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Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men

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A different look at heterosexuality in the twenty-first century A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay? Not Gay thrusts deep into a world where straight guy-on-guy actio A different look at heterosexuality in the twenty-first century A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay? Not Gay thrusts deep into a world where straight guy-on-guy action is not a myth but a reality: there’s fraternity and military hazing rituals, where new recruits are made to grab each other’s penises and stick fingers up their fellow members’ anuses; online personal ads, where straight men seek other straight men to masturbate with; and, last but not least, the long and clandestine history of straight men frequenting public restrooms for sexual encounters with other men. For Jane Ward, these sexual practices reveal a unique social space where straight white men can—and do—have sex with other straight white men; in fact, she argues, to do so reaffirms rather than challenges their gender and racial identity. Ward illustrates that sex between straight white men allows them to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of sex with men. By understanding their same-sex sexual practice as meaningless, accidental, or even necessary, straight white men can perform homosexual contact in heterosexual ways. These sex acts are not slippages into a queer way of being or expressions of a desired but unarticulated gay identity. Instead, Ward argues, they reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterizes all human sexual desire. In the end, Ward’s analysis offers a new way to think about heterosexuality—not as the opposite or absence of homosexuality, but as its own unique mode of engaging in homosexual sex, a mode characterized by pretense, dis-identification and racial and heterosexual privilege. Daring, insightful, and brimming with wit, Not Gay is a fascinating new take on the complexities of heterosexuality in the modern era.


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A different look at heterosexuality in the twenty-first century A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay? Not Gay thrusts deep into a world where straight guy-on-guy actio A different look at heterosexuality in the twenty-first century A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay? Not Gay thrusts deep into a world where straight guy-on-guy action is not a myth but a reality: there’s fraternity and military hazing rituals, where new recruits are made to grab each other’s penises and stick fingers up their fellow members’ anuses; online personal ads, where straight men seek other straight men to masturbate with; and, last but not least, the long and clandestine history of straight men frequenting public restrooms for sexual encounters with other men. For Jane Ward, these sexual practices reveal a unique social space where straight white men can—and do—have sex with other straight white men; in fact, she argues, to do so reaffirms rather than challenges their gender and racial identity. Ward illustrates that sex between straight white men allows them to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of sex with men. By understanding their same-sex sexual practice as meaningless, accidental, or even necessary, straight white men can perform homosexual contact in heterosexual ways. These sex acts are not slippages into a queer way of being or expressions of a desired but unarticulated gay identity. Instead, Ward argues, they reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterizes all human sexual desire. In the end, Ward’s analysis offers a new way to think about heterosexuality—not as the opposite or absence of homosexuality, but as its own unique mode of engaging in homosexual sex, a mode characterized by pretense, dis-identification and racial and heterosexual privilege. Daring, insightful, and brimming with wit, Not Gay is a fascinating new take on the complexities of heterosexuality in the modern era.

30 review for Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    haha, this book! what an odd title, so specific. "straight white men" ... it's like they are some fabled unicorn or something. but what about all those poor straight not-white men who just want to hit it like bros and it's totally not gay but just uh bros hanging out? where is their study? so I was at Barnes & Noble over the Christmas holiday with my nephews, ages 10 and 13, waiting for a late night showing of the latest Star Wars. it is my practice to shower them with books during the holida haha, this book! what an odd title, so specific. "straight white men" ... it's like they are some fabled unicorn or something. but what about all those poor straight not-white men who just want to hit it like bros and it's totally not gay but just uh bros hanging out? where is their study? so I was at Barnes & Noble over the Christmas holiday with my nephews, ages 10 and 13, waiting for a late night showing of the latest Star Wars. it is my practice to shower them with books during the holiday season in a no doubt ineffectual attempt to make them read more and perhaps play sports and video games less. when at places like B & N, I usually tell them to pick a couple books that I'll buy for them. they made their choices that night and as I was waiting in the check-out line, they ran up and gave me a couple more books, and then hastily scampered off. on top was some book about Bobba Fett which instantly absorbed me. after I finished scanning that book and thinking that maybe I would borrow it, I looked at the second book underneath it and saw this one, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men. I made a loud shocked noise and almost dropped it like it was on fire. the elderly gent behind me gave me a censorious look, glanced at the book, and then made his own own shocked noise while quickly looking away. the couple behind him craned their heads to see what the fuss was about and instantly started smirking to each other. and carefully hidden within a book aisle somewhere close, my nephews started laughing hysterically. they are good hiders and even better runners so it took me a while to find and then beat them (with this book).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    “I began this study because I felt heterosexuality calling me to do something, repeatedly hailing me, flagging me down to tell an obligatory and erroneous story about myself.” (pg. 191) Later, Jane Ward writes, “I find both heterosexual and mainstream gay culture distasteful and often pitiable; that my partner and I are not ladies and we don’t want our relationship described as beautiful; that if you think you would be happier as a dyke you could and should be one; and that I don’t want a good p “I began this study because I felt heterosexuality calling me to do something, repeatedly hailing me, flagging me down to tell an obligatory and erroneous story about myself.” (pg. 191) Later, Jane Ward writes, “I find both heterosexual and mainstream gay culture distasteful and often pitiable; that my partner and I are not ladies and we don’t want our relationship described as beautiful; that if you think you would be happier as a dyke you could and should be one; and that I don’t want a good public image (at least not the kind for which mainstream gay and lesbian movement is striving); and that it is precisely because queerness refuses normalization that is meaningful to me and to other queers. The subversion is where the romance lies.” (Why is this in Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men?) Now that you know too much about the author, Jane Ward, (she describes her lesbian sexual encounters throughout Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men), you should remind yourself, this is an academic book published by New York University Press. Ward admits that Not Gay stems from a personal fascination, and that even her lesbian friends ask why she’s studying “white dick.” (pg. ix) Had a man, even a gay man, written a book about “straight white c--ts,” New York University would never publish the book. And, that is the crux of the problem with Not Gay: By demeaning men with overt condemnation and basal rhetoric, particularly against straight white men, and by focusing exclusively on the most outrageous behavior of straight white males, behavior which is often borderline or definitively sexual abuse and rape, Ward makes straight white men out to be little more than “white dicks.” To be more direct: by focusing exclusively on hazing rituals in frats, the navy and pseudo-military; Hollywood movies like Humpday, A Few Good Men, and Jackass; Craigslist ads from Los Angeles (gee, that’s a fair and accurate sampling of straight white males across America); gay porn portraying straight male sexual encounters (Really? Gay porn as a sampling of reality in straight men’s worlds? ); and, biker gangs like the Hell’s Angels, Ward misses the more intimate and fascinating sexual exchanges between straight white men, encounters that are not based on power, violence, and shame. I found Ward’s narrative and approach to be exceptionally narrow-minded, propelled by a desire to make the modern sexual behaviors of straight white men out to be little more than an aggressive ritualization of a desire to portray one’s “hyper-heterosexuality.” Where were the discussions of white male sexual development through childhood and adolescence? What about sexual encounters between two (or more) older straight white males, or between older and younger men? Where were the discussions of straight male sexual experiences that stem from friendship and camaraderie or friendly experimentation? What about casual, anonymous masturbation in public restrooms? In Ward’s own words, “Little attention has been paid to the aggregate finding of these studies [that straight-identified white men engage in sex with one another]: namely, that white straightidentified men manufacture opportunities for sexual contact with other men in a remarkably wide range of settings, and that these activities appear to thrive [her emphasis] in hyperheterosexual environments, such as universities, where access to sex with women is anything but constrained.” I could write roughly 20 pages about the assumptions Ward makes in this sentence alone; like universities are “hyper-heterosexual” It should be noted, NYU is the publishing house for this book, a university that is also “hyper-heterosexual?” Perhaps not, which is why they are publishing this book? Unfortunately, Ward seems to have taken a cue from the puritanical zealots of the mid-twentieth century (a movement Ward despises) by focusing almost exclusively on the repugnant side of modern sexual encounters between straight white men. And yes, I do mean repugnant. Though Ward defines and speaks at length about the modern idea of sexual fluidity and heteroflexibility, she only presents examples of white men oppressing one another through exceptionally kinky sex, and here’s the important point, which is often forced upon peers through threats of retaliation, isolation, excommunication, physical altercation, or demotion. I found Ward’s handling of some sexual situations to be downright horrifying. Even she acknowledges that some of these instances of sexual violence may be deemed sexual assault and/or rape because of a lack of genuine consent. However, she then attempts to dispel that narrative, suggesting that deeming such sexual occurrences as assault and rape diminish their cultural significance. Here’s a direct quote from the chapter discussing fraternity hazing: “Akin to the contention by some feminists that rape is about power and violence and not sexual desire, one might argue that homosexual contact within hazing-presumably forced, or at least falling within the previously discussed rhetorical framework of ‘fuck or die’-tells up little about the sexual fluidity of straight men and more about men’s impulse or socialization to dominate one another by any means necessary (including homosexual touching.)” So, Ward basically disregards the argument that such instances are rape/assault, and presses forward with her narrative of men’s aggressive sex drive. Horrifying and sad that straight white men aren’t even worthy of being considered victims (survivors), even when all the signs say they are victims (survivors). Some men walk away from these “hazing” rituals severely damaged, both physically and emotionally. They often resort to excessive binge drinking just to endure the experience, and they almost always follow up with more binge drinking and drugs. Even if they do feel deeply violated, they’re told by their peers that everyone’s been through it, and if you have a problem you must be gay and thereby not welcome. My god. My god. That is sexual assault. Period. I’ve been around sexual assault victims because of my prior line of work. Also, because I am a man, I tend to be paired with male sexual assault victims. I cannot possibly count the number of instances where a man has brought up a hazing experience, recounting how painful it was. The fact is, 1 in 6 boys before the age of eighteen are sexually assaulted (this ration is lower among some minorities). That means, potentially 1 in 6 frat pledges are approaching these hazing rituals having already been sexually assaulted as children. Plain and simple, this is re-victimization at its most basic level. I’m going to drill down further because Ward didn’t. Frats are in the news all the time for sexual assaults against women. Some notable cases ended up being complete frauds. Yet, where are the inquiries when an 18 year-old unconscious male with Greek letters written across his naked body and obvious signs of trauma to his rectum, is hauled away by school EMTs at 3:00 am? The fact that many people (even me) might read that description and immediately begin justifying everything: Well, maybe he did it to himself? Maybe he wanted to have rough anal sex, and then he got seriously drunk afterwards and passed out? He shouldn’t be drinking that much anyway. Maybe this is like the Mr. Hands story, with the guy who had sex with a horse and ended up dying? Or, maybe this young man was being pressured into excessively drinking, then stripped naked in a cold basement with 10 pledges and 40 frat brothers who are all yelling at him to bend over and let all his fellow pledge brothers take turns shoving their thumb up his butt, and that if he doesn’t do it, he can’t join the frat, and they will make his life a living hell on campus, while also ensuring he can’t join any other frat. Enter the binge drinking, drugs, and “anal and penile resilience,” which Ward calls “do-or-die” hazing, though unlike Ward, I think this type of hazing is an incredibly serious sexual assault. I also want to be a clear on one other point: this type of hazing is not a BDS&M frolic. In safe, consensual BDS&M (for which I take no issue) the participants typically establish clear boundaries and things like safety words or actions to ensure that lines can be pushed to the limit but not crossed. The only “safety words” frat brothers learn are “chug, chug, chug, chug.” Contrary to Ward’s claim that similar actions between sorority sisters would be deemed normal, I posit, if a sorority forces their pledges to insert rough, painful objects into one another’s anuses (or vaginas) while being urinated on and forced to lick other pledges’ genitals, I have a feeling society would call it sexual assault. (By the way, girls have a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted before age 18, which also raises serious re-victimization concerns.) But, because Ward’s subjects are heterosexual white males, these same behaviors are mere hyper-heterosexual litmus tests according to Ward, which to me sounds strikingly similar to frats claiming these occurrences are “bonding rituals” and are “activities the pledges freely choose to participate in when they sign up for initiation and pledge week.” Interestingly, even Ward acknowledges this double-speak when discussing the case of private militaries in the Middle East, and especially criticizes the military and private militias for claiming that such activities between enlisted (and hired) men are parts of military culture, while those same activities that include Afgani/Iraqi integrated forces are deemed by the same institutions as sexual assault because of the Afgani’s/Iraqi’s perceived religion and cultural persuasions. Ward claims this doublespeak is detrimental, then she proceeds to use the same logic: Even if it looks, tastes, smells, and feels like rape/assault, it’s not because it’s not culturally assault because the institutions ok the behavior and the participants join those institutions voluntarily…unless it is culturally assault for one minority participant, then it is assault and wrong. Confused yet? I am exceptionally confused. I don’t care what the “media” or “institutions” say, force feeding someone feces while jamming a grease gun up their ass as an initiation ritual during “crossing the line” in the navy, or to something similarity to pledges in fraternities, is sexual assault…even if the frat members chose to join and soldiers voluntarily enlist. If they had no real choice (should a sailor jump ship, and go AWOL?), even if the participants don’t think it’s sexual assault, it’s sexual assault, and their own denial of this behavior as sexual assault is more indicative of the pervasiveness of this doublespeak than any truth that these actions are “character building” or part of “male bonding.” (It is astonishing that what I’m saying is a counterpoint to a book published by NYU in 2015!) At one point I started asking myself, “Is ‘Jane Ward’ Ann Coulter’s penname? Is Ann surreptitiously writing Not Gay to bolster her arguments against the LGBT community?” It appears Ward is a real human and not Ann Coulter. Ward spends a great deal of time discussing Craigslist ads posted by straight white men looking for intimacy with other straight white men. I thought to myself, “finally, something that isn’t going to focus on these old tropes: frats and military hazing.” Unfortunately, Ward’s sampling was severely restricted (Los Angeles only), and focused on posts that obviate joy and companionship. When I looked on Craigslist (in Wichita, Kansas; New Hampshire; San Francisco, California; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and South Carolina) for straight men looking to have sexual experiences with other straight men, the majority often focused on “male bonding,” “being with a bro,” “being free,” “having a beer and some 420,” and “enjoying each other.” Ward notes these comments too, but doesn’t delve too deeply, instead focusing on the posts that contain clear power plays or E-L-A-B-O-R-A-T-E rituals (which, I admit, can be hysterical!). One of the funniest Craigslist posts I ran across was a man who at one point exclaimed, “I am so desperate to see a baby panda, I want to have sex with a man.” Yes, you read that right, and I’m also confused. It’s true, many of these Craigslist men make a point of stressing they do not want to mutually masturbate with a gay man, but as one San Francisco poster that I discovered wrote, “it’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy it [mutual masturbation with a gay man], I just don’t want to worry about the relationship thing and I have a l/t gf [long-term girlfriend].” Many posts I saw even stated a desire to find someone who is cool with these being regular encounters of “two dudes chillin’ and jackin’ and maybe hanging out, thats [sic] all.” Taken at face value, these posts show incredibly fascinating relationships (or “casual encounters”) between straight men, built on intimacy, trust, and, quite frankly, bonding. It’s not necessarily, “bondage.” And, unlike Ward’s position, it’s not usually centered on a dominator-dominated power play. In fact, both participants are taking a mutual risk by being “outed” by Craigslist trolls and people responding to such ads. In this paradigm, it seems that both straight identified white men are availing themselves of a shared risk and joy, diminishing any disparity between the participants’ power. Both men can “out” the other, but in doing so they would also “out” themselves. (This might also explain why it’s important that straight identified men find “authentically” straight men, because a gay man might have less to lose if he “outs” the other participant.) Further, to me these Craigslist posters focus on mutual understanding, mirrored behavior, and “chill” or “relaxed” atmospheres (part of the invitation to “host” is usually focused on ordering a pizza, having a beer, or playing video games), specifically not domineering or violent encounters. Actually, they sound quite lovely. Beer, video games, and two people climaxing simultaneously without risk of spreading diseases, and with no strings attached, and definitely no desire to bring this relationship into the real world (no “romantic” dates!!!!)…but there’s often an open invitation to do it again, consistently, maybe even daily! I’m suddenly wondering, are straight white men having better sex with each other than they are with women? Ward does address the concern that some self-identified “straight” men may be hiding their homosexuality; but, like her, I find this quandary to be a dead end. It’s an important concern, but it’s exceptionally hard to overcome. As Ward states (and I’m sorry I can’t find the direct quote, because it was brilliantly written!), is there really a test for straight men A to use to confirm straight man B’s self-professed heterosexuality when both men are actively looking to mutually masturbate with one another? No. Imagine this: “straight athletic 29 year old looking to jerk off with another fit straight guy in his mid twenties to early thirties: must prove you are straight in your reply…” How the…? Ward does actually delve into this question/answer some, and it is one of her more insightful explorations. Here’s one thing Ward does well: Her historical analysis of straight white male sex was fascinating, illuminating (for me), and felt well balanced. She shows straight white male sex prior to the 1950’s to be a culturally complicated but a relatively common occurrence. Particularly, her analysis of the definitions (both medical and cultural) of heterosexuality and homosexuality really did change my understanding of our cultural and medical definitions of those terms today. Ok, I need to wrap this up…. I hate that Ward references San Francisco. In my San Francisco, the majority of the LGBT community wants to be viewed as normal–specifically not how Ward wants her or her sexuality to appear. Yes, San Francisco has Folsom Street Fair, an international pride parade, Kink.com, and The Armory to give people like Ward the room to be whomever they choose, but San Francisco also has a rich history of “normalizing” homosexuality, something Ward vilifies and pins on “gay men.” (You’re welcome, world.) I moved to San Francisco specifically because I wanted to live someplace where my sexuality is utterly boring. Where being gay is one tiny, three-letter adjective in a long line of adjectives that barely define who I am. (Ward, you’re right by the way, this gay man doesn’t agree with your stated position on homosexuality, but I’m not offended either, I’m sorry for you…which you shouldn’t have a problem with because you “pity” people like me.) The fact is, gay people aren’t special or unique; we’re actually quite common. You work with us! (Gasp!) You went to school with us! (Gasp!) You go to church with us! (Shut your mouth, Alex!) And you’ll die next to us. I guarantee it. I’m sorry that this book is such a mess. I wanted to read something refreshing about this topic, something that didn’t play into all the stereotypes and headlines; unfortunately, Ward’s analysis did not deliver. Worse, I believe she actually does damage through her narrow focus on fetishized instances of straight white male sex, her constant insertion of personal stories, and her improper data acquisition and sampling. More to the point, I’m sorry that another book has come out about straight white male devils who are so sex-charged, they create elaborate situations to affirm their sexuality through reprehensible behavior between their own kind. I really don’t know many straight white men like this, maybe because they’re so good at hiding it that only someone as skilled as Ward can uncover the truth? Honestly, I think it’s because Ward focuses on tiny, specific segments of society: the military (only about 1% of Americans serve in the armed forces), frats (small/exclusive group), gangs (another small sampling), and Los Angeles Craigslist ads, at the expense of all the other instances when straight men engage in shared sexual encounters. Growing up, I found that adolescent boys frequently found excuses to expose their erect penises to one another, whether it was while obnoxiously lingering in the locker room while naked, peeing in the snow to write messages (particularly tricky to remain erect, ah youth), spanking one another in communal showers, or down right watching porn together while jacking off, even when the scrambled TV is so scrambled you can no longer make out people or noises on TV, just your buddy next to you beating off like an Olympic rower. When I go to the gym and see two men staring at each other while they shower and masturbate, then I see those same two men split off with women around their arms (this has happened), I don’t assume that there is something nefarious going on, but I do want to know what’s happening in their minds. I’ve heard and read about countless examples of men in the military who develop exceptionally strong, meaningful, and sexual relationships with other straight soldiers, and these relationships don’t start with force-feeding someone human feces. They sometimes end with the war, and those friends may never take similar actions. Why? Ward isn't interested in these types of situations; they aren't extreme enough. Oh, and I just have to call Ward out for this: “Dykes have no corollary term [to men describing women’s vaginas as fishy] to describe their disgust with penises or any other part of men’s bodies.” Really? What about “dick, ” which is Ward’s favorite word for white men and their penises? (How unaware is this person?) What about: “cock,” “prick,” “dink,” “junk,” “dingy,” “pecker,” “snake,” “shrimp,” “shit packer,” and the ubiquitous “dude.” THANKS NETGALLEY and NYU Press for the free galley! Full Review: http://russianhillreader.com/2015/08/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I picked this up on a whim after a friend reviewed it here on GR, and I saw that my library actually had a copy. It was a really interesting reading experience, and overall, I thought Ward did a nice job explaining her points, but I also felt that it was a case of her having opinions (that are maybe right) but not enough evidence to back any of it up. She takes all these incidences and cultural stories and tries to work them into a theory, but the book almost entirely lacks hard scholarship or ba I picked this up on a whim after a friend reviewed it here on GR, and I saw that my library actually had a copy. It was a really interesting reading experience, and overall, I thought Ward did a nice job explaining her points, but I also felt that it was a case of her having opinions (that are maybe right) but not enough evidence to back any of it up. She takes all these incidences and cultural stories and tries to work them into a theory, but the book almost entirely lacks hard scholarship or backing by scientific studies. Partly, that's because the theories she's working with are brand new and there is none of that stuff to back it up, partly because I think she assumes her examples are more convincing than they actually end up being. In what I thought was the most egregious error, the book entirely lacked first person sources. She should really have made an effort to interview men who partook in the behavior she talks about so she isn't constantly impressing her own ideas on them from the outside. I've always been really interested in reading about sexuality in all its forms, especially in a more thinky way that academia provides. There's a detachment there that appeals to me, that you can examine something so fraught from such a remove and learn something about it. Her overall thesis is one I agree with, I think, that male sexuality is constrained by culture, and that sexual desire (which she posits as separate from sexual identity) is much more fluid and complex than most people think. Overall, I'd recommend this to people who are interested in sexuality, or who like reading interesting academic works, but it is pretty dense with jargon at points, and you have to know how to read it. People not practiced at reading academic works will not have an easy time reading it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    LenaRibka

    DNF at 10% I have no idea why I picked it up. I don't want to appear as a sexist, and I don't actually against a lesbian woman investigating homosexual relationships between straight white men. But I haven't got the idea the author had as her purpose here. And I don't think I want to know. I don't want to waste my time with it any more . DNF at 10% I have no idea why I picked it up. I don't want to appear as a sexist, and I don't actually against a lesbian woman investigating homosexual relationships between straight white men. But I haven't got the idea the author had as her purpose here. And I don't think I want to know. I don't want to waste my time with it any more .

  5. 4 out of 5

    Simon Vandereecken

    Thanks to Netgalley for giving me a chance to review this essay ! Not Gay is a deep and well documented study on white straight male sexuality and general behavior. It shows the tendencies of a certain part of the white straight male population to have homosexual behavior under certain conditions. It takes a bold stance concerning the fluidity of the sexuality and its evolution especially nowadays (while having a look on how the roles and gender evolved through the last century). This essay is rea Thanks to Netgalley for giving me a chance to review this essay ! Not Gay is a deep and well documented study on white straight male sexuality and general behavior. It shows the tendencies of a certain part of the white straight male population to have homosexual behavior under certain conditions. It takes a bold stance concerning the fluidity of the sexuality and its evolution especially nowadays (while having a look on how the roles and gender evolved through the last century). This essay is really interesting, quite deep and demands to be focused on its reading (especially due to the multiple use of queer terms and gender-theory related terms), but teaches a lot on things related to the straight white male sexuality through the hazing rituals, the marine and military initations, drunk sex, craiglist ads of straight dude looking for other straight dudes... It shows also how gender and sexuality evolved, with the apparition of the heteroflexible sexuality (neither gay, bi or totally straight), and explains how those straight homosexual relations can be interpreted but also what they imply. The whole book was really interesting, challenging my mind at every part. It made me discover some things I really didn't know (like the fact that until 1930, both heterosexuality and homosexuality were considered as perversion as they didn't aim for conception) and surprised me on a lot of subjects (male rituals, "on the down low" sex, ...). For everyone interested in gender and human sexuality, this is quite an essay to read !

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gaetano Venezia

    "[Ward] argue[s] that when straight white men approach homosexual sex in the "right" way—when they make a show of enduring it, imposing it, and repudiating it—doing so functions to bolster not only their heterosexuality, but also their masculinity and whiteness" (5). "An urge towards homosexual activity may well be one of the more common features of human sexuality, one flexible enough to be oriented toward the very category that presumably excludes it (heterosexuality)" (32). "[We] desire other "[Ward] argue[s] that when straight white men approach homosexual sex in the "right" way—when they make a show of enduring it, imposing it, and repudiating it—doing so functions to bolster not only their heterosexuality, but also their masculinity and whiteness" (5). "An urge towards homosexual activity may well be one of the more common features of human sexuality, one flexible enough to be oriented toward the very category that presumably excludes it (heterosexuality)" (32). "[We] desire other bodies and particular sex acts *in their social context*; we desire what those body parts [, movements, performances, etc...] *represent*" (34). "Unfortunately, the domain of culture is generally lost in popular discourses about sexual desire, which focus largely on whether homosexual activity is either "chosen" or "biological." This entire framing is far too simplistic. People certainly have tendencies toward particular objects of desire, including bodies defined in the time and place as "the same" or "the opposite" from their own. And yet, for the vast majority of us, these tendencies—whatever they may be—are shaped and experienced under the constraints of heteronormativity, within cultures strongly invested in opposite-sex coupling. The amount of psychic and cultural labor expended to produce and enforce heterosexual identification and procreative sexuality suggests that heterosexuality, as we now know it, is hardly an automatic human effect. It is for this reason that scholars of heterosexuality have described it as a psychic and social accomplishment, an institution, and a cultural formation" (28-29). By creating a "normal" sexuality and identity, all other desires, identities, and preferences get marginalized and moralized against. Understandably then, many people will feel constrained and unfulfilled in their relationships because they are following a script that does not align with their genetic predispositions and developed preferences. "straightness and queerness are not simply matters of sexual object choice; they also carry a vast array of cultural requirements and implications that, in turn, shape how people orient their bodies and move through space" (33). "heterosexuality is, in part, a fetishization of the normal" (35). "straightness always takes form in relation to its Other—or to queerness—with the latter serving as the former's mirror and foil" (39). :: The meat of the book is then a historical analysis of sex between straight white men with application of the concepts and ideas found in the introduction. :: "the line straight people draw between "actually gay" and "merely joking/hazing/experimenting/getting off" is only minimally about specific sex acts—the different subcultural, institutional, affective, gendered, and racialized contexts in which homosexual encounters occur—that have long sustained the hetero/homo binary and have, in many cases, trumped the raw facts about same-sex bodies engaged in sexual touching" (193). "The overwhelming emphasis on mainstream gay equality politics (or the politics of sameness) distracts us from queer ways of life that are fundamentally different from—and in revolutionary opposition to—the ways that most straight people fashion their bodies, their relationships, and their cultural and political investments. Not only is this a political loss, to the extent that potential queer radicals are being absorbed into the machinery of equality and sameness, but it also misrecognizes queerness, as narratives about love, biology, and immutability are projected onto people, like [Ward], who enrolled themselves in queer subculture in order to escape the sexism and boredom of heterosexuality" (200). However, to clarify, Ward is "not actually proposing we take a stand against gay love in and of itself, but that we take a stand against the forces attempting to erase queerness and reduce all non-straight homosexuality to romantic, couple-centered love" (210). Ward speaking about what is "unfathomable to most people" and the heteronormative narrative: "that I signed onto, and cultivated, queerness in my life; that I find both heterosexual and mainstream gay culture distasteful and often pitiable; that my partner and I are not ladies and we don't want our relationship described as beautiful; that if you think you would be happier as a dyke you could and should be one; that I don't want a good public image (at least not the kind for which the mainstream gay and lesbian movement is striving); and that it is precisely because queerness refuses normalization that is meaningful to me and to other queers" (204).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rt

    Free review copy. Jane Ward, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men: Certainly one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while, even if (or because) it provoked a number of “yes, but …” responses in me. Basically, Ward asks what would happen if we took accounts of sexual contact between white men who identify as straight seriously as “not gay” sex and not indicating any homosexual or bisexual identity. She looks mainly at fraternities and militaries, with some discussion of prisons; “fuc Free review copy. Jane Ward, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men: Certainly one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while, even if (or because) it provoked a number of “yes, but …” responses in me. Basically, Ward asks what would happen if we took accounts of sexual contact between white men who identify as straight seriously as “not gay” sex and not indicating any homosexual or bisexual identity. She looks mainly at fraternities and militaries, with some discussion of prisons; “fuck or die” slash (that seems kind of out of place, frankly, since it’s not generally a straight white guy fantasy as far as I can tell); gay-for-pay narratives in which paying, or being paid, for homosexual sex leaves the participant still unqueer; homophobic Republican politicians; and hazing porn, where the schtick is that “straight” guys are forced into gay sex. Sexual contact, especially in hazing/initiation type situations, is both common and often surrounded by homophobia; there are narratives of “force” that surround this contact, but that’s often not the whole story. “Hazing rituals involving anal penetration or analingus … are extreme, exciting, humiliating, and effective at building cohesion and establishing hierarchy among men precisely because the participants know that these acts have sexual meaning.” (She counts contact as sexual if a queer couple would be likely to define the behavior as “sex” or “sexual” if they participated in it—like finger-in-anus contact.) To Ward, heterosexual identity is itself a “mode of engaging homosexual sex, a mode characterized by pretense, disidentification, and heteronormative investments.” Heterosexuality and homosexuality were literally invented together; she quotes a 1923 Merriam-Webster definition of heterosexuality as “a morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.” By 1934, its definition was “a manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.” Possibly the most interesting conclusion: if mainstream gay rights advocacy has normalized gayness by pursuing marriage equality, straight discourse has pushed in from the other side by defining homosexuality as identity rather than conduct, making straight white men “not gay” no matter how much sexual contact they have with men as long as they don’t fall in love with men and making the definitive condition of homosexuality a loving rather than sexualized relationship. Ward connects straight white men’s fraught negotiation of male-male sexual encounters with the greater sexual fluidity accepted in women in American culture—it’s not a cultural trope for men to make out at parties for the pleasure of women, but they actually do make out at parties “and engage in virtually the same teasing/kissing/sex-for-show behaviors that straight young women do,” though there’s been little attention to that. For example, the discusses straight male college athletes “kissing, taking ‘body shots’ off of one another, and ‘jacking each other off’ during threesomes.” Another great quote: “this one girl said she’d fuck us both if we both made out.” It’s not gay if it’s done to have sex with a girl, they say—and Ward thinks that we ought to take them at their word, at least to see what it means to do so. (FWIW, my stolidly heterosexual trainer, a proud fraternity member, thought that two guys could legitimately make out for sexual access to a hot girl and the kissing would not be “gay.”) We’ve overemphasized men’s sexual rigidity and undervalued “heterofluidity,” Ward argues. So for example “when straight-identified women have sex with women, the broader culture waits in anticipation for them to return to what is likely their natural, heterosexual state [e.g., lesbian during college]; when straight-identified men have sex with men, the culture waits in anticipation for them to admit that they are gay.” In such a culture, shame and secrecy surrounding same-sex contact among straight white men is no surprise—nor is it any evidence that male sexuality is less fluid than women’s. At the same time, our commitment to the fixity of sexual orientation actually enables sexual fluidity—if someone is really, at the core, straight or gay, then that frees us “to experiment, to stray, to act out, and to let ‘shit happen’ without fear that we have somehow hidden or misrecognized or damaged our true sexual constitution.” If anything, we might want to encourage more steps in this direction, given that the other frame for straight white men’s sexual contact involves violence as the key to its non-homosexuality, which as she notes makes for a bad combo. But here’s another fascinating point: this connection between sex and violence is also prevalent in male-female relations. What Ward deems “hetero-exceptionalism” posits that gay men have sex with men for intrinsic pleasure, while straight men have sex with men for instrumental reasons—meeting some need, making money, securing power, etc. But, as she points out, those reasons look a lot like why some straight women might have some sex with straight men—yet we don’t think of them as “not heterosexual” when they do so, or when they’re not sexually satisfied. If straight men tolerate sexual contact with other men in order to join a group/be liked, so do straight women. Relatedly, “straight-identified men’s sincere repulsion with homosexual sex and with other men’s bodies doesn’t signal innate heterosexuality any more than straight men’s sincere misogyny signals innate homosexuality.” In fact, expressing disgust with a partner’s body and a desire to see it abjected is common for straight men regardless of whether the partner is male or female—Ward provocatively suggests that “grossness, anality, and the homoerotic” are not distinct from normative white hetero-masculinity but rather central ingredients of it. Straight white men also use white privilege to define their sexual contact with other men as not gay. By contrast, black men “on the down low” are often described as really gay, not “granted the sexual fluidity and complexity attributed to young white women.” Discourses around the DL are part of a general hyper-surveillance of black men’s sexuality and white fascination with black deviance. By contrast, white sexual practices are rarely racialized or attributed to white “culture.” Straight white men can recast their sexual contact with one another as “the necessary and nonsexual material of white male brotherhood, white male risk-taking, and initiation.” White men get the benefit of the doubt that their sexuality is “normal.” “[N]ormative masculinity alone—the absence of any hint at womanliness or effeminacy—has often been sufficient to signal that ‘there’s nothing queer here.’” Relatedly, white politicians’ or pastors’ narratives of making mistakes are often accepted by conservative constituencies—at least if they aren’t caught with black men. One white Mississippi politician survived a few such revelations until he was arrested for giving a blowjob to a black man. It was one thing to want his own erection taken care of by any means available, and quite another to be penetrated. In another such incident, a different politician “claimed he offered to give a black undercover police officer a blowjob because he feared that a threatening black man was trying to rob him.” But Ward doesn’t want us to dismiss these guys as simply lying to themselves and to us. It’s not that their same-sex encounters are “mistakes,” but they may really want heterosexual privilege, which she sees as an erotic orientation of its own. Ward finds some fascinating expressions of these beliefs, like a guy whose whole website is about how it’s not gay to have sex with men if you’re really straight (“Straight guys, they may have a penis fetish, or maybe they’re into giving blow jobs … but it’s not about the entire man.”): gayness and straightness are biological facts that remain true regardless of behavioral evidence. Ward also analogizes sexual contact between heterosexual men to sexual contact between children, which is often characterized as not really sex. Descriptions of both often use the same words: “experimentation,” “accident,” “friendship,” “game,” etc. For adults, though, “[p]articipants must painstakingly avoid being mistaken as sincere homosexuals by demonstrating that the sexual encounter is something other than sex, and in many cases, they do this by agreeing that the encounter was compelled by others.” Investment in heteronormativity, she contends, “is itself a bodily desire,” and it’s this desire that narratives of coercion and lack of choice fulfill. Heterosexuality is thus “a fetishization of the normal.” I didn’t know that the Hell’s Angels sometimes performed homosexual encounters in the 1950s and 1960s as part of their bravado, showing they were free of any social convention—it was one way of being extra macho! Ward analogizes their same-sex kissing to young women’s same-sex kissing as spectacle now. During roughly the same period, she recounts, “tearooms” (bathrooms where nearly anonymous same-sex encounters could be had) were attractive to a set of men precisely because they weren’t places where “gay” men congregated; only a minority of participants were active in gay subculture. (She also offers a fascinating example of white solidarity, where a police officer breaks ranks to protect a white man, even one seeking sex with men, from the threat of blackness.) Tearoom participants often professed to love their wives, but to be getting insufficient sex from them, and tearooms were quick, inexpensive, non-entangling, and better than masturbation. Ward argues that we should take these reasons seriously, not read them as denial or fundamental “gayness.” Straight men often, she suggests, want to have sex with men—and they want to live normative “heterosexual” lives. One worrisome risk is that broader culture might just accept a broader range of sexual behaviors from “straight” people, while still sustaining an underclass of the truly “queer.” Lots of straight men find sex with men acceptable when women are “unavailable” for some reason, like prison or military service, because of a cultural narrative that straight men just need sex, by whatever means necessary. These narratives of female unavailability are easily extended to other situations (like the tearooms above), and to situations in which men try to “prove” their masculinity by enduring hazing that includes sexual contact with other men. Thus, we avoid distinguishing between “material constraint, on the one hand, and the performance of constraint and necessity, on the other.” Because of the required performance of disgust/“being forced,” hazing shades into sexual assault. (Ward makes the disturbing point that the forms of forced contact portrayed in these rituals as gross and difficult to endure—“hands on penises, scrotum on faces, ejaculate in mouths”—are everyday sex for straight women and gay men.) Ward also analyzes portrayals of accidental homosexuality in popular media, usually played as humorous. But as she writes, “the fact that homosexual sex is unexpected, deeply ambivalent, or brought on by altered consciousness,” while supposedly showing its difference from straight people’s straight sex, doesn’t distinguish it from many heterosexual experiences, which are also often accompanied by anxiety, awkwardness, and drunkenness. It’s investment in heteronormativity that distinguishes a straight person’s sexual encounter from a gay person’s. Ward has some fascinating discussions of Craigslist ads for men seeking men for “not gay” encounters. Hand jobs, she theorizes, are “sometimes a ‘less gay’ way to be close to men than the more intimate and feminized realm of friendship.” The ads indicate men’s desires to sit back, relax, watch heterosexual porn together, and get each other off—as a form of male bonding, not gayness. These scenarios are often highly detailed, with “numerous hetero-authenticating details,” and homophobic disavowals of gayness (and the occasional misogynistic rape fantasy); they regularly seek dude-types with signifiers of whiteness (frat boys, skaters, jocks, surfers, etc.) and use straight props like beer, sports, and straight porn. Dude-sex is for straight guys who are strong and relaxed enough to handle it. It’s “a means of getting the kind of sex that [the ads implicitly posit] all straight men want from women, but can get only from men—uncomplicated, emotionless, and guaranteed.” Whiteness is important, and many ads specify whiteness, as a means of confirming that this isn’t a gay encounter but a “meaningless extension of a naturally occurring male friendship”; racial homogeneity helps give the friendship narrative more credibility. At the same time, the ads often use appropriated black-associated terms like “thugged out,” evoking a working-class masculinity that is more definitively not gay than other forms of masculinity. Some ads even specify working-class occupations like “consturction workers, mechanics, truckers, cable guys” but “NO GAYS.” By contrast, ads by white men looking for black men don’t use the language of buddies or bros. Mostly they use the language of service: usually white men are looking to blow big, muscular black men. Another chapter explores the gay porn site HazeHim. She suggests that the site offers gay fans the opportunity to eroticize straight white men’s sexual culture. Though there are signifiers of fiction, such as the presence of lighting apparatus and recognizable gay porn stars, the key here is that the performers know how to perform not-gay homosexual sex, with repeated reference to force and to earning a place in the fraternity. Men of color appear only to intimidate, while the boys being hazed are “especially pale-skinned, scrawny, and nerdish.” The military has another use for real hazing rituals: by making the line between gayness and straightness unclear, it can better control the self-image of its members—it can break them down and build them up by promising to instruct them on when it is ok to penetrate and when it is ok to be penetrated. This leads to a culture of sexualized violence and violent sexuality, where gay men often felt pressure from straight men to have sex. The narrative of constraint is very powerful—“on submarines they have a joke that ‘it’s only queer if you’re tied to the pier.” Ward points out that many people—especially straights, and especially straight white men—are still very confident that they can discern the “true” nature of sexual behavior from a description of the behavior. “That’s just gay,” they say. And it’s love and domesticity that they find most gay. Ward finds this very disturbing, because it makes boring domesticity the only acceptable priority for gays or straights, and reinforces a narrative of “no choice” about identity, which supports ideologies of patriarchy and rape culture that also rely on men’s supposed vulnerability to their animal instincts and unstoppable sexual desires. These discourses of inevitability also prioritize men over women, since women are seen as inherently more flexible, whereas the concept of biological constraint means that gay men haven’t “chosen” to give up their male privilege over women and are thus more legitimately masculine. Given the amount of homosexual contact involved in heterosexuality, Ward concludes, we need to push back against purely biological accounts and accept the possibility of male sexual fluidity. She also wants to recenter queerness and queer sex acts as what it means to be “gay,” to consider as part of sexual orientation one’s longing for gay bars, kink, and the differentness of “our tribe” in general. I’m not sure those two things are completely consistent, but it sure made me think.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Travis Hay

    I've seen several articles about this book, and wanted to hold my opinion until I've read the book myself. I'm glad I did. Did Jane Ward do any research into sexuality at all before writing this book? She's impressively narrow-minded in writing this book. It's been long accepted that sexuality exists on a spectrum, since Kinsey's writings on the Kinsey scale in 1948. There's a lot of controversy regarding Dr. Kinsey's work, but the spectrum of sexuality is well accepted as an accurate assessment o I've seen several articles about this book, and wanted to hold my opinion until I've read the book myself. I'm glad I did. Did Jane Ward do any research into sexuality at all before writing this book? She's impressively narrow-minded in writing this book. It's been long accepted that sexuality exists on a spectrum, since Kinsey's writings on the Kinsey scale in 1948. There's a lot of controversy regarding Dr. Kinsey's work, but the spectrum of sexuality is well accepted as an accurate assessment of human sexuality. What Jane Ward has chosen to do, is conveniently ignoring every single identity between heterosexual, and homosexual, in order to make her point. I'm not entirely sure what her point was, but after reading this pile of drite, I can only assume it was to make heterosexual men look bad? One of the accepted facts about sexuality existing on a scale is that the scale itself isn't rigid. That you can be 'exclusively homosexuality' but have still had experience with persons of the opposite gender in the past, is an accepted existence, or else the term 'gold star gay' wouldn't exist. The same exists on the opposite end of the scale, where a straight human can still have sexual playtime with someone of the same gender, while still retaining their sexual identity. Where I live, the term sexual preference is outdated, and instead we use sexual identity, or orientation, because our sexuality exists as we identify it. That's why you have people who are happily married 'realizing' they're gay later in life, because their identity has shifted. Jane Ward is clearly not as credible as she pretends to be, is far more pretentious than she clearly thinks, and frankly extremely, and embarrassingly, uneducated in her findings with this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sineala

    I was looking forward to reading this after reading an interview and seeing the author's thought-provoking answer to the question of whether homosexuality was innate; while the chapter on queerness-by-choice was in fact pretty great, the rest of the book didn't really live up to that. She made some interesting points but the entire book was really deeply repetitive, to the point where it felt like she was literally using the same sentences she used in the introduction, and that kind of made the I was looking forward to reading this after reading an interview and seeing the author's thought-provoking answer to the question of whether homosexuality was innate; while the chapter on queerness-by-choice was in fact pretty great, the rest of the book didn't really live up to that. She made some interesting points but the entire book was really deeply repetitive, to the point where it felt like she was literally using the same sentences she used in the introduction, and that kind of made the whole thing a slog, unfortunately. Also some of the analysis seemed a little shaky: her basic thesis is that straight white men basically get to be straight no matter what they actually do, which, okay, fine, interesting. There was a chapter on men who wanted to sleep with straight men and posted ads on Craigslist... except a lot of the posters didn't list an identity, and a lot of them said things like "bicurious" in the ads, which would seem to indicate to me that the posters have at least some idea that sleeping with guys is influencing their sexuality, but this all just gets brushed off in the analysis. Plus, man, I don't know what kind of fuck-or-die fanfic Ward was reading (in order to analogize it to situational homosexuality) but in the genre these days I am pretty sure the characters generally don't identify as straight (or if they do, they don't by the end). Could just be my reading experience though. Anyway. An interesting read, but if you've read the introduction, you've basically read the book, minus the screenshots of gay-for-pay porn that show up in the later chapters.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    A rather funny wordplay on crazy stuff. Here goes a bit of tongue-in-the-cheek: - Security, security, our embassy is under attack! - No can do, mam, we're busy eating from each other anuses! Also a bit of word-twisting: sexually fluent, explosive anality, homosexual contact as hyper-masculine, resilient and exceprional (yeah, yeah, we've heard all about it). A rather funny wordplay on crazy stuff. Here goes a bit of tongue-in-the-cheek: - Security, security, our embassy is under attack! - No can do, mam, we're busy eating from each other anuses! Also a bit of word-twisting: sexually fluent, explosive anality, homosexual contact as hyper-masculine, resilient and exceprional (yeah, yeah, we've heard all about it).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt Holsapple

    As a pseudo-academic, I read this and think "This is why we can't have nice things." As a pseudo-academic, I read this and think "This is why we can't have nice things."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I received this book from NetGalley. Ward's book is a valuable contribution to the field of sexuality studies, and one that certainly caused quite a bit of thought on my part. She questions some ideas that are currently taken as fact, such as sexuality being immutable and as something we're "born with" rather than as a choice, or the idea of coming out as gay as not also aligning oneself with a political and cultural movement. Ward's premise is essentially this: heterosexuality can be fluid and c I received this book from NetGalley. Ward's book is a valuable contribution to the field of sexuality studies, and one that certainly caused quite a bit of thought on my part. She questions some ideas that are currently taken as fact, such as sexuality being immutable and as something we're "born with" rather than as a choice, or the idea of coming out as gay as not also aligning oneself with a political and cultural movement. Ward's premise is essentially this: heterosexuality can be fluid and contain components of queerness. In the case of white straight men, Ward denotes that certain parts of homosexuality are considered an essential part of this particular genre of heterosexuality - emboldening the masculinity and str8ness of the participants. She focuses primarily on this bro culture, the playfulness of frat culture, of hazing. She is careful to discuss aspects of assault here, as well, but also note that especially in college settings, or craigslist casual encounters, that there's a certain seeking of bro for bro that seems to only strengthen their sameness. I'm iffy about bi-erasure in this - by saying that a sexual fluidity is just part of a straight identity, is Ward supporting internalized homophobia? At the same time, should any of us be defining what is "straight," "gay," and who should be part of that? Is it harmful to sort people into narrow categories like that, compared to saying that all sexuality is fluid and crosses borders? I think there's a lot to digest in this book that is novel and thought-provoking. I think some could potentially be harmful to queer studies, but overall I would say this is a worthwhile book. I like a book that allows me to argue with it, and that does not simply echo my own thoughts, but makes me really think about our world and how we define it. I'll end with something Ward says in the conclusion that sums up a portion of her book: "A third and last central point of this book is that white male heterosexuality, in particular, draws on the resources of white privilege to circumvent homophobic stigma and to assign heterosexual meaning to homosexual activities. Men of color, on the other hand, quickly fall subject to misrecognized and hypersurveilled categories like 'the down low.' To be clear, my aim is not to suggest that we should incorporate white men into the down low. Instead, I have suggested that we extend to all men, both white men and men of color, the possibility that male sexualities are as fluid as female sexualities - and that all sexualities are shaped by a complex nexus of structural, cultural, and psychic forces." (209)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Drianne

    There were some very interesting ideas in here, and I'd really like to read the author's book she seemed to be contemplating about social constructions of and personal shapings of sexual orientation (this was only partially that book). However, the book here was repetitive -- right down to actual sentences from the introductory chapter being word-for-word echoed in the later chapters. I also wasn't super-impressed with all of her analyses and despite her protests there did seem to be some bi-era There were some very interesting ideas in here, and I'd really like to read the author's book she seemed to be contemplating about social constructions of and personal shapings of sexual orientation (this was only partially that book). However, the book here was repetitive -- right down to actual sentences from the introductory chapter being word-for-word echoed in the later chapters. I also wasn't super-impressed with all of her analyses and despite her protests there did seem to be some bi-erasure going on. Still, very interesting.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rambling Reader

    impressve and important ahead of its time sly wit performativity intersects with abjection within liminal spaces

  15. 4 out of 5

    Suanne Laqueur

    Wow. Wordy as fuck but super super interesting and irresistibly quotable. Lots to think about. I made my Kindle notes visible.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Review for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalization of gay and straight sexual desires. She's also doing extremely thoughtful intersectional work around race and gender within hetero- and homo- normative cultures that persistently marginalize unruly queer sexualities. Review for this will be forthcoming at The Daily Dose. Suffice to say for now I really enjoyed her push back against the "born this way" naturalization of gay and straight sexual desires. She's also doing extremely thoughtful intersectional work around race and gender within hetero- and homo- normative cultures that persistently marginalize unruly queer sexualities.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ron Turner

    The Good: -- Short quick read. -- Really makes you think not just about sexuality but race, gender and class too. The Bad: -- The writing's very uneven. One minute it's very dry and academic, like reading a sociology textbook or a study from a psychology journal. The next minute it's so breezy it's almost flippant. -- I hate it when folks constantly state what their chapters are about. Feel like I'm reading a middle school term paper. No need to beat me over the head with your thesis statement. The S The Good: -- Short quick read. -- Really makes you think not just about sexuality but race, gender and class too. The Bad: -- The writing's very uneven. One minute it's very dry and academic, like reading a sociology textbook or a study from a psychology journal. The next minute it's so breezy it's almost flippant. -- I hate it when folks constantly state what their chapters are about. Feel like I'm reading a middle school term paper. No need to beat me over the head with your thesis statement. The Sassy -- The descriptions of the sex will really make you blush. There are even X-rated pictures from porn sites. -- I have mixed opinions about hazing rituals. Are they often about sexual dominance? Yeah. Especially when it gets carried away with rough penetration. But sometimes it really is nothing more than guys goofing off, trying to do something crazy outside their comfort zone. -- I do think there's a double standard about being on the down-low. I'm openly gay and come across heteroflexible guys from all races all the time. It's not just a black thing. I've slept with guys who were otherwise happily married but enjoyed performing oral sex or being anally penetrated by a man. I've also been with straight guys who simply just wanted a good blowjob and didn't care where it came from. -- I'm surprised there wasn't more attention placed on childhood sexual development. Studies dating all the way back to the 1950s consistently show that it's perfectly normal for young people to sexually experiment with each other. That's one reason why you come across a lot of Craigslist ads of straight guys looking to get off together. Some folks miss it. -- I cracked up when she said she watched 76 porn clips to count the people of color. That sounds like the best job AND drinking game ever.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a fascinating, thoroughly researched study of not just white, heterosexual-identified men who have engaged in homosexual sex but also sheds light on all human sexuality. Ward graciously shares her own personal experiences and understandings, adding to the depth of this subject and giving it a fuller, more sincere approach than studies that seek to take a completely neutral, sanitized point of view. Exploring the historical and societal affects and effects on the subject, Ward explores the This is a fascinating, thoroughly researched study of not just white, heterosexual-identified men who have engaged in homosexual sex but also sheds light on all human sexuality. Ward graciously shares her own personal experiences and understandings, adding to the depth of this subject and giving it a fuller, more sincere approach than studies that seek to take a completely neutral, sanitized point of view. Exploring the historical and societal affects and effects on the subject, Ward explores the many types of circumstances in which 'straight' men may encounter what is traditionally referred to as homosexual sex, and how it has defined and created specific identities and classifications of sexuality, in general. The fluidity of male sexuality may be more evident, as proposed by the author, and may not be as rigid as it has been historically defined-- in spite of the important role rigidity plays in the social definition of masculinity. Desire, fantasy, power, as well repulsion- real or feigned, are all explored in depth. The ideas explored here color all human sexuality and our perceptions- informed or misguided. I was lucky to receive an ARC through NetGalley.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

    “Straight boys and men, I believe, already have all of the information and proclivities they need to manufacture situations that facilitate homosexual (and heterosexual) activity.” (165) FINALLY! Academia is talking about fluidity of male sexuality (perceived, lack thereof, the dangers of, etc.). We’ve come a long way from Foucault, Butler, Muñoz. When we’re now looking at the idea that “heterosexuality is, in part, a fetishization of the normal,” (35) and no one is batting an eye. We’re starting “Straight boys and men, I believe, already have all of the information and proclivities they need to manufacture situations that facilitate homosexual (and heterosexual) activity.” (165) FINALLY! Academia is talking about fluidity of male sexuality (perceived, lack thereof, the dangers of, etc.). We’ve come a long way from Foucault, Butler, Muñoz. When we’re now looking at the idea that “heterosexuality is, in part, a fetishization of the normal,” (35) and no one is batting an eye. We’re starting to get somewhere. One of the biggest critiques I had while pursuing my master’s degree was the lack of research, or even recognition, of the fluidity of male sexuality. So much of what we discussed resolved solely on women, women’s sexuality and feminists critique. Click here to continue reading on my blog The Oddness of Moving Things.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nigel

    I got this book suggestion from these blogs and books. Does say some telling things http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/ar... Read my 5-star review of Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy by Mark Regnerus https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Also I wanted to share this on men YouTube video on men. https://youtu.be/QfuOtGLfg04 I got this book suggestion from these blogs and books. Does say some telling things http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/ar... Read my 5-star review of Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy by Mark Regnerus https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Also I wanted to share this on men YouTube video on men. https://youtu.be/QfuOtGLfg04

  21. 4 out of 5

    Travis Wagner

    This is a game changer for sexuality studies.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    Fascinating! Guys, if you want to suck a cock, suck a cock. It's all good! No need to construct all of these elaborate excuses. :) Fascinating! Guys, if you want to suck a cock, suck a cock. It's all good! No need to construct all of these elaborate excuses. :)

  23. 5 out of 5

    K.E. Goldschmitt

    Lots of useful insights in this book about the difference between sexual behavior and sexual identity with a focus on straight white men. While I liked many of the things the author is trying to argue here, I kept wanting more of a voice from the straight men who engage in these sex acts. Given the generalizations that the author provides, those kinds of data were sorely needed to liven up this book. I wanted their voice here, and not just quotes taken from ethnographic studies. Instead she reli Lots of useful insights in this book about the difference between sexual behavior and sexual identity with a focus on straight white men. While I liked many of the things the author is trying to argue here, I kept wanting more of a voice from the straight men who engage in these sex acts. Given the generalizations that the author provides, those kinds of data were sorely needed to liven up this book. I wanted their voice here, and not just quotes taken from ethnographic studies. Instead she relies on new developments in queer theory, the "casual encounters" section of Craigslist, and film (hazing porn and a few mainstream films). To put this more bluntly, it's a type of armchair sociology at worst or cultural studies style analysis at best. (YMMV for understanding the merits of either approach.) In particular, I found some of the analysis of the last two chapters to be disappointing. The conclusion, however, is strong and I'm glad that I read the whole thing. Be warned: considering how strongly the author argues for sexual fluidity and queerness (rather than homonormativity), it's surprisingly cis and binary. I'm not really sure why that happened, but there you go.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Marcus Parks

    Pseudoscience has more academic standards than this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joe Daniels

    Ugh. What A shame! Where to begin? This text was infuriating: The laudable: The reader can decipher a few amiable goals: The author would like to help the reader understand that the sex acts don't necessarily define the sexual dimension of a person. 2) That desires, even the sexual kind are, to some degree, generated by, and shaped by the cultures around us. 3) that power structures can be generated in how a society coalesces range of sexual identities and expressions into cohesive Orientations—a Ugh. What A shame! Where to begin? This text was infuriating: The laudable: The reader can decipher a few amiable goals: The author would like to help the reader understand that the sex acts don't necessarily define the sexual dimension of a person. 2) That desires, even the sexual kind are, to some degree, generated by, and shaped by the cultures around us. 3) that power structures can be generated in how a society coalesces range of sexual identities and expressions into cohesive Orientations—and that in reducing the prominence of orientation structures can weaken the systems of power and oppression that they seem to generate. But the author has a lot of trouble actually arguing these goals. There's very little quantitative research presented in this book, The author relies almost exclusively on archetypical homoerotic encounters in the military, prisons and fraternities. As well as gay hazing porn, and craigslist personal ads. The author also fails to define her terms. The postmodernist approach taken in this book makes this a particularly previous error. The author often gets lost in her own drab prose and vague terminology that on close inspection have far less meaning than they do at first glance. Do you have any idea what heteroexceptional homosociality is? A particular grievance is a lack of a definition for sexuality/sexual identity. In fact, the authors specific definition bares is little to no similarity with the common understanding of the terms. The author sees sexual identity as a set of cultural, psychological, and social tendencies and desires tending towards a fundamental "heteronormal" lifestyle (white house, beautiful wife and two kids, safe and normal feels), or fundamentally "queer" (attracted to the "wrong" people, the people society finds "ugly," rough clothes, Hot-topic tees and essentially wanting a lifestyle that is the inverse of everything heteronormal). The author substantiates this definition using her own experiences. She describes herself as a queer "butch dyke" (her words) and talks at length about how she was not "born" any particular way, but finds enough comfort in queer egalitarianism to consider it her primary sexual identity. The problem is that this definition is quite useless to describe male sexuality. —very few men would ever describe their Sexual Identities in such terms. The author acknowledges that men are "real people" attracted to "real bodies," and that male sexuality is less fluid then female sexuality, and then proceeds to forget these concessions for the rest of the text. The author concludes the book rejecting the idea that men have any rigid sexuality or unalterable orientation on the 'feminist' grounds that male sexual "rigidity" contrasting feminine passivity/fluidity legitimizes rape culture ("I just *can't* control my desires")—a straw man that can be seen from a mile away. The author also concedes that in previous iterations of this text, she received unanimous rejection from nearly every male who read her work, with flagrant disgust from gay men. She argues that their attempts to explain their own experiences and interpretations of their sexuality are just more mansplaining. Further, the author conveniently ignores bisexuality, which in my personal view, would be a good place to begin a book on straight men who occasionally suck dick. The author ignores the tons of authentic open gay men who prefer to top—imagining all gay men to necessarily want the opposite of heteronormativity, and therefore wanting penetration. The author's 'postconstructionalist' definition of sexual identity (the above definition) erases the closet. In the authors view, men who occasionally reach for dick on craigslist in their otherwise 'heteronormative' life are fundamentally straight. She also erases the wealth of horrific experiences gay men have gone through in conversion therapies. This is a grievous error. If male sexuality is so fluid, why on earth would so many gay/bi men subject themselves to such torture? The author would also do well to be a bit more judicious of her use of "fag" in a professional text. Its one thing to use the term in the right social discourse, but it seems a little misplaced in an almost illegible academic text written by this author who is anything but a gay male.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Olberding

    Definitely not a page turner (took me over a year to finish), but an interesting and challenging look at sexuality. While I didn’t agree with the author on everything, I appreciated her critical assessment of sexual identity and behavior as being shaped not just by biology but by culture and context. Lots of margin notes were made. The chapter on hazing was pretty gross and hard to get through but the last chapter was a great cap to the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Helena

    I had written myself a note midway through chapter one that reads thus: "To what extent does the author believe in the so-called hegemonic belief that sexuality is ingrained in us from the beginning? Must keep an eye on this through reading. 'Born this way.' See page 42" I found myself almost giddy with happiness reading the final chapter. Fantastic wrap up. This is much more in line with how I feel about my own sexuality. I think that the born this way movement is probably completely necessary in I had written myself a note midway through chapter one that reads thus: "To what extent does the author believe in the so-called hegemonic belief that sexuality is ingrained in us from the beginning? Must keep an eye on this through reading. 'Born this way.' See page 42" I found myself almost giddy with happiness reading the final chapter. Fantastic wrap up. This is much more in line with how I feel about my own sexuality. I think that the born this way movement is probably completely necessary in this generation for the furtherment of gay rights. If living a gay life is a choice, anyone could choose to not do it, and therefore, an argument could be made (will be made/is being made/has always been made) that therefore being gay and choosing to be gay is a purposeful step away from societal norms and does not deserve equal rights. A sentence from the book points this out succinctly, though I think I take a different conclusion from it: "Certainly to imagine that queerness is an option for all people - to consider that anyone could, technically, get off the tired, beaten path of heterosexuality or homonormativity and relocate him- or herself among the freaks and perverts ... - is to highlight that most straight-identified people are "straight" not because they don't ever want to have a same-sex encounter, but because, in their view, queer modes of homosexual relating do not constitute an appealing way of life. Because their allegiance, ultimately, is to normativity." If this is true, and I think it has some nugget of accuracy, at least for many people in both sides and throughout of the spectrum, then society would have a vested interest in NOT furthering gay rights. Society has a vested interest in maintaining normativity, whatever that means at the time. It's my personal opinion that we would be much better off as a society by tearing down the walls of normativity whatever the conversation at hand, but obviously this does not help maintain the status quo and a predictable stable society. In the long run, I think a steady movement towards destruction of the very idea of normality will bring us to a more equal and balanced society in general, but that's another topic. On a more specific note, I find it extremely disappointing which circumstances of not-gay sex the author concentrate on. She describes in detail occurrences and fraternities and the military, etc., but this does not cover most white man. This is only a small subset. She refers many times to a nostalgic looking back at pre-adolescent circle jerks etc. but gives no actual information about this. I would have been interested to hear more from this side, even if it might of had to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than hard evidence which she had for the others. Focusing when she does, I feel that she is putting too much weight on circumstantial aspects of subgroups, rather than any widespread normality. She specifically says she is not doing this, and mentions those other things as a way of pretending to include them, but the lack of any real information means ultimately they are not part of her investigation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    This was an aight book. I kinda skimmed the last half of it though. It really shouldn't be coming from an academic press though. This is basically a pop-whatever-anthropology-sociology book. Mainly the reason I enjoyed this book is because I got to read about a bunch of weird sexual practices which I didnt really know that much about. Like frat hazing, military gay stuff, people who have sex with men but only in specific situations or very specific contexts or only making contact with their lips This was an aight book. I kinda skimmed the last half of it though. It really shouldn't be coming from an academic press though. This is basically a pop-whatever-anthropology-sociology book. Mainly the reason I enjoyed this book is because I got to read about a bunch of weird sexual practices which I didnt really know that much about. Like frat hazing, military gay stuff, people who have sex with men but only in specific situations or very specific contexts or only making contact with their lips, anus, dick, or something specific like that. It portrays this sort of thing as being more common than I thought/think it is. But maybe I'm just not hearing everyone's sordid stories of experimentation. The historical geneology of the concepts of homosexual and heterosexual was also *really* good and was probably the part of the book I'm gladdest that I read. The other reason why the book is good is that I also got to read some weirdo lesbian queer theorist's view of whats going on. Which is a mixed bag. Her theorizing on this topic is basically pointless though. In her rediculously overwritten and drawn out introduction she'll tell you a thousand times that this is the point of this book: To argue that gay sex acts dont actually make you gay. That these straight men who do "gay" stuff are actually legitimately straight, because straight is a self identifier which is more linked with some kind of commitment to heteronormitivity or something like that. She calls it the fetishization of the normal. I guess theres some truth to that, but the book does tend towards a lot of the postmodern impulse to break down categories into smaller categories, redefine things or "problematize" them, and also to overly rely on social rather than biological factors to explain things. This can get a bit annoying at times. I agree with most of the negative reviews on goodreads (some of which go into some of the more substantive theoretical issues with it which Im not going to get into), but somehow I still enjoyed it anyway. Its really just a pulpy voyueristic view into an unusual set of sexual subcultures. Don't think of it as an academic book, because its really not despite the sophisticated names it drops.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Thomas

    Ward uses the word "arguably" at least 18 times in the book, signalling the possibility that one might be able to make an argument but that she is not going to take the time to make such an argument. In order to make arguments one needs evidence. This book has very little evidence, does very little historiographical work, and opts for reading the fantasies of gay men as though they are the lived experiences of many straight men. In many ways, this book has what seems like a valid premise – that Ward uses the word "arguably" at least 18 times in the book, signalling the possibility that one might be able to make an argument but that she is not going to take the time to make such an argument. In order to make arguments one needs evidence. This book has very little evidence, does very little historiographical work, and opts for reading the fantasies of gay men as though they are the lived experiences of many straight men. In many ways, this book has what seems like a valid premise – that homoerotic activities between ostensibly straight men might be a way to shore up the homo/hetero binary for those straight men, and that all men are curious about or need genital contact from other men in order to flourish in the world. These ideas are all interesting, but none of them are proven in Not Gay. Worse yet, Ward's book, while asking us to turn our attention to the cultural contexts of various acts of genital contact, does precisely the opposite of this by blatantly ignoring history. Ward assumes that behaviors that she refers to as homosexual sex that she has heard occurred in fraternities in mid-century must still be occurring today, and she analyzes shaming rituals in the U.S. Navy that have now been banned (without telling us when they were banned) as though they are reflective of practices in the U.S. Navy today. These activities seem ripe for analysis, but she makes no real links between them and the 21st century "heteroflexibility" with which Ward begins her book. Are these practices still widespread? How widespread are they? How many "white straight men" are engaging in these activities? How do these men understand these activities as they relate to their own subjectivities? Not Gay knows the answers to none of these questions.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This was a really fun book to teach in Sociology of Sexuality. All of my students are confused in the best possible way about sex. It's fun! This was a really fun book to teach in Sociology of Sexuality. All of my students are confused in the best possible way about sex. It's fun!

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