EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

“Well, what does sex mean to you?” he asked. I laughed. Kyle repeated the question, “Seriously,” he said.

We were young and 20, saddled up next to each other in my twin bed. The metallic frame chirped as he propped up on his elbow and stared at me. I stared at my ceiling, the textured drywall, the swirls in pale green. My bedroom in Pittsburgh was different from my bedroom at home where my mother and I had painted the walls a bluish green, sycamore.

“You’re tense,” Kyle said and then began typing his coarse fingers along my forearm. When I took his hand in mine and guided him to softer longer strokes, he pressed harder.

It was only our second date but I felt as if I were always playacting with Kyle, like I had to adhere to a script. In the past, when I’d told people that I had never had sex before (not for religious reasons, just because), it was never a big deal. But Kyle seemed to think that it was, which was why we had stopped. It made me nervous. I had sprung it on him; that much was true. Surely, I owed him that. More… “Geography”

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The name Ganja Acid combines the recreational sloth of marijuana with the cosmic distortion of the 1960’s most iconic chemical without offering any hint that it belongs to a four-seat psychedelic bar. A friend suggested my wife Rebekah and I visit it while on our honeymoon in Osaka. Although I no longer smoked weed or dropped acid, I still loved the psychedelic: surreal books, occult verbiage, hippie satire, and trippy music that sounded like it was made on mushrooms. They were fun and reminded me of the risky excitement required to warp reality in order to examine it. The thing was, neither ganja nor acid were legal in Japan. While marijuana shops had popped up all over Portland where we lived, over there, even the smallest amount of weed brought first-time offenders a minimum of five years hard labor.

Japan’s 1948 Cannabis Control Act outlawed the commercial cultivation of hemp after WWII. Because modern pharmaceuticals have recreational uses, Japan also outlawed the unauthorized possession of many opioid painkillers like codeine and banned amphetamines like Adderall that are used to treat ADHD. It didn’t matter how commonly they were prescribed in other countries. It wasn’t a matter of clinical efficacy. The laws treated them with the same firm hand as heroin and cocaine. In June 2015, a high-level Toyota Motor Corp executive was arrested for having 57 oxycodone pills hidden in a package, mailed to her Tokyo hotel from the United States. Authorities held her for 20 days, and, after she resigned her high-profile post, and after she was widely discussed in the media, they let her off without formal charges. This is common in Japan, where the process is often the punishment for people who apologize and express remorse. Although oxycodone was legally prescribed there, the exec didn’t have a prescription and she didn’t get official governmental approval in advance.

More… “Ganja-Acid”

Aaron Gilbreath is the author of the personal essay collection Everything We Don’t Know, and the ebook This Is: Essays on Jazz. An editor at Longreads, his essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Lucky Peach, Brick, and Saveur. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Tanoshii: Travels in Japan. @AaronGilbreath

EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Fifty years ago a show of male nude art at a small gallery in Long Island, New York provoked the confusion and disdain of the critics. The poet and art critic John Ashbery complained in New York Magazine, “Nude women seem to be in their natural state; men, for some reason, merely look undressed.” (Ashbery’s concern here might have been masking his own homosexuality.) In a more sympathetic response, Vicky Goldberg noted that the homoeroticism that many of the works provoked cast such art “from its traditions and in search of some niche to call its home.” But it was Gene Thompson at the New York Times who pointed to the deeper concerns of this show when he wrote, “there is something disconcerting about the site of a man’s naked body being presented as a sexual object.” We have thankfully moved beyond such acute prejudices. But even today looking at… More…

In my first real music history class, I was confronted with a disturbing fact: I couldn’t name a single British composer. In a get-to-know-you exercise our professor asked us about our homes and histories, and then connected them to music. You’re from Louisiana? Tell us about the history of cajun and zydeco! Your family came from France? Name some French composers for us. Circling around the room, my professor stopped at me.

“Where are your ancestors from?”

“As far as I’m aware, my ancestry is almost entirely English.”

“Name a British composer!”

Mary Sydnor was managing editor of The Smart Set and is now a writer based in Baltimore. She has also written for Table Matters, Philly.com, and the Philadelphia Daily News. Follow her on Twitter @_MarySydnor.

Saint Teresa of Avila is best known in her ecstatic state, as captured in marble by the sculptor Gian Bernini — her arched back, her body caught in an orgasmic wave, the moan from her parted lips almost audible. She felt the presence of God as an erotic power, the connection between the divine and the mortal as an energy unlike any other. This chaste 16th-century nun wrote about her soul being penetrated by the arrow of the angel, “so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish it to cease, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.”

Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity by Rebecca Goldstein. 304 pages. Schocken. $22. Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche by James Miller. 432 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $28. How… More…

Gayness was invented in America. That’s the thought that slowly formed in my mind while perusing the show “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. I’m not saying that America invented homosexuality, of course. That goes a little further back. What America did was to give gayness its specific difference, to make “gay” into an identity you could have publicly like any other.

“Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” Through February 13, 2011. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.

“Hide/Seek” begins its American story, as is appropriate, with Walt Whitman. Walt was, after all, the great bard of American self-invention. If there was a new identity to be tried, Walt was ready to sing its praises. It has been speculated that Whitman had a more than passing interest in… More…

Part of Chicago froze in the 1930s. I’ve been thinking of my old home city of Chicago a lot lately, and of my new home in Berlin. The thread that ties them together seems to be that they’re both stuck in time. In the same time. They have one foot in this chaotic contemporary period, but the other is still in the 1920s and early ’30s, each summed up as a Bob Fosse experience (Chicago and Cabaret).

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago by Douglas Perry. 320 pages. Viking Adult. $25.95.

And why not? It was a glamorous age for both. Berlin had its cabarets, Otto Dix, sex, and liquor. Chicago had its speakeasies, gangsters, and gunner girls. With what followed — rubble for one, crime and poverty for the other… More…

In the early ’90s, amid high-profile sexual harassment lawsuits and rape awareness campaigns such as Take Back the Night marches, two students accused a master at an Australian university of assaulting them at a school party. Hotly denied by the master himself, the charges consisted of a drunken grope while dancing, and a come-on later in his office. While the master was found not guilty of the charges, he still lost his job after leaflets appeared around campus saying that if the master was not stopped now, he would go on to rape a student.

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of Bookslut.com. She currently resides in Chicago.

The Catholic Church has long enjoyed involving itself in the most intimate details of the conjugal bedroom, although its motives took a radical turn in the Middle Ages.  Early thinkers often looked on sex-free marriages as the Christian ideal, celebrating the saintly couples who abandoned the pleasures of the flesh and lived like sterile hermits. But after the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, theologians decided that procreation was the sacred purpose of all conjugal unions. While divorce was still impossible without a special papal dispensation, Church lawyers became open to legal annulments of if one spouse was unable to carry out their holy marital duty. Courts needed to be au fait with the minutia of male performance, so in 1570 the Spanish intellectual Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva wrote the learned text De Frigidis et Maleficiatis to help distinguish the five categories of impotence that might affect the bonds of… More…

You could be forgiven for drawing certain conclusions about sexual relations from the work of Shirley Jackson. Something about the malevolence of men, the witchy insularity of women, and the powerful bonds between girls that sometimes border on incestuous. There are the sisters in We Have Always Lived in the Castle, one who sings rhymes about killing everyone, and one who is drawn away by a sudden male presence (with firey consequences). There is Theodora in The Haunting of Hill House, who goes by Theo, has a row with her female “roommate,” smashes her copy of Alfred de Musset (Musset being the author of the lesbian erotica Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess), and sexually teases the submissive Eleanor. The male characters often shimmer with malevolence, destroying peaceful homes or destroying women for sport, like Jamie, the man who suddenly disappears the morning of his wedding day in “The Daemon… More…