Posts Tagged ‘identity’

This video was made in response to a great article at Cyborgology blog, about the collision between our online and offline selves.

The author, DA Banks, was himself responding to a rather snooty piece in the New York Times by Sherry Turkle (great name), harking back to a time before our lives were taken over by technology and ‘virtual reality’.

As you can see in the comments I agree with DA Banks. I actually found his piece very moving, as it really resonated with my recent experience of having been ‘outed’. My online identity was ‘unmasked’ by some people who don’t like me, to reveal my ‘true’ real-life name and identity. But which one is more real? And are they even two separate entities?

These are questions I have been asking myself in the last two months since my outing. I don’t have all the answers. Or even any. But I like the questions.

@DA_Banks and friends can be found on twitter.

@jsantley made the downfall spoof video

And Cyborgology is run by @nathanjurgenson and @pjrey.

I am a theory nerd, and probably not very cool at all, so this may not mean much, but I think these folk are some of the coolest people on the internet at the moment!

I’m sure they are great in RL too, whatever that is.

Theorising The Web 2012 is a conference run by young academics PJ Rey and Nathan Jurgenson in America, about internet technologies. They say:

‘The second annual Theorizing the Web conference aims to expand the range and depth of theory used to help us make sense of how the Internet, digitality, and technology have changed the ways humans live. We will bring together researchers from a range of disciplines, including sociology, communications, anthropology, philosophy, economics, English, history, political science, information science, the arts and many more.’

On April 14th 2012 I was able to participate in the conference from thousands of miles away via its website, which included live streams of seminars and lectures. On twitter, the #ttw12 hashtag meant people could tweet contributions in the discussions that were seen by people at the conference. At one point PJ Rey (@Pjrey ) tweeted that even in the conference rooms themselves, delegates were tweeting questions to the speakers rather than raising their hands!

Rey and Jurgenson (@Nathanjurgenson) also write for cyborgology, a brilliant website that theorises the web all year round. In this wired up 21st century world, it really is worth wondering what has become of ‘humans’ as we understand them to be. Identity, communication, ideas, have all transformed in recent years, and Cyborgology and #ttw are keeping track of how things are changing.

The keynote speaker was Andy Carvin (@acarvin ) who I’d not heard of before. He is a strategist and a journalist, who does a lot of work in bringing voices and people together, across the globe, particularly in social change movements. After the conference was over I looked at his twitter stream and it was immediately full of tweets and retweets marked #Egypt , #Suez, #Israel.

Here are some tweets from the conference to give a flavour of proceedings

Whether we love or hate the contemporary age, it is vital we ‘theorise’ it in my view. And here, some imaginative people are doing just that. I wish all conferences could be so accessible and so interactive.

View of the conference from the UK #ttw12 courtesy of @theJaymo

The last week or so has not been brilliant for QRG Towers. There is a chance you may have read some pretty nasty things about me online. At one point I considered the possibility that I might have to shut up shop altogether. So I am very relieved and delighted to announce that…


As I said in the Krank post above (@Krank_IE On twitter):

‘Life is for learning’ sang Joni Mitchell, back in the depths of the 20th century. And the internet age has been one big learning curve for me. This week I have learned a hell of a lot. Some of the insights I’ve gained I think have a wider relevance. The simplest one is this: never be afraid to say what you think!’

Here is some evidence of my continued existence in the form of recent online articles of mine:

Rape Culture and Other Feminist Myths (re-posted at Arts and Opinion):

A Partial Defence of Narcissism (at The Good Men Project):

The anthology I edit, Games Perverts Play, has a new books section. The PDF of the latest edition: DIRT is available there to download (FREE!):


Onwards and sideways, as Mae West may or may not have said!

Back in 2008 Mark Simpson asked a simple question: How gay is MMA?  And the simple answer was: VERY! His steamy description of a live fight he attended sounded (deliberately of course) like a review of the latest homo porno:

‘Mac Danzig is still on his back; his sweaty, pumped, almost translu­cently white torso is flushed with the auburn heat that auburn skin pro­duces when it is aroused. His pant­ing, fetch­ing head has been pushed up against the cage by red­head Marc Bocek’s ener­getic pound­ing, as if the cage were in fact a head­board. Bocek isn’t mak­ing love, how­ever, or at least not the vanilla kind. He’s ham­mer­ing the liv­ing day­lights out of Danzig, stok­ing the crowd into ever-higher waves of frenzy. Although the Octa­gon is right in front of me, I’m watch­ing all of this on one of the giant screens over­head: MMA is mostly a hor­i­zon­tal sport — one that requires mul­ti­ple zoom lenses and a big TV to enjoy properly.’

But it is in 2012 that the ‘gayness’ of MMA has really come home to roost. One of the finalists in the competition to become a contestant in The Ultimate Fighter, a reality TV show featuring MMA fighters, has admitted to once starring in gay porn.

Whilst this information could affect his chances of getting on the show, the general reaction is not as shocked or disapproving as you might expect.  In fact he seems to be winning over hearts and minds with his ‘honest’ confessional of his ‘sleazy’ past. The fact he has two kids and is about to marry his long-term girlfriend (who encouraged him to ditch the porn career) probably helps keep his reputation as a good old american boy almost intact.

This is a very different story from one Mark Simpson told us in 2006. He conducted an exclusive ‘investigation’ into a US army scandal involving young soldiers being disciplined for appearing in gay porn movies. Simpson presented them as sexual outlaws, but commented that their activities were not uncommon, either amongst army personnel or amongst ‘straight’ men in general.

Fast-forward to 2012, when the Metrosexy youtube is in full flow. And we watch our favourite, heterosexual, ‘masculine’ heroes such as David Beckham in hardcore Sporno all the time without batting an eye. This latest porn revelation, rather than seeming like a terrible blow for red-blooded, uber-‘straight’ MMA, actually just goes some way towards ‘outing’ it as  what it is: gay for pay sporno. And that seems normal.                                                                                                                                                                    
I think gay blogs such as Queerty who have reported this story in their usual giggling OOh Matron tone, are behind the Metrosexy times. Everyone knows that fit young men love nothing more than to display their bodies on film. And the line between porn, sport and personal showing off has been well and truly blurred. Not to mention the line between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’.

h/t @Parclyfe

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.

Law and Sexuality Blog has an interesting article about a M/m porn company, TIM which has been marketing its wares with images of young boys.

You can read the whole article here.

In it Chris, an academic, writes:

‘there is the less radical, but perhaps no less controversial idea that children can be sexual beings.  This is the revelation that social media already offers to anyone willing to see it, and raising difficult social and legal questions about consent and contemporary domesticity.’

I agree. But I think as an expert in law and sexuality, who writes and blogs in part for an academic audience, he might have acknowledged where the ‘controversial idea that children can be sexual beings’ comes from: Freud.

Here is an extract from Freud’s ‘Autobiographical Study’ on the subject:

‘I have already mentioned that my investigation of the precipitating and underlying causes of the neuroses led me more and more frequently to conflicts between the subject’s sexual impulses and his resistances to sexuality. In my search for the pathogenic situations in which the repressions of sexuality had set in and which the symptoms, as substitutes for what was repressed, had had their origin, I was carried further and further back into the patient’s life and ended by reaching the first years of his childhood. What poets and students of human nature had always asserted turned out to be true: the impressions of that early period of life, though they were for the most part buried in amnesia, left eradicable traces on the individual’s growth and in particular laid down the disposition to any nervous disorder that was to follow. But since these experiences of childhood were always concerned with sexual excitations and the reactions against them, I found myself faced by the fact of infantile sexuality – once again a novelty and a contradiction of one of the strongest human prejudices. Childhood was looked upon as ‘innocent’ and free from the lusts of sex, and the fight with the demon of ‘sensuality’ was not thought to begin until the troubled age of puberty. Such occasional sexual activities as it had been impossible to overlook in children were put down as signs of degeneracy or premature depravity or as a curious freak of nature. Few of the findings of psychoanalysis have met with such universal contradiction or have aroused such an outburst of indignation as the assertion that the sexual function starts at the beginning of life and reveals its presence by important signs even in childhood. And yet no other finding of analysis can be demonstrated so easily and so completely.’


28 years old, female, 59, 263 lbs.
I will explain in my next post why I feel the need to come to the defence of Lindy West. It involves debates around gay marriage, and the comments and attitudes of my favourite ‘bete noir’ and gayist activist, Dan Savage, of  Dan Savage Is Annoying fame. But for now,  I will simply repost Lindy’s latest article from The Stranger, where she works as a journalist, alongside Dan, and significantly, as will become clear, in a less senior position than Mr Savage. This is her article. It is good.
Hello. I am fat.
This is my body (over there—see it?). I have lived in this body my whole life. I have wanted to change this body my whole life. I have never wanted anything as much as I have wanted a new body. I am aware every day that other people find my body disgusting. I always thought that some day—when I finally stop failing—I will become smaller, and when I become smaller literally everything will get better (I’ve heard It Gets Better)! My life can begin! I will get the clothes that I want, the job that I want, the love that I want. It will be great! Think how great it will be to buy some pants or whatever at J. Crew. Oh, man. Pants. Instead, my body stays the same.

There is not a fat person on earth who hasn’t lived this way. Clearly this is a TERRIBLE WAY TO EXIST. Also, strangely enough, it did not cause me to become thin. So I do not believe any of it anymore, because fuck it very much.

This is my body. It is MINE. I am not ashamed of it in any way. In fact, I love everything about it. Men find it attractive. Clothes look awesome on it. My brain rides around in it all day and comes up with funny jokes. Also, I don’t have to justify its awesomeness/attractiveness/healthiness/usefulness to anyone, because it is MINE. Not yours.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time blogging about fat acceptance here (but please read this), because other writers have already done it much more eloquently, thoroughly, and radically than I ever could. But I do feel obligated to try to explain what this all means.

You asked me for links, Dan, so here are some links for you. There are plenty more, but if you want me to go through each one and explain to you how these words and implications hurt and shame people, you’re going to have to pay me overtime (in Doritos!!!!!). I get that you think you’re actually helping people and society by contributing to the fucking Alp of shame that crushes every fat person every day of their lives—the same shame that makes it a radical act for me to post a picture of my body and tell you how much it weighs. But you’re not helping. Shame doesn’t work. Diets don’t work. Shame is a tool of oppression, not change.

Fat people already are ashamed. It’s taken care of. No further manpower needed on the shame front, thx. I am not concerned with whether or not fat people can change their bodies through self-discipline and “choices.” Pretty much all of them have tried already. A couple of them have succeeded. Whatever. My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat forever? What do you do with them then? Do you really want millions of teenage girls to feel like they’re trapped in unsightly lard prisons that are ruining their lives, and on top of that it’s because of their own moral failure, and on top of that they are ruining America with the terribly expensive diabetes that they don’t even have yet? You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy.

And if you really claim to still be confused—”Nu uh! I never said anything u guyz srsly!”—there can be no misunderstanding shit like this:

I am thoroughly annoyed at having my tame statements of fact—being heavy is a health risk; rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly—characterized as “hate speech.”


1. “Rolls of exposed flesh are unsightly” is in no way a “tame statement of fact.” It is not a fact at all—it is an incredibly cruel, subjective opinion that reinforces destructive, paternalistic, oppressive beauty ideals. I am not unsightly. No one deserves to be told that they’re unsightly. But this is what’s behind this entire thing—it’s not about “health,” it’s about “eeeewwwww.” You think fat people are icky. Eeeewww, a fat person might touch you on a plane. With their fat! Eeeeewww! Coincidentally, that’s the same feeling that drives anti-gay bigots, no matter what excuses they drum up about “family values” and, yes, “health.” It’s all “eeeewwwww.” And sorry, I reject your eeeeeewwww.

2. You are not concerned about my health. Because if you were concerned about my health, you would also be concerned about my mental health, which has spent the past 28 years being slowly eroded by statements like the above. Also, you don’t know anything about my health. You do happen to be the boss of me, but you are not the doctor of me. You have no idea what I eat, how much I exercise, what my blood pressure is, or whether or not I’m going to get diabetes. Not that any of that matters, because it is entirely none of your business.

3. “But but but my insurance premiums!!!” Bullshit. You live in a society with other people. I don’t have kids, but I pay taxes that fund schools. The idea that we can somehow escape affecting each other is deeply conservative. Barbarous, even. Is that really what you’re going for? Good old-fashioned American individualism? Please.

4. But most importantly: I reject this entire framework. I don’t give a shit what causes anyone’s fatness. It’s irrelevant and it’s none of my business. I am not making excuses, because I have nothing to excuse. I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this. I don’t want to have another fucking conversation with another fucking woman about what she’s eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.

If you really want change to happen, if you really want to “help” fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful. Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this shit and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight. Immediately. WELL LA DEE FUCKING DA.

Lindy West


These are some of the words that feature in the background of the ‘Une’ cosmetics website.

What this company is selling is more than a make-up range, made with ‘natural’ products that is kind to the environment. This company is selling a version of the self. THE version of the self that dominates our culture, the version of the self that is vital to keep the post-modern world spinning.

This of course is the neo-liberal individual: autonomous, self-actualising, Self-sufficient, self-regarding, narcissistic.

Whilst much has been written on this development in modern capitalism of the importance of the individual, economically and socially, the narcissistic nature of that individual has not been addressed so carefully. Why does this self-actualising individual also have to be so…vain?

Why is it via cosmetics adverts, fashion spreads and sportswear lines that the contemporary self is being sold?

Mark Simpson has attempted to answer this question. His ‘metrosexual’ model of masculinity(and femininity) is all about the narcissistic individual.

‘Narcissism is outside of tradition’ writes Simpson, ‘It’s literally self-referential. So narcissism is both a product of and a helpmeet to rapid change – producing ‘individuals’ in identical loft apartments. Heterosexuality, as a system of sexual division of labour and loving rather than cross sex attraction, is a strongly conservative force. In fact, it literally makes a fetish of its conservatism. Corporate capitalism doesn’t like tradition because tradition doesn’t like change. Whereas all us individuals in loft apartments require lots of gadgets and accessories and gym membership.

Narcissism, the original eroticism, is both pre and post sexuality. Pre because autoeroticism and one-ness with the mother are, in Freudian terms, the origins of sexuality. Post because narcissism is in a sense undifferentiated – it’s not about The Other. Or sexual difference. As I said elsewhere, metrosexuality isn’t about flip flops or facials, or men becoming ‘girly’ or ‘gay’, but about men becoming everything. To themselves’.

But as can be seen in the advertisements for cosmetics such as this, and in the gyms and the shopping malls, in the characters on our TV screens and in our own mirrors, the most chilling characteristic of these narcissistic, ‘unique’ individuals, is that they are all so utterly similar. (look at the neutral tones of the  products showcased on this advert-the blankness of the model’s expression-making the ‘look’ easy to emulate)

The fact is that contemporary consumer capitalism has appropriated and dissolved-maybe even destroyed-the one thing that radicals have tried to use to resist its alluring powers: difference. And when it comes to sexuality this is a problem.All those gays, all those ‘transgender’ people, all those queers, dykes, butches, homos, who as sert their right to be ‘different’ to the norm, could actually just be buying into that consumer capitalist model of the unique, narcissistic, homogenous individual.

Michel Foucault was ahead of his time, aware of this self-absorption of the contemporary sexual ‘dissident’ always concerned with his or her identity:

‘If identity becomes the problem of sexual existence, and if people think they have to ‘uncover’ their ‘own identity’ and that their own identity has to become the law, the principle, the code of their existence; if the perennial question they ask is ‘Does this thing conform to my identity?’ then, I think, they will turn back to a kind of ethics very close to the old heterosexual virility. If we are asked to relate to the question of identity, it has to be an identity to our unique selves. But the relationships we have to have with ourselves are not ones of identity, rather they must be relationships of differentiation, of creation, of innovation. To be the same is really boring.’

So if we really want to change the world what is there left for us to do? Maybe we have to start focussing on what we have in common as human beings, rather than how uniquely individual we all are. Maybe we have to stop asking ‘who am I?’ but rather other questions like ‘what needs to be done?’ ‘why is the world how it is?’ ‘How can I contribute?’  ‘What can I say? What can I make? Maybe we have to resist the calls from self-help books, adverts and our own, over-developed psyches to always look inwards, and start looking outwards.  Sounds quaint doesn’t it? But I think it is our only hope.

I just found out about  Fuck Yeah Menswear

via an article in Slate

I don’t think this makes me ‘on point’, but it means I have at least some tiny comprehension of who, or what is.

Go look. It is hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

My conclusion is: women’s fashion has died, along with Carrie Bradshaw and The Sex in The City Franchise.

And when I say died, of course I mean ‘has been murdered’. And we all know who the killer is don’t we?

Yes, he is better looking than us, better dressed, and more knowledgeable about clothes, style, language, music, showbiz, everything really. We may as well all just go round in sack cloths and ashes. Or kill ourselves. Whichever is less shameful.

Here is the kind of thing the modern metro man might be talking about, if he would ever stoop to talk to us:

‘Late last night I had a vision.

A world with no blogs.

No Tumblr.

No Twitter.

Not even fucking elbow patches.

It was horrible.

In a world without swag how does one stunt?

How does one stunt in a world without swag?

A cycle perpetuated by clearance racks at Kohl’s.

The finest men of my generation.

Those known for the crispyest kits.

Those known for the sickest fits.

Those known for tweeting the most ridonkulous sample sales.

Those known for taking pictures of themselves in public restrooms.

Those known for reblogging the steeziest street skeezers.

My heroes.

My brethren.

My bros.

Were suddenly different.

An entire generation lost in space.

And time…’

You see what I mean? All that and he even knows Ginsberg.

Where is my .38 I am out of here. has linked to this post. I don’t know whether to be flattered, or scared…

“The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. ”
Michel Foucault
‘Gay people are not sexually interested in straights…The subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to “convert” straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the U.S. Army calls it Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’
   –  OK Cupid
I am too tired and hacked off to explain properly. But the whole thing the shadow that is hanging over this ‘It gets better’ , ‘growth in gay suicides’ , ‘gay teens need help’, ‘gays are persecuted by society’…. the word that describes what is going on is:                                                                                                                                                                                                                
And when you pathologise you make it likely that the people you are pathologising are the ones who are going to suffer in social and mental health terms. I had a friend who was a very unhappy teenager. He held on and ‘toughed it out’ till he was 25, when he finally killed himself. He wasn’t ‘gay’. He had another label stuck on him like an unwanted Star of David: ‘schizophrenic‘. And once he had that label I don’t think he had much chance of finding a way to be ‘well’. You can’t be ‘cured’ of schizophrenia just as you can’t be ‘cured’ of being ‘gay’. 
But you can reject the terminology. Not just you. Not just the individual who is labelled. We. We can reject how people are pathologised in society by labelling them according to certain characteristics and behaviours that they display at any given time.
My friend wasn’t a schizophrenic to me. He was my friend, a freckled faced wild-eyed boy, an adventurer, a fantasist, a painter, a poet, a dickhead, a lover of Bob Dylan, a joker, a worrier, a tightrope walker, a drinker of  cheap cider, and briefly, tortuously a man.
Nobody is ‘gay’ to me. Nobody is ‘straight’. Nobody is ‘schizophrenic’.  It’s ok. We will still exist without those titles. I do. Or, as Gore Vidal put it more poetically, via the voice of myra Breckinridge:
…I am right, for it is demonstrably true that desire can take as many shapes as there are containers. Yet what one pours into those containers is always the same inchoate human passion, entirely lacking in definition until what holds it shapes it. So let us break the world’s pots, and allow the stuff of desire to flow and intermingle in one great viscous sea…’
(Myra’s wisdom found in Mark Simpson’s It’s A Queer World)
Post Script: It Gets Weirder: I think i found myself agreeing with the words of a right-wing Republican and homophobe… Not ALL the words obviously.