It’s Humpday For Masculinity

grey Its Humpday For Masculinity

The trouble with very smart dames who ‘get’ what’s happened to the male of the spe­cies is that they threaten to put this par­tic­u­lar one out of work.

Over at the HuffPo Caroline Hagood has writ­ten an annoy­ingly good piece about Lynn Shelton’s bromance-dissecting movie Humpday, about two straight male bud­dies who decide to make a gay porno together as a kind of dude dare.  I’ve yet to see Humpday, but sort of feel that I don’t need to as I appeared in it — hav­ing notori­ously allowed myself to be dared into join­ing in the action by some mil­it­ary dudes when when research­ing a piece about (mostly straight) US para­troop­ers mak­ing gay porn.

Unusually for a journ­al­ist, Hagood under­stands exactly where mas­culin­ity is today:

Hovering some­where between the het­ero­sexual and the homo­sexual is mod­ern male sexu­al­ity — with its met­ro­sexu­al­ity and bromances — in all its ambigu­ous splendor.

Just as unusu­ally, she also under­stands metrosexuality.

.… the word describes the man whose sexu­al­ity is more linked to urb­an­ism and con­sumer­ism than it is to either gender or sexual pro­cliv­ity. A post-sexual, he is no longer homo or hetero, but just metro.

Most use­fully of all though she artic­u­lates very well the essen­tial anxi­ety of ‘bromance’, and how it is in effect set against the very thing it appears to be cel­eb­rat­ing:

…there are two oppos­ing forces that are power­ing films of late: an intense desire to pay trib­ute to the unique rela­tion­ship that exists between men and an equally intense fear that this rela­tion­ship may con­tain homo­sexual under­tones. The res­ult of these war­ring impulses are films like Humpday that blow open the dread and dis­gust sur­round­ing homo­philia that Hollywood strives to keeps under wraps in its aver­age bromance flick. In the end, Shelton’s movie just may func­tion as a mass ther­apy ses­sion for all the Judd Apatows of the world who live in ter­ror of their bro-love.

I’d like to find some­thing to dis­agree with, if only so as not to become com­pletely irrel­ev­ant, but aside from per­haps some aca­demic quib­bling about the con­tinu­ity between the dandy and the met­ro­sexual, I can’t really think of anything.

Lewis & Martin’s 50’s Love Makes Today’s Bromance Look Like Bromide

grey Lewis & Martins 50s Love Makes Todays Bromance Look Like Bromide

This month’s Outfeatures a column by yours truly, called ‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’, explain­ing how my child­hood love for early Lewis made me the man I am today — and why his anarchic com­edy part­ner­ship with Dean Martin in the ‘repressed’ 1950s was a kind of queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been invented:

Their heads were so close together in those tiny ‘50s cathode-ray tubes — gaz­ing into each other’s eyes, rub­bing noses, occa­sion­ally steal­ing kisses or lick­ing each other’s neck to shrieks of scan­dal­ized pleas­ure from the audi­ence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And they were adored for it — lit­er­ally chased down the street by crowds of scream­ing women and not a few men…’.      (‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’)

Though these clips below prob­ably explain it all rather better.

They also show how com­pared to Martin and Lewis, today’s much vaunted ‘bromance’ com­ed­ies are more akin to brom­ide. Lesbian bed death without the hon­ey­moon. Instead of going out of their way to purge their stage romance of any hint of pas­sion or any­thing phys­ical in the way that annoy­ingly self-conscious, college-educated 21st Century buddy com­ed­ies do (the word ‘bromance’ itself sug­gests that any hint of erot­ics would be akin to incest), Martin and Lewis’ blue-collar, mid-century love-affair con­stantly injects it. Flags it up. And slaps your face with it. Theirs is lit­er­ally a much more tick­lish affair. And a shit­load fun­nier for it.

What’s more, it looks very con­vin­cing.

(Oh, and yes, it may be that I still feel fond of Jerry Lewis because his telethons never made it to the UK.…)

An exploi­sion of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charm­ing clip painstak­ing com­piled by a YouTube fan.

‘It’s phys­ical attraction.’


The noise made by the audi­ence when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pel­vis.


Jerry gets some big pricks in the Navy and then sprays every­where.


Dean and Jerry join the Army as para­troop­ers. Watch Dean’s eyes dur­ing the blanket scene.

‘I was loinesome.‘



Spot a (very tiny-looking) James Dean giv­ing a boxer a rub-down while scop­ing the com­pet­i­tion.


A slightly fic­tion­lised account of how our boys met, com­plete with closet clinch cli­max.


Never been kissed… Yeah, right.



Special thanks to the Canadian play­wright Elise Moore and Hannah for re-kindling my unhealthy Lewisian love-affair, offer­ing insight­ful obser­va­tion — and send­ing me some really great YouTube Martin & Lewis love.


Male Bisexuality: Is it Cool?

Rachel Kramer Bussel at The Daily Beast thinks that male bisexu­al­ity has become ‘cool’.

…whereas bisexual women had their fling with pop cul­ture in the 1990s-when every­one from Drew Barrymore to Madonna messed around with women, not to men­tion the fam­ous Vanity Fair cover show­ing Cindy Crawford shav­ing k.d. lang-“bromances” are now the driv­ing force behind Hollywood com­ed­ies and Style sec­tion fea­tures, as men find more ways to play for both teams, or at least act like they do.

Examples are every­where. In John Hamburg’s recent movie, I Love You, Man, the gay guy who unwit­tingly goes on a date with Paul Rudd isn’t just played for laughs, but to some degree, sym­pathy. This sum­mer will also see Lynn Shelton’s buzzed-about Humpday, in which two straight male friends decide to make a homemade porn video. And Brody Jenner’s real­ity show Bromance blurs the line sep­ar­at­ing friend­ship and attrac­tion in what Videogum’s Gabe Delahaye calls “basic­ally the gay­est thing ever, made more gay by everyone’s des­per­ate attempts to provide chest-bumping proof of their heterosexuality.“‘

For my part how­ever, I’m not entirely con­vinced that male bisexu­al­ity has become ‘cool’, not least because most of the bisexual guys I meet are still ter­ri­fied any­one will find out — and I still can’t name off the top of my head a single out male bisexual celeb in the UK (aside from my friend the nov­el­ist Jake Arnott — but as a self-described ‘gay bisexual’ he is rather excep­tional). Whereas almost any female star under the age of 40 has to pre­tend to be bi–crazed or else risk that Nuts/FHM cover.

And the recent trend for ‘bromance,’ far from prov­ing the hip­ness of male swinging is, as the name sug­gests, almost defined by its incest-taboo-driven need to purge the male love affair of the pos­sib­il­ity of any­thing phys­ical, any trace of erot­ics what­so­ever, to a degree which male buddy flicks in the past didn’t, and in fact often went out of their way to inject: e.g. Top Gun, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thunder & Lightfoot, Midnight Cowboy. By con­trast these mod­ern buddy flicks make me think ‘bromance’ is just another word for ‘brom­ide’.  Or les­bian bed-death for straight men without the hon­ey­moon. (The art­house movie ‘Humpday’ seems to be another story — and pre­cisely because it is another story, it is highly unlikely to be a hit.)

But we are cer­tainly liv­ing in inter­est­ing times, and the cul­ture is slowly — and frantic­ally — try­ing to nego­ti­ate, how­ever ineptly, how­ever decept­ively, the thing star­ing them in the face like the out­size erec­tions in the mandigo gang-bang porn so pop­u­lar with straight guys these days: male bi-responsiveness is prob­ably very com­mon, rather than the devi­ant, bizarre, incred­u­lous excep­tion (it cer­tainly was at my board­ing school).

The met­ro­sexual is also, of course, part of this jour­ney — and also some­times per­haps part of the attempt to deflect it.

But there’s a long, long way to go before male bisexu­al­ity is even approach­ing the same level of accept­ab­il­ity let alone cool­ness as female bisexu­al­ity.  A recent study pub­lished in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that the fam­ous ‘sexual double stand­ard’ has now reversed polar­ity and shif­ted in the dir­ec­tion of inhib­it­ing men’s sexual adven­tur­ous­ness while encour­aging women’s.  According to The National Post men are:

…more lim­ited by what is con­sidered taboo in the bed­room; hit by a new double stand­ard that expects men to be highly sexual, and yet expects them to be less exper­i­mental — while the oppos­ite is true for women.

The study, pub­lished in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, found that soci­ety accords men less “sexual lat­it­ude” than women, deem­ing it abnor­mal for a man to be dis­in­ter­ested in sex, to engage in homo­sexual fantasy, and to engage in sub­missive sexual acts.

The double stand­ard used to give men more sexual free­dom than women, but these find­ings indic­ate that the dynamic is chan­ging” said Alex McKay, research coördin­ator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. “Men are forced to abide by a cer­tain gender role, while women are today more free to be them­selves. In this sense, the stand­ard actu­ally works against the man.“‘

I came to the same con­clu­sion three years ago in a piece pos­ted on here called ‘Curiouser and curi­ouser’ — based on my own very private ‘research’:

That women are being encour­aged to talk about their bisexu­al­ity as an enhance­ment of their fem­in­in­ity and sexu­al­ity is rather mar­vel­lous — but it also height­ens the double stand­ard about male bisexu­al­ity, one as pro­nounced than the double stand­ard about promis­cu­ity used to be (men were ‘studs’ and women were ‘slags’), and makes it more inev­it­able that male bisexu­al­ity — by which I simply mean ‘straight’ male sexu­al­ity that doesn’t fit into het­ero­sexu­al­ity, and boy, there’s a lot of that — will have to be addressed can­didly sooner or later.

The tidy-minded inhib­i­tions which keep male bi-curiousness under wraps are still power­ful, but have largely lost their social value, their attach­ment to any­thing real; they are mostly rem­nants from a Judeo-Christian (re)productive, world that doesn’t exist any more, except per­haps in Utah, every other Sunday.… When enough young men real­ise this — or maybe just the des­per­ate pre­pos­ter­ous­ness of the pre­ju­dice and ‘sci­ence’ deployed against male bi-curiousness — the change in atti­tudes will occur very quickly and dra­mat­ic­ally indeed.’

As the Canadian report sug­gests — and Canada is about as lib­eral and relaxed a coun­try as you could con­ceive — that day is not yet here.  However, the fact that such a study exists at all is per­haps a sign that that it’s com­ing closer.

Either way, more research is needed.  And I need a grant to con­duct some more ‘interviews’.…