First and Fiftieth
Ten Million Years
The Last Saturday in May
First and Fiftieth
Ben and Joe's
A View from the Edge
God would be an atheist
A London woman in her late twenties
But like the alpha male he was, thirty-three, six feet one, first class degree, athletic, intelligent and founder and boss of Upthrust, a coming new enterprise in the heart of Soho, he leapt to his feet to take charge of the situation. “Tell me, Fanny,” he asked, casually walking over to the window where he could look down at the summer buffet of bare, buffed bodies, “how familiar are you with Michel Foucault?”
“The name tickles a forgotten g-spot,” I said, my eye temporarily drawn to his latest screensaver, a footballer with a dangling testicle dodging opponents as the caption bounced by: ‘keep your eye on the ball.’
“French philosopher, wasn’t he?” I went on. With a second in linguistics, not to mention naturally blond hair, self-supporting 36D Moet and Chandon and hips described by my personal bank assistant as the nemesis of SW1, I was, as ever, determined not to let Roger entirely dominate our intercourse.
“Indeed!” Roger ejaculated, then smiled, satisfied. “Michel Foucault, philosopher and progenitor of modern queer theory.” Momentarily distracted by some passing specimen, he loosened his tie.
Now I remembered. Roger had explained queer theory to me one evening when we were either taking a break from work by practising the 37th position of the Kama Sutra, or taking a break from the Kama Sutra in order to work. As I lay on the couch rubbing the cramp from my thighs, he had explained feminism, post-feminism, post-modern feminism, queer- and post-queer theory as carefully as a pantomime dame stripping off her knickers, ending with the Third Way, the Milky Way or whatever label best described current theories of gender-and-sexuality.
“Does that mean,” I asked, “there is such a thing as ancient queer theory?”
All men have their weaknesses - some men are all weakness. Spotting sarcasm is not one of Roger’s strong points. “I suppose Plato’s theory of the divided soul could be seen as an early attempt to break down rigid divisions between the sexes,” he said. “But Plato didn’t go far enough. Otherwise instead of making his Republic as uptight as a claustrophobe’s convention, he would have peopled it with young men exchanging meaningful glances in the Agora and body fluids on the steps of the Parthenon.
“Foucault’s basic problem,” he went on, switching topics as smoothly and efficiently as he turned his partner if her face was inadvertently smothered by a pillow. “was that he hid his sexuality. He never admitted that his one goal in life was being stripped naked and having the living daylights whipped out of him. Or was it the other way round? But whoever was whipping whom, it had to be in public, with as many people as possible watching him. As long as no-one knew who he was.”
Next story: Homophobia, Darling
"Sometimes you sit, watch the trains, the sunset, the rain. Sometimes you talk. Tell your story if you've a mind to. Trouble is, memory changes things. Things you want to forget. Things you want to remember that never happened. Happens to everybody. Gets so, nobody's story's true. Not yours, not mine. But it's all we've got."
First and Fiftieth
The inspiration for this story was Michel Foucault himself, of course.
There are probably two points I'm trying to make here. The first, and lesser, is a swipe at academics and academic jargon, particularly in the social sciences. I disagree with the idea that the language academics use is essential to maintain accuracy and expresses concepts which are new or which cannot be expressed in every day words. I suspect it is party a reflection of the self-importance common to all secret societies (our language is a barrier which keeps out the uninitiated) and partly laziness. It's difficult to put complex ideas into simple language which can be easily understood by lay readers. Foucault, it seems from translations, made no effort to talk to anyone beyond his own narrow academic circle.
My second point is more substantial. Foucault was basically saying that sex is often at its most intense when it is hidden, secretive or condemned. The more open and accepted the sexual act is, particularly with strangers, the less special and more routine it becomes. I agree. In Western society it seems there are now few taboos. Television programmes advise us how to get better sex. Films display nudity and wide variations on intercourse. Ten minutes research on the internet can offer me clubs in every major city where hetero- and homo- sex with strangers is easily available, including locations specialising in a wide range of fetishes. (Such clubs may have always existed; what is new is the ease with which they can be found.)
Is it good or bad that sex in Western culture is increasingly mundane? I don't know. Our increasing familiarity with sex is not accompanied by more responsible behaviour. Most men and women know that they should protect themselves and their partners with condoms but too many refuse to do so, leading to worryingly high rates of chlamydia, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. For many, the number of sexual partners is seen as more important than the quality of the sexual act. Yet I would not argue for a return to a mythical time when intercourse was limited to married couples who were presumably virgins on their wedding night.
Take your time in deciding your point of view. In the meantime, I hope the story entertains.
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by Martin Foreman