One of the side effects of the Cynthia Nixon fracas was a return to some of the old men-Mars-versus-women-Venus themes: specifically that women’s experience of sexuality was different, somehow more deliquescent, than men’s. Andrew Sullivan wrote:
My own view is that female sexuality is inherently more fluid than male sexuality, and that lesbians and bisexual women, because they are less fixated on crude physical signals for arousal, have more of a choice than men, gay or straight, in their choice of loved ones.
I always mistrust this kind of thing a bit. Men, for one thing, have been extraordinarily creative over the centuries in inventing excuses to touch each other in apparently non-sexual, but obviously satisfying, fashion. There’s football; there’s wrestling; there’s Western civilization. All these suggest a fluid component to their own sexualities, where male intimacy and arousal can coexist easily with heterosexual passions. Now an Indian colleague has pointed out some websites — very manly websites — dedicated to exploring exactly the same thesis. They share an aversion to established identities, a dislike for “gays,” a fear of anal sex (it would be worth exploring more deeply, comme on dit, why that act seems to carve selfhood in stone), and an insistence that large numbers of men want sexual contact with other men, but just don’t want to be defined by it. Or talk about it.
Which doesn’t prevent the websites from talking. My favorite is g0ys.org. That’s a zero in the middle; I don’t sense that anybody at the site speaks Yiddish. They say they’re for men who
are looking for answers to some serious questions about themselves. Most are shocked when they learn that +60% of all guys have similar questions (the majority)! Most (but not all) of these guys have feelings for women, but also deal with internal issues arising from the fact that they also have affections for other guys, too! And, such guys don’t identify as “GAY” at all!
Don’t identify with “GAY”? No! Guys like us actually find the imagery & stereotypes that are promoted from WITHIN the so-called “gay-male community” to be repugnant to our sensibilities of masculinity & respect.
60%! That’s a big figure. “Playing inside another person’s butt” they see as “dirty, degrading, and damn-unmasculine.” Logically, then, they’re not crazy about trans people, or the “modern gay movement,” which has “shamed M2M affection as it was hijacked by pornographers, perverts, sociopathic-personalities & fascists.” They also have a thing about Muslims: “We suggest that Old Bomb Head’s brainwashed, flag-burning, bomb-toting followers – join the ranks of Hitler & other similar violent political leaders – in HELL.” Apparently the common Orientalist stereotype, that the Muslim world is simply teeming with hornily ambivalent men, hasn’t reached them.
Then there is the Man2Man Alliance, which, its website proclaims in large Roman letters,
Is a coalition of
who reject anal penetration, promiscuity, and effeminacy among men who have sex with men
who put forth the truth that one man should love one another through the celebration of their mutual masculinity and the exaltation of their mutual manhood
This also features the fear of what happens Back There, turned into a virtual ideology of sexual positioning:
[A]nal penetration subjugates one of the participants to the other, effectively emasculating him, turning him into a pseudo-woman … unmindful of the basic human need for a shared experience without pain and with dignity.
Whereas Frot, phallus-against-phallus contact, is the acme of sexual activity between Men because it’s focused on that which makes Men Masculine, namely their genitals — their Manhood — rather than their organs of fecal excretion.
To draw a parallel with male-female sex: Men and Women connect to one another genitally. They are made that way, like counterweights or puzzle pieces, complementary of one another. In the same way, during phallus-to-phallus sexual activity, Men are related to one another as they should be, in that part of their body that fits together genitally and sensually.
For someone like me, there’s only so much of this you can read without going out and — well, never mind what I go out and do. I’ll confine myself to noting that M2M Alliance is under the sway of Robert Blyish rhetoric, the Battle in the Sweat Box: “Manhood, Manliness, Courage and Valour; Justice, Wisdom, Faith and Fidelity; Self-Control and Self-Sacrifice; and Prowess in battle. Men living under this ethos commonly seek an intense, lifelong, erotic bond with another warrior.” In contrast, G0Ys seems fixed on an idyllic adolescent Eden of blameless fondling, as much as the heroes of Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar or of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
The universal truth & the universal unspoken need of virtually every guy entering puberty is to be able to get close & cuddle with the buddy of choice. They want the wrestling match to turn tender. There – male aggression is privately mutated into male tenderness & shared intimacy. It’s often the very-core of the most extreme friendships.
Plus all those ampersands give their prose a nice touch of Whitmania, as though tender Walt himself were leaning over the wounded soldier’s bed, gnarled hands spidering down toward the fount of manhood.
There’s oodles to dislike here, perhaps more than there is to say. The phenomenon of the straight guy on the down low, or doing it for trade, has been around and classed as such for as long as there were not-straight guys, who identified with the act of homosexual sex and threw their selves into it. So that’s one obvious spectrum through which to see this: yet another excrescence of the economy of sex, particularly the economy of denial. A late friend of mine in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, once listed for me an essentially ethnographic categorization of the different types of straight guys who went for him when they were out on the prowl, released from wife or girlfriend. I still have it in my notes somewhere; it was fascinating. But of course, these classifications were all from the perspective of people who were, as it were, already classed — already pinned to the butterfly board. The point with the manly men was that they didn’t class themselves as anything. They were just men.
What interests me here is the way that this particular brand of strongly masculine-identified, bisexual behavior is no longer reticent: is speaking its names, analysing itself, and looking for an identity of its own. What’s going to come of it? I’m inclined to urge some untenured anthropologist to start studying these movements, as types of how sexual identities emerge. Maybe, fragile things, they’ll wither and blow away first. But you never know. Iron John is still selling. All it needs is an identity to match.