June can be the cruelest month in London . . . if you originally come from Spain. At this point in the year, most cities in the Iberian Peninsula showcase a splendid sun: a warning of the blazing summer that is to come.

But this was not the case in the gayish Soho district. It was a rainy and chilly afternoon as I hurried along, weaving my way through the crowded Shaftesbury Avenue. I was late for my coffee with Robbie Rojo, a tanned and good-looking expat from Cadiz who I knew well from the internet. Still, I had almost no knowledge of him. This is usually the case with porn stars. If you have seen them in action, you know very intimate details about them, but you have almost no idea about who they really are. “Will his demeanor be as wild as his performances on screen?”, I wondered as I looked for him in the Starbucks of Wardour Street.

What brought us together on that gray London day were intellectual concerns. For a long time, men have commercialized the female body through the media, especially in porn. A Netflix show, Hot Girls Wanted, has recently brought many of these stories to light. But what about those men who become objects of pleasure for other men? “Who is the person behind the body? How do you live your life when you become an object of desire?”, I asked Robbie on Facebook. He found my highbrow doubts amusing. He was the first of many. Over the past year, I have been in touch with a good number of gay porn stars. Much maligned sometimes, yet also secretly imitated and revered, these men had many things to say about the ups and downs of a profession greatly transformed by the internet in recent years.

More… “Sacred Monsters”

Ernesto Oyarbide is presently reading for a Dphil in History at the University of Oxford. He regularly writes on contemporary issues around cosmopolitan culture, human identities and anything digital.


Who out there knows that butterflies are scented? Their aroma can be that of flowers like honeysuckle or jasmine, herbs and spices like lemon verbena or cinnamon, or confections like vanilla or chocolate, depending on the species. It can also be unpleasant, like vinegar, or urine. According to Avery Gilbert, author of What the Nose Knows, scented butterflies are neither exotic nor rare. While field guides do not say so, Gilbert notes that butterflies can easily be caught, sniffed, and released unharmed. What a captivating pursuit!

With my recent article on body odor, and the heat of summer causing lots of seasonally assertive odors, questions about the power of scent have stuck in my mind. So I turned to an expert: Gilbert’s new book examines why the sense of smell is so underappreciated, and why it should be… More…

Even in the Renaissance, everyone was a critic. Before Michelangelo’s David was revealed to the Florentine public on June 8, 1504, a few jealous artists carped that there were flaws in the vast nude — the right hand was a touch too big, the neck a little bit long, the left shin over-sized and something about the left buttock was not quite right. And when the statue was being moved into the central Piazza della Signoria, a group of youths attacked it with stones, foring the city to mount a round-the-clock guard (although the vandals’ anger may have been provoked by local politics, not aesthetics).

But the most disconcerting criticism at the time came from the powerful Piero Soderino, one of the top magistrates in the Florentine Republic. According to a tale told by the contemporary biographer (and avid Michelangelo fan) Giorgio Vasari, Soderino went so far as to tell… More…

People have crazy ideas about how they will die. They fear earthquakes and floods, murderous attackers and terrorists. They worry about car crashes and airplane crashes, shark attacks and snake bites. Lately, the big fear centers on the return of pandemic influenza. I personally have an unreasonable fear of falling over the side of a cliff.

These dangers are all possible ways to die, of course, but their likelihood is incredibly small. And while theoretically many of these dangers could be averted — by steering clear of earthquake- and flood-prone areas, eschewing cars and planes, staying out of the water, practicing social isolation during flu season — it’s no way to live a full life. These are all, in sum, largely rare and uncontrollable fates.

Consider the facts on what is far more likely to kill us, according to “The Global Burden of Disease and Injury Series,” a massive compendium… More…

Guests at the Berghof, Hitler’s private chalet in the Bavarian Alps, must have endured some unpleasant odors in the otherwise healthful mountain air.

It may sound like a Woody Allen scenario, but medical historians are unanimous that Adolf was the victim of uncontrollable flatulence. Spasmodic stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea, possibly the result of nervous tension, had been Hitler’s curse since childhood and only grew more severe as he aged. As a stressed-out dictator, the agonizing digestive attacks would occur after most meals: Albert Speer recalled that the Führer, ashen-faced, would leap up from the dinner table and disappear to his room.

This was an embarrassing problem for a ruthless leader of the Third Reich. With uncharacteristic concern for his fellow human beings, Hitler had first tried to cure himself when he was a rising politician in 1929 by poring over medical manuals, coming to the conclusion that a largely… More…

After my debit card was stolen one night, a couple of years ago, I posted this letter in the “lost & found” section of Craigslist:

Dear whoever stole my debit card on Tuesday night, out of the ’90 Toyota Corolla on NW Flanders, you know who you are, and I have a question for you: Why did you do that? Why did you withdrawal $442 from my account? Were you high, or hungry, or desperately ill, or, better yet, do you have a friend who was hungry, or ill, or needed desperately to get high?

Portland Teachers Credit Union tells me that next you bought two $62 Amtrack tickets and then spent $8 at Burgerville. That seems like a lot for one person at Burgerville, unless you got a milkshake or something. I know I always want one, but I am on a tight budget and so can’t afford those… More…