Friday, 27 February 2009

Guest Paper: Queer Language, Homo-Masculinity and Gay Sexual Cinema

Professor William Leap from American University will be giving this paper on 3rd March 2009 as part of our on-going ICAn seminar series.

This paper brings recent concerns in queer linguistic inquiry into the communicative terrain of gay sexual cinema (GSC) – that is, films/videos depicting “men having sex with men”. These products have been dismissed as moments of erotic jouissance, yet a substantial body of literature shows that their imaging of “gay life” has substantial material and social consequences.

I examine here (and in current research) a specific genre of GSC and the type of gay identity that is repeatedly represented by films in that genre. At issue here is an image of gay masculinity that is framed within non-metropolitan and non-minoritarian settings, and within a world populated almost entirely by men, Whatever their sexual orientation, these men are always ready for man-sex and they do so on any occasion. These men refer to each other by given names, complemented by nicknames and affinity labels. Even when participating in “anonymous sex, this is a world where all men act like “best buddies.” Moreover, men are not exclusively “tops” or “bottoms”: every man “flips” to accommodate his partner(s)’ needs. This image of gay masculinity differs from that presented in other genres of GSC Primarily, (1) this image proclaims a sense of gay identity defined in terms of masculine practices and other key values of the American heartland, not the urban terrain; and (2) this image confirms that the exaggerated masculinity that is being defined through a gay idiom in these instances is at the same time a white construction. Indeed, infrequent occasions when men of colour are included in the story line, gayness requires of them an especially explicit performance of whiteness.

In part, these arguments reflect my close reading of the storyline, inventory of characters, directorial style, and the marketing given to this genre. But I am also guided by my close reading of the comments that viewers have posted to gay video club’s websites. These comments repeatedly acknowledge close connections between references to gayness, whiteness and uber-masculinity; and their references extend outside of the erotic context, to engage broader assumptions of the neoliberal social agenda that is broadly redefining gender and sexuality in the contemporary social moment

Time: 4.00-6.00pm. Place: GEE219, Clifton Campus, NTU. Everyone welcome.

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