to know
about the cigar or Monica's orgasms, or that she doesn't
find it dreadful having every detail about her husband's
affair aired and printed.
public undressing has, however, done us all an immense
good, at least in the long run. He is the first president
to recognize, albeit clumsily, gay people. When Maya
Angelou, in the inaugural poem, listed homosexuals in
her catalog of Americans, I surprised myself by crying.
Until that moment I hadn't acknowledged how dispossessed
as a citizen I'd felt; gay people are the only group
whose civil rights are still openly debated. I believe
gay people are threatening, not because we're homosexual,
but because we're sexual at all. Heterosexuals cloak
desire in state-sanctioned, church-sanctioned unions.
Underneath lies a rotten layer of secrecy, hypocrisy,
repression. In many states, laws remain on the books
that forbid sodomy. Although no one seems quite clear
about what sodomy actually is, it can apparently be
construed to include not only homosexual acts but oral
and anal sex between married folks. We're a nation of
shame. Part of Clinton's legacy will be that he's brought
sex out of the closet.