Men At Play In Afgrabistan

9.13.2009

By Mark Simpson

"Our Embassy in Afghanistan is Guarded by Sexually Confused Frat Boys" warned the now famous Gawker.com headline above what were labeled "gross" photos of male security contractors. The pixilated employees at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan could be seen letting off steam at a private party by getting roaring drunk and doing what red-blooded men do when they get roaring drunk: eating potato chips out of each other's ass cracks, washed down with a vodka "butt-shot." Scandal and outrage ensued.

Perhaps it's because I'm English, sometimes play rugby, and attended a rugby-playing boarding school, but I didn't find the pictures particularly shocking, or even slightly gross. It looked like a fun party to me -- in a very un-fun part of the world. (Sure, most of them were out of shape, but then, so am I.) America, perhaps because the images reminded it of Abu Ghraib, or perhaps because of latent Puritanism, took a different, thoroughly scandalized view. As a consequence, everyone who appeared in the photos was sacked and alcohol has now been banned from the guards' camp.

But the furor is another reminder that we live in a culture where female bi-curiousness is routinely regarded as natural and almost universal while male bi-curiousness is seen as non-existent -- or else it is just "sexually confused" (i.e. they're really, but laughably repressed), or it is "deviant hazing" conducted by "sexual predators" that needs to be eradicated.

In reality, to anyone who opens their eyes on a Saturday night on either side of the Atlantic, there's scads of evidence that plenty of "normal" young men who aren't particularly "sexually confused" -- especially the most, er, physical types -- have a healthy appetite for highly homoerotic behavior after a keg or two. This, in fact, appears to be the reason beer was invented. In the Middle Ages they thought the cause of sodomy was drunkenness -- they weren't wrong. By contrast, I've hardly ever seen such homoerotic horseplay amongst straight women, even despite the invention of alcopops.

I started studying male homoeroticism early, at an all boys English boarding school where we liked to greet one another with a manly grab of each other's packet. Whenever you bent over to tie a shoelace or pot a tricky ball on the pool table, you'd be crestfallen if someone didn't pretend to bugger you -- often with a rather convincing lump straining against their school trousers. "Let's pretend we're queer to prove we're not. Several times a day." And this is only what went on in public. For the most part this was without even any beer -- but then at that age we were drunk on testosterone.

I blame my schooling for not being able to resist, many years later, being dared by a couple of fit, young, naked U.S. paratroopers to join them in a video I was watching them make while researching a story about the Active Duty military porn studio. And although we went through all the suck-rim-fuck permutations of porn, with these guys it felt more like horseplay than gay sex. Besides, dude, we were quite tanked...

Unfortunately, a couple of years later the U.S. Army launched an investigation into Active Duty, though not because of anything I had written: The piece was spiked by my editor, who was shocked by my crossing the line. Several paratroopers were eventually court-martialed, fined, and dismissed. As with the sacked security contractors in Afghanistan, there was little sympathy for these mostly straight guys caught in a "gay" scandal from the public at large -- even from gays. Yes, they'd broken the military code by appearing in porn, but everyone knew that they were punished because it was gay porn, and Uncle Sam had been embarrassed.

A shell-shocked diner waitress who recognized one of the paratroopers from a juicy still on the Active Duty website demanded to know "How could you do such a thing?"

"It was no big deal," he replied laconically. "And besides, I got paid."

Instead of bringing out our inner waitress, the latest homoerotic hazing scandal should remind us that a lot of otherwise heterosexual men will get naked and personal with one another just for a giggle and to pass the time. And it can be a beautiful thing.

Even with a potato chip up its ass.

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