I’m back

I now work as a researcher and writer at The School of Life, where I research, write, and design in a wide range of formats; everything from films to coaching programs to apps to therapeutic classes. This week, I’m most happy and proud of this film on Lacan:

I’ll try to keep this place a bit more tidy and up to date.


Piece on Gay Shame and Kink.com

Gay Shame poster in the mission district of San Francisco. Photograph taken by the author.If you read this piece of mine for nothing else, at least enjoy the striking difference in writing style between the two “sides”.

When I emailed [Gay Shame] about the topic, I received a (perhaps intentionally?) misspelled and ungrammatical but on-message response…[In contrast] Acworth, who was abandoned a PhD at Columbia University to build his pornography empire, writes almost like a clearer version of Judith Butler.

PS: you should like the King’s Review–big things underway over there!

I am writing a column for the King’s Review!

And the first post is about my beloved Simone de Beauvoir.

(Doesn’t she look beautiful? I think it is the transcendence coming through, not withstanding all the difficult boyfriends… see more lovely de Beauvoir things at beauvoiriana.tumblr.com)



After a long illness, my gruff, gentle and deeply good grandfather peacefully passed away two days ago. We will miss him enormously, but we are also very grateful for his example of how to live a moral and meaningful life.

I’m feeling rather low about it just now, but I also can’t help but share one of my favorite Grandpa stories, so here it is: when Grandpa was setting up new governments in German towns after the war, he met the caretaker of the local castle. They got to talking, since the caretaker noticed that Grandpa had remarkably good German. When Grandpa explained that he’d grown up in Berlin, the caretaker remarked that he had as well. “Where?” asked my grandfather, and when the man replied, Grandpa had to say “you’re under arrest!” for that was the part of Berlin where all the Nazi officers lived. And indeed, this caretaker was a Nazi officer in hiding.

Abba and I (around ages 78 and 12).

In person, Abba refused to talk about these things almost ever–I’ve never heard this story or anything like it from him himself. He simply was modest and sweet and a little curmudgeonly. When I went to visit him in rehab towards the end of his life, and he had very few abilities left, he still grinned happily at videos of animals, and was able to tell me how glad he was that I’d come to see him, and that he loved me. I will miss him tremendously.

Socrates, Sappho, and Graphing the Gay


These two images are from pages of Magnus Hirschfeld’s 1902 essay “Sappho and Socrates,” which attempted to explain how people could be gay or lesbian. The charts are actually quite simple, and mostly are graphic illustrations of the amount an individual is attracted to each gender and how this corresponds with their sexuality. (I love how one can essentially report “lukewarm” feelings for a particular sex.) The idea presented, in short, is that if you’re male and like women only a little and men a lot, then you’re gay (and so forth). Yet at the time, this definition was relatively new–homosexuality was a degenerate criminal activity, while these charts made it look like a natural human deviation.

Hirschfeld’s ideas were probably the most progressive ideas of any of the major sexologists in Germany, but they were still problematic. He thought that homosexuality was innate and therefore also identifiable by physical markers. He suspected it made the individuals more likely to be subject to neurosis, and in general is works were easily misused by others. This modern idea that people are innately homosexual, and thus that their identity itself is different, is quite easily misused, including for this remarkable series of political trials. (I’ve just written an essay on this scandal, which was truly wild. It involved allegations of champagne orgies, disqualifying witnesses for being hysterics, witnesses claiming to have seen the gay sex in question through a keyhole…)

In an amusing discovery by my friend Cielo, you can take this online OK Cupid test to figure out where you stand in his classification (I offer no comment on the validity of the test compared to his thought, though!)

More about Hirschfeld here and the trials here.

On the Metro

The other day I was on the metro going downtown to see a friend (Dylan, one of the genius humans behind Wonkblog and now Vox) and a beggar came down the aisle. I expected people to ignore her and avoid her as usual, and I was considering what I ought to do myself, when the woman behind me started kissing coins from her wallet and then giving them to the beggar. Before I knew what had happened, the beggar and the seated woman, who seemed very much as bourgeois as my own mother, were talking away, deeply concerned with each other. In between Christian blessings the bourgeois lady peppered the beggar with questions: “Yes, how is it? Where do you sleep? Do you like it?” 
The homeless one assured her, “I love it!” 
“Yes, my son chooses to sleep on the street as well. Would you like to sit down?” said bourgeois mom. 
And they spent the rest of the trip this way, deep in conversation.