is the ability to approach culture
with the minimum amount of anxiety.
give and take is consensual. From a penis pulled out of homosexual
Jim’s leather pants, a straight line of urine is being
directed into the mouth of homosexual Tom. If a public toilet’s
"thought-dreams could be seen," it would envy the
considered delivery, the not-a-drop-wasted marksmanship.
photograph, entitled “Jim and Tom, Sausalito,
1977,” was taken by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe,
who died of AIDS (1989) at the age of 42. It is one of the great
photographs of the twentieth century. But it is not, classification
notwithstanding, homoerotic art: neither the urinator nor his
toilette is even approximately aroused. And if we grant
the position is sexual, urinating and having to negotiate a
mouthful of urine are not normally the stuff of foreplay or
activities that predict arousal.
storyline is straightforward. Hooded Jim, standing, is relieving
his bladder while cowled Tom, kneeling, mouth agape, is orally
receiving the benediction.
the photo wasn’t likely to elicit a sympathetic view of
homosexuality or induce heterosexuals to switch sides, why did
Mapplethorpe enter “Jim and Tom” into the public
the photo argue that homosexuals are well-adjusted, comfortable
in their sexual skins? Did the photographer hope to ingratiate
himself into the good graces of the gay rights and gay pride
movements? Seeing that it is not normal to thirst for
or imbibe urine, is Mapplethorpe proposing that homosexuality
is abnormal, anomalous, even perverse? He must have
known that the already scarlet lettered homosexual community
would vigorously object to the implications of the photo and
would be click-quick to disassociate itself from sexual practices
that deviate from the more conventional modalities (oral, anal)
of gay sex, even though the photo is not sexual. But even Mapplethorpe’s
harshest critics must admire his position on political correctness
whose tyrannies he literally pisses on.
there a case to be made that “Jim and Tom” not only
illuminates but represents the definitive outing of the condition
of self-hatred? What causes a man to want to urinate into the
mouth of his fellow man? In what regard does the urinator behold
the man who agrees to orally receive his micturition? And what
are we to conclude about the vessel and his (jaundiced) self-esteem
and Tom” is a photo depicting what it’s like to
be gay. It is a cry to the world, an advertisement announcing
that gay pride is a lie, a façade without any practical
agency against the intensity and ubiquity of hatred
directed against homosexuals. It's the photo
that every gay person secretly carries in his wallet and the
nightmare he awakes to at the break of every dawn.
many negative experiences did it take to transmogrify Jim and
Tom into the unredeemed, into unregenerate self-haters? To what
of hatred were these men subjected to that finally twisted them
to hate themselves, to find solace in humiliation and degradation,
to not only accept the verdict of the hater but to appease him
by signing their capitulation in urine?
doesn’t exist a human being who wouldn’t rather
be liked than not. When someone discovers he is hated for reasons
other than his principles and beliefs, he will reflexively (unconsciously)
attempt to modify his behaviour in order to be relieved of the
cause of the hatred. But what is he to do when he is hated or
rejected for something over which he has no control, or cannot
change or alter: the colour of his skin, his ethnicity, his
sexual orientation? He will do what comes most easily and naturally;
he will appeal to his imaginative faculties and wish to be something
other than what he is. Little does he suspect in this innocent
act of wishful thinking his relationship with the world will
never again be the same.
especially among ethnic and minority group members, is an affliction,
a sickness of being that no one dares to speak of because of
the shame it elicits. But the shame is not a function of identity;
it is an admission (of defeat) that the self-hater is hostage
to public opinion, that he lacks the wherewithal to outthink
or neutralize the inauthentic hatred directed against him. That
so many self-haters remain self-hating over a lifetime forces
the conclusion that, with few exceptions, ethnic and racial
hatred are so overpowering they cannot be overcome.
members of ethnic and racial minority groups, homosexuals become
self-hating later in life, during adolescence. The former are
typically exposed to prejudice in early childhood and, perforce,
learn to live with and adjust to the condition, especially if,
as adults, they restrict the locus of their activities to their
ethnic ghettos. The homosexual will only begin to become self-hating
when he learns or suspects he is gay. Prior to that, he will
have been culturally exposed to the widely held, condescending
view of homosexuality that goes unchallenged in everyday discourse.
Thus, it all too frequently happens that the prepubescent homosexual
comes to adopt the homophobic ethos before he becomes aware
of his homosexuality, which almost guarantees he will become
a self-hating adult.
Mapplethorpe’s photo of Jim and Tom lays bare, in all
its brutality, the sheer power of homophobia and its tragically
crippling consequences. In the brokeback facial expressions
of Jim and Tom, we catch a phantom glimpse of the self-satisfied
Liberal who -- even though he would have you think otherwise
-- in his private thoughts is at best uneasy with homosexuality,
which predicts that in a perfect world where homosexuality and
heterosexuality enjoy equal positive regard, he will still prefer
that his son be straight than gay.
does “Jim and Tom” tell of our nation’s art
critics who, en masse messed up, failed to uncover
the work’s epochal significance, who instead lobbied to
have the photo censured? From what smug biases did they pick
and choose in the rendering of their ‘final judgment?’
photo of “Jim and Tom” is not only a depiction of
self-hatred; it is a millennia-deep indictment of homophobia
and its debilitating first effects. In its stark, bone-chilling
content, it reduces to a singularity the immobilizing hatred
and immorality that inhere in homophobia. Heterosexuality is
revealed as a brutal dictatorship. In the unequal war of the
worlds, it is the heterosexual who presumes the right to define
for all time the status of the homosexual. As a commentary on
the luck of the draw, the photo portrays homosexuality as a
black hole from which there is no escape, and homophobia an
issue from the same sordid swamp that spawned the likes of the
Gestapo, the Klu Klux Klan, Stalin and Pol Pot. “In the
darkness with a great bundle of grief the people march . . .
where to, what next?"
Mapplethorpe's infamous photo meets the criteria of art because
in the telling of its story it moves us without being didactic.
As an artwork that transcends time and defies category, “Jim
and Tom” deserves to be exhibited in every major and minor
museum in the world, and included in every university curriculum.
light of the dark fact that homophobia continues to prosper
and multiply, it is not enough that we merely think correctly,
meaning pat ourselves -- proud liberals with a cause -- on the
back only to stay pat. Nothing less than doing what is right
will relieve us of our complicity in Jim and Tom’s humiliation.
Jim and Tom have mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters;
they belong to every race, religion, colour and culture. Since
there is no escaping our moment in time which is their time,
we can decide to return to them their stolen dignity or let
human nature -- gene and claw -- do our bidding.
birds on the wire, like drunks in a midnight
choir, Jim and Tom have tried in their way to be free. [LC]
Robert Mapplethorpe, "Jim and Tom, Sausalito, 1977"
© Roberto Romei Rotondo, "The Unredeemed"
by Robert J. Lewis:
The Eclectic Switch
In Defense of Heidegger
Hookers and Paradise Now
Wish 7 Billion
Gypsy Wife Tonight
the Origins of Love & Hate
Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Hype or Genotype
Thank you very much for reaching out but the situaion isn't
nearly as bleak as you suggest. In the larger cities there
are gay communities that are thriving where gays are able
to live their lives on their own terms. There are resorts
almost everywhere in the world that cater to gays. Gay parades
are very affirming and supported by the larger community.
Within gay communities gays are comfortable in their skins.
Your article is not balanced at all because of the photo you
chose to emphasize as emblematic which it isn't.
Wrong. Not all gays are not self-hating; many are very comfortable
being who they are and we might not recognize them when we
meet them because of that. If you are trying to be helpful
you are not in any way but only to yourself.
I had to take a deep breath after reading this.
I cannot see the photograph clearly enough; not as clearly
as a written description of it explained so that is disappointing.
I wonder if the commenter who said that the killer in the
Orlando massacre was disgusted by the sight of 2 homosexual
men kissing and so the commenter makes the comment that while
he condemns the massacre in Orlando, this Maplethorpe photo,
likewise, "disgusts" him. I am wondering if "makes
me feel very uncomfortable" might be a more accurate
description of the initial feeling of repulsion? Also many
have made the guess (or observation that the Orlando killer
might have been somewhat intrigued by exploring his own erotic
feelings towards other men? In my opinion it would seem best
to look at this photo without bringing into it the Orlamdo
event. But rather juat to look at the photo on it's own merits
and maybe to try to understand more about the artist who created
it/or took the photo. Also, perhaps the cultural & historical
time of the "art scene" in NY at that time. Obviously
being "disgusted" is no excise to massacre 49 people
with an assault weapon and most people do know there are all
sorts of inequities in the world and among different cultures.
Art has always depicted this. Right now I am thinking about
all the betrayal & abuse of children in the Catholic Church.
Also another commenter mentioned the drinking of urine to
have (& still is by some) considered medicinal.
I had a friend (who was really into health, nutrition and
alternative "therapies") who wrote me a very funny
letter about how she was getting her body so cleansed that
she was dry king her own urine (it apparently, along with
her digestive system) had become so purified that it was working
out pretty well for her; she wrote her letter in a very funny
way that I could not tell whether she was serious or making
the whole thing up. . . so we all bring different life experiences
& views to the art we view and I don't think it's quite
wise to make the perpetrator of that massacre in Orlamdo some
sort of an acknowledged art critic about what's disgusting
or acceptable. To each his own. I've been amazed I could find
this much on line regarding the controversial photos of Mr.Maplethorpe.
I don't think two men kissing is "disgusting," and
if it or this photo bothers anyone then they don't have to
look at it.
I am a man of a faith that condemns homosexuality, but not
hate as this article shows and I condemn the horrible hate
crime that took place in Orlando but the killer was disgusted
by two homosexuals kissing in public and the photo you use
in your article disgusts in the same way.
That "normal" people are repulsed by the idea of
Urophagia does mean that our repulsion is an adequate guage
of a thing.Urophagia is often related to S&M -- something
we may very well be born with like homosexuality.
From the Internet: Can you make these desires go awayl Some
S/M people yearn for a more mundane sexual lifestyle and wish
to change their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, sexual
orientation is either impossible or very difficult to
change, as studies of people attempting to change homosexual
orientation indicate. It is important to point out that you
can help individuals add new behaviors to their sexual pattern.
Thus, you can help an S/M practitioner eroticize non-S/M behaviors,
but attempts to uneroticize S/M behavior is rarely, if ever,
lasting or successful. There is also an ethical question of
whether this is appropriate or not.
While there is a paucity of data concerning the psychological
problems of S/M practitioners, some preliminary data has been
presented. S/M practitioners have not been shown to have
any particular psychiatric problems or even any unique
problems associated with their activities that interfere with
daily functioning. There is no scientific basis to deny S/M
practitioners child custody, adoption opportunities, any job,
security clearances, or any other right or privilege in this
Urophagia (wikipedia) is the consumption of urine. There
are various reasons that humans may consume urine. Urine was
used in several ancient cultures for various health, healing,
and cosmetic purposes, practices which are still used by some
people of these cultures today. In Western culture, these
practices are known as urine therapy, a form of alternative
Other reasons for urophagia include attempting survival,
if no other potable fluid is available, though numerous credible
sources (including the US Army Field Manual) advise against
it. Also, some people consume urine as a sexual activity,
and members of at least one culture consume urine for ceremonial
From the more ecstatic standpoint of the impassioned lover,
eager to magnify the charm of the woman he worships, it is
not impossible for the excretory centers to take on some charm
from the irradiating center of sex which they enclose. No
mention of hate or self-hate.
Why not a photo of "Jim and Tom" fishing? From what
smug biases did you pick and choose?
The photo is sick. The defending it even sicker -- both pointing
the way to a society gone to hell.
I was online looking for gay erotic art when I found "Jim
and Tom;" and while I appreciate the commentary, I am
transfixed by these two men. I just wish I could find a copy
and look at it all day.
Good try but I can't buy into your argument. Something is
very wrong there that does not belong in the natural world.
But no human being has the right to decide that someone is
a lesser human being, let's be clear about this.
I met Jim when I lived in San Francisco. 1993 I think, only
a few times. He told me Robert
gave him some proofs of it.
Like most who were into these experiences as you call them,
you would never guess Jim's occupation, not that I would ever
give it up. What was remarkable about Jim was he was still
alive. What usurped, self-hatred in the Gay community was
Anyhow "Piss Christ", Jesus crucified in a jar of
urine. I think that was the late 80s.
Some people are just moved by urine. So?
LISTEN. THE IMAGE IS BIZARRE, AMUSING, INTERESTING, AND FLAT
OUT A SHOCK TO THE EYE. DON'T YOU THINK IT WAS A SHOCK TO
SEE LIVE? THE EXCITEMENT THAT A PHOTOGRAPHER WOULD GET TO
SEE SUCH AN ACT UNFOLDING. PERFECT PHOTO OPP FOR A PHOTOGRAPHER
THAT'S ALREADY PUSHING THE LIMITS. THE MAN LOVES FREAKSHOW
AND SHOCK. YOU NEEDN'T GIVE IT MUCH THOUGHT AS TO WHAT HE
MEANT, AS ALL THESE THINGS ARE ONLY WHAT YOU THINK WHILE LOOKING
AT IT. HE ONLY PRESENTED AN IMAGE OF SHOCK, ALL ELSE CAME
FROM PEOPLE'S REACTIONS. IT'S NO MORE THOUGHTFUL THAN HARDCORE
PUNK, BE GRIDDY, SHOCK AND AWE, CRAZY BIZARRE. YOU'D GET IT
IT IF YOU WERE THERE