Crazy about cat men

In one of those meatspace conversations, we were talking about crazy cat ladies, each of us trying to do cursory research on our phones. Why are crazy cat ladies a thing in the public imagination, despite none of us knowing anyone like that? Does the crazy cat lady archetype appear in other cultures? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the possibility of a distaff spear counterpart, the crazy cat man?

You can find plenty of popular and scholarly articles talking about the crazy cat lady archetype and its long history of association with witch trials, spinsterhood, women’s suffrage, and animal hoarding. On the other hand, to speak of crazy cat men is to speculate on an archetype that doesn’t truly exist.

[Read more…]

Consent culture and fitness

In gay fiction, the nerd/jock romance is a very common trope. In the standard take, the jock is an attractive closeted high school boy with homophobic friends. The jock archetype works well in these stories, because he’s an object of desire that comes with a source of conflict and character arc for free. The jock archetype is emphatically not the same as jocks in real life.

I recently had occasion to read a gay romance (see review) that was allegedly true and autobiographical. So while it might be described as a nerd/jock romance, he’s a real jock, not the fictional archetype that I’m accustomed to in this context. He is not in high school, he does not have homophobic friends, rather he just spends a lot of time working out and being concerned about his appearance.

I was shocked how disagreeable it was to me, and why. The sticking point was that jocks (in the novel) do not observe consent culture.

[Read more…]

Bros movie review

cn: This review makes no attempt to avoid spoilers

Bros is a 2022 gay romcom described as the first movie of its kind to be made by a major studio. It is most certainly not the first movie of its kind in general. I’ve spent quite some time dare I say dumpster diving for gay movies, so I can tell you that the two most common categories are the high school coming out slash romance, and the adult romance. Bros is an example of the latter, and I pleased to say that the mainstreamification did not really compromise the vision of this particular subgenre. It just got a bigger budget, and the acting and writing got a lot more polish. No, the main problems with Bros are problems that are common to its source subgenre, which makes it a great subject for discussion.

The movie is about a romance is between Bobby an out and proud effeminate gay podcaster and LGBTQ museum curator, and Aaron, a ripped jock.  To illustrate the interests and issues with the movie, I’ll begin by describing one small arc.  At one point, Bobby runs into Aaron giving himself a testosterone injection, apparently to maintain his muscled physique. Bobby questions him, and Aaron says all his friends do it, and it “doesn’t seem to bother you when you’re obsessing over my body”. Bobby says fair enough.
[Read more…]

The failure of satires of masculinity

Much belated, let’s talk about Pickle Rick.

“Pickle Rick” was a 2017 episode of Rick and Morty, and the only one I ever watched. After I saw it, I thought to myself, I don’t need to watch any more of this show. For me, the episode represents a common pattern in fiction, where the intention is to satirize masculinity, but at some level, it fails to do so.

In “Pickle Rick”, Rick turns himself into a pickle to avoid going to therapy with the rest of his family. He sets up a mechanism to turn himself back as soon as his family leaves without him, but something goes wrong and hijinx ensue. He has to use his limited means as a pickle to pull himself through a sequence of over the top action scenes. Eventually, he lands in therapy, where the counselor explains the absurdity of his actions to him.

[Read more…]

“Secure in my masculinity”

“Secure in my/his/their masculinity” is a common expression, but what does it mean? Some readers may find this obvious, but permit me a bit of exploration, to see what we can learn.

In a basic search, I found several low quality listicles, which I take to represent what the common person thinks (as opposed to more scholarly interpretations). The listicles say that you can tell when a man is insecure in his masculinity if he tries to one-up everyone, is homophobic, or avoids anything girly, and so on. In short, masculine insecurity is evidenced by toxic masculinity.

The underlying theory seems to be that insecurity about masculinity causes toxic masculinity. And, by the way, this theory seems to be correct. Another article I found in a basic search describes psychological studies, where men were given tests of “masculinity” and physical strength. They received randomized scores, and the men who were told they scored poorly reported higher aggression, would exaggerate their height, and be more likely to avoid products perceived as feminine.

[Read more…]

Link Roundup: July 2021

Boys Don’t Cry (Except When They Do) | Pop Culture Detective (video, 27:25 min) – A detailed examination of movie tropes surrounding men crying.  Have I ever told the anecdote about how I used to cry when I was in elementary school?  The other kids would make fun of me, and I actually went to counseling because of it.  My counselor was a wonderful person who taught me a lot of important life skills, so I can’t say I regret how it turned out.  Telling boys they can’t cry is bad though, and hits really young.

Queer Games Criticism in 2021 (so far) | Critical Distance – It’s a link roundup of queer games criticism.  Yes, I’m plugging this partly because I’m in it.

If I were to highlight one piece, it would be Speedrunning Undertale helped me understand my gender better.  I’ve been reading queer games criticism for many years, so I’m very aware of the idea that speedrunning is “queer” in the sense of subverting the normative goals of playing a game–much like how queer people subvert the normative goal of forming a heteronormative family.  If that sounds weird, well that’s what academic queer theory is always like.  I think I’m not alone in having a hard time actually buying the theory that speedrunning is queer.  But this essay uses personal narrative to make it much more compelling, so I really appreciated it.

[Read more…]

Against the top/bottom dichotomy

cn: it’s about sex positions, but it is not graphic

I hate the top vs bottom dichotomy as it is used by gay/bi/queer (GBQ) men. If this is something that you like to use for yourself and to understand others, that’s well and good, and I will not deny it to you. But there’s a lot of stereotyping and politics that goes into it, and it’s obnoxious from the perspective of a person who prefers to opt out.

First, at the risk of overexplanation, I should make sure everyone is on the same page. “Top” and “bottom” refer to sex positions, with top being the penetrative position, and bottom being the penetrated position. They can also be used as verbs, or to people. A top is someone who prefers the top position or takes the top position, and a bottom is someone who prefers the bottom position or takes the bottom position. If someone swaps positions, or doesn’t have a preference, that’s called “versatile”, or “vers” for short.

The top/bottom dichotomy is primarily used in the context of men who have sex with men. However, it is occasionally used in other contexts, and the fandom context is of particular note. I mention this because I’ve found that some readers were only familiar with the fan context, and did not realize that I was talking about a real world concept. So, for the fandom folks, at the end I’ll include a discussion of the top/bottom dichotomy in a fan context.

[Read more…]