This article reads Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star through a synthesis of Freud’s theories of transference and the death drive and Jean Laplanche’s theory of infantile masochism. My reading traces the role of masochism in the formation of the gay male subject and in this way contributes towards an understanding of the repressed masochism which is central to psychic life, and more specifically to an understanding of its role within masculinity and gay masculinities. Through this reading I attempt to shed light on the problems of such an identity both for the subject and for a relationality at work within Hollinghurst’s novel which is consistently dependent upon a melancholic preservation of heterosexual masculinity.
Masochism in Alan Hollinghurst's "The Folding Star"
Despite a nearly two decades’ long war on high school and college hazing, the traditional practice of paddling male pledges on the buttocks persists as a physical and psychological test of worthiness for membership in certain all-male organizations. In its elements of nudity, homoeroticim, and stylized sadomasochism, this ritual condenses a great many of the psychological processes essential to male bonding in groups. An application of Freud’s insights in his 1919 essay, “A Child Is Being Beaten,” to the puzzle of posterior paddling reveals a complex psychological process by which the pledge is feminized by the paddling, represses the feminine part of his self, and is initiated into the status of a brother among other heterosexual males.
There is a strong relationship between the cultural practices of competitive, organized youth sport and compulsory physical education. The hyper-masculine, violent, and homophobic culture traditionally found within boys segregated sporting spaces is mirrored when youth are compelled to participate in physical education. However, cultural homophobia is on rapid decline in Western countries. Recent research shows high school and university sport to be an increasingly inclusive environment for openly gay male youth. I explore this cultural shift among high school (sixth form) physical education students in England. Using three months of ethnography, and conducting 17 in-depth interviews with 16-18 year old ostensibly heterosexual boys, I show an absence of homophobia and homophobic discourse, the abatement of violence, the absence of a jock-ocratic school culture, and the emotional support of male friends. Thus, I show that while the structure of sport education has remained the same, the hyper-masculine culture surrounding it has changed.
It is remarkable how few Westerners know that Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation (after China, India, and the United States), or that Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country. These basic facts should be enough to establish Indonesia’s importance for current world affairs. In this essay, however, I argue for paying attention to the life-worlds of gay and lesbian Indonesians. While this might seem an unconventional topic, these Indonesians’ lives provide valuable clues to how being ‘Indonesian’ gets defined and to the workings of nation-states more generally. They teach us how heteronormativity—the assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal or proper sexuality—plays a fundamental role in forming nation-states as “imagined communities.” In Indonesia and elsewhere, nation-states are modeled on a particular archetype of the nuclear family (husband, wife, and children, with the nation’s president as parent). In line with this model, nation-states often portray themselves as made up not just of individual citizens but of families, which almost always are assumed to be nuclear families despite the staggering range of family forms found in the world’s cultures. Restricting the family model to the heterosexual couple has been a key means by which the idea of the Indonesian nation (and other nations) has been promulgated and sustained. Thus, rather than see the exclusion of homosexuality as a latter-day response to an encroaching global gay and lesbian movement, this exclusion is most accurately understood as a point of departure by which the idea of ‘Indonesia’ comes to exist in the first place.
Sexual Fears and Fantasies in Writings by Old Men, 1880–1910
‘Being a man,’ Norman Mailer once wrote, ‘is the continuing battle of one ’s life … [One] can hardly ever assume [one] has become a man’. At the turn of the nineteenth century, it was the unbecoming (collapse) of (English) manhood which was foremost in the minds of many male writers. The growing sense of a masculine collective self in crisis can be placed in direct correlation with the advances of the British women’s movement and its destabilization of patriarchal hegemonies. This article examines the way in which, in their endeavour to exorcize the threat of female cultural and sociopolitical agency, anti-feminist male writers pressed New Woman fiction into service as a medium for conservative propaganda. I shall be considering two textual configurations of the turn-of-the-century masculinity complex and its articulations of dread and desire, dystopia and the male free-love plot. Sexual fantasies of women’s reconfinement within the boundaries of male desire, these texts served to defuse, depoliticize and (hetero)sexualize the political and moral/social purist agendas of feminist activists and writers by transforming the New Woman – the agent of feminist rebellion in women’s fiction – into a Sexy Angel in the House.
Consider two instances of screened bodies. The first comes from the article published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy where a group of urologists and radiologists attempted to “confirm that it is feasible to take images of the male and female genitals during coitus and to compare this present study with previous theories and recent radiological studies of the anatomy during sexual intercourse” (Faix et al. 2002: 63). In their well-illustrated study of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) screen shots—often simplified and clarified with keyed line drawings—they address the history of trying to imagine and depict heterosexual intercourse, the movement, shape, and position of engaged male and female genitalia, and the factors affecting arousal and orgasm. (The study can only suggest the possibility of two types of vaginal orgasm as the man climaxes once during the experiment while the woman does not. Clitoral stimulation is mentioned but not pursued in the study.) The researchers assert the parameters of “normal” private and sexual lives and echo “natural” expectations with regard to sex, gender, sexuality, and sexual positions and practices. They involve themselves in visual analyses of drawings, sketches, ultrasound displays, and MRI monitors—discussing the details and features of the various technologies and the advantages and drawbacks of the different experimental conditions. They make a special note of “the couple” not experiencing difficulty having intercourse during the four sessions and mention the man’s consumption of Viagra.
Heteronormativity in Contemporary Books on Fathering and Raising Boys
Damien W. Riggs
Over the past decade a rapidly growing number of books have been published on fathering and raising boys. Whilst these books purport to simply describe boyhood, this article suggests that they are in fact actively engaged in constructing boyhood and in making available to boys particular gender and sexual identities. In an analysis of ten such books, the article demonstrates how they are informed by a range of heteronormative and homophobic assumptions about boys and masculinity. Particular focus is given to constructions of the “average boy,” the assumption that such boys are “naturally” attracted to girls, discourses of the “sissy” boy, and accounts of gay boys. The analysis provided suggests that constructions of the first two rely upon the negative constructions of the latter two. Implications for the ways in which we understand boys, fathering and families are drawn from the findings. Recommendations are made for research agendas that not only respect and include gay boys and their parents, but also celebrate the experiences of non-gender normative, non-heterosexual boys.
In the call for articles for this special issue on girls’ health, we highlighted that “[g]irls’ health is an ongoing and evolving issue with ties that go beyond medical analyses to include a wide array of social, educational, political, and environmental discourses (among others!).” Th at a number of different perspectives might contribute to or strengthen the interdisciplinary focus of an issue as crucial as girls’ health was important to me as guest editor. Th is issue demonstrates that the relationship of girlhood to health—sexual health, in particular—is of critical concern to us all. It is an area full of challenges and barriers, most of them, as is evident in this issue, understood and often expressed by girls themselves. The articles presented here point to the many perspectives from which to approach this topic. Girls’ sexual health is linked to an array of intersecting issues including the pedagogical influences of popular romance literature; the ways in which girls use blogs to construct counter narratives about their sexual identity; how girls’ increased inclusion in citizenship discourses can increase their capacity to address sexual objectification; what girls do to negotiate power within their heterosexual relationships; how barriers to water access in Africa can lead to the awareness of the risks—which range from being perceived to be promiscuous to being raped—that young women face; as well as how the (mis)management of menstruation can affect girls’ education. This issue points to the global and local specifics of sexual health, and to health more generally. Th e concerns discussed here are geographically wide-ranging: Cameroon, Lesotho, Australia, the United States, and Canada provide the settings—some urban and others rural. Th e authors present a wide range of methodologies from which they explore girls’ health: literary analysis; autoethnography; and participatory methods such as digital storytelling, mediamaking, listening to what young people have to say in various research paradigms, blogging, and photovoice.