Thursday, May 12, 2011

From Pornotopia: A Look at the Golden Rivet

Here's a fun little piece I wrote a while back - and that's a part of my book of non-fiction articles and essays: Pornotopia.

Esoterica Erotica: A Look at the Golden Rivet

For as long as men have sailed the seven seas, they’d tried to keep women off their boats. It’s a sad fact, but for hundreds of years – and in the case of certain civilizations, thousands of years – water and women simply haven’t mixed.

That’s not to say that as the ships have rocked and rolled on the high seas, the crew didn’t do their own kind of rhythm magic. Women might have been banned – with extreme penalties in many cases for any attempts to break the rule – but sex and the sea have always been part of a sailor’s life.

The logic behind banning women from being sailors appears sound – for about a minute: to keep the swabbies in line, and to prevent in-fighting among those who might be getting, and might not be getting, it was thought better to keep the ships all male. In response to the obvious homosexual outlet for all that testosterone juice, many admiralties prohibited sex between crewmates – with punishments ranging from simple monetary fines to floggings.

The fact, though, was that the bigwigs with the fruit salad on their chests were hundreds or thousands of miles away, so it was usually the discretion of the Captain on whether queer sex was a good thing or a bad thing.

Some captains and ships even bent the rules considerably, and thus was born the Captain’s Wife or Daughter: a courtesan brought on board simply to service the officers of the ship. Other Captains obeyed the letter of the law, while not embracing the spirit – and thus allowing their crews to “embrace” their own smuggled-aboard women, cross-dressed as fellow swabbies.

Even pirates, who some would think would be lax when it comes to rules and regulations, were much more stern in their sharing of the sexual favours of their fellow crews. Always concerned with equality among their crews, some pirate charters went as far as requiring “stranding” on a desert or severe floggings as punishments for bringing aboard women. It’s ironic that two of the more legendary pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, were women – and who managed to escape the gallows by the singular female plea of the time: ‘We plead our bellies’ meaning they were pregnant.

Pirates, by and large, during this time treated women – particularly women captives – rather well. Part of it was wanting to stay on fairly good terms with the authorities (nothing like ravaging some women to get your ship hunted down) but also because women fetched high prices as merchandise as well as in ransom from rich fathers and husbands. A crewman guilty of harming a female captive was treated as someone who had either stolen or damaged merchandise – a very serious charge in pirate law.

While women (when they weren’t Captain, that is) were banned from ships, sailors managed to keep their sanity by keeping any number of common-law wives in a variety of ports. The system worked actually rather well, since the pirates were at the whim of the wind and available profit – and many of their wives were also the wives of other pirates, sailing on other ships. The only time there was a problem was when there was a question of seniority, such as when a husband died and his goods had to be divided among his wives – in such cases the women he was married to the longest usually won out, unless the younger one had children. Pirates, for their much-maligned reputations, were remarkably civilized.

Other pirate societies, such as the buccaneers, created a form of partnership that often included homosexual love. Matelots were a form of permanent relationship between two men that served in many ways the needs of both financial as well as emotional well-being. Many men were more protective and emotionally tied to their matelots than their own wives – going so far as to will them their lands and goods.

Early Christian missionaries – and puritans in general who sought to kill or capture pirates – often used these forms of same-sex marriage to condemn their society, though it’s telling that the fact that these men were practising homosexual love and marriage wasn’t as damaging as the rumour that was also spread that some of the gay pirates were converting to Islam – a more accepting faith (at least at the time): religious intolerance obviously being a greater motivator than simple queer sex.

In more rough-and-tumble pirate societies, such as among the famous South China Sea pirates, sex and love between men became a political force as well as a sexual one. Kidnapped as children from raided ships, the boys would often form long-lasting sexual relationships among themselves as well as their captors that later helped hold together the scattered pirate tribes.

While women were always a question, at best, or a big problem, at worst, on ship there was a long-standing tradition of sexual release in the form of the cabin boy. For many years, the position of cabin boy required duties that weren’t on the usual cook/captain/first mate’s job description. Often, however – especially for those “boys” with experience – the other requirements were pretty obvious, in other words to sexually service either the officers or the entire crew.

For those not familiar with these duties, the crew had a special tradition to “enlighten” a new cabin boy. What makes this tradition interesting is the masking they used to lure the young lad into the bowels of the ship. The story they told was of an ancient maritime tradition (presumably concurrent with keeping women off-ship), where each and every ship – when its keel was laid – was given a special, good-luck, gold rivet.

It’s taken thousands of years, but finally women are serving without a problem on ships – both civilian as well as military (well, depending on the country). But if you’re on-board and get an invitation to view the lucky golden rivet, I would still think twice – unless you’re into that kind of thing, of course.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

See Me At The Northwest Leather Celebration!

If you're going to be in San Jose for the the Northwest Leather Celebration be sure and check out the polyamory class I will be teaching on Friday, May 20th, at 3:00PM - and if you are coming be sure and bring your significant others, and others, and others, and others ...

Polyamory: How To Love Many And Well

Sure, you've heard of it – and maybe have been intrigued by it – but what is polyamory and how do you love more than one person and make it work?  How can you deal with jealousy, time-management, emotional rough patches, and more to enter into multiple sexual relationships?  In this class, participants will learn to separate the myths from the realities of polyamory, how to make tentative steps towards having more than one partner, and how to approach and deal with the problems of sharing yourself with others, and being involved with someone who, in turn, is involved with someone else.  

Included in this class will be simple emotional exercises, truelife experiences, unique techniques and innovative approaches to understanding the joys – and the risks – of beginning, or entering into, a polyamorous relationship.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Imagination ..."

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
- Albert Einstein

Odd Balling (4)

Ladies and gentlemen (and all the folks between), here's a taste of my brand new Odd Balling column for the great folks at YNOT. For the rest just click here.


YNOT – Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to yet another installment of Odd Balling, your come-to location for the sexually odd and erotically weird ... or, as we like to say, where we prove scientist J. B. S. Haldane's statement: "My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

In the "out front and obvious" department, Weird Universe reported about a group of New Zealand scientists who spent years embedded in research to determine the first thing men notice about a woman is her breasts. So yes, ladies, that’s exactly what he’s staring at. (And someone actually funded this.)

It warms out hearts, and other body parts to see that a spirit of support and generosity has emerged from the tragedy of the Japanese earthquake. According to 3Yen: News on Japan, online community The Lesbian Lifestyle and sex toy e-tailer promised to donate 50 percent of all proceeds from the sale of adult products to help the relief effort. Kelly Leszczynski, The Lesbian Lifestyle's editor, was quick to point out the promotion was not intended as “a mockery of what has happened in Japan. People will always buy sex toys, and why not put a portion of the proceeds to a good cause?”

Just don’t ask the mayor of Neuville-en-Ferrain, France, to contribute. Gerard Cordon has “issues,” as evidenced by his decision to replace the town’s bust of Marianne, "traditional female embodiment of the French Republic," with something less busty. According to the Telegraph, Cordon insisted the well-endowed statue embodied more of a public distraction. Sculptor Catherine Lamacque, who installed the piece in 2007, admitted she may have overzealously rendered the terracotta figure’s bosom in an effort "to symbolize the generosity of the Republic."


And Now, My Holiday Plans -

Dark Roasted M.Christian

Check it out: a brand new Dark Roasted Blend piece I did just went up: this time on nuclear ... well, EVERYTHING

Fans of the old, but still wonderful, Road Runner cartoons might remember Wile E. Coyote's favorite one-stop-shop for mayhem: The Acme Company.  A clever person – not one of us, alas – once said that Acme's slogan should be "We Add Rockets To Everything."

This, in a kind of round-about way, gets us to the 1950s and the near-obsession that certain engineers had back then with a certain power source.  To put it another way, their slogan should have been: "We Add Nuclear Power To Everything."

In all fairness, reactors have proven – for the most part – to be pretty reliable.  Submarines, commercial power plants, and even monstrous icebreakers have proven that nuclear power can be handy if not essential.  But back just a few decades ago there were plans, and even a few terrifying prototypes, that would have made the Coyote green with envy – and the rest of us shudder in terror.

Both the US and the Soviet Union had engineers with lofty plans to keep bombers in the air indefinitely by using nuclear power.  Most folks, with even a very basic knowledge of how reactors work, would think that was a bit (ahem) risky, but what's even scarier is how far along some of those plans got.

Take, for example, the various projects the US undertook.  In one case, arguably the most advanced, they made plans to power a Convair B-36 bomber with a reactor.  Scary?  Sure, but what's even more so is that they actually flew the plane, with an operational reactor, a total of 47 times.

While that the reactor never actually powered the plane itself, and that there were huge problems to overcome, didn’t stop the engineers from drawing up plans for a whole plethora of atomic planes:

But what was perhaps even crazier than just powered a plane with a nuclear reactor was the idea to use that power source as a weapon.  Here, for example, is a beautiful representation of the Douglas 1186 system, which was supposed to use a parasite fighter to guide the warhead to the target – and keep the poor pilot from engine's radiation.

But the craziest of the crazy was the "Flying Crowbar."  Not only was the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile (to be formal), aka SLAM (to be short), supposed to be a nuclear bomb deployment system but was also to use a nuclear ramjet drive as a weapon: roasting the ground under it to a Geiger-clicking nightmare while leaving a mushroom-cloud parade of bombs behind it.  Shuddering, by the way, would be a perfectly appropriate response.  Luckily, the Crowbar never got off the drawing board.

Leaving the air to the birds, other engineers had different nuclear dreams: In 1958 the Ford Motor Car Company, not satisfied with the success of the Edsel, put forth the idea of bringing radiation into the American home ... or, at least, the garage, with the Nucleon: a family car with an on-board reactor.

While some engineers played with the highways, a few looked to the rails.  Though neither the United States of the Soviet Union got very far with powering a locomotive with a reactor, the USSR at least looked far enough ahead to draw up some plans:

The Soviets, in a literally sky-high dream, even envisioned a new approach to flying their reactors: use a Zeppelin!  Here's a nice little propaganda piece on their ideas for an atomic airship:
Still other inventive types, determined to find a new use for the atom, scratched their heads and came up with quite a few interesting, if not dubious, ways of playing with nukes – but this time of the explosive variety.  Plowshare is one of the most commonly quoted of those operations intended to put a smiley face in a mushroom cloud.  A few of their suggested uses include what they called the Pan-Atomic Canal: in other words, using atomic bombs to widen the Panama Canal.  They also suggested using nukes for mining operations, though never really solved the problem of dealing with then-radioactive ore.

It's ironic that -- what with the need to urgently replace our finite and global-warming fossil fuels – that many are suggesting a new look at the power of the atom.  We can only hope that we, today, can be as imaginative about it as they used to be back in the 1950s ... and a lot more responsible.

Monday, May 02, 2011

How To Wonderfully WriteSex (10)

Check it out: my new post at the fantastic WriteSex site just went up. Here's a tease (for the rest you'll have to go to the site):

It can be very weird being an editor as well as a writer. It’s definitely a kind of schizophrenia, being on both sides of the fence at once: spending the morning rejecting other writers’ stories and then crying myself to sleep when it happens to me. Schizophrenia? Actually it’s more like a kind of sex — bad sex: mornings fucking someone, and then getting fucked myself. Kind of appropriate for smut writing and editing, no?

While I could on for pages and pages about why certain stories don’t make the cut for a project, I’d rather deal with something more … mundane for now — but something that has recently been on my mind. In other words, manuscripts and cover letters.

While I completely agree that good work will always win-out, there is a certain amount of packaging that is needed to get the work to the editor so that it arrives with a smile and not a grimace — and, speaking from experience, sometimes a frown or a grin can be the difference between acceptance or rejection.

Manuscripts are not resumes. The trick with resumes is to catch the eye, to get yours stand out above the rest. Career counselors often recommend bright colors and tricks to get the potential employer to spot a resume in a pile of potentials — but manuscripts are exactly the opposite. With a manuscript you want the work to be the only thing the editor notices — not that you printed the story on bright red paper, or that you used a teeny-tiny font. Anything that gets in the way of the editor reading what you written is a strike against you. Now no real editor will reject a story just because you didn’t know about Standard Manuscript Format (more on that later) but if reading the story is a chore — or you neglected important information with the submission — you might look to be too much trouble to deal with. Remember, there are usually dozens of other stories sitting on that editor’s desk, just waiting to be easier to deal with or read.