Archive for the ‘literary culture’ Category

Perry Brass: Blocked by the Impregnable Fortress of Facebook, or How Much Does Facebook Hate Books?

March 21, 2016


My Facebook page is “no longer available.” This means that my 2,200 Facebook friends will have to go someplace else to find out about my books, and what I am doing as a writer. I learned 2 weeks ago that I have been permanently “blocked” from Facebook. Why, frankly, I have no idea except that it must have to do with the books I write and publish that have been banned “forever” from being advertised on Facebook because of their titles and possibly their covers—namely, The Manly Art of Seduction and the follow-up book The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love. Both of these books are available on Amazon. The Manly Art of Seduction has gotten great reviews, was an Amazon bestseller in several categories, received a Gold Medal IPPY award and other awards, and is now available as an audio book on, and in Portuguese. It is currently being translated into Spanish.

Cover of the Manly Art of Seduction, by Perry Brass

The book banned on FaceBook

After I was told by the completely faceless “Facebook Team” that The Manly Art of Seduction violated Facebook’s usage code because of the word “Seduction” in it, and that I could never advertise this “product” on Facebook, I tried futilely to appeal their decision (since you have no idea where this decision comes from: you never actually deal with people with names). I explained that there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of books, movies, and TV programs with the word “Seduction” in it. It was ridiculous.

I was told that there was no appeal—this decision would stand forever. After I posted word about this on my Facebook pages, friends suggested that I could still put up information about the book on my page, and it would be a good idea to include the cover in my profile picture. I did. Nothing happened.

Still, hope springs eternal, and I figured that my follow-up book The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love which did not have the word “seduction” in its title would be permissible. It wasn’t. After I tried to “boost” a post about The Manly Pursuit (this is Facebookese for advertise the book) I was told, point blank, by the famous Facebook Team, that the word “desire” itself was not allowed in any advertisement of any product on Facebook, therefore advertising this book was also not permitted. In both situations, the books were categorized as banned products, like sex aids or enhancers, and advertising them was refused on Facebook.

This was done by people who hadn’t read or researched the books—like Salmon Rushdie’s horrifying fatwa. Or maybe by computer robots that set off an alarm, or in some backroom in India which decided it was not going to allow books of this sort into any country.


Being busy, as writers are, I did post word about these books (and other books of mine) on my Facebook page, and I’m sure it got onto the pages of my 2,200 Facebook pals. Then for the last month I didn’t even go on Facebook.

I was in Cuba for 10 days, from Feb 9 – 19, and when you are on that island, Facebook is off limits. At a hotel with Wifi in Havana, I tried to log into a friend’s post mentioning me, but got a message that Facebook and Cuba are not on good terms. Afterwards, I spent three days in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with friends, and during this time forgot about Facebook completely.

When I got back, I was too busy catching up after being away to pay attention to Facebook. I also came down with bronchitis (I’m still being treated for this), which put me away from Facebook and my pals there even longer. Then, about a week ago, after getting a slew of Facebook emails directing me to log onto the pages of friends sharing updates with me, I started hitting links that would send me directly into Mark Zuckerberg’s empire.

When I did, I got this message.

We removed the content that was posted

            Under this was a link to this message:

We restrict the display of nudity. Some descriptions of sexual acts may also be removed. These restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes.

We remove content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation. This includes solicitation of sexual material, any sexual content involving minors, threats to share intimate images and offers of sexual services. Where appropriate, we refer this content to law enforcement.

To learn more about the kinds of messages and posts that are allowed on Facebook, please review the Facebook Community Standards.


I couldn’t figure this out. Why were some of my 2,400 Facebook friends’ posts being removed so that I could not get to their links? After enough attempts with my friends, I tried my own page, and realized it was the opposite. I had now been completely blocked.

Totally, absolutely, blocked from Facebook.

As in, I cannot even get onto Facebook to protest being blocked.

I started Googling like mad what to do when you are blocked from Facebook, and learned a few things. Facebook has recently instituted a new policy that it can block anyone at any time without warning or notice. In addition, it is enforcing a new series of “global community standards,” meaning anyone in any country can now complain about your content. So if, in say, Timbuktu, someone is offended by your “content,” it can be blocked by the “Facebook Team.”

This has meant that if in, say, Australia, as recently happened, someone is “offended” by an image of middle-aged barechested Aboriginal women showing their painted nipples, this kind of image can be censored—and even blocked. I guess this means that my books and I no longer stand a chance.

Facebook also states that A), only they can remove the block, so it’s totally futile to appeal it. B) If, somehow, they do decide to remove the block on you and your page, they will do so in their own time with no communication with you.

And C) even better: The actual cause of the block will never be known to you.

Now this may not mean much to people who regard Facebook as ridiculous and a waste of time (something Facebook works to keep happening; or as Mark Zuckerberg has always maintained: “We want to keep you there”), but in reality it is at this moment the world’s largest social media organization. And, in our Brave New Post-bookstore World, for many people a major route to “discoverability” for books and other kinds of information.

I also discovered through Google (using a backdoor into Facebook) that the site also has a new “Unpermitted Link” engine. Using a product’s link, you can do a search for products not allowed on Facebook, and they will (graciously) remove these links off your Facebook page. The only problem is that when I tried to do this with Amazon links for my books, I got this:

We removed the content that was posted

 (Meaning: I cannot get into Facebook to unblock myself—in any way. So, go back to Square One, dope.)

Check . . . and mate.

There is a longstanding history of homophobia involved with this—I have seen straight (i.e., heterosexual) “dating” books openly advertised on Facebook that guarantee success with the opposite sex (usually meaning women), and that are plainly exploitative. I have seen countless ads for men’s underwear and women’s “scanties” that make anything I’ve posted (as well as my book covers) look like stuff from the Daughters of the American Revolution. But we are dealing here with permissible products and my books are not in that category.

I also know that Facebook has a history of harassing gay men and their sites, a good example being the Australian magazine DNA which has received numerous warnings simply for showing on their covers barechested guys in Speedos. Many of my friends have also received warnings from Facebook regarding pictures they have posted showing stuff like an uncovered fanny or two. One of them showed photos of a pool party with a guy in all fun being thrown in and losing his suit—so we saw a little bit of skin from the rear. He was warned severely by Facebook for doing this.

The interesting thing is that I have never received any kind of warning. Not once. So this makes me feel that this action might have been pre-emptive. Rather than go through any kind of dialogue with me (something corporations like Facebook hate, thus their huge walls of protection), they simply blocked me before I could do anything.

I have also heard that it could be that my Facebook page was hacked—in effect unallowable stuff (usually “porn”) could have appeared on my page when I was in Cuba and unable to do anything about it. However, I was given no warning of this (see above about No Warning) so if my page was hacked, and then blocked, I’m now in even worse shape with Facebook.

In other words, I’ve been hacked, I’ve had no warning about it from Facebook, and I’ll have to figure out how to be unhacked as well.

A new wrinkle: every time I have tried to access any Facebook page—even for “guidance” from Facebook on these “issues”—I have been told that I have to log in with my password. When I have tried it, my password has been rejected, and I’ve been told I have to change the password. They have allowed me to change the password, and using the new password to see if there is any change in the block, I am told that a new password must be used every time I try to log in. Then I am directed to the same message:

We removed the content that was posted.

            What this means for other Facebook users, especially writers, is clear to me: You can have what you do censored at any moment. This will be done to protect any “innocents” who might stumble on your page, and the judgment to do this will be done by people you will never see in countries where America’s more open culture and freedoms are anathema.

I feel bad about this, because people all over the globe have come to me through Facebook as I am an openly gay writer in the US. Some of them have read my books on Kindle or other media, and I am gratified for this. I am not a “pornographer,” although my work is sexually frank—but certainly not any more frank than any number of other commercially available books. The covers of my books often feature barechested men, but then so do thousands of book covers, especially of women’s romance books.

The real problem here is simply homophobia on a corporate level, censorship of course, and people applying “community standards” that have no place in an open society. This is really shameful.

There is something else to understand here, and it is very important.

Facebook is not a free service. It is a huge, multi-national corporation making billions of dollars off advertising, and the reason it can charge this kind of money is because of the content you provide if you are a Facebook member. (In fact, they can use this content in any way they wish.) You are using your time to provide this valuable content and your attention. Facebook is selling that attention to advertisers. (I repeat, as Zuckerberg says: “We’re going to keep you on the site.”)

In this vein, strangely, and completely contradictory, Facebook still sends me regular requests to get back onto their site, to update my pages, to “see what your friends are doing,” to “visit your page,” even as I am being completely blocked. They WANT you back to create more content—to boost more ad revenue—on their “free” site.

Therefore the argument that as a “free” social networking service they have the right to do what they did to me is spurious. I am providing them with the content they need, and the attention they want, as every member is, and for them to do what they did—to “pull the plug” with no warning or explanation, because they have to power to do so—is reprehensible. It is something you’d expect from a corporate monopoly and dictatorship. It is really disgusting, and I think people should understand that.

If you are a Facebook member, please feel free to post the link to this piece on your page. And remember, not only is Big Brother and his little friends watching you and judging you, but at any moment he can do to you what he did to me.

Long time poet, playwright, author and activist Perry Brass has published 19 books, and is the author of the bestseller The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk to, and Become Intimate with Anyone, King of Angels, a gay, Southern Jewish coming-of-age novel set in Savannah, GA. His newest book is The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love, Your Guide to Life, Happiness, and Emotional and Sexual Fulfillment In a Closed-Down World. The Manly Art of Seduction is now available as an audio book through, and in Portuguese. You can reach him through his site, or here.


Bradley Manning: Who Wouldn’t Want To Be A Woman, Except to Be A Man?

August 26, 2013
Thetis Imploring Zeus, painting by Ingres

French classical painter Jean August Dominique Ingres presents Zeus as the ultimate Daddy.


I found the latest wrinkle in the Bradley Manning saga to be really dismaying: his revelation that he wants to “transition” into being a woman named Chelsea, or as we say, become transgendered. The Army is going to give him a huge amount of grief over it, but probably not as much as I would give him.

First of all, let me say that I definitely believe in the reality of transgenderism—that is there simply are people who are born into the wrong bodies, or at least the wrong mentality that went with their bodies. Strangely enough, the veracity of this seems more real to me regarding women who transition into manhood than men who transition into womanhood.

Why is that so?

Because I find the almost universally accepted expectation of femaleness still umpteen times more confining than the same expectation of maleness. Or, as one F to M trans person said: “I realized I was an ‘outie,’ while being female is an ‘innie.’” She—now he—wanted to push out of the female role, wanted to play with hammers and nails and not dolls, loathed what was the enforced passivity of the female role, and hated the obsessions of women: how they look, how they “feel,” and how they act. She didn’t want to “feel.” She just wanted to be, and not have to think about it, the way men, classically, are trained not to think about it.

Or maybe they just don’t.

Maybe it’s another byproduct of testosterone.

But the truth is, you see, I have always been a transgendered man. Inside me is a gorgeous spectacular woman who happens to have a male head on her. Maybe even two male heads: if you include the one down below my regular head. Since the time I was sixteen years old, after a suicide attempt at fifteen (pushed into it by my violent schizophrenic mother and her family in Savannah, GA, as well the kids at my high school who started a whispering campaign against me) I have realized this simple truth: in order to be the man I was going to be—flagrantly accepting and enjoying myself, as I was—I would have to turn into what I called a “spy” for myself.

I was the foreign country of pure queerness, sending out a mercenary into the “straight world,” who would report back to my own inner self—my very real inner self’—in order to promote and survive and in a hostile world.

The question is: who was that inner self, and how did he (or she) evolve enough to become the present me? It took me a long time to understand this, as I’m sure it’s taking Bradley Manning, another spy certainly, if there ever was one. But in the evolution I discovered that this gorgeous female inside me could become this amazing guy who would define “maleness” itself, under his very own rules.

“Maleness:” that is the thing now escaping us. And poor Bradley, it’s escaping you too.

I first began to understand maleness as I came out into the underground queer tribe of the mid-1960s, when you had to sneak into gay bars that were usually hidden inside seedy buildings, down dark streets where you could be bumped off for the wrong wink at the wrong time. But there was this spark between queer men that we passed on to each other, that emotionally nourished us because we didn’t have acceptance of any other sort yet: including self acceptance. We were truly underground. We were moles. We made James Bond look like chicken shit. You had to be tough as nails to survive or you died. Gay kids now who kill themselves: God, do I feel for you.

But I realized back then that if you got through adolescence, there was the reward of having all these brothers around you who could recognize you and keep you going. Now in our age of “gay networking” and the totally bland mainstreaming and corporatization of queer life (if it exists at all anymore)—when everyone is emotionally starved on a high-caffeine Starbucks level (and I hope you get what I mean when I say this)—that queer brotherhood which was so important to me is out in the cold and the dark.

It’s sad. I broke all the rules of manhood and made my own up. To me as a young queer, the male gender was rich, romantic, exciting, affectionate, powerful, and mobile. You could move with it any place. You could pee against any tree. You could become the tree. New York, as my own silver daddy Walt Whitman called it, was “the city of orgies.” It was a place where having balls was fun. Now men here are castrated by corporate life, desperate to get married because they cannot receive any kind of emotional support outside marriage, sports nuts because only Derek and A-Rod can give them the kind of homoerotic charge they’re too scared to find in real life, and so isolated that they are killing themselves at a faster rate than they are killing each other. They are also killing women, a fact which is really sad: 80% of all homicides against women are done by their boyfriends or a male they know. When cops see a female corpse, the first thing they say now is: “Where’s the boyfriend or husband?”

So, Bradley, I don’t blame you for wanting to become a woman. But why don’t you become a man first? My kind of man. Wild, impetuous, romantic, secretive, horny as all get-up for the juices of life. Liberate yourself, and then see if you need to take hormones to do that.

Perry Brass has published 16 books including bestselling The Manly Art of Seduction which starts off with the assumption that “men are not supposed to be seductive.” Which of course is all the fun of being it. And, King of Angels, a gay Southern Jewish coming-of-age novel set in his native Savannah, in 1963, the year of J.F.K’s assassination, a date whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating this year. King of Angels was a finalist for a 2013 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT fiction. You can learn more about him at his website,

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 5 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 6 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 22 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 592kb.

The busiest day of the year was November 29th with 96 views. The most popular post that day was 37 Ways To Be Seductive With A Man, .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for how to be seductive, how to be seductive to a man, seductive talk, how to be seductive to my boyfriend, and being seductive.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


37 Ways To Be Seductive With A Man, May 2007
9 comments and 1 Like on,


Tea Room Sex, A Blast from the Old Past? December 2007


The Manly Art of Seduction Gets Banned on FaceBook January 2010


Discovering Manhood and the Work of Branden Charles Wallace March 2010


Malachy McCourt and I discuss aging . . . and fawking. March 2010

Discovering Manhood and the Work of Branden Charles Wallace

March 10, 2010

Image of two men from "The Comfort of Men" series by Branden Wallace

(Note: the following is the text of a piece I read at a panel discussion on Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at the LGBT Community Center in New York on the work of the painter Branden Charles Wallace, as part of the Center’s Second Tuesday Cultural Program. The other panelists were Philip F. Clark, who blogs about art @ BlogSpot; Peter Drake, Dean of Academic Affairs at the New York Academy of Art; Bruce Donnelly, filmmaker working on a documentary about The Comfort of Men; and Jerry Kajpust, M.A., co-leader of the Manly Art of Seduction Workshops, staff member at the Leslie-Lohman Gay Art Foundation.)

Discovering Manhood and the Work of Branden Charles Wallace


            I first saw Branden’s paintings at an Erotic Art Fair at the Center at least a year ago. I thought of all the artists in the room, his work stood out. What attracted me was the sense of casual male power in it, especially in his paintings of men wrestling or playing rugby. They had that feeling of a suppressed, muscular strength that at any moment would unleash itself and bring the viewer along with it. I think it is that sense of a casual even diffident power that so often attracts us to men and the world of men, this secret world in which male intimacy, strength, and vulnerability mix and sometimes collide. Branden and I started talking, and he revealed he was a fan of John Singer Sargeant; of course this too excited me. Sargeant may be the greatest American painter who ever lived—or is certainly in a narrow field of greatest American painters—he was hugely classical, constantly fresh, and also queer as the proverbial 3-dollar bill: something art historians have tried to hide for years. Many are no longer hiding it. But I thought Branden had some of Sargeant’s freshness and that luscious, sexually-energized power waiting to embrace you and invite you into its more private, beautiful regions.      

            Later, I learned that Branden had experience working with the military as an Army contractor; I’d also had 3 years of a similar experience as an “Air Force wife,” when, living with my ex-partner, an Airman, got to experience that paradoxically tender and hard environment of the military—suppressive, disciplined, aggressively egalitarian, at once. The “Comfort of Men” series reminded me of that; in the environment of war, men allow feelings to come out, from heroism and almost bottomless love to extremes of grief that they suppress in everyday life. I felt Branden wanted to take these feelings, which are allowed, even nurtured in a gay environment, and expose them to a larger, more menacing world.

            In a contemporary America, any male efforts toward other men are either identified as gay (and trivialized as such); or desperately try to sneak out of the gay category, often through compulsive commercialism. In other words: if it really sells, it can’t be all queer since selling is what real men do to put food on the table.

            This is sad to me, not because the “normal” man has contracted himself to fit into a narrower range, but because the gay environment itself has become so much bigger, so heroic, that the TV sitcom stereotype that tries to explain us to the world only comes out more moronic—and even teenagers are seeing that.

            How did American men end up where they are now: totally gelded as far as deeper feelings are concerned? Gelded, depressed, alone, often suicidal? If you look back at men from earlier times, the letters they wrote, the pictures they exchanged, and grasp the male tenderness involved, it makes one wonder how did we get to this point?

           Sam Staggs, who made a name for himself in gay porno writing as “Phil Andros,” wrote about gay life in the 1930s, when he was a friend of Gertrude Stein’s: “We existed under the protective umbrella of American sexual naiveté.” In other words, there were fewer categories because sex itself was so forbidden that it was hardly talked about.

            Several things changed this. One was the increasing popularization of Freudian jargon, so millions of people were bandying around terms without ever reading Freud.

            But a pattern of acute, dangerously popular homophobia emerged in the early 1960’s due to two figures. One was Jack Kennedy and his circle which tried to bring a razorish preppy butchness to American culture in order to hide Jack’s own queer fears and tendencies: There were many rumors floating about Senator Kennedy and he knew it. Kennedy loved sexual attention, and probably never cared that much where it came from, although his father Joseph Kennedy did. So this attitude of arrogant sexual defensiveness, with Joe McCarthy’s bigotry behind it, hardened to concrete.

            The other influence was the emergence of the Playboy philosophy, bringing “red-blooded”-American-male heterosexuality out of the closet, and nailing everything else into it. Hugh Hefner was a publishing revolutionary; he knew American men wanted to do a lot more than tiptoe through the tulips. Before Playboy, the stereotype of homosexuality was that it existed because women, put off-limits by Victorian repression, were not available. In this environment of virgin womanhood, homosexuality “swished” in. Also, homosexuality was abetted by the fear of pregnancy, so basically homoeroticism had no reason to exist except as an outlet for desperate, horny men.

            Marshal McLuan, the Media-Maven of the Sixties, declared that with the advent of birth control, women would become “the bomb” of sexuality, constantly exploding, and homosexuality would totally disappear.

            In truth Marshal McLuan has disappeared, but not homosexuality. Still, the Playboy Philosophy and Kennedyism changed the environment in the early 60s. Gay men were no longer sinners and sickos: they were losers. The Playboy brand of Reddi-Whip supermarket sex had become so pushed down America’s throat, that it would remain there until feminism exposed the fact that Playboy was exactly that: for boys. The Playboy image and philosophy would not let men grow up and become actualized people.

            So, where does this leave us?

            My feeling is that currently, gay men are authentically discovering, even inventing the male gender: that is, manhood as something distinct, the way that feminists did for womanhood. Until recently, men were still considered the colorless, odorless, unobtrusive background against which a feminine element could be identified and used. This led men to a negligible position: they could not strive for self-identity and recognition, because that was feminine. They could feel nothing but fatherhood, regular-guyness, sportsmanship, patriotism, and their own willingness to die if necessary for a cause that often they could not define.

            The old male virtues of vigor, self-fulfillment, and sexual attractiveness were in constant question. If you look at pictures from the Renaissance down the emergence of bourgeois culture you see images of fantastic male power and excitement. With the emergence of bourgeois and then consumerist culture, men are deadened to the point of oblivion.

            My favorite example of this is Gerald Critch in D. H. Lawrence’s 1913 novel Women in Love, who can only show feelings that are violent and brutal, and who finally kills himself after he is sexually rejected by a woman. His friend Rupert Birkin who openly adores him, says, “He should have loved me more.” But Gerald cannot. What this has meant in contemporary culture is that gay men are often now in the role of saving other men, of being habitually open to the needs of men and valiant about it. I talk about the male need for valor in my book The Manly Art of Seduction, and it is by pushing valor to include an admission of the beauty of men, something our own society can only merchandize but can’t really honor, that gay men are not only discovering and inventing the gender of manhood, we are saving it.

For more information about Branden Wallace, go to:

Michael Lucas Likes Me

January 20, 2008

Hello Perry,

Here’s my quote:

“Smart, sexy, and suspenseful-everything you could want in a great novel.”

Best regards,
Michael Lucas
CEO, Lucas Entertainment

I met Michael Lucas the way most people from serial killers to future saints meet: through MySpace.
Actually, I had met him at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual Services Center, sometime in the misty past, through Michael’s partner who for a long time was president of the Center’s board. So, I met Richard his partner, and then Michael, but being pretty green to the ways of celebrity and fame, had no idea who Michael was then, that is he seemed like a pretty regular person to me, rather than a media mogul, porn superstar, fascinating piece of human architecture, etc. (which is usually the way he’s presented). In fact, he seemed like just a nice Jewish boy, like lots of them I had grown up with, which is another of Michael’s personas.
But, we met through MySpace, and I proposed friendship immediately, which, gratefully, he accepted. And of course being a writer, on the lowest link of the fame feeder chain (Gore Vidal’s hoary joke about the Polish movie star: “She moved from Warsaw to Hollywood and the first thing she did was fuck the writer . . . so what’s the punch line? That is the punch line, stupid!”), I offered to send him a copy of new book Carnal Sacraments, A Historical Novel of the Future, because, of course I wanted him to option it for one of his movies . . .
(No, I’m not that stupid, I sent it to him because I figured he’s a regular smart guy making it this time in the guise of a porn star, so he’d like the book: as the Jews say, ehmiss: meaning honest.)
So he sent me a real address to mail the book to; I did, and of course I wanted some kind of gushing blurb from him. (I mean, I’m not that dumb: writers are notoriously pious about their motivations, after all, we’re supposed to be the guardians of the First Amendment; but even writers who mythically screw Polish movie stars aren’t that dumb.)
So we did a little dance around that: he was too busy being Michael Lucas (whom some people still call by his natal Russian name, Andre), putting out new movies, opening up supermarkets and community libraries, going on talk shows, getting his picture on the cover of normally boring Genre magazine, while I plugged away at getting some word from the porn mogul/superstar model (“Most beautiful man in the world”) /business man-entrepreneur, etc.
And finally, of course, this did happen: which only goes to show you something that I’m sure Michael would agree with 100%: if you want something ask for it. And don’t be afraid of doing it. I also began to understand that Andre was actually reading my book. I could tell that, and since English is not his first language, it took him a while to do it. Good, Michael. Ehmiss.
So now, here it is: Michael Lucas does like me. What a weird thrill that is, that the auteur of Gigolo and La Dolce Vita (New York style) does like me . . . exactly like Sally Fields gushed at the Academy Awards. For this I can only say, Thank you, Michael.
Or Andre.


Tea Room Sex, A Blast from the Old Past?

December 4, 2007

Today I read a wonderful entry in Jesse Monteagudo’s email journal that he sends out his friends, and also posts in his own blog, about male public restroom encounters. It really made me think about what is happening here, and why we are so appalled at what has basically been going on since guys got together to pee in the back of the cave. Here’s Jesse’s journal entry, and at the end I include my own response, which I thought was interesting, too.

Sex and the Daytona Beach 9

Male homosexual activity in public bathrooms, for decades a fact of gay life, became big news in 2007, thanks to the misadventures of conservative politicos like U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Florida State Representative Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island) and the (mostly unfounded) complaints of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle. Now come the “Daytona Beach 9;” nine men who were arrested for lewd behavior during a sex sting operation at a Sears Department Store bathroom in Daytona Beach Nov. 1. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the accused include “a former Daytona Beach city commissioner and a local high school teacher” who promptly resigned from his job. “The reason that we did this sting is we all go to the mall; our kids go into the bathroom,” said Police Chief Mike Chitwood, who could hardly contain his disgust. “That they could be susceptible to this type of behavior is absolutely a disgrace.” (Please note that I refuse to name the Daytona Beach 9. In my opinion, these men have suffered enough already.)

Public sex, especially sex in public toilets or “tearooms,” has always been controversial, even within our GLBT community. Almost without exception, bathroom sex is male masturbatory or male homosexual, proof perhaps of the male’s greater sex drive. (It is not my intent, in writing this article, to condone bathroom sex. In fact, due to its health, safety and legal hazards, I do not recommend it.) There are many reasons why a man would want to have sex in a public restroom. For some men, bathroom sex is a step in the coming out process; a relatively easy way for them to discover the joys of male love before moving on to gay social networks, commercial institutions, or even a life partner. For other men, tearoom trade is their main or only form of sexual expression. Many of these are repressed “closet cases;” men who can not or will not accept their homo- or bisexuality. For them, a quickie in a toilet satisfies their sexual needs but does not require them to be publicly “branded” as queer, which would be the case if they went to a gay bar, sex club, community center, church, etc. This was apparently the case with Sen. Craig, Rep. Allen, and at least some of the “Daytona Beach 9.”

What makes a public bathroom a hotspot for tearoom sex? Though opinions differ, a bathroom’s location often makes it a favored place for sexual activity. College campuses are ideal tearoom locations, if only because colleges are full of testosterone-charged young men who still question their sexuality. Public parks are also popular (ask George Michael) as well as libraries and department stores (like the Sears in Daytona Beach). Once a place gets a “reputation” there is no telling what might happen. A good example is a Home Depot store in Oakland Park, Florida, which in its heyday was notorious for its men’s room activity. How did that Home Depot become so cruisy? Certainly the store’s butch image attracted a certain type of gay man. Perhaps two guys hit it off at the paint section, went off to do their business in the bathroom, and then told their friends. And the rest is history.

Male homosexual activity, especially in public places, threatens a lot of people, which is why the media have a field day with sex stings like the recent one in Daytona Beach. The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s excited coverage of the Nov. 1 arrests is a case in point. The day after the arrests were made the paper (and its Web site) published an article (“Ex Daytona commissioner, teacher charged in sex sting”) which not only published the names, ages and professions of the accused but also their mug shots. The next day the News-Journal ran a second article (“Mall bathroom sex sting spotlights subculture”) that tried to analyze “a subculture in which adult men meet for sex in restrooms designated online as hot spots, almost in plain view of unsuspecting patrons.” In fact, the only explanation of this “subculture” came from police Sgt. Jeff Hoffman, who talked about “coughing, grunting, sharp zipper noises, … tapping on shoes” and other “signals” used by men to attract sex partners. Though the accused limited their sexual activities to masturbation, they were nevertheless arrested “because a bathroom stall doesn’t completely conceal a person” and, thus, “he has no expectation of privacy, making any sexual behavior unlawful.”

As if that was not enough, the paper followed this tidbit with a third article (“Activists say arrests a setback for gay community”) that claimed that “the entire local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is going to have a harder time than ever gaining equality and convincing people that only a tiny fraction among them is interested in sex with strangers in public places.” That’s a lot of responsibility to be placed on the shoulders of nine formerly closeted men. Not surprisingly, the News-Journal’s coverage of the arrests “generated more than 120,000 page views and hundreds of comments on the News-Journal’s Web site Friday. That’s more traffic than the entire site gets on a normal day.” Needless to say, most of the comments were even worse than the cops’.

The media justify their lurid reports by protesting that bathroom sex threatens the well-being of “innocent” bystanders, especially children. Leaving aside the question of whether or not witnessing sexual activity is more traumatic than watching a traffic pileup or a Fort Lauderdale City Commission hearing, the fact remains that an unsuspecting child is more likely to be hit by a bolt of lightning or win the lottery than run into sexual activity in a public john (unless he’s looking for it). As any vice cop could tell you, catching men having sex in restrooms is difficult, which is why they often have to resort to entrapment or other extralegal subterfuges. A sting operation like the one in Daytona Beach is newsworthy because it is so unusual.

The media will also deny that they are conducting a witch-hunt against gay or bisexual men. But a witch-hunt it is, and many of our brothers have paid the price for it. Thirty years ago, reporters used hidden cameras to catch men who gathered in gay bars. Today, the media use similar tactics to catch men having sex in public parks or public bathrooms. In fact, today’s accused have it even worse, for they are branded for life thanks to sex offender laws and the Internet. One does not have to condone public sex to agree that media coverage of sex sting operations is often sleazier than any crimes that the stings seek to prevent. We can feel sorry for the accused, which is why we agree with the Rev. Beau McDaniels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church, who “said she can understand why some local gay and bisexual people go underground. It’s a conservative area where people’s sexual preferences can ruin their careers, she said.”

“If people would learn to accept people as God accepts them, we wouldn’t have this issue,” Rev. McDaniels said. “When you’re told it’s wrong and bad, you hide. This will drive us deeper underground.”

I welcome your comments. You may reach me by e-mail at

Dear Jesse,

That was a great journal entry. I really enjoyed it, and thought it was marvelously written, very clear, mostly dispassionate, and “spot on,” as the kids say.

Most gay men who’ve had any experience and fairness out in the world don’t condemn bathroom sex; they may not like it, but to outright condemn it because “I’d never do it,” seems pretty ridiculous. It’s been going on since the early 19th century, at least, when public facilities became available. In fact, one famous “house of comfort” in Central Park was visited by Walt Whitman, and was notorious after the Civil War as a place to meet soldiers, sailors, workers, and other “tradesmen.” In England, it was very popular, especially during Edwardian times, and these places were referred to as “cottages,” so it was called “cottaging.” Since England had ferocious laws about picking up anyone in a bar (constant entrapment), the “cottages” were considered safer. Usually what went on there was not complete sex, just a dangling of equipment, a few winks, and then something was done outside. Although that was not always the case.

A lot of the uproar about bathroom sex, or tearoom sex, really comes from the feminization of our commercial culture. Women, back in the 19th century, were pretty much aghast at the idea of public facilities. They were things men used. Women did not use them; they used facilities in hotels or lady’s shops, if they had to “go” outside the house. Usually, they just held it in, so that women often suffered from terrible bladder problems. But it was considered unladylike to go to do “it” in a place open to the public, so the idea of one of these places being used for sexual as well as excretionary purposes was really disgusting to the WCTU crowd. Men usually laughed at what was going on. It was often considered simply a part of being a man, and the Paris pissoirs were infamous cruising places, and no one ever got busted in one. It would have been considered, in itself, a breach of privacy and manliness. If you did not want the advances of a man, you just let him know and pronto!

I think this attitude was pretty much in force in America, even up until after World War II, when public facilities really started opening up, and women started using them as well. So the old feminine disgust at anything else going on in these places except an “extremely private function,” snowballed. For women, the public bathroom was a place for primping, and anything other than that was totally locked up, with an attendant out in front to make sure it stayed that way. Since no real man ever primped, it meant that he had to get in and out of these places in a nano-second, and any dallying around was considered suspect. In fact, for two men even to go to the bathroom together was considered suspect. A few years ago, a friend of mine and I, who like to go together to piss, were caught by a waiter peeing at once in the same toilet. I thought the waiter was going to faint.

So we now have this idea that bathrooms, or as the Irish say, “shit houses,” are sterile, sacred places where only God, pissing and dumping can take place, and everyone buys into that. Now that the YMCAs of America have all gone co-ed, the parks are patroled to the level of state of prisons (New York’s Central Park is said to have one cop, plainclothed or not, for every 40 visitors), and people are way too tasteful or stylish to consider cruising department store johns (due to the armies of ribbon clerk queens who used to staff department stores, they were infamous), this form of sexual display, in all of its basic, crude, animal splendor, is really off limits. Decent, all-Americans would rather meet via the Web, where they can lie to their hearts content about their assets, age, etc. And there is that most sanitized of all sexual encounters, phone sex, which requires nothing more than a jack and a credit card.

In a way, it’s sad, but I’m sure that a lot of people will say that the Daytona Nine had it coming: they are a throw-back, and as everyone knows, we hate themThe author in his own bath.


Carnal Sacraments: A great review makes a my day!

August 28, 2007

Last weekend, one of my friends in San Francisco alerted me that Jim Provanzano, the arts editor at Bay Area Reporter, had written a favorable review of Carnal Sacraments in the latest issue.
I was delighted—Belhue Press had sent a review copy to Provanzano, and I had hoped that he’d review the book. Bay Area Reporter is one of the best lgbt papers in the country, and is the “newspaper of record” for the gay and lesbian community of San Francisco—so I’d had my fingers crossed about a review.
Getting books reviewed nowadays is not easy, especially since in the pecking order of queer writers, I make Kathy Griffith’s “My Life on the ‘D’ List” look waaay out there. If she’s on the “D” list, I must be on the X-Y-Z list. I’m not a celeb; I’ve never outed a Republican congressman or a closeted, fundamentalist preacher; I’m not a major league baseball player (I know, you’re all waiting for Derek Jeeter to jeet himself, but it seems like it ain’t happenin’ yet); and I’m not a star in Mixed Martial Arts (which may become my new fascination: imagine a sport where two incredably hot guys hug each other close, keep almost balls-to-balls body contact, and then throw a crazy few punches at one another—who’d-a-thunk it?)—anyway, I’m none of that. I’m just a . . . OK, I’m a good writer, I know that. False modesty is not part of my paraphenalia.
But I was pleased as all get-up at the review, so just in case you’ve missed it, here’s Jim Provanzano’s take on Carnal Sac:

Minority retort: Futuristic executive makeovers & breakdowns

[review] Published 08/23/2007

by Jim Provenzano

Carnal Sacraments by Perry Brass; Belhue Press, $16.95

Set at the end of this century, Perry Brass’ Carnal Sacraments tells the story of Jeffrey Cooper, a design executive who’s reached the pinnacle of his career, which involves supervising global marketing campaigns for superfluous luxury products.

Few know how long it took Cooper to climb his way to the top. As with many other elites in this dystopian world, while appearing to be a dashing 30something, Cooper is actually in his 70s. A regimen of injections, surgeries and other processes keeps his youthful appearance. Underneath the facade, however, Cooper is about to suffer a nervous breakdown, particularly when a lumbering stranger punches him on the subway.

His later coincidental meeting with his assailant, a Dutchman named John van der Meer, leads to a strange and passionate affair that may ruin his precarious status as a tastemaker for the world.

Set mostly in Berlin, where the Arkansas-born Cooper works, the book’s conversations and nicknames are sprinkled with German terms. (A glossary is provided, but mostly unnecessary, with the phrases understandable in context.)

Unlike most other science fiction novels, despite some teleconferences and the expected Orwellian government surveillance, Brass dispenses with futuristic jargon, gadgets and machinery in his novel. He instead focuses on the inner paranoia of an upscale executive fearing his inevitable downfall.

Although set in a future where the government has become a corporate voyeur of every aspect of middle- to high-income citizens, leaving the lower classes to barely documented yet surveilled status, Brass’ novel, like most good “futuristic” fiction, actually comments on contemporary society. Cooper’s wealthy gay friends, up-ended by illness, are forced into a government-controlled frozen status. John, Cooper’s love interest, is relegated to poverty, living in a shack in a forest outside of Berlin.

Cooper gushes with neurotic emotion and pent-up frustration with his “system-assigned” therapist, who warns him of the potential dangers of his romance with John.

Then, in an impulsive gesture, Cooper accepts an invitation from a scheming yet supercilious younger executive in India. Cooper and new mysterious lover embark on a mystical yet conflict-laden vacation. More dark secrets are revealed, and Cooper’s limits and capacity for love versus his grasp on his career are tested.

Layered with philosophical elements, fascinating descriptions, and a clear focus on character overall, Brass’ latest work is one of the most unusual novels I’ve read in years.

[end of review]

Wow, that was good to read! There were a few ickies: like Jeffrey Cooper is from Alabama, not Arkansas—but why quibble? He got the book, and I’m very happy. You can learn more about Carnal Sacraments, why it took so long to come out, and why you must buy the book at my website, Or, even better, just get the book at Amazon, or your local lgbt bookstore [Frankly, as a gay writer, I’d prefer you get it there; but if there’s none around you, you can do Amazon]. It’s only $16.95 retail, which is about the price of 3 beers at any joint in the country now, or one and a half mojitos, or a Big Mac and a mojito—anyway, life is short, books are still cheap, and for the cost of a ticket to a crappy movie at some noisy mall, you can take me home with you, snuggle up and enjoy “one of the most unusual novels I’ve read in years.”
Thanks for your time. Keep them cards and letters a-comin’. Yours, Perry

Carnal Sacraments, A Book Is Born

June 22, 2007

My newest book Carnal Sacraments, A Historical Novel of the Future, just came into the world. Actually, it arrived from the printer on June 18, 2007, but I’m still getting used to it. It’s like having a newborn infant in the house, and the question is what do you do with it, except admire it, or maybe go a little crazy about it?

Actually, giving birth to this one was really hard. It’s my fourteenth book, and I can’t say that they get easier all the time. There was a time when I was on a real roll with books. I published one a year (and occasionally even two) for about ten years. Then I started to realize something. There were places I wanted to go in my books that did not just come off the top of my head, and these places took a lot of digging and gouging to get to. This is not to say that some of my earlier books were rinky-dink. But the first few books, like the Mirage series of queer science fiction novels (Mirage, Circles, and Albert or the Book of Man) had the delicious satisfaction of being born easily. They just literally came out of my mind pretty much fully formed.

In fact, Mirage, my first published novel, took, from soup-to-nuts, from an idea I had in the shower to a finished, published book, exactly six months. I mean, I worked like I had never worked in my life—with literally twelve-hour days of work on it—but it really was just this fortuitous thing falling out of my head, and there are parts of it today that embarrass me. Some of them are simply just bad English. It was copyread instead of being really edited. But readers loved it, and I was lucky in that the hero of it became almost a new “type” of gay hero: not wounded, totally sexual, compelling, visceral. Greeland was wonderful, and I had readers who told me they wanted to marry him.

But Carnal Sacraments, my newest novel, was hard birth. Part of it was that I began three other books before I realized this was the book I wanted to stay with and write. I was kind of dating the earlier books; it was all enthusiastic, then they’d stop someplace and it was time to begin with someone new. But this book dealt with things that I needed to talk about. Things that are already here, even though the novel is set in the fairly-near future, the year 2075, in world that dominated by one economic system: global capitalism. A system of one huge market made up of interlinking markets and currencies, capital pools and worker pools. Where the most important thing is simply keeping money in one constant state of movement and aggressive growth, and only people who increase wealth and the flow of it are considered valuable. So that means that helping people is out (forget it, you doctors, teachers, health and education people—you don’t raise the ante one bit!), and only the most rapacious carnivores get to sit at the table and slurp.

So, I began three other books, who may come to birth later, and also produced a screenplay for my novel The Harvest, which landed on the world with a total thud and a whimper. As in, forget it. Hollywood is so closed it makes Fort Knox look like a shopping mall. But I enjoyed doing the screenplay. I was snookered into it by a young director/producer named Daniel Ferrands who read The Harvest and told me he’d “option” it, but it would be better to have a real screenplay to start off with. So I jumped into the screenplay, and felt that in some ways it was actually better than the novel: I could really think visually about it, and I enjoyed that. But, after the screenplay was finished, Danny jumped ship, and went off to some other island (i.e. other gullible writers to make promises to), and so that was over, and I was back to my first love, the next novel.

I can’t actually tell you though how or when the idea for Carnal Sacraments came into my head. Usually novels begin for me with a very specific feeling associated with a moment in the book. It’s an actual physical situation—and suddenly I’m there. I’m inside the book, before a single word is written. But I can’t remember exactly when that happened, although I could feel that moment that became the first scene in the book, when Jeffrey Cooper is attacked, seemingly randomly, on the platform of a public train in Germany. He’s been floating inside his head, trying to keep from becoming stressed from the onslaught of a packed, pushing rush hour at the public transport (“pubtran”) station of the future, where the trains glide in noiselessly, and everyone is so absorbed into his own frantic, speedning digital world, that no one pays any attention to the fact that a man is being viciously punched on the platform.

I could feel that moment, and right after that, at lot of the plot started to unfold. There was the idea of people being completely buried literally alive in their work, so that almost none of their real personalities ever surfaces or survives: They are their jobs. They have no identity outside work; they can only survive this way. Any other approach to living becomes impossible. Against this tide, I placed another character, a very troubled painter named John van der Meer, a Dutchman living in Germany and feeling at heart as alienated at Jeffrey Cooper, who is American, from Alabama, but completely a part of the new, all-reaching global economy. These two men seem to have almost nothing in common except a strange need for one another, which they will soon find.

The book is set in a truly internationalized and very Americanized Europe, with Germany the center of it. It is a Germany that becomes almost more American than America, because America has taken so many steps backward (because of advancing religious fundamentalism) that the nation has become a Third World country, lagging in fact behind the Third World, which, educationally, has stepped ahead. So some part of the novel takes place in India, an India that is schizophrenic in its super-advancement on one hand and its ancient culture and remaining poverty on the other.

But every country is still connected to one vast global economic system, tied to the culture and religion of consumerism. People are now united only in customer relationships, becoming the consumerate rather than the electorate, and style is now substituted for any form of personal belief and expression, be it religious, ethical, or otherwise.

The first draft of Carnal came about fairly smoothly. I think it took about 9 months, and then came all the subsequent drafts, perhaps eight or nine of them, during which the book went through some fairly radical changes. I changed the tone of the book, brought in new concepts that held the book together—especially the idea of “style as domination,” and I brought in Harold Cooper, Jeffrey’s father who commited suicide. He is never actually in the book—but is only seen as a sad ghost, as the being that Jeffrey could never approach, but who approaches him in the end. I brought my own upbringing in the South into it, and also that of my partner, who is actually from Alabama. I’m from Georgia, and having grown up Southern and Jewish, had a very different upbringing than he did.

You can now get Carnal Sacraments at most gay bookstores like Lambda Rising in Washington, at TLA Video, at Amazon (, and at Barnes and Nobles. Or you can order it from my website, Any way you get it, it is one way of sharing in that wondrous situation called the “birth of the book.”Carnal Sacraments