Archive for the ‘Male Impersonators’ Category

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.

I read [redacted]  rather late. Too late in some ways. The havoc it might have caused had I read it during my undergraduate or postgraduate studies, and my following career in gender departments in British universities did not come to pass. But it still caused some havoc. And for that I shall remain forever grateful.

To cut a long story very short, [redacted] changed the way I think, and the way I look at the world. It enabled me, along with some other factors, to finally let go of the feminist dogma that I’d been attached to for my whole life (40 years of it). From a ‘Freudian’ perspective then, it is no wonder that I have become so [redacted].

I conveyed my enthusiasm for [redacted]

And, finally [redacted]

‘Okay, so this is what I want: I want, when someone changes their mind about something, for them not to go ideologically swinging to the far other side. I was reading some reviews of [redacted] and there are some of former feminists writing about it. And when I say “former” I mean “anti.” We’re talking PhDs in women’s studies who have suddenly realized men are people, too, and they are also oppressed by our patriarchal structure, and so that means we have to wipe out decades of feminist thought, because obviously the two cannot coexist.

Someone can explain to me why this is later, I have tickets to the opera tonight and I have a feeling it’s going to take a while.’

Well I’d hate to interrupt anyone’s relationship with the opera, darling, but I can answer that question in one sentence. In an email to this poor confused opera-goer I replied:

‘That is easy. It is because feminism is fuelled by misandry and a need to present men as the oppressors of women.’

But this isn’t about me (NO REALLY) this is about [redacted] The review that appeared recently at The Smart Set blog was a joint review of a few books on masculinity. It reads:

‘I’ve been reading books about masculinity, the authors trying to challenge what we think of as normal. Boyhoods, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, and [redacted]. All three writers are queer. When I tried to find a book that challenged society’s ideas of masculinity that was written by a straight man, all I could find was a book defending men’s needs to cheat on their wives.I did find a used copy of a book called Under Saturn’s Shadow: The Wounding and Healing of Men, which did not meet my expectation, didn’t so much challenge traditional forms of masculinity as psychoanalyze some problems men might have with women. But I kept reading it anyway, because the person who had it before me did some heartbreaking underlining. Next to the underlined passage “Out of their rage they wound others, and out of their sorrow and shame they grow more and more distant from each other,” there are two exclamation marks. Next to “A man’s experience of the primal relationship may have been so painful that he expects all relationships can only be painful. Thus his life is a dreary cycle of fearing domination by others and seeking to exploit them instead,” there is a star. “Many men are full of rage against women, and often they act it out” is underlined twice.I wonder about the man who read this book before me. I wonder what he got out of being told, “Men’s lives are as much governed by restrictive role expectations as are the lives of women.” I wonder what he then did with that information. Because it seems like the kind of book that would be read by one of the men in the 1994 essay collection [redacted]. In it, [redacted] sits down at one point with Alan, a man who appears in a documentary from the ’90s called Sex Hunters. He’s one of a group of young men profiled in the film who decided to spend their summers living together in a sort of boy commune. They live in a caravan, drinking and carrying on, and they have a contest for who can sleep with the most women. Each sex act is one point. 

Under Saturn’s Shadow is saying something true about the expectations put on men. But the previous owner did a lot of underlining about the betrayals of mothers and the absences of fathers, and not a whole lot in the sections where the author advises men to commune with their inner femininity and give it expression. Alan, in the documentary, complains about the duties of masculinity — the providing, the sacrifice, the achieving, the marriage and fathering of children. He has decided life should be more fun, that men should have other options. If you start spending some time on the websites of men’s advocacy groups, things can quickly turn anti-women, with men calling their ex-wives bitches, railing against women’s cold hearted natures, ranting about how “the system” is stacked against them and in favor of women. Simpson says to Alan, “Many all-male communities that get together and talk about common interests, activities — whether that’s fucking or surfing — is based on a kind of exaltation, a kind of worship, of the masculine and a denigration of the feminine, whether that’s the feminine embodied in women, or whether that’s the feminine embodied in so-called ‘effeminate’ men, men who, either in terms of where they put their dicks or how they dress or cut their hair, don’t conform to that masculine ideal.”’

This passage illustrates to me exactly why feminism cannot coexist with a love for men. And it illustrates why Male Impersonators, in my grubby hands, was such a dangerous book. Because it taught me that to actually be interested in men, in how culture has produced them, and how they resist or embrace or transform their ‘masculinity’, to actually want to hear men speak with their own voices, is to ‘offend’ feminism. To threaten it so much that it has to assert its own reason for existing, in an article that is ostensibly about men and books about masculinity. These lines from the review are chilling to me:

I wonder about the man who read this book before me. I wonder what he got out of being told, “Men’s lives are as much governed by restrictive role expectations as are the lives of women.” I wonder what he then did with that information.

The author seems to be saying that men can’t be trusted to read!

In feminism the notion of consciousness raising has been prominent for decades. Based on a Marxist model of ‘false consciousness’, feminists since the 70s (probably earlier) have been encouraging women to get together and to read feminist tracts, to open their eyes and to free them from the grip of patriarchy’s lies.

But men are not supposed to raise their consciousness. Unless it involves swallowing hook line and sinker the ‘consciousness’ of feminist women. They are supposed to shut up and listen.

[redacted] ‘raised my consciousness’ to the point that I abandoned feminism altogether.So I am not surprised that a feminist reviewer reading my take on Simpson’s work, nearly missed her date with the opera to huff and puff about my audacious cheek.

And look what I have done with [redacted]! Well, my dear feminist/gayist middle class liberal establishment, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Someone on twitter this week was talking about how she tried to explain to her Dad the ‘homoerotic subtexts’ in the 1980s Hollywood film, The Lost Boys. But he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see it, and thought it was just a movie about vampires.

 

But can the Dads of this world deal with the homoerotics of things they have relied on as being ‘manly’, ‘macho’, ‘safe’? Things like body building, hardcore violent war movies, and Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Even the young, gay, ‘masculinity expert’ Mark Mccormack finds the idea that Arnie might be homoerotic hard to er, swallow. He says:

‘Born in the 1980s, I grew up during a period where the most macho masculinities were esteemed. From Rambo to Rocky, Die Hard to Lethal Weapon, men were portrayed as all-action heroes whom neither bullets nor armies could vanquish. Professional wrestlers appeared almost understated in their gendered performances compared to the display of masculine bravado found in movies and revered in the wider culture.’

 

[redacted]

 

‘If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.’  -  Oscar Wilde

http://www.towleroad.com/2012/02/a-marine-comes-home.html

This photo has gone viral recently. It was first posted on a ‘Gay Marines’ FB page and has since been sent round the internet, with the tagline ‘Gay Marine Comes Home’.

You know me. I am an out and proud ‘homophile’. I am bordering on being a homo myself.  My blog archives are full of pictures of men in clinches, from the sacred to the profane. But when I saw this image I was caught short. I will admit it to you, Roland. I felt a bit queasy. And I think you will understand why.

The photograph is a graphic illustration of the end of DADT, the edict that kept gay, lesbian AND BISEXUAL army personnel from being open about their sexuality. In some ways, the military was, until very recently, the last bastion of ‘pre-gay’ times. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been the unspoken motto of men who have sex with men for eons. And now it is over.

But it is not just the repression of homosexuality that is over here. I fear some other things may be on their way out too. What about all those soldiers ‘acting gay’ on video? Will they be doing that so much, when their gay colleagues are on site? Or, a story you know intimately, those plucky GIS who went gay for pay a few years back. Would that happen when being gay in the army is normalised?

I know that you and your ‘accomplice’ in homo-anthropology Steven Zeeland, have had a range of feelings about the ‘coming home’ of gayness in the military. In Male Impersonators and Barrack Buddies, you both seemed to be opposed to DADT, even though you were nostalgic for a time when homosexuality was even more hidden than it was in the army in the 1990s. You of all people are aware of the complexities and contradictions here. And you, of all people, would be unlikely to begrudge a passionate embrace between a marine and his lover, especially if it is caught on camera.

But something is well and truly lost isn’t it?

Perhaps our only consolation is that in coming home, the gay identity is also quickening its own demise. You have predicted we are nearing the end of gay. Judging by the defensive reactions mainly gay men give to me when I even dare to critique their precious identity position, I am inclined to think you are right.

A Gay Marine Comes Home. We know it’s over, Roland.

It’s over.

P.s. I am going to be honest with you, one of the things that made me feel a bit ‘queasy’ was the gender dynamics of the photo. The marine, supposedly one of those macho masculine types, has a garland round his neck and is being lifted off the floor by his big strong civilian boyfriend (who he termes ‘the giant’ on his facebook page). But I am an old-fashioned girl.

I found this funny because Suzanne Moore  is bemoaning how Stewart Lee is not ‘progressive’ in his views on Scottish independence.

But he might as well be describing feminism and their belief in the ‘phallic’ power of patriarchy. Suzanne Moore is the ‘nostalgic’ one. And her old school feminist version of men as walking, predatory ‘penises’ fits Simpson’s description well.

Back in 1994, in his classic book Male Impersonators, Mark Simpson wrote about how ‘right-wing’ men’s movement types denigrate gay men and feminists’ alliances as a machiavellian ‘pact’. He wrote:

‘The men’s movement also began to make the connection between homosexuality and feminism in the cultural war. Its main advocate in Britain, Neil Lyndon, in his comically mis-titled book ‘No More Sex War’, railing against the evil ‘incubus’ of feminism and the lack of ‘paternity rights’, imagined an alliance between the ‘gay movement’ (meaning gay men) and the ‘sisterhood’. [He described it as] a ‘Treaty of Brest -Litovsk’ (the first world war peace treaty between Germany and newborn Soviet Russia that allowed the Germans to devote their attention to the Western Front). ‘

Well, Simpson in 2012 is an ardent anti-feminist. He made his opposition to feminism clear here, when he described misandry as the acceptable prejudice. And here Simpson’s damning critique of feminist columnists has impacted on me so well that I have used it on a number of occasions: to criticise Suzanne Moore’s ‘columns’!

I actually agree with Neil Lyndon. I think gay men and feminists DO form a ridiculous ‘pact’ against their so-called common-oppressor, the big bad wolf of heterosexual men’s ‘patriarchy’. And Mark Simspon, by emphasising his common ground with an arch feminist Suzanne Moore, is just reinforcing that alliance.

But it is dishonest. If those two were to actually speak openly about their views, not on Scottish independence but on gender, the subject they have dedicated their respective careers to, they would be on separate ‘sides’.

I know which side I am on.

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!

I love the new metrosexy Superman costume, designed for the forthcoming film. I grew up with Superman films and it is interesting to see how the ‘look’ of our favourite superhero has developed over the years.

There is a good analysis of the costume here:

http://www.buzzfocus.com/2011/09/01/henry-cavill-superman-man-of-steel-costume-52-redesign-comparison/

In his book Male Impersonators Mark Simpson talks about Superheros in comparison to bodybuilders, saying that the super heroes wear their muscle ‘suits’ on the outside of their bodies. It’s an interesting idea that bends your head a bit if you think about it too much!

Oh, Superman:

 

On superhero beefcakes: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/01/19/superhero-beefcake-sexy-comics/ /via @ThermobaricTom

h/t @jenjenrobot

‘Interest in men is permitted, indeed encouraged, but must always be expressed through the game’.  (Simpson, 1994:72)

The Guardian has reported  the outpouring of love for the lovely Thierry Henri, on his triumphant return to Arsenal. Fans have described their ardour as ‘going gay for Henri’.

The author, Paul Flynn, writes:

‘Maybe I was taking it too literally but the forcefulness of the collective thinking, that no greater compliment could be bestowed on a man than “going gay” for him, felt brand new. I’m not sure how as a gay man you are supposed to react to this outpouring of straight male affection but you would have to look very hard to be offended by it. Personally I found it all simmering with an appealing new texture for the culture around soccer.

The relationship between gay men and football has been a long-standing stumbling block in Britain’s stealthy movement towards liberalisation. When Elton John took over as shareholder of his beloved Watford FC in the 80s he would routinely be comically abused from the terraces, name-calling he took in open, manful good humour. Graeme Le Saux, Freddie Ljungberg and numerous other Premier League stars have since been dealt weekly catcalls speculating on their sexuality. Justin Fashanu‘s heartbreaking early-90s coming out and subsequent suicide has cast a long shadow across the national game.

Yet perhaps there is a change afoot, led by the fans and one that the establishment would be wise to acknowledge. When I interviewed David Beckham for the cover story of the gay magazine Attitude in 2001, at the peak of his Man Utd tenure, he conceded that sooner or later the fractious relationship between the football establishment and homosexuality would have to be broken down. It was just a matter of time. His astute PR move of posing for the cover was a start, at least. He later appeared at the London nightclub G.A.Y, maximising his obvious gay appeal, and was greeted by 2,000 screaming gay fans who had composed their own football-ish chant by way of greeting: “Ditch the bitch, ditch the bitch, ditch the bitch and make the switch!” Straight men no longer had the monopoly on the brutal wit of stadium sloganeering.’

I think Flynn makes some good points. As Mark Simpson has told us a few times now, David Beckham’s courtship of his gay fans has had some impact on the ‘beautiful game’ and its tradition of homophobia and homoanxiety.

However there are different ways of looking at this situation. The author of this article seems to agree with academic Eric Anderson , who writes about ‘declining homophobia’ in arenas such as sports in the context of ‘softening masculinity’. According to Anderson we live in a more tolerant world now, so men do not feel so uptight about saying they are ‘gay for Thierry Henri’.

Mark Simpson sees it another way. In his book, Male Impersonators (1994) he wrote a brilliant chapter called The Anus And Its Goalposts. Basically, Simpson tells us, the homosexual conflicts inherent in football, from the ‘insertion’ of the ball into the net in goals, to male fans hugging each other on the terraces, to violence on and off the pitch, all mean that football itself is well gay.

‘Jones/Gascgoine’s ‘embrace’ ‘expresses, through the grotesque parody of the greatest tenderness between men, the greatest hate. Jones’ face, a portrait of malice, faces away from Gascgoine, but his hand conveys its message, anonymous-and-yet-personal: the very essence of masculine violence. Here there is no fraternity, no equality, this is a triumphal depiction of domination. Vinny Jones, foootball’s ‘Hard Man’, the crew-cut castrator, holds cry-baby Gascgoine’s soft manhood in his hod carrier’s hand. In this tableau from a male morality play, there can be no mistaking the import: in hetero-speak Jones is the ‘fucker’, Gascgoine the ‘fucked’. (Simpson 1994:70).

I of course, agree with Simpson. I think if fans are going gay for Henri, they are only catching up with the game itself and admitting to a small degree, its latent gayness.

I also agree with Simpson that rather than ‘tolerance’ of gay people being a key factor in the ‘gay for Henri’ phenomenon, the main character in this drama is metrosexuality. It is not just gay fans who have ogled Beckham in his undercrackers. And, as Simpson has said, the reason men are more accepting of homosexuality, is because they themselves display homosexual traits such as narcissism more and more these days.

Are you gay for Thierry? I certainly am. But I am not quite as gay as football. And I am not quite as metrosexual as its players and fans.

h/t @How_Upsetting