Queer liberation for straight men
September proved to be a bumper month for Stage 3 articles. As I have mentioned before, Stage 3 discussion of masculinity is more prevalent in the media than society in general, which suggests that the people who gravitate towards the media are not representative of society as a whole. In our context, at least, this is valuable, as the media is in a position to push the conversation along from Stage 2 in a way that might not otherwise happen, such as the recent series of articles about masculinity from Patrick Freyne in The Irish Times.
In regard to Stage 4, I have made a few side comments in the past couple of news roundups about the difference between “queer” and “gay” and how “looking queer” is a poor substitute for “thinking queer.” I have expanded these thoughts into a new article Queer Masculinity for Everyone which calls for a queer liberation for red-blooded straight men.
We don’t always have a Stage 5 article, but this month we have an article from John Stoltenberg calling for a radical departure from our current discussion of gender to an altogether different mode of thinking. Those of a more “senior” nature—or simply well-versed in the history of gender studies—will remember Stoltenberg as the author of the 1989 book, Refusing to be a Man. Stoltenberg is still going strong, and his work continues to evolve in a way that is unfortunately rare amongst his second-wave feminist generation who brought Stage 3 into common awareness.
Finally, an article that jumped out at me this month was The Objectification of Men. This article was nothing new, containing references to how Aidan Turner’s topless torso is used to sell Poldark and Emilia Clarke’s much-cited “free the willy” Game of Thrones request. The general assumption in such articles is that men being objectified by women is the wheel turning full circle after millennia of men objectifying women, or at the very least represents some kind of equality. But another interpretation occurs to me when reading this article, inspired by the thinking of Harry Hay, often considered to be the founder of the gay men’s movement. Hay proposed that heterosexual relations were based on a subject-object dynamic, with men assuming the role of subject through power and domination, which in turn relegates women to the object. For Hay, gay relationships were unique as they developed a “Subject-SUBJECT consciousness” that enabled them to be based on a mutuality that cannot generally be found in the heterosexual order. If we look at the argument about the objectification of men, it is tempting to think we have a reversal of “Subject-OBJECT consciousness” with women as the subject. This might actually be ok, at least as a resistance to patriarchy. But it occurs to me that what might be happening is the creation of “Object-OBJECT consciousness” when both the women and men in that dynamic are rendered as the object, and the subject (in other words, our humanity) is entirely erased.