There’s a She-Wolf in the Closet, Let Her Out So She Can Depose Her Husband.

I probably would have liked this movie better if was about Isabella, rather than a lumpily-aging Leonardo DiCaprio.

I probably would have liked this movie better if was about Isabella, rather than a lumpily-aging Leonardo DiCaprio doing a shitload of blow, but hey, we can’t have everything in this life.

Move over, Shakira, there’s a new BAB (badass bitch)™ in town. And by “new” I mean she was born roughly 700 years ago, and by “town” I mean medieval England, but still, potato/potabo. Enter Isabella of France, wife of King Edward II of England. Gurl had some mad haters in her time, and the shade they were throwing in the 14th century casts a longass shadow. Even though she was noted for her beauty, intelligence, and diplomacy, just because, like *one* time, she usurped her husband’s throne, probably had him murdered, and co-ruled with her lover, she has forever been labeled as The She-Wolf of France, and drawn as a manipulative, sadistic, vain, femme fatale. Whatever. Fuckem. Bitches Get Stuff Done.

So our weebaby scandalite is born probably in 1295, daughter of King Philip Eye-Vee of France, ruler of the most powerful state in Western Europe at the time. All of her brothers became kings, and, as was customary, Isabella was promised as an infanta to Edward II (New Moon) of England. Edward’s father (Edward Twilight, whom you know from the 1995 pre-meltdown Mel Gibson classic, Braveheart as “that old guy in the crown”), for some reason which Wikipedia did not make clear to me, tried to dissolve the union several times before his death. But, once he kicked it in 1307, the 23-year-old Edward and the 12-year-old Isabella were free to pursue wedded bliss.

FALSE.

Why? Because Edward was gayer than Christmas, that’s why.

Aside from being queen, Isabella spent the latter half of the 70's playing guitar for Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

Aside from being queen, Isabella spent the latter half of the 70’s playing guitar for Dr. Tooth and The Electric Mayhem.

Well, no—Edward was most likely bisexual, as he and Isabella did eventually have four children, and he had at least one illegimate son by an unknown woman (which I like to imagine means she was a ghost, kind of like Patrick Swayze was that one time), and there is considerable scholarly debate over whether Edward actually had romantic relationships with men (fueled not least by issues of interpreting concepts of medieval sexuality, homosexuality, and male friendship [and for an awesome introduction to these queries, plus a bit of academic titillation, check this nifty volume]). But still, the warning signs were there right from the start that Edward’s spankbank wasn’t filled exclusively with sweet, sweet ladybits.

Just quick, let’s have a tidge of context about Edward: though he was a strapping young buck, the heir apparent apparently shied from traditional kingly pursuits such as jousting, hunting, warfare, bloodshed, mayhem, and dick-measuring contests, in favor music, poetry, and “rural crafts.” Edward had a special little hole (in his heart) that was plugged by a nobleman named Piers Gaveston. Apparently, “as soon as the king’s son (Edward II) saw him, he fell so much in love that he entered upon an enduring compact with him”—which is sweet and all, but hanging on the arm of another dude like you’re the hottest wife in Stepford is 200% not cool in 1300. Edward I banished Gaveston a bunch of times to try to unhook his whore talons from Edward II, but I guess as soon as the king kicked it, Jr. saw this as an opportunity to not only marry his supahrich child-bride, but also debut his boytoy in one big ol’ “fuck you, dad, you’re dead” fell-swoop.

No, Piers, I totally agree; Burger King crowns are a severely underrated accessory.

No, Piers, I totally agree; Burger King crowns are a severely underrated accessory.

At her marriage banquet, Izzie watched all her presents given to Gaveston (I mean really, one man can only use so many chip n’ dips), and at her coronation, the halls were hung with custom tapestries bearing the coats of arms of Edward and Gaveston. …If TLC had gone all Four Weddings on that biznass, I’m pretty sure even Isabella’s sister wives would have given her pity points. That shit’s rough.

Isabella apparently resigned herself to a life of neglect and humiliation in the wake of her husband’s brazen hussiness. She befriended Gaveston’s wife and I assume they spent lots of hours bitching about their sham marriages in their finely illuminated Burn Book of Hours.

BUT, after merely four winters of discontent, in 1312, tensions between Edward and his barons over Gaveston’s power in court had reached a boiling point. After being banished once again by the peerage, and recalled once again by Edward, Piers was finally kidnapped by a couple of earls, who handed him over to a couple of Welshmen, who promptly rid the world of that turbulent puff.

This is a delightfully tasteful 15th century depiction of one of the earls who captures Gaveston, standing on his body.

This is a delightfully tasteful 15th century depiction of one of the earls who captured Gaveston, standing on his body.

Sidenote: This is in direct opposition to what I remember of the stunning, delicate, cinema vérité death of a character based on Gaveston in the aforementioned Braveheart, in which Edward I pushes his son’s lover out a window, squealing like a piglet. No, now I find there’s a dignity in truth afforded to the poor soul, knowing he was in fact taken out to the ass end of Wales and beheaded by a couple of sheepfuckers.

Anyway, Edward was so distraught by Gaveston’s murder that he went all Norman Bates and kept his corpse around for a while before the Church finally forced him to bury it (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewEW.). But, with his lover gone in an arguably tragic turn of events, Edward had to pull it together. He put on his big-boy jerkin and favorite Bobbi Brown lipstick, and knocked up the wife he suddenly remembered he had. For England; for the Plantagenets; for something to do on a Thursday night.

So Isabella and Edward had a son in 1312, the future Edward Eclipse, but despite producing a healthy male successor, the political situation in England was increasingly unstable: ties between France and England were weakening, Edward had his ass decidedly handed to him with a side of tatties and neeps by the Scots at Bannockburn, a royal pretender showed up claiming to have been switched at birth with Edward (though he brought very little charming, lesson-learning, folksy-wisdom, and good-old-fashioned-adventure to this Twainesque episode, and thus totally deserved his eventual execution), and the barons were still having a hissy fit about how Edward threw around his power—particularly in light of his new advisor/bum-chum, Hugh Despenser the Younger.

*only surviving photograph of Edward II, King of England

*only surviving photograph of Edward II, King of England

(Also, there was a famine—which I would say was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae, but it’s probably more apt to say it’s like the restaurant never bringing you the sundae to begin with, charging you twice, then giving you a plague blanket rather than a mint on your way out.)

Isabella hated Hugh the Younger, because, in all honesty, he sounds like a total, utter, certified, signed-sealed-delivered, midnight-train-to-Georgia douche. Hugh had campaigned against Gaveston and actively displaced Edward’s rebound after Gaveston, a man named Roger d’Amory (Dare I say they engaged in amorous rogering? No? Too much? Ok.), so he could get into the king’s affections. He held huge political sway over who was in favor at court, and he and Edward instituted massive programs of land confiscation, large scale imprisonment, execution, and the persecution of the widows of their enemies. Hugh in particular wrongfully seized a bunch of land from female nobility (including his wife and his sister-in-law)(!!!!??!!1!), and apparently had one woman’s arms and legs broken until she went insane. *teethsuckholyshitfuckthatdude* It has been hypothesized that because Hugh so clearly hated women, and that because Isabella hated Hugh with such a passion, he had sexually assaulted her at some point, but either way, he was horrible, even by medieval standards.

There are *so* many good pictures that come up on a google image search of "medieval villain," but I think we can all agree in our heart of hearts that Hugh is best represented in our minds by Lord Farquaad.

There are *so* many good pictures that come up on a google image search of “medieval villain,” but I think we can all agree in our heart of hearts that Hugh is best represented in our minds by Lord Farquaad.

He and Edward made like a shitload of enemies between 1320 and 1326 who plotted a myriad ways to kill them, including—I’m not kidding—voodoo. In response to a brewing war between Edward and the English nobility spurred on by Hugh, Isabella forcibly took a greater role in politics, and attempted to get the Despensers exiled several times, but Edward always manged to bring them back, like a bad penny, or herpes. Edward finally gave her one of his trademark kissoffs by confiscating all her lands, imprisoning all her staff, and taking all her kids. He wanted her to sign an oath of loyalty to Hugh, but she was rightfully like, “fuck that noise,” and in 1325 she returned to France, gathered an army with the help of her brother, Charles IV, and the really pissed off English nobles, and a hot little slice named Roger Mortimer.

Disclaimer: Mortimer and Isabella might have been having an affair back in England, but either way, once in France, the queen finally got the crowning she deserved (that doesn’t make sense, sorry, whatever, they boned a lot, let’s move on).

This is a depiction of Hugh and Edward are brought before Isabella, who is HELLApissed, and not having any of their shit.

This is a depiction of Hugh and Edward brought before Isabella, who is HELLApissed, and not having any of their shit (as denoted by her Wagging Finger of Shame).

In 1326, this mediaeval Bonne y Clyd invaded with a very small force, but such was the state of Edward’s unpopularity that the country essential descended into mob rule at the news of her arrival. She laid siege to Bristol and retrieved her daughters, and soon captured Edward and Hugh as they tried to flee the country. Isabella or her followers essentially killed every higher-up still allied with Edward, with Hugh given a particularly humiliating public castration and disembowelment (Ew. Ew. Ew. EwewewewEW). Edward was placed under house arrest rather than executed, since he was legally still Isabella’s husband, and her legal basis for deposing him was minimal (even though bitch showed mad restraint for sitting it out as long as she did, if you ask me). Her son was confirmed as Edward III, with Isabella acting as regent. Somewhere along the way, Edward II dies—it’s unclear whether he was assassinated or simply died in prison, but the most sensational story is that he had a heated fire poker shoved up his butthole (EWWWW).

Now Edward really was a first class tit, but I don’t know if anyone really deserves to have the last of the red hot pokers nonconsensually inserted into their ass. But, you know, Middle Ages, anything goes.

Isabella and Mortimer co-ruled for about four years until her son came of age and promptly deposed his mom’s main squeeze. She had a nervous breakdown, and was briefly arrested, but eventually was give a massive pension and remained in close contact with the court and her grandchildren. And, like many retirees and shut-ins, she developed an interest in astrology. So, all’s well that ends well in the land of Medieval Times: where women who engage in the same shitty, philandering, power-obsessed activity as their shitty, philandering, power-obsessed husbands are forever remembered as despicable SeeYouNextTuesdays.

….. welp,

JAF.


Coming out in full Forster.*

If you read the State of the Bloggers LHB so eloquently delivered to our little Internet fiefdom earlier this week, you might remember that lately I’ve been “screwing up [her] Netflix algorithms by watching BBC costume dramas from 30 years ago.”  This is only partly true, LHB.  I know you’re referring to when I watched the lush and lustful 1985 A Room with a View three times in two days recently on our ‘Flix account.  I say to you, LHB, that you are erroneous on TWO COUNTS:

And LHB's password remains the lifeblood of our friendship to this very day.

And LHB’s password remains the lifeblood of our friendship to this very day.  This is also an eerily accurate depiction of us.

1. I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that 2014 minus 1985 equals 29 years, not the 30 years you alleged. Hyperbole! J’ACCUSE!
2. That shit is 100% prime Merchant Ivory melodrama and you know it. BBC can’t even begin to think about touching this (especially after what ITV did to it in 2007 amiright).

I won! Let’s celebrate by learning about a closeted British dude, shall we?

So that aforementioned A+ period drama (which stars a pre-Longbottom Bellatrix Lestrange and a post-Emancipation Proclamation Abe Lincoln and the Dames Superior Maggie and Judi) is AMAZING AND YOU SHOULD WATCH IT.  If you don’t believe me, maybe the words “full-frontal,” “hot,” “Brit dudes,” and “skinny-dipping” will change your tune (for the sake of clarity, there is a full-frontal skinny dipping scene featuring hot Brit dudes).  Also it’s based on a book, or whatever.

It's hard out here in early 20th century socially constricted Britain for a closeted pimp.

It’s hard out here in early 20th century socially constricted Britain for a closeted pimp.

Upon my third viewing, I decided to reread said whateverbook (which is artfully plotted and really very sumptuous and affecting and all that good shit) for the first time since I was like 15 and even more susceptible to novel-induced ladyboners than I am now.  And I got to wondering  about the mind behind the ladyboners.  And then I did some Googling.  And here we are.

A Room with a View was written in 1908 by a Welsh-Irish Brit-mutt by the name of Edward Morgan “E.M.” Forster, who was coincidentally GAYER than SLEIGH BELLS.  A Room with A View is about conflict between the self and the environment, English primness and continental earthiness, the spiritual and the material.  Mostly, though, it’s a big ol’ 200-page metaphor for doing it.

In need of a short, sweet summary?  Happy to oblige:  Our heroine Lucy Honeychurch (we can all agree this is one of the better fictional names of all time) meets a young, eccentric dish named George Emerson while Under the Tuscan Sun with a bunch of super old British people.  George is muscular and blond and makes Lucy feel tingly in her bathing suit places.  They spend a lot of time looking at each other meaningfully under the duress of heat and passion and pasta that is Italy.  While on a side trip in the country, George very suddenly, assertively, ardently grabs and makes out with Lucy in a dense and verdant meadow.  She’s hella confused, because while it felt great, it is also Something That Is Just Not Done.  Her chaperone aborts the trip and Lucy returns to Surrey and her pedantic, aesthete boyfriend. George and his dad move in down the road in an-almost-unbelievable-but-not-totally-dealbreaking plot contrivance.  Our little filly spends a lot of pages pretending she hates George because society.  He spends a lot of time saying things like “I love you” and “Fuck the man.”  Eventually she comes around and decides to fuck the man (like in the social expectations sense) and later, after their wedding, fuck the man (like in the George sense).  And she lives happily ever after because she lets her own feelings, and not the feelings of the stuffy, boring people around her, decide her fate.

DRUNK IN LOVE

DRUNK IN LOVE

E.M. Forster did a great fucking job exposing how hollow a culture is that asks people to deny themselves any and all pleasure in this novel.  He did not do as great of a job in allowing himself any of these pleasures.  (So sorry I’m using the word “pleasure” so much).  Raised by a difficult and demanding mother, Ed managed to get to Cambridge, where met the Bloomsbury Group and was presumably exposed to real life non-straight relationships for the first time, because pretty much everyone in there was fucking everyone else regardless of gender.  Except Ed, that is — he remained celibate until he was 38, but we’ll get there in a second.

Ed (who went by Morgan but I prefer Ed and it’s my blog) went on to write a string of truly groundbreaking and now-canonical novels between 1905 and 1924.  Where Angels Fear to TreadThe Longest JourneyA Passage to India, A Room with A View of A Hot Muscular Blond Guy Skinnydipping, Howard’s End, Maurice.  All pretty great. All about the condition of being English and uncomfortably fitting into the changing definition of Englishness in the age of imperialism and the rising middle class.  Good.  Cool.  Cool cool cool.

Except Maurice is about a homosexual affair and was published posthumously in 1971.  And, along with the discovery of Ed’s diary, which had been locked in a cabinet in his Cambridge dorm, confirmed his homosexuality.  Scholars actually call this the “sex diary,” which is coincidentally what my mom called The Carrie Diaries once when I asked what she was watching.

Yeah, same thing.

Yeah, same thing.

Anyway, did I mention that upon completing A Passage to India in 1924, Ed, who lived until 1970, never published another novel?  Once the sexy sex diaries became available, a few Forsterites did some cross-referencing and realized that the start of his decline in work nicely coincided with his 38th year.  The year in which he finally allowed himself to bone and be boned in return, if you’ll recall.

At the end of World War I, Ed was working for the Red Cross in Egypt.  You know how it goes — a hot, young Egyptian soldier stumbles into your tent with a war wound, you press gauze into his golden flesh, you share a lingering look just as his eyes glaze over from the chloroform.  Next thing you know, you’re doing it on a beach.  Well, that’s what happened to Ed, anyway.  In his sexy sex diary, he only refers to the event as “losing R,” with “R” meaning “respectability.”  Sad.

But not too sad!  Because after that, Ed had a few flings with dudes!  And turns out Ed and I share a proclivity for men in uniform, as he preferred to get fancy with sailors and policemen.  In one sexy sex diary entry, he even said “I want to love a strong young man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him.”  Can’t fault a man (or ladyblogger) for that, ya feel?  In fact, Bob Buckingham, a London police officer, became the love of Ed’s life.  Which I would be much more effusive about were it not for the fact that Bob was married and homosexuality was still illegal so dating the fuzz was kind of a risky business.  Also Ed was 51 to Bob’s 28, which is fine but maybe not ideal from a relationship stability standpoint.  Lots of fancy people suggest that Ed lost interest in writing because the marriage plot  ceased to have any real truth or catharsis for Ed once he’d fully embraced his sexual identity.  I mean why write shit you don’t care about, right?  Right.

Future three-way winners of the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for their work on Buckingham Palace.

Future joint winners of the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for their work on Buckingham’s Palace.  Corgi on the left will do some great character work.

At any rate, Ed and Bob really beat the odds and lived happily together until Ed’s death in 1970.  There was the problem of Bob’s wife and son, of course, but Ed fixed that right up by buying a nice county house in Coventry where they could all cohabitate in a living situation that I imagine some network somewhere is optioning into the world’s next shitty sitcom.  By all accounts, Ed and the Buckinghams (the shitty sitcom will be called Buckingham’s Palace, obviously) got on famously, probably especially due to the fact that he paid all the bills and even put them in his will.

Though Ed’s story seems to end much, much more happily than it began, he was as acutely aware in life as he was in his novels that society’s expectations can really yuck your yum.  When he was 84 and about to die, he wrote “How annoyed I am with society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal.  The subterfuges, the self-consciousness that might have been avoided!”  Nuts.  Double nuts, when you consider how hard it must have been to write li’l Lucy’s sexual and social awakening so motherfucking well, knowing you’d never get to experience the same liberation yourself.

But he did get to write a deliciously homoerotic skinny-dipping scene and call it Literature, so glass half full, y’all!

*(Sorry about the wordplay in the title; I know it’s kind of Forst) (NAILED IT).

MRG


Is that a stick of dynamite in your breeches, or are you just happy to see me?

The Brits have their quirks. JAF, LHB, and myself were fortunate/unfortunate enough to experience some of these firsthand, namely 8 PM shop closings, poor indoor heating systems, beef or shrimp flavored snack foods, a nationwide love of meerkats, and lots of hetero guy-on-guy dancing. Lots.

These are the conspirators. They probably danced up on each other a lot, as the Brit men like to do.

But I think that one of their quirkiest quirks has to be Guy Fawkes Day/Night, which to you ignorant masses (ie. those of you who haven’t seen V For Vendetta) (which you should really see, if not for the dystopian excellence, then at least for ol’ Natty Portman‘s shit-tastic Brit accent) is the holiday that commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which a bunch of pissy Catholics tried to blow up the King but were foiled when ol’ Guy was caught in the basement of Parliament with like a shit-ton of dynamite in his pants. Or probably actually just in boxes or something. So now people celebrate by making and burning effigies of Guy or other shitty political figures. This is a holiday of thanksgiving for the foiling of a plot to blow shit up that is and has always been celebrated by blowing shit up. That’s logic I can get behind.

Aaaaaaaaaand this holiday is always celebrated on NOVEMBER FIFTH! Which is fucking TODAY! There are a lot of things we get very, very wrong here at For Shame, but topicality is not one of them. And don’t you forget it.

So we HAD to do a Guy Fawkes post. But here’s the problem. These dudes were Catholic. And I know you’re thinking that that doesn’t necessarily preclude the secks, but they were like, REAL Catholics. So the scandal was hard to come by. But know who was one of the scandalousest, homosexualest royals around? The guy they tried to blow up, JAMES THE FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

James I. Plumed hat: check. Satin waistcoat: check. Sassy hand-on-hip: check. FABULOSITY: CHECK.

And hey, you might be feeling a little sympathy for young Jim, you know, because people tried really hard to explode him. BUT DON’T. Boyfren had so much of the sex. So much. With so many partners, both lords and ladies. There was one sovereign slampiece, however, who had a special place in Jim’s heart/the royal bed, and that’s who we’ll focus on today.

So after the whole “let’s turn the King into royal confetti” plan failed, Big Jim looked at his life and saw that he needed to assert his badassness, so he embarked on a pederastic kind of thing with a 20-years-older Frenchman and a couple of more conventional lady affairs. But he felt like the remaining Catholics, who had formed a guilt-spreading, rosary-clutching, abstinence-loving underground movement, just weren’t getting it. “Hmmm,” he thought. “What’s the only thing the Catholics hate more than me? I know, GAY SEX. Looks like I’m playing for Team Dicks from now on!” And he subsequently began to bone this 17-year-old named Robert Carr, until the little bitch threatened to blackmail Jim. Needless to say, he was not having any of that, and he had Bobby and his wife executed.

Now I don’t know if any of you have had your lovers executed (I know I have!) (no I haven’t) (I probably shouldn’t make jokes in which I implicate myself in a murder plot, right?) (please don’t have me arrested), but it’s a time. Lots of emotions to be had.  And what better way to pick up the pieces than by CHOOSING A HOTTER, SMARTER, LESS BITCHY SLAMPIECE to replace the one you’ve recently bumped off? The answer is none. None better way. So Jim set his sights on George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (whom I will naturally refer to as Buck for the rest of this post). Buck was a catch if ever there was one; he could dance (Broadway tap numbers only), sing (primarily Cher songs), fence (the white uniforms were FABULOUS), and probably bedazzle the shit out of a jerkin if you needed him to.

Buck made ladyhair, a lacy collar, and a feathery moustache WERQ.

So it came as no surprise when, in 1615, Jim knighted Buck with his sword and probably definitely with his penis. And soon these two were fucking in love. James referred to him as his “sweet child and wife,” he had a special passage built between their bedrooms at Apethorpe Hall (a poorly named royal residence) for more efficient boning, and made him a Gentleman of the Bedchamber (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE, AM I RIGHT?!?!!) and eventually a Duke. Which was a big fucking deal, apparently; he ended up being the highest-ranking Brit outside of the royal family. And hey, this wasn’t one sided, either. Buck was so into Jim. He once wrote the king saying, “I naturally so love your person, and adore all your other parts, which are more than ever one man had.” MEANING HE LOVED JAMES’ BIG DICK, YOU GUYS.

And even Anne of Denmark, Jim’s beard, was smitten with Buck. They picked out silks and wigs and stockings and ribbons and shit together, probably watched rom-coms and got mani-pedis. You know, totally historically verifiable fun girl-and-her-best-gay activities.

That's right, LHB. I have found Guy Fawkes clip art. Even I'm impressed.

And when James got dysentery and died in 1625, Buck was fucking there at his bedside. And then Buck may or may not have eventually seduced Jim’s son Charles, who succeeded his father as king. Which makes Buck seem a lot less sweet and a lot more terrible. But whatever. Shit was real between Jim and Buck, and that’s all that matters. And during Jim’s reign, Protestantism became so fucking popular, so, you know, gay/religious mission accomplished.

So listen here, male readers. Next time you need to simultaneously quash an underground religious uprising and assert your own ecclesiastical agenda upon the nation of which you are king, grab the nearest hottie and bone him. BOOM, Catholic resistance eliminated.

And then just burn shit to celebrate.

MRG


I’ll be your beard, Walt Whitman!

I would like to preface this post with 2 (two) items:

1. Sorry it’s been so long since we’ve posted. We’ve had a lot of real-life shit going on. A lot of moving in & moving out of our respective apartments to do. And at the end of move-in/-out day, your number one priority is usually not to write a pithy li’l essay about historical sex. BUT GUESS THE FUCK WHAT. We’re back, our priorities are just where they should fucking be, and you’re about to reap the rewards. You’re welcome.

2. As you may have noticed, roughly 83% of our posts are about people or events or places that we just fucking adore and always have. This will be one of those posts. I’m an English major of the American nineteenth century persuasion, and the following is sort of my jam. Get over it. My throat is already a little tight.

OKAY. Walter Whitman. Uncle Walt. That’s what I call him in my head. And I will probably call him that for the rest of this post. The bard of the American experience. He of the legendary beard and the namesake of that bridge connecting Philly to south Jersey. Probably the best American poet ever to live. That’s a bold fucking statement, and I meant every word of it. Here’s another bold-ass statement: I don’t even like poetry that’s not Walt Whitman. You’re shocked, I know. I love my Uncle Walt so, so much. Because he’s not just MY Uncle Walt, he’s OUR Uncle Walt. We Americans fucking share this treasure of metaphysical verse.

So if America is a metaphorical family, and we’ve already established Walt as our eccentric, bearded, single uncle…I think you know where I’m going with this.

Walt Whitman is America’s super intellectual, super gay uncle.

Actually, scholars think he was either gay or bi, but there’s really no way to know. It’s not like he was snapping daguerrotypes of his sexploits. “Don’t worry baby, just wanna see how hot we look! But stay still, the exposure takes 20 minutes.” So before we get into this I want to say that it’s really hard to prove who or what someone was doing in the heat of the night through historical evidence. But dammit, I’ll try!

And one more disclaimer: in no way am I trying to suggest that being gay is scandalous. I’m just trying to say that in the 1840s-50s, a public male figure would probably definitely want to keep his homosexuality under wraps so as to avoid a giant shitstorm. Remember that sodomy was a crime punishable by jailtime and often hanging. So to review – being gay: not scandalous. Being gay in a time when you could lose everything including your motherfucking life if your sexual orientation became public: scandalous.

The pre-glock Sumner/Brooks caning incident. Resourcefulness, the greates of American virtues.

First, let’s contextualize (my favorite pastime). It’s the mid-nineteenth century. Shit’s getting all kinds of fucked up with the whole slavery issue. People are getting caned in the Senate, James Buchanan, God bless him, understandably is having a real fucking hard time keeping shit together, John Brown is orchestrating suicide missions in the name of the North. It’s just a rough time to be American. You’ve got so many feelings. And you just don’t know what to do with them.

Unless you’re a genial Long Islander with legs for days, a pair of misty-ass baby blues, and you go by Walt Whitman. Because then you fucking write beautiful, inspiring, transcendental, metaphysical, what-do-those-words-even-mean-ical verse all over the place. Verse that’s political but also relateable and celebratory. I’m getting a little boner.

DAYUM, I'd be his beard, know what I'm sayin'!???!?!

And (Northern) people were stepping all up in his shit. Important people. Famous intellectual people, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and my literary heartthrob, Henry David Thoreau. They all agreed that Uncle Walt was really on to something with his emotional, expressive, glorious writing, because people just really weren’t doing that. Poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were getting all kinds of popular for fucking pansy-ass poems about Revolution-era blacksmiths and Founding Fathers while Uncle Walt quietly wrote these amazingly personal and bold poems. Sort of how Ke$ha is to Arcade Fire, to use the parlance of our times. People know Arcade Fire, but more people know, thoughtlessly support, and throw money at Ke$ha.

Okay, so most of the people who think Uncle Walt was gay think so because 1) his poetry was really sexy in a time when you didn’t do that shit and 2) he had a longtime male BFF to whom he wrote steamy letters and was totally devoted.

STOP. I know what you’re thinking. “But MRG, from my extensive reading of the canon Uncle Walt’s poetic voice was just so VIRILE, so PATRIOTIC, so AMERICAN! How could he possibly have been gay?” I know that’s not what you were thinking but indulge me.

So boop ba doop, it’s 1866, the war is finally over. But it’s the Reconstruction and people have no fucking idea how to deal with what’s happened. It’s an uncertain time. And much as before, feelings are popping up like lilacs in the dooryard (see what I fucking did???!?!) So Walt is feeling a little lonely, a little old, a little in need of some zest. And let me ask you this, dear readers. What’s fucking zestier than a 21-year-old man in uniform?

Walt met Peter Doyle, a sexy little bus conductor, on a rainy night in DC. Walt stumbled on, a little rainwater dripping from the end of his Gandalf beard, a wet blanket wrapped around his shoulders. They looked longingly at each other and promptly made out. I mean I just made that part up, but Peter later said this about the night he met the love of his life:

“I thought I would go and talk to him. Something in me made me do it. He used to say there was something in me had the same effect on him…We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip — in fact went all the way back with me.”

I mean FUCK. I don’t know about you but I’m about to ride public transit all day every day.

And this romance had all the makings of a sequel to Romeo & Juliet. Walt was a staunch supporter of the North, his brother had been a Union soldier, and dear Uncle himself worked as an army nurse throughout the war. Peter was a Confederate soldier. Plus they were both dudes. FUCKING STAR-CROSSED STATUS.

HOLY SHIT THEY'RE SO IN LOVE I CAN'T HANDLE IT FUCK

Walt and Peter were really fucking in love. Their relationship also had a serious effect on Walt’s writing, mostly because Pete WAS FUCKING THERE when Abe Lincoln got shot, an event that really yucked Walt’s yum for a long time. Using Pete’s description of that event, Walt wrote several poems about Honest Abe who was his hero. And I like to think Uncle Walt had a big ol’ crush on Abe and his death hit hard. Sort of like how I’m not over Heath Ledger yet.

ANYWAY, the most popular of the Lincoln poems is “O Captain! My Captain!,” which aside from inspiring one of the most fucking gut wrenching scenes in film history, was almost definitely also about young Pete, in my professional/totally unsubstantiated opinion.

Wait, MRG. I read that shit in junior year English class. No way that’s about a gay!

SHUT YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH. BECAUSE……

The poem is ostensibly about a captain trying to steer a ship through a fucking monsoon. The Captain is Abe, the ship is America, the storm is slavery/the South/mo money mo problems, blah blah blah you get it. But I bet you didn’t fucking know that Peter Doyle was Irish, and that his family came to the good ol’ US of A by boat through a vicious-ass storm on Good Friday in 1852. Abe Lincoln was shot on Good Friday in 1865. COINCIDENCE? OR SORT OF ADORABLE BEAUTIFUL POETIC DECLARATION OF LOVE & ESTEEM?

A copy of Walt's letters.

I mean I could go on. Their letters to one another are lovely. After a tiff, Walt wrote “I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you should feel so downcast at losing me.” And later he promised Pete “a good smacking kiss, many of them – taking in return many, many from my dear son – good loving ones too.”

Their relationship lasted for decades, and when Walt had a stroke in 1876 and moved to Camden to live with his bro, Pete subsequently and probably not coincidentally became a brakeman on the Pennsylvania railroad (if you’re geography challenged like LHB is, PA and NJ are neighbors). He visited the Whitmans all the time. And then Walt had another stroke in 1888 and lived four more years, during which time his relationship with dear Pete fizzled. When he died in 1892, Walt thought Pete had already died because he hadn’t heard from him in so long. Fuck.

Later, in the aforementioned interview, Pete gave us this fucking gem of a statement. I’m going to go cry while you read it:

UM, replace that J with a W and I think we've just struck marketing gold.

“I have Walt’s raglan here. Now and then I put it on, lay down… Then he is with me again… I do not ever for a minute lose the old man. He is always nearby…in a crisis, I ask myself, ‘What would Walt do?’ –and whatever I decide Walt would do, that I do.”

Okay I’m back. I want to know what Walt would do if he was crying like a child alone in his room because the story he’s relating on his humor blog about historical sex is so fucking lovely. That’s what I would like to know.

Anyway, aside from this beautiful, terribly sad, long romance, Walt had about a dozen other well-documented liasons with persons of the male persuasion. Including the biggest big gay in the nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde, who wrote “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips,” to the second biggest big gay of the nineteenth century, George Cecil Ives. So Uncle Walt was getting his fo sho in a time when the getting was dangerous and difficult. That sounds gross. I mean the actual boning probably wasn’t dangerous or difficult, just the finding someone to bone part.

And once again, I have come to a graceful ending. Anyway, pick up a copy of Leaves of Grass, preferably the Deathbed edition, and fly your rainbow flag high. And celebrate the gayest, manliest, beardedest poet in history.

MRG


Hadrian and Antinous: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Emperor Hadrian was one of the most influential leaders of ancient Rome across political, cultural and military spectra.  He was also a big gay.  But before we talk about his exciting, half-a-decade-long sex scandal (that, ok, I’ll admit it, wasn’t really that scandalous), let’s talk about why he was one of history’s best gays.

He was enormously successful in expanding  the Roman Empire through his military prowess.  He was a Grecophile, and was not ashamed to learn from Greek cultural achievements and use them to strengthen his own empire.  He is most remembered for his architectural and artistic contributions to Roman culture.

He was the adoptive son of Emperor Trajan and was pegged as his heir from a young age.  The two apparently had nothing in common, except a love of young boys.  It is speculated by some that Hadrian and Trajan may have been lovers, but that’s probably bull.  Regardless, they were both into dudes.

History's first bear?

But Hadrian had to get married, because that’s what people who are being groomed for emperor have to do.  So naturally, Trajan picked a 13 year old girl named Sabina.  I know what you’re all thinking, 13 years old, not too young for marriage in AD 100 something.  Well guess again.  That was still pretty weird.  Even for the Romans.  So they got married.  And shocker!  They didn’t like each other.  Probably because Hadrian was gay and Sabina was too busy chatting on AIM with her girlfriends and painting her nails to pay attention to him.   Needless to say, they didn’t do much boning.

And why would they when Hadrian had his dreamy favorite, the young, Greek boy Antinous to do.  Antinous was in training to become some sort of civil servant/fancy slave boy when he instantly caught Hadrian’s eye and he remained his favorite (lay) for at least 5 years.

He's naked in this one.

This was a looong time in gay years.

See, Hadrian subscribed to many Greek cultural ideologies.  And the Greeks believed that love between a man and a boy was the purest kind of love there is.  (Women had cooties.)  But as soon as the boy started to look like a man, it was time to get the hell outa dodge and as soon as the man started getting old, it was definitely time to call it quits.  But Hadrian was with Antinous when he was middle aged, so maybe it wasn’t just about being Greek-ish for Hadrian.  Maybe he really loved the guy.

Dang! Check that ass!

But let’s not get all emotional and crap.  Because shit’s about to get real.  While sailing down the Nile during some sort of seasonal festival, Antinous drowned under mysterious as shit circumstances.  He is rumored to have been the victim of a murderous court plot by bitches who were jealous of his relationship with the emperor.  It is also possible that he committed suicide as a sacrifice to the gods.

Hadrian was pretty upset about the whole thing.  And who wouldn’t be?  Have you seen a picture of this guy? He was a tooootal babe!  Actually you probably have seen a sculpture of him because there are more statues of him in existence than, get this, ANYONE in antiquity.  Hadrian had Antinous deified after his death and then started cranking out sculptures of his ass like he was Jupiter or something.

Like too many of our stories, this one also ends sadly.  I suppose it is quite a shame that Antinous had to die such a tragic death in order that we might enjoy his finely sculpted (literally) body in centuries to come.  But as you can tell by our photo captions, we’re not too upset about it.

LHB