Homosexualist text and subtext in “men’s” magazines


2004.01.25a – I was like a kid impatiently waiting for his mail-ordered sea monkeys to arrive (or, more realistically, for the new issue of Trailer Life to show up) as I patrolled newsstands over and after Xmas for the new Details (“for men”). It eventually dawned on me that I could have checked if the rag takes a break over “the holidays” and puts out a combined issue later.

Finally the magic day arrived, and I was able to buy the January–February ish, bearing the image of the wooden, humourless British actor preferred by straight people, Jude Law. (Jude Law: A kind of Ewan McGregor for accountants and admin assistants.)

But let’s start off by calling Details’s editor-in-chief a liar.

Banning metrosexual(ist)

Daniel “Big Danny” Peres told the New York Post that his New Year’s resolution would be “that this heinous new word, ‘metrosexual,’ which is banned from the pages of Details, [have] the cultural longevity of Dolph Lundgren.” (It even got Gawked.)

At what point was it banned? Because the word screamed off the page in the October issue:

p. 104: Boy, am I getting tired of token gay writer Augusten Burroughs. I’ve never seen the word FAG in 48-point type before. Details editors seem to believe they have license to write “Are Metrosexuals Fake Fags?” as the headline for a feature article in a mainstream magazine. How very post-gay. Let’s test their resolve: I’m looking for future headlines bearing the words NIGGER and KIKE in type of similar size.... Notice to Danny Peres: There’s no such thing as being so well-dressed, fashionable, and downtown-dwelling that you can scream FAG in a crowded magazine.

If you’re going to ban a word from the gay men’s magazine for straight men, why not ban “fag”?

Or kill two birds with one stone and ban Augusten Burroughs? It worked for the Times with Andrew Sullivan.

Trannie boner

Bare chests in this issue

Must be open to the waist to be enumerated.

Loose women, loose men

And hot on the heels of last month’s “Suicide by Stripper” come a pair of stories that deal, tangentially or frontally, with whores and strippers. All they’re missing are gypsies and thieves.

“Cowboy Chic” by Horacio Silva strains valiantly to persuade suspicious heterosexualist readers that embroidered leather cowboy shirts and Ralph Lipshitz ponchos could actually be worn in mixed company. Great way to get fagbashed.

[S]ince the late 1960s – when Jon Voight turned tricks as a corn-fed male hustler in Midnight Cowboy an the Marlboro Man ads launched a gay-fetish industry for chaps and spurs – dressing like a tobacco-chewing ranchhand has not always been synonymous with unfiltered butchness.

Maybe we could fantasy-fact-check that one with Rock Hudson and James Dean on the set of Giant.

“Western fashion has always had this manly, outlaw association attached to it,” says [Holly ‘Golightly’] George-Warren. “But it also has so many over-the-top decorative elements to it and basically allows macho boys to get away with wearing something quite fey. I’ve always thought that guys who wear cowboy boots do so because they have a free pass to wear high heels.”

“Unfiltered butchness,” “hustler[s],” dandyism and transvestism in the space of two short grafs.

Then there’s the whole piece “Is the Bachelor Party Dead?” by Colby Katz, which details absolutely the most boring imaginable bachelor party held outside the state of Utah. Katz nonetheless arrives at a novel and powerful conclusion:

Stag parties aren’t about letting the groom sow his last wild oats. They’re about degrading and humiliating him, then dropping his naked, freshly-tattooed, and comatose carcass on the church steps. [...] “We did a party in the Hamptons where some guys passed out, and their friends put their dicks to sleeping guys’ faces and took pictures. Or they’ll put a lightbulb in a guy’s ass. We’ve had guys who will let us fuck them with a strap-on in front of their friends.... That’s a mystery, why guys want to see other guys humiliated,” says Belladonna.... “You’re a guy. You tell me.” [...]

Men aren’t opting out of raunch. They’re opting out of humiliation. There’s a difference.

This month’s instalment of “Gay or Eurotrash?”

Well, it’s “Gay or Democratic Front-Runner?” this month. Details somehow managed to avoid an obvious reference to that hoary old novel by whatever third-rate faghag it was that bears a similar title. (Still trying to turn it into a movie? Give it up! Queer lit has left you behind. Plus the umpteen movies about Prefontaine all bombed.)

In any event, the model chosen for the piece looks neither gay nor like a Democratic presidential candidate (two of whom were black). And the writing is a flat-out bore. Only the dek works.

One covets the stars-and-stripes bloc; the other flies a rainbow flag. Whether you’re canvassing Peoria or cruising Provincetown, getting the nod requires an inflamed constituency. So firm up that stump speech and stay glued to the polls, because not everyone is convinced you’ve got the right equipment to beat Bush.

Well, at least neither group is apt to choke on a pretzel. Allegedly.

Anyway, the piece concentrates on the piece:

Blue shirt
Transcends white-collar Beltway Establishment – and recalls man-of-the-people prison movies, especially the ones where the cons wear tight-fitting jeans and pump iron and... is it getting hot in here?
Pleated pants
Provides extra room to swing the bat.

How queer is Incubus?

First of all, the lite-pop-metal band is hideously misnamed. “Incubus” denotes what it actually connotes: “An evil spirit supposed to descend upon and have sexual intercourse with women as they sleep.” Are you sure it’s specifically women?

Details’s capsule review of Incubus’s new “product” A Crow Left of the Murder (a dense and clever title – compare it to “Are Metrosexuals Fake Fags?”) reads: “Incubus were fast-tracked to MTV’s A-list when frontman Brandon Boyd took his shirt off – never a good predictor of longevity.... Boyd’s still hot, but now so are the songs.” The author of the review is of course the very manly Bart Blasengame.

What our Uncle Tom is up to this month

Finally! Someone other than me bitch-slaps Details house nigger Augusten Burroughs. His

article on same-sex domestic violence was a totally anecdotal and pointless misrepresentation of reality. A shocking number of gay men I know have experienced domestic violence, in some cases necessitating interventions and restraining orders..... I know queer stuff is entertaining [!] and I enjoy seeing it, but it doesn’t need to serve neoconservative ends like bolstering patriarchy by encouraging gays to be “real men” and trying to deny the reality of domestic violence.

Gregory W. McGonigle
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Yeah, like I said. But good on you, Greg.

Who buys DKNY?

“Donna Karan on What’s Sexy.” Perhaps understandably, she does not lounge seductively with a tumbler of gin waxing rhapsodic about the unshaven scrotum, but something is still amiss here.

While you’re busy blurring your masculine/feminine borders and trying on one of Michael Stipe’s skirts, ask yourself who’s buying Donna Karan fashions in the first place. Straight guys, right?

Recurring athlete homophobia

Well, it’s slowly going away, even among black guys. Chris Smith’s “Why Guys Like This [Allen Iverson] Need Babysitters” is a de facto profile of an hipster MBA named Que Gaskins, Iverson’s minder for Reebok. (That British term is so much more appropriate than the lengthy euphemisms Smith and Gaskins come up with: “[T]he Labor Department may soon coin an official term... a b-ball babysitter..... ‘I’d be a portfolio manager. That’s how I sold Reebok on it.’ ”)

Consider a few recent cases: Jeremy Shockey disrespecting men who like men.... After publicly detailing his juiciest sex fantasy (“a threesome with a mother and her twin daughters”) and calling Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells a “homo,” the mouthy player got his own minder.

Wait! There’s the word!

Homophobes who fantasize about lesbians... this could be another Mekhi Pfifer incident in the making, were the latter phobic.

How to be in favour of gay marriage

Be Tony Hendra. He’s improved drastically since dissing some queen named Cojocaru.

“Why Gay Men Definitely Shouldn’t Get Married” is accompanied by inexplicable photo collages by Joseph Heidecker and makes a good clear case with humour and voiv.

Countless Prince Charmings are preparing to mount their fine white steeds – and other Prince Charmings.... There’s very little point to opposite genders living together, except for the highly overrated business of heterosexual sex, which, for 99% of married straights, is a five-to-ten-minute affair anyway, leaving the rest of the week (or month or year) a waking nightmare of underappreciation, burning resentment, mutual incomprehension, and terminal fights over whose turn it is to change Julian.

Falls down at the end, but strong till then. Hendra supports “fighting to do whatever they please... if for no other reason than it enrages, torments, and shoves it up the abundant fundaments of the vile cracker Christians who are trying to force their spittle-flecked morality on the rest of us.”

As he sums up – in a warning we’ve heard from straight people before but never quite so succinctly – “Marriage is no bed of Rosies.”

Safe to tell mom yet?

In the October issue, one read of “Why We Still Lie to Our Mothers”: “ ‘Once a year... my mother corners me to ask if I’ve ever had sex with a woman.’ ” This month, Tom Samiljan’s latest piece, “Accidental Celibacy,” has a source admit “ ‘It’s easy to assume that you’re not potent or you’re gay... that there’s something wrong with you.”

Details, as a fashion magazine for sexualists both homo- and metro-, inhabits a new space pioneered by Playboy, where you were expected to own a quadraphonic sound system. (Larry Flynt: “Who is this magazine for, anyway? I mean, it’s like if you don’t make 20-thousand-plus a year, you don’t jerk off. Seven million people buying it and nobody’s reading it. Gentlemen, Playboy is mocking you.”) If you’re not dressed in a Ralph Lauren poncho and boning your well-shaved pneumatic gf unit n times a week, people think you’re gay – all the way up the evolutionary scale (or all the way down it) to your mother.

I am perhaps lucky that my mother is dead, I don’t wear ponchos, and I’m already queer.

Any more tidbits?

Yes, several, and a couple of them are quite salutary.

  1. How about Tinky Winky? “Know & Tell: The Month: February,” the rather overlong title of the monthly calendar filler piece, lists February 9 as “Teletubby Out Day (+8)” (sic): “Five years ago today, the right Reverend Jerry Falwell accused the nonverbal, non-real kiddie distractor Tinky Winky of being gay. Although not technically a homosexual holiday, it probably should be.”
  2. Jonathan Sabin describes Wesley Gibson’s You Are Here: A Memoir of Arrival as “a welcome addition to the canon of queer confessionals. Step aside, Sedaris.”
  3. Mickey Rapkin’s demicelebrity miniprofile of the euphoniously-named Diego Luna of Y2 MAMA fame is dominated by a stunning artificial hyper-posed portrait by Malerie Marder (no relation). “As Diego Luna drops a lit Marlboro Light, burning a hole in the carpet of a Sunset Boulevard hotel [!], he looks like any other Hollywood ingénue: Shorter than you’d expect, and prettier.”
  4. Michael Caine interview by Mickey Rapkin (again) asks:
    In 1965’s The Ipcress File [did he actually utter “In 1965’s The Ipcress File”?], you played a secret agent who wears glasses. Is it true that the studio was afraid you looked too gay?
    To wear glasses wasn’t really butch, you know. [Not even unfiltered butch. – Ed.] And the other thing was that I cooked a meal for a woman. And they go, “Jesus Christ, they’re gonna think he’s a fag.” And there was all this hullabaloo where in actual fact it turned out to be just the opposite. Women were fascinated by a man who would cook a meal for a woman.
  5. Fair profile of ACLU head Anthony Romero (“Hello[,] My Name Is: The Most Hated Man in America” by Jeff Gordinier). Romero’s overwide smile and ultra-recessed nasolabial creases are properly dubbed “Joker-y.” He’s a big fairy, too, and a lapsed vegetarian. I don’t like the typography, especially the rendition of an HELLO MY NAME IS nametag. (Just go buy one and scan it, fuckface!) Goldinesque oddball off-axis photography by Lisa Kereszi.
  6. Yes, straight guys are body-conscious, and have been for a full generation. There’s nothing queer about it. (Go to a non-gay gym sometime and observe. There just isn’t. These guys are so straight it takes them ages to figure out why you’re looking at them.) Corey Levitan, “Enough with the Carbs Already”: [A] muscular 23-year-old man named Ray [is] a Carb-Counter and his asinine army is millions strong. ‘It’s good,’ he says of his swill [a low-carb beer], with the delusional, keep-believing-it determination common to his kind..... ‘I think I look better,’ says [Josh Lawler, 6′, 170 pounds]. ‘I’ve got a six-pack and I want to keep it.’ ” (Commonly-hideous typography for this piece, with full-measure type set against a backing photo. Other pages show ALL CAPS, and not even ALL SMALL CAPS, either.)