Sunday, May 26, 2019

Remember Why the Good Lord Gave You Eyes - Fetishize!

There's a lot of talk about erotic fetishization, usually across ethnic or "racial" lines, and I've written about it before.  While the term can apply to an actual thing, most often it seems to me to be in bad faith.  I think that "fetishization" now occupies the conceptual space formerly taken by "objectification," which also had its problems.  "Fetish" used to mean eroticized inanimate objects, usually because of their sexy associations: shoes, stockings, and the like.  It wasn't much of a stretch to extend the concept to the eroticization of physical traits (breasts, legs, hair, skin color), but for better or worse that seems to be within the realm of normal human sexuality.  It's almost never apparent where the line is being drawn between valid eroticism and fetishization, and there tends to be an indignant refusal to discuss the distinction.

As a writer, I've always been interested in how to write about bodies and sexuality without relying on objectifying cliches.  What surprises me is how many people don't even try: they embrace it.  It's okay to write or talk in praise of the desired person in order to excite yourself, but it's not necessarily going to excite the person you're courting, let alone your readers.

So I found this article intriguing.  It's hardly unique, but it's the first time I've come across such blatant intra-ethnic (or homoethnic?) fetishization online, rather than merely in print, so I can link to it for present and future discussion.  It might also be extreme -- though again, not unique -- in its blatancy.
The midday light against skinny musculature. Wide jawline converging to a chiseled point. Full set of teeth, the broadest smile. The torso and the hips and the groin a triangular continuity. Wanting to touch all his geometry.

What’s his name? He told me somewhere in our initial messages but I forgot. But can you forget what you really don’t care to remember to begin with?

J, the name started with a J, so Jesus or José or Juan. One of those. I know what needs to be known of him: his body, the photographic parceling of chest, face, dick, legs, ass, that he sent me; tell me what that tongue can do, I ask him, and he responds in detail, poetic prose of the body; a video sent giving motion to the body in gravity, its rotations, its gyrations, its penetrations; my descriptions in text of what I will do to him, how I want to do it, how I need him to be when my body is on his, in his, indistinguishable from his.

Call me shallow, girl, but I like it how I like it.
The writer is queer, Latinx, working on his Ph.D.  That probably explains, not the bad writing itself, but the particular kind of bad writing.  I think I'd rather read the messages from his paramour, their "poetic prose of the body."

Notice "the name started with a J, so Jesus or José or Juan"; the author repeats it more than once later in the post.  If a white guy wrote like this, he'd be roasted, and rightly, for dehumanizing his piece of trade; this writer would probably argue that it's different when you're from the same barrio, but he overlooks his own privilege (a word that doesn't appear in the post).  He's not completely unaware of it, but only with respect to his mother and father, not to his sex partners.  I've seen this before in other writing by immigrant / outsiders, including gay ones; indeed, I've come up against the same class and education issues myself.  When the writer says "I am an anomaly," he's wrong, even as a queer "college-educated MexiRican"; the territory he occupies has often been explored, agonized over, written about for close to a century now.

Ah well, he's young, I wasn't any better at that age myself.  It's curious though, in these days when there's so much complaint about the way college education supposedly dwells on race and class and other such issues, that the writer's schooling apparently skipped that stuff, even in graduate school where it supposedly runs rampant.  Nor am I condemning him for fetishizing his barrio boys.  I'm just citing his post as an example of ethnic/racial fetishizing within his own community.  The person who linked to it on Twitter blocked me when I pointed it out.  That's not how you fix the problem, kids.