Archive for the 'books' Category

Books: THE PARADOX OF PORN: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture

July 15, 2018

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book called The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture.

Based on my twenty years of experience as a sex therapist/educator and pleasure activist, this book-length essay explores the topic of pornography from a unique, specifically gay male perspective, surveying in depth what’s valuable and what’s problematic about the ubiquitous forms of erotic imagery we encounter on a daily basis.

My intention in writing the book is the same one that drives my professional practice: to encourage and support gay men in having more pleasurable and more satisfying sex. I would like to share more widely the questions, discoveries, curiosities, and wisdom that I encounter every day of my working life.

Pornography is integral to gay male culture: obsessively consumed and almost never discussed, it is the shamefaced step-child of desire and the imagination.

Almost all gay men look at pornography almost every day, whether it’s commercial clips on XTube, handheld homemade videos on Tumblr blogs, or pic-swapping on hook-up apps. Yet we almost never talk about what we watch, what it means, what we like and don’t like. When porn is discussed publicly, it’s often addressed as a problem related to addiction, dysfunction, or exploitation. We nod our heads thoughtfully . . . and then go home and pleasure ourselves to whatever version of porn currently entertains us.

To understand the siren call of pornography, it’s important to consider both what’s valuable and what’s problematic about this alluring form of entertainment. In our heart of hearts, gay men know that pornography has played a special role in our sex lives. It has taught us what desire between two men looks like; it has helped us figure out what turns us on; it has supported us in not feeling so alone; it has gotten us through times of loneliness and isolation, disease and disconnection; and it has contributed to many pleasurable orgasms. At the same time, the images from porn that are now ubiquitous in our lives have shaped and often distorted our ideas about what sex is, what normal bodies look like, how people make connections, and how we feel about ourselves. It has been hugely liberating and hugely oppressive. And that’s the paradox of porn.

This is not a scholarly treatise but an informed, opinionated, open-ended, sometimes extremely graphic meditation on the topic of pornography and its impact on gay male sexual culture. The Paradox of Porn speaks to anyone who wants to explore and expand their understanding of the impact pornography has had in their lives.

Here’s what some eminent authors have said about the book:

The Paradox of Porn is the best book about pornography, the lives and imaginations of gay men, and state of erotic gay culture written to date.” – Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Sane, helpful, and fascinating.” – Andrew Holleran, author of Dancer from the Dance

“Don Shewey’s book is wise, informed, and fearless. The Paradox of Porn busts through several closet doors and explodes taboos. A rich and rewarding read.” –Jay Michaelson, author of God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality

“Frank, smart, and unafraid. Definitely a welcome addition to the conversation gay men should be having.” –Wayne Hoffman, author of Hard, Sweet Like Sugar, and An Older Man

You can read an interview with me about the book published by the online magazine Edge here.

The book is available for order online here. It’s being sold at independent bookstores in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Ask your local bookstore to order it for you.

Books: invitation to join my launch team

May 18, 2018

I’m excited to announce that I’m about to publish my new book, The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture, which explores the impact of pornography on gay men’s lives. And I would like to enlist your help launching the book.

I’m forming a Paradox of Porn Book Launch Team (POP BLT) of 30 people to spread the word to people who might be interested to know about the book. Want to join my team?

Here are the benefits. You get:

  • An electronic edition of the book in advance of publication.
  • An autographed copy of the paperback book when it’s out (June 15).
  • A shout-out of gratitude to you on my blog (joy-body.com).
  • A selection from my hefty collection of vintage porn DVDs.

In return for these goodies, I ask for three commitments:

  • Write a short review on Amazon or another e-tailer site—good, bad, or mixed.
  • Help spread the word about the book on whatever social media platforms you frequent, especially during the week of June 15.
  • Share ideas and brainstorm additional ways we might further expose the message of the book to an even greater audience.

Interested? Email me (don@donshewey.com) and let’s get started.

Books: “Notes on HOMOSEXUAL”

March 29, 2014

dennis
Australian writer, activist, scholar, and educator Dennis Altman (above) wrote one of the first theoretical overviews of gay culture, the groundbreaking book-length essay Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation, first published in 1972. On the 40th anniversary of its publication, some of his colleagues at La Trobe University in Melbourne organized a conference to commemorate and chart the influence of Altman’s work. Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton compiled an anthology of papers, essays, memoirs, and archival material into a volume called After Homosexual: The Legacies of Gay Liberation.  The list of distinguished contributors includes Jeffrey Weeks, Karla Jay, Steven Dansky, Sarah Schulman, and Alice Echols (who is, among other things, the Barbara Streisand Professor of Contemporary Gender Studies at the University of Southern California), along with Australian academics new to me. I was pleased to be asked to contribute something to the conference and doubly pleased that my brief personal essay is included in the anthology, which came out late last year. Here’s how my piece begins:

altman homosexual paperback

To consider Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its publication meant, for me, getting out the stepladder and climbing to the upper left-hand corner of my floor-to-(high-)ceiling bookcase, rummaging through the As and descending with a dusty, creased copy of the Discus/Avon paperback still containing a matchstick as bookmark. Contemplating the single stark word emblazoned across the cover triggers a flashback to my adolescence. I’m ten years younger than Dennis, so while he was writing the book, I was attending high school in rural New Jersey near the Air Force base where my family lived. In those days, looking up the word “homosexual” in the dictionary was the only place a gay kid like me could find his existence verified. Just seeing the word in print was as arousing to me as pornography, which was virtually non-existent or at least unavailable to me then except in the mild heterosexist form of Playboy on the magazine rack in certain convenience stores.

Suddenly, in 1971, there it was, a book out in the world with That Word as the title. I didn’t acquire a copy until two years later, when it came out in paperback just as I was coming out in my third year of college in Boston, which was then a hotbed of gay liberation and countercultural thinking. Dennis’s book was among the first of what became a stream and then a deluge of gay writings that I hungrily devoured in my development as a baby gay scholar, cultural commentator, and pleasure activist.

Dipping back into it now, I’m fascinated to be reminded of the things that were important then. (As I write this, the cover story of New York magazine chronicles the history of Ms. Magazine, which was launched the same year Homosexual was published, and it churns up a related stew of sociopolitical and cultural references.) Charles Reich’s The Greening of America! Eldridge Cleaver! Norman Mailer! (“Without guilt, sex was meaningless.” Really?) Dennis’s discussion of popular culture (“The New Consciousness and Homosexuality”) seems so quaint now. When he started writing, gay life was something glimpsed only rarely among the fields of pop music and theater, like four-leaf clovers. Homosexuality found its highest visibility in literature. Those writers brave, savvy, talented, and free enough to address gay experience directly in their work were well-known, countable on two hands, and thoroughly familiar to gay readers with any interest. I’m intrigued to see how much weight Dennis gave to Paul Goodman and Allen Ginsberg as public gay literary figures. These artists, thinkers, and activists were indeed pioneers in their time and they remain admired and admirable historical figures, but my impression is that they are almost completely unknown to the vast majority of gay Americans younger than 40.

I’ve posted the essay in its entirety on my online archive. You can read it in full here. You can order the D’Cruz and Pendleton compilation here.

after homosexual

Books: Sarah Schulman’s THE GENTRIFICATION OF THE MIND

May 21, 2012

No book has rocked my world in recent times more than Sarah Schulman’s “The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination.” Schulman borrows from urban housing development the concept of gentrification — in which complicated, racially and culturally mixed, financially marginal neighborhoods are eradicated and replaced by areas that are more bland, sterile, upscale, and/or culturally homogenous — to explore the impact of AIDS on the gay world and by extension on American life. The book lays out how difficult, messy, tragic truths have been replaced by falsehoods that are convenient or flattering to the dominant culture.

Schulman is the kind of brave writer and thinker who’s not afraid to exaggerate at the risk of going off the rails, so she does sometimes. But I respect her commitment to writing the way she wants others to. Early on, she lets readers know how she’d like us to consume “The Gentrification of the Mind”: “As a reader myself, I have always most enjoyed books that I can be interactive with. I like to fiercely agree with one idea — and fiercely disagree with the next. That kind of dynamic relationship requires a lot of ideas coming at once, from which the reader can pick and choose. Nothing bores me more than the one-long-slow-idea book, and I promise to never write one.” If you’re not arguing with her, you’re not reading the book right.

To read my review in its entirety on CultureVulture.net, click here.

 

Book: “BAM — The Complete Works”

November 8, 2011

I am thrilled to be in the beautifully produced 382-page glamorous coffee-table book BAM: The Complete Works, edited by Steven Serafin and published by the Quantum Lane Press, in celebration of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 150th anniversary. My contribution is a brief sidebar essay on Laurie Anderson that gets its own spread (pp. 164-165), alongside pieces by the likes of Joan Acocella, Deborah Jowitt, Susan Yung, Roger Oliver, Peter Brook, and Meredith Monk.

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