Mark Simpson interviews a khaki butterfly collector.
When Christopher Isherwood was asked to explain the romantic appeal of sailors, he replied prosaically: Because they go away. With exquisite perversity Seattle-based author Steve Zeeland has devoted his life to capturing, pinning and mounting the elusive attraction of sailors and soldiers. By interviewing his military buddies, tricks and loversZeeland claims to have had sex with over a thousand military menand turning them into books, he has made his pleasure and passion his bread and butter, producing along the way an entire anthropology and sociology out of his nettings.
Dubbed an Oprah Whitman for our times, Zeeland has already published three volumes of confessional-poetic interviews with men in uniform: Barrack Buddies and Soldier Lovers, Sailors and Sexual Identity and The Masculine Marine. Zeeland decided the last remaining service, the Air Force, wasnt worth putting under glass (office workers dressed as security guards), and instead his next tome Military Trade turns his tape recorder on those who share his own obssession with military menso-called military chasers.
So whats it all about? Uniforms?
ZEELAND: Only a few military chasers are uniform fetishists. To most, the uniform is only exciting as a mark of authenticity; they typically say they're 'more interested in getting men out of uniform than playing dress-up'. One man I interviewed told me that the only uniform that ever did anything for him is the US Navy dress blues, and that's because it's the best uniform for sucking cock in a car. 'The 13 button-fly opens a flap. The sailor doesn't have to take down the pants, or even open his belt - the flap folds down and everything is immediately available.'
But I hear that gay men don't fancy straight menthat's all in the past.
Any gay man who tells you that is not being honest. Back when I first started chasing soldiers, my best gay friend tried to enlighten me about my retrogressive, self-loathing ways. But its a funny thing; when I showed him a picture of a straight soldier I was having sex with, he became rather jealous.
Surely no REALLY straight man would allow themselves to be caught by a military chaser?
Despite a fall-off in business in recent years, because of anxieties about AIDS and the rise of the idea that particpation any male-male activity means youre gay, some military chasers manage to keep pretty busy. I know men who have had sex with more than 4,000 servicemen slightly more than four times the number Ive had. Maybe its men like that who should be writing these books. But of course they dont have time. In San Diego theres this guy who lives in a van. Hes always hanging out near the bases, in adult video arcades, tattoo parlors - wherever sailors and Marines are, he can be found, at any hour of the day or night. I often wondered how he managed to make a living.
Finally I found out. He sells cactuses on consignment.
Then of course there are the older men constantly trolling the streets outside the Marine base in very expensive cars.
Well, the soldiers that let themselves be caught must be either very poor or very ugly
Believe it or not, its the butchest and most beautiful boys who are often the most available. Theyve built themselves up and they want to be admired by other men for it. Having proven their masculinity in boot camp, theyre often less anxious about defending it. And at least some of them seem to have a special need to take orders from older men.
Really?? Erm, i mean to say in a concerned tone
military chasers must be queerbashed constantly
Two of the chasers Ive interviewed have had knives pulled on them. One guy was choked and beaten by a sailor who came home with him and enjoyed a massage but was offended by his offer of a blowjob. As the chaser stumbled gasping and bleeding onto his front lawn, the sailor pointed his finger and screamed to the neighbors: He raped me! But whats most surprising to me is that stuff like this doesnt occur more often. Especially considering the number of encounters some of these guys rack up. I actually know more gay men who have been beaten up by boyfriends than chasers who have been queer-bashed.
Gay men can be as sociopathic as anyone else. Another guy in Military Trade tells how his cruising buddy was murdered by a soldier he took home. But it turns out the chaser wasnt exactly an innocent victim. As his friend put it, I think he crossed a line. When you drug and rape someone, thats your fantasy, its not theirs.
And theres the story of a San Diego military impersonator named Andrew, who used to chase my Marine boyfriend. He ended up killing a Navy lieutenant, before he became famous by assassinating Gianni Versace.
You see! Military chasing leads directly to crimes against fashion! OK so having sex with legions of extremely fit, butch straight young men might be some people's idea of fun - but isnt all this promiscuity empty and pointless?
Some military chasers say they are looking for a husband. But others have had husbands and now just crave anonymous sex with as many butch servicemen as they can get. An unending supply promises a promiscuous monogamy, as one of my more eloquent contributors put it. Quite a few of the guys Ive interviewed have developed long-term relationships with military boys who cant really be termed either gay or straight. My Navy ex-lover Troy and I were together for two years, and are still very close. Our relationship began with me giving him head in an adult video arcade. Hed just had a fight with his girlfriend. He was looking for trouble, and he found me.
And by the way, a lot of these straight military guys dont want oral sex - they want to be fucked.
what kind of sad, dysfunctional people become military chasers?
Some of them are gloriously dysfunctional. There are some wicked, despicable people in my book - but not as many as I would have liked. Wacked out characters are more interesting to me, I admit, but most of the chasers Ive met are stable, affable, eminently ordinary people. They tend to be conservative in style, but politically they cover a broad spectrum; I eroticized soldiers as a pacifist, which I remain.
One of the interviews in Military Trade is with a British heavy metal singer who recently came out on MTV. In this book he comes out as a Marine chaser. He says he likes jarheads because they are the defenders of freedom and democracy. A certain famous queer theorist I repeated this quote to laughed and said Nobody ever got off on that. I think hes wrong; a lot of chasers get really misty-eyed about comradeship. You could almost call them . . . Whitmanesque.
Another guy in the book writes about how he used to pimp marines to big-name Hollywood stars. But I have to say that all of the men are upstaged by the one woman I interviewed, who seduces marines online and then meets up with them in person to dominate them with strap-on dildos. Myra Breckenridge lives. But this woman, too, told me that shes most attracted to Marines because of their integrity.
Integrity? Is that some kind of aftershave? What about 'don't ask don't tell' isnt that institutionalised dishonesty?
Of course it was a weak-kneed compromise. And it hasnt been properly enforced. But the policy does make a certain kind of sense. The military has long been much more interested in appearing to exclude homosexuals than actually doing all it can to eradicate them.
I actually feel a little more sympathy for the militarys position than I used to. Its hard to maintain the homoerotic charge that straight men have traditionally both denied and enjoyed in military life once you have openly gay men present insisting that any physical intimacy between men has to be called gay. A Marine infantryman I interviewed told me that the guys in his unit complained that if openly gay men were allowed in the Marine Corps they would no longer feel comfortable masturbating together. The hard-core grunts he served with were very intimate with each other. Ultimately, he came out to seven of them; they were all pretty much accepting, he reported. But they no longer wanted to give him massages.
Oh phooey!who would exchange being 'out' for being massaged by a platoon of brawny marines?
There used to be a saying among submariners, Its only queer if youre tied to the pier. That idea simply no longer works now that servicemen are buying into the gay line that any man who enjoys sex with another man but doesnt think of himself as gay must be closeted or in denial. Discharges are up, and sexual fluidity is down.
On the other hand, the Pentagon does still retain a queen for a day clause, which lets men off the hook for having sex with other men if they can convince the military it will never happen again. In fact, last year a friend of mines Air Force ex-lover successfully used this defense. Unfortunately, a few months later he was kicked out after all, when he recklessly made it clear that, for him, being a queen was not a 24-hour affliction.
In your previous book 'the masculine marine' you talked about wanting your ashes deposited in the piss trough at a marine enlisted club.
I wasnt completely serious. But it does seem like a romantic idea, having all those Marine penises pointed directly at me, washing my bones away.
Sadly, its no longer be possible for my last wish to be fulfilled. A few months after I wrote that passage, the Marine enlisted club was renovated. They tore out the piss trough and replaced it with individual urinals and vanity partitions. Then, after all this money had been spent, the enlisted club was permanently closed and torn down, on personal order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Apparently, he compared this Marines club to Sodom and Gomorrah.