Three Lesser Known Contours

A Triptych of Essays Examining Anatomical Indeterminacy and Erotic Skillsets

B.S. Albinus. Effigies Penis Humani. Courtesy Wellcome Collection, London.

B.S. Albinus. Effigies Penis Humani.

I. Frenulum

Beneath the underside of the glans runs the Frenular Delta, it’s name evoking the river formation which forms a triangle ().

This cleft is filled with a fold of mucosal tissue, the eponymous frenulum. The frenulum is the point where the glans meets the prepuce, usually resting concealed beneath it. When the prepuce is retracted (drawn back), it serves as a tether, preventing the tissue being drawn back down the shaft past its elastic limit.

This practical role seems secondary, with the frenulum’s primary purpose being providing pleasure. This tissue is richly innervated. Even the lightest touch with tongue or finger to the ridge found here often finds a high level of responsiveness. While bodies of course vary, many seasoned cocksuckers dub the underside of the glans the ‘sweet spot’.

The clitoris is attached to its hood by a frenulum, in much the same way as the glans. Another frenulum is found at the posterior meeting point of the labia minora (known as the fourchette, after the French word for wishbone).

A similar band of tissue usually attach each lip to the gum (one for the top, one for the bottom), and another the tongue to the mouth. Sadly, this tag is much less richly erogenous. Many only remember the fold beneath their tongue exists at all when its damaged by their teeth during oral. Other forms of frenulum are found in the brain and digestive system.

As already mentioned, bodies are varied. Many might come without a genital frenulum, have had it removed, or have some re-appropriation of it from the birth configuration.

For trans women, the frenulum and surrounding tissue is redeployed during so-called ‘Sex Reassignment Surgery’ (SRS, better known as bottom surgery among trans communities). During the original version of this procedure (penile inversion), the mucosal tissue of both prepuce and frenulum are used in constructing a labia minora and majora. Shaft skin becomes the new vaginal lining.

Thanks to the low cost and high local expertise, bottom surgeries are performed in Thailand, whose doctors have developed pioneering efforts in reworking penile/prepuce skin into clitoral/labial tissue. (Increasingly scrotal tissue is primarily used for vaginal reconstruction, creating a more sensual labia and clitoris.) One such variation, the ‘Chonburi Flap’ was explicitly designed to rework mucosa into an articulated clitoral frenulum, something previous glans repositioning work had often failed to do.The proportion of sex-reassignment procedures done privately ensures that innovation will always be at once a much-touted and murky process, with doctors claiming as their own techniques which are widespread, and rarely releasing reliable data on complications. So the following website should be taken as far more a piece of marketing than scientific exposition: http://www.supornclinic.com/restricted/SRS/srspapers.aspx

(Doctors elsewhere have drawn heavily from these advances in recent years, so equivalent variations on these techniques might be found outside Thailand). In this context, the analogous potential of mucosal tissue sees it reconceptualised as physically interchangeable.

But active human involvement is not always required to make this indeterminate face of physiology apparent.

One of the most common intersex variations, the hypospadias, is simply a urethral opening in an atypical location. Sometimes the urethra could be along the frenular delta, in other cases further down the base — along the penoscrotum, or perineum. (A hypospadias opening along the top of the head is possible, but far less common.) In cases where the urethral opening is positioned along the delta, the frenulum is likely to be shaped around the meatus (orifice nestled in a bed of mucosa). Typically the prepuce is distinctively ‘hooded’, noticeably closer in shape to the hood which usually houses the clitoral head.

Doctors are prone to performing ‘corrective’ procedures on infants with a hypospadias, despite the best efforts of intersex campaigners against these primarily cosmetic interventions. During this procedure the prepuce is usually excised and used to stuff up the atypical orifice, with a new slit introduced at the tip, and the urethral tube rerouted accordingly. Side effects can include fistulas, and diverticula. But let’s drop this blank analytic persona for a moment. One such procedure was performed on my father shortly after he was born in a Northern Ireland hospital in the early 1940s. This has the quirk of making me second generation intersex.Perhaps on both sides: crypto-orchidism was also common among boys along my maternal line.

The hypospadias is often dubbed a ‘minor’ intersex variation (or in the latest jargon of the medical establishment ‘Disorder of Sex Development’, a rebranding ferociously rejected by our movement.) More ‘major’ variations are also commonplace. In many cases, intersex infants will be M/F ambiguous. Here the frenulum serves an analogous role in connecting either the glans or clitoris to their respective prepuce. Surgeries performed as ‘corrective’ in these cases tend to be still more severe.

Intersex experiences are distinguished mostly in our having ‘fallen at the first hurdle’ of embodiment. Those of us committed to being Ordinary have much greater tasks ahead of us. Those of us embracing ourselves ‘as we are’ must face up to the damage done to us by the disabling process of integrating into a society with no place for us. Intersex people encounter the face of gender as a system of regulatory violence, coercively fabricating normativity as it continues. Our treatment shows how gender as a structuring process inflicts harm well beyond that directly required for elevation to privilege. Gratuitous injuries, literal and figurative, which no one individual can ever truly escape from. We are the sacrifice that tucks the in-born bodily bisexuality of each and every body still more firmly from view.

Often enough, the flesh (any flesh) which shows how much is shared across the chasm of sexual difference gets reduced to scars and traces. Our fate is a matter of routine.

Divider

Before setting aside the frenulum, let’s consider what it can ever mean to ‘theorise’ our anatomy — to see these lumps of tissue we consist of anew.

For the foreseeable future, normative standards will clash with and overload physical features with distorting significance. But a closer look than we usually allow ourselves can demonstrate the potential variations of the human body. We can sometimes glimpse the consciousness of anatomy underpinning our more obvious polymorphous longings.

Why settle for the way heterosexuals would prefer us to see things? Why leave any inch unknown? Why not learn to savour?

As may be boring to hear by now, bodily matters are never ‘natural’, unerring or settled — in truth the process of classification and reclassification is a restless one. And we should always seek to shake this process up still further. Sometimes we only need to know where to look.

But where are we heading? What is the political end of this revising gaze?

What’s most important is that those who slip through the cracks of existing systematisation not be made to suffer for their deviance. To recognise the damage already done to us. And assert that complex ignorance backed by simple answers not become a mandate for damaging bodies which land outside of arbitrary lines.

The second most important thing is improving the standard of cocksucking.

II. Skin Bridge

Around 2016 I started to enjoy sex with men for the first time, enough to get into the habit.

I mostly used a low grade gay hook-up app called Hornet. Despite meeting me there, the men I rutted (never slept) with almost exclusively referred to themselves as strict heterosexuals. There were a lot of them — occasionally one wouldn’t satisfy me, and I’d message the next in the queue to come over. But as the weeks of it continued they seemed to blend into a grey mass of shared drives, myopic erotic horizons, unimaginative coercion.

When dealing with straight men I’d locked into something of a routine: after cursory groping and perhaps some kissing, they’d pressure me to let me penetrate them. I’d demur and get to work on their junk with my mouth. I’d hold onto them as hard as they’d let me, exploring their hips and torsos in way they mostly seemed unused to. They’d request to shift to fucking me from behind, often continuously, and I’d continue to refuse. My consistent use of prophylactics proved especially troublesome for many of them, but I held firm.

They’d usually seem surprised by the pressure exerted by my lips, and gums, and grip, and get off despite themselves. I’d let them come inside my mouth through a condom, or on my tits. They’d leave seeming dissatisfied, if usually without having made efforts getting me to any climax.

With the few I met who were genuinely bisexuals, fetishists, or self-closeted transsexuals, things went quite differently. But the heterosexuals were altogether predictable, and infinite.

One occasion was pretty different. A gay friend of mine, Sam, was visiting from London. I knew he had a predilection for straight boys. While I didn’t share the fetish, I was game enough to offer myself up as bait.

First we tried Tinder, which I’d discovered had a ‘party mode’. I usually switched off men on the service, using it exclusively to find queer women. Tinder men mostly seemed to be financiers or the CTO of an app start up. A few minutes after we switched the service on our phones entered a steady hum of notification vibrations, potential match after potential match appearing. I laughed as I set my phone on the bedside table and we sat, watching it rattle. The reason for the insistent flurry became clear: each of the bundles of would-be suitors were 2-5 men. Sam was pleased.

As I flicked through, our differences in taste came to the fore. To me the white faces seemed to blur, their homogeneity became pressing. Whereas my ideal man was a twinky bisexual with at least one identity crisis, Sam had a ravenous love for straight cock. The very ordinariness of these yuppies made him stir. ‘Oh, but he’s cute’ Sam said repeatedly, as I pawed through profiles. I was unmoved. At one point we accidentally accepted a match from a duo with a photo of the second in uniform as the fourth pic. ‘Are you really a cop, or is it just some fetish / sex thing?’ ‘No, he’s really a cop. XD’ ‘Oh, that’s disgusting.’ They unmatched.

Finally, I resorted to Hornet, logging in for the first time in a week to the usual barrage. The main hindrance with the app was flakes, so I favoured a message from someone I’d already had over:

‘Hey baby…Hello….Hi’

‘You’re in luck. Free in an hour?’

‘I have a friend tonight, can he come too?’

I glanced at Sam, a quick mental arithmetic calculation. ‘Yes, sounds perfect.’

Sealing the deal, he sent two photos of his buddy. The first of a hunk so muscular I was sure that photoshop was involved, or perhaps Google Images. The second was a cock shot with more believable lighting and composition, if relatively impressive in scale. One detail snagged my eye.

A skin bridge formed a curve of tissue crowning his hefty glans with a stray strand of mucosa that was stretched taut by his erection. Shaft skin and crown were merged at that point, a pucker of orifice beneath the fused band. From the photo it seemed hefty, more so than those I’d seen in clinical photos, perhaps enough to slide a pinky under.

My mind was made up.

They arrived, and as always I offered them water and snacks that went ignored for the rest of the night. Remarkably the fresh face was as buff and sharp featured as the photos sent, leaving his friend seeming shabby, middle-aged and hunched stood next to him. They made no show of getting to know us.

Sam busied himself with the visitor I’d already had, who proved to be wholly non-reciprocal and as perfunctory as I’d remembered him to be. He kept his gaze on me and his muscular companion throughout, not looking at Sam once, our pornographic antics giving him some figleaf for the handjob.

I was left with the larger man, who was strong but slow. He allowed me to begin my routine without resistance or encouragement. At his most active, he grasped my hair or body, making relatively gentle suggestions to fuck me (as usual, I demurred). He didn’t ask why or pester, a welcome change.

My focus honed in closer and closer on the tag of tissue, tongue and fingers pressing and testing the texture, a predictably heightened degree of sensitivity found in this spot alone. With increasing force, I shoved my tongue beneath the phimotic tether. He shuffled on the sofa, but still didn’t come. My work continued with interest, gripping up along shaft to shift the tension as I ate. I tried a while gagging around him, his steady grip taking my scalp. Occasionally I’d draw away, letting a thread of my mucous stretch out between us for a moment, then return to the deep-throat. But this failed too, and I returned to nudging under his skin-hole.

At once it seemed obvious he would not give himself over to me as a top, no matter the talent applied through my mouth, and that I was providing him with a pleasure which caught him off guard. Perhaps too distant from his frame of reference to process.

When Sam reached an arm to assist my labours, the adonis casually grabbed him by the wrist with a severity which made him gasp. Once released, wordlessly, Sam settled instead into stroking along the hunk’s chests and sides, which he graciously permitted. I suddenly wondered if my encounters with men would be so frequent if most of them were this able to physically overpower me. My hands groped and twisted over his abdomen, drawing no real response.

As I worked his dick, I thought about how striking it was that the most meticulous efforts to sort M from F could often only serve to provide us with fresh anxieties, or in this case unlikely orifices. I thought about how shallow psychoanalysis could often feel for mingling the ‘phallus’ a little too freely and hazily with the actual meat and gristle we’re each left to work with. I thought about a world where the hole I was tonguing could be thought of as more than a defect accompanying a sex-confirming injury, could be celebrated as a marker of the defiant flecks of the hermaphroditic that seem impossible to erase. The stain of bisexuality that holds true against the most furious scrubbing. The alcoves of embodied experience that heterosexual men struggle to explore and remain heterosexual men. About how ‘developmental injury’ wasn’t always a metaphor.

I don’t know what he was thinking about.

As the session continued, my resolve ebbed slowly. The grip I usually prided myself on seemed to make little headway on either his cock or muscles. Everything about him seemed enormous, rigid, and he watched me with an unflappable smirk. Whatever unsettling work had been done by my tongue’s hungry penetration of his dick was now gone. His composure returned as if it had never slipped, uncracked. His expression and posture seemed as blank and lightly entertained as when I’d began, a true statue. With a roll of my eyes, I accepted defeat (or was it a draw?)

No offence apparent on his inert features, I lifted myself from the floor, watching as he pulled on jeans and t-shirt. His companion had long since cleaned up and lay replete overseeing the three of us, fully dressed, grinning slightly. I pulled on my discarded top, and saw the boys to the door (as I always did). Sam rolled himself yet another cigarette to smoke on the flat’s tiny, pigeon-shit caked balcony.

III. Perineum

Tongues, assholes, fingers — there are plenty of sex organs shared across sexes.

These similarities have not escaped the history of thought’s finest perverts. While fisting people, I’ve occasionally reflected on Leo Bersani’s description of the receptive sodomite as defined by the ‘seductive and intolerable image of grown man, legs high in the air, unable to refuse the suicidal ecstasy of being a woman’. Those who let me push my hand inside of them are rarely straight men. Sometimes it’s women, but often enough it’s queer men still unsteadily asserting themselves as men. Or those refusing, as best they can, to offer a choice.

For those transitioning away from being female, anal fucking can expose exactly the reverse of Bersani’s ecstatic image. Those I’ve pushed my hand inside have as often as not been taking flight from their ill-fitting womanhood, even if manhood too held no appeal. In this context, the intensity of being stretched open and fucked can be shot through with relief. Flares of dysphoria can make more conventional sex feel like being a reduced to a cunt, and not in the good way. To be fucked in the ass can be a reminder of what we share. Pushing through the last knuckle, watching spit roll lazily down the small of their back, telling them they’re taking it like a good boy, for me feels like a liberation shared.

Let’s leave the anus, and head for less stigmatised, more liminal, territory. The perineum is suspended across the buried secret of anatomical bisexuality. This mound covers the root of the dick, clit, both. Submerged beneath this tissue is a firming curve that is for any practical purpose indeterminate: whatever extends outward (if anything), the inner core of the junk responds much the same to careful treatment. It stretches out to much the same junctions (strands of tightly packed nerves extending through the thighs, ass, belly). It responds when massaged, pressed, teased. Erectile tissue that exists to get hard, feel good, and not much else.

Today this deeply rooted bodily commonality has been pushed beyond commonplace speech. The cost of this sacrifice can be cruel. Those of us who are intersex, transgender, or otherwise have bodies the heterosexual order would prefer pressed out of sight and excised. The depictions that do appear of us may be devotional, but are just as limited and misleading. Perhaps heterosexual men are familiar enough with the ‘shemale’, but they never see her struggle to sustain an erection.

Overturning this will be a creative working, as exuberant as defiant. A new celebration of bisexual physiques is required, of the rugged beauty that the medical establishment has attempted to rigorously scrub from the world. Our liberation is sharing the knowledge of ourselves on our own terms. To overcome blithe ignorance, without being simply flattened by the exotic.

The struggle we face is to be known.

But I know being an earnest sexual revolutionary is unfashionable. Perhaps no amount of this would ever be enough. Perhaps representation is its own kind of grave. What would it take for us to plunge into a world of polymorphous delights? To shake off the shackles of the dyad’s tiresome twofold form and writhe beyond the confines of civilisation? How can we teach each other how to fuck like hyaenas?

Let’s guess that widespread heterosexuality is not the inevitable underpinning of each society. That we can liberate our pursuit of bliss, even if we can’t rut our way out of the demands of political economy. Let’s assume that queer organisation can exist in forms that are difficult to crush. Let’s assume we somehow survive. Now what?

What we offer the world is a pervert’s universalism. While those landed in an impossible position by the demands of the sexual dyad are forced to wriggle free as best we can, our experiences offer insights to any who care to listen. Even those who fall comfortably into the accepted dichotomy of predictable forms can be transformed by our renewed drive towards sexual liberation. New satisfactions are unlimited in their skillful reapplication. Our expertise defies categorisation. All bodies can be taken again, in a new way, with the right view or touch. And night by night, they already are.

The pathway towards deeper polymorphousness requires much as finding familiar features anew — learning how to penetrate dicks, or fuck with our cunts. But we also need to bring our existing sex into clearer view.

Our struggle is to capture and to fully unfold the moment of finding our lover — any lover — bent over before us, of longing to run our tongue across the borderland of their genitals and anality. Of bliss that is blithe, slips without traction, that blinds us to otherwise binding distinction. Of being consumed. Of the moments that inspire us to bother calling ourselves queer at all.

That these shared curvatures, organs and capacities are not already explored in full is the result of many things. The order of sexual distinction, that leads the indeterminate to be passed over smoothly for the same of ideological consistency, of course. Norms and conventions, varied desires and drives, yes. Discursive fetters, definitive developmental beatings, ineluctable traumas, whatever. But also the containment of their best treatment to rarefied skills: the best cock-suckers will often enough be those who’ve braved saunas, well-known parks or cheap nightclubs, the most precise beatings from those who made themselves at home in dungeons, playfights, boxing gyms.

I don’t know if this will always be true, if the erotic’s division of labour will reliably lead to niches of unlikely contact, by design contained and not widely known. Or if whether we might achieve a further flourishing of these intimate skills. A promotion of our grimy splendour that marches again unabashed, heralding a true mass culture of unchecked fulfillment, well informed debauchery. But I do know that the pleasure I’ve had did not come easily to me. And that I’ll never have had enough.

To found new proving grounds to get off, train up, and become ourselves, may seem challenging in our era. Today, the erotic is increasingly pushed from semi-public places. But that struggle has never really ended, is never truly hopeless. And even if it was, we’d still have itches that need attention.

We could begin with carving out new inner temples for pleasure, purpose forged venues for the perverse to unfold in a more purely hermaphroditic form. But another place to start is keeping track of the blossomings of resistant bliss that course even through the unfavourable conditions of the 21st century. Let’s prise open our eyes (among other entry points). Even the fractured and fleeting locales that exist for now throw up nightly fresh relations, innovative delights, and tenuous identifications.

If we look closely enough at these spaces, we quickly lose count of the forms they birth.

Any political commitment to bisexuality today requires a new perineal materiality, a thought which hungrily swallows whole the glimpses, moments, and tags of gristle that are usually set aside, excised, or unspoken.


JULES JOANNE GLEESON is a communist writer, comedian, and cheap queen. She helped found the Leftovers discussion group, and is co-editing a new essay anthology called ‘Transgender Marxism’. Her published pieces can be read (here)[https://www.patreon.com/posts/23689989].