Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Architecture [II, 4]

Architecture represents a major accomplishment of human ingenuity. The results can be studied from various points of view, including historical styles, constructional techniques, and the matter of function—-the way the buildings and spaces are used. A quasi-Freudian symbolism claims to detect the phallic origin of steeples and columns, while church interiors are thought to be womblike. These fanciful associations lack specific gay content.

The closet is the smallest category of spaces found in the modern house. The door to this chamber is normally kept closed, and the stored objects may be there because they need to be discretely hidden away. Accordingly, this cramped domestic space provides a useful metaphor for the situation of gay people who feel they must hide their sexual orientation. In Spanish residences where such chambers are less common the term is armario (a piece of furniture to hold clothes).

In England a toilet frequented for sexual purposes is called a cottage, based on the small rustic structures serving this purpose in parks. To frequent such places is called cottaging. In America these spaces are called tearooms (reflecting the link tea + urine).

Orientation stems from a standard practice in church architecture, in which the apse and altar are located at the eastern end of the building (from Latin, oriens, east).

Fornication, mainly a heterosexual or neutral term, derives from the Latin fornix, or arch in which couples would meet for illicit sexual encounters. Even today, gays meet at night in the obscurity of the shadowy arches of the Colosseum in Rome.

Gay churches, synagogues, and other religious structures require buildings, usually adapted from some previous use, but increasingly purpose-built, sometimes according to the design of a distinguished architect. Today we also see the growing importance of gay and lesbian community centers and archives.

The term built refers to both structures and bodies. The word erection has a similar duality.

Beginning in the 1970s, some bars began to feature back rooms or dark rooms, separate spaces behind the main part of the bar to facilitate anonymous sex. A bar catering to older patrons is called a wrinkle room. A feature found in old-fashioned saloons (not usually gay), is the swinging door, a minor architectural feature that seems to have given rise to the expression swings both ways for bisexuality.

Gay saunas are usually just called the baths. They tend to be located in obscure sections of town, with discretely marked signs so as to attract little attention from outsiders.

Hustlers are sometimes available in male brothels. One in Amsterdam is equipped with a balcony where the inmates may be viewed by passers by. This is uncommon, and the appearance of such establishments tends to be modest.

S/M adepts may have a specially equipped room at home called a dungeon, or more euphemistically, a playroom.

The familiar term for a lesbian dyke probably stems from a type of dress whereby the person was “dyked out.” Some, however, perceive a secondary association with the Dutch equivalent of levees.

An urban district with businesses catering to largely or wholly homosexuals is termed the gay ghetto or gayborhood. Certain whole cities have the reputation of being gay. The archetype is Sodom, destroyed long ago, if it ever existed. But nowadays we have Amsterdam, San Francisco. and various resorts from Fire Island and Key West to Laguna Beach and Russian River. These are the gay meccas: see LOCALIZATION, below.


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