Recently, it occurred to me while I was fishing YouTube’s streams for information on clamshell lighting and Clone Wars trivia that, maybe, the video-sharing site held answers to bigger questions—questions about relationships, sex, and sexuality.
Lately, I’ve been feeling bit outpaced by the discourse around such topics. I have questions about our new-ish, decidedly non-binary world that I am, admittedly, embarrassed to ask in polite company for fear of sounding like Steve Carell prattling ignorantly about breasts in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. (I’m 41.) Several months ago, I stumbled into a conversation about misgendering—a topic for which I was ill-prepared—with a partner who was resolute and quite skilled in debate. Pillow talk quickly turned to pillory and I have been skittish ever since.
YouTube is no longer the most cutting edge in digital innovation. But if the site could bring me up to speed, I knew it would do so with no judgement. Not only am I repeatedly impressed by the specificity of instruction that you can find there, but also by, in the best cases, the overwhelming generosity and earnestness of people willing to donate their time and knowledge to educating others whether they, themselves, are trained teachers, naturally charismatic presenters or not.
You don’t have to pay a fee to seek wisdom from YouTube. You don’t need to sign up and relinquish your anonymity. All you have to do is ask.
“You cannot take a relatively poorly written story with zero character development and just slap the word ‘faerie tale’ on it and make it okay. You just can’t. ‘Faerie tale’ has a specific definition in literature; there’s a form there. So you can’t just use that as an excuse to be lazy with character development. It might be an allegory, but it’s not a faerie tale.” —Little Kropotkin
I’ve matched with too many ethical non-monogamists on OkCupid not to have considered the path as an option for my own life. The phrase ethical non-monogamy summons up idyllic notions of honesty and guilt-free boinking—both very appealing ideas in the abstract. But is it some sort of relationship panacea, Pandora’s Box, or just swinging with a nerdy new name? I sought a more precise definition. Despite sounding a bit like a psychotherapist selling organic teas, Gracie X, a YouTube regular with an air of old Hollywood glamor, cycles academically but enthusiastically through the different “varietals” of polyamorous spice-of-lifestyles in her five-minute video, “Varieties of Ethical Non Monogamy Polyamory Swinging and More!” It’s a clarifying, quick hit survey, but you don’t go to YouTube strictly for the facts.
For a more passionate examination of poly morality, stream Little Kropotkin’s “[Un]Ethical Non-monogamy?” Kropotkin, a strident, impeccably accessorized redhead of indeterminate youth and sexual orientation, recorded this video as a response to a blog post that she’d read on another site.
That post was a purportedly fictional account of some anonymous woman’s path to sexual self-discovery. Not only does Kropotkin, a self-proclaimed “lit nerd,” take extraordinary issue with the fact that the story in question is more allegory than faerie tale, she rails against its depiction of polyamory as too easily equating sex and love and, surprisingly, invalidating the feelings of traditional, non-poly folk. Little Kropotkin clearly prefers rules and feels like even the poly should have some.
“I tried these just as a sample pack and the doctor wouldn’t give me any more so I have to treat them like gold.” —MensHelpTv
Originally, I wanted to know how long it takes for Cialis to kick in, but I have no brand loyalty under the circumstances, so I did not hesitate to click MensHelp Tv’s “Does Viagra Work? My Story Of The Little Blue Pill.”
The sole host and staffer of this optimistically-titled YouTube channel is far more concerned with accurate detail than with aesthetics. Though he can not be bothered to shave, put on a collared shirt, or light the other side of his face, in his post, the 44-year old nurse’s husband makes certain to differentiate between an erection and a “stiffy” as well as a three-fourths hard-on and a three-fourths and one-fifth hard-on for those who may experience diminished results due to health problems.
The most compelling moments of the video are those in which the hefty, heavily-accented MensHelp guy struggles to articulate how Viagra briefly reinvigorated his love life. “That was a very exciting thing: Instead of just zzzttt, it’s all over and done with, forget about it, don’t go near me, I want to go to sleep or be left alone, I’m not interested. I was interested for a lot longer.”
“I’m going to be honest with you. You know I’m an honest motherfucker, y’all. I have watched a lot of pornography in my time. And every now and again I have watched some transgender porn. And, yes, my little penis went phttt-phttt-phttt. It wiggled a little bit. So, yes, I guess I’m kind of turned on by it. Does that make me weird or freakish? I don’t give a fuck because that’s me. Why is everybody all up in everybody’s business?”
I am ashamed to admit that I heedlessly typed “is it homophobic not to date transgender?” into the YouTube search field. (Of course it isn’t, I quickly realized; it’s transphobic.) Pimpmunkx’s “Dating A Transgender Individual” post is one of the more colorful of a wide assortment of videos confronting the question.
In it, Pimpmunkx, who looks and barks like an ex-roadie on good coke, staunchly defends our right to not give a fuck what anyone else thinks and vigorously claps back at Arizona pastor and anti-gay hate-monger Steve Anderson: “He’s a little fucking retard. And he’s also a pussy.”
Honorable mention goes to “The Cotton Ceiling: Transphobia, Sex, and Dating (but not transsexuals),” a measured and compelling treatises from a trans woman who evokes Renee Zellweger during the good times.
Another favorite, “Heterosexual Men Who Date Transgender Women,” features gay co-hosts Damian and Ray fervently debate whether or not such a man is technically gay. As with Pimpmunkx’s diatribe, political correctness in no way impedes Ray and Damian’s spirited discussion.
“I’m not really a girl, but I’m not really a boy. I’m just a Kegan.” —Kegan Jones
I wanted to know what the word queer means now, so I asked. There were many more cogent and thorough responses to be found on YouTube. But Kegan Jones’ “Explaining Genderqueer- PART I” contained the above sentence, which is by far my favorite answer and one of the best, simple sentiments I’ve heard on the internet or anywhere in a long time. Jones is an advocate for the Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention and gets massive props for clearly identifying a connection between that cause and gender identity issues—also for being a huge Tegan & Sara fan.
“It’s the most normal thing in the world to be abnormal.” —Sinna Wetgirl
I was looking for some advice on how to talk to future partners about fetishes, but I did not expect this level of unabashed openness, even on YouTube. At first, it may seem like Sinna Wetgirl is concealing herself. A floral scarf is looped around her head, and she wears what appears to be a wig in the style of Ronald McDonald. She broadcasts from what looks like a shadowy basement. Her voice is a combination of Bjork’s and Marilyn Monroe’s, a coo so coquettish, it’s hard to believe it’s no put on.
Whether her affect is genuine or not, Sinna’s intention seems to be. She wants more than anything for citizens within the sound of her sweet voice to no longer be afraid to publicly share their innermost desires. And, so, in her video “( pee) Fetish information from the ‘inside’ part 1”—there are three parts—she not only openly acknowledges, but waxes romantic about her attachment to and arousal from all things urine. Her reason for exposing something so traditionally private? “I guess it would be unfair not to share these things with you guys.”
“Remember that one time you thought you got paid on that one Friday, but then you realized that you didn’t get paid ‘til that next Friday? Yep. That’s pretty much what it feels like.” —india lee-hall
Judging from the number of clips and music videos I found targeting teenagers, YouTube believes I’m way too old to be asking the universe what it feels like to have your heart broken. That doesn’t make me any less curious. But if the much lamented milestone is actually as snarky teen India describes it in her video—“What does heartbreak feel like?”—then life as a freelance writer has already prepared me.
[Illustration by Tara Jacoby]