Assume the Position!

8.10.2006

By Out.com Editors

Alas, many gays see hazing as essentially homophobic and appear to buy into the simplistic feminist analysis of power and domination. In an online article Cyd Zeigler Jr. of Outsports.com recognizes that hazing is often deeply homoerotic (and lists some of the same scandals I have), but sees it as essentially homophobic: 'Whether it's sodomizing them or making them wear women's panties, the notion of forcing younger players to submit to team veterans comes right out of the handbook of antigay stereotypes.' Clinching the matter, homoerotic hazing apparently 'emasculates the victim.'
Leaving aside that the out-and-proud gay world isn't exactly free of power, domination, and humiliation, or for that matter antigay stereotypes, this doesn't always hold true. While I have some sympathy with this approach, in its attachment to victimhood it seems to be rather more rigidly homophobic than hazing is. The curious paradox of hazing is that while it may well regard 'fagginess' and 'softness' as undesirable, it actually makes the homoerotic central to membership of the group. Besides, rather than emasculating the new members of group, the veterans wish to masculinize them, and they use homoerotics to that end. Hazing itself is not an act of hostility but of affection: tough love. While hazing can be homoerotic and homophobic, this is not'and it's difficult for us self-centered homos to realize this'its point.
The famous Sambia tribe of New Guinea (famous because anthropologists won't leave them alone) don't simulate homosexuality in their own hazing rituals: they practice it. Adolescent boys are taken from their mothers by the older youths and required to repeatedly give oral sex to them'they are told that the semen will masculinize them. In today's universities, of course, the semen is replaced by warm Budweiser and protein shakes. From a Sambian point of view, the dominance of the antihazing lobby today would probably represent an insufferable victory of the protected domestic world of Mom, who deep down doesn't want her cherished baby boy to ever be exposed to anything extreme or distasteful or dangerous or'male. But then, it sometimes seems that our contemporary culture has less and less use for, or appreciation of, masculinity that isn't merely decorative or good at DIY. Paradoxically, as the toleration and visibility of newfangled gays and gayness in our culture has risen, intolerance of oldfangled homoerotic masculine rituals has also increased. Very often, society's preoccupation with hazing is, like mine, a preoccupation with its 'gayness.' But in reverse.
When a private video of drunken off-duty U.K. Royal Marines running around naked together in some godforsaken place was sold to the tabloids in 2005, it caused an outcry. Officially, it was because one of the marines was shown being kicked in the head by a drunken officer, and this was evidence of bullying. But as the repeated printing of the naked pictures showed, it was mostly about the fact that they were fit young marines, naked together, being gay. The (extremely hot) victim, 23-year-old Ray Simmons, came forward to say he didn't hold the officer (who was now the subject of a military police investigation) responsible, and it was just a bit of fun that got out of hand. However, the host of reader letters that the stories prompted showed the real preoccupation was not the bullying but the gayness. A typically hissy moralistic example from one male reader: 'I am utterly disgusted by the behavior of our so-called Marines'. This kind of thing would be better suited to a gay 18'30 holiday on a remote island somewhere. Our enemies across the globe must be laughing at us.'
So society apparently still expects marines to go and kill and be killed anywhere in the world at the drop of a daisy-cutter to defend our enervated suburban'and voyeuristic'lifestyle but ridicules and condemns them for doing what men have to do and have always done to bond and let off steam. Fortunately, the marines aren't taking any notice: 'People think a load of men getting naked together is a bit gay,' said Simmons, 'but we don't care what others think. It's just marine humor.'
Well said. Don't let the square civvies'or the envious homos like me'try to shame you into being as joyless, lonely, and bereft of real camaraderie and human contact as the rest of us. It's a sign of our isolated times that most people today could never say the words 'we don't care what people think' because (a) they don't belong to a group, or in fact to anything except a supermarket loyalty scheme; and (b) they care about what people will think rather more than they do about their buddies. The homoerotics of hazing are not, in fact, necessarily homophobic or gay. They're just guy. And I don't know about you, but I'm all in favor of guys.

Mark Simpson is the author of Male Impersonators, It's a Queer World,
and most recently
Saint Morrissey. Check out his blog at www.marksimpson.com/blog.

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