The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Tag: homoerotics (page 2 of 2)

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 and I 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 Pavlov’s 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?

Copyright Steve Zeeland 1995
Marines at Camp Pendleton, spelling out their love of ‘YMCA’

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 young people in a mediated world, they want to draw attention to themselves.

Way back in the Twentieth 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 paratroopers had been ‘acting gay’ on video for private consumption rather than YouTube. Gay porn videos made by a company called ActiveDuty. A global scandal erupted 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 elite 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’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  There isn’t much if 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 rarely seen such homoerotic horseplay amongst straight women. 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 similarly 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. A couple of years ago during the last Rugby World Cup I was invited on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four to talk about homoerotics and rugby after I wrote a piece for The Times about rugby and sporno. 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 R5 female sports journalist, or her other guest, another R5 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 occurred to me to say to that. I could have replied that droves of gay men were probably rushing at that very moment to dissociate themselves from what I was saying (they usually do). Or “Well, of course you would say that Jane, as an uptight middle class woman.”

Instead I replied, “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.

Just a few weeks earlier this doc had gone out on national UK TV, in which a team of northern rugby players were shown 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, because on radio – especially Radio Four – you’re not allowed to acknowledge that TV exists.

Again, being radio, and posh radio at that, just before we went on air a nice voice whispered in my headphone: “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 unsavoury 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 BBC 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.)

Melts in Your Mouth: Eminem’s Shady Sexuality

By Mark Simpson 

(Nerve.com, February 22, 2001)

Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, may have won only a few consolation prizes at the Grammys yesterday, but clearly the white rapper behind The Marshall Mathers LP has created the Album of the Year in every other sense. Em is the hottest property not just in the music business, but in pop culture itself, and, like Big Gay Al, aka Elton John, who sang a duet with him on stage, no one – the fans, the press, the critics, the police, the Vice President’s wife – can leave him alone.

Especially, of course, the gay rights activists, two hundred of whom picketed the Staples Center in protest at his “violently homophobic lyrics” (and what they saw as gay Elton’s “betrayal”).

Afterwards, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation solemnly expressed “gratitude” that Em was not awarded Album of the Year, but complained that the three minor Grammys awarded Eminem showed that “Academy members were willing to place their stamp of approval on lyrics that promote hate, prejudice and violence.”

Amen. But the rather important point that the protestors appear to have overlooked is, Sure, Em’s music is violently homophobic. It also happens to be violently homosexual. The two facts are not necessarily in contradiction of each other. Actually, in the world beyond the Care Bear sexuality of GLAAD, they’re inseparable. It might even be the case that the Grammy didn’t go to Em precisely because his lyrics are too queer.

To understand this you just have to pay attention to the music instead of the press releases. Sodomy never sounded so seductive, or seditious. When fellow Detroit rapping duo Insane Clown Posse ‘wittily’ renamed Slim Shady “Slim Anus” on their last album, the squeaky blond bombshell responded quickly and explicitly. “Slim Anus? You damn right Slim Anus / I don’t get fucked in mine like you two little flamin’ faggots,” he retorts on a track on Marshall Mathers, the CD that lost the Grammy.

But then in the track “Ken Kaniff,” he all-too-enthusiastically impersonates the voices of the ICP frontmen engaging in lip-smacking fellatio complete with very convincing grunts and groans and backed by cheesy porno Muzak: “Fuck yeah! Suck it! That’s good!” (ICP have since placed a downloadable track on their website featuring an Eminem-on-poppers-soundalike getting reamed by his hip-hop producer, Dr. Dre.)

Am I the only one who got aroused by all this “homophobia”? I suspect not. After all, sodomy – and graphic sodomy at that – is really the only sex you’ll find on Em’s record-selling CD, whether in the form of invitations to the listener to “suck my fucking dick, you fucking faggot” or dismissing his critics as bitter queens: “He’s just aggravated because I won’t ejaculate in his ass.” If Em really is the “New Elvis,” it seems that Jailhouse Rock is his starting point (which would at least explain his prison punk look). Even when he leaves the violent sodomy alone for a moment and turns to romance, it’s of a rather queer kind, as in the hit single “Stan,” in which a fan sends a series of unrequited love letters to his rap-star hero – the song Eminem chose to duet with Elton John with at the Grammys.

Em himself “comes out” and acknowledges his obsession/passion in another skit on Marshall Mathers in which a furious record exec complains that he can’t sell his records because instead of rapping about his wide-screen TV, Eminem is “rapping about homosexuals!” (Of course, the joke here is that Eminem’s records “about homosexuals” could hardly sell better.)

Now, if all this “fuckin’ homo” stuff seems adolescent, that’s probably because it is. It’s meant to be. Adolescence is a time of hormonal anxiety about identity for boys, but nowadays it’s not just a phase, it’s a career. And what is it that boys are supposed to grow into these days anyway? Masculine certainties have vanished, in many cases, along with dad, family and blue-collar jobs. The only certainty left to bastard boys like this is that they are “not a fag.” It’s a negative identity that can’t sustain a sense of self, let alone sustain one in a world which has made boys useless – i.e. faggots – by making traditional, mature masculinity redundant.

Rapismo like Eminem’s articulates that frustration, then soothes the anxiety the articulation produces. Eminem’s own story (now the stuff of legend) is instructive. A poor, pretty, blue-eyed white boy growing up in a depressed black area of Detroit without a dad, he left the house the definition of “different.” He claims that he was neglected by his mother, which she vigorously disputes. Perhaps the truth is that he was spoilt and fussed over and then ended up hating his mother for as he saw it turning him into a sissy: “I used to be mommy’s little angel at twelve” he sings in “I’m Back.”

To avoid complete emasculation, he rebelled against his mother and chose to be fathered by pop culture, in the form of hip-hop and the humongous phallus of black street culture. To Eminem (and other “shady” white boys of uncertain paternity from better homes) the world seems like a post-feminist nightmare where Mom is the law – and political correctness is merely “wash your mouth out with soap” writ large. He’s South Park‘s Kyle, ten years down the line plus plenty of drugs and disappointment.

In this cartoonish world, homosexuality isn’t only emasculation and weakness, it’s also the ultimate machismo, and the ultimate rebellion against “bitches” – as well as a contradictory solution to the problem of being fatherless, easing as it does the ache for male intimacy. But easing that ache means acknowledging it. And that means weakness. So homosexuality has to be constantly “stabbed in the head,” to use one of Em’s more infamous lines, even as it is constantly being evoked.

Every stab just leads to another target. After all, homos are everywhere nowadays in pop culture. And the blatancy of male passivity in a world where males are sex objects only makes this “stabbing” more imperative – even when you’re not, like Eminem, a pretty bottle-blond boy with “cock-sucking lips” (to quote ICP) and more than a passing interest in having your picture taken. “All I see is sissies in magazines smilin’” groans Eminem.

Staring at my jeans, watching my genitals bulging (Ooh!) 
That's my motherfucking balls, you'd better let go of 'em
They belong in my scrotum, you'll never get hold of 'em.

Look at the pictures of him in his book Angry Blonde (interesting spelling, that), skim past the one of him in blond pigtails to the ones where he is surrounded by a crowd of bleach blond Shady male clones gazing at him with shining, hungry eyes. Has pop culture ever looked more disturbingly queer?

Slim Shady is famously a character Em invented to express his “dark thoughts.” But maybe Slim is himself just a screen. This is not to say that Mr. Mathers is “really gay” (just as he clearly isn’t “really straight”), but just “really fucked up.” Perhaps the “real” Em is as neurotic, mother-identified/mother-hating, homeless, vulnerable, narcissistic and passive (aggressive) as the lyrics and the picture of him on his album cover suggest. In other words, all the things that make a great star, from Elvis to Lennon to Cobain.

And, alas, he’s all the things that can make young men these days who will never be stars sad and sullen, and sometimes suicidal. A seventeen-year-old white Eminem fan in Devon, England recently threw himself in front of a train. Apparently he was depressed by the “dissing” he’d experienced from friends after a gay boy said he fancied him at a party. The liberal coroner thought the lad’s anxieties foolish and misplaced: “He appears to have been unusually worried over his sexual orientation which really should not affect people a great deal either way.”

Maybe. But Eminem and the sexually shady, not to say confused, world of white hip-hop show that such a preoccupation is anything but trivial for too many boys today. It’s all they have left.

eminem2r2ck.jpg

This essay is collected in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Rugger Buggers & Swinging Dicks: Generation Xcess

In the Middle Ages, sodomy was thought to be caused not by hair whorls, but by drunkenness. As this clip shows, they were absolutely right.

The post-match beery bonding of the lovely lads of Sandbach RUFC – which, be warned, includes very male nudity, heavy petting and male-on-male snogging – made me feel faint with jealousy.

And also faintly redundant.

These straight lads’ eagerness to perform their manly love for one another in front of UK TV cameras (for an instalment of an ITV2 series last month called ‘Generation Xcess’) does away with the need for my:

  • essay on hazing, in which I argued that male bonding is deeply homoerotic, but that despite this it is not a ‘gay’ thing – it’s a ‘guy’ thing
  • pointing out the size queenery of straight men.
  • explaining how little purchase the Phalliban has in the UK – compared to the US where it has a tighter grip than Captain Tim’s team-mates have on his ‘massive cock’
  • arguing that the homoerotic fantasy Sporno advertising sells us is not entirely baseless
  • responding to those who adamantly refuse to believe that straight men could get naked with one another on camera and play with each other’s dangly bits when offered lots of cash. (These ones did it for a few beers.)

Instead of all my scribbling, I just needed to take a video camera to a pub in Sandbach on Saturday night and buy a few rounds. It would have been a lot more fun too.

Funny that this should have surfaced around the same time as this spornographic ad campaign for Paris – which after the salty mantics of Sandbach RUFC now looks like a slightly coy promotion for a copycat programme featuring a less attractive, less ballsy team. Perhaps the most ‘touching’ part of all this groping is the way this (highly successful) team of rugger buggers refuse to be embarrassed by the naughty clips the programme makers make them watch in the cold-sober light of day. Instead they seem quite proud.

But then, they have much to be proud of. Especially their Captain. Alas, I suspect that some – gay and straight – spiteful members of the Great British Public who saw the doc did their best to make these young men feel ashamed for being ‘gay’ with one another – to make them feel ashamed, in fact, for being fit, boisterous lads full of life, laughs, spunk and puppyish enthusiasm for masculinity.

Actually, the more I think about it – and what I’m missing – I’m beginning to feel spiteful too….

Criminally though, the clip ends before the programme does. Anyone have the final segment? Or a better quality version? As the completely unabashed, grinning, donkey-hung, bubble-butted Captain Tim says, ‘We should watch that again.’

Update: I’ve just been informed that a better quality clip is available, along with rather a lot of other athletes showing off their, er, sporting prowess, at the premium adult site: www.ruggerbugger.com