Homosexualist text and subtext in “men’s” magazines


Details, November 2003

2003.10.27 – Another month, another homosexualism-infested issue of the “men’s” magazine Details. The game was rather given away by the cover hed: AND TOM FORD ON TRIMMING BODY HAIR.

Whose? His? Or his boyfriend’s?

Do I get to watch?

Bare chests in this issue

Must be open to the waist to be enumerated.

Reader response

Well, I’m not getting Gawked anymore, but I insist on believing I exert chaos-theory-style ripple-effect influence on the popular culture. Letters to editors this month include:

Tom Ford is a god

2003.10.30 – All right, so I did get re-Gawked, and all I had to do for it was sodomize Dale Peck. Now can somebody please scan the damned photo of Tom Ford for me?

Every invert I have ever polled has instantly agreed that Tom Ford is a spectacularly refined, impossibly sexy epitome of gay manhood. This was discussed some ages ago with John Kusch:

God, Tom Ford is gorgeous.
Tom Ford was better about six years ago, but he’s still got it, “it” being: He is a gay pig in the way we generally only observe in straight pigs. Gay chauvinism toward other gays is most often shallow, lilting and fey. He would not inspire me to deconstruct his harness.
Matt and I were just opining on this during our afternoon walk: More often than not, the men whom we find fetching are in the act of ogling some wily female whom we do not find fetching. It isn’t the heterosexuality we love in the man; it’s his dumbstruck carnal urges that send strong male signals our way, creating harmonic ripples without own male urges.
How does Tom Ford trigger this?
More often than not, homosex[’s] attempts at creating such ripples come off as theatrical, overly-affected, contrived, feminine, fey, wily... exactly the opposite of the harsh “male gaze” that, in its authenticity, sets the homo juices aflow.
Tom’s gaze is direct and unselfconscious; gloating, sensuous, commanding, possessing. He wants to conquer and defile, rather than being possessed and sullied; or, if he does want to become sullied, it’s still with a self-possessed aggression.

Ford exemplifies his own industry. He designs, or oversees the design of, beautiful clothes that look beautiful on him. He has, and embodies, good taste. Tom Ford is an emissary of an idealized, bespoke-engineered future of perfect gay men who are entirely unlike perfect straight men. His very name is masculine, not to mention Huxleyan, and I recall his remark in an interview that the future will be what he enjoyed on a vacation: Eating real food. (I believe it was strawberries, rather an enjoyable mental image.)

And now he’s giving grooming tips to the “straight” readers of Details. Editor’s note from Big Danny Peres:

[I]t was only a matter of minutes before the subject of sex reared its head.... And when Ford talks sex, hair, and fashion, you want to listen. After all, this is the original Queer Eye.

What kind of sex is Ford gonna be talking about? Peres’s tone is remarkably blasé here, perhaps because gay sex is coin of the realm in his book.

If the interview is a keeper, then the accompanying photo by Terry Richardson is a boggler. Imagine Tom Ford, wearing an epauleted shirt open to the sternum whose brilliant white contrasts against his hirsute suntanned chest, reclined on your bed. His giant paw manfully rests a tumbler of spring water and lime atop a pillow as he stares at you, rapaciously.


“Talking Sex with Tom Ford” by Maura Egan:

The article further informs us that Ford likes to recline in the tub, where he will

  1. get a hit offa Visine in both eyes, and also
  2. drink Coca-Cola, whose cans he applies to his eyes to shrink the bags

As mental images go, I’m gonna go with Tom Ford having his way with a strawberry.

(Logrolling in our time: Photographer Terry Richardson shot for Gucci. “ ‘Most people when they meet me think I’m English and gay,’ says Terry Richardson, who is neither. In fact, he’s about as American and straight as you can get.”)

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

What is this, a regular feature now? Last month it was “Gay or British?”; this month it’s “Gay or Preppy?” by MsWhitney McNally, a country-club name if ever I heard one.

I don’t get the purpose of this. The effect seems to be double-edged ridicule: Gays get shat on, as do Brits or preps or the subculture of the moment, and all the barely-reconstructed frat-boy Details reader gets out of it is a good laugh at the objects of derision and their shit-stained clothes, which were, by definition, too faggy in the first place.

“One jets to the Cape; the other skips to sample sales. Whether it’s a picnic in Kennebunkport or a block party in the Castro, the fashion is the same: Pretty-boy pastels and enough khaki to canvas Connecticut.” (This passage, by the way, passes for hard-boiled or ham-fisted writing in the fashion underworld.) The worst failure here is the article copy, which says nothing whatsoever about gay style. It’s a mild lampooning of prepsters, not an indictment of the way sissy boys and preppy boys both dress. How far off your game do you have to be to flub a dead-giveaway punchline like this one?

No wedding ring
Commitment is for Cro-Mags.

Even a born-again Republican would have slipped in a zinger about gay marriage there.

We have to plod through six pages of ads to discover a pale shadow of the “Gay or Preppy?” piece’s intended sartorial bite: Horacio Silva’s reassessment of the turtleneck flatly states “No one can get away with them, says Mark Glaze, a stylish 32-year-old attorney in Washington, D.C. ‘Gay men can’t wear them because we look too gay, and straight men can’t wear them because they invariably look like seventies TV psychiatrists or Leonard Nimoy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ ” (Sounds like a carefully-composed E-mail response that was sweetened by Peres’s minions after the fact.)

But wait. There’s such a thing as looking too gay?

Like Steven Cojocaru? Or a British prepster?

Cary Granite?!

Of the hundreds of available archival photos of dead gay actor Cary Grant, why did Details (“for men”) select a picture of Grant wearing nought but shorts and white tube socks as he playfully bats a punching bag?

Of course, his friend nearby balances a barbell on his shoulders and wears even less.

“When Action Stars Had Class” by Rick Moody:

Cary Grant [in North by Northwest] comes off as a guy you might want to be, in his smartly-tailored suits. He throws a couple of punches, but not very well; he appears in his skivvies (to reveal a rather ordinary, if nonetheless attractive, physique), and he talks a blue streak.... Will Smith, on the other hand, is packaged as a guy with really excellent biceps.

Moody redeems himself later, shattering Details’ most-cherished idol:

Consider the inexplicable career of... Vin Diesel, who, like the young Arnold Schwarzenegger, is noteworthy neither for his acting skill nor for his charisma but who has definitely done his time in the gym. How about Tobey Maguire bulking up for... Spider-man.... Is the actual Tobey Maguire – slight and vulnerable – not good enough?

(Or is he just preppy?)

A genuinely brave endorsement of slight and vulnerable guys. Are they not the men actually likely to wear Details-style fashionable clothes?

How to be apathetic

Have any sort of interest in organizing for the Democratic Party in the United States, apparently. Jeff Gordinier’s “Are We Turning Into Republicans?” crams a six-pack of assumptions into its title alone.

Unlike the radical-chic fist-pumping [?] of previous decades, many young men today see dissent as a kind of career poison – or at least a style disaster. Scott McLarty, a media coordinator for the Green Party, remembers trying to collect signatures a few years ago for a petition to legalize medical marijuana – and getting the brush-off from some young gay men who, a generation earlier, might’ve been on fire for ACT UP. “They said, ‘I put my name on that petition and someone could use it to hurt my career,’ ” McLarty says.


Two throwaway lines this issue:

What our Uncle Tom is up to this month

Augusten Burroughs has cemented his status as Details’s house nigger. His monthly exposés justify the petty hatreds of homophobic straight readers who tell themselves they’re ever so cool with it but who, deep down, want to beat our fucking heads in whenever they see us kiss in public.

And that, oddly enough, is our topic this month: Domestic violence in queer relationships, which Burroughs’s survey estimates at 0% occurrence between gay-male lovers and 100% between lesbians.

Go into any lesbian bar and you’ll see a brawl. [But why would I go there?] Go into any gay bar and you’ll see air-kissing. [But why would the assumed Details reader go there?] Go into any straight bar and you’ll see at least one woman yelling at a guy.... And other men – because they’re into other men – just laugh it off with a “Crazy bitch, and look at her hair.”

Meanwhile, the Anti-Violence Project in Burroughs’ own beloved New York, home to ever so many gay and straight bars and possibly one lesbian bar, documented 432 cases of queer domestic violence in New York City, and some 5,092 incidents across the United States (PDF).

But I mean, let’s focus on what’s important here: Look at her hair.