Published in: January-February 2018 issue.


Three Photos in No Need of a Punchline They pretty much speak for themselves. They come from around the world, and all three involve matters of questionable taste as locally defined.

  1. For anyone who missed this sign in front of the Bella Vista Baptist Church in Edgewater, Florida, which went TV viral in early November, here it is. For the rest of you, here it is again. It seems like the kind of double entendre that might once have remained confined to the gay community, where its unintended meaning would immediately be clear. The fact that the rest of America is now hip to the perils of oral sex is perhaps a sign of progress.
  2. From the town of Mariano Comense in northern Italy: controversy erupted when the grave of one Carlo Annoni materialized in the local cemetery—a flamboyant affair, to say the least, amid the somber tombstones. In fact, it was a self-consciously “gay” statement by the deceased and his surviving husband to tell the world of their “colorful life” together over 36 years. One resident found the grave “too showy and colorful,” while a town notable said it was “in bad taste and too glamorous.” One can imagine Carlo’s reply: “Too glamorous! How is this even possible?”
  3. This one needs a bit more explanation. The pictured piece, titled Domestikator, by the collective Atelier Van Lieshout, was pulled from a show at the Louvre, which deemed it “sexually explicit” and thus verboten. The art world reacted in disbelief, as well it might, not only because any possible sexual meaning is pretty darn abstract, but also because the pictured objects really aren’t capable of having sex. Louvre art director Jean-Luc Martinez offered the usual explanations about how the work might be “misunderstood,” adding that it had “a brutal aspect”—a word that in French comes closer to our “bestial” or “beastly.” In other words, it’s how animals do it. Perhaps the safest assumption would be that M. Martinez just isn’t a fan of doggy style.


Honey Bears There’s a British advert for honey that takes the mainstreaming of gay culture to new levels. The first of several episodes leads us down a sylvan path to a fairytale cottage in which reside three bears—gay bears, that is, with beards and bellies and great good humor as they perform their chores of chopping firewood and gathering nuts and berries. But mostly they spend their time making porridge—what else?—on which they spread various dainties and drizzle generous amounts of Rowse Honey. So, the first thing to note is that the concept of “bear” as gayly defined is sufficiently well known in Britain that it can be used to sell honey to housewives. But also, the gag works on so many levels: the fact that real bears like honey, that there were three fairytale bears who ate porridge—the guys even do the “too hot, too cold, just right” routine—and that gay men are stereotypically great cooks. The two-minute spots even include cooking tips for your rolled oats; and when things go well in the kitchen… “Bear hugs!”


Karma Time Among the Democratic victories on election day in November was that of Danica Roem, who became the first transgender legislator in Virginia (anywhere?) by defeating Republican incumbent Bob Marshall for a seat in the House of Delegates. The poetic justice of it all! Marshall wasn’t just anti-gay; he described himself as Virginia’s “homophobe in chief.” Nor was this an idle claim: it was Marshall who introduced an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” into the House. His aggressively transphobic campaign included frequent use of the wrong pronoun to refer to Ms. Roem. By all accounts, the Democrat ran a brilliant campaign, making herself as visible and available as possible, even as her opponent refused to debate. Had they done so, Roem may have been forgiven for uttering those immortal words: “I’m your worst nightmare.”


Plugged In Readers who have never darkened the door of Chaturbate.com or the like may not know that there is such a thing as a vibrating butt plug; and now there’s a model that can be activated remotely and wirelessly. The maker of the device, Lovense Hush, explains that the wireless feature allows you to stimulate yourself with ease, or stimulate a partner remotely, or you can stimulate each other, say, while walking in the mall. But it turns out the devices are subject to hacking—indeed it’s an easy hack (who thinks of butt plug security?)—such that an outsider could take over the device from afar. In a demonstration, hackers from Pen Test Partners showed how they could detect the Bluetooth-based device from outside someone’s home and cause it to go berserk. There’s even a word for this prank: “screwdriving,” derived from “wardriving,” which implies that the takeover is a hostile act. Which it may well be, but then, how bad could a berserk butt plug be for someone already so engaged? The attack could easily backfire.