[8 January 2002]
“The body dies; the body’s beauty lives.”
Wallace Stevens, “Peter Quince at the Clavier”
“Straight acting”—it’s a feeling, and a phrase, repeated often in Dan Woog’s Jocks 2. It’s also used in the real world. When looking through most men-for-men personals. it will be listed as a desirable, if not mandatory, quality in many of the ads. Straight-acting, as in “athletic-looking and acting.” Mention athlete and you’ll also hear the term “jock.” Jock is a loaded word. Most athletes are imbued with a near hyper-masculinity.
The gay athlete became a recurring theme in gay pornography from the earliest Physique Pictorial magazines to Freshman Tailz 2002. The “man’s man”—the jock—is not only physically and sexually attractive, but socially attractive as well. Jocks have an air of popularity. High school and college society idolizes the athlete. Woog points out that most gay men feel they are on the outside, perhaps because of the overwhelming influence of the athlete stereotype as a desirable quality.
In the pre-stonewall Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks, gay culture was obsessed with rough trade. Straight acting is the foundation for a certain type of gay men who idolize each other instead of the men who tolerate them at best. This, unfortunately, undercuts the validity of those not obsessed with heterosexual modes of living. Jocks 2 discusses athletes from both camps. Dan Woog has again explored the interaction between sport and culture, which is still a fertile ground for a subject as popular as sports.
Of course, a disturbing number of the athletes point out that they are “straight acting,” so the public will not question their virility. They are oblivious to the great not-straight activity they have in common with the flamey coming out. From rugby to dressage, many of these athletes embrace their homosexuality but separate themselves from the bar-circuit fag.
Rafael Cruz Rivera, a wrestler, is one of the refreshing exceptions. He is a former Jehovah’s Witness turned Radical Faerie who once walked through the dining hall at school yelling “Cock Sucker, Fudge Packer, Queer! I’m not the only gay person here, but I’m the loudest.” Sexuality is manifold, not the two-party system of American culture. Rafael feels that, sometimes, one can’t help but feel that the “sissy” is too maligned. Never having a chance to be in the closet—Rafael’s church shamed him for the telltale signs of gay affectation. Some interviewees featured in Jocks 2, like Jesse Moyers, insist no one knew. Their struggle was more internal.
The famous Greg Condon tells of his struggle and reminds readers that there were no Will and Grace or Queer as Folk type shows on American TV in the late 90s. Ellen stood out, being the first to “come out”. But in being the first lead character, Degeneris overcompensated, lending herself to ridicule. The thing about being the first on a trail is that you are also the first to get lost.
Dan Woog’s Jocks 2 features gay trailblazers, places their stories wtih in their own sport or school. It’s as if their straight acting assurances validate their personna a masculine-worshipping world.
Gay men, even lispy, limp-wristed bar flies, are not feminine. Masculinity is more than hair on your back and ball scratching. Dan Woog gives us a slice of reality. His writing is enjoyable. People do seem to always be admitting things but that’s nit picking. This is a side of homosexuality that should be addressed in a non-pornographic way. Don’t expect any erotic visions. Sex is discussed elliptically. What really matters in the text is the development of sexuality. The cover of a bare-chested athlete may make the book seem hot, but it ends there. Jocks 2 elaborates on the gay experience—not club kids, ghetto dwellers, closet cases, or literary giants. It provides insight into the apple pie, all-American gay man. Those who are vital and robust.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/jocks2/