With a half-finished bottle of soju sitting on the floor between us, and another two waiting to be opened, we settled in, my friend Mr. Lee and I, for an evening of drinking in my very small seven-and-a-half pyong apartment in the part of Seoul known as Chamshil. I lived in the the Ju-gong Apartment Complex, where the English Training Center (ETC), the hagwon, or private language school, that had hired me to each for the year housed all its faculty. We were not far from the Olympic Stadium, where the opening ceremonies for the 1988 Summer Olympics had been held. In fact, some of my colleagues and I had watched the ceremonies from the roof of my building. Mr. Lee had been a student in one of my classes, and when it was over, he asked if he could be my friend. When I said yes, he suggested this night of drinking as a way to cement that friendship.
Those were not his exact words, but close. The speaker was a survivor of stage 4 colon cancer - one of the rare ones - and his message was all about the importance of colonoscopies. But what was striking to me was that he so bluntly identified one barrier men face when it comes to getting them: fear of anal penetration. He talked about how relieved he was when, after his girlfriend had suggested he request a screening his doctor said "You're only 40, you don't have to worry about that for another 10 years." Two years later, an investigation of ongoing dizziness and anemia, he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He regretted not advocating for himself and insisting on the screening, but explained that at the time when the doctor told him not to worry about the screening he was very relieved that he'd be able to put off a procedure that made him feel so squeamish. In trying to convince other men to choose differently he said things like "Guys, nobody will ever know you had one" and "You know how stigmatizing it is if you're a masculine guy to admit that someone put something up your butt, but it's so important to get screened."
He never used the word "homophobia" but that is essentially what he was talking about. Why else would he emphasize "Guys, nobody will ever know you had one" and what other stigma around "putting something up your butt" could he have meant other than the stigma of male homosexuality?
So it made me think. We know that homophobia is hazardous to the health of gay men, and any man who incoroporates stereotypically feminine interests or characteristics into his personality unless they are balanced out by a sufficient number of stereotypically masculine ones. But this is a clear example of how homophobia is hazardous to the health of straight men. And that got me thinking that one subtle way to reduce homophobia is to convince straight men of the merits of sticking things in their butts.
So why not start big, with a long flexible tube and a fiber optic camera!
When we were approached by Robert Jensen, by email, some months ago about reviewing his new book Getting off: Pornography and the end of masculinity, (South End Press, 2007), we were, admittedly, a bit puzzled. Surely he could tell from a cursory glance at this site that we were not likely to agree with his analysis of porn. Still, it seemed worthwhile to review the book, and worthwhile it has been. Here is an excerpt from Chris's review:
It’s not immediately obvious, but Robert Jensen and I have a lot in common. We both grew up as scrawny, physically inept boys with no aptitude for athletics. We were the kind of boys who were by default identified as “faggots” by our peers and, at least in my case, sometimes by teachers. On the playground and the streets, our status as “sensitive” boys made us easy targets for insults and physical abuse.
Most importantly, we both grew into men with deep dissatisfactions with what our society told us we were supposed to be, do, and think as men, and with an appreciation for feminism as a vital tool for both men and women to break free of old, potentially lethal gender scripts. And both of us can go on at length about what sucks about porn.
It’s this last point where the differences between Jensen and I become too obvious to ignore; yes, I can go on for hours and hours about what irredeemable psychic flotsam the great mass of porn is, and could probably fill several volumes thicker than Jensen’s on the mediocrity, body fascism, poor production values, labor abuses and sexism that dominate mainstream porn. These are all things that people of good conscience should find troubling about porn as it exists today. And yet, even as I calculate all the sins of pornography to the nth degree, and catalog the ways that I find it disappointing and trivial in taxonomies so detailed that the Library of Congress would have to invent a whole new indexing system, there’s something else: I think that in porn lies our salvation.