Long Hot Punter: Paul Weller’s Topless Video Revisited

Scourge of The Eton Rifles Paul Weller was send­ing out quite a state­ment to his die hard Jam fans in this video for his 1983 Style Council single ‘Long Hot Summer’, shot on the River Cam in Cambridge. Acting the big posh poof­tah in a punt.

Like almost every­one in the UK in the early 80s the young Modfather had fallen madly in love with the beautifully-shot 1981 ITV adapt­a­tion of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – much like today’s Downton Abbey, but with believ­able, inter­est­ing aris­tos, a script, and an actual point.

Oh, and a seduct­ive homo­erotic storyline in which two young hetero men fall for one another sur­roun­ded by the Baroque splend­our of Castle Howard, Yorkshire. Charles Ryder’s long hot sum­mer with the dec­ad­ent Sebastian Flyte opened up a whole new realm of sen­sa­tion for a gen­er­a­tion emer­ging from the con­crete rubble of 1970s Britain. Even for the son of a taxi driver and a cleaner from Woking like Weller.

I some­times won­der, con­sid­er­ing the bathetic com­par­ison between Brideshead and Downton, and the gen­eral, glor­i­ous queer­ness of early 80s pop cul­ture, whether the notion of ‘pro­gress’ is just a illu­sion we cling to make the dimin­ish­ing returns of life more bear­able. (And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ of course.) Though much less tech­nic­ally soph­ist­ic­ated, Weller’s Brideshead trib­ute video ‘Long Hot Summer’ video knocks LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ into a banana hammock.

Rather won­der­fully, wank­ing seems to be the focus of this promo, along  with the attend­ant nar­ciss­ism and homo­eroti­cism of Paul’s dis­play of top­less, oiled-up self-pleasuring for the cam­era – lying on his back for most of the video whilst his fully-clothed chum labours behind him. Thirty years on, and after all the slutty, spor­no­graphic advert­ising cam­paigns of the last dec­ade, Paul’s petu­lant passiv­ity in this video is still jaw-dropping.

Understandably, Style Council gui­tar­ist Mick Talbot is driven to play­ing with his pole and gnaw­ing passing wil­low trees in frus­tra­tion. Fortunately for him relief is at hand — a little later pretty Paul allows him­self to be spit-roasted in his punt by the drum­mer and the guitarist.

Whether lolling on his back, fin­gers trav­el­ling down his flat abdo­men, or dan­cing bare­foot, Weller’s whip­pet thin body reminds us of what British young men looked like before Ronald McDonald and Mens Health redesigned them.

Or maybe I’m just fall­ing prey to the intox­ic­at­ing nos­tal­gia for a bet­ter, more golden time that per­meated Brideshead.

Really Rucking Funny: Best Manlove Video of 2011 (SFW)

This clip by Irish com­edy out­fit Dead Cat Bounce called ‘Rugby’ has to be my favour­ite video of 2011. Even if it strongly sug­gests that, in Ireland at least, my work here is done and it’s well past time to retire to the touch-lines.

There’s much to admire here: the light­ness of touch, the hil­ari­ous blend of the accur­ate and the absurd; the josh­ing, ban­ter­ing, boy­ish affec­tion — both for rugby and man­love. I even like the tune. But I find myself espe­cially mes­mer­ised by the lead singer’s vast, match-winning gob. He could swal­low that giant, muddy testicle he’s pre­tend­ing to lick without it so much as touch­ing the sides.

It seems I’m not the only one who rated this man­love bal­lad. Originally broad­cast on their state TV sta­tion RTE, it’s the fifth most pop­u­lar YouTube clip in Ireland this year. Oh, and you can down­load the song from iTunes too.

Below the YouTube clip are scores of com­ments by self-identified straight rugby play­ers and fans, most of whom seem to love it as much as this old homo does:

im a rugby player. i play lock.. which makes me the guy who sticks his head between the guys’ thighs. i still think this is fuck­ing hilarious.’

It’s dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a sim­ilar skit about soc­cer get­ting the same good-humoured response. But then, as sev­eral rugby fans have poin­ted out, soc­cer is for poofs.

Tip: Dermod Moore

The Gayness of Top Gun: Feel The Need

Frankly, we could watch a few more hours of Baldwin chew­ing the scenery as Pacino and Hader flab­ber­gas­ted that the pro­du­cers don’t under­stand how “gay” their script is: “I say, ‘Ice Man’s on my tail, he’s com­ing hard.’ I lit­er­ally said that to a bath­room attend­ant last night.”

(I’d like to embed here a clip of the fake Top Gun 25th Anniversary audi­tion tape sketch from SNL with Alec Baldwin as Al Pacino and Harvey Fierstein as Hader that HuffPo is high-fiving in the quote above, but Hulu blocks non-US IP addresses.)

Curious how the ‘gay­ness’ of Top Gun is now part of con­ven­tional wis­dom and a shared joke. It cer­tainly wasn’t at the time.

Hard to believe, but in the 80s Top Gunstar­ring the young, tarty Tom Cruise (the Cristiano Ronaldo of his day), with its top­less vol­ley­ball scenes (to the strains of ‘Playing With the Boys’), linger­ing locker-room scenes, boy-on-boy cent­ral love-story (Iceman and Maverick’s aer­ial sex scenes are much hot­ter than any­thing going on with Kelly McGillis, who has since come out as les­bian) — and awash with enough baby oil and hair gel to sink an air­craft car­rier — was gen­er­ally seen as the epi­tome of het­ero­sexual virility.

And even nearly a dec­ade later in 1994, when I devoted a whole chapter in my first book Male Impersonators to explain­ing the homo­erot­ics of that out­rageous movie, plenty of people still wouldn’t have Top Gun’s het­ero­sexu­al­ity impugned.

Later the same year Quentin Tarantino made a cameo appear­ance in the movie Sleep With Me, essen­tially mak­ing the same argu­ment, Toby Young, then editor of The Modern Review and Tarantino fan­boy, was moved to write a long essay in the The Sunday Times defend­ing his favour­ite movie’s het­ero­sexu­al­ity from Simpson and Tarantino’s filthy calumnies.

Mr Young’s clinch­ing argu­ment? Top Gun HAD to be straight because he’d watched it twenty times – and he’s straight.

But now that every­one and his mother thinks Top Gun — and Tom Cruise — gay, I’m no longer quite so sure.…

In fact, what I told Mr Young in 1994 when he rang me for a quote for his piece was this: “Of course Top Gun isn’t a ‘gay movie’ — but it’s clearly, flag­rantly not a straight one either.” I think I’ll stick with that.

Perhaps we’re all more know­ing now. Perhaps more people are clued-up about homo­erot­ics. Perhaps it’s down to the Interweb mak­ing all the ‘incrim­in­at­ing’ clips always avail­able. Perhaps it’s all my fault. Though I sus­pect it’s more a case of the past being a for­eign coun­try — so ‘gay­ness’ can be safely pro­jec­ted onto some­thing in the past, even if it was once what hun­dreds of mil­lions of straight young men saw as the very epi­tome of aspir­a­tional heterosexuality.

I’d bet­ter end there as I’m off to the movies — to see Warrior.

 Tip: DAKrolak

Assume the Position: A Queer Defence of Hazing

Mark Simpson wants to be be soundly smacked with a paddle

(Out magazine, 2006)

When I joined my local rugby team, I was made to do ter­rible, awful things. Even now, all these years later, I feel dis­tressed and choked up recount­ing what happened. I had to stand on a chair as a full pint of beer was shoved in my groin, soak­ing it. I then had to drink a yard of ale (three pints in a yard-long horn-shaped glass) with a bucket in front of me. Later, sev­eral of us had to run around the rugby pitch stark naked. In January.

I was trau­mat­ized. I may never recover. This wasn’t what I had signed up for! You see, it was a ter­rible, awful, unfor­get­table, wound­ing dis­ap­point­ment.

It was just all so… restrained. I had been hop­ing that we would be per­form­ing some of the other bond­ing and ini­ti­ation rites that I’d heard about, such as the one where one naked team-mate bends over and a pint is poured over his ass, down his crack, and over his sack while another sits under­neath him with head back and mouth open. Or the soggy bis­cuit game: a circle jerk over a cream cracker where the last one to come has to eat it. Or per­haps the car­rot game, where a root veget­able is shoved up the rookie’s ass and a pink rib­bon tied around his erect penis (some­thing to do with the car­rot I sup­pose), which he has to keep on for two weeks, to be checked at each train­ing session.

Frankly, I would have even been happy with the rel­at­ively vanilla haz­ing that all new recruits to a crack U.K. Army regi­ment have to par­ti­cip­ate in: According to a straight sol­dier pal of mine, the “old-timers” rub their asses and gen­it­als over the faces of the new recruits or “crows”, as they’re called.

But, alas at my rugby club all that was on offer was a wet crotch on my jeans and a frost-shrivelled penis. Judging by the excited media reports, things would have been very dif­fer­ent if I’d been a col­lege fresh­man in the United States and joined the foot­ball team or one of those kinky fra­tern­it­ies with those Greek names.

At the University of Vermont the “ele­phant walk” is, or was, rather pop­u­lar: Pledges drink warm beer and walk naked in a line, hold­ing the gen­it­als of the lucky lad in front of them. At Tiffin University in Ohio the soc­cer team has been known to strip their fresh­men play­ers to their under­wear, hand­cuff them together, scrawl vul­gar­it­ies on their bod­ies, and make them lick one another’s nipples. Sometimes the fun isn’t just reserved for mem­bers of the team. At a Utah high school two wrest­lers stripped a male cheer­leader in the school locker room and “attemp­ted to shave his pubic hair” with an elec­tric clip­per. Attempted? Does that mean they didn’t suc­ceed? That’s some cheerleader.

truth be told, even in the United States, haz­ing isn’t what it used to be. This ancient rite is under attack from all sides: the media, fem­in­ists, moth­ers, edu­ca­tional author­it­ies, legis­lat­ors, police—and also many gays. Hazing is being shamed up and stamped out. The only reason we know about the sor­did goings-on in frat houses across the nation is because the author­it­ies were involved, lit­ig­a­tion was ini­ti­ated, crim­inal charges brought, and the media mobil­ised. A big stink, in other words. Most respect­able people seem to agree haz­ing is wrong, sex­ist, and homo­phobic and must be stopped.

Now, per­haps I’m not ter­ribly respect­able, or maybe I enjoy cham­pi­on­ing lost causes, but I think haz­ing can be a valu­able, ven­er­able mas­cu­line insti­tu­tion that is worth defend­ing, par­tic­u­larly by men who are inter­ested in other men. Hazing is the last rite of pas­sage left for boys in a world that doesn’t seem to want boys to grow into men any more, a very phys­ical form of male bond­ing in a soci­ety that wants us to remain as dis­con­nec­ted as pos­sible, an anti­dote to indi­vidu­al­ism, which in this atom­ized day and age tends to just mean ali­en­ated consumerism.

Yes, I real­ize that haz­ing can be dan­ger­ous. It can turn into abuse and bul­ly­ing or out­right sad­ism, as in those widely repor­ted instances of boys being sod­om­ized with mop handles and pine-cones. Boys, like men, can be plain dumb and dan­ger­ous and occa­sion­ally fatal. Jocks can be obnox­ious, arrog­ant little shits, espe­cially to male cheer­lead­ers. But my point would be that this is all we ever hear about. Hazing has been tarred with one self-righteous pur­it­an­ical brush.

Scandalized media reports and a pro­lif­er­a­tion of anti haz­ing Web sites such as BadJocks.com and StopHazing.org have helped to decis­ively turn pub­lic opin­ion against haz­ing (though in some cases with an admix­ture of voyeur­ism for the very thing that they are cam­paign­ing against). Hazing is now the sub­ject of a full-fledged moral panic about “our chil­dren”. This September sees the First National Conference on High School Hazing—and you can be sure they’re not teach­ing del­eg­ates how to con­duct a suc­cess­ful ele­phant walk. Most states now have anti-hazing laws, and most uni­ver­sit­ies have dra­conian anti-hazing policies.

Here’s the University of Vermont’s all-embracing defin­i­tion of what haz­ing is and thus what is ver­boten:

any act, whether phys­ical, men­tal, emo­tional, or psy­cho­lo­gical, which sub­jects another per­son, vol­un­tar­ily or invol­un­tar­ily, to any­thing that may abuse, mis­treat, degrade, humi­li­ate, har­ass, or intim­id­ate him/her, or which may in any fash­ion com­prom­ise his/her inher­ent dig­nity as a person”.

Which sounds to me like a recipe for a very dull Saturday night indeed.

Don’t we all want our “inher­ent dig­nity as a per­son” to be com­prom­ised some­times - espe­cially at uni­ver­sity? And why on earth would you join a fra­tern­ity, or an ice-hockey team, or in fact any all-male group if you were so con­cerned about your inher­ent dig­nity as a per­son? Wouldn’t it be wiser just to stay at home knit­ting? Hazing is used by these groups for pre­cisely that pur­pose: to put off those who aren’t really ser­i­ous about put­ting the group or the team above their own damn pre­cious­ness or good sense.

Note how haz­ing is defined as “vol­un­tar­ily or invol­un­tar­ily”: Consent is irrel­ev­ant to the powers that be in their zeal to stamp out haz­ing (just as it used to be with homo­sexu­al­ity). They know best. Nor is it merely extreme cases such as sod­om­iz­ing with pinecones that the anti-hazing zealots are against but “any act, whether phys­ical, men­tal, emo­tional, or psy­cho­lo­gical” that might be kind of naughty, kind of dirty, kind of fun. In itself a rather con­vin­cing argu­ment for haz­ing, at least for young people. Mom and the cops and the col­lege dean don’t like it? Great! Bring on the hand­cuffs, warm beer, and Jell-O!

Which brings me onto the aspect of haz­ing that, as you may pos­sibly have guessed, I have a fond fas­cin­a­tion for, and is a cent­ral part of my desire to defend the practice—and prob­ably why my defense will prob­ably suc­ceed in finally killing it off: the homo­erotic dimen­sion, the “gay­ness” of what these mostly straight guys like to do to one another and their private parts.

Granted, a lot of haz­ing, espe­cially with the crack­down going on today, has little or noth­ing to do with homo-erotics. It may be just Jackass-style crazi­ness involving oncom­ing traffic, gal­lons of water, and jump­ing out of trees. Mind, haz­ing does, like me, keep return­ing to men’s butts and pen­ises and testicles (any­one for “tea-bagging”?) even when it tries not to. Obviously, I think this is entirely under­stand­able and requires no explan­a­tion what­so­ever, let alone patho­lo­giz­ing it and crim­in­al­iz­ing it. But clearly plenty of people think otherwise.

So why is haz­ing so homo? Perhaps because all-male groups, accord­ing to Freud, are bound together by barely sub­lim­ated homo­erotic feel­ings. It’s what inspires them to such heart-warming loy­alty, such pas­sion­ate self-sacrifice and heroic endeavour—Eros can wrestle the instinct for self-preservation to the ground. The haz­ing rituals with their sim­u­lated homo sex could be seen as a sym­bolic group fuck that gets the “sex” over with yet turns all the mem­bers of the team or fra­tern­ity into a band of lov­ers. Of course, I would prefer that they fol­lowed the exem­plar of the Theban Band, or the Spartans of ancient Greece, the warrior-lovers who didn’t stop at sim­u­lated homo sex (and were widely regarded as invin­cible). But you can’t have everything.

There are also putat­ively Darwinian explan­a­tions for the homo-erotics of male groups. In our pre­his­toric past the bond­ing of hunters and war­ri­ors was vital to the sur­vival of the tribe. Those tribes that sur­vived and thrived and passed on their genes were those in which men were will­ing to sac­ri­fice breed­ing oppor­tun­it­ies and com­forts of life with the chicks back at camp for weeks and months of intim­acy with men and a will­ing­ness to serve and take orders. Prehistoric man, in other words, was a bit of a leather queen. This is prob­ably the reason why hyper-masculinity is some­times dif­fi­cult to sep­ar­ate from homo­sexu­al­ity, espe­cially dur­ing Hell Week.

Alas, many gays see haz­ing as neces­sar­ily homo­phobic and appear to buy into the simplistic fem­in­ist ana­lysis of power and dom­in­a­tion. In an online art­icle Cyd Zeigler Jr. of Outsports.com recog­nizes that haz­ing is often deeply homo­erotic (and lists some of the same scan­dals I have), but sees it as essen­tially homo­phobic: “Whether it’s sod­om­iz­ing them or mak­ing them wear women’s panties, the notion of for­cing younger play­ers to sub­mit to team vet­er­ans comes right out of the hand­book of anti-gay ste­reo­types.” Clinching the mat­ter, homo­erotic haz­ing appar­ently “emas­cu­lates the victim”.

Leaving aside that the out-and-proud gay world isn’t exactly free of power, dom­in­a­tion, and humi­li­ation, or for that mat­ter anti-gay ste­reo­types, this asser­tion about the emas­cu­la­tion of the vic­tim doesn’t always hold true. While I have some sym­pathy with this approach, in its attach­ment to victim-hood it seems to be rather more rigidly homo­phobic than haz­ing is.

The curi­ous para­dox of haz­ing is that while it may well regard “fag­gi­ness” and “soft­ness” as undesir­able, it actu­ally makes the homo­erotic cent­ral to mem­ber­ship of the group. Besides, rather than emas­cu­lat­ing the new mem­bers of group, the vet­er­ans wish to ‘mas­culin­ize’ them, and they use homo­erot­ics to that end. Hazing itself is not an act of hos­til­ity but of affec­tion: tough love. While haz­ing can be homo­erotic and homo­phobic, this is not—and it’s dif­fi­cult for us self-centered homos to real­ize this—its point.

The fam­ous Sambia tribe of New Guinea (fam­ous because anthro­po­lo­gists won’t leave them alone) don’t sim­u­late homo­sexu­al­ity in their own haz­ing rituals: they prac­tice it. Adolescent boys are taken from their moth­ers by the older youths and required to repeatedly give oral sex to them—they are told that the semen will mas­culin­ize them. In today’s uni­ver­sit­ies, of course, the semen is replaced by warm Budweiser and pro­tein shakes. From a Sambian point of view, the dom­in­ance of the anti-hazing lobby today would prob­ably rep­res­ent an insuf­fer­able vic­tory of the pro­tec­ted domestic world of Mom, who deep down doesn’t want her cher­ished baby boy to ever be exposed to any­thing extreme or dis­taste­ful or dan­ger­ous or… male.

But then, it some­times seems that our con­tem­por­ary cul­ture has less and less use for, or appre­ci­ation of, mas­culin­ity that isn’t merely dec­or­at­ive or good at DIY. Paradoxically, as the tol­er­a­tion and vis­ib­il­ity of new­fangled gays and gay­ness in our cul­ture has risen, intol­er­ance of old­fangled homo­erotic mas­cu­line rituals has also increased. Very often, society’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with haz­ing is, like mine, a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with its “gay­ness.” But in reverse.

When a private video of drunken off-duty U.K. Royal Marines run­ning around naked together in some god­for­saken place was sold to the tabloids in 2005, it caused an out­cry. Officially, it was because one of the Marines was shown being kicked in the head by a drunken officer, and this was evid­ence of bul­ly­ing. But as the repeated print­ing of the naked pic­tures showed, it was mostly about the fact that they were fit young mar­ines, naked together, being gay.

The (extremely hot) vic­tim, 23-year-old Ray Simmons, came for­ward to say he didn’t hold the officer (who was now the sub­ject of a mil­it­ary police invest­ig­a­tion) respons­ible, and it was just a bit of fun that got out of hand. However, the host of reader let­ters that the stor­ies promp­ted showed the real pre­oc­cu­pa­tion was not the bul­ly­ing but the gay­ness. A typ­ic­ally hissy example from one male reader:

I am utterly dis­gus­ted by the beha­vior of our so-called Marines…. This kind of thing would be bet­ter suited to a gay 18–30 hol­i­day on a remote island some­where. Our enemies across the globe must be laugh­ing at us.”

So soci­ety appar­ently still expects Marines to go and kill and be killed any­where in the world at the drop of a daisy-cutter to defend our ener­vated suburban—and voyeuristic—lifestyle, but ridicules and con­demns them for doing what men have to do and have always done to bond and let off steam. Fortunately, the Marines aren’t tak­ing any notice: “People think a load of men get­ting naked together is a bit gay,” said Simmons, “but we don’t care what oth­ers think. It’s just Marine humor.”

Well said that man. Don’t let the square civvies—or the envi­ous homos like me—try to shame you into being as joy­less, lonely, and bereft of real camaraderie and human con­tact as the rest of us. It’s a sign of our isol­ated times that most people today could never say the words “we don’t care what people think” because:

(a) they don’t belong to a group, or in fact to any­thing except a super­mar­ket loy­alty scheme; and

(b) they care about what people will think rather more than they do about their buddies.

The homo­erot­ics of haz­ing are not, in fact, neces­sar­ily homo­phobic or gay. They’re just guy.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m all in favor of guys.

Why Straight Soldiers Can’t Stop Acting Gay on Video

Way back in the last cen­tury, before the Interweb swal­lowed everything, my friend and accom­plice in lit­er­ary crime Steve Zeeland were vis­it­ing, as you do, Camp Pendleton, the giant US Marine Corps base in Southern California with some jar­head friends.

We spent the after­noon watch­ing the Marine Rodeo — scores of grin­ning fit Texan boys in tight Wranglers and high-and-tights boun­cing up and down on bron­cos and slap­ping each other’s butts. Perhaps you’ll under­stand why, after hav­ing seen this, the Details fash­ion shoot that was Brokeback Mountain left me cold.

We then headed to the enlis­ted men’s club for a much-needed and, I’d like to think, well-earned drink. While we were there, some Marines came in from a week’s exer­cise in the field, still in their com­bats, cam­ou­flage paint still on their young sun­burned faces. They were in high spir­its, enjoy­ing their first beer of the week, and when the DJ played the open­ing fan­fare of The Village People’s ‘YMCA’, like Pavlovs’ dogs they instantly and instinct­ively under­stood what was required of them.

They flocked onto the dance-floor, scram­bling to outdo one another in their 1970s disco dance moves, and joy­ously spelling out the let­ters of the camp clas­sic extolling the pleas­ures of get­ting clean and hanging out with all the bo-oys. ‘Hey buddy,’ one jar­head shouted to me, slap­ping me on the shoulder and grin­ning in my face, ‘you hav­ing a good time?’

Oh yes.

At this point Steve pro­duced his mid 1990s, large, cum­ber­some and very, very obvi­ous cam­corder and star­ted film­ing the jar­head hi-jinks. ‘Steve,’ I hissed in his ear, palms moisten­ing. ‘Don’t you think this might, er, get us into trouble?’

We escaped unscathed — though we did hear reports a year or two later that the Commandant of Camp Pendleton had ordered, like an angry Old Testament God, that enlis­ted men’s club be razed to the ground because it was ‘a cesspit of sodomy’.

I needn’t have wor­ried about Steve’s cam­cord­ing. But the Commandant did have reason to worry — and his Biblical efforts proved in vain. In just a few years time, mil­it­ary boys would be enthu­si­ast­ic­ally film­ing them­selves act­ing way ‘gayer’ than dan­cing to YMCA — and post­ing it on YouTube for the entire world to see.

You’ve prob­ably already seen the video trib­ute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ made by US sol­diers in Afghanistan, which has gone vir­u­lently viral.  It’s part of a well-established craze by dusty, bored and stressed mil­it­ary boys let­ting off steam, tak­ing time out from buttoned-down mas­cu­line norms and chan­nel­ling a little glam­our instead. Having a scream, in other words. But the fact they are video­ing it and put­ting on YouTube sug­gests that, like most like most young people in a medi­ated world, they want to draw atten­tion to themselves.

Way back in the Twenieth Century again I wrote, only slightly tongue in cheek: ‘The prob­lem with straight men is they’re repressed. The prob­lem with gay men is they’re not.’ In the met­ro­sexual 21st Century I think it’s pretty clear that even straight sol­diers aren’t that repressed any more.  While of course gays are get­ting mar­ried and becom­ing Tory MPs.

I don’t know about you, but the scene where the sol­diers are stand­ing around admir­ing one another’s home-made House of Gaga out­fits will stay with me forever. There’s some­thing about Lady Gaga that seems to make funny, flam­ing flam­boy­ance — Gagacity - irres­ist­ible to men, women, chil­dren, civil­ians and sol­diers and small anim­als. Gay or straight.

Quite rightly, hardly any­one has sug­ges­ted that these sol­diers being hyper and hil­ari­ously camp are ‘really gay’. Some might be, of course. But their appear­ance in a video of this kind doesn’t prove any such thing. Even the gay-banning US Army put out a state­ment approv­ing the video, or at least try­ing to exploit its popularity.

Compare this with what happened a few years back when it emerged that some US sol­diers had been ‘act­ing gay’ on video for private con­sump­tion rather than YouTube. Gay porn videos made by a com­pany called ActiveDuty. A global scan­dal errup­ted and sev­eral young sol­diers were arres­ted, courts mar­tialed, fined and dis­hon­our­ably dis­charged.  A lot of people — par­tic­u­larly gays — seemed con­vinced that the sol­diers ‘must’ all be gay because they appeared in such videos. When in fact many did it like the sol­diers in the ‘Telephone’ video — for giggles, for fun, for a dare. And, in this case, also for the not incon­sid­er­able sums money they were paid.

Like the dis­charged sol­dier said to the shell-shocked wait­ress who recog­nised him from the ActiveDuty web­site and deman­ded to know how he could have done such a thing: ‘It was no big deal. And besides, I got paid.’

If you think my com­par­ison far-fetched, con­sider that the sol­diers courts mar­tialed for ‘act­ing gay’ on video (Certificate 18) were para­troop­ers in the 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg. The same élite unit that the chaps ‘act­ing gay’ in the ‘Telephone’ video (PG) are from.

The latest YouTube video of sol­diers ‘act­ing gay’ called ‘The Army Goes Gay’ (below) has been curi­ously claimed by some gay blogs as an example of straight sol­diers ‘ridicul­ing’ Dont’ Ask Don’t Tell.  There isn’t really any evid­ence for this read­ing how­ever — and in fact it could be more eas­ily read as an endorse­ment of the ‘Gay Bomb’ fears of the Pentagon. Almost cer­tainly it doesn’t have any  mes­sage at all.

It’s just sol­diers being silly and naughty. And ‘gay’.

Homoerotic Horseplay — Not Gay Just Guy


A column of mine on Out.com, ‘Men At Play in Afgrabistan’, gal­lantly defends the free­dom of the derided (and now dis­missed) secur­ity guards at the US embassy to get naked with one another and eat potato chips from each other’s butts in their spare time — even if they’re out of shape.  I also point out how every­day and ‘nor­mal’ homo­erot­ics is for many if not most men — but we don’t want to see it, and when we can’t ignore it because it’s thrust in our face by digital cam­eras and the Interweb we patho­lo­gize or crim­in­al­ize it:

…the furor is another reminder that we live in a cul­ture where female bi-curiousness is routinely regarded as nat­ural and almost uni­ver­sal while male bi-curiousness is seen as non-existent — or else it is just “sexu­ally con­fused” (i.e. they’re really gay, but laugh­ably repressed), or it is “devi­ant haz­ing” con­duc­ted by “sexual pred­at­ors” that needs to be eradicated.

In real­ity, to any­one who opens their eyes on a Saturday night on either side of the Atlantic, there’s scads of evid­ence that plenty of “nor­mal” young men who aren’t par­tic­u­larly “sexu­ally con­fused” — espe­cially the most, er, phys­ical types — have a healthy appet­ite for highly homo­erotic beha­vior after a keg or two. It’s what beer seems to have been inven­ted for. In the Middle Ages they thought the cause of sod­omy was drunk­en­ness — they weren’t wrong. By con­trast, I’ve hardly ever seen such homo­erotic horse­play amongst straight women, even des­pite the inven­tion of alco­pops (though admit­tedly I per­haps wasn’t look­ing as closely.)

Some people have a more viol­ently neg­at­ive response to the every­day evid­ence of male homo­erot­ics, lit­er­ally try­ing to stamp it out.  In the UK a straight female Canadian mar­tial arts expert attacked and knocked out a couple of drunken British sol­diers at a disco for kiss­ing and ‘pre­tend­ing to be gay’, scream­ing ‘THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE BRITISH ARMY!!’.

Living in a gar­rison town I’ve seen plenty of sim­il­ary steamy beha­viour from drunken squad­dies in pubs and on dance-floors, snog­ging and hump­ing and grop­ing one another, so I can under­stand her frus­tra­tion — I’ve wanted to get phys­ical too, but not in quite the same way she did.

Sometimes the response is more gen­teel, but just as vehe­ment.  During the last Rugby World Cup a couple of years ago I was invited on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four to talk about homo­erot­ics and rugby.  I thought it a bit odd that Woman’s Hour wanted to cover this sub­ject, but the pro­du­cer enthused: ‘The presenter Jane is really keen to talk about it’.  It turned out that neither the presenter, a former female sports journ­al­ist, or her guest, another female sports journ­al­ist, wanted to talk about it at all. 

Both of them refused point blank to coun­ten­ance the pos­sib­il­ity that a game that involves men with large thighs wrest­ling in the mud over odd-shaped balls, or tak­ing com­munal baths, or kinky nude drink­ing games that would shock the guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan, could be in any way homo­erotic.  Only a homo would say such a thing.

Of course you would say that Mark,’ she said at one point, ‘because you’re gay.’

I paused.  Several things occured to me to say to that.  I could have said that droves of gay men were prob­ably rush­ing at that very moment to dis­so­ci­ate them­selves from what I was say­ing (they usu­ally do).  Or I could have said, ‘Well, of course you would say that Jane, as an uptight middle class woman’ (and I wished I had).

Instead I said, ‘It seems that some people have a prob­lem with the word “homo­erotic”.  They think that it means some­thing ‘for gays’.  Perhaps some people would be hap­pier with the word “male bonding”.’

Yes!’ they chor­used, ‘it’s male bonding!’

But,’ I con­tin­ued, ‘it’s male bond­ing with an erotic com­pon­ent so we’re back where we came in.’

They didn’t like that. 

And this just a few weeks after this show had gone out on national UK TV, in which a team of north­ern rugby play­ers had been filmed get­ting drunk and naked with one another, snog­ging, lick­ing each other’s nipples - and play­ing with their captain’s ‘don­key dick’.  Of course, I couldn’t even men­tion it, as on radio — espe­cially Radio Four — you’re not allowed to acknow­ledge that TV exists.

Again, being radio, and posh radio at that, a nice voice whispered in my head­phone just before we went on air. ‘Remember Mark, this is a fam­ily show so please try not to be too rude!.’   This did hamper my case some­what, as rugby homo­erot­ics are meant to be rude.  Though it didn’t stop me from leav­ing some­thing tan­tal­ising hanging in the air: ”The soggy bis­cuit game, for example, isn’t entirely a myth.…’.

I think we’d bet­ter move on,’ said Jane rather quickly.  Apparently the Radio Four switch­board was jammed with retired lady callers demand­ing to know what the soggy bis­cuit game was. 


(This fea­ture of mine from a couple of years back, ‘Assume the pos­i­tion’, offers a more in-depth invest­ig­a­tion of the culture’s crack­down on haz­ing and male horse­play in general.)