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Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power

It was difficult to determine the right cover for this special issue. The purpose of the issue was to encourage new ways of thinking about the phallus, and the aim was to find an image that did just this—ask people to wonder what the image is telling us. What does it represent? What is the story? It is perhaps ironic that the image we found most appealing is a device designed to prevent a penis from functioning. In the late nineteenth century, masturbation was believed to cause mental illness, and solo ejaculation was considered a form of sexual dysfunction, and this is one example of many, often brutal, devices created to physically prevent erections and masturbation. Sitting over modern blue jeans, however, the image is erotic and evokes BDSM or kink culture. The old and the new, repression and eroticism, are one and the same.

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Beyond the Body

Guillaume Dustan and the Poetics of Materialization

Michael Valinsky

French writer Guillaume Dustan sparked rampant controversy in the 1990s and early 2000s because of his views on barebacking—practicing unprotected sex—as an irresistible prohibition and a duty to his serostatus. In Oeuvres I, a collection of three novels, all published between 1996 and 1998, Dustan explores his seropositivity through a text engorged with pleasure, sadomasochism, and desire. I contend that, in the encounter with the phallic text, the reader engages in an act of linguistic barebacking, taking in the author’s raw language as it becomes a site for erotic power and reproductive seropositivity. I will consider the seropositive text as a body that resists the latex, that cruises an unidentified reader, and that unapologetically penetrates them with the erotic qualities of its language.

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Masculinity, Sex, and Dicks

New Understandings of the Phallus

Andrea Waling and Jennifer Power

This special issue brings together interdisciplinary work exploring the relationship between bodies, masculinity, and the penis or phallus. The symbolism, significance, and meaning of the phallus or penis has varied historically and across disciplines. In the psychoanalytic tradition, “the subject…can only assume its identity through the adoption of a sexed identity, and the subject can only take up a sexed identity with reference to the phallus, for ‘the phallus is the privileged signifier’” (Segal 2007: 85). Jacques Lacan’s work has inspired feminist critiques of “phallocentrism” in high and popular cultural texts since the 1970s (Segal 2007). Elizabeth Stephens (2007) describes the ancient Greek ideal of small penises as indexing self-control and rationality, while the Romans celebrated virility and power, which they associated with a large penis. Other scholarship has explored the racialization of penis size, such as the stereotype of Black men as possessing large penises, indexing hypersexuality and often depicted in racist terms as representing aggression or lack of civility (Lehman 2006).

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Toward a Politics of “Raw Dicks”

Authenticity, the Alt-Self, and New Understandings of the Phallus

Chris Ashford and Gareth Longstaff

Law arguably shapes contemporary culture and phallic politics. In England and Wales, like much of the Global North, the second half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first century saw a general shift from a criminal legal framework that understood sexuality as sexual acts to a civil law framework that seeks to privilege institutions - notably marriage - and lifestyle as signifiers of sexuality. This article contributes to legal and cultural understandings of the phallus, specifically the “raw dick,” as key to understanding the self-representational spaces of “authentic” and “alt” selves on social media. It situates the “raw dick” as the locus of this cultural, legal, and social exchange in which the legal outlaw of male phallic desire has been incorporated into queer citizenship. We argue that the aesthetics of the alt-self provides us with new and important ways to understand the phallus and its relationship to sex and sexuality.

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Becoming a Man

Trajectories of Young Gay Men in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Wendell Ferrari and Marcos Nascimento

Abstract

This paper seeks to analyze the affective-sexual trajectories of young gay men in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Based on qualitative research with 15 young, urban, low-income gay men aged between 19 and 24, carried out in 2019, this article shows the learning of masculinity and its consequences on the men's sex lives. As a result, we argue that these young men have been brought up for the exaltation of heterosexuality and being a real man since boyhood; that the pedagogies of masculinity produce hierarchies among gay masculinities; and that the connection with other social markers, such as race, social class, religion, sexual preferences related to being active or passive, and gender expressions, upholds the notion of hegemonic masculinity. Regarding those who escape this pattern, these young men reveal several vulnerabilities and multiple violent acts during their trajectories.

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Editor's Introduction

Screening Transgression

Andrew J. Ball

The final issue of Screen Bodies Volume 6 offers readers an ideal combination of the diverse kinds of work we feature, from a macroscopic theory that proposes a new discipline, to a set of articles that rigorously examine a small number of artworks with respect to a shared topic, to a piece of curatorial criticism on a recent media arts exhibition. The articles collected here offer a fitting cross section of the topics and media we cover, discussing such varied subjects as prehistoric art, Pink Film, artificial intelligence, and video art.

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Michael R.M. Ward

I took over as editor of BHS in January 2019. In that time, we have put out three regular issues, which have contained a large variety of work focusing on gender issues concerning boys and young men, and three special issues on more specific topics, such as boyhood and belonging and the work of one of the leading masculinities scholars of the past 30 years, Raewyn Connell. These two recent special issues (13.2 and 14.1) contained work from established and emerging scholars focusing on the twentieth anniversary of Connell's seminal text, The Men and the Boys. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they have been very well received, and articles in this collection are among the most read in the journal's history.

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Embodied Liberation

The Female Reception of Oshima Nagisa's International Co-Productions

Yuta Kaminishi

Abstract

Oshima Nagisa's international co-productions, which include the pornographic film In the Realm of the Senses and the war drama with homoerotic themes Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, were noted as the emergence of his female audience. How did this reported demographic change of the audience from male-centered to female-oriented relate to sexualized bodies on screen? In their roundtable discussion about sexual liberation, feminists found emancipatory power from patriarchal society in the face of the actor who played Abe Sada. Girls praised queerness that disrupted heteronormativity in David Bowie's performance in their film reviews. Focusing on the reception of the films within feminists’ discourse and girls’ culture, this article argues that the female audience created political significance of the films by interpreting the bodies as embodied liberation.

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Phillip Joy

This image, Challenging Masculine Constructs by Oliver, is part of a photovoice project (see the article by Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston, Embracing a New Day: Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice, this issue) that explored the way culture and society shape the beliefs, values, and practices about food and bodies for gay men. Taken by the participant, this image is his way to challenge what he believes are limiting gender ideas for men and how masculine bodies should be dressed and presented to others. He disrupts these social constructs by dressing and presenting his body in ways he believed moved beyond typical masculine notions and by doing so reveals alternative gender expressions and new possibilities of living.

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Embracing a New Day

Exploring the Connections of Culture, Masculinities, Bodies, and Health for Gay Men through Photovoice

Phillip Joy, Matthew Numer, Sara F. L. Kirk, and Megan Aston

Abstract

The construction of masculinities is an important component of the bodies and lives of gay men. The role of gay culture on body standards, body dissatisfaction, and the health of gay men was explored using poststructuralism and queer theory within an arts-based framework. Nine gay men were recruited within the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Participants were asked to photograph their beliefs, values, and practices relating to their bodies and food. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, using the photographs as guides. Data were analyzed by critical discourse analysis and resulted in three overarching threads of discourse including: (1) Muscles: The Bigger the Better, (2) The Silence of Hegemonic Masculinity, and (3) Embracing a New Day. Participants believed that challenging hegemonic masculinity was a way to work through body image tension.