(c) Calvin McFadden
I was recently talking with a friend of mine in Los Angeles about the differences between how gay men relate to each other out there as opposed to the way gay men relate to each other here in my hometown of New York City. I’ve had my fair share of relationships in both cities and as I began to ponder my experiences, I realized that the differences between the two locales are pretty huge.
I spent my entire twenties in Los Angeles and I remember having several conversations with paramours that expressed that they did not prefer to be penetrated yet on several occasions it did not take much coercion at all to actually “infiltrate their citadel” as it were. There were even partners that said that they did not perform oral sex yet would attach themselves to my crotch faster than you can say “J.L. King.”
Back here in New York, I find that men are more honest, direct and upfront in pretty much every aspect of life including their sexual proclivities. There are no metaphors when comes to the New Yorkers’ sexuality, there are no grey areas or phrases up for interpretation. When someone in New York says that they are a “top” it means that they are a top, unlike in Los Angeles when it can be interpreted as, “Really-I’m-a-notorious-bottom-but-I-totally-have-issues-with-my-sexuality-so-I-wear-the-baggy-jeans-the-Timberlands-and-walk-with-a-pimp-so-no-one-will-know-exactly-how-much-of-a-flaming-homosexual-I-am-so-I-will-tell-you-that-I-am-a-top-but-if-you-make-the-slightest-effort-to-try-and-fuck-me-I-am-going-wrap-my-butt-cheeks-around-your-dick-so-fiercely-they-are-going-to-need-a-crowbar-to-separate-us.”
As my friend in Los Angeles conveyed, the brothers there still have huge hang ups when it comes gender roles, particularly when it comes to matters of sex. Tops are seen as masculine, virile, prodigious. Bottoms are seen as feminine, weak, powerless. The ideas of strong femininity or solicitous masculinity are foreign concepts to Los Angeleans, particularly when it comes to matters of sex. Sexual positions are not seen as innovative means to an orgasmic end, but rather deeply embedded identification markers that represent your lot in life. In Los Angeles, your desire to penetrate and be penetrated can be synonymous to bar codes on produce, if you like to be penetrated, your bar code will read, “punk.” If you like to penetrate your bar code will read, “rough trade.” And did I mention that these codes are being read and interpreted by other gay men? When did Los Angeles adopt the sexist and homophobic attributes of our heterosexual counterparts and how in the name of all that is sexy did they turn those attributes into erotica?
Now of course being New York born and raised I do have a certain biased towards the games men play on the East Coast as opposed to the West Coast but there is some truth in that you would be hard pressed to find a higher percentage of sexually repressed gay Black men in New York as opposed to the “DL” brothers in Los Angeles. I think of the sexual experiences I’ve had in Los Angeles (e.g. those benches upstairs to the back right of the dance floor of the Catch, behind the curtains at the El Rey) and there is always a certain surreptitious gleam in those memories, not out of remembering the fear we had in getting caught by security and being escorted out, but more of a social concern at the idea of an associate catching us and spreading the absolutely horrible rumor that you, a gay man, were actually having sex, with a gay man… in a gay club. This doesn’t really exist here on the East Coast. Like I said earlier, there are no grey areas when it comes to sex here, there is no hierarchy. There is no “penetrate” you are gay level one, “get penetrated” you are gay level two. Here, we are all able bodied, oversexed men and if someone were to catch me playing naked twister behind a curtain here, there would be no infantile gossip mongering because everyone who would be told would either understand that we are all able bodied, oversexed men and/or would just stand in line for their turn.
The more I think about it I realize that it is an idea of “image”. Like those old “Sprite” commercials that used to tout “Image is nothing, thirst is everything”, Los Angeles is an industry town and it’s industry is the production of images so it’s no wonder that much like the coal dust that has a tendency to spread through Allentown, PA, the toxicity of the images produced from Hollywood has a tendency to spread through the city’s paradigms. In Los Angeles, it’s not whether or not you are a top or a bottom but rather if you represent yourself to be a top or bottom that matters. Which I assume has some amiable qualities since people have been playing that game there for so long… but fuck if I know. Personally, I would rather just cut to the chase and be honest. I don’t particularly view my relationships, sexual and otherwise, as commodities or tools to improve my social status or allure, I view them as sacred talismans, customized to always remind me that at the end of the day, I am alive, I am blessed and I am damn beautiful.
And as far as my sexual practices are concerned, they are what they are. And some might go on and on into oblivion trying to classify my state of being solely based on those practices but I have a tendency to think those same people are over compensating for something lacking in their own personal regime; top, bottom or the salacious space in between, at the end of the day I’m a man… and that’s all that matters. As I was talking to my friend we both began to see our sexual practices a lot like pets and we both began to see New York as walking the dog and the dog walking Los Angeles. And while I love my friend dearly and his constant fight to gain control of the leash… I wouldn’t trade New York for any other bitch in the world.