Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gay Sex in Film Version of "On The Road"

 
 
I'm glad to see there will be a few gay sex scenes in the movie version of Jack Kerouac's novel, "On the Road." And really only because I can't see how they could be ignored. To ignore the gay sex would be to ignore the rebellious aspects of the entire Beat Generation.

I've read a great deal about the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac's personal life. I keep "On the Road" in print version on my night stand, and that's the only book I keep there now. Allen Ginsberg lived right here in New Hope, back when New Hope was a theater town and filled with all kinds of creative types. There was no "gay" then. Whether or not Kerouac and the rest of the most famous members of the Beat Generation were bi-sexual or homosexual is not always clear. But one thing's for sure. There was gay sex.

I think it's important to make the distinction, though, that "On the Road" is not gay fiction and was never meant to be gay fiction. It can get a little confusing to understand for those who are younger and have grown up knowing the word "gay" as it applies to homosexuals. In those days homosexual wasn't something discussed openly...or even thought about in a positive way. In those days, a lot of the gay sex associated with the Beat Generation was almost shameful for some and for others a rebellious act against society. At least that's how I've always viewed it.

There's an interesting article here. The other thing I think is important about the entire topic has more to do with the evolution of "gay" men and "gay" sex since that time. What they thought of as rebellious back then has now become so commonplace it often goes by unnoticed. Not totally, but I don't think anyone considers being gay a rebellious act anymore.

But while the movie is brazen about gay sex (well, male gay sex), it may not attain queer classic status like My Own Private Idaho, Bound, and Mysterious Skin. While some film critics accuse Salles of turning his nose up at the gay sex in the book, the truth is that Kerouac’s novel is not really a queer work, just a work with queers. While Truman Capote, James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal wrote about men loving other men, On the Road has male characters simply jumping into bed with each other. Also, the book is way too stocked with misogyny and homophobia to be a testament to the LGBT experience, says Don Romesburg, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies and the queer studies adviser at California’s Sonoma State University.

“On the Road’s homoeroticism doesn’t affirm homosexuality or bisexuality as much as it shores up the narrator’s and main character’s prerogatives, as Beat but ultimately straight white males, to go where they want and fuck who they want,” Romesburg says. “But it’s all in the service of their freedom, not ours. Being queer and reading On the Road can be like that drunken one-night stand with a straight boy who won’t make eye contact with you after.”

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