Thursday, August 30, 2007

Toe Tapping Redux

For me, the most surprising thing about the reaction to the Larry Craig incident is how many otherwise clued-in 'mos seem to have been unaware of the public restroom toe-tapping maneuver. When TJ asked about it, I assumed that he was being disingenuous, but a good deal of subsequent chatter has led me to suspect otherwise. I have, of course, heard the rumors that TJ is a submissive/slave who is only allowed out of the house once a month so that his partner can show him off at Blowoff and who has to perform all manner of unspeakable sexual acts (and, really, if I won't speak about them, well, I have three words for you: "tampons" and "crème brûlée") in order to be allowed to use the computer to post to his blog, but surely the same can't be true of every guy who doesn't understand anonymous hook-up bathroom etiquette.

While it is, hopefully, true that I'm blessed with a greater than average amount of intellectual curiosity, I surely can't be the only person who is interested in reading about sexual activities that I would never engage in. (Full disclosure: I once, long ago, had a previously arranged meeting with a guy in the men's room of a department store. It was a disaster on the order of the great flood or perhaps Gotterdammerung [the opera, not the Norse god fire sale].) It's also, hopefully, true that if you gave a standardized test of sexual knowledge (aka, the STOSK), I'd score in the upper percentiles, but I've known about toe tapping (which, again, I'd never do) seemingly forever. I couldn't help wondering how I'd learned about it.

And then I remembered being a young lad, in the seventies, and opening a bedside table drawer in the spare bedroom and finding a book: Everything You Always Wanted To Know about Sex* but were afraid to ask. The thing I was most afraid to ask at the time, of course, was how my parents came to have such a book (and why it appeared to have been so carefully thumbed through), but I was soon too busy reading the book to worry about its provenance.

You can read a fairly scathing (and scathingly fair) review of the book here. The bit about toe tapping was in the chapter on homosexuals, where Dr. Reuben recounts the story of someone he interviewed who liked to go into the stalls at the local bowling alley, tap his toes a few time and then give and/or receive head.

I don't recall too much of the book, but I do recall that Dr. Reuben was very firm in his insistence that most of what people called perversion was really just an alternate expression of sexuality and should be greeted with great tolerance. Not homosexuality, though. The gays were just a sick little mini-minority who all acted the same way and needed to be cured. (Read the "Homophobophilia" section of the review.) Even as an eleven (I'm guessing) year-old boy, I found his stance hypocritical and mean. Thinking back on it now, I find it telling that he thought his bowling alley man was representative of the homosexual lifestyle. Because, really, after show tunes, if there's anything you associate with ass piracy, it's bowling, right?

Anyway, the book has, deservedly, been swallowed up in the composted manure of time, but it did inspire (the title of) a Woody Allen movie that is well worth adding to your Netflix queue. And, don't worry. If you don't understand any of what's going on in the film, drop me an e-mail, and I'll explain it to you.


Mike said...

For some reason I've always known about the toe tapping signal as well, but unsure of where I learned of this. For the longest time I've tapped my toes when I'm pissing next to my husband in a public place just to for fun, but I'll be stopping that behavior now that word is out of the homosignal.

The only time I ever remember toe tapping happing in a bathroom around a stall was when my then boyfriend was tapping his toes outside of the stall because I was getting plowed by someone else inside of the stall.

Will said...

The David Reuben book was shockingly mean and bigoted even for it's publication date relatively early n the sexual revolution. I had already discovered a couple of books that dealt far more rationally and understandingly with gay life and the reality of gay sexual practices. I was deeply affronted by his tone and inaccuracies. Later editions of the book by different authors toed a very different line, fortunately. And finally we got Joy of Gay Sex with lots of very hot and positive drawings of men ENJOYING a wide variety of homosex activities and each other's bodies. I remember it fondly.

The Woody Allen movie is a bit variable but at its best (as in the final segment) it's vintage Woody at the top of his game.

I never tapped or got tapped in a bathrom stall but I do remember as a teenager catching on to being observed by a much older man who had his eye up against the partition between stalls. What he was doing was looking through the fairly wide opening between the panel that ran between the two stalls and the panel--which was bright stainless steel--that supported the doors, and acted like a mirror.

He could see me pretty clearly, I'm sure, because when I looked up for an instant. the effect worked in reverse (which he should have realized) and saw this big eye and nose reflected in the steel. It was a bit creepy--I was probably fourteen and it was a far more innocent age for a fourteen year old at the time.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...


I assume that your boyfriend was tapping his toes because he was waiting his turn. Allowing guests to go first is an element of washroom etiquette that is too seldom observed, and I'm pleased to see that you and your boyfriend were so polite.

Paul said...

At my first real job, there would be a break each morning where everyone would go to the local coffee shop and chat for awhile. Our "big boss" called it a staff meeting.

It was here that I heard a coworker -- a man that was that about sixty -- say that we were having a problem with "toe-tappers" in the basement men's room. I'd never heard of the concept.

That afternoon I went to check it out. Damn if he wasn't right.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

What is it they say, Paul? If you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.