I shall now “promote homosexuality”, part 1

In its thick-skulled response to Arts Engage’s position paper on censorship which cited ten examples of censorship, including the gay and lesbian ContraDiction, the Media Development Authority (MDA) tried to deny that they censored anything, by playing with words.

In response to these and other examples raised by the arts community, the Media Development Authority (MDA) told Life! yesterday: . . . .

‘For instance, ArtsEngage, in its position paper, had highlighted the reading event ContraDiction as an example of ‘censorship’.

‘MDA has actually approved all five ContraDiction events since 2005. All the events were classified R18 (Adult themes) due to the homosexual themes. Only one poem was disallowed in 2006. Entitled Come On Straight Boy, the poem promoted homosexuality by challenging straight men to try out gay unions.’

— Straits Times Life!, 15 June 2010, Recent examples of censorship.

This is doublespeak a la Animal Farm. When a film has had a scene cut by the censor, we say, in ordinary English, that the film has been censored. You can watch the film, just not the whole of it. So if one part of the planned 2006 ContraDiction (a festival of gay-themed writing and poetry) is banned, then by the same token, we can say, in ordinary English again, that ContraDiction was censored. The MDA is trying to mislead when it says “approved” when it was selective in giving the green light.

Here is the poem by published Singaporean poet Koh Jee Leong (see his bio), which as noted above, the MDA believes will turn you gay (if you are not already) on reading or hearing it:

Come On, Straight Boy

Come on, straight boy, and make gay love with me.
One night of loving will not turn you queer
if queer is not what you will bend to be.
Loving a man is but a change of gears.

Why do it with a girl, an undulating
waterbed, and stress leaks pinched too late?
Why with an oven she loves regulating,
you stick your tray of cookies in, and wait?

Men love themselves when they love other men.
Loving themselves, they know well how to give
each other head, maneuver two or ten
round the bend of straightforward relief.

What have you got to lose? Leap, acrobat!
You can still fall back on pussy cat.

* * * * *

Right, I am now promoting homosexuality!

Is it such a mortal threat to society if straight boys should experiment with gay sex? Well, I guess it is, if you believe that the moment your gay friend even looks at your wee-wee, you would immediately lose all interest in girls and turn queer. What would happen to civilisation as we know it? What would grandmother think?

But that kind of belief is unfounded. You can’t change your sexual orientation any more than you can change your skin colour. (Look at the late Michael Jackson and see what a freak he became by trying).

Lots of gay men and women have engaged in heterosex and, to the great dismay of religious fundamentalists, they didn’t turn straight. They even got married and begot kids, and then in their thirties or so, discovered what love or orgasm should really feel like when they have their first experience with a same-sex partner. They go: “So that’s what it should feel like, heavens, I’ve been doing it with the wrong person all my life!”

Isn’t that proof enough that sexual orientation is immutable?

Want more proof? Ask the countless young heterosexual men who sell gay sex for a living anywhere around the world, including quite a number in Singapore itself. None of them turn gay even when they do it every other day, sometimes more often than that.

So what is there to fear? How exactly does a poem “promote homosexuality”?

* * * * *

I would even argue that maybe it serves a good societal purpose if straight boys did in fact experiment with gay sex. Just as we feel one of the most effective ways of bridging prejudice and attitudinal snobbery is to interact with those we despise, why not with sexuality too? We would probably say it’s a good idea for children of the rich and powerful (especially those with elitist attitudes) to experience living in a slum. Hardline Christians with blinkered views of Islam should live with a Muslim family for a while. Racist Chinese should stay in an Indian home for a week.

Shouldn’t straight boys have a gay sex week too? They can only be enriched.

33 Responses to “I shall now “promote homosexuality”, part 1”


  1. 1 Raphael Wong 20 June 2010 at 17:58

    LOL Alex,

    Even the picture attached to this article is dirty; in fact it is soft pornography. Perhaps, you should remove it unless you want MDA to censor it.:D

    (2) Actually, no, you say – in normal English – that a particular section of the movie has been censored. While over-extending the scope of the word “censored” aids your cause, it is a misuse of language.

    (3) Seriously, your language here is infantile. At any rate, experimenting with sex – hetero or homo – is a problematic proposition. Ever remembered that casual sex transmits AIDS?

    (4) Perhaps so, if there is indeed such a thing as a genetically-determined sexual orientation (which has not been proved by science yet btw). In any case, arguing that what is equals what should be is good rhetoric, but bad argument, actually a species of logical fallacy called the Naturalistic Fallacy.

    (5) How sure are you that they are heterosexual? Or, as they would say, are you simply being “cisgenderist” and “biphobic”?

    (6) That is equivocating “those” as people and “those” as actions. I agree with the other examples you cite in this paragraph (I am, after all, mostly liberal), but I contend that they have no relation whatsoever to gay sex, unless of course you argue that gay sex is the only thing that gays do…

  2. 2 skeptic 21 June 2010 at 14:56

    Isn’t goading straight people to try gay sex just as bad as goading gay people to try straight sex?

    I think a poem mocking straight people is just as distasteful as a poem mocking gay people.

    However, as much as I don’t like the poem, the MDA has no right to censor speech.

  3. 3 Becca D'Bus 22 June 2010 at 01:20

    Raphael,

    Speaking as an artist and curator, actually, when you cut a portion of a piece, you have censored the entire piece. Becasue the piece works in entirety. Sorry to be nitpicking, but I feel a consistent misunderstanding of what constitutes the work of artists and for that matter curators, some of whom think of themselves as artists too. And entire exhibition or event, is censored in the same way, cut a part of it and the whole can be said to have been censored.

    Casual sex does not transmit HIV. Fluid exchange with an HIV positive person does. This can be sexual (say, penis in vagina, no condoms, with ejaculation), or not(say breast feeding). And it can be casual, or not.

    • 4 Anonymous 22 June 2010 at 02:42

      Becca,

      (1) I empathise with your view. As an amateur creative writer myself, I get what you mean. But in any case, ContraDiction was an exhibition of a set of poems from a particular theme. Removing one poem from the set does not destroy the integrity of the set. This is unlike removing a *crucial* scene from a movie or a *key* chapter in a book.

      (2) Yes, I know that. I was merely using conventional terms. Besides, Casual Sex is a form of fluid exchange. And to be nitpicking (my turn), only *contact* is required; *exchange* is unnecessary.

      And yes, non-casual sex can also transmit HIV. But my point was about what Casual Sex can result in, not what are the causes of HIV.

  4. 5 Lee Chee Wai 22 June 2010 at 01:35

    Raphael – it is commonly understood here (in the US) that “censored” means that some objectionable part of a work has been cut off by a censor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship

    I do not think Alex is misusing the language in any way. On the contrary, it does appear you are using (it can be debated) formal definitions much in the way of the legal profession to side-step commonly understood words and phrases. It is like Bill Clinton claiming not to have “sexual relations with that woman”, because by definition, they did not actually have sex.

    In any case, I’ve seen/heard song lyrics far worse in their provocative nature than that poem. The poem, by way of its goading (I detect no hint of sarcasm), is somewhat distasteful from my perspective.

    My experiences with real gay people is that if they find you attractive, they ask you like polite and civilized people. This applies to bisexuals and yes, even lesbians. I’ve encountered a lesbian who was not quite sure she’s really bisexual but found me attractive anyways🙂.

    • 6 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 17:05

      Chee Wai,

      (1) Yes, I know that, and I am using it in that sense. I don’t need a citation from wikipedia for that. My disagreement with Alex is whether it is the whole of the work that is censored, or only the particular part.

      (2) No, I am not; I am merely elaborating on the common implementation/usage of the common definition of “censored”. Alex, conversely, seems to have blown up the definition of “censored” in order to fit his alarmist tendencies.

      (3) I certainly have heard song lyrics more provacative as well in the UK, where I am now. Ever heard of Lady Gaga? But yes, the poem is goading, and not just that, but the article Alex has written about the poem is even more goading in itself (not to mention that the pic attached to this page is soft porn, literally.)

      (4) I won’t disagree with you on this one. But I don’t see the relevance of this comment to our discussion. My comments are solely directed against Alex and the poem, and not against other LGBT people in general. I am somewhat horrified that he wants to promote a “gay sex week” (I hope that it is only sarcasm).

  5. 7 Kapale 22 June 2010 at 17:15

    Hmmm…. this Raphael Wong guy is like so many conservatives who spend more time reading and replying to gay blogs than gays themselves. Just look at the number of comments he made recently and the quickness he responds to other peoples’ replies and the compulsive need to have the last word. Reminds me of this anti-gay guy called Solo Bear, who was obsessive about homosexuality LOL.

    • 8 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 17:40

      Kapale,

      Who has the last word is not important to me. What is important is that I get my viewpoint clearly understood, and that I keep the discussion engaged for as long as possible.

      And no, I am not like Solo Bear. Unless it is a one-para argument I am responding to, I actually give detailed, directed responses for each paragraph, so that I don’t miss out any points.

      Not to forget that I am responding to a thread, not making up my own. I wonder … isn’t the blogger who blogs on homosexuality constantly far more obsessed with it? LOL.

  6. 9 Erica 22 June 2010 at 17:39

    Isn’t the poem just about someone fantasizing, illustrating the frustration of the character speaking (in fancying someone who is straight) like the poems of Browning? It’s actually quite a good poem. It’s not promoting anything at all, certainly not a particular sexual orientation (if such a thing were possible). It’s just a poem showing the state of mind of the person whom it’s about.

    • 10 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 17:53

      Erica,

      I suppose that you could make such a literary analysis of the poem. Although the first line of the poem, in my opinion, seems to suggest a dialogue with an invisible persona (e.g. the reader).

      Also, the second verse and last line of the poem have a blatantly misogynistic tone.

      The first line of the third stanza, for anyone well-versed in history, could be construed as an allusion to the Commune in 1960s New York. Switch “men” with “women”, and you get the Commune’s exact motto. The Commune was set up to promote Lesbianism as the ideal form of social organization: Since men are oppressive, let’s get rid of all men and manliness! When you love men, they said, you hate yourself; when you love women, you are celebrating liberation. Thankfully, such warped thinking did not fully survive the 1960s.

      But it is still present – although muted and hidden – in the discourses of the Commune’s child, whose name is Stonewall.

      By the way, just to clarify, what does the “if it is possible” refer to? The orientation, or the promotion of it?

  7. 11 Erica 22 June 2010 at 18:25

    I don’t see it addressing the reader, rather it is a character in a situation where he is looking at the “straight boy” and having an internal momologue about it. The character seems frustrated and bitter about the situation, and we draw whatever conclusions we want to about him and his character from the poem. He may well be misogynist or just angry that the guy is straight. Or both.

    The imagined conversational style is very similar to Browning, whose poetry characterers are often not the most likeable people, and who often betray themselves in a similar way.

    • 12 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 18:49

      Erica,

      Interesting …

      But I have to wonder what “situation” the guy is unhappy about. Is it, as you seem to argue, that he is “gay” and his opponent – imaginary or real – is “straight”? Or is it, as Alex argues, supposed oppression that is occurring to the persona?

      And one more note: Your critique stands very well as a blind (in the technically negative) review of the poem, but getting as much from the poet’s blog, one would be inclined to suspect that he was using the poem to argue exactly along the same lines as Alex. Which is troubling, to say the least.

      • 13 Erica 22 June 2010 at 19:03

        It’s just a poem and it stands on it’s own as a work of art. I don’t know the poet, it’s irrelevant unless I want to read more of their poetry. So are his or her motives. Should anyone be forbidden to read or hear the poem? That would be plainly ridiculous. Assuming you are straight, Raphael, did it make you want to make love to another man? Of course not. In fact you reacted quite negatively to it.

      • 14 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 20:54

        Erica,

        I agree wholeheartedly with your point. But your concerns are somewhat irrelevant. I am concerned about how the poem is presented, that is the context that it is presented in, the kind that Alex and SandyW are interested it is presented in. And no doubt that involves the poet himself as well.

        On its own, the poem might stand as a work of art, but even the best works of art can be used for nefarious purposes. If this work of art was used merely to present a viewpoint, or, as in Sylvia Plath’s case, to express the poet’s own emotional conflict, it would be beneficial as it would at least provoke some form of dialogue. But since it is part of what is basically a veiled “gay pride” event, I don’t see how its artistic merit is being put to good use.

  8. 15 Erica 22 June 2010 at 18:26

    Oops monologue

  9. 16 Erica 22 June 2010 at 18:28

    Oops characters. So much for spellcheck!

  10. 17 Erica 22 June 2010 at 18:36

    Fyi, The following are the features of the dramatic monologue pioneered by Browning (courtesy of wiki):

    A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment […].

    This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors’ presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker.

    The main principle controlling the poet’s choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker’s temperament and character.

    Fits this poem to a tee.

  11. 18 SandyW 22 June 2010 at 19:11

    Don’t anyone get Alex’s point? It’s beside the point to argue whether the poem is good or bad, right or wrong, or whether,as said in an early comment, the pic is soft porn and whether the MDA will approve. Look at the title. This is meant as a challenge to those who think that “promoting homosexuality” must be censored or it will be the end of civilisation. It is supposed to make people uncomfortable, to make people like Raphael hot under the collar, and ultimately to show that such speech does not mean civilisation will collapse.

    • 19 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 21:05

      I get his point, and as I argued before – if you bothered to read my posts properly – I disagree with him, because he, like you, is essentially endorsing a moral position, no matter how much he disguises it with words like “pragmatic”.

      I am not “hot under the collar”; I am really more amused than anything else, particularly at the increasingly infantile attitude this blog is evincing whenever it discusses homosexuality or religion.

      I agree with you, but add in an additional comment. Such speech does not cause society to collapse on its own. It would lead to society’s collapse though if policies were carried out according to such speech. On a previous thread, I was shot down after suggesting that what a pro-gay activist said amounted to endorsing a “masturbation recess” in schools. I would argue that having a “gay sex week” is no better than the hypothetical “masturbation recess” that I intuited on that previous thread.

      Even if it does make me “hot under the collar” – which it doesn’t – what is the point of that? If you are merely infuriating people for the sake of infuriating them, then there is no use to this particular discourse, and even if it isn’t censored by formal authorities, social opinion is justified in preventing or countering such useless discourse.

  12. 20 SandyW 22 June 2010 at 20:39

    Ha ha, I see that the online citizen also has a post challenging norms in a similar way. See http://theonlinecitizen.com/2010/06/heterosexuals-come-on-out/

  13. 21 Erica 22 June 2010 at 21:11

    Given that certain officials have apparently been given the power to ban readings of poems they officially disapprove of at literary events, it would make sense to ensure that they have a decent education and understanding of poetry and literature in the first place so that they can exercise proper judgement.

    But on the wider question in issue, there are two prongs. The policy decision – ban promoting of homosexuality, whatever that is intended to mean; and the subjective judgement on the piece in question. A sufficiently qualified academic would be required for the latter, but no respected academic would want to go along with such a process. Bizarre decisions will inevitably ensue.

    Then there is the policy. What does it mean? Is there any rational, scientific basis for it? Are they talking about the act, the orientation, a lifestyle? Yet we know the act doesn’t create the orientation, that the orientation is given at birth, that there is no such thing as the so-called gay lifestyle, just gay couples getting together and having as varied existences as straight couples. The policy is itself based on a misunderstanding, and aimed at a non-existent threat. It’s a form of McCarthyism aimed at an imagined enemy. It serves no purpose except to create resentment among a decent, hardworking section of the community.

    • 22 Raphael Wong 22 June 2010 at 21:32

      Erica,

      Good. We are finally at the heart of the issue; you are finally joining in the debate.

      (1) I agree. But it seems that Alex lacks as much understanding of poetry as these officials do.

      (2) I would guess that “promoting homosexuality” is equal to “promoting homosexual behaviour”, which is what this poem sounds like to “uneducated” people. And, what is a “sufficiently qualified” academic? Are you absolutely sure that no academic would be willing to go along with the process?

      (3) We know that the act doesn’t determine the orientation, but there is no conclusive evidence that the orientation is given at birth. 98% is the usual standard of statistical significance required to establish truth in science; the largest level of significance any of the experiments don’t proving the biological origins of homosexuality so far are at most 75%, which are a long shot away from 98%. The video in the sequel to this article establishes only 70%. 70% is high according to the standards of political decision-making, but not high enough to verify the sufficient truth of a scientific hypothesis.

      And still, the naturality of an orientation does not necessitate a particular moral nature. Such a logic is fallacious – the Naturalistic Fallacy.

      • 23 Robox 23 June 2010 at 03:57

        Raphael, I don’t care for any nature-nurture debate about same sex attraction.

        Even if you want to allege that it is a choice, it would still be MY choice; I would expect everyone to respect that just as they expect reciprocity from me.

  14. 24 Robox 23 June 2010 at 03:55

    I may not be a literary type, but I do know enough to recognize that Koh Jee Leong’s poem is either a satire, a parody or a mix of the two. Last I checked, both are literary devices, and for someone to indulge in poetry, it is highly likely that employed some literary device or other.

    Yet, is he being literal?

    Only he can tell, but from my own extensive enough knowledge of queer cultures in more than just Singapore, I see this common thread: queers in the creative field/s often “play up” a gay stereotype prevalent among homophobes to make a political statement.

    It’s not different in essence to how some gay men will dress in drag, which many homophobes hold to be something that all gay men do, complete with beard and/or moustache to ridicule those stereotypes; the same men would normally be disinclined to dress in drag, not least of all because of their masculine features.

    And hasn’t every gay men been allegedly harbouring a deep desire to hit on straight men compulsively…

    • 25 Raphael Wong 24 June 2010 at 00:42

      Robox,

      (3-4) If everyone would just come to the table and talk, and stop being so political…

      (5) No, nobody has said that on this thread so far…

  15. 26 yawningbread 23 June 2010 at 09:57

    Raphael Wong wrote: “If you are merely infuriating people for the sake of infuriating them, then there is no use to this particular discourse, and even if it isn’t censored by formal authorities, social opinion is justified in preventing or countering such useless discourse.”

    There is definitely purpose to articles like this one. Generally, however, homophobes, especially religiously-based ones, are not amenable to reason on this issue. Consequently, I see no point writing with them in mind as my audience; I do not write to try convincing them, applying their terms of reference, just as one seldom finds writing about racial equality addressed to the logic of white supremacists. Therefore, some may find what I write “infantile” or “useless”, but perhaps that’s another way of saying that what I’m trying to do is a little beyond one’s preferred way of addressing the issue?

    And why is social opinion “justified” in preventing such discourse? Which strand of social opinion are you giving the right of dominance to?

    • 27 Erica 23 June 2010 at 16:27

      It seems true that you cannot reason with fundamentalists, but there must be many religious people who have had a switch flicked by something and they have realised, with horror, what they have been doing to gay people, and the sometimes horrifying result of their actions, as with the potential genocide of gay people in Uganda.

      So how does one get people like Raphael to see that his actions are evil?

      • 28 Raphael Wong 24 June 2010 at 01:44

        Erica,

        (1) I am a human rights activist at heart, and I support genuine human rights. So no, I do not support the potential genocide of gay people in Uganda. I abhor the death penalty for any crime, and dislike all poverty.

        In the Ugandan case, although the term “genocide” is rather stretched, I don’t approve of the mechanisms permitted and used by the law, because I don’t believe that it is the purview of the law to restrict homosexuality.

        My switch has been flicked back and forth a few times, and I think it has come to rest somewhere in the middle.

        FYI, I also support the repeal of Section 377A, although nothing else beyond that.

        (2) I wonder, what “actions” have I done which are so “evil”? Or are you confusing me with someone else?

    • 29 Raphael Wong 24 June 2010 at 01:01

      Alex,

      (1) First of all, it is rude to call someone a “homophobe” when you don’t even understand their train of thought. Secondly, it is extremely forceful to claim that someone or some people are not “amenable to reason”. And incidentally, I am a philosophy student, so I know the technicalities of reason somewhat better than you do.

      So yes, you don’t write to “homophobes” by definition, just like a racial equality campaigner will not write to “white supremacists” by definition, because in the way these groups have been defined, they are in diametric opposition to your agenda. But you are pigeon-holing people – such as me – into your categories and that is what I find humorous, if not for the fact that it is problematic in and of itself.

      Yes too, I don’t think the way you are approaching the issue is the right way, because you are closing off all alternative angles and over-stating scientific results to stoke your own ego. And yes, your own ego, not the ego of the other LGBTQQ people you claim to represent.

      The racial equality movement won by stressing their similarity with the majority race, not by emphasizing differences. The original (not radical) feminist movement won by winning the hearts of men to their side. Both these movements patched up a social jig-saw, so to speak, but your LGBTQQ movement is creating exactly the reverse.

      (2) Simple answer: whichever society – as a relational collective – judges. Or according to Rousseau, the strand of opinion supported when everybody reasons in accordance with the General Will.

  16. 30 yawningbread 23 June 2010 at 20:36

    Social change movers sometimes have to think, not in terms of changing any particular person’s mind, but to focus on averages. We don’t direct our messaging at any particular person (unless it’s someone wielding power).

    For the generic homophobic person, that switch-flicking you refer to can come from a number of sources, but one of the most dramatic is when their own son or daughter is gay. Given the prevailing rate of homosexual orientation in a population and assuming that each person has an average of 2 children, about one in seven or one in eight homophobic parents will be faced with this in each generation.

    Now, it is possible for the son or daughter to grow up all screwed up in the head, trying desperately to be straight and hating himself for not being able to. But the better scenario (for the mental and emotional health of the subject person) is for the person to be able to find gay-affirmative speech and role models around him.

    That’s what we have to create: a culture of gay affirmative speech with identifiable role models. We don’t know who exactly will need these, but you can be sure of it: somebody somewhere will need it, and that somebody then becomes the switch to the homophobic persons around him.

    • 31 Raphael Wong 24 June 2010 at 01:37

      Alex,

      (1) That is not how a social-change-mover thinks; that is how a propagandist thinks. A propagandist thinks in terms of crass caricatures of his/her opponents, and appeals to the most bestial elements in his/her listeners. A social-change-mover seeks to engage all sides, especially those in positions of influence, elite or counter-elite.

      More importantly, a social-change-mover focuses on relationships, on personal relationships. A propagandist works on black-white divisions (which you are doing with your “affirmative” and “phobic” distinction); a social-change-mover seeks to build solidarity amongst everyone by appealing to their full characters.

      A Propagandist creates pariahs; a social-change-maker absorbs them. You and your movement create pariahs out of several groups of people: conservative Christians, people who are confused about their sexuality, ex-gays and for a long time, Queers. And I do think that your blog subtly discriminates against Queers – it is for lack of a better term bio-normative.

      (2) The prevailing rate is about 1-3%, so your scenario is unlikely, given that there are many more “homophobic”/”heteronormative” people than there are “gay-affirmative” people.

      The “switch-flicking” is a psychological crutch that develops because of society’s inability to deal with the issue of sexuality properly. And it is enhanced by your movement’s self-delusional propaganda.

      (3) Sexuality and Gender Identity are complex phenomena. Both need to be studied properly as holistic entities, as opposed to junking them into arbitrary ontological categories to avoid having to deal with the issues.

      Ignoring the fact that calling people “screwed up in the head” is rather discriminatory, your discourse begs the question of what the ontological category of “straight” includes; And in your case, it is an ontological category, not a heuristic category.

      “gay-affirmative” speech isn’t really affirmative of anything at all. It’s merely re-assurance and angst and social phobia projected outward, manifested in various invented categories of “phobias” and “normativities”. “Affirmation” in this context is another word for “self-defensiveness”.

  17. 32 Erica 24 June 2010 at 20:54

    Raphael, I think you may simply be disguising personal prejudice behind long words you’ve recently come across in your studies. The sort of evil I was referring to was, for example, your apparent Internet campaign against gay people, born of some mistaken beliefs about them. Such actions do have harmful consequences, and I pray that one day you will see your cruel and fanatical actions for what they are.

  18. 33 yawningbread 24 June 2010 at 21:17

    This thread closed.


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