Excerpt of forthcoming PROXIES by Brian Blanchfield appears in Harper's Magazine

Excerpt of forthcoming PROXIES by Brian Blanchfield appears in Harper's Magazine

On Frottage

"I can’t bring myself to rhyme it with “cottage,” but I’ve heard it pronounced that way. The French pronunciation makes it sound like a delectation, a frill or a whip, a froth. Anyway that’s the one I say when I say it. I don’t know when I first had the word, or whose word it was — not someone I did it with. I know I was doing it without a word for it, and with men who didn’t seem to have a preestablished idea of the thing or its name, young men doing what comes naturally. Put their mouths together in a kiss and between their bodies no room for daylight.

Like other sex terms founded in circumspection (I imagine it used capably in one of the poems Auden kept in a drawer), frottage is unstable in its definition, particularly at the dividing lines of generation and orientation. Among older straight people, it seems primarily to mean a sociopathic, furtive rubbing against strangers in crowded places like subway cars. (“Masher!” was the cry in sitcoms already long in syndication when I was young — followed by a customary whack to the head with a heavy purse, whereupon over the laugh track the hapless innocent taken for pervert stammers his explanation.) As it happens, furtiveness (I’ll claim it) is one of my defining attributes, and something I miss about New York is the erotic charge of returned glances in crowded places, and even the brush of intention under the cover of accident. I have leaned back yes into excessive leaning. But frottage, to gay guys I know, has nothing to do with that."

Read the full excerpt in the November issue of Harper's Magazine here

Proxies: Essays Near Knowing is forthcoming in March, 2016.