The Queerness of masculinity in the Age of Sean Cody

This blog gathers a series of articles on visual and narrative representations of masculinity. I will be building up a series of insights on manifestations of the idea of masculinity, starting with XIX century pictorial images and characterizations in fiction, and moving on to XX century narrative cinema, autobiography, art, photography, television, music, stardom, politics, fiction and fantasies.

We can accept masculinity just “as is”. Yet, from the moment one looks into it, right when one adopts any kind of critical discourse, masculinity becomes a queer thing indeed. This is emphatically not an iteration of the old seventies adage about all men, indeed everybody, being “bisexual”. It’s more about how any kind of notion or cultural ideal (and masculinity is certainly among the most cherished cultural ideals) is subject to questioning, critique, tensions until it becomes less and less clear. And more and more fascinating.

My approach in these texts is primarily historical rather than theoretical. I am trying to build a tapestry of images around specific issues. A series of posts will deal with queer boyhoods. I am currently working on a volume on queer boyhoods in hispanic autobiographical reading, and the blog will also encompass examples from fictions and indeed from other literatures. I will try to place my readings of Moix, Blanco Amor, Eduardo Mendicutti, Luisgé Martín, Puig or Arenas alongside autobiographical writings by Edmund White, Christopher Isherwood, Paul Monette, Michel Leiris o Édouard Louis. My objective is to describe boyhood as a particular cultural fantasy and to look into the ways in which such fantasies engage with actual lived experience. Three authors in particular have provided a set of questions and concepts I will be building on: Jack Halberstam in The Queer Art of Failure, Kathryn Bond Stockton in The Queer Child and the work of James Kincaid on childhood in the Victorial period.

The second strand will deal with the closet as a historical experience. The closet is a price people pay. In some places and in some period, the price was high, in others it is not felt to be. Sometimes individuals will decide that the advantages of the closet exceed the inconveniences it can cause, so the price one pays is certainly worth it. This approach engages with the widespread idea that individuals (actors, for instance, or politicians) pays a price to be out of the closet, and I try to look at it from the other side. In most societies, in the past but even in the present, to embrace queerness means you enter a certain economy in which negotiation and, yes, payment, can work both ways. Although it’s been years of readings and experiences, I still feel Sedgwick’s work in Epistemology of the Closet continues to inspire my writing. Clearly the examples above from autobiography will help put the closet in the context of personal experience.

Finally, in a series of posts I will deal with male nudity as a cultural issue. Again I will be studying instances from the XIX century onwards. My starting point here has to do with certain insights on a change in the perception of ,and the fantasies associated to, male flesh in recent times. It all came together when a female friend mentiones how shocked she was that all men dating nowadays seem to have a picture of their penises at hand. A wave of youthful stars, from Zac Efron to Justin Bieber, who are eager to show us parts of their bodies convinced me we have crossed some threshold in that sense. I will be trying to trace back this new approach to male nudity and to find examples of other manifestations in the past and how they were subject to different kinds of pressures and fantasies. A distinct series of posts will feature the figure of the hustler as a particular cultural fantasy centered around the male body that resonates today and I will also be working on how the male body is represented in porn, from the Athletic Model Guild to Sean Cody. Through the years I have read extensively on representations of the male body, and the ideas of this strand will be influenced by the work of Richard Dyer, Yvonne Tasker, Tom Waugh, Kenneth Dutton, Steve Neale, Sudan Bordo or Peter Lehman, among many others, as well as the writings of people such as John Rechy, and Jean Genet.