Archive for July, 2012

 

It is with some trepidation that I write this. In the two years plus since I have been blogging, I haven’t gone more than a few days without posting something.But I have decided to go cold turkey, I mean take a break in August. Sometimes it is just good to step back and assess what your purpose is in writing and interacting in public. And sometimes being QRG gets pretty tiring!

I’m not going to promise to stay away for a whole month! If something gets my goat so strongly that I can’t sit on my hands and bite my tongue anymore I’ll blog. But I am giving me, and you, dear readers some time out. Have a beer, kick back, enjoy the sports on TV, or don’t. Read a book! Go swimming! Find another blog to read and come back and tell us about it!

Meanwhile here are some articles and blogposts that come with my hearty recommendation.

Matt Lodder ( @Mattlodder) sent me this article Live Through This, about someone’s experience of having been sexually assaulted. She rejects feminist dogma about ‘rape culture’ and ‘victims’ in a way I find very refreshing.

This week there is in the UK an Extreme Porn Trial where a (gay) man is being tried for viewing S and M porn. When consensual sexual activity and porn consumption makes its way to a criminal trial it is worth having a closer look at the circumstances and issues involved.

My piece for Words On Music telling muso journos to STFU is worth another plug!

And over at Kernel Mag Mic Wright (the inimitable @brokenbottleboy) has written a rousing defence of Freedom Of Speech against the incoherent positions of the ‘liberal twitter mob’.

I am currently supporting Colin Riches ( @Riches_C) Shared Parenting campaign and at Graunwatch I urge you to sign his petition asking UK Parliament to give fathers’ equal rights to access to their kids as mums.

Finally, last but by no means least, Rick Powell ( @homo_superior ) has written a great post stating that QRG is a radical, not a troll! Well, how could I disagree?

The main thing I have learned from running QRG (and Graunwatch which is also lying low in August) is that blogging is interactive, collaborative and communal. Without you this would be a lonely and pointless business. So thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, suggesting and writing posts and just being the brilliant and invincible #QRGMassive !

see you soon, for as my friends and foes no doubt know, I’ll be back.

QRG xxx

The most metrotastic moment of the Olympics Opening Ceremony last night wasn’t Becks in his boat, or Daniel Craig and his Bond routine, it was the entrance at the end of the athletes’ parade of Team GB.

The 500+ strong team, with cyclist Chris Hoy bearing the flag at the front, entered the stadium in a sea of white and gold. Their tracksuits were retro-metro stylie, like something Ali G might rock up in!

 

With the TV camera often lingering on Tom Daley, the young high diver with a perfect tan and winning smile, metrosexuality finally seemed to be taking centre stage as it should. Actually, Danny Boyle’s extravaganza seemed a bit more dowdy and old school in comparison to these sporno heroes. Paul Mccartney and Kenneth Branagh are not exactly pin-up hotties these days.

But there were two nice links between the contemporary metro imagery of Team GB and the music, film and pyrotechnics. One was that the tracksuits the athletes were wearing (with men and women all wearing trousers unlike some of the other countries and their ‘traditional’ gendered fashions) reminded me distinctly of rap culture, which WAS featured in Danny Boyle’s show.

 

Kanye may not have been there to outdress and outbling the British sports stars, but Dizzee Rascal’s performance of Bonkers was great, and showcased urban rap, youth and pop culture brilliantly. Also the song Bonkers could be seen as a bit of a ‘metrosexy anthem’. Because he is singing about being a young man doing what the hell he wants, regardless of how ‘society’ and other people see him.
Some people think I’m bonkers

But I just think I’m free

Man, I’m just livin’ my life

There’s nothin’ crazy about me

The second link between the metrosexual styles of the British team, and the spectacle of the Opening Ceremony is the technological and ‘social media’ phenomenon they both display. All through the parade, athletes were taking photos and videos of themselves(!) and the stadium. The video at the top is TV footage taken on someone’s phone from the comfort of their living room, and uploaded onto youtube within hours of the ceremony finishing. And in Boyle’s set there was a tableau featuring young people and their relationships being played out on facebook and mobile phone technology. Not to mention the fact that Tim Berners Lee, the ‘inventor of the world wide web’ also had a cameo role in proceedings.

So, my verdict is that the Opening Ceremony WAS a showcase of metrosexual talent. But it was the fashion-conscious and self-loving athletes who really made the metrosexy grade. Team Italia were indeed decked out in Armani, but the sheer bling and bravado of Team GB means MetroAuntie awards them GOLD.

This morning it was announced that Paul Chambers who had been convicted of making a ‘menacing’ tweet under the 2003 Communications Act, has had his conviction quashed. He was found innocent of all charges by three Appeal Court judges.

To most people reading this the news is not only brilliant for Paul, his partner Sarah (@crazycolours) and their families. It is also a victory for freedom of speech and expression, especially online. So it is with extra joy that the news was first reported and now is being celebrated on our favourite social media platform.

Without detracting to much from Paul’s big day and the wonderful feeling of relief and sense that justice has been done – at last (his case went on for over two years), I want to ask a question.

Does everyone who is celebrating today support freedom of speech – FOR EVERYONE?

One of the things I have done in recent years is heartily piss off some academics. By criticising their work and their political positions in the area of sex and gender. Of those academics, three have tweeted support of Paul Chambers and his great verdict today. But I want to know if they actually believe that people – including me – have the right to express our views freely, on twitter, on blogs, by email, in ‘RL’.

So I ask Petra Boynton whose writing on sex research I have critiqued recently, and who I hear is not very happy with me and my ‘behaviour’, if she supports freedom of speech for all?

I ask Mark Mccormack who had my (critical) review of his first book on ‘declining homophobia’ taken off a sociology website a few months ago, if he supports freedom of speech for all?

And I ask Chris Ashford, a gay academic who on twitter told his academic colleagues taking part in a conference using a #hashtag that ‘This Is A Troll’, this meaning me, and who thinks I should be ‘ignored’ on twitter,  if he supports freedom of speech for all?

The following academic has not tweeted support of Paul Chambers today but I want to ask him too:

Finally I ask Ian Rivers another gay academic and an expert in ‘bullying’, particularly ‘homophobic’ bullying, who is a senior colleague of Mark Mccormack and who did not challenge him taking down my review of his book from the internet, and who also seems to be disapproving of me and what I say online, if he supports freedom of speech for all?

I think my questions may be answered soon and I will be sure to report the answers on twitter, if I am allowed to that is.

UPDATE: apparently The Spectator got it wrong and Nero has NOT been nominated for what they call ‘bigot of the year’. I am leaving this up though as others have called him a homophobe (and me). And as I don’t trust Stonewall!

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/steerpike/2012/07/homophobe-of-the-year/

According to The Spectator, Stonewall have nominated Milo Yiannopoulus, who tweets as  @Nero, as ‘homophobe of the year 2012′. Apart from the questionable ethics and purpose of holding such a competition in the first place, I think their nomination is stupid and actually pretty cruel.

Sharp witted readers will remember that I have criticised Nero in the past, for his slag-off of Johann Hari‘s adventures as a porn writer. 50 Shades of Gay might not have been the bonkbuster of the year, but I support people’s right to express their sexualities and opinions. Even Johann the Librarian.

And that is why I am defending Milos now. He is openly homosexual, and openly opinionated for example against the principles and practicalities of gay marriage. Stonewall’s conformist gay politics mean that to challenge the sanctity of gay marriage is to be homophobic, even if, as Milos is, you are gay yourself.

This is just replacing one fault, one wrong, with another! Picking on individuals who disagree with you, who live their lives in a way you don’t endorse, in a way you don’t understand, is what ‘anti gay’ ‘bigots’ do!

As gay academic Mark Mccormack has written, now that LGBT sexualities are more normalised in our society, the stigma has shifted. Being labelled ‘homophobic’ is actually as socially unacceptable as being homosexual was only decades ago. And adding to that stigma with ‘homophobe of the year’ competitions may not be such a cool move.

There are also issues here around  freedom of expression. Writing in the Guardian recently Suzanne Moore pointed out:

‘The terms “misogyny”, “anti-semitism” and “homophobia” may be useful but too often are used to shut down rather than open up online debate. This is why free speech is so difficult. ‘

So Stonewall’s nomination of a gay man who has spoken out against gay marriage as ‘homophobe of the year’ could be seen as an attempt to devalue that position, and to shut up people who hold it. Gay, straight whatever.

But the fact Milos identifies as gay/homosexual himself makes this a particularly sour tale. To start making examples of ‘your own’ and attempting to shame them in public seems pretty low.

Some gays oppose gay marriage, Stonewall. Get Over It.

Oscar Pistorious is a paraolympian runner. I am not an athletics expert, but I have heard of him, because he is also a metrotastic model.

Currently Oscar is the face and body of Thierry Mugler A*Men Perfume‘s  Pure Shot range. Pure Shot is known in the trade as a ‘sports fragrance’ which, if I have picked up the ‘notes’ correctly, is supposedly more manly and butch than regular perfumes.

According to this reviewer:

‘Pistorius is the 25-year-old South African 400-metre runner who has been called “the fastest man on no legs.”* Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg; his lower legs were amputated when he was a baby and he’s been using prostheses since he was 13 months old. Pistorius’ J-shaped carbon-fiber prostheses look “dramatic” and futuristic, and they play a big part in the A*Men advertising campaign (especially the video).’

There are a number of things worth noting about Oscar’s advertising campaigns, which also include ads for BT, one of the Olympics sponsors.

One is obvious: that Pistorius is a man with disabilities, but is being ‘objectified’ and treated as a ‘sex object’ just like fit, able-bodied metrosexy sportsmen are. In a culture where physical perfection is fetishised, it seems anomalous that someone with NO LEGS of his own is a model.

But another aspect of the ads featuring the athlete gives us a clue as to the reasons for this unusual occurrence. That is, they seem to be playing on the ‘futuristic’ aspect of prostheses, and the technology that enables Oscar’s incredible achievements. As The Sun newspaper, who named Oscar amongst their Top Ten Hot Shots of metrosexy men olympic athletes, say:

‘The South African double amputee has earned the name ‘Blade Runner’ for his incredible pace on prosthetic legs.

After winning gold in the last two Paralympics, the 25-year-old qualified to run for his country in the able-bodied races, becoming the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games.

And the hunky runner will compete in the 400 m and the 400m relay’.

So the aesthetic that seems to be enabling Pistorius to be a model alongside Beckham, Ronaldo and Nadal is a posthuman  one. I am reminded of Donna Haraway’s Cyborgs, and the discussions of apocalyptic landscapes and cyberpunk style adverts at Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey ‘s Cyborgology project.

However I think it is worth noting that inspite of or rather because of his lack of leg muscles, Oscar has a very well developed upper body. This makes him quite ‘conventionally attractive’ in metrosexual terms. The torso is (almost) everything for metrosexy modelling. Also, his torso shows how the lines between an ideal ‘human’ and ‘posthuman’ body are blurred. In Transexy times, ‘pneumatic’ tits and abs show how even without prosthetics, the metrosexual body is ‘hyperreal’ and augmented.

I haven’t seen any disability activists celebrating Pistorius’ modelling career. I wonder if like feminists are, they are conflicted about metrosexuality. Because metrosexuality puts into question some of the assumptions around  objectification and victimhood  that disability and feminist campaigns rely on. I mean if Oscar Pistorius enjoys being objectified, and profits from it, maybe objectification is a bit more complex than we have been led to believe?

MetroAuntie is not conflicted. I think Pistorius’ status as ‘sex object’ is great. But I am intrigued, and maybe a tiny bit disturbed by the shift in visual culture to cyborg and posthuman imagery. I doubt it is going away though. So we may as well explore this brave new metrosexual world.

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Words On Music blog, part of a project to investigate the state of rock journalism, which is currently  ‘missing, presumed dead’. Words on Music is the brainchild of Simon Spence, whose new biography of The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – War And Peace looks well worth a read. My piece argues that ‘pop music journalism’ has been engulfed by the digital world, and that this is no bad thing.

————————————————

I am a writer. Sometimes I write about music. At one point in history, I was even some kind of ‘music journalist’; I used to write for The North’s independent muso rag Sandman Magazine.

So why am I here to defend a remark I made recently on twitter that was pretty damning about music journalism? During the Words On Music live discussion event I tweeted:

#wordsonmusic it is time for music journalists to STFU and to let the music, and the technology, and the young people speak for themselves

Apparently my comment was picked up and retweeted by quite a few people, maybe in agreement, maybe in disgust. But it certainly, excuse my metaphor, struck a chord.

I stand by the sentiments expressed in my tweet because I think music journalism is spectacularly slow to cotton onto the social media revolution that is happening around it. And that has been happening for quite a long time! Whilst musicians and fans have been eagerly taking up the opportunities for sharing, promoting, discussing and making music provided by platforms such as Myspace, spotify, garageband, youtube, and bandcamp, writers have seemed to resist change. Maybe they resent the ‘democratisation’ that comes with new media, because anyone can be heard writing and talking about pop music now. This reduces the status of journalist ‘experts’ and completely removes their role as ‘opinion leaders’.

The last time I remember buying an album due to a review in a newspaper was when I read about The Decline of British Sea Power in The Guardian in 2003. Nine years on, I rely solely on word of mouth recommendations, online chats with twitter muso pals, random youtube discoveries, friends’ spotify playlists and, viral music videos to switch me on to new bands and artists.

For me, any arguments about loss in ‘quality’ or ‘depth of knowledge’ of trained, experienced pop journalists are overshadowed by the sheer breadth and variety of voices, styles and perspectives that come with twenty first century music discourse. In a piece in which admittedly I did protest too much about my annoyance with Manchester’s Master of Miserablism, I wrote: ‘I hate Morrissey because listening to middle class white men analysing pop music was already boring enough’.

For example the list of people involved in the Words On Music live stream discussion event this year seems to include about twenty men, two women, most (or all?) of whom are white.

But, having spent some years completing a Phd on gender inequality in the creative sector, and then running a social enterprise training women in the music industry, and having grown weary of feminist rhetoric, I am not going to sit around asking where are the women? Or where are the ethnic minorities? Or indeed where are the young people? In pop music and journalism.

Because I know where they are. They are online, in their studios, at gigs, on Logic and Ableton, on the ball, on form, in tune, on time, in synch, out there, at work, outperforming the old guard.

The future is already here, and we may as well join wise cats like Tom RobinsonCornershopand – yes – Lady Gaga, and get with the programme. There is still a place for words on music, but those words have to take into account the changing culture, technology and times we make music in. This is no country for out of touch hacks.

British hope Tom Daley, the metrotastic diver, is splashed across billboards in next to nothing- again, in the run-up to the Olympics. In a rather apt choice of slogan Adidas are commanding young Tom to ‘take the respect’. Of course MetroAuntie can’t let these ads pass us all by without remarking on just how ‘submissive’ and ‘sexual’ the connotations are: is Tom being told to ‘take it’ like a good ‘bottom’ should?

Apart from the suggestive tone of the text, the main thing to notice about the posters what a ‘passive’ pose the medal-winning diver is in. He is not seen here demonstrating his athletic skill, but rather standing still, looking down, holding one wrist with his other hand. His torso is the main ‘object of desire’.

And a man’s torso also features heavily in this short film by the Guardian celebrating the olympic body through history. Again, rather than showing sporting motion, this film just displays the man’s upper body as if it were a mannequin turning slowly in a shop window. It oozes metrosexuality and  sporno aesthetics.

These two examples of metrosexy bodies put paid to the feminist belief that in visual culture men are presented as active subjects, women as passive objectsEven Lego has been accused by feminist critics of promoting this oppressive, binary opposition, which contributes to a situation whereby the objectification of women is more widespread and more damaging than that of men.

Writing in the Guardian recently, Sarah Ditum (the original ‘mumsy cupcake feminist) did at least admit that sportsmen have been ‘pin ups for decades’. But she still suggested that women’s bodies are scrutinised and policed more than men’s.

But really it is just that men’s objectification is policed in different ways from women’s. The underplaying not just by feminists but by most people, of the  sheer tartiness of contemporary men, is one way of denying the homoerotics and deep self-love involved in metrosexual masculinity. A self-love that can never be entirely ‘straight’.

So,  in 2012, whilst feminists are STILL campaigning against the ‘objectified’ images of women on Page Three, the Sun publishes its list of  Top Ten Hot Shots (sexy Olympian sportsmen who are sex objects in their own right), without so much as a murmur to be heard from the feminists. Here’s David Boudia one of the top ten hotties, looking ready for… uh, anything.

There is no hiding fit young men’s  rampant narcissism, it takes the gaze wherever it can find it. And Tom Daley is a champion in his field…

h/t @zefrog for the Top Ten Hot Shots!

I am a fan of director Steven Soderbergh. His 1989 debut, Sex, Lies and Videotape which enabled him to go on to work in Hollywood is among my favourite films. Its tale of middle class suburban sexual repression, and the complex dynamic between masculine and feminine, ‘active’ and ‘passive’, voyeurism and exhibitionism, struck a chord with 18 year old, terrified of my own sexual potency, me.

So I was intrigued to see ‘blockbuster film of the summer’ Magic Mike, about a troupe of men strippers. Would Soderbergh bring some of the subtlety and ‘queerness’ of Sex, Lies and Videotape to a romcom where Channing Tatum’s tits are the stars? On having seen the film, I say yes. And here is why.

But Before I start…                                                                                                                 There was one thing I hated about this film. It is something I have not seen mentioned in many other reviews. And that is its NAFF, MORALISTIC, INSULTING portrayal of the ‘adult industry’ and the people who work in it (and the people who love them). I suspect Laura Agustin, who conceptualised the ‘rescue industry’ in relation to people being ‘saved’ from a hellish lifetime of taking their clothes off and fucking for money, would have something to say about this too. Mike, played by Channing Tatum, is only allowed to ‘get the girl’ and achieve narrative closure, when he forsakes the stripping world and gives up his chance of going to work with the crew in Miami. Adam, who Mike introduced into that world, is stuck in a spiral of drugs (it would be more believable if the character was on  steroids by the way) and sex and immorality. This  reminds me of Pretty Woman but with the gender identities reversed. As if everyone who works in porn, stripping, lap dancing and sex work is just waiting till Richard Gere comes along and showers them with money and patronising one-liners.


Metrosexual Active and Passive Role Reversals

However, even in my hatred of this prejudiced moralism of the film’s plot, I do acknowledge that the ‘reversal’ of the gender identities involved is interesting, and important. Channing Tatum is not the active hero that is supposed to be an archetype of Hollywood masculinity. No, like Julia Roberts before him, he has to sit and look pretty until his ‘knight in shining armour’ in the form of Cody Horn, comes to rescue him from the dragon’s den.

This role reversal fits in with the culture in which metrosexuality has developed.  One reason men are able to indulge their ‘passive’, ‘object’ status is that women are becoming more active, assertive sexual beings. They do not expect men to be ‘men’ in the traditional, macho sense. Both literally and symbolically in the modern world, it is often women who ‘wear the trousers’. Both Cody Horn who makes it her ‘quest’ to bag Channing Tatum (and ‘reform’ him), and Olivia Munn who instigates threesomes with him and other women, before getting bored and finding a man to marry, are active, decision-making, assertive characters. In a scene at Tatum’s flat where he has made a booty call to Munn, she is shown to be straddling him whilst he lies back. And when he phones her another night, only to be blown off, he looks puppy-like, vulnerable.

I found my interpretation of these strong women characters in Magic Mike to completely contrast with a critical review of the film by a gay man. Ignoring the women leads,  blogger James Croft (aka @FutureTemple ) focuses on the women in the audience at the strip joint and writes:

‘A movie about male strippers – men who are paid, mainly by women, to take their clothes off, and are therefore not fully in control of their own sexual display – could have explored such tensions, showing women in a position of sexual power which is rarely portrayed with much insight or sensitivity, and investigating male sexual vulnerability.

Despite the claim by Matthew McConaughey’s character that he sees “a lot of lawbreakers up in this house”, the women are deeply passive throughout, nary a grab, a grope, or stage invasion in sight. The men may be the objects of sexual desire, but they remain the subject of sexual activity: they initiate all sexual encounters, and are ultimately in the driving seat.’

Straights Go Gay?
It is as if we watched a different film! But maybe that is because for a gay man, keen to see portrayals of gay men’s sexual and romantic relationships on the screen, the heterosexual relationships in the film were of little interest.
‘Magic Mike is really, really straight. I don’t mean “straight” simply as in “not queer”, but also “straight” as in safe, unadventurous, routine. ‘

It is a shame this gay critic switched off at the sight of women and men getting it on, because when they did in Magic Mike it was actually pretty queer. The film opens with Channing Tatum and Olivia Munn waking up after a night of sex. The camera pans round and reveals another naked woman on the bed! And the pair joke about how neither of them can remember her name.  Later in the film Pettyfer (‘the kid’) is encouraged to join in a foursome with two women and a man, in which they all find themselves saying ‘I love you’ in a slightly pathetic manner. These are examples of ‘straight’ people doing ‘queer’ acts which are becoming more acceptable in metrosexual culture. Arguably leaving gay men feeling a bit redundant.

But I suppose these ‘queer’ and ‘bisexual’ scenes were overshadowed for gay men viewers by the ‘climax’ of the movie, which happens very early on, when Tatum walks butt naked into the bathroom, displaying ‘dat ass’ proudly and invitingly.

Another way in which the ‘straight’ characters in the film are kind of ‘queer’ is through the homosociality displayed by the men in the movie. Strippers work closely together, in various forms of undress, and so the relationships between the men in the film were tinged with sexual tension. The ‘gay critic’ I quoted above was dissatisfied with this portrayal of homosocial men. He thought the ‘no homo’ attitude where they repudiated their homo desire was disappointing. I think it is realistic. As men become more open about showing off their bodies to each other, it does not necessarily follow that they will be open about the sexual undertones of this situation. Theories of declining homophobia are relevant to metrosexual masculinity where men’s behaviours are becoming less policed. UP TO A POINT. But homophobia amongst ‘straight’ men has not disappeared altogether and I think Magic Mike is a valid portrayal of some of the homo anxiety still felt by young, fit, metrosexual men. There are still no out gay or bisexual pro footballers in the UK or US for example. So the proverbial fear of ‘sharing a shower with a homo’ is still with us.

In some ways Magic Mike is a ‘failed’ buddy movie. I like this aspect of the film, as I think it adds some realism to an otherwise overly romantic genre. In films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Die Hard men who are friends stick with each  other through thick and thin. But in Magic Mike the friendship between Adam and Mike doesn’t survive. Many friendships don’t! And men are not necessarily any closer to each other or any more loyal than women are. I am reminded here of My Own Private Idaho where Scott chooses a romantic relationship with a woman over his friendship with Mike the hustler. Just as Mike chooses a romantic relationship with a woman over the more ‘degenerate’ Adam. The homosocial ‘phantasy’ of men following each other to the ends of the earth is not indulged here.

Explaining The ‘Lack Of Bollocks’
The main criticism from gay men who have seen Magic Mike seems to be its lack of explicitly homoerotic/sexual scenes. As the gay reviewer I’ve mentioned here puts it, ‘the complete lack of bollocks’. I find this complaint unconvincing but also quite revealing about gay men in metrosexual culture.

It seems to me as if some gay men are judging Magic Mike as they may judge a gay porn film, and so of course they find it severely lacking in the ass, cock and balls department.  This film has a 15 certificate and is aimed at teenagers and young people. I expect the nudity and sex was not included in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
And  censorship of men’s genitalia and particularly the erect penis is nothing new or unusual. To blame Soderbergh for the lack of hard cocks in a mainstream Hollywood film seems a bit off. Things are changing, but very slowly. The British Board of Film Classification has passed some films containing erect members in recent years.  Earlier this year a man who sold s and m gay porn was found not guilty of crimes under the Obscene Publications Act. And ‘speedophobia‘ whereby men, even men who work as strippers, are encouraged to keep covered up on beaches and in public (as illustrated quite accurately by Channing Tatum in the film), is reportedly on the decline in America. But Magic Mike is not going against the grain in its ‘false modesty’.  In fact I’d go as far as to say that Soderbergh, who has explored carefully some of the complexities of our feelings around our bodies, knew exactly what he was doing when he presented the apparent contradiction of men who get their kit off for a living, not quite getting their kit off!

One reason I find gay men being so upset about the lack of cock in Magic Mike, is that it only serves to emphasise their sense of ‘lack’ in the phallus department. As Lacan has put it :

The phallic signifier is, so to speak, an index of its own impossibility… the phallus is not simply lost but is an object which gives body to a certain fundamental loss in its very presence’.

So this ‘lack’ that gay viewers of the film feel, probably would not be corrected by the sight of Channing Tatum’s pole. Though that may comfort them momentarily! In metrosexual culture, men’s passivity and role as objects of the gaze, DOES involve some reduction of their ‘phallic’ power. That is one reason why pictures of men flashing their tits, anuses and abs so prettily, and so submissively, often include ‘phallic substitutes’ such as rugby balls, truncheons, rockets. If gay men want the myth of the ‘Great Dark Man’ and his great dark cock, they can always watch Jeff Stryker movies.

The Pathetic Femininity of Gay Daddies
I thought the most interesting character in Magic Mike, and by far the best performance, was Matthew Mcconaughey’s ‘Dallas’, the leader of the strip troupe. He was the most ‘macho’ of the men, and his stripper dance routines were full  of macho archetypes such as policemen, cowboys and tarzan. But Mcconaughey sent up this machismo, and played it for the camp performance that it is. Just as Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘s action movie displays were before him, his budgie smuggling, groin rubbing routines are funny, narcissistic, and in some ways ‘feminine’.

But also it was possible that Mcconaughey (directed by Soderbergh) was playing his character as gay. Hollywood has a long tradition of men characters who are not overtly gay but who are coded as queer. In metrosexual culture, where masculinity itself is pretty damned queer, this becomes harder to define. But Mcconaughey’s tight lycra vest-tops, his ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ attempts to stay sexy,  the scene where he sits in a dressing gown looking a bit down (which reminds me of a gay character in the film, La Cage Aux Folles), and his love of his young stripper boys, without a woman in his life to divert the homo-anxiety, all point to a ‘gay daddy’ in my view. And with him not being shown to get any sex with those boys, like some ‘gay daddies’ do, or even with the women who watch his shows, he is presented as a slightly impotent character. That’s how I saw him anyway.

And that might be what Magic Mike is exploring, just as Sex Lies and Videotape did:  sexual impotence in the (post) modern world.  I am delighted we live in more omnisexual times than we did in the past. That ‘men’ and ‘women’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ ‘active’ and ‘passive’ are not so easily delineated and separated. But in blurring the lines, in giving men’s tits as much screen time as women’s, in creating lead men characters who are not in control of their destiny, are we missing something?

Is narrative cinema a bit lost without traditional gender roles and tropes?

Has film gone flaccid?

I don’t know. But I am going to keep watching as, whoever wears the trousers or has the (strap on) dick, I still find the representation of gender and sexuality at the movies pretty fascinating.

Nathan Jurgenson has a great piece in the Atlantic, about what we might call representations of digital phenomena in the physical world.  The article has made me think hard about our perceptions of reality in the ‘internet age’. I hope to write something on it soon.

Jurgenson and his colleague PJ Rey are doing very exciting work on ‘social media theory’, making sense of the new ways in which we communicate and produce our identities. Their website Cyborgology is well worth a read. Here is Nathan’s Atlantic article in full:

‘Sometimes the Internet seems to jump from the screen: When that avatar you only knew on Twitter materializes in physical space in front of you; when you see graffiti on a wall with a Twitter hashtag; a mouse-pointer-arrow charm necklace; a QR code protest sign; when you get dizzy trying to come to terms with these physical instantiations of what began as digital

How do we understand these objects? What do we call them? Why do they exist? What do these objects say about the complex relationship between information and material, digitality and physicality, atoms and bits?

Ontology (what exists?) and phenomenology (how does existence appear to us?) are hard. The digital seems very different than the physical: Shopping at the mall is different than Amazon.com, talking face-to-face is different than texting, cyberwar or cybersex certainly seem different than their offline predecessors. But all these terms are trouble. PJ Rey provides a terrific investigationinto how these differences came to be known in spatial terms built around a collective fiction that digital information could be segregated into some new “cyber” space; the Net, the Web, The Matrix, a fictional Other Place conveniently at once separate but always accessible. This fiction was never tenable, and much of my work has centered on the vanishing point of this­­–what I have coined as “digital dualism.”

Something as simple as a mouse-pointer-necklace or an online friend encountered offline make obvious the bigger point that the workings of information transcend barriers like atoms and bits and blood and circuits. However, we run out of language when it comes to talking about a physical instantiation of something previously known primarily as digital. Just typing that last sentence hurt. So I asked on Twitter for some language, new or old, to get at this trend. I am surprised how few existing terms we have for this, and certainly nothing anyone agrees upon. Some of the most interesting replies I received:

  • This all can be thrown under the larger umbrella of “The New Aesthetic,” which deals with the collision of the on and offline. But for these objects we’re looking less at aesthetics (what is beautiful?) and more ontology (what exists?). Also, The New Aesthetic, arguably, is too general for our purposes here, capturing all of the dialogue between the digital and physical.
  • Bruce Sterling has used the line ” an eruption of the digital into the physical” when discussing The New Aesthetic, which does get at this more specific trend. Perhaps simply “digital eruption” could work?
  • Next Nature has discussed this trend as Boomeranged Metaphors, where something projected onto the Web is spit back out into the physical world.
  • “Ectoplasm” is an interesting suggestion, often used to describe spiritual energy manifesting in the physical world, which might be repurposed to describe the Web.
  • Robin Sloan’s “Flip Flop“: “the process of pushing a work of art or craft from the physical world to the digital world and back again–maybe more than once.” Perhaps we could abstract this phrase beyond art/craft?
  • “Eversion” and “meatspacing” are terms used by William Gibson.
  • Tangiblasts
  • “What if cyberspace is oozing through the walls that once held it back, seeping out of the very fabric of reality?” – Gene Becker
  • What else?

Reading the last example from Gene Becker, I am at once excited that we are discussing information and materiality as interrelated, but also worried that all of this is reinforcing the problematic “digital dualism” I critique above. Cyberspace is not oozing out into reality, that which we encounter on some glowing screen was always reality, never locked away in a separate, mythical, cyber space. Terms like “ectoplasm” reinforces a dualistic view of separate digital and physical realities: “ecto” means “outside,” describing that which crosses between words.

These are not digital objects becoming real; these objects were always in our reality. What we are experiencing is not a Matrix-like teleportation trick, but a rearrangement, a different flavor of information. We need new terminology that makes reference to the enmeshed, imploded, overlapping, interpenetrating nature of the physical and digital. I dig some of the suggestions above, but I think we need to chew on this more. What are some other terms we might use? Who has written about this before (be it academic, popular or fiction)?’

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Nathan Jurgenson’s earlier essay on digital dualism is here.

Transport for London may not be able to afford Olympic athletes for their ‘public service announcement’ campaign about the fast-approaching travel chaos that will affect the capital during the games. But many commercial companies and brands can. So this is the season of sporno-tastic olympic-themed advertising.

The above ad is for King of Shaves, a quite ‘low end’ razor brand which includes monthly rates for products delivered to your door on a regular basis. But its star model James Ellington, a sprinter, is not ‘low end’ at all. His torso and his tats are giving Becks and his relentless, profitable narcissistic display a run for his money that’s for sure!

But King of Shaves don’t actually mention the ‘Olympics’ in its adverts at all. This is most likely to be because London 2012 are working very hard at Protecting their Brand. There is even government legislation making it illegal to use certain phrases and words if you are not an official sponsor of The Games, such as British Airways.

I think though, that an athlete’s metrosexy body speaks for itself, and the difference in ‘quality’ and impact of ads around the Olympic theme does not seem to relate to language, but rather to imagery. Take these two adverts below, one for subway sandwiches the other for cadbury’s creme eggs.  Neither is very strong. But that’s not due to the lack of official Olympics Logo or terminology. I think it is due to the obvious absence of any tits or abs!

Whoever wins medals at the end of July/beginning of London, I know that metrosexuality will continue to be stood on the podium. In fact it has no competition!

h/t @grooming_guru for identifying James Ellington as the KoS model, and to @fennerpearson for the info on the protection of the Olympics brand.