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Meet the Metrotextual

ashton-kutcher-phone-200x0This story about men sealing their texts with a kiss got a lot of coverage around the world: Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald:

New research from mobile phone firm T-Mobile reveals nearly a quarter of men (22 per cent) regularly include a kiss on texts to their male mates, T-Mobile said in an emailed statement.

“Metrotextuality” is most widespread among 18-24 year old males with three quarters (75 per cent) regularly sealing texts with a kiss and 48 per cent admitting that the practice has become commonplace amongst their group of friends.

Nearly a quarter of this age group (23 per cent) even appreciate an “x’ in a text exchange from people that aren’t close friends.

Ever the keen/obsessive observer of masculine trends, I mentioned the phenomenon of young straight men signing off their text messages with kisses very briefly towards the end of this piece two years ago on The Sun’s attempt to queerbash footballers for holding hands (and I also mention how this old poof can’t quite bring himself to respond in kind.)

Thanks to technology and consumerism, male behaviour is changing extremely rapidly, despite what some of us might like to think of as ‘hard-wired’ and ‘immutable’ characteristics.  This recent story from Radiolab about what happened in a community of baboons in which most of the alpha males were killed off by TB, is also illuminating in this area: the surviving males, instead of fighting and spitting at one another, started grooming one another – which in baboon terms ‘would be less shocking than if they had grown wings and started to fly.’  Even more remarkable is the way in which males joining the group from outside also adopted the new non-aggressive male-grooming routine – despite growing up outside this culture in the baboon-bite-baboon world.  It suggests that even for apes a great deal of behaviour is socially mediated. And perhaps affection between male baboons can be as strong as competition.

Back in the world of the naked ape, because of the private, intimate yet long-distance nature of text messages men needn’t fear being humiliated and kept in line by the pack for daring to groom one another with xxx’s and within this discrete-indiscrete techno-ecosystem this practise has apparently become widespread. Now that it has been outed, note the baboonish response of many of the male commenters, who can’t quite choose between deriding the men who do this and denying it happens at all.  Either way, their violent response is completely impotent and far, far too late.

These ones posted below a similar article in Canada’s National Post seem to have been made by very red faced baboons indeed:

Wattowattowatto: BS! Homosexual men may do such a thing, and they may text in disproportionate numbers amongst other homosexual men. Normal men would never do such a thing. Once again, a non-story using misleading data to shock readers.

Jocko2: How gay! I don’t know why they need to invent a word like “Metrotextual,” when plain old “homosexual” will do. T-Mobile’s research that nearly 22% of men (and 75% of 18-25-year-old men!!) do this is clearly abject bull. This looks like something put out by The Onion. I smell a hoax here, bigtime!

And I smell someone panicking because they’re beginning to realise that their painfully uptight lifelong investment in homophobic ideas about masculinity might have been a complete waste of ulcers.

It isn’t just the way that men are using kisses at the end of their text messages to other men that is such a departure from expectations of ‘innately’ masculine behaviour – it’s the fact they’re sending these messages at all.  Back in the 90s baboonish stand up comedians made a good living out of awful jokes about how phones revealed the strangely reassuring differences between men and women: men were monosyllabic and practical and women wouldn’t’ shut up.  Men used phones as an instrument; women used them as an end in themselves.  Now a generation of young men have grown up who wear their pretty phones as accessories they’re never seen without and are always chattering pointlessly on them.

Usually at the gym, looking in the mirror, while sitting on a piece of equipment this old poof wants to use.

Tip: Marcelo and Sisu

21 thoughts on “Meet the Metrotextual”

  1. hmm I still think the meaning might be something other than kiss. I mean straight guys don’t even do a euro kiss in real life. I want to try making a post on craigslist to find out if there is any explanation from anyone perusing m4w of this “x” phenomenon.

  2. supermarky: correction! speaking with a communications specialist here, I discovered that even here in the far reaches of human civilization, 22% of the young bucks 18-24, sign their texts “x:”.
    Strange but true.

  3. supermarky: I had doubts similar to yours , however, on realzing that the cohabitors of this spot in the wide world barely know one oraface from the other, it seems possible that my perspective is bent. It seems really doubtful that the Sdney Herald would print something as dubious and potentially politcally questionable. Just U.S papers lie as a regular habit, in fact it is hard somtimes to distinguish “The Onion ” from “Fox News” re; validity of content, only people tend to take Faux as the word of God(Murdoch). And they are right (and so wrong) at once.
    The interesting fact is the part about gadget extensions replacing people, which makes mass stupidity such a viable reality today .

  4. Maybe Ashton Kushner does it. I’ve always had my suspicions about her! But…it doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t even really look right, the x at the end of the message. I’m with arcticjay, not buyin this story.

    Maybe it could be something like “over” on a walkie talkie, but no:

    http://www.netlingo.com/dictionary/x.php

    I use at least a triple-x or an xoxo when so inclined…

    Also I don’t know about straight men but I am really fed up with the kind of parlophobia that’s epidemic among the gays in LA these days: some people have lost their voices since texting became common. It’s a pain in the ass! The only reason anybody should text me is if we’re at the white party and the phone can’t be heard. Since I would never go to the white party nobody should ever text me dammit!

  5. p.s. Young gays can be sort of like teenage girls in their newfound social acceptance; chattering to each other incessantly to no end. Mark is not beyond hyperbole in pointing up his own sense of disconnection there, about which I’m sure he has few regrets and less envy.

  6. Marcelo: Not speaking for Mark S at all, but for me there is a very peculiar disconnect between people who never experienced a world without HIV and those who grew up with that threat . Even though, during much of that “safe” time, in the early years when the virus was creeping around, I didn’t exert any safeguards (granted I was living a far more carefree lifestyle than many), but I knew what it was to have 100’s of sex partners a year and not even think about protection or too have fear. People regard you with some amazement.
    I don’t think of myself as being any different than other gay men , but in reality people after AIDS have had entirely different lives.
    The other thing is that there seems , at least in some places, a kind of ageism which may have to do with the exclusivity of partners. and here in the U.S. the notion that sex entails marriage..
    That is a different ethic than I’m accustomed to from living in San Francisco. where people were twinkies often until they reached 25, and weren’t even very welcome in men’s bars. They were condemned to either prostitution or to bumping around with each other.

    This is a guess, but, as we attempt ethically to develop a gay culture, it behooves people who have passed a certain point in life to become replacement parental figures to younger gay men and to be ” safe “in terms of giving solace,comfort and advice without engendering fear of just victimizing them (sometimes hard) but significant.

  7. You might want to think twice about the arse waxing; it would be memorable growing out.! Like a sudden case of hemorrhoids. The locals here didn’t like that kissing protocol you describe, but it seems to be a matter of logistics one mouth only goes so many places at once. And what’s the point? To check someone”s dental work? That seems to be a possability, kind of bourgeois though.

  8. For the record: I never end txts with an x, and I only kiss below the Adam’s apple.
    And I don’t shave my arse (but you are welcome to volunteer to do so).

  9. While this is the midwest, and that is indicative of nearly nothing, I noticed downtown today that the people who invariably had the mobiles were either Gay men or Black women..or Somolian Women. It seems to be a method of feeling secure.
    This may certainly be a midwestern thing, and no more.
    I think that the most interesting observation is that of the Apes; social construction is obviously ,in a primative way in play. How this can be extrapolated tio current human behavior has been clear to me for some time. I think that it is at least to a large degree a function of females becomeing competetord with mazles in the workplace and most everywhere else. (Not a complaint, the more the merrier in our male camp). The destruction of roles, makes those positioned socially as objects are no longer that, or in those positions, and become less clearly defined.
    I know that from my discusions of sex roles with traditional Moslem men, Arab women are much more sexually responsive than free western women. This may sound politically unhappy to some but it may be true.

  10. P.s.”marter at hand” sounds like a slip of the tongue, and may well be .(above). More likely a typo. The last Idea should be attributed to McCluhan , Burroughs or some such communications afficionado.

  11. not sure what to make of it; clearly, young (straight) males are far more affectionate than they ever were by a long run. Much friendlier than gays where I live.
    Then of course, I recall when , n college I encountered, at parties, i.e. Greek esp,. and French fellows who actually kissed you as a matter of proteocol, which they might not do to a woman.
    Of course, while I may be a little odd in some respects, I ‘ve never kissed males in sexual encounters; affection ,distracting from the real marter at hand.
    It is an interesting phenomenon , to say the least. Not being a texter, I’ll have to check with some people I know who do.(lots)

    On the other hand texting , itself is another thing; gadgets becoming a extrenalization of persons extending to fabulous lengths their nervous systems, replacing the organisms they feed.; so it may just be blackberrie s kissing one another. That’ may make your sojourns to the gym a little less uncomfortable, Mark.

  12. “…their violent response is completely impotent and far, far too late.”

    Far far too late indeed. I had a conversation with a straight mate last night ( a labourer) who at one point was a little offended that I wasn’t attracted to him, who put on his traditional baboon fighting face – revolting against my argument that most of us aren’t strictly gay or straight – and pounding his chest.

    Some weeks ago, myself and a female friend waxed his butt hole – a gift for his girlfriend (my job was to hold one arse cheek apart) – booze was involved.

    And this is how it will go for a while – jumping back and forth from the fighting baboon to the affectionate baboon – while I, hold straight mens arse cheeks apart.

    It’s all good.

  13. As much as I find the idea of straight guys ending their texts on such a sweet parting note adorable, I have to side with the homophobes on this one. This study is clearly a hoax. For one thing, I have never seen a text with a “kiss” (at least represented with an “x”) before or have heard of such a phenomenon before this article. Secondly, an “x” representing a kiss seems so archaic and just doesn’t fit with the current netspeak lexicon.

  14. London’s very manly X-fm radio presenter Dave Berry signed a tweet earlier today with an “x”. I found it interesting. Particularly for its intriguing ambiguity: is it a kiss or does it stand for x-fm? Hmmm. He said:

    “Michael Caine is on the show tonight,and yes I did get him to say”You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”And yes,he’s lovely. x”

    Ok, just visited Dave Berry’s Twitter page, he signs off every other tweet with a kiss. Great radio show, great kisser. x

  15. “Back in the world of the naked ape….”

    Don’t you mean Back in the world of the shaved, waxed, plucked, moisturised and frosted ape….”

  16. To my 30 years old ears this intimacy sounds like result of playing gay chicken and watching too much of The Sopranos.

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