Archive for January, 2012

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2012/01/30/Cynthia_Nixon_Being_Bisexual_Is_Not_a_Choice/

Cynthia Nixon, who I last week defended for stating her sexuality is her ‘choice’, has gone back on her word.

After a huge amount of hostility and pressure from gay activists and gay media outlets I might add.

Her revised statement reads as follows:

“My recent comments in The New York Times were about me and my personal story of being gay. I believe we all have different ways we came to the gay community and we can’t and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into one cultural narrative which can be uninclusive and disempowering. However, to the extent that anyone wishes to interpret my words in a strictly legal context I would like to clarify:

“While I don’t often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.

“As I said in the Times and will say again here, I do, however, believe that most members of our community — as well as the majority of heterosexuals — cannot and do not choose the gender of the persons with whom they seek to have intimate relationships because, unlike me, they are only attracted to one sex.

“Our community is not a monolith, thank goodness, any more than America itself is. I look forward to and will continue to work toward the day when America recognizes all of us as full and equal citizens.”

Whilst I am gutted to say the least she felt the need to revert to the popular and pernicious ‘born this way’ stance, I do have some sympathy for the Sex in The City actress.

The current atmosphere amongst gay rights groups means that bisexual people are treated as if they are either gay, straight or lying. In comparison to the pure states of Gayness and Lesbianism, bisexuality is treated as the poor, and unwelcome relation.

Note Nixon used the word ‘legal’ in her statement above. She may have actually been avoiding legal action here, I wouldn’t put it past some gayist organisations to try and make out that claiming sexuality is a choice is against the law. She also is an actress, and theatre and Hollywood I expect are pretty conservative when it comes to sexuality. She may have been advised to couch her feelings in safer terms to avoid being penalised in her acting career.

The UK Daily Mail joined in the gloating about her change of tack, saying that bisexuality is a fact. Well, yes. But it is a fact we do have some agency over in our lives. Who we have sex with is still up to us as individuals.

The Advocate online magazine illustrated their update with a photo of Nixon bald, when she had cancer treatment. I can’t help but feel they were aiming to humiliate her just a little.

I still defend Cynthia Nixon but I am deeply saddened that she felt she had to go against her own instincts about her own sexuality to please the gay establishment.

Remember Tom Martin who is suing the LSE Gender Institute for discrimination against men? Here is an update about his case:

‘Tom Martin’s sex discrimination lawsuit against Europe’s largest gender studies department at The London School of Economics (LSE) has been delayed, a hearing now rescheduled for March 13th. Tom has given an interview for a programme on satellite news channel Press TV on ‘the future of feminism’, which awaits broadcast, and also, has recently been invited to take part in a debate at University College London (UCL), on the prevalence of misandry in academia and society, a date not yet set. Tom invites all other press and media to contact him directly:sexismbusters@hotmail.com.

Tom thanks all 120 people from 9 countries who have now donated a total of £4013.25 to the legal fighting fund so far, and asks supporters to keep the donations coming in and the momentum going, by subscribing on twitterfacebook and youtube, and spreading the word in any other way they can for what could be a long, difficult, but ultimately game-changing awareness-raising and legal campaign. ‘

http://sexismbusters.org/

I have written before about this erasure of men and masculinity from gender studies academia. I was in the belly of the beast for a number of years so as a researcher interested in men and masculinity, I have first hand experience of the phenomenon.

 

It is about time men were not rendered invisible, or ‘evil’ by feminist dominated gender studies. I support Tom in his case and hope he wins!

The Daily Mail got a bit hot under the collar today as Jorgie Porter (who?) performed her dancing on ice routine in a ‘racy PVC leather outfit’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2093592/Dancing-On-Ice-Jorgie-Porter-performs-racy-PVC-leather-outfit.html

But the DM didn’t mention that her partner, a buff metrosexy man, also performed in a ‘racy PVC leather outfit’ and maybe even looked better than she did. They both out -danced and out- styled their opponents who frankly in their silver slinky numbers looked a bit like ABBA  tribute band rejects.

Of course, ice skating has always been pretty damned flamboyant. But, as Mark Simpson pointed out early in 2010, young men ice dancers such as Johnny Weir have really changed the playing field when it comes to showing off and looking good on ice.

 

As Simpson said back in 2010:

‘I think this kind of performance shows what fearsome things today’s generation of young men are capable of.  Flamboyance can be a very powerful, very liberating quality and doesn’t have to be something just for flamers.  Or Lady G.

I wish I were capable of it.  But I I’d probably have to have Weir’s figure, not to mention his youth, to pull it off.  That and a hefty pair of cojones.’

http://www.salon.com/writer/tracy_clark_flory/

This article in Salon, focusing on rape in the ‘BDSM community’ really got on my nerves. I am going to write a proper post on it but first I thought I’d put it here. If any of you have any observations or thoughts then leave a comment and I can incorporate your ideas into the piece.

On first glance my main issues with the article are:

a) It assumes ‘rape’ is by men of women which demonises men as potential rapists

b) it is heteronormative

c) There are no men’s voices, no quotes from men

d) It is white and middle class – the ‘BDSM community’ does not include everyone who does S and M sex

e) It is all about articulate women lecturing people (men) not having a dialogue.

I return as usual to Mark Simpson and his concept of the feminist as ‘Ms Whiplash':

‘Masochism’ is one of the inventions of late nineteenth century sexology in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘naturally’ masochistic, so pleasure in pain on their part was not ‘perverse’ and therefore not a problem to be explained or pathologised. This was part of a shift in gender roles in the West in the Nineteenth Century which was concerned with, we are told, institutionalising women’s subjugation. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beatrice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sacrificial masculine love has been a crucial theme, only in this century has what for many centuries seemed the natural, desirable form of male love been redefined as effeminate perversity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this reformulation of male identity that excluded masochism made masculinity ‘blatantly misogynisitc, emotionally inept and homophobic’. She also believes that it was this new masculinity which led in part to the ‘corrective’ of feminism. Ironically, the exclusion of masochism from the male psyche has produced a public scenario of their punishment and chastisement by women which continues today. The feminist is Ms Whiplash.’

For a slightly critical but fascinating take on the feminist as ‘ms whiplash’ check out Jay Generally’s series (6 posts) on The Dominatrix:

http://stummyrumblings.blogspot.com/2011/11/essay-on-societal-dominatrix-part-1.html

 

In a previous post of mine about ‘subjectivity’ ‘objectification’ and narcissism, a frighteningly astute commenter likened me to Morrissey. He quoted me:

“He [Roland Barthes] positioned himself as the ‘amorous subject’ and that seemed to me like the font of his creativity and knowledge and writing and work. If you are always the ‘object’ of someone else’s affections, it is a very passive role. What do you actually do?”

And then said, damningly:

‘This is Morrissey in a nutshell. A continually fascinating aspect of his work is how melancholic longing is always a form of activity, even attack. Always pursuing, its unimaginable that the “amorous subject” of a Morrissey lyric could ever be the pursued. You are the quarry.

His work is constantly recriminating the loved object for its passivity. And here there is a secret collusion between lovers and enemies: “And what do you do? You just sit there”.’

 

In a recent (UK) Times article, Robert Crampton wheeled out some metro-phobia, transphobia and general sexism that needed commenting on.

Crampton’s cranky piece questioned the decision by a UK couple to raise their child in a ‘gender neutral’ way. He wrote:

‘I’m struggling to work out quite what Beck Laxton and her partner Kieran Cooper are trying to achieve by bringing their child Sasha up as gender neutral. This kid is now 5 and going to school, so his parents have come clean that he’s a boy. Up until now while they’ve told him and a few close relatives that he’s a he, they’ve kept it secret from everyone else, reffering to Sasha simply as ‘the infant’.

Miss Laxton was a little surprised when she discovered other members of her mother and baby group in Sawston, Cambridgeshire, referred to her as ‘that loony woman who doesn’t know whether her baby is a boy or a girl’.

‘I could never persuade anyone in the group to come round for coffee’ she reveals. ‘They just thought I was mental’. Funny that.

Miss Laxton says she is concerned about stereotyping and Sasha being able to fulfil his potential in his own way. Fair enough. But if ever there was a case of coming up with a potentially catastrophic cure for a problem that doesn’t really exist, this is it. Miss Laxton says she thinks it’s great Sasha likes flowers, for example. And it is. But then so do millions of men who weren’t brought up wearing tutus. Hasn’t miss Laxton noticed that nowadays the man who thinks flowers are cissy is the odd one out?

It’s one thing to take a relaxed attitude when your five year old son raids the dressing up box for a fairy dress and tiara. An Englishman’s home is his castle and so forth; we’re a tolerant nation in these matters. Such dressing up is a phase many parents will recognise, and none with any sense will order the boy back in his cowboy outfit.

But neither will any with any sense plaster the image all over their annual Christmas card and youtube. Or the national press, come to that. Talk about embarrassing parents; young Sasha is going to be absolutely slaughtered for that picture throughout his childhood.’

I find it kind of insulting how the journalist dresses up his prejudice in the language of ‘tolerance’, suggesting generously that it is ok to allow your sons to go through a ‘phase’ of liking fairy outfits but if they don’t grow out of it then you’re a bad parent.

This issue of boys being accepted and encouraged to be ‘gender non-conforming’ reminds me of the brilliant blog about a Pink Boy. Sarah Hoffman’s son loves all things pink, and whilst she is happy to indulge his tastes and forms of self-expression, she realised that many people are not. So she began to write about her experiences of parenting a ‘pink boy’.

Sarah is clear that her child is happy being a boy who happens to like ‘girly’ things. But she is open to anything that may happen in the future regarding his feelings about his gender identity. Maybe he is just going through a ‘phase’ but maybe he isn’t. Crampton’s judgemental article is actually transphobic in my view, because it does not allow for children who grow up to occupy a different gender identity from the one imposed on them as infants.

One of the problems with our culture, that Crampton’s snippy article illustrates, is the double standard that operates for boys and girls, men and women, when it comes to gender expression.

The Times journo writes:

‘Sasha sometimes goes to school in a ruche-sleeved, scallop-collared blouse from the girls’ uniform list. That isn’t the best way for him to fulfil his potential. Rather, it sounds like it’s more about advancing the parents’ not-very-thought-through political agenda than it is about the welfare of the child. He’ll probably be ok for a year or two, with luck. After that things might not go smoothly. What happens the first time he decides to wander into the girls’ loo?’

As a five year old girl I think I would have been horrified if I’d have been expected to wear ‘ruche-sleeved scallop-collared’ blouses! But girls are much more able than boys to be ‘gender non-conforming’ and I turned up at school in cords and sweatshirts without anyone commenting at all (until secondary school where I tried, and failed, to get girls to be allowed to wear trousers. But most schools allow it now).

In contrast, when a UK boy wore a skirt to school recently, in protest at not being allowed to wear shorts in the summer, he made national headlines!

The fact is, times are changing, and fast. The phenomenon of metrosexuality means that boys and men are more free to dress and behave in previously considered ‘feminine’ ways. Pioneering ‘gender non-conforming’ men such as Andrej Pejic and the XY Movement are making it more acceptable for all boys and men to do as they please.

There is bound to be a ‘retro’ backlash. And Robert Crampton’s article is part of that. But I am sure the Pink Boys will prevail.

A recent New York Times interview with Sex In The City star Cynthia Nixon, has caused a bit of a furore amongst mainly American gays. I first read about the story in Queerty, which is itself a VERY gay website. But I appreciated them running  it, and quoting Nixon at length and opening up the discussion to the commenters below the line.

Other publications/individuals have not been so generous, and have railed at Ms Nixon for what? For having the audacity to suggest she has some agency in her sex life and her love life? How very dare she!

One of the main criticisms from Teh Gays about Nixon’s statement is that she is playing into the hands of the religious right in America who claim homosexuality is unnatural, against God, and a sinful ‘choice’. One supergay article suggests:

‘she needs to learn how to choose her words better, because she just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly.  When the religious right says it’s a choice, they mean you quite literally choose your sexual orientation, you can change it at will, and that’s bull.’

http://gay.americablog.com/2012/01/dear-cynthix-nixon-hurting-your-own.html

Another gayist piece states quite baldly:

‘ the issue here is not the legitimacy or source of an individual’s sexuality. It’s a question of strategy. ‘

http://www.readability.com/articles/lfxvzpqn

This concept of ‘strategy’ relates to a theoretical term called strategic essentialism.

‘The term was coined by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. It refers to a strategy that nationalities, ethnic groups or minority groups can use to present themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily ‘essentialize’ themselves and bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals.’

I oppose ‘strategic essentialism’ because I think it fails in its own goal of uniting ‘oppressed’ groups who have a common ‘enemy’ or oppressor. It serves to privilege (yes I can use that word too) one group’s identity and needs over other, less powerful ones.

In the case of the backlash against Cynthia Nixon, it is clear to me that (usually white middle class and often male) gays are outraged that their worldview and their sense of self, and how they were born this way, is not being prioritised. If sexuality is, to some degree, a choice, as Cynthia says it is for her, (note she is not generalising about other people), then gays lose some of their ‘victim status’ as these poor, beleagured people who are forced to live under the shadow of the heterosexual dominant group.

One of the comments that I found most troubling was this one:

It seems to be suggesting that bisexual people ‘choose’ their sexuality but gay people don’t! Apart from this not even beginning to make sense at a ‘scientific’ level – how are bisexual people ‘made’ so that they have the ability to make choices and gays are not? – it is politically quite worrying. I think what it is really saying is that bisexual people are ‘liars’. If sexuality is innate then people who ‘choose’ to go against their ‘natural’ sexual orientation, be it straight or gay, are a) lying and b) oppressing the people who stay in their ‘natural’ boxes by making sexuality look like less of a destiny.

One of the comments by Nixon that stood out for me was this:

‘I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.’

http://www.readability.com/articles/lfxvzpqn

My ex was/is bisexual. Though he rarely used that word to describe himself. Sometimes he took the Freudian label and called himself ‘polymorphously perverse’. And sometimes I have worried, since we broke up, that he might have ‘gone gay’. This has filled me with a sense of loss and rejection, because if he is now ‘gay’ then what does that say about our relationship that occurred (with some hiccups) over a period of over ten years?

I expect my ex doesn’t identify as gay, now. He was more Anti Gay than even the author of the book of that title. He taught me, long before I had heard of Steven Zeeland, that ‘sexual identity is a joke’.

But it’s not a very funny one. And I think people’s reactions to Cynthia’s open discussion about her own sexuality, are a sign of how we still haven’t reached ‘the end of sexuality’. Maybe one day, eh?

_______________________

 

Remember the LMFAO ‘Sexy and I Know It?’ hit of 2011? I have seen a few amateur videos of metrosexy young lads re-enacting it. So it was only a matter of time before the armed forces got in on the act. Why should they miss out on all the fun?

Actually this rather bitter Guardian article explains that soldiers should not be allowed to take part in Metrosexy culture with us civvies but I disagree strongly:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/23/military-love-affair-dangerous

And so do these metrotastic navy cadets:

However I don’t think any of the videos I have seen quite reach the Metrosexy heights of the original so here it is one more time:

 

h/t @lawrencejgreen for the original LMFAO video

http://www.towleroad.com/2011/12/afasexy.html

http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/4758/

Write Less, Listen More is a piece of advice given by Megan Morgenson, to people who write about sex work without having much or any experience of actually doing it. Her post here is really worth a read:

http://meganmorgenson.blogspot.com/2012/01/frustration-of-non-sex-workers-wanting.html?spref=tw

It was in response to a piece at Freedom In A Puritan Age here:

http://www.freedominapuritanage.co.uk/?p=281&cpage=1#comment-560

The ‘twitter friend’ Megan mentions in her post, who had her comments deleted at FIPA Journal is me!

I find it interesting that there is quite  a heated debate in the comments section, and yet my comments were deemed ‘inappropriate’ for their publication.

In a recent interview for an Italian magazine, Mark Simpson mentioned some old friends of his – ‘hummersexuals’. He said:

‘Hummersexuals are guys who over-emphasise their masculinity with ‘manly’ accessories in a way that makes you wonder what they’re covering up. Retrosexuals are merely pre-metrosexual.’

This is consistent with what he wrote about Hummersexuals, back in 2006:

‘Despite his best efforts to convince you, the hummersexual is not retrosexual. Since when did “regular guys” need several tons of military hardware, or “new macho” lifestyle magazines such as Best Life, or books such as the bestselling Alphabet of Manliness and Men Don’t Apologise, to be “regular”? The hummersexual is clearly, hilariously, faux-retrosexual. He’s an off-the-peg, drag-king idea of “real” masculinity: stuffed crotch and joke beard included at no extra charge.’

And in a recent piece about some ‘macho’ fashion bloggers he reiterated his old idea that ‘retrosexual’ means ‘pre-metrosexual': ‘This kind of guff isn’t ‘post-metrosexual’ at all. It’s so pre-metrosexual it’s positively pre-Stonewall.’

Now I’d not paid much attention to these weird, ‘faux-retrosexual’ hummersexuals before. Partly because Mr Simpson has not written anything about them for years, and partly because, more importantly, neither has anyone else.

The thing about ‘neologisms’ is they are only really useful if they capture a concept that a large number of people can relate to and utilise in everyday life. Metrosexual and ‘retrosexual’ are both part of regular conversations. Simpson has come up with terms that are meaningful in the contemporary world.

But ‘hummersexual’ to me, is as pointless as a man driving a big petrol-guzzling truck just to prove he is a ‘real man’! To illustrate my point I’ll tell you that the picture at the top is the cover of a retrosexual manual from 2008. There are no ‘hummersexual manuals’ I can find. And last year, Mr Simpson did a reading at a club night with a ‘retrosexual’ (not ‘hummersexual’) theme.

At the ‘retrosexual’ club, Simpson read from the introduction to Metrosexy, where he  discusses the ongoing march of metrosexuality:

‘Not everyone is happy with this state of affairs. Some gays, understandably, don’t appreciate being upstaged. Or being confused. And of course quite a few traditionalist heteros also hate metrosexuality along with the sexual uncertainty that it represents, and wish it would just go away, or have a terrible accident on the sunbed. Or they want to pretend that it never happened, that it was all just a bad, over-plucked dream. Such nostalgic determination not to see what should be as plain as the bronzer on your face is, in its way, quite endearing. But when media types start cooing as they have done lately about ‘retrosexuals’ that are just metrosexuals with shaped chest hair, I can’t help but roll my eyes like the girlfriends of the lads flashing me their shaved balls.

You see, when I first used the word ‘retrosexual’ back in 2003, I just meant men who were not metrosexual. So-called ‘regular guys’. Remember those? But at the dawn of the second decade of the Twenty First Century, masculinity has been rendered so self-conscious in our mediated, mirrored world that even ‘regular guys’ are apparently just a fashion fad – this season’s accessory. We’re all like my post-op MTF friend Michelle (formerly known as the male stripper ‘Stud-U-Like’) complaining: ‘Where can you find a REAL man these days?? I’m so SICK of all these metrosexual PHONIES!’ Though probably with less self-irony.

What else could explain the squealing eagerness with which the media seized upon the confected character of Mad Men’s Don Draper as an example of the return of the ‘retrosexual’? An impossibly pretty and impeccably well-turned out Army deserter with identity issues – and a hidden, shameful secret – who works as an advertising creative and is the unwavering object of the camera’s voyeuristic gaze. We’re so metrosexualised now that this is what ‘old time masculinity’ looks like to us. Put another way, metrosexuality is masculinity mediated, aestheticised and (self) fetishised. Even if it looks fetching in a trilby.

This makes sense to me. I see  ‘metrosexual’ and ‘retrosexual’, not as two ‘types’ of man, but rather as the culture of masculinity we live in. And in that culture there are tensions, e.g. between men’s ‘feminine’ display and narcissism (metrosexual) and their need to still be ‘men’ (retrosexual).

There are very very few men, however metro, who do not have some denial in them. Gay,straight, whatever, men cling on to ‘masculinity’ like rats to a sinking ship.

And I think Metrodaddy is in a bit of denial about this. I don’t know why. Maybe he wants men all to be out and proud metrosexuals. Maybe he (rightly) senses in men’s denial of their metrosexuality some good old-fashioned homophobia.  Maybe he is just a man, who also has some denial of his own ‘femininity’. But surely it’s better to acknowledge it.

It’s easy for me. I never was and never will be a ‘man’. It is also easy for me as I am not the originator of this theory. I didn’t have to start from scratch, 20 years ago, with no words to describe this world we live in that now seems obvious.

I can see why Simpson both initially said that ‘retrosexual’ just meant ‘pre-metrosexual’ and that a ‘hummersexual’ was an exaggerated, in denial ‘faux-retrosexual’. What I don’t understand is why Simpson, in 2012, returned to his old ‘retro’ stance from way back when, and resurrected ‘hummersexuals’, making out that ‘retrosexual’ is just an old word to describe men before metrosexuality had really taken hold of our culture.

That seems to take ‘retrosexual denial’ a bit too far.