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“No, Not THAT Phallus!”

Rob Tisinai

November 28th, 2011

When I reviewed David Reubens’ vile, best-selling character assassination of gay people recently, I did find myself laughing at one choice bit:

The homosexual must constantly search for the one man, the one penis, the one experience, that will satisfy him. Tragically there is no possibility of satisfaction because the formula is wrong. One penis plus one penis equals nothing. There is no substitute for heterosex—penis and vagina. Disappointed, stubborn, discouraged, defiant, the homosexual keeps trying. He is the sexual Diogenes, always looking for the penis that pleases.

That is the reason he must change partners endlessly. He tries each phallus in succession, then turns away remorsefully. “No, that’s not the one!” He is in a difficult position—condemned eternally to search after what does not exist—after what never existed.

I wanted to parody this, but I could never invent anything more ludicrous than the image of a man who “tries each phallus in succession, then turns away remorsefully. ‘No, that’s not the one!’”

(And even if I did, I’d still fall far, far short of the anti-gay commenter on a conservative blog who wrote that gays have lots of sex because gay sex so unsatisfying, while straight sex is so great that heteros go months without wanting it.)

Truthfully, I think Reubens is on to something, just not what he intended. His passage actually made me think of aspiring ex-gays, who manage to slog through their empty lives by telling themselves they simply haven’t met the right vagina yet, turning away remorsefully after each attempt: “No, that’s not the one!”

But that’s not fair either. I’m no adept ex-gay, nor even an apprentice, so I can’t presume to read their minds. I just know if I were trying to convince myself I were straight by looking at vaginas, I’d say “No, that’s not the one!” every single time.

And then it occurred to me. Some of our opposition comes from a botched attempt at empathy.

Humans, of course, understand each other by imaging what people are thinking and feeling. Evolutionary biologists make a good case that we’re hard-wired this way, that it confers a survival advantage when dealing with friend or foe. Then, as individuals, our parents and teachers develop this capacity in us. How? With a constant repetition of How would you feel if someone…

I can make better sense of David Reubens’ unintentional hilarity now. He’s simply imagining how he would feel if someone thrust a penis in his face. In fact, No, that’s not the one! would if anything be a rank understatement.

Maybe that’s why some of our opponents (the men, anyway) are so convinced homosexuality is a willful, perverse choice.  For some of them, it would be. Just as attempting a sustained life of hetero sex would be an unnatural, unsuccessful choice and a willful perversion for me.

Maybe we can use this to improve our messaging. If we say, Gay sex is perfectly natural, we’ll get nowhere if straights hear it as, You should want gay sex!  And I think, sometimes, that’s exactly what they do hear. Better, perhaps, to say, Gay sex is as natural to me and my partner as straight sex is to you and yours.

That’s the empathy we need to go for.

Comments

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Ben In Oakland
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

I usually say, No, not that phallus, when some young amn with too much testosterone and not enough sense waves one at me in the steamroom at the gym.

Then I go home to my husband-with-only-one-phallus.

Yup, that’s the one.

Terry T
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

I think his “take” is ludicrous. Reversing the suggestion, do heterosexuals merely seek the satisfactory sexual organ that pleases them, marry or start relationships simply because of the penis/vagina the other person has attached to them? Absurd suggestion isn’t it? Then precisely why would homosexuals do anything differently?

MMMarmite
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

“One penis plus one penis equals nothing.” This is the funniest maths I have ever heard. I guess you have to laugh at this stuff or you’d cry.

Lucrece
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

This passage looks like something out of Christwire’s satire.

It somehow feels like a trap.

tavdy79
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

In my experience, gay men don’t normally look just for the right dick. Sometimes it’s the right tongue, arse, fist*, mouth – even the right (or left) foot in a few cases. But usually what they’re mostly interested in is a somewhat more important muscle about 18″ higher up, right next to the left lung. Same as most other ordinary adult humans, in fact. Which makes you wonder about the romantic and sexual preferences of people attracted to men like Rupert Murdoch, Pat Robertson and David Reubens.

* in a totally non-spousal-abuse sense, of course.

Bose in St. Peter MN
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

The genital/sexual obsessions of many anti-gay folks just doesn’t work for me.

Sex wasn’t abhorrent to me when I was hetero-married. I wasn’t sexually active outside marriage, nor tormented by hot-n-heavy fantasies about guys.

The point when I knew I had to be more open and honest with myself was when I realized I kept waking up from dreams about coming from work to a welcome-home hug and daily companionship with another guy. It wasn’t desperation for sexual conquests, it was about who I wanted to cook meals with and do the most ordinary of life with.

I had a few solid, very close friendships guys at that point, too. For a long time I thought it was just me being odd, that I’d feel so close to a friend, and yet still hungry to be closer, to have fewer inhibitions about simple touch and an easier time having quiet, intimate conversations.

Sure, sex matters. But the eye-opening, reassuring, grounding moments I experienced after coming out were moments of finding myself at peace — at home — in trusting, emotionally intimate relationships with another guy.

Chuck Mielke
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

Reuben’s work is, pretty obviously, nothing but a rant aimed at justifying conservative heterosexuals’ animosity toward alternative sexualities. If he had an ounce of insight, he’d see how ludicrous his comparisons and rationalizations are. The segment quoted performs no other task than to demonize and alienate gay men: “see how weird they are?” is the basic message. He pretty clearly wants to “explain away” homosexuality without considering that heterosexuality needs explaining, too.

Ben In Oakland
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

You sohuld all keep in mind that this book was written originally nearly 40 years ago.It was ludicrous even then.

Regan DuCasse
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

I just read a wonderful article in the wedding announcement pages in the NYTimes yesterday. It was a wedding between two black women. One of them, had been with a man for many years, but she was familiar to me from the fashion pages of Ebony and Essence magazines. But it was her revelation at her attraction to another woman that I think should be required reading for clueless people like Reubens. And if reflects much of what Bose said.

But let’s put it in the perspective of people whose orientation is asexual or those who are celibate in their lives because of physical disparity or disability.
Reubens, in the defense of heterosexuality, and the contempt for gay people, reduces both into their sexual organs. As if genitals are the only things that are compatible and matter in that compatibility.

I don’t think these busybodies would think it wrong that an asexual should be converted and forced to have sex. Perhaps there might have been a time when sex therapists had their place in convincing an asexual person something was WRONG with them if they weren’t attracted to sex itself.

I think a lot of straight women would have something to say about meeting the right penis, but that doesn’t mean they TRIED all of them before marrying the one of their choice.

Most of us who want to be in a romantic relationship talk about the RIGHT MAN or RIGHT woman.
Not the right (genitals of preference here), in polite discussion.

Eventually it never ends that gay men and straight women, in particular are referred to by their sexual organs, not the entire of their person. To some straight men, women aren’t much more to them, and they treat them accordingly. Not fun.

Reubens, I’m sure, didn’t try out a bunch of vaginas before HE found the right one, or the one he wanted to marry, so yeah…his whole commentary is ridiculously ludicrous. No matter WHEN it was written.

Joseph Nobles
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

Written 40 years ago? I was about to say that it works better as a description of the 2012 GOP primary process. “No, that’s not the one…”

Steve
November 28th, 2011 | LINK

He actually wrote an updated edition of the book in 1999. Did he change his opinions then?

Neil
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

I’m almost interested to read the book. I’d be curious to see how Reubens explains away failed straight relationships and promiscuity that involves the penis/vagina equation.

I’m guessing the explanation would be something along the lines that straight people are regular people whose problems fall within the standard range of human variation and that being gay is a pathological diagnosis. That way, anything to do with gay relationships can be made to seem wrong by the usual circular reasoning.

Q: What’s that guy’s problem?
Reubens: He has homosexuality.

Q: What are the symptoms?
Reubens: Homosexuality and gayness.

Q: So what?
Reubens: It means two penises. One of them has to be a vagina or it’ll never work.

Q: Why not?
Reubens: Let me tell you a bedtime story…

Graham
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

Awww shucks! It’ll never “work”. All this time I had the formula wrong!

Guess I should look for a vagina since that’ll be a solvent formula, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it then!

Hunter
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

By Reubens’ logic, then, any vagina will do for a man because, well, it’s a vagina. So things like love, empathy, sharing, caring, grace, humor and acceptance don’t matter in a relationship.

Sounds remarkably like the contemporary right.

dave
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

How dumb. What about good old hetrosexual Arnold the terminator? Did David forget about his kind? He had Maria and he was constantly looking for another virgina, I guess it was because he couldn’t find one that was THE ONE! He tried with the house keeper but I guess all that came out of that was just another child. Does David forget before gay people were getting married, the divorce rate was up to about 50%, driven there by the hetrosexual. Get off your hetrosexual high horse buddy, your argument is wrong.

gregory brown
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

David Reuben was a smarmy Mama’s Boy. I was always surprised that anybody who saw and heard him on the talk shows could take him seriously. He was as convincingly hetero as some of the leading Ex-Gay poster boys. Obviously, I was remarkably innocent 40 years ago.

Reed Boyer
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

The 1999 edition, to judge by some of the GoodRead reviews, is NOT much improved: “Chock full of misinformation that every middle schooler should not read.”

And, since he’s still alive and today (November 29 as I write) is his birthday, we might wish the old bastard a happy 78th. I’m thinking flaming blivets and doorbells, and he lives somewhere here in California, but little has been heard from him in many, many years, thankfully.

Priya Lynn
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

I’d like to hear from him what evidence he used to base his opinions of gay men on – precious little I’m sure. While he’s at it I’d like to hear him explain what qualifies him as an expert on all things sexual.

Ryan
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

This is actually so laughable, it’s impossible to even be offended. We need more opponents like this. It will clearly bring more people to our side.

stilllookin'
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

I think ” the penis that pleases” has a certain charm to it. A ring of joy almost, a very positive ad campaign possibly. “No, no, not that one” shows a sense of tasteful refinement, a thrust of confidence, an openness to experiences, a desire for a full filling of self.
I’m off to a sex club….

John
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

What about straight guys who are always looking for the perfect set of breasts on a woman? And all that women go through to try and satisfy this quest.

Thomas Kraemer
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

As somebody old enough to recall when David Reuben’s book first came out in 1969, the year of the Stonewall Riot that is often used to mark the start of the gay liberation era, I witnessed firsthand how the mass marketed 1971 paperback edition of this book became one of the few sources of sex education for many young gay boys back then. It was not until 1973 when homosexuality was officially taken off the official list of medical mental disorders used by the government and medical insurance companies. The disgust reaction to homosexuals exhibited by Reuben has been found in many homophobic men who also show sexual arousal to gay sex images, which probably causes them to be very conflicted emotionally and to respond violently toward gay men.

Timothy Kincaid
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

There is no substitute for heterosex—penis and vagina.

For these guys, it really does come down to sexual organs, doesn’t it. Really, some of these Christians would have been happier in a nice fertility cult.

Timothy Kincaid
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

His passage actually made me think of aspiring ex-gays, who manage to slog through their empty lives by telling themselves they simply haven’t met the right vagina yet, turning away remorsefully after each attempt: “No, that’s not the one!”

C’mon, Rob.

Ex-gays don’t go from vagina to vagina. The minute it gets even close to reaching the vagina stage, they discover that she’s not the one God has for him.

Maybe from one hypothetical vagina to another.

Darina
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

Now I can’t stop laughing out loud. :)

Richard Rush
November 29th, 2011 | LINK

So, Reubens turned 78 today. Perhaps, as with many elderly people, his house may have many areas of deferred maintenance . . . except, in his case, for the plumbing, which he obsessively keeps in tiptop condition.

StraightGrandmother
November 30th, 2011 | LINK

Rob, as always I enjoyed your article. Timothy ever consider asking DuCasse to be a regular columnist here?

StraightGrandmother
November 30th, 2011 | LINK

err.. make that Regan DuCasse

Donny D.
November 30th, 2011 | LINK

Chuck Mielke wrote,

Reuben’s work is, pretty obviously, nothing but a rant aimed at justifying conservative heterosexuals’ animosity toward alternative sexualities.

You’re applying modern thinking to a very different time. Back in 1969 when the book first came out and in 1971 when the paperback edition made the book ubiquitous, anti-gay animus was common to straight people across the political spectrum. Liberals and leftwingers had their own take on homosexuality but their positions were just about always anti-LGBT. (Straight people generally conflated homsexuality and transgenderism.) The anti-gay position was simply the correct way to think for any “normal” person, and was rarely questioned until the gay liberation movement came into existence after Stonewall.

During the mid-1960s into the early 1970s, there was a very common new attitude that sex was normal, natural and healthy, but that that was not true of “perversion”, which was how homosexuality, BDSM and fetishism were seen. It was this attitude that David Reuben’s first book was in time to exploit.

Ben In Oakland wrote,

You sohuld all keep in mind that this book was written originally nearly 40 years ago.It was ludicrous even then.

No, it wasn’t. It played expertly to the prejudices of the majority, and was taken very seriously. The new gay liberation movement rightly spent a good deal of effort in discrediting “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)”.

A postscript to this is that David Reuben came increasingly under fire for his homophobia in the years after the paperback edition came out. Eventually he was under what would have been withering fire for anyone who wasn’t as big-ego’ed and mendacious as he was.

Due to the rise of the gay movement right after the popularization of this book, a great deal of focus was put on “Everthing”‘s homophobia, but the book was complete drivel in regard to heterosexuality, too, and everything else. All it did was play to popular prejudices and preconceptions. Reuben never had any expertise in sexuality.

Ben In Oakland
November 30th, 2011 | LINK

Donny,

It was very obvious even to this ignorant 19 year old gay boy in 1969 that everything Reuben had to say about homosexuality was ludicrous, and though I knew next to nothing even about heterosex, it seemed to me that most of that was ridiculous as well.

My memory was that anyone who jknew anything about sex at all thought that Reuben was an indiot.

Muscat
November 30th, 2011 | LINK

Reubens misses the point if only in that some gay men aren’t looking for “the one penis that will satisfy” – instead they want to collect the whole set.

Donny D.
December 1st, 2011 | LINK

Ben, you and those people you knew “who jknew anything about sex at all” were not representative of the times. The average middle-American straight person in 1969 was shockingly ignorant about sex by modern standards. In the seventies a great many people straight people thought they were really wild because they were into oral sex, had sex on a water bed or did anything beyond Missionary Position heterosexual vaginal intercourse. As an adult gay man, you had a huge advantage in sexual knowledge over most Americans in those years. There was a huge gap in sexual sophistication between gay people who’ve had much of a chance to have sex and straight people that simply doesn’t exist on that scale today. The sexual sophistication of young straight people is a relatively recent phenomenon.

As to David Reuben’s book, it was itself a phenomenon at the time it came out, and apparently was a major best seller. I think people knew that they had a huge gap in sexual knowledge at that time and were hungry to fill it. Unfortunately due to that ignorance they often weren’t discriminating enough in their information sources.

I’m making a big deal of this because I don’t want people who weren’t old enough to have lived through those times to believe that they were like things are now, and that David Reuben’s book wasn’t taken seriously then, and didn’t mess with a lot of young people’s heads, including young gay people. Based on early gay liberation movement writings, I know I wasn’t the only young gay man whose head was screwed with by that noxious, bigoted, faux knowledgeable book. (I was younger than you were in 1969, just reaching puberty, and with no gay support network of any kind, as was typical of those times.)

Muscat, :)

Theo
December 1st, 2011 | LINK

I believe that the scumbag lives in Costa Rica. It is pretty unsatisfying to just laugh at what he wrote. Tisinai, why don’t you call him and interview him? Confront the POS and ask him how much money he made spreading his lies? Also of interest: how do you write a book that makes thousands of assertions about human sexuality and have no footnotes?

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