Pros: candor, humor, acumen
Cons: some repetitiveness
As a cultural sociologist (and as a gay man), I have been puzzling over the nature of desire for a very long timetrying to understand the geneses of my own desires as well as trying to figure out what makes others tick and why. In the collection of writing about his sex life and self-reflections that are gathered in Six Positions, Andy Quan (who grew up in Toronto and now lives in Australia after some years of living in Europe) mostly records and probes his own desires. To a lesser extent he marvels at those he desires who desire him.
He is perfectly aware that racial/ethnic endogamy is politically correct. He records enjoyable anonymous sexual encounters with gay Asian/Pacific Islander (GAPI) men, but his "type" is light-hair-colored, light-skinned, heavily muscled (particularly broad-shouldered) men: white body-builders. He records shyness at approaching them, believing that they want to have others who are like them, delighted when one shows an interest in himself, a fit, but not built Asian. He acknowledges that "my preconception about who is attracted to me is not always true. And finds Oz pulsating with his type, writing that "Sydney is a town of gym queens and Muscle Marys.... Did the strongest people from all the country migrate to this one spot and breed? Was it because of the beach culture? A local shortage of fabrics? Plain dumb (put pretty) luck? Or some regulation about being gay? You must workout?" (I think the last is close to being true, though a "local shortage of fabrics" is the most amusing hypothesis.)
Although labeling himself a "slut," he (his writerly persona anyway) remains uncomfortable with the supposed assumption by white gay men that all GAPI men are "bottoms." It is difficult to tell (even for him to tell) how much is a preference for being a "top," how much politicized rejection of assumptions about what GAPI men want. (Having done quantitative analysis of gay sex want-ads, I know that a significantly higher percentage of the white men advertising for GAPI partners seek to bottom than to the percentage of GAPI men advertising for white male partners, but this aggrieved exaggeration is commonplace and, as W. I. Thomas once wrote, if men define their situation as real, it has real consequences. That is, such (mis)perceptions shape behavior (and, I believe, inhibit desire, though there are inhibitions to being penetrated that are not derived from racial politics, too).
Quan's writings are more focused on pleasure than on complaining about men who don't desire him or who desire him for reasons he finds suspects than, for instance, Justin Chin's. (Chin seems to assume that every erotic response or nonresponse to him by the white men he desires is determined by race.) Both can be very wry about their own urges and the ways in which men act on their sexual urges. And on gay cruising grounds. Moreover, Quan "tr[ies] not to talk about this, because people find it boring or distasteful or they don't really want to hear it [for instance, asking] 'Why are you guys such whiners?'"
Race is intertwined with what he wants (and attempts with considerable success to get, and, as he writes, "How can race not matter? Your whole life, people have treated you differently because of it. How can it not slide over to carnal matters?"
Two of the chapters (Party Favors, Just a Small Orgy) in Quan's book focus on scheduled orgies by an invitation-only organization, Sydney's Heavenly Orgy Team (HOT). Gay men have an ability that he and I find sometimes astonishing to be social/sociable even while having sex (and being able to switch the brain from social to ecstatic modules).
The one chapter (The Scene) which I actively dislike is about performing sexual extremity for a voyeuristic audience... though I acknowledge that it is difficult to draw a firm boundary between the voyeurism of readers of writings such as Quan's and their voyeurism. (For myself, I claim an analytic interest, though I have always found the queenly double-entendre retort to being told that someone is in a place where men are having sex with men because they are doing research (a "class project"): "What better way to gather material than on your knees!"
Which reminds me, that for Quan "top" and "bottom" refer only to anal sex. Orally, he describes someone very versatile (insertive and receptive). The confusing "active"/"passive" contrast, he never makes.
He does illustrate the dynamic of dissolving of wanting to have into wanting to be one's sexual that I think is more common for gay sexual partners than for straight ones (at least it is more often articulated by gay ones): "I love you so much, I want you so much [that] I want to be you" (p. 73).
I think that the whole (the book) is less than the sum of the parts (the chapters, almost all of which appeared separately in earlier incarnations). With the exception of "The Scene" and the two-columned look into what two men are thinking while they are having awkward sex, they are all written from a single point of view, which I think is autobiographical rather than a sexual persona not the author's own. Some of the narratives are traditional (dare I say "straightforward"?) I found one titled "Why I'm"a succession of answers of "why I am ____" especially funny (and insightful). In contrast, I found the title fantasy (six brief imaginings of coupling with extremes of this or that characteristic ("the most_____") tedious even running 3.5 pages.
The chapters I found the most interesting (overlapping heavily with those I found most amusing) are
Mistakes Were Made
Something About Muscle
Getting It If You're Asian
Others I found slight (At First Sight, Instrumental, Shoes, Just a Small Orgy), only actively disliking the aforementioned "The Scene").
In addition to epinions reviews extracted from my article "Some recent representations of gay Asian American subjectivities," I think that my review of the collection Rice is of some related interest, not least for its similar base in Toronto, a city with a large Cantonese population along with a multitude persons of other ethnicities.
This review is also part of a juxtaposition of gay men's writings about desire with Texan refugee Kevin Bentley's Let's Shut Out the World, my contributions today for this year's g/l writeoff hosted by JPS246.
?2006, Stephen O. Murray