Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

A shift in the texture of the air

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | June 03, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Media, The Movement
Tags: faggot, internet cruising, liberation, public sex, queer sexuality, relationships

Sometimes I wish I could let go of sex, maybe desire would become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky. I've been trying to regain a sense of liberation in my own sexuality, but I find myself trapped by the usual unsatisfying options and the lack of space to create what I really want.

For weeks now I've been trying to think of this particular phrase, something like it's over but grander and more eloquent like the love is gone but it never was love so I just get stuck trying to figure out how to say that I don't know if there's any hope for me in public sex anymore. I mean beyond the possibility for the moment to transcend, even that is rarer and rarer now and maybe that's what I mean by the love is gone. I think I did use to love it, now all I can feel is the lack and I do think things have changed, especially the way guys walk around with a shopping list like they're checking off boxes and that's the internet overwhelming public space but also maybe I've changed. And I need something else.

I understand why so many fags give up on sex, or give up hoping that sex will become anything other than something lost, over and over again this loss or maybe I mean lack, this sense that something is lacking and some people go to great lengths to keep it that way. Others just follow the rules, and the rest of us slowly lose our sense that sex will ever illuminate anything else.

I understand why people hold onto relationships that aren't working -- at least there's something to hold onto. Something grounding in the gestures of the familiar, even when the familiar keeps you still when you want to keep moving, and moving when you want to keep still. I hold onto my relationship to public sex, and I'm unwilling to let go of the dream that it can become more, more of what I'm dreaming. I've been holding onto that dream for almost 20 years now, really 20 years I just realized it's been 20 years that's a long time. Starting somewhere in those first bathrooms when I was 14 I always hoped that somehow I'd meet someone like me, I mean I was there so what about someone else? I'm not sure that's ever happened, and I'm not sure it ever will. The culture is only changing for the worse, I mean the culture of public sex and the way its limitations become strictures.

I don't want to let go of the way sex in public is what sex means to me, more than the gestures it's the possibility of a shift in the texture of the air. I don't want to give up. But sometimes I can feel the air changing anyway, this air inside me and sometimes that means my desire feels empty and pointless, a rush that only leads me to walls. I'm so sick of walls. But sometimes I can sense something else, a difference in the way that I hold desire and maybe that means eventually it will hold me.

Mattilda blogs at

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You and I need to talk sometime. What it appears to me is that you are experiencing the advent of life moving ever forward. What thrilled us in the early days of yesteryear loses its luster as we get older. We cannot stop what Time does to us, nor should worry over it.

As far as sex goes, there can be other, more exciting things for you in the future, and you won't even have to leave your bedroom. You'll have the feeling of another person in your arms. The soft touch of their lips to yours. The beautiful smell of their body. The sounds of whispering in your ears. Your low level moaning, as your lover explores every exciting part of your body.

It is what you are destined for. Embrace the new changes in your life and take love (and sex) to the next level. You will be better for it.

Yeah, I can see what you're talking about here. You've written a lot about how the internet is such a cold place for meeting guys, but as someone with a foot in both worlds (internet in the US, bathhouse in France, but now it's relationship-ville), I can't really say that I notice much difference. I'm pretty objectified anywhere I go in gay male spaces in pretty horrible ways. The absolute worst, for me, are the bars.

Maybe you just need to get married, Mattilda. Settle down, picket fence, 2.3 kids, a dog, and a ring on that finger. I'll head up the committee to find you the right man. :)

I'm confused by some of this.

Why the correlation between not having public sex and giving up on sex altogether or a relationship that isn't working? What do those things have in common? I've had plenty of non-public sex that was absolutely spectacular. I've had non-relationship sex that was out of this world too. Having that sex in a public park or sex club wasn't necessary.

Is this more of a fetish thing? Or are you seriously advocating that public sex will change the world?

Alex, as long as it's diamonds...

Bil, the relationship correlation is between my relationship to public sex, and relationships that aren't working... Your fetishes are anyone's guess, but I don't believe I said anything about how public sex will change the world!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 4, 2008 1:09 AM

Matt ilda,

You are bright and live your life on your own terms.

let me share with you the conversation I had with two Juliard students who came to New York in the 1950's. They spent the wee hours running naked through Central Park. They attempted, for my benefit, to attempt to find some "kink" they had not explored. Totally perplexed they settled upon "Sucking Dandruff."

One of the two, Joel Honig, (go ahead Google her name and "Opera News.")insisted to me that the only place left to have "ordinary" sex any more was Canada. The other, Raymond Wilson, had a successful career as a ballet pianist and toured the world with the Harkness Ballet. Both died without a life companion and they were acid bitter which I hope you do not allow to happen to you.

It is not that anything you have done is invalid, it is only that you have changed, grown, and discovered a longing for new human needs.

Now, go pretend you are cooking dinner, alone.

Robert, why the strange space in my name -- the growth there has already taken place...

I'm not excited about this narrative people are placing on my lived experience, the one where some kind of partnered relationship will save me from my not-quite-sins! I have always wanted love and intimacy and commitment from all sorts of different kinds of relationships, and I continue to want all of it, yes all I want it all!

Love --

You should try having sex in the bedroom sometimes. You'll be surprised at how much fun it can be. Yes, I know. It's too "traditional" for some people to embrace. Maybe you can start off in the bathroom of your home? It's a compromise.

I'm not excited about this narrative people are placing on my lived experience, the one where some kind of partnered relationship will save me from my not-quite-sins!

I agree with you here, Mattilda. The comments have been rather judgmental.

While I realize that my comment may have come off as harsh too, I'm coming more from a place of curiosity. While you didn't say that public sex will "change the world," your glorification of it in this post and others seems to make it clear that it is your preferred sexual activity.

So that leads me to wondering, "Why?" What is it about public sex that is so important to you? Why not sex in the bedroom or living room or kitchen. Why not have non-public sex anywhere? It's not that I'm saying you need to be in a relationship; jumping into a relationship for sex is silly. You can have lots of non-public sex without a partner. *grins*

While you focused on park sex in most posts, I'm also curious to know if you consider the baths public sex. I'd also like to know more about why "sex in public is what sex means to me." I tend to fall more with Monica's first comment's description myself...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 4, 2008 9:05 AM


Darn, my thumb forgot to twitch on the space bar. :)

I hope you don't think that I was being in any way judgmental. That certainly was not my intent. It is more like, slowing down, thinking things through and progressing at whatever pace gives you pleasure on all levels.

The fact is my two "aunties" love, intimacy and commitment was with vodka. They went strong until they hit forty and somewhere along the way lost the ability to be "vulnerable" enough to form attachments that involved sex coupled with love, intimacy and commitment. They were bitter as acid about that. Plus things slow down after 40 whether you like it or not.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 4, 2008 9:14 AM

and the reason my thumb twitches between Matt and Ilda is the same reason the drag queen had on "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" for saying "So Long Ralph!" :)

The drag queen that kept calling her "Ralph" in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was an asshole.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 4, 2008 11:06 AM

That would be bad because... Work real hard to find some humor. I have already corrected my salutation on comment #10. Have a very happy day Kat!

Bil, I invoke public sex because I think there's a potential for some kind of communal embrace that I'm not sure exists elsewhere -- I have other kinds of sex too :)

I do think the baths are public sex spaces, for sure, although I'm not so fond of those little rooms...

Robert, not vodka!

And Kate, thanks for remembering the details of that dreary movie...

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 1:24 AM

Mmmm..."I invoke public sex because I think there's a potential for some kind of communal embrace that I'm not sure exists elsewhere" -- is quite an evocative statement, bringing fond memories to mind.

May I suggest a form of public sex that I have found does produce that sort of communal embrace -- sex as audience-involved interactive performance art.

It helps to have an easy facility with language, which you certainly have, and the courage to involve both humor and the simultaneous willingness to be open and vulnerable, exposing soul as much as body, which I'll leave to you to decide for yourself if you can muster.

Oh, and the right partner is crucial -- someone who has the guts to play hard and deep. If you're unsure, my advice is to do it tag-teamed. And props help, as well as a good backstory.

Marla, what a great idea! Sex as "audience-involved interactive performance art" is certainly a good option to put on the table -- of course, it makes me curious about your stories...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 5, 2008 11:21 AM

Sort of like "Hair" with a ramp between the audience and stage.:)

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 11:35 AM

Inscrutably smiling...

Join me for a few cups of Chatham Artillery punch some time and we'll talk ...

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | June 5, 2008 11:57 AM

Robert -- That wasn't exactly what I had in mind but I learned long ago, before I was even out of my little lavender diapers, not to stand between certain queens and their show tunes so, if that's where your sexual muse leads you, may the Star Goddess, for whom "all acts of love and pleasure are [Her] rituals", be with you!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 5, 2008 9:00 PM

I was considering the physical acts more than the music. Don't forget to use talcum enfant terrible.

Marla and Robert, I like this conversation between you -- where do I find more?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 6, 2008 4:13 AM

In any gay bar on any street,

Where friends old and friends new meet,

A hierarchy quickly develops,

Like shooting pool or shooting pellets,

A thousand little comments develop,

For wicked fun, and hearty laughter,

We remember our friends, both now and after.

For Mattilda with love//You may now have your gin

and insulin...

But why gin and insulin? I'll stick to a thousand little comments...

Love --

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 6, 2008 4:33 AM

My Dear, If you drink Chatham Artillery Punch you will need insulin. Take a look at the ingredients of that brew!