How often are you the recipient of unwanted sexual advances?
Almost never. Part of it is that I don't really go out. Maybe that's not part of it, because whenever I have gone out I feel totally invisible. I don't even feel that weird heat a woman friend once told me happens between men and women when there's something there and something clicks or somebody turns "it" on. People, always women, tell me I'm attractive and that other people think so, like there are legions of them lusting after me out there, but I just never sense or see it and feel pretty alone out and about. Sometimes in the past, walking down the street with women, I was told that people were turning to stare at me, but I never noticed, and really almost everywhere I've been - here or abroad - I've gotten zero advances at all. I don't even know the difference between wanted and unwanted. I wouldn't mind sexual advances from a guy but can't remember ever getting anything remotely like them. Any unwanted sexual advances have been from women. Usually I kind of pick up on the fact that they're attracted to me in the way straight women can find themselves attracted to gay guys, and it makes me really uncomfortable, because I'd really just rather sit and watch Toddlers and Tiaras with them. I showed a film in Greece a few years ago, which wasn't a typical gay movie but was clearly made by a gay guy and dealt with things from his/my perspective, and it was a straight festival, and after the screening, outside the theater, something like five women surrounded me with looks on their faces that made me very depressed, because I thought, how sweet, where are the guys? And I also thought, okay so here is yet another example of my artistic intentions playing cupid with the wrong gender.
What do you do when someone you’re not interested in (sexually) is interested in you (sexually)? How do you deflect the attention, if you do?
I ignore it. A woman friend was sitting on the couch with me once last year. I was horizontal, on my side. She sat very close. Kind of against my groin. I was like, I guess I should have a boner, just to make her feel better. It was awkward. Nothing was spoken but I knew I was supposed to have a boner, and that what I wanted, men, was pretty irrelevant.
Have you ever experienced anything you’d describe as harassment?
When I was younger, probably about 19, I went to an antique store and the guy who worked there bent down to show me a cupboard, rubbing against my crotch. Another time, about fifteen years ago, I was in rural Arkansas and stopped at a crap antique store along the highway, and the guy was asking me all kinds of questions, and I thought, uh oh, and then another guy, who was clearly his partner, entered, and said they had more stuff out back, up the hill, in another house. I thought, this could be weird, but I went, because I've always been curious about weird and how far things will go before they're so weird they stop being ambiguous in any way. Also I thought, there might be something really good out there. When we got to the house it barely had existing walls and certainly had nothing in the way of antiques, unless you consider broken down crates antiques, and it was no longer ambiguous, and I thought, now we're in this strange, secret situation together, and I could probably write about this later. "Do you swing?" the guy abruptly asked me, as we were standing there. Only in Arkansas, I thought. I was a very curious person back then and often unwanted and wanted were sort of inter-related to me: It was all part of experience and getting beyond my hang-ups and figuring out what my limits truly were, and about seeing people when the world wasn't looking at them, so I sometimes ended up in situations like this. I also gradually realized that I pretty much never wanted sex, not really, so it was all eventually kind of unwanted in a way and I was just trying not to be as boring as I felt when I was growing up, using these experiences as stepping stones out of my upbringing. I wasn't interested in leaving a bread crumb trail to find my way back. Years ago, living in Memphis, a guy who often came in with his "girlfriend" where I worked showed up at my place down the street, and got pretty aggressive. I did get enough of that in my twenties, because I looked like fantasies some older men had of young, stupid, and innocent. In the back of my mind I always observed this from a cool distance, fascinated by their projections, because I was pretty much born 80 years old and far from innocent. More like deeply misanthropic. So these unwanted things were often followed through to their conclusions because I thought they told me a lot about how people wanted to view me.
What is your advice for a woman who finds herself the recipient of unwanted sexual attention or advances?
Oh who knows. I love to give advice but I have no clue. Sex and attraction are way too complicated for any platitudes I might come up with to make it seem like I have a handle on them. Sometimes I wonder what a woman would have done in that rural Arkansas antique store, or what I would have done had I been one.
Ed. note: Brian's unspoken advice seems to be to avoid antique stores.