Having spent my virgin year at Burning Man in 2009, I went as a blank slate. Although I had almost a year in the Burner culture in Vegas, experiencing the people there was almost culture shock. In my personal burner blog, I wrote a trip report detailing a lot of observations. I noted there was a lot of differences in the area of how women were treated and sexual identity.
Burning Man is a sexually charged place. It is as if for every ten camps there is one related specific for sex. Orgy camps abound, there is a wide use of drugs, and people dress in outlandish costumes bordering on silly. Or… is this the 70’s sexual revolution when gays were finally telling the world they were busting out of those closet.
While attending, I observed and watched as many people as possible. In spite of the “radical inclusion” principle in Burning Man and “radical self-expression” I found many straight men deeply insecure in their own sexuality. Incidentally, there was a lot of objectifying of women by men or by themselves in order to get attention.
The costumes and the unleashed behavior of the heterosexuals and repressed majority of the default world represented in the sex, drugs, and the party-hearty were the things WE queers already went through in the 70’s in mass; what many gay youth do to rebel already. We have lived this.
Frankly, I found the queers of Burning Man living closer to a default comfortable existence while the heteros acted out under the guise of being “creative” while being simply ridiculous.
Am I being too hard in my assertion? Is it fair? What matters is that the arch-type has shifted. I see gay people comfortable with their identities, selves, image while the heterosexuals are scrambling in insecurities with identity and sexuality.
This was a blanket analysis while not defining all heterosexual men. There were some major differences in the men I met out there and the expression of who they were. Preconceived notions were turned upside-down.
- There were a lot of men with long, beautiful dreads and skinny, malnourished bodies that I find particularly sexy in my own sick world. They represented the conceptual hippie man. (Side Note: Fucking Hot!) Yet, ironically these men I expected to find liberal attitudes, but what I discovered was almost consistent inner conflicts with their own sexuality; or mine as it were if I was the one flirting with them.
- There were strong male personalities, often easily defined as the narcissist, or egocentric male who were so indomitable in their pursuit of anything there was no concept of failure. They were handsome men strong in their sexual identity and confident without the time or need to entertain my flirtations. If they did, it was out of kindness but were quickly excusing themselves for their pursuits of the female.
- The average man anchored in the world was a grounded and humbled soul, yet few and far in between. He took flirtations with a smile as if entertained and charmed with them. His sexuality was not in question, but nor was it a driving force in his life.
Not to get lost in what this article is about… it is focusing on the male sexuality of Burning Man reflecting the Gay Male. While the feminine spirit is strong and a force in Burning Man that is formidable, my perception is that it was lost in the glare of the overwhelming amount of women objectifying themselves.
Through all this interaction, the gay people blurred into the background almost as the heterosexual couples blur into the background of the default world. They were not trying to make a statement with regards to their orientation or sexuality while the counterparts were screaming it from the trees (not literally).
When two young men walked through center camp holding hands I just watched them for a little while and was touched by their comfort in their world, with each other, as a unit. Meanwhile, a naked man walked by with four or five fake penises next to his own; all of them looking real and really confusing onlookers. An older man strolled through with brightly colored latex chaps and a g-string barley concealed under a thin layer of tutu.
Gays in the Burner World… well this whole thing came from San Francisco 25 or so years ago. Though I only met one of the founders of that age, I see in this a distinctly heterosexual white male celebration of self exploration. The gays did that, doing that on another vibration, but left feeling like the ones looking back waiting for them to catch up. Them.