Friday, April 07, 2006

Getting to the bottom, cont. more

Anyway, back to RJ, he makes a really crucial point here:

Another main premise of homosociality that gang rape enacts is that men bond homosocially over/through the bodies of women.

That is, the woman becomes the conduit for male connection–the male bond is “triangulated,” deflected through the body of the woman.** Not that this is homosexual (that would be insulting to gay men), but the very opposite–the presence of a woman serves to nullify the threat of homosexuality implicit within the homosocial bond.

Look at it this way–is there any place besides a woman’s body that straight guys are willing to put their dicks immediately after another guy put his there?

“Hey Mitch–can I borrow your jockstrap?”
“Sure, Bart, lemme peel it off real quick.”
“Thanks, man. Hey! It’s still warm. Sweet.”

Similarly, can you imagine if two of those teammates had been caught masturbating in front of each other? But if they’re masturbating into a woman, suddenly there’s nothing queer about it.

I'm glad he brings this up, because it's not talked about nearly enough. That is the dirty little secret behind all this, and weirdly enough, starts to tie into the question of "how patriarchy hurts men, too." This is what it's about. In a way, it's not about the woman at all. It's about expressing intimacy with other men in one of the few acceptable ways possible within a deeply patriarchal mindset. Violence, denigrating women (it couldn't even be a nice healthy consensual swingers' threesome or moresome; that would be too much like sensual pleasure, which is actually pretty much Verboten in the Patriarchy; nooo, it's no fun unless she's forced and degraded), putting someone from lower down on the totem pole "in her (or his) place." That's what makes it all O.K. It's not a surprise that this behavior is especially prevalent among certain team sportsmen: all that's pretty much built into the structure of the game, as well, more or less, or at least how it's played. Lots and lots of physical contact in a football game; the symbols of warlike aggression and competition make what would otherwise look like a dry-humping puppy pile of men in shiny skintight pants seem A-OK to homophobic manly men and their enablers. But of course, it only works if you vehemently deny that there's anything--ANYTHING--erotic in the whole business. Which is where the gang rapes and fag-bashings come in so handy. "See? We're manly. We're straight. Here's the proof."

They think they can get away with it, and they're often correct. But even if they weren't: I'm guessing that maybe for some men even the prospect of being a beast and a criminal is preferable to being "effeminate."

Either way, ultimately they're ridding themselves of their own humanity even as they try to destroy any signs of it in the victimized Other.


figleaf said...

Hi Belledame,

As I am unfamiliar with this kind of bonding experience with other men I suppose I'll have to take RJ's word for it that this is the only way some men can be intimate with each other.

I think he may be inadvertently introducing heteroerotic bias here as the same behavior manifests in circumstances like this when the victim of violence (either sexual or "simple" assault) is male.

I want to be clear that this is *not* an instance of "well men have it rough too." Rather I'm saying that the gender of the victim probably isn't as relevant as RJ puts it. I agree with him that the bonding, and any lifting of normalizing constraints, in all cases is between the perpetrators.

Add in the less common but not unheard of participation of women in assaults of this type (most famously Lynndie England at Abu Ghraib, for instance) and this generalizes to a particularly despicable capability in humans that tends to manifest in men but is not exclusive to them.

None of this directly invalidates RJ's main point. Instead, I hope, it deepens it.


belledame222 said...

I think it plays out somewhat differently, though. Well, it probably depends on context. But I think whether it's a (usually gay) man or a woman, whether overtly sexual or "simple" assault, the objectification always (as I understand it, anyway) involves "othering" the victim as NotAMan, somehow. which is to say, NotAHuman.

belledame222 said...

per Lynndie England: yes, that is an interesting case. women as abusers really don't get looked at nearly often enough; I think the very idea is deeply upsetting to people all across the spectrum.

But, while I've never been in her situation, there is, you know, a kind of "honorary boy's club member" thing that can happen, sometimes. I forget who was writing about this, how disconcerting it was for her when the veil lifted, (sexist jokes and other such stuff not usually performed in "mixed company"--again, we're talking traditionally homosocialized men, here) and then dropped back down again when she protested.

obviously this doesn't extend to all female abusers, particularly those who act alone. but in England's case, I'm guessing that this was part of what happened, although I also expect it wasn't articulated as such. but: she passed the "test;" she could play along, at least to a point.

myrna the minx said...

Susan Brownmiller and gang rapes during wars (I did a paper on gang rape by U.S troops in during the Vietnam War)...against our will (?) is the title....performing masculinity for other men...that's the first thing I read on this subject. Its on the same continuum.

Unnerving paper to write---took me a while to recover.

RJ said...

Figleaf makes a good point--there are all sorts of wierd ways in which this stuff works in society.

One interesting example of the male-victim variety is fraternity paddling. Someone once forwarded to me a picture from a fraternity hazing ritual. The pledge had his pants around his ankles and was bent all the way over. His frat brother was slamming a wood paddle into his buttocks with considerable force. This form of violence is a standard initiation ritual among American fraternities.

The thing that struck me about it was that there was a ring of frat guys standing around them, holding beers and laughing. The victim is half-naked, he's bent over, and his ass is being assaulted while a group of guys laugh, but I imagine that they would all deny that there's anything sexual going on.

Or maybe not--maybe they would recognize it as a form of sexual humiliation of the victim, one which both degrades him and yet qualifies him to join the homosocial group. Any fraternity members out there?

r@d@r said...

it's sad we have no positive homosocialization ritual in "straight" culture, "iron john" and hokey men's groups beating drums in the woods notwithstanding. a gay friend told me about faerie spirituality meets he went to, and i was jealous. the closest thing i've been able to find is the tattoo/skin art subculture, but as it's commodity-based it's flawed. what's left? SCA ritualized combat? Sports?? it's a wasteland. don't even get me started about rock and roll, so subsumed under rape culture as it is. and this critique comed from an unreconstructed rockandroller of 25 years mind you.

i keep thinking of starting a men's spirituality group that's purposefully anti-creepy and pro-inclusive/diverse, but finding recruits promises to be daunting. DIY, as they say....

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