Temple Of Love
By Mike Albo
The leaders of the Body Electric still see its relevance in this age. 'Don't fix something that's not broken,' says the current owner, Bob Findle. 'In the '80s it was AIDS and fear of AIDS that was keeping men apart...now it's the Internet. The whole Internet thing has robbed so many men of intimacy. They come to our workshops because they are dying to have that connection and that kind of intimacy.'
For all our erotic possibilities and various pleasure centers, we are, as Collin Brown puts it, 'a very shut-down, puritanical culture. Porn gives us an outlet. We are so excited to have just a 10% little jolt of the erotic, we let go of the 90%. Porn's great gift is that it takes us out of ourselves. It's like an electronic version of a pill.'
A fellow participant in my workshop, 'Chris,' had attended the workshop once before and explained that it had given him a strong sense of belonging he rarely experiences with men. 'If there is any sense of family I have had in the gay community, it is in these workshops. Like-minded, risk-taking gay men, protecting each other instead of ripping each other to shreds, instead of being cunty.'
It was time to learn how to pleasure each other's penises. We all got on the floor with a partner. We applied all the techniques we had learned earlier that day on ourselves. They all had fun, sassy names. The 'juicer,' where you hold the penis and with the other hand lightly run your fingers over the head as if it were an orange half. The 'hairy palm,' in which you gently palm your partner's penis head. For 'around the clock' you caress the penis in different directions along the body, and for 'build a fire' you gently roll it between your hands as if it were a twig and the crotch were underbrush. This one was my favorite.
Behind me, the handsome guy with glasses was paired up with the big muscular black man. Of course, I thought, by some gay Darwinian principle, the two hottest guys ended up together. Even in this nurturing, nonjudgmental space, gays will be gays. Steeped in my expectations and my 'partner engagement' script, even here, I still felt gay cuntiness, at least within myself.
'Keep your attention on your partner,' Michael said to the group. I turned back around and fondled the hard penis of a friendly-faced man.
This was the end of the first day. I didn't return. I couldn't take another day of nonjudgmental touch. I knew I was missing out on the close-knit comradeship and also the big climactic full-body orgasm of the second day's workshop, but I was flooded with my love particularities. I also needed a drink. I wanted to go out or online or both and find one person and make out with him in a private, enclosed room. As much as I adore the idea of a vibrating naked community, I still was looking to satisfy the 'partner engagement' script, which was frustrated both here and in my constantly humming, erratically erotic 'real' life in New York City. I felt like a bit of a Body Electric failure.
As perfect and unattainably utopian as the idea of a shame-free, sexually informed, fluidly scripted world sounds, the leaders and founders of Body Electric are committed to its realization. Kramer is now focusing his energies on creating an 'erotic yoga' school that mixes his vast experience in erotic massage with the discipline of a yoga practice. Collin Brown is starting a private practice; the school offers a large menu of classes and has also purchased land in the Russian River area of Northern California and opened the Wildwood retreat center.
If nothing else, in its 25 years of existence the Body Electric has provided a place where the wisdom of older gay men is listened to, developed, and respected. It's a symposium, in a near-classical sense -- something that is hard to find.
On Kramer's recommendation, I made an appointment with Mike Kurokawa, a bodyworker living in the Castro who, like Don Shewey, has developed a private practice through his experience at the Body Electric. He is a sprightly, handsome, ageless man with calming, clerical energy. We talked for a long time before he had me undress.
I told him about my experiences with the CBE workshop. I admitted that although I was inspired by the feeling of community at the workshop, I didn't return for the second day. It felt snotty to say it, but I told him I felt inhibited. As much as I loved giving other guys pleasure, I really would rather have experienced it privately with someone who I thought was really hot.
'That's your script,' he said. He went on to refer to Mosher's three sexual script states. 'The most healthy kind of sex is one in which all three are at play on a heightened level.'
On the table, naked, I first lay on my stomach, and he massaged me lightly, and then asked me to turn over. He led me through a simple, in-and-out breathing exercise and asked if he could touch my genitals. I said yes, and he began stroking me lightly while I maintained the breathing. Then, after about 15 minutes of this, he told me to perform the big draw and release.
I expanded into myself, felt like laughing and crying at the same time, and completely lost track of time. Apparently I was shuddering and entranced for 10 minutes, but it felt like only three. I do remember thinking how nice this would be to experience with another person whom I cared for, 'pair-bonding' in a private room. My 'relationship engagement' script was playing on repeat, but many other scripts were happening too -- the 'I am afraid of commitment' script, the 'I have lived in New York for way too long' script, the 'when will I focus on something lasting?' script.
When I walked out of there I was smiling widely and enjoyed the bright, floral, beautiful streets of San Francisco. If I had met the right guy that day I would have married him forever. I did not find this mythical person or even just have sex with him. But now I do know, from listening to my gay elders, that sex is not just an orgasm -- it's a deeper, longer excursion that you have your whole life to explore.