Fifty Shades of Touch

Skin, our largest organ, has its own vocabulary, and it is activated through touch. Although fifty shades is a catchy title, touch is more like a rainbow with endless nuances. Credit for the title goes to my buddy Joe, who suggested it in a discussion we were having on touch, intimacy, and intentionality.

All too many of us live in societies in which touch is highly regulated: hand shakes, a pat on the shoulder, a hug. They are sanctioned if you are clothed, but more intimate touch is reserved for romantic relationships or marriage. Sadly, intimate man on man touch has been condemned. Though touch of a more violent nature, e.g., football or other contact sports has tended to be sanctioned. Is it little wonder that when given permission to enter into intimate touch our temptation is to speed through to climax without fully enjoying the erotic wonders of full-body contact?

It’s sad because we are missing out on the wondrous states of consciousness that touch can take us into. When we enter touch consciousness, we step outside our egos as we go into a non-verbal, non-rational space. It’s a space that has its own language, its own vocabulary. Before going into it, I like to talk with the person I am about to share the experience with so that we can articulate our intentions. Intimacy is so nuanced that clarifying intentions helps to free us up. Transitioning from our egocentric verbal world into the realm of touch, we begin fully clothed. Embracing narrows the distance between us, and as touch takes over our clothes are shed as we follow its vocabulary.

There are many kinds of energy and a sexual romantic energy feels quite different from the erotic touch of Sacred Intimacy. On the exterior, both may result in orgasm, but the feelings associated with each are quite different. It is wrong for us to always associate erotic intimacy with romance – wrong because each has a different intentionality. My Sacred Intimacy practice often involves orgasm, yet I am not in love romantically with any of the people I engage with as SIs – yes, I love them for the beautiful guys they are, but that is not romance. That’s a different kind of energy, and it is one I have for the guy I love romantically.

Becoming aware of the shades of touch and the nuances they have should help us open ourselves to exploring intimate touch and creating positive contexts for enjoying the wonders of skin. Overcoming taboos such as man on man intimacy has been significant, and now the work we all have is to deepen our experiences of intimacy for which skin is the portal.


Gay Traveler

At its best, travel is about self-discovery – probably why it is such a powerful metaphor. Perhaps being gay has added another dimension to my own deeply felt need to wander. As I write this, a few images pop into mind that go from the ridiculous to the profound. At the former end of the scale is John Belushi in the SNL skit in which he played the captain of a sailing vessel, the SS Raging Queen, that sailed to all the great ports of the world: Provincetown, Fire Island, Key West, and of course San Francisco. Then there is the Robert Frost of his poem Stopping By The Woods in which he momentarily halts his journey to reflect on the beauty of new fallen snow on the darkest of nights. Finally, there is the gloom ridden journey of Schubert’s Winterreise repleat with alienation and despair over lost love.

While these are random images of the moment, in all of them there is a sense of not belonging – yes, even for Belushi and the crew of the SS Raging Queen. When Frost stops to contemplate the night scene, not only does he feel the outsider but even his horse notices that something is strange, something not done. In Schubert, the crushing sense of alienation is almost too much to bear. Being gay gives us unique insights into the feelings of alienation, perhaps even moreso than for others. Very often, this sense of alienation hits us out of the blue. I have had straight friends say to me that gay men are too promiscuous to understand love. Or, that we must feel lucky to live in a time when discrimination against us has been overcome! It is drivel like this that shows how deep the gulf is that separates their world from my own. When I see this divide is when I feel most alienated.

We on the gay side of the equation are not without our shortcomings either. Some of my most significant relationships have been with men who do not identify as gay – some married, some fathers. Not only have I faced much criticism from gay friends because of them but have also shared in the pain that these men live with as they inhabit a world outside straight society while not fully living as gay men either. As a baby boomer who came of age in New York City in the 1970s, I understand our feelings for the importance of identifying ourselves and of coming out. However, not everyone feels this way, and maybe the times have changed as gender identity has become much more fluid. Perhaps the need to identify as an “I am…” is of less importance these days. I’m not sure. For me the important thing is that as our paths cross on our various journeys that we try to understand each other and accept the path the other is on, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

We are wanderers in the world but not quite of it. Ours is a different journey, and it could very well be that we will never be fully understood. I can live with that, in fact, there is something appealing about not being fully on the inside as it gives us more room for creativity, for shaping our lives to become the people we want to be. Like Frost, I think we should linger and marvel at the beauty of the world, and a world populated by the creatures we make ourselves to be. Hopefully, this will be possible everywhere and not just in the great ports of call that Belushi and his motley crew journeyed to but wherever those of us on the SS Raging Queen deem to go.