Ottawa
2 min

Sexualizing brains

The art of seduction through conversation

I’m writing this column hunched over my laptop at the city’s gayest laundromat (next to Saab salon and the Buzz). There’s a fellow sitting under the change machine — tall and scruffy with bronzed calves peeking out from his board shorts.

I wasn’t really paying much attention to him until five minutes ago, when he leaned over one of the washers — this is about the sexiest thing he could have done — and picked up a newspaper.

He’s not text messaging. He’s not playing Nintendo DS. He’s — swoon — reading a newspaper. Even if it is, uh, The Epoch Times.

I’ve always found this kind of thing sexy. For as long as I can remember, I have posted a list of my favourite books alongside my online dating profile, and every sexy response to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov that pings into my in-box sets off a depth charge in my heart. Hot.

But I saw the erotic potential of other people’s geekiness long before I understood my own. Gore Vidal. Trent Reznor. WH Auden and Chester Kallman.

I remember a guy in high school who totally rocked geekiness — and made me and my girlfriends swoon. His crumpled cardigans were paired with thoughtful analysis on the shortcomings of Erik Satie and Woody Allen. I hung from his every word, his quiet inversion of popular beliefs always laced with humour — his eyelashes fluttering away. What a flirt!

Eventually, it dawned on me that my conversational skills could be used like a stripper’s canned tan — as something that I could reveal slowly, cheekily, and have suitors wanting to leave a fiver. Or some equivalent.

I have to admit that talking about books is now my most common method of seduction (with, admittedly, mixed results). I’ll start by slipping in a reference to Michel Foucault or Milton Friedman or Frida Kahlo. Just a reference, nothing committal. If I get a bite, I’ll make a declarative statement or two, see if he wants to tango.

Now, I’m looking for a sparring partner, so if he doesn’t object to anything I say, I’ll worry he’s a cold fish — or that I am. My statements will grow more sweeping, the rationale less solid — I’ll start making erratic, offhanded generalizations just trying to get him to engage.

If he does, not only will the conversation be great, usually the sex will be, too. However, if he’s held back long enough for me to make a few dozen unreasonable suppositions, I will do the intellectual equivalent of getting so into my own dancing that I fall off the riser. You can tell I’m flustered when I start trying to unpack vagaries; I end up sounding like Lucas from Empire Records — a stuttering, introspective mess. Indeed, this kind of courtship is not risk free, but for those of us who like it, it’s a risk we’re willing to take.

And I say “we” because I’m hardly alone in this method of pursuit. Sure, gays, especially gay men, have a reputation for being driven by appearance and aesthetics. Hard bodies. Slim silhouettes. Meticulous hair. It’s true, and our sense of style and discernment is something we can be proud of: a gift to the schlubby heterosexual mini-mall that is contemporary culture.

A few months ago, a fellow I was out with told me that political discussions are a huge aphrodisiac for him — to the point where he loses sexual interest in a guy if they can’t carry on a decent conversation. I have other very smart friends for whom this is no problem, judging by their tricks. And some really do prefer partners where the conversation seldom rises above what to have for dinner. And there’s something sweet about that too.

However, I think queers are also prone to sexualizing brainpower, hung up as we are on politics, art, literature and whole swathes of the social sciences. And how great is that? Another way to be, another kind of sexiness to explore.

Very, very hot. And, I think, another reason to be proud to be queer.