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Category: bisexuality (page 2 of 6)

The Starman Has Landed: Bowie and His Glam Love-Children

Mark Simpson on David Bowie’s ‘men’s lib’ legacy

Lovely – in every sense – piece in the Guardian today by Gary Kemp, guitarist and songwriter and general brains behind 80s New Romantic norf London working class wide boys Spandau Ballet, about how he fell for David Bowie watching his epoch-making performance of ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972. (I’d like to imagine it was inspired by my account in Saint Morrissey of how I fell in love with El Moz singing ‘This Charming Man’ on The Tube – Morrissey was to my generation what Bowie was to Kemp’s.)

‘The first time I fell in love it was with a man. It happened one Thursday evening in the bedroom of a flat in King’s Cross. I was a wide-eyed boy of 12 and the object of my passion had dyed orange hair and white nail varnish. Looking out from a tiny TV screen was a Mephistophelean messenger from the space age, a tinselled troubadour to give voice to my burgeoning sexuality. Pointing a manicured finger down the barrel of a BBC lens, he spoke to me: “I had to phone someone, so I picked on you.” I had been chosen.’

The melodic borrowing from Judy Garland’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ was probably too subtle for most, but the bit where Bowie languorously and yet somehow mate-ishly drapes his arm round the golden Mick Ronson on the ‘family show’ that was Top of The Pops was a very calculated and inspiring gesture of defiance back in July 1972. I mean, look at them. Only a few months before Bowie had very publicly come out as bisexual (though perhaps to up the ante, in his famous interview with Melody Maker he had actually described himself as ‘gay‘).

If you can’t in 2010, in LGBT Pride week, at a time when the Conservative Prime Minister has gay celebs round for drinks at Number 10, quite understand why this caused a sensation, and why millions of dads went apoplectic about ‘that fackin’ pooftah!’, bear in mind that just five years previously any and all male-male sexual relations were still illegal in the UK. The very first Gay Pride march had only been held a few days before Bowie’s own parade through the nation’s front rooms. This single appearance by Bowie on Top of the Pops, a show watched by most of the UK back then – and every single kid that didn’t sing in the choir – was probably more significant and influential than all the UK Pride marches put together.

He later famously repudiated all this in 1983, the year of the sell-out (in every sense) Let’s Dance tour, claiming that saying he was bisexual was ‘the biggest mistake I ever made’. In 1993 he announced he had always been a ‘closet heterosexual’ and that despite his interest in the culture it produced, homosexuality and bisexuality ‘wasn’t something I was comfortable with at all’.

But in 2002 an older and perhaps less ambitious Bowie was asked if he still believed that. His response sounds more convincing:

‘Interesting. {Long pause} I don’t think it was a mistake in Europe, but it was a lot tougher in America. I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people. I knew what I wanted to be, which was a songwriter and a performer, and I felt that bisexuality became my headline over here for so long. America is a very puritanical place, and I think it stood in the way of so much I wanted to do.’

Not for the last time, the power of the almighty Puritan dollar had triumphed over the sexually ambiguous English pop star and his fey, spangly, decadent Limey ways. Success in the US – something Bowie didn’t really achieve on a major scale until the Yuppie-suited respectability of Let’s Dance – is still regarded as the benchmark for British acts. Partly because it is such a vast market, of course, and because US music has influenced UK performers like Bowie so much, but also because since we lost the Second World War to the United States we have nurtured such a vast inferiority complex about our colonial ‘cousins’.

But America, we often forget over here in the UK, is a very foreign country indeed. One separated from us by much more than a shared ocean and language.

The UK is a funny little small island, with far too much media per head – which since it lost its Empire takes far too much interest in superficial, ‘effeminate’ things like music and fashion and gossip. And crucially, we’re basically a secular country and have been, more or less, since Henry VIII nationalised the monasteries. The UK is a country where the defunct popular tradition of Music Hall – which Bowie drew heavily upon – is probably of much greater cultural importance today than any of that dogmatic Pauline asceticism that calls itself ‘Christianity’.

And America? Well, America isn’t any of these things.

This is why the seriously flirtatious personal style of metrosexuality, which at the very least throws a languorous arm around the neck of bi-responsiveness – and which is much more David Bowie’s love-child than mine – really took root in the UK at the end of the Twentieth Century, largely without the muscular Christian anti-metro/anti-fag backlash that happened in the US in the mid-to-late Noughties.

In the UK, metrosexuality instead produced new kinds of ‘starmen’ such as David Beckham – football’s answer to David Bowie.

As well as love-ly articles like the one above by happily married men like Gary Kemp.

Look out your window I can see his light

If we can sparkle he may land tonight

Don’t tell your poppa or he’ll get us locked up in fright

There’s a Starman waiting in the sky….

 
David Bowie’s Men’s Lib activism began early – here he is at the tender age of 17 being interviewed by the BBC about his Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsNVsvvIfiM
(Special thanks to Paul Burston for very kindly taking me to see ‘The Dame’  – as he’s known in the business- at Wembley Arena, back in the dying years of the Twentieth Century. It was my first exposure to him – and although Ziggy had been buried at the Hammersmith Odeon twenty years past Bowie was still a revelation.)

The End of Heterosexuality (As We’ve Known It)

By Mark Simpson

A bullet-pointed column in the NYT by Charles M. Blow examines a sea-change in attitudes towards homosexuality suggested by a recent Gallup poll which found that, for the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as “morally acceptable” has crossed the symbolically important 50 percent mark.

Also for the first time, and even more significantly, more men than women hold that view. While women’s attitudes have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men over 50 who consider homosexuality morally acceptable rose by a by an eyebrow-raising 26% -and for those aged 18-49 by an eyepopping 48%.

What on earth has happened in the US since 2006? How did the American male lose his world-famous Christian sphincter-cramp and righteous loathing of sodomy? Have the gays been secretly putting poppers in the locker-room ventilation shaft?

Alas, Gallup doesn’t say.  So Mr Blow does what you do at the NYT when you’re stumped: ask some academics.  They came up with three theories:

    1. As more gay people come out more straight people get to personally know gay people which makes it more difficult to discriminate.
    2. Men may be becoming more ‘egalitarian’ in general, partly thanks to feminism.
    3. “Virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality”.

Now, the first two of these theories seem to me fairly plausible explanations for increased acceptance of homosexuality at any time, but not especially in the last few years – let alone that whopping 48% rise for 18-49 year olds. But the third theory about public homophobes being exposed as secretly gay perhaps goes too far in the opposite direction and is too current-news specific. As if the discovery that famous homophobe George Rekkers hired a rent boy to give him ‘special’ massages could transform attitudes towards man-love overnight – rather than just change attitudes towards George Rekkers.

So I give them all just a C minus.

And, as Blow points out, none of these theories address the main finding – that men now are more accepting than women, reversing the gender split on this subject that has held since pollsters started bugging people with questions about ‘homosexual relations’.

In my own speculative opinion, none of these theories can see the rainforest for the trees. Of course young men in the US are much more accepting of homosexuality – because so many of them are now way gay themselves. It’s not really an issue of ‘tolerance’ or ‘acceptance’ of ‘otherness’ at all. It’s about self-interest – quite literally. About men being less down on the gays because they’re less hard on themselves now – in fact, rather sweet on themselves instead.

It’s about men in general not being so quick to renounce and condemn their own ‘unmanly’ desires or narcissism – or project it into ‘faggots’.

Which from the point of view of today’s sensually greedy male would be a terrible waste of a prostate gland. Probably most young men are now doing pretty much everything that freaky gay men were once abhorred for doing – from anal play (both ways) to no-strings fuck-buddies, to crying over Glee, and using buff-puffs in the shower while demanding as their male birthright ‘comfortable skin’ (as the recent massive ad campaign for Dove for Men puts it).

And the timing fits almost as snugly as a finger or three where the sun don’t shine. It was after all only in 2003 that the Supreme Court finally struck down the anti sodomy laws still on the statute books of some US states as unconstitutional. It was also in the early Noughties that metrosexuality really took off in the US.

Despite a mid-Noughties anti-metro, anti-gay marriage backlash that helped re-elect Bush, in the Tweenies the male desire to be desired, and his eagerness to use product – and body parts and practises – once deemed ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ or just ‘wrong’ to achieve this, seems to have become pretty much accepted amongst most American males under 45. It’s consumerism and advertising of course not the gays that has been putting the poppers in the men’s locker room.

Along the way, many young men have twigged that in a post-feminist world of commodified bodies and online tartiness there is decidedly no advantage to them any more in an essentially Victorian sexual division of labour in the bedroom and bathroom that insists only women are looked at and men do the looking, that women are always passive and men are always active – or in the homophobia that was used to enforce it. Men now want it all.  Both ends.

And perhaps American women aren’t keeping up with men’s changing attitudes because some are realising how ‘gay’ their boyfriends and husbands are already and wondering where this is all leading.

There’s plenty to wonder about.  After all, it’s the end of the road for that holiest American institution of all: Heterosexuality. Not cross-sex attraction, of course, or reproduction – but that system of compulsory, full-time, always-asserted straightness for men which straying from momentarily, or even just failing to show sufficient respect towards in the past could cost you your cojones. What, you a FAG??

If metrosexuality is based on vanity, retrosexuality, it needs to be pointed out, was based partly on self-loathing. ‘Real men’ were supposed to be repulsed by their own bodies at least as much as they were repulsed by other men’s. (If they were really lucky they might get away with passionate indifference.)

After a decade or so of metrosexuality a tipping point seems to have been reached. Men’s self-loving bi-sensuality and appreciation of male beauty, awakened and increasingly normalised by our mediated world, seems to be here to stay. Even in the God-fearing USA. And might now, if it’s in the mood and treated right, choose to be consummated rather than just deflected into consumerism again.

When I first wrote about how the future of men was metrosexual, back in 1994, it was clear to me that metrosexuality was to some degree the flipside of the then emerging fashion for female bi-curiousness. I didn’t talk about this much at the time because I knew no one would listen if I did.  (I needn’t have worried – they didn’t anyway.)

In this regard, one of the academics in the NYT piece was (finally) quoted as saying something interesting, right at the end:

‘Professor Savin-Williams says that his current research reveals that the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as “mostly straight” as opposed to labels like “straight,” “gay” or “bisexual.”  They acknowledge some level of attraction to other men even as they say that they probably wouldn’t act on it, but … the right guy, the right day, a few beers and who knows. As the professor points out, you would never have heard that in years past.’

An A ++ to Dr Savin-Williams. Not so long ago, when Heterosexuality was a proper belief system that commanded round-the-clock obeisance, ‘mostly straight’ would have been a heretical contradiction in terms – like half pregnant. But in this Brave New World of male neediness it’s just a statement of where we’re at.

For today’s young men the fear of faggotry is fast being replaced by the fear of missing out.

Tip: Dermod Moore

MM4W – No Dudes! Not Gay!! We Don’t Touch Each Other!!!

Some amusing – and possibly disturbing – MM4W Craiglist personal ads spotted on the rather fascinating NattySoltesz.com (not entirely office safe).

My personal favourite is the one headlined: ‘Probably the 2 Best Looking Men You’ll Find On Here‘, which insists:

‘No trannies, no dudes, none of that creepy stuff — we’re straight!’

The pictures attached of the two buffed, preening male tarts are indeed a testament to where straight men are at these days. The state of straight.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with some buddies wanting to re-enacct the gang-bang, several-outsized-penises-pester-one-pussy porn that is so popular with straight men these days.  And if they’re buffed — even better. It doesn’t mean they’re gay. It doesn’t even mean that they’re particularly bisexual. It just means that, like most men, they’re rather keen on cocks.

But the hysterical lengths men still feel they have to go to to refute any of ‘that creepy stuff’ — even as they spit-roast or DP an obliging lady together, admiring each other’s sweating, flexing muscles and perhaps enjoying the sensation of their buddy’s erect penis hammering away on the other side of the pelvic area — or perhaps in the same orifice — is a bit sad. If understandable. Because of course, if you’re male and ‘touch one another’, even just once, then you are GAY!!!!! Forever. Whereas if you’re female and touch one another you’re… HOT!!!!!

The slightly, how shall I put it, impenetrable French Freudian feminist Luce Irigary (impenetrable even by the standards of French feminism) wrote back in the 1980s about the ‘masculine homosexual economy’ (of heterosexuals) in which women are merely objects and tokens to be exchanged between men — men in patriarchical systems being supposedly far more interested in other men than in women.

In the 21st Century we have moved on from that, of course. Now men appear to be using women as double-ended Fleshlites.

Celebrity Big Brother UK Drags It Up For The Final Season

C4 have been running this rather clever new cross-dressing Renault Twingo Sport ad heavily during Celebrity Big Brother ad breaks.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that Alex Reid, Jordan’s transexy cage-fighting beefy boyfriend, is one of the house-mates this year? And rapidly stealing the show, despite being the tabloids’ whipping boy and the way he was loudly booed when he entered the House.

The Twingo ad is quite a departure for a car commercial, especially one for a sporty hot hatch aimed at young men.  Jeremy Clarkson must be pulling what’s left of his 1970s dad hair out.

Instead of displaying shame, shock, anger or embarrassment at being humiliated in front of his mates the hot-hatch metrosexual son sees his father’s cross dressing as an opportunity to be socially exploited: ‘Dad?  Can you get us in?’.  We live in modern times indeed.

So it’s been entertaining to watch dinosaurs in the Big Brother House like Vinnie Jones give Alex pseudo fatherly ‘advice’ — which boils down to: ‘Don’t ‘ave anyfin’ to do wiv any of that fackin’ queer stuff, my son.’  If you want to be a washed-up bit part actor-thug with sphincter cramp, that is.

I literally spilt my tea last week when Vinnie announced, after getting up sharpish and moving, backs-against-the-wall-stylee, right to the other side of the room when Alex volunteered he was ‘try-sexual’: ‘I wouldn’t be in a movie wiv you if they paid me five million quid!’

Well Vinnie sweetie, you are in a movie with Alex already — it’s called CBB and you did it, according to reports, for just 350,000.

Alex, bless him, looked crestfallen, but then almost all of them, including former Madam Heidi Fleiss, the one with prolapsed lips, were lining up to have a go at him for being ‘confused’. Translation: interesting.  Let’s hope they don’t succeed in straightening him out.

House rule-book memorising Vinnie is playing CBB dad, but a very bad one — with badly dyed hair.  He’s so jealous of Alex you can taste it.  He’s jealous of his youth, his hair, his looks, his tits, and jealous of his cross-dressing, or at least his lack of hang-ups about it. He’s also threatened by Alex’s real as opposed to ‘Guy Ritchie’ fighting ability.

Most entertainingly of all ‘Hard Man’ Vin is shaping up to be a major gossiping bitch — cross-dressing Alex by contrast mostly keeps his tongue in his head and hangs onto his sense of fun.  Vinnie knows Alex is his main threat, in every sense: that’s why he keeps needling him and nominating him. He’d make a great Blakey in any remake of On The Buses.

But the bad CBB dads don’t end there.  Mega-swish Stephen Baldwin, who puts me in mind of the crazy camp ‘Begone foul demons!!’ preacher on the make in There Will Be Blood, is completely obsessed with Alex, spending scads of time and energy trying to seduce him — into the ways of Je-sus!– with flattery, love-bombing, back massages, mentalist preaching, and lots and lots of inappropriate eye-contact during endless shaggy dog sermons.  Stephen, who clearly doesn’t know his parable from his allegory, thinks he’s ‘helping’ Alex and showing him and us the viewers at home the revealed truth of the Holy Book he likes to thump so much and his own superior, saved status, but is in fact just making a very convincing case for American evangelism being sublimated – or rather congealed – homoerotics.

Alex is too nice a bloke to tell him to piss off.  Besides, he likes attention — and I suspect he knows that The Conversion of Alex just gets him more camera time.

I haven’t really watched CBB, or BB, since Pete Burns’ legendary appearance on it a few years back as a mischievous, sometimes downright malevolent, Eastern pagan goddess with a scouse accent.  Nor have many other people, which is why C4 isn’t renewing the franchise with Endemol.  But this final CBB is shaping up to be almost as good.

And I haven’t even mentioned Stephanie Beacham and Ivana Trump….

Fight Club: How Gay is MMA?

Mark Simpson attends an epic UFC event finds himself turned on to the charms of ‘gay porn for straight men’.

(Originally appeared in Out magazine, June 2008)

Imagine the Space Shuttle taking off with a really fat customized exhaust pipe. Or Visigoths sacking Ancient Rome with kicking bass tubes fitted to their 4-by-4s. Or 20,000 supercharged male orgasms. Simultaneously. And you have some idea what it sounds and feels like in Montreal’s famous Bell Centre tonight for Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, as a spunky young carrot redhead in shorts pins an auburn lad on his back with his heels somewhere around his ears.

I think the technical term for this is a “full mount.” Or maybe it’s “ground and pound.” I get confused. And flustered.

Never Back DownAs the chiselled and blond bad guy with the low-slung shorts (Cam Gigandet) in the recent mixed martial arts (MMA) exploitation flick Never Back Down says leeringly to the doe-eyed brunet boxer  good guy (Sean Faris) new to MMA, the good news is that in this sport you can choke, kick, punch, pin, and throttle. “The bad news is that it’s gotta end with you looking like a bitch in front of everybody.”

Perhaps it was bad news for him – and for the auburn lad in the ring tonight – but certainly not for the 22,000-strong overwhelmingly young-male audience for the biggest-ever UFC event.

Over 2,500 miles away in Las Vegas, Brit boxer Joe “slapper” Calzaghe is tonight defeating light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins on points. In the long-established world of boxing, there is rumoured to be an ancient and secret tradition called the “perk,” or “perquisite” – by which the losing man may be required later to literally give up what he has lost symbolically. In other words, the fucked gets… really fucked.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the “perk,” though the breathless trash talk of modern-day boxers in the run-up to a fight – “I’m gonna make you my bitch/girlfriend/punk” – certainly doesn’t discredit it. But I’m fairly certain that the “perk” doesn’t exist in the “full-contact” brave new world of mixed martial arts (MMA), an omnivorous blend of boxing, freestyle wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, kick-boxing, karate, jujitsu, and Thai boxing that is rapidly replacing boring old traditional boxing, especially among young men, as the fighting sport. The perk isn’t needed. Because in MMA you get perked in the “ring” in front of everybody. On pay-per-view TV. The “perk” is the whole perking point, man. And UFC, by far the most successful purveyor of MMA fights for the cable TV voyeur, looks remarkably like gay porn for straight men: ultimate fuck-fighting.

ufc83_07_danzig_vs_bocek_001In the octagonal UFC cage set up over the Bell Centre ice hockey rink — octagonal perhaps because it better affords multiple viewing angles than a square boxing ring – Mac Danzig is still on his back; his sweaty, pumped, almost translucently white torso is flushed with the auburn heat that auburn skin produces when it is aroused. His panting, fetching head has been pushed up against the cage by redhead Marc Bocek’s energetic pounding, as if the cage were in fact a headboard. Bocek isn’t making love, however, or at least not the vanilla kind. He’s hammering the living daylights out of Danzig, stoking the crowd into ever-higher waves of frenzy. Although the Octagon is right in front of me, I’m watching all of this on one of the giant screens overhead: MMA is mostly a horizontal sport — one that requires multiple zoom lenses and a big TV to enjoy properly.

Bocek pauses for a moment to grab his partner/adversary by his hips, almost tenderly, and drag him backward while still kneeling between his legs, not wanting to break contact and negotiate that tricky “re-entry.” It isn’t, though, out of consideration for his chum’s cricked neck. He’s worried that Danzig will use the cage to get up off the canvas — and then get him in the “bitch” position. MMA is all about fighting for top. (Or maybe for extremely truculent bottom.)

bocekUnfortunately for Bocek, Danzig succeeds in breaking away anyway, jumps to his feet, and deftly, impersonally, brings up his knee and smashes it against Bocek’s left eyebrow, which provokes another roar of excitement from the crowd and opens up a very nasty laceration that spills hot blood everywhere, streaming into his eye, across his face, down his chin, and splatters across his lily-white chest — and all over his opponent. MMA is definitely not safe sex. The ref pauses the fight to examine Bocek’s eye. If the blood is preventing him from seeing, the fight will be declared in Danzig’s favor.

posterTurning to my beautifully produced glossy fight program, which includes full-page colour images of the topless young fighters arranged opposite one another and their vital statistics, I learn that Danzig is 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds, 28, and a Cleveland native. His feisty opponent, Bocek, from Woodbridge, Canada, is 26, and is also 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds. As someone who has a thing for redheads and short-asses, I’d say they are well matched.

The ref continues the match – and why not? Blood looks good on TV. There are only a few seconds left of the third and final round (UFC fights only go to a maximum three rounds at five minutes each — about the average length of a porn scene). Bocek, despite the turned tables and his pasting and what must be deathly tiredness, is still putting up an astonishing fight. Danzig scores a take-down almost immediately and moves, as they say in MMA, “directly to the mount.” Bocek “gives up his back” to try to save his ruined face from further punishment but is then caught in a “rear-naked choke” by Danzig’s powerful, fatally inviting arms. He “taps out” (submits) at 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

I don’t know about Bocek, but these were some of the longest 3 minutes, 48 seconds of my life. I’m aroused and inspired and exhausted and confused. For my money, Bocek won that fight – morally speaking. Which of course means that he lost very badly. His face is roadkill. He is really fucked. But he displayed that quality you hear people talk about reverently in MMA: heart.

Despite the gore, MMA is generally safer than boxing — there are fewer fatalities and brain-damage is less common. Because the fight is “full-contact,” the head doesn’t take all the violence. When it does, though, it’s pretty gruesome. Yet amid all the mayhem, there is a touching tenderness to MMA. Not because it looks to my twisted, queer eye like very rough sex — but because of that “heart” business. After a bout is over, most fighters hug each other in a pseudo-post-coital embrace that re-enacts the warlike hug earlier, only this time it’s a hug of warm brotherhood.

Another huge, manly Gallic roar. The arena’s giant screen is now tuned to the locker room; a rangy young blond skinhead fighter has peeled his shirt off, revealing a well-oiled fleshly fighting machine. The light behind him and his piercing blue eyes gazing into the camera, not to mention the low position of the locker-room cam, give him the cast of a demigod. It’s Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, the handsome, stylish 26-year-old local Montreal boy who tonight is hoping to seize back his UFC Welterweight belt from Matt “the Terror” Serra, 33, the no-nonsense Long Island master of Brazilian jujitsu who dispossessed him of it last year with what some people said was a lucky punch.

We’ve only been watching the hors d’oeuvre. All this blood has just been so much foreplay.

***

MacDanzigMarkBocek-1

“STOP LOOKING LADIES!” some funny guy in the audience shouts. It’s the weigh-in, a day earlier. Ed “Short Fuse” Herman, another 20-something boy-next-door red-headed fighter, from Vancouver, Wash., is naked on the stage under the spotlight, a towel held up by two lieutenants to shield his “short fuse.” Funnily enough, it’s mostly men rather than ladies doing the looking here in this packed auditorium. Though some are perhaps doing more looking than others: From where I’m seated at the side, I manage to catch a glimpse of Ed’s white butt as he bends over to slip off his briefs (a day later he will fight in shorts cheekily advertising ‘CONDOM DEPOT’ — across his butt).

Several guys have had to take their underpants off – to cheers. I can’t help but wonder whether the UFC officials, for showbiz’s sake, pretend some of these guys are closer to the weight limit than they are.

UFC knows all about showbiz. According to Forbes magazine, its pay-per-view shows have drawn well over 2 million viewers, most of them male and ages 18 to 49. Formidably shrewd, motor-mouthed former boxing promoter Dana White hosts The Ultimate Fighter, UFC’s hit PPV series on Spike (a men-only Big Brother with grappling gloves), which has taken MMA, essentially a semi-organized barroom brawl in the ’90s, cleaned it up, introduced some rules — including no stomping, no spitting, no throat strikes, no punches to the back of the head, and “no groin attacks of any kind” – and made it into a hot, multiangle, high-impact PPV commodity.

Described memorably by John McCain in 1998 as “human cockfighting,” and under threat of a total ban, MMA has become a different, more saleable, less relentlessly violent kind of “cockfighting” in the nurturing hands of the UFC – so much so that McCain himself recently relented: “The sport has grown up.” As a measure of just how grown up, UFC – for which casino owners the Fertitta brothers paid $2 million in 2001 – is today valued at roughly $1 billion. Cultural respectability has arrived too in the form of a recently published $2,500 MMA art book titled Octagon with a foreword by man-loving straight playwright David Mamet, who wrote and directed the MMA-themed movie Redbelt. MMA is also coming to major-network TV: CBS recently announced plans to air four MMA fights (non-UFC) annually — despite the disapproval of CBS chairman Sumner Redstone. “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he said, perhaps missing the way UFC brings loving and fighting spectacularly together.

There is a lot of passionate hero worship in the world of MMA, not so much homoerotic as hero-erotic – or herotic. Straight male fans and fighters themselves will enthuse with shining eyes about “my idol”, in a way that in most other contexts would be considered much too ‘gay’ to keep a straight face.  But perhaps that’s not so surprising, since MMA owes a lot to those notorious warrior homos, the ancient Greeks. Although today’s MMA came to us via Brazilian jujitsu (alas, not conducted in Speedos, as the name may suggest), many consider it the modern version of pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling that was the basis of combat training for Greek soldiers and an original Olympic sport. With lethal purity, pankration had two primary rules: no eye-gouging or biting. Fingers were often snapped off. Sometimes death or unconsciousness was the only form of submission (rather like this year’s Democratic primaries).

MMA’s younger fans are not likely to acknowledge their sport’s homoerotic heritage. For most of these young men, many of them blue-collar and swooningly in love with masculinity, gay means unmanly and passive and emasculated – and therefore major turn-off. MMA is gay porn for straight men because its violence not only justifies the intimate, protracted, eye-popping physicality of the sport but also preserves its virility – the very thing that gets many of its fans hot. These fighters can’t be fags – look how fucking tough they are, dude! It’s a bit like how in gay porn “real” tops never bottom – for the sake of the bottoms watching.

Sometimes the MMA fighter really is homo – like professional MMA fighter Shad Smith, who was recently profiled in The New York Times. From a tough blue-collar background, Smith was desperate to hide his sexuality at first. “I was petrified because I didn’t want anyone to find out,” he told the Times. “And I would try to be the toughest person around. That way no one would suspect. No one would ever say it. No one would think it.” Doubtless there are quite a few Shad Smiths who became very good, very determined, very motivated scrappers because they weren’t escaping to college or opening a hairdressing salon.

Georges St.-PierreThe tough-guy image is something of an illusion — if an entrancing and convincing one. Surprisingly often, fighters turn out to be sensitive, introspective loners – “fags” who aren’t actually fags — such as Mac Danzig, the beefy auburn-haired killer who is in fact a vegan and whose main pastime, when he isn’t turning another lad’s face into tenderloin, is nature photography. That’s also the story of Georges St-Pierre, a bullied slight boy at school who turned to MMA for salvation, who with his tight, wiry body, immaculately groomed presentation and designer clothes looks rather metro. As one observer put it: “He’s the kind of flash Europunk you might think you could wipe the floor with if you came across him in a bar, but you’d be very, very wrong.”

Likewise you might expect a fight between Serra and St-Pierre to be billed as good ol’ USA versus Frenchy “fag,” but you’d be wrong. Because GSP – to give St-Pierre his brand name – is generally considered to be an exceptional fighter, genuinely excellent in several disciplines, or maybe because this is such a visual medium, he has begun to look like the David Beckham of UFC, albeit one who actually reads books and is, heaven forfend!, interested in philosophy (that’s the French for you). His photogenic face and body and his workouts have been splashed across countless health and fitness magazines.

His opponent, Matt Serra, may be breezily unpretentious and resemble an unpainted fire hydrant, but he is definitely no idiot: “I think they look at Georges as the Crest poster boy with the sparkle in his teeth, the looks, the physique, the body and the athleticism…the real version of what Van Damme was doing,” he’s said. “And then comes me — the Joe Pesci–style ‘Heyooo!’ But it’s cool, man. I’m down with it. I fit in those shoes real well. I’m just looking forward to having another good fight.”

When he turns up for his weigh-in, a relentless tidal wave of boos greets him. An Italian-American pocket battleship at 5 foot 6, Serra weighs in at 169.5 pounds; he appears indifferent to the roiling sea of hatred around him. The booing doesn’t stop when the host offers him the microphone, and whatever he says is completely drowned out. So he offers the crowd two fingers, meaning “two times” and V for victory – and, perhaps, “fuck you.”

Ecstatic cheers greet his challenger St-Pierre, who’s taller by four inches but in stature by several feet. St.-Pierre fluidly strips down to his tasteful and tastily filled-out black underwear and also weighs in at 169.5 pounds. Offered the mike, he graciously tells the crowd they shouldn’t hate Serra and that “I don’t fight with angerrr – I fight with my ‘eart.” The two men pose for the cameras in a fighting stance and then they hug, GSP kissing Serra’s huge neck.

There was no trash talk in the quieter surroundings of the press conference the day before. The fighters had been polite, respectful, even friendly. “C’mon, I’ve got nothing against the French,” protested Serra when the journalists dug up some “Frenchy” quotes from the past. St.-Pierre, for his part, was touchingly open. “I am nervous and scared to fail but that’s normal,” he admitted. “I ‘ave butterflies. but I ‘ave to make the butterflies fly in formation.”

***

AAAYYYYYYYYAYYYYEAAAAAAA-AAHHAAAARGH!!!

The Bell Centre outdoes itself as Georges St.-Pierre, surrounded by his lieutenants, makes his way to the stage in a natty red jujitsu jacket. Climbing into the Octagon, he peels off his silky, tight black T-shirt, and then his baggy trousers come off, revealing tight black trunks with just a white fleur-de-lis on the side of his firm right buttock. It matches the arty tattoo on the back of his steely calf.

Cheers turn to boos. Matt Serra has arrived in a baggy black T-shirt with big white lettering: BUY GUNS SELL GUNS — GUNSAMERICA.COM. The stats on the big screen make difficult reading for Serra: GSP is taller and younger and has a longer reach. Worse, he is more popular and better-looking and has nicer pants. He’s the favourite in every way.

The bell rings, and they touch gloves. In a flash St.-Pierre has Serra on the canvas. All that frustration, regret, resolve, training — and heart — have exploded. All over Serra. To tire him out, St.-Pierre lets him get up, keeping him within range of his own fists but out of Serra’s. Then he takes him down again. St.-Pierre’s purposeful, ominous shoulders rise up like medieval armour, like Joan of Arc seriously narked.

End of round 1. Serra’s eye is swelling up badly. He looks beaten already.

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Round 2. Plucky Serra tries a kick.  St.-Pierre catches it and takes Serra down. After Serra stands up again, St.-Pierre lets fly a barrage of punches. Serra is too groggy to parry them. St.-Pierre — part panther, part lethal ballet dancer — comes in for the kill, easily taking his opponent down again. Serra offers his back, and St.-Pierre knees him repeatedly, athletically in the ribs in a manner which somehow manages to be as passionate as it is impersonal.

The ref stops the match, and it’s all over: technical knockout. Canada has won. Montreal has beaten Long Island. The butterflies flew in formation. Terrifying formation. And judging by the noise from the crowd, the entire world and its dad have just climaxed.

A grinning St.-Pierre executes a winning somersault. The crowd chants, “FUCK YOU, SERRA! FUCK YOU, SERRA!” He has been fucked. He was fucked. He is fucked. He is without any doubt whatsoever the fuckee. But he exhibits no resentment. The warriors embrace warmly, another kiss from GSP to that huge, now sweaty neck. Serra holds St.-Pierre’s arm up for the crowd, then hoists him on his shoulder, carrying him for a few staggering steps.

If MMA is gay porn for straight men, then tonight a part of me wonders whether, for all its spilled blood and mashed faces, it isn’t the better kind.

After all, no one could seriously accuse gay porn of having “heart.”

This essay is collected in ‘Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story’.