Friday, May 12, 2006

Gesture and Movement [II, 27]

Comparative study shows that, far from being a universal language, gestures vary from one culture to another. They may convey specific meaning, definable in words. Others seem to be “involuntary” markers of some mental state, as when a person is benevolent or lying. Among these are ostensible markers of a homosexual orientation.

That is not all. Recent research suggests that gait--body movement in which stride is the foundation--is personalized, almost as much as fingerprints. Nonetheless generalizations are possible. Popular perception tends to view gait as gendered, so that forceful, even swaggering movements are characteristic of men, while women prefer a graceful, dainty gait. In keeping with the notion of inversion, the gaits of male and female homosexuals are thought to affirm the opposite of those qualities.

A number of terms reflect the mincing gait ascribed to male homosexuals, who (unlike lesbians) are thought to eschew the heavy stomp of macho men. In English there are the nouns swish and flit. The jocular expression light in the loafers suggests a lack of firmness in the tread (as well as stereotypical footwear). In Spanish, pisaflores means “walks on flowers.”

The term double-gaited (meaning bisexual) stems from the world of racing, where it originally meant a horse that could perform on both a dry amd a muddy track. In its new context it draws upon the idea of homosexual gait as being mincing. Bisexuals are also said to swing both ways.

Sometimes the attention focuses on the upper limbs. Gay men are said to favor extravagant, theatrical gestures. The hands, insufficiently supported, may dangle: limp wrist. In Spanish the idea is conveyed by the expression mano quebrada.

Lesbian movements, though only in private, are held to be characterized by rubbing and frottage (hence the terms tribade, from ancient Greek, and tortillera, Mexican Spanish). Other lesbian movements are said to facilitate working with machinery, as automotive repair. It is apparently folklore that lesbians prefer to remove the caps to beer cans with their teeth.

Cruising is the seemingly random, but in fact purposive strolling designed to make sexual contact. The term cruising may be used in a more specific sense to designate the eye contact and/or gestures designed to elicit a favorable response. Eye lock occurs when the person being cruised reciprocates with his own fixed gaze. A term for a more aggressive ocularity, eye rape, is not common.

Coming out (of the closet) suggests motion towards others. Conversely, a return to the closet is a form of retreat.

Terms for oral movement include to suck, to give head, to blow (blow job), and to rim. In the performance of oral sex Latin usage distinguished between the caressing movement of the insertee, known as fellatio, and the active thrust of the insertor, irrumatio. Anal contacts are generally envisaged from the point of view of the insertor, penetrating and thrusting. Sometimes the viewpoint is that of the insertee, hence the expression take it up the ass. There is also the saying “if you can’t face it, back into it “ (dated US slang). The idea is expressed more forcefully in the Spanish retropulsión.

Fisting is the practice, now fortunately uncommon, of inserting the whole fist into the rectum of one’s partner. There seems to be no term for the receptor role in this practice.

The use of dildoes and other sex toys is a form of movement, either as a prelude to sex or during the main event.

Groping is the harmless, if sometimes disconcerting practice, of placing one’s hand on the genital of another. Hand job is a term for masturbating another.

Travel requires more complex patterns of movement, utilizing various means of transportation, so as to go from one place to another. Statistically, gays and lesbians are much more likely to travel from straights. Sometimes they engage in this activity for purposes of sexual tourism, A special practice is attending circuit parties, gatherings for meeting and possibly sex, which are held in a changing series of venues.


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