Take enormous risks all because we want other men to

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take enormous risks all because we want other men to grant us our manhood. Masculinity as a homosocial enactment is fraught with danger, with the risk of failure, and with intense relentless competition. ‘Every man you meet has a rating or an estimate of himself which he never loses or forgets,’ wrote Kenneth Wayne (1912) in his popular turn-of-the- century advice book. ‘A man has his own rating, and instantly he lays it alongside of the other man’ (p. 18). Almost a century later, another man remarked to psychologist Sam Osherson (1992) that ‘[b]y the time you’re an adult, it’s easy to think you’re always in competition with men, for the attention of women, in sports, at work’ (p. 291). ......................................................................................................................... MASCULINITY AS HOMOPHOBIA ......................................................................................................................... If masculinity is a homosocial enactment, its overriding emotion is fear. In the Freudian model, the fear of the father’s power terri fi es the young boy to renounce his desire for his mother and identify with his father. This model links gender identity with sexual orientation: The little boy’s identi fi cation with father (becoming masculine) allows him to now engage in sexual relations with women (he becomes hetero- sexual). This is the origin of how we can ‘read’ one’s sexual orientation through the successful performance of gender identity. Second, the fear that the little boy feels does not send him scurrying into the arms of his mother to protect him from his father. Rather, he believes he will overcome his fear by identifying with its source. We become masculine by identifying with our oppressor. But there is a piece of the puzzle missing, a piece that Freud, himself, implied but did not follow up. 5 If the pre-oedipal boy identi fi es with mother, he sees the world through mother’s eyes . Thus, when he con- fronts father during his great oedipal crisis, he experiences a split vision: He sees his father as his mother sees his father, with a combin- ation of awe, wonder, terror, and desire . He simultaneously sees the father as he, the boy, would like to see him—as the object not of desire but of emulation. Repudiating mother and identifying with father only partially answers his dilemma. What is he to do with that homo- erotic desire, the desire he felt because he saw father the way that his mother saw father? masculinity as homophobia 187
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He must suppress it. Homoerotic desire is cast as feminine desire, desire for other men. Homophobia is the e ff ort to suppress that desire, to purify all relationships with other men, with women, with children of its taint, and to ensure that no one could possibly ever mistake one for a homosexual. Homophobic ight from intimacy with other men is the repudiation of the homosexual within—never completely suc- cessful and hence constantly reenacted in every homosocial relation- ship. ‘The lives of most American men are bounded, and their interests daily curtailed by the constant necessity to prove to their fellows, and to themselves, that they are not sissies, not homosexuals,’ writes psy- choanalytic historian Geo ff rey Gorer (1964). ‘Any interest or pursuit
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