Talking Dirty with Edmund White
Photo by Fladeboe
When others were not brave, Edmund White was open. Through his books, he forced the reality of the queer man's life into the consciousness of this country. Not only was he one of the first openly gay writers to put the experience of gay life in the world on paper, he also made the people of the world want to hear more about it. His many books contain a thousand different worlds, countless unforgettable characters, and all of the complicated affairs of the human spirit. The erotic moments, I find, have the strange ability to give not only the crotch, but also the heart, an unflappable chubby.
His first novel, Forgetting Elena, was written 40 years ago, and he remains prolific up to this day. Ask any somewhat-educated homosexual and they will tell you how their life changed after reading A Boy's Own Story, the book many consider to be his capolavoro. White released his latest book, Jack Holmes & His Friend, a few days ago, and it is already a bestseller in London.
Edmund is one of the last living giants, and will always be our Great Gay Hope. I once heard him say that his life is an open book; I recently interviewed him and tried my best to crack the spine.
(N.B. If you're looking for thoughts on the craft, you won't be finding them here.)
VICE: Your new novel is about a relationship between a straight man and a gay man. I've heard you say that no one has covered that subject in a novel before, but you must have had other reasons to write it.
Edmund White: Well, gay life is the most likely variation on sex. If you want to look at straight life and sex, just turn the tapestry over.
Have you ever been in love with a straight man? What happened?
Yes. A straight guy I sucked off in the 60s while he pretended to be asleep. Several times. He was a pompous lawyer with bad skin. I loved a wrestler in college who loved jazz and shot up heroin. Just as I was about to give my speech on how his friendship was enough he pulled down his underpants and revealed a big hard dick
Most of my friends are straight. I feel like a lot of gay men don't accept me because I don't comport myself in a certain manner. Why do you think that is?
You’re sort of a tough, thuggish guy. I’d imagine gays would go for that.
Is there a difference between sex with a straight man and sex with a gay man?
Straight guys usually just lie there and get sucked, though I had one straight guy whom I worked with in 1970 who got stoned and fucked the shit out of me and then ran away— literally—with his pants around his ankles. I guess he was freaked out by how much he liked it.
You lived through some of New York’s most sexually promiscuous times. What was the gay scene like then compared to now?
There was a lot of meat on the hoof before the internet. Pick-ups were quick and easy and often you’d score three times a night. Now, even with online cruising, it’s sort of slow.
Have you ever fallen in love with an anonymous hook-up?
I fall in love with everyone I have sex with—even stand-up sex.
Did your writing change after you were diagnosed with HIV? Did it become more urgent?
No. I didn’t write anything. For the first year I pulled the sheets over my head.
Do you like to kiss?
Describe the perfect man. Clothes, habits, ethnicity, what he likes in bed, etc.
He’s taller than me, six feet plus. He loves to fuck fat asses and is insatiable, he’s clean but not a clothes horse, and he can be dark or fair.
I read somewhere that you frequent SilverDaddies.com. How much miraculously easier does the internet make it to find a quick piece of tail?
When you’re old and fat and a bottom, it’s an incredible boon to find chaser tops online.
Are people either 100 percent straight or 100 percent gay?
Sexologists say it’s a continuum, but I’ve known gays who were purists and never ever slept with a woman and straights who were hopelessly besotted with women and held in horror the notion of fucking a man’s hairy butt.
I feel like the whole "we were born gay" argument is more insulting than anything. The point, I think, is that it shouldn't matter if homosexuality is genetic or not. Whether someone decides to be gay, or is born to be, it shouldn't matter. I feel like the "I was born like this" argument is just another way of saying, "I'm sorry for my disgustingness. I had no control over it and wish I had been born straight." Thoughts?
No one tries to figure out how someone ended up straight, though it takes just as much explaining as being gay. All etiological arguments are reactionary from the start.
I used to jack off while fantasizing about putting my head under Socrates' robe and sucking his dick. Was ancient Greece ideal? Sex for knowledge?
You just liked ugly old men, then as now.
Are fetishes something that one can develop late in life? Like all of a sudden, at the age of 65, am I going to start getting into sounding?
I feel like I could get into shit at my age.
I think gay marriage is ridiculous, and that the institution should be destroyed. What are your thoughts?
I disapprove of all marriage. For gays it’s ludicrous; promiscuity is an essential part of homosexuality. But I defend the right of those who want to get married.
What kind of porn do you watch?
I like to watch Cam4 and see live men jerk off, usually with incredibly large dicks.
Ever had sex with anyone famous?
Mart Crowley, who had a huge dick, fucked me the summer his play The Boys in the Band came out.
Who is the smartest person you've met?
Albert Dichy, a straight man who helped me research my biography of Jean Genet.
I had a Swiss lover named Matthias Brunner who was the kindest to me and everyone he considered a friend.
What about the most awful?
How has gay-lit changed since you started out?
It is now “post-gay,” in that it treats all kinds of life situations, along with a few gay ones.
You’ve said before that you couldn't write about your father until he died. Why not?
I missed him after he died and wanted to preserve him in all his horror.
Your work being largely autobiographical, is there anything in your life too holy to write down?
Do young men fall for you often?
How do you tell them no?
I ALWAYS tell them yes.
What’s your most memorable fuck?
In the 1970s on the beach in Fire Island on a moonlit night with a man named Blue.
Describe the perfect dick.
It’s big and uncut and warm to the touch and leaks pre-cum and smells.
Thank you, Edmund.