Thursday, November 29, 2012

Man Enough

Our Google overlords bless us with a fickle blogger interface that frequently leaves me cursing.  Typically, I think, the frustration is almost entirely on my side of the computer screen. Occasionally, however, it seems to impact neverland readers.  One reader has repeatedly pointed out that the automatic program for verifying that people who attempt to comment are, indeed, human beings, can sometimes present such blurry and obscure text to try to decipher that it's nearly impossible.  Sorry for that. I wish I had some control over those things.  I also recently discovered that someone attempted twice to post a comment on a recent session of gushing of mine over reigning (for one more day) homoerotic wrestler of the month, Austin Wolf.

Austin Wolf not masculine?
I approved the comment, after some pause, however I don't see it anywhere on the blog itself.  It's in my "approved comments" list, but doesn't show up in any post I can find.  The pause came because I've been rejecting comments lately that seem to me to be bitchy criticisms of wrestlers' bodies or personalities.  Too fat.  Too skinny.  Not butch enough.  I know that a lot of the homoerotic wrestlers I write about also read this blog, and I don't want them reading that crap.  But I went ahead and approved this comment that referred to Austin as "sexy enough, if only he weren't so femme in person.... He is not nearly as masculine as the image he is trying to portray," the commenter reported.  There's just so much there to think about.  Setting aside my first question, "when have you seen him in person?" and my second question, "isn't every expression of masculinity (or femininity) an image, a mere portrayal, or as Judith Butler has called it, a "performance?"  Whatever.  So Austin isn't as masculine in person as he seems to appear on camera.  I guess my real question is, so what?

Rusty Stevens: masculine enough for you?
Now I'm not trying to take this commenter to task.  At all, really.  I approved the post because it provoked me to think deeper about masculinity in homoerotic wrestling.  I mean, sure, hypermasculinity is a pretty well-worn trope on our scene, so I would be entirely unsurprised to discover that any number of the meanest, baddest, most dominatingly butch heels in homoerotic wrestling history are, in their personal lives, light in the loafers and sassy as blown glass.  I don't care what they may get up to on their own time, I might say.  Just tell me that powerful story of domination and submission, power and suffering, agony and arousal that I love so much, and what do I care how far from the mark that wrestling persona is to how they act when their sipping apple martinis at the piano bar?

Xavier: Does body hair make the man?  Big muscles?  Facial hair?
But even that isn't really where I settled with this comment about the purported incongruity between Austin's presentation of masculinity on and off camera.  No, I found myself challenged by the idea of masculinity itself.  We're clearly not in a post-gender age, of course, but as for me (and I'll speak solely for myself here), I'm not sure I've got the clearest hold on what comprises the polar opposites of masculinity and femininity as far as homoerotic wrestling goes.  I know of big, burly muscle bear-looking bruisers who snarl and spit and I think, hot damn, that's one hot bit of masculine hunkiness!  But if the same burly bear wears a pink cardi and giggles like a girl when Glee comes on, I'm still fully prepared to objectify him as a no-holds-barred object of my lust.

Lon Dumont: Smooth as a baby's bottom and over-the-top masculine in the ring.
And there are relatively petite, smooth, boyishly beautiful wrestlers who wink and grin, and when slam an opponent into the turnbuckle or bash him across his knee in an over the knee backbreaker, I think, hot damn, that's one hot bit of masculine hunkiness!  Deep bass Boston voices.  High pitched Southern accents.   Pretty in pink.  Dangerous in black.  Go-go-boy.  Construction worker.  Limp wrist.  Football fan.  Facial hair.  Man-scaped.  Do they have a cock and tell me a hot, hot wrestling story?  I'm in.

Damien Rush was quoted recently as saying, "Let me smother you with all my masculine hair!"
So if Austin Wolf cracks an opponent's spine over his knee, claws his crotch mercilessly, then schoolboy pins the punk with his big, gorgeous cock slapping the loser's cheeks back and forth, and then gets up, showers off with 5 different skin care products and quotes Bette Davis movies over cosmos with all the rest of the girls... well, fuck.  It just occurred to me that I think that's even HOTTER!
Tell me again how I'm not masculine enough for you, bitch!
Homoerotic wrestling likely reifies stereotypes of masculinity (and, by default, femininity) in many, many ways.  But I think, and I hope, that it blurs some of the old standby stereotypes as well.  I like the idea that the same mass of 6'4" sculpted muscle can threaten to rip an opponent's head off in a camel clutch and the next day sing along with show tunes in the car as he goes antiquing with his gurl-friends. I harbor a deep seated and not at all sublimated sexual fantasy of the rise of the muscle sculpted sissies who may be as pretty as a prima donna, but will fuck you up in a heartbeat in the ring.  Maybe I'm too old.  Or too young.  Or just don't have the good taste to want to cling to the sharp, clean lines of gender stereotypes any longer.  But even if Austin Wolf were a flaming queen, he'd drain me dry time and time again as long as he racks another wasted loser across those mile wide shoulders of his.  Hell, I'd pay a premium, in fact!

Ask Hoop right about  now if Austin is masculine enough for him.

11 comments:

  1. My thoughts exactly! He (Austin) did a mini-interview with Randy Blue and the casualness with which he referred to his boyfriend made him all the more compelling. I love that he has multiple facets to his personality and I'll be definitely be watching to see what he does next.

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  2. I haven't seen Austin beyond pics, but I like the premise of your post. Thanks for the insight.

    I'm not sure if you mean you still can't see that post, but I can see it twice, both times in the blank post from 11/23 that sits under the Austin Wolf post. I hope the other person realized you can reset the verification code until you can get a readable one. My only tech issue is that the whole thing freezes on my iPad, so I can't type any more and I can't enter anything in the verification box at all. It limits me on being able to comment on blogs as often as I'd like, as that's my main tool for surfing.

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    1. Thanks, Alex. The issue appears, yet again, to be primarily about what happens in between me and my computer screen. I have no idea why there's a blank post on 11/23 to start with. I believe it's just another effort on the part of our Google overlords to keep me humble.

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  3. I'm the complainer. I did eventually discover the reset. Sometime I've gone through 6 or more until I find one I feel confident I can decipher. I also learned the trick with a freeze. Click the hide keyboard display then click back on the text box. Discovered that entirely by accident. About the post's subject. I get very tired of people who set out to find something to kvetch about and to do it as rudely as possible. I was just at QMN and one chronic b***h took time out of his valuable day to say he thought the model plucked his eyebrows too much. WTF?!

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    1. Wow, your trick with the freeze worked. Thanks for the tip.

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  4. Something to watch out for is the spell-checker when you're taking the test. It'll try to make sense of the nonsense and if you're unaware and careless it's efforts are what get submitted and you rejected. The las Blogspot thing I deciphered was sonnheve. The checker tried to make that sonny eve! :)

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  5. No prob, AlexMiller72! Glad to help.

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  6. Well, I think you make some important points about gender as a performance. But I think it is important to note that, drag queens aside, most gay men usually aspire to perform as more masculine than they really are, rather than as more feminine than they really are. (For example, the gym culture.) And I think that is rooted in unconscious misogyny and internalized homophobia. So I for one am much happier to celebrate my femme brothers (or sisters) than I am to celebrate another femme-trying-to-be-butch gym bunny.

    And for those of who live in NYC, we have seen Austin Wolf around town for a while. His real name is Justin and he performs in Broadway Bares and he also talks openly (and in youtube videos) about his sex life, and so (to answer your question) we New Yorkers have had plenty of opportunities to form opinions about his masculinity.

    And I agree with your other reader who said he does not seem nearly as butch in person as those well-choreographed photos/videos make him appear. Which, in itself, is fine. Not everyone has to be butch. But the desperate need to "perform" as completely butch makes me sad.

    You see, I agree with the complicated approach to gender that you that advocate in your article, and that performance of gender is much more interesting to me. I think the point here, though, is that Austin/Justin does not aspire to that. He is a femme man who tries to pass himself off as butch and completely masculine, and in doing so he tries (but fails) to hide his femme-ness. And that reeks, to some of us, as self-loathing. And the appearance of self-loathing is not hot.

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    1. Hey, ChrisR1985. Thanks for clarifying how some neverland readers may have seen Austin face-to-face. I appreciate the introduction of self-loathing and internalized homophobia in this conversation. This is integrally related to this conversation and to the other recent flurry of comments about Thunder's Arena's match between Brendan and Braden.

      That said, I'm not convinced by your arguments. The statement, "most gay men aspire to perform as more masculine than they really are," itself seems to lean toward internalized homophobia. The idea that there's a static formula of femininity/masculinity a man "really is" in contrast to how he aspires to be is an essentialist argument quite different from Butler's concept of the performativity of gender. Gender is shaped contextually, from this perspective. We don't possess some innate, objectively measurable quantity of masculinity. At least, that's my read of Judith Butler and the social construction of gender.

      How this applies to Austin Wolf of course remains a matter of opinion, so I won't be surprised if NYC folks continue to report that your access to greater evidence leads you to conclude something different than what I've argued . I'm fine with that. However, I have no idea why Austin's appearances in Broadway Bares, or on YouTube, or swishing down the street, or camping it up in a feather boa is any less a "performance" of gender by Austin than the moment he stares down at Dominic at Thunder's Arena, smirks with contempt, and flexes his HUGE bicep in his face. As someone who's never seen Austin in any other context, I would never have concluded he's "desperately butch" in the homoerotic wrestling matches I've seen of him. If a homoerotic wrestling producer tells Austin to growl, flex his pecs intimidatingly, and threaten to rip his opponent's head off, and he does it, then I'm not sure why anyone would conclude that he's trying "to pass himself off as butch and completely masculine." He's doing what I pay money to watch hot hunks do all the time: wrestle, dominate, humiliate, agonize in defeat, and crow cockily in victory.

      There may be much more to this story than I'm aware of, but I have no idea how it is that Austin "fails" in his gender presentation on the wrestling mat. For those who detect his "femme-ness" peeking out (I don't detect a hint of a flame, but then again, my context is different from yours), I'm entirely unclear how that adds up to the argument that he's self-loathing. I rattle on indefinitely around here about "the story" of homoerotic wrestling, the "characters," the fantasy. I've had the pleasure of meeting a few of wrestlers in person, and they haven't snarled, slammed me to the floor or ripped apart my crotch... not that I might not have enjoyed that... but shooting the breeze over lunch is a different context, and they weren't "in wrestling character" (but Butler would argue that they were still in "a" character, just shaped differently by the different context).

      So again, I'm not trying to take anyone to task for not liking Austin Wolf or for finding his wrestling persona unconvincing. Austin could be a self-loathing mess, for all I know. But a critique based on concluding Austin is wracked with internalized homophobia because his performance of gender on the homoerotic wrestling scene differs from his "real" quantity of masculinity doesn't change my assessment that he's a delightfully sexy wrestler who I hope to see much more of. As long as he wants to strip down and make wrestling opponents scream trapped in all those gorgeous muscles of his, he can be as butch or femme or queered as he wants to be on the mat, on the street, or at the cabaret. There's nothing at all I've seen or heard that convinces me there's anything reeking at all about him.

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  7. Wow, what a fantastic post. I love reading your blog here and have been a fan for quite some time. What I love about this post is how it transcends the gay wrestling sub culture and goes to the gay culture at large--masculinity, femininity, etc...

    if you met me in person, in a professional setting or social setting, you would likely describe me as a quiet, nice, fun loving, non violent guy. But I love violent wrestling. When I wrestle, I like the pain to be real--either that I am inflicting on other guys or that other guys are inflicting on me. With limits, not sane, to be certain. But I enjoy the real, legitimate dominance--authenticity in that. That's my thing. Two questions:
    (1) Why can't it be possible for Wolf to be legitimately "femm" and legitimately "masculine" when wrestling? Why must the two be mutually exclusive? Why can't this be another aspect of his very real personality? Sure people may know him personally and see him around town, but why can't his "masculine" personna be equally as real? If you were to ask any of my personal friends, and/or people who see me around town, they would NEVER EVER peg me for someone who is sexually turned on by the exchange of pain and dominance that wrestling provides. (maybe not amature wrestling... it is all too quick... I'm talking about that slow drawn out dominance).
    (2) Even if it is a character that Wolf is portraying and no where inside his personna does a mean "masculine" heel lie... why should that warrant the critique of saying "oh well, he's not like that in real life?" Even if this is the brand of "acting wrestling" (as opposed to real wrestling where a person's hidden or less obvious mean streak comes out), why should it matter what he is like in real life? I doubt that Jennifer Aniston is the ditzy innocent character that she so often plays in movies... does that make her any less entertaining? Many adult film performers are likewise not as they portray themselves on the screen. This is an art form and people are engaged in an art form--they are not necessarily so mono-dimensional as to be only what they portray on the screen. If Wolf does nothing for you vis-a-vis wrestling, then so be it. Fine, watch some other wrestling flick. Even saying, you know he's not my favourite or something... But, to me, the critique of saying what he is like in real life, comes across as trying to ruin it for other folks who really enjoy his film. Because now, there will be some, who when they watch his films, will be focusing on "do i see a limp wrist there?" and miss the story that is being portrayed.

    We have enough in life that makes it less than fun. Why ruin people's enjoyment of adult film too?

    Others have addressed the whole "masculine" thing (I put it in quotes for a reason); I won't belabour it any more.

    *and btw, personally, I prefer the wrestling where I know (or it is reasonable for me to believe) that real submissions are being extracted from the jobber compared with choreographed wrestling ala WCW/WWF/WWE/etc... but thats' just me. Others can go to the level of the story. I like that we both exist in this world.


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    1. I agree, Climber, and welcome. Moreover, my hope is that there's some blurring of the polarities of masculinity and femininity in homoerotic wrestling. A limp wrist wrapped around an opponent's throat and choking him out cold... fem? butch? For what turns me on, it's hot because it's hard, in your face, explicitly homo wrestling. An "effeminate" wrestler who hip tosses an opponent to his back or cracks him hard in an OTK backbreaker is firing on all cylinders for my tastes. For fans who like cleaner butch/femme lines, that's fine. Not so much me, though.

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