No, this one isn’t the work of The Onion. Not only would the large cast of suited and booted fraternity boys with solemn faces and clasped hands standing behind the comedy attorney who can’t stop saying ‘butt chugging’ break their production budget, it’s just far too chugging crazy. If this uniquely American spectacle had been presented as surreal satire no one would buy it.
Look out for the two frat bros who emerge hastily from the bushes at 4.47 and sheepishly join their serious-looking brothers at the back. ‘Butt’ if you think they might have been engaging in a quick spot of that absolutely ree-puls-ive practise of butt-chugging, then SHAME. ON. YOU.
I’m not sure I entirely believe the preamble from the overly dudey — if very easy on the eye — presenter and star of this ‘experiment’ in ‘touching dudes softly’. Particularly the bit about ‘nothing makes me uncomfortable!’
But it is interesting to watch the responses of the men he decides to monster with ‘inappropriate’ tenderness — or ‘touching another dude softly’.
I’m also personally interested in why I found it very uncomfortable to watch. Is it because I’m worrying the men will freak out? Or is it just because I’m very uptight about physical tenderness myself? Or is it simply because of the painful self-consciousness of the setup?
I’ve watched drunken straight lads do much ‘worse’ things to one another and not felt in the least bit uncomfortable about it. And nor did they, apparently.
I attended a gay rugby tournament some years ago and was struck by the way that there was on the whole rather less in the way of physical affection and tenderness between men than you’ll find at ‘straight’ rugby matches. I still remember watching a sozzled young chap at the Army & Navy match batting his mate’s gilfriend’s hand away from his chum so HE could hold his hand as they left Twickenham.
In fact, many of the players I spoke to at the gay ruby tournament seemed to be disappointed that the gay rugby teams were missing one vital rugby ritual: post-match homoerotic horseplay.
Sometimes being straight means that you can get away with much more. Because it’s all ‘a laugh’. Dude.
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 ‘THISSHOULDNOTBEALLOWEDINTHEBRITISHARMY!!’.
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 UKTV, 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.)