10 April 2006

A repost of a repost of a riposte: BigMuscle.com 2

Please don't read this.

I while ago, I wrote an installment on BigMuscle.com, which included my first rumination on said site. This is the second such vomitus. To get the proper effect, you should really read the first one first. But hey, this is a 'blog. Do whatever the fuck you want, killah.


For the male homosexual the central question always has something to do with the Feminine and his relationship to it. We say it is a question and as such it remains an open question for the individual but also in a general sense. The subject attempts to close this question for himself in any number of ways, and so answer it. And there are a series of standard responses, which for our purposes here we will term generic. Which genre the subject works toward has everything to do with his acceptance of the Feminine, his rejection of it, or most dramatically, its abjection. The subject may find satisfaction in the performance of the feminine, both or either the admiration of it or the imitation of it. Conversely, or would it be better to say obversely, he may instead build a fortress against it, a truly self-containing fortress in his mind and often times of his body. From here he may resist all the doubts that lay siege to his composure, his artful, careful composition. But in the long run, we do not really know what the Homosexual is, we can only discern whom he doesn't want to be.

NOW I WISH I'D READ THE FIRST BIGM POST (you still can!) <-- click here


GayProf said...

There is a conflation of gender and sexual desire here.

Luciferus said...

Show me, most esteemed GayProf. I can reply better then.

Luciferus said...

>GayProf said...
>There is a conflation of gender and
>sexual desire here.

And secondly is that bad to you, or... what are you saying in your comment? Have I formulated an error, a contradiction, a paradox, or a tautology?

GayProf said...

I am not thinking of it as error. Rather, I wonder about the ways we come to intertwine notions of gender and sexuality. For me, I imagine there is sexual desire (who/what we want to do sexually) on one hand. On the other hand, there are gender performances (how we repeat stylized acts that connote what we learned as “masculine” and “feminine”). I am left wondering if this post only addresses the latter (how “gay” men learn to perform gender as part of their identity), but does not really address the sexual desire that might prompt them to adopt those performances initially. Isn't that desire an equally important piece to creating the subject?

Then again, maybe I just wanted an excuse to use “scare” quotes.

Luciferus said...

Look, "'scare' quotes" or not, you have a legit question, which I will do my best to take on in this "'comments' section."

As you know, qlassic queer theory makes the distinction among: a) chromosomal sex, XX-female or XY-male; b) performative gender, which is called “masculine” or “feminine”--this is the way we seem, perform, want-to-seem, but it's all football vs. haute couture, if you want a simple dichotomy (and the ways this dualism might be called a false one are many, but I’m side-stepping that for now); and c) sexual object-choice: what kind of person you go for, which could be XX or XY, masculine or feminine, or however those visual codes combine to turn you on. This is a pretty complex set-up already, offering a huge variety of self-image/self-presentation/culturally conventional/sexual desire-y possibilities. This triad is useful for teasing apart sexuation, gender, and desire, especially when in the mainstream the three have traditionally been interchangeable. What this threesome leaves out is a fourth position of S/M, active/passive, top/bottom (which is more of an inflection on sexual behaviors, or how you behave with your chosen object, lover, etc), so there's even more to explore, if we wanted to.

In this post, what I was trying to look at was the example of the gay-male, BigMuscle.com version of things. From my perspective, this is a psychoanalytic question, and since we're talking about online images and representations and a specific kind of maleness that the site—BigMuscle—offers by its very name, I wanted to write about how much muscle and homosexuality have to do with the feminine (use an initial cap or not).

Gayness is a funny thing. It has been feminized at least since Oscar Wilde, but after the clones of the 70s through Colt through the AIDS-crisis and steroids (I’m skipping fast), we've had a more and more masculinized version of the homo. Where being muscular was enough, now we have GYM Bar in New York, an entirely serious attempt to have a gay sports bar. This is a far cry from opera queens and window dressings (mind you, I’m looking at representations here: stories, pictures, stereotypes—both gay and straight). While I could at this point say a lot about the concomitant loss we experience from dismissing faggy, femme-y (“cultural”) fags, I'll go in a different direction.

BigMuscle.com represents a specific desire in culture, in gay culture—of which Brokeback Mountain is an interesting example as an outpost in the straight infostream—to rehabilitate the gay to the masculine. This can only happen if there is an inherent anxiety, generally-speaking, towards the feminized male—towards the feminized anything. The larger culture has a weird relationship to this rehabilitation because the more "normal-seeming" gay men are—which is to say, masculine, sports-loving, traditionally male—the less the larger culture knows what to do with them/us. Homosexuality, as a category, is built to not fit; if "we" start making sense on some level—if we become intelligible—the larger culture loses its scapegoat, its bash-victim, and its other (one of several, I’m not trying to be all-inclusive right now—hell, when can you, anyway?). We're only useful if we're different, if we are something that het men can say about us, "We are not."

This rehabiliatory shift has something to do with the desire for gay men to be MEN, to fit in. The early gay rights movement was very lefty, very anti-war, and anti-marriage; now the fight is to accept gays and lesbians in the military and to allow same-sex couples to marry. "We" have gone from dismantling the status-quo that didn't include us to wanting to join it. It's gone from rejecting the whole system for its failures to a sorta high school set up where it's better to join the popular set. I say this from a historical vantage point, with all my value judgements intact—disagree with me all you want, this basic sketch is a simplified history painted in broad strokes. I generalize for effect, but the forces at play are what I’m after.

So, we return to the feminine. Since I believe that homos are made and not born (there is no gene that recognizes a hairy man or a big cock or muscle, visually, as sexy, which is culturally-coded and therefore changes over time), the *desire* of which you speak, is related to the feminine, the mother, and the indivudual's relationship with the mother, the feminine, and the mother's desire (which is oriented towards the father—no matter who or what the father is). This is a hugely difficult and complex set-up, but I raise its specter to ask why, at this historical moment, are there so many gay men trying so hard to look like heterosexual men—or what they think hetero men are, because many hetero men don't conform to the fantasy that gay men have of the masculine? (Let’s just tack on right here the mania to be or want only those “straight-acting.”)

You have to remember that these BigMuscle pieces are a meditation on and critique of the site itself, so each post looks at an aspect of online desire as it functions on BigM. For example, the first post plays around with images, hyperlinks, and desire. But to address your question, this matter is both a matter of performativity and object-choice (or desire, if you like). But in this post, I only focus on the performativity, partly because by my lights, the object choice comes first; yet the performance of gender, or muscle, or masculinity, is caught up in the demands of the social. "Who do you think you are supposed to be?

Or "Who do you think you are supposed not to be?"

That is the question.

Shakespeare always gets there first.

GayProf said...

Wow -- That should have been its own post.

I am with you for the most part, though I bristle at some pieces. These are things, though, we can discuss over a nice cocktail.

What I would suggest, though, is that the debates within the queer community about gender are not all that new. Since the creation of the category of "homosexual" in the nineteenth century, there have been arguments about presentation: gender rebellion or gender conformity. There were also (and still are) those who explicitly sought out "rough trade." Given that notions of masculinity and manliness changed, so did the erotic ideal of same-sex-object-choice. Thus, the legends around sailors that seemed firmly in place by 1900.

Finally, you literary types always go for the Shakespeare. Eh.

bstewart23 said...

Get a room, you two!