Friendships between men across sexual orientation: the importance of (others) being intolerant.
FRIENDSHIPS BETWEEN MEN ACROSS SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Within a culture that positions conflict between gay and straight men as central to the production of normative gender and sexual identities, it is perhaps understandable that examinations of friendship between these two social categories have been relatively underdeveloped. The existing literature has extensively documented the dynamic whereby occupying the position of a "real man" comes to depend upon the establishment of social and symbolic distance between the heterosexual-masculine self and the gay-effeminate other. Gay men represent, as Judith Butler (1993, pp. 1-4) puts it, the "threatening specter" used to discourage male gender non-conformity, with the "fag" label acting as an all-purpose signifier for the effeminized male, implying physical weakness, emotional vulnerability, and submissiveness (Glick, Gangl, Gibb, Klumpner, & Weinberg, 2007; Herek, 1986; Pascoe, 2007; Plummer, 1999).
Quantitative evidence demonstrates that while friendships between men across sexual orientation do exist, they are relatively uncommon. In accordance with what has been termed the "homophilic" nature of friendship relations (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001), there is a disproportionate tendency for individuals to develop interpersonal relationships with individuals who share the same sexual identity (Galupo, 2009; Herek & Capitanio, 1996; Nardi, 1999). Psychological survey data has demonstrated the existence of particular expressed attitudes by heterosexual men that create barriers toward the development of friendships with gay men (Glick et al., 2007; Marsiglio, 1993; Molar & Sedlacek, 2000). However, where these relationships do emerge, friendship with a member of a sexual minority group is negatively correlated with homophobia (Allport, 1954; Heinze & Home, 2009; Lemm, 2006).
The qualitative literature examining friendships between straight and gay men is limited to a handful of sources (Anderson, 2002, 2009; Castro-Convers, Gray, Ladany & Metzler, 2005; Fee, 2000; Price, 1999; Rumens, 2010; Tillman-Healy, 2001). A number of themes have been particularly prominent. Previous studies have commonly contended that gay men are burdened with a substantial quantity of interpersonal labor to maintain relationships with straight male friends. This can include suppressing expressions of sexual desire, avoiding discussions about romantic or sexual lives, and limiting physical closeness (Anderson, 2002; Muraco, 2005; Price, 1999). Where gay men do not reproduce the heteronormative practices and assumptions of same-sex male friendship, substantial forms of conflict can emerge (Hekma, 1998; Price, 1999). Rumens (2010) and Cornstock (1996), alternatively, offer more optimistic accounts of relationships between gay and straight men, contending that these encourage a reflexive evaluation of the limitations and exclusions associated with heteronormative same-sex male friendships.
In light of evidence suggesting an ongoing liberalization of attitudes toward homosexuality (Loftus, 2001), Eric Anderson has developed a theoretical alternative to currently dominant accounts of masculinity that stress the importance of hierarchy and competition between groups of men (Connell, 1995). The fear of being labeled "gay" within homophobic contexts powerfully regulates gender non-conforming behavior. Anderson contends that rapid declines in the level of what he terms "cultural homophobia" have substantial implications for the regulation of masculinities. A series of ethnographic studies conducted in both the U.S. and UK (Adams, 2011; Anderson, 2008, 2009, 2011; Anderson & McCormack, 2010; Anderson & McGuire, 2010; McCormack, 2011) have examined environments characterized by a substantial de-stigmatization of male homosexuality within male youth sporting and educational contexts. These studies found heterosexual participants willing to engage in historically feminizing endeavors, such as inter-heterosexual male touching (Anderson & McCormack, 2010), or wearing pink clothing (Adams, 2011). Anderson subsequently critiques previous theorizations of masculinity for failing to account for the possibility of male gender egalitarianism. The practice of "inclusive masculinities," he suggests, promotes equality and tolerance (Anderson & McGuire, 2010, pp. 250-252), a "positive form of hegemony" (Anderson, 2011, pp. 252-253), and the coexistence of multiple, non-hierarchically defined masculinities.
In this article, I seek to redress the virtual absence of class analysis within examinations of friendships between men across sexual orientation. In doing so, I hope to critique the notion that "inclusive masculinities" are positive in all regards, by examining how the articulation of class distinction became imbricated in the production of tolerant selves. This article does not engage with class at the level of economic structure, but rather how class is lived, experienced, felt and imagined. The identity categories of "middle class" and "working class" not only reflect positions within capitalist economic structures, but also particular sets of tastes, meanings and interpersonal judgments within the context of everyday life (McGregor, 1997). Further, the data collected does not justify substantive claims about the levels of intolerance or homophobia within the working class. What is at issue is the representation of working-class life within middle-class imaginaries (Hitchcock, 2000; Lawler, 2005), and the way these discourses enable the accumulation of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1984).
This study sought to gain an understanding of the gendered and sexual tensions and opportunities encountered by participants within friendships between men across sexual orientation using qualitative interview methods. Advertisements briefly outlining the nature of the study were published in online queer social forums, university periodicals, and external print publications. Individuals seeking further information about the research were advised to contact the author through email. Informants were asked to engage in the study as friendship pairs involving a straight male and a gay male. Twelve individuals, composed of six friendship dyads, were interviewed. Research participants all possessed an undergraduate degree, all identified as middle class, and all but one (Heath) described himself as ethnically "White." Participants broadly fell into two age groups. Six of the twelve participants were aged in their mid-twenties; and the remaining six were aged between forty-five and sixty-four. Interviewees are referred to using pseudonyms, and potentially identifying information has been either removed or altered.
Interviews were conducted using semi-structured interview guides, which were initially formed in response to relevant literatures examining gender, sexuality and friendship, and regularly redeveloped to reflect emerging themes throughout the process of data collection. This study maintained a simultaneous interest in the narrated experiences of individual interviewees, as well as the interpersonal space that existed between co-participants. Participants were subsequently asked to engage in two interviews; both a one-on-one interview, and an interview in which both friends were present. The technique of interviewing two subjects simultaneously--"dyadic interviewing" (Sohier, 1995)--can be productively employed whenever the unit of analysis under study is a relationship, rather than an individual. Interviewing friends together offered several opportunities, allowing the researcher to see how they interacted (Werking, 1997), giving interviewees the ability to qualify or challenge claims made by their co-participant (Sohier, 1995), and generally creating a more convivial atmosphere than in one-on-one interviews.
Transcription occurred as soon as possible after interviews were conducted, with an emphasis upon maintaining an awareness of non-verbal forms of communication (Bird, 2005). Each interview was analyzed both as a distinct textual event to capture the broad context from which individual quotations or narratives emerged, as well as using more traditional approaches to coding that group interviewee responses into specific thematic categories (Boeije, 2002). Particular attention was paid to the interactional dynamics emerging within interviews, by maintaining an awareness of how being interviewed by an openly gay male researcher may influence dialogues, and how research participants framed their responses in light of their friend's presence or absence.
This study found empirical support for many of the observations associated with inclusive masculinity theory. Demonstrations of the heterosexual research participants' "tolerance" were a prominent component of the interviews conducted for this research, and usually emerged when the interviewer introduced potential conflicts or anxieties associated with friendships between men across sexual orientation. Interviewees attempted to demonstrate that these tensions did not engender difficulties within their relationships. Three potential moments of conflict, and their "inclusive" resolutions, will be briefly outlined.
Firstly, the process of "coming out" has historically been a pivotal and potentially incendiary event in relationships between gay and straight men (Cramer & Roach, 1988; Ward & Winstanley, 2005). Gay male interviewees commonly described the existence of a palpable fear of "coming out" to their research co-participants, a fear often buttressed by previous negative experiences of identity revelation with other straight men. However, narrations of this anxious process of "coming out" were resolved by insisting that the quality and content of the relationship remained unchanged. Craig describes the process of revealing his sexual orientation to Tarquin:
By the time I had worked it out myself and was ready to tell him we had already known each other for a couple of years.... I was very, very scared ... because he was such an important part of my life .... When the day came, I was nervous and shaking and he thought something horrible had happened. I told him I was gay and he replied, "Oh really?" enthusiastically. He was perfectly fine with it.
This apprehension was not always a component of the narrative. Ben, for instance, states that he never believed his co-participant, Heath, would respond negatively to him "coming out." His decision seems to have been impelled by a desire to avoid deceiving his co-participant:
B: One day, I thought that he should know, I didn't want to lie to him, so I just randomly brought it up, and he just said "Oh", and that was pretty much it [...] I didn't really think that he would really mind [...]
H: We were walking back from somewhere, a restaurant, we were walking back home, and he just turned to me and said, "Oh, I think you should know this." I was a bit surprised, like I hadn't really suspected it at all, but yeah I was fine with it.
The precise dynamics associated with identity revelation were far from linear or uniform. No explicit "coming out" ceremony occurred between Boris and David; knowledge of the latter's sexual identification seemed to become an implicit component of the relationship through an indefinable osmosis. Zach, alternatively, had his sexual orientation indirectly relayed to Carl through the social network that both inhabited. However, the recurring and overriding theme in their narrations of this process was the assertion that, far from being a pivotal or watershed moment, "coming out" exerted minimal influence over the quality or nature of the relationships.
A second context for the performance of inclusive masculinities revolved around the body. A key component of the interpersonal labor associated with friendships between men across sexual orientation relates to the maintenance of distinctions between homosocial and homoerotic desire. Tactile affection and physical proximity are potentially at issue. Anna Muraco (2005) found that U.S. heterosexual male university students evaluated the hypothetical possibility of a physically affectionate gay male friend more negatively than a physically affectionate straight male friend, presumably due to anxieties about defining gay-straight male friendships in non-sexual terms.
Interviewees suggested that bodily contact was an accepted component of their friendships. From the data collected, it is impossible to determine how often such behavior occurred, or precisely to what extent research participants departed from the norms of same-sex male friendship that discourage physical touch. However, interviewees did not position physical closeness as a source of tension. Two participant dyads hugged following their interviews. Tarquin suggested that he specifically enjoyed the company of gay men because he believed they are more willing to engage in bodily contact. Heath, when asked about physical affection in his friendships with gay men, references his relationship with a gay male non-research participant:
So I have, Paul, we've known each other for quite some time, and sometimes I'll stay the night at (his) place because I live far away. And if there's no bed, I'll sleep with him in his bed.... Whereas there are straight guys that I wouldn't do that with, just because I don't know them very well.
Michael touchingly talked about the patterns of physical support exchanged with his co-participant, Robert, when the latter's partner died.
When James died [...] I was a mess, I was crying my eyes out, we were consoling each other, hugging each other, it was a horrific night in terms of just the emotional outpouring. Our relationship deepened even further on that evening.
The paranoid maintenance of distance between gay and straight male bodies did not seem to be characteristic of the friendships under study. While certain prohibitions surrounding physical affection remained--such as kissing (cf: Anderson, Adams, & Rivers, 2012)these appeared to relate to participants' understanding of male friendship in general, rather than friendships between men across sexual orientation in particular.
Thirdly, heterosexual interviewees projected tolerant selves by affirming the positive nature of their relationships with co-participants' partners. Previous studies have found this relationship to be a source of tension within friendships between men across sexual orientation. Jammie Price (1999) found that two-thirds of the heterosexual research participants within her sample expressed a degree of discomfort about witnessing gay male co-participants interacting with their partners. Eric Anderson (2002), in an earlier work, concluded that his sample of openly gay male school student athletes believed that their heterosexual teammates regarded expressions of sexual interest as unacceptable, and engaged in self-regulation to avoid potentially negative responses.
All heterosexual research participants reported engaging with their co-participants' partners, although the nature of these interactions varied substantially, from brief acquaintanceship to close friendship. The primary narrative that emerged here was the lack of conflict or tension surrounding these relationships. Zach and Carl, for instance, discuss the former's boyfriends:
T: (To Zach) So have you had partners, like, partners that you've both interacted with?
Z: Oh, they all love my boyfriends.... I have to like screen them before I bring them back to my friends because they get too attached and then I dump them and get criticized for like three years down the track.
Relationships between heterosexual participants and their co-participants' partners could become independent friendships, as suggested earlier with regards to Robert's former partner, James, and Michael. Michael seems to recall this friendship with much fondness, particularly James' "lurid" depictions of gay male subcultures:
M: James spent a lot of time trying to shock me, and ...
R: Especially (at) the swimming pool (laughs).
M: All the sort of physical descriptions of various aspects of gay life. But you know, it kind of almost became a game after a while, sort of a humorous kind of word game.
While not all heterosexual interviewees developed close friendships with their co-participants' partners, they all stressed that when interactions did occur they lacked tension or conflict.
Research participants subsequently demonstrated many of the attitudes and behaviors associated with theorizations of "inclusive masculinities." It is necessary to be conscious of my own role in motivating these narratives. My (homos) sexual identity became an explicit component of discussion within many interviews, and when not overtly stated, I suspect it was generally assumed. Being interviewed by a gay male sociologist conducting a study examining difference within friendship seemed to generate a certain paranoia about the possibility of being represented as "intolerant" within the completed research. As such, it is necessary to be conscious of the extent to which these narratives of "inclusive masculinities" represent some combination of lived experience and memory, as well as a desire to give a positive account of oneself (Becker & Geer, 1967). However, the desire to be perceived as tolerant is itself interesting. In the remainder of this article, I consider how participants positioned themselves as inclusive. In doing so, I hope to problematise the contention that "inclusive masculinities" promote a "positive form of hegemony" (Anderson, 2011, pp. 252-253) in all regards.
How can ostensibly egalitarian discourses perpetuate forms of social exclusion? In her analysis of British state multiculturalism, Sara Ahmed (2004) complicates the benevolence associated with discourses of "loving difference." She documents how the symbolic positioning of the British populace as enlightened tolerators is constituted through the abjection of particular ethnic and class groups as "intolerant others." The "tolerant subject," for Ahmed (pp. 125-133), becomes meaningful through its alterity from a subject that fails to embrace difference. Media lamentations about insular ethnic ghettoes, the assumed unwillingness of immigrants to learn English, and their supposed propensity toward religious extremism, are all framed in terms of the unwillingness of "non-Whites" to embrace and tolerate difference. Within these discourses, particular ethnic (usually Muslim) minority groups are positioned as the primary obstruction to the creation of a Good Multicultural Nation. Given the privileges that accrue to Whiteness throughout the developed West, the positioning of the "ethnic other" as the true obstruction to tolerance frequently becomes difficult to maintain. When "Whiteness" itself becomes implicated in patterns of intolerance, it is represented as a particular form of working-class Whiteness, associated with a lack of education, brutish violence and unreflective prejudice (Ahmed, pp. 133-141).
A similar dynamic to that identified within Ahmed's analysis of the politics of multiculturalism emerged within research participants' articulations of their commitment to sexual egalitarianism. Friendships within this research were frequently described in opposition to, or even as an escape from, a working-class small-mindedness associated with orthodox attitudes toward gender and sexuality. The social figure of the "working-class male" (usually explicitly gendered) was connoted through references to blue-collar labor, an interest in team sports (particularly football), patterns of delinquent criminality, residence in a rural area, enrollment in a public school, a lack of tertiary education, or an underdeveloped intellect. More explicitly, participants often invoked the concepts of "the bogan" (for a discussion of this term see Brown & Brown, 2005; Hodgetts & Snell, 2008) or the "redneck."
Zach discussed changes in his social circle within the context of transitions between educational institutions. He had few friends at primary school, and recalls a distinct resolution he made to become a member of the "coolest group of kids" possible following the transition to high school. Zach's desire to "fit in" became problematic when rumors about his sexual orientation began to circulate within the school, which the "cool kids" reacted negatively to:
They'd be like, "fucking faggot" ... people threatened to bash me up ... which is probably why I have such an antagonism towards bogans now.
Zach retrospectively repositions the "cool kids" social group as "bogans" in light of both their homophobic reaction to speculation about his sexual orientation, and also their engagement in drug taking and vandalism. In response to these patterns of exclusion from the "cool kids," Zach transitioned into a new social circle, "the nerd group," where he established a friendship with his co-participant, Carl. This group is described primarily in terms of its middle-class potential for technological and scientific expertise, its artistic traits, and as an "escape" from the surrounding working-class culture:
Z: We were trapped. I mean, this is South Melbourne High, right? It's kind of bogany, and so we were the ...
C: Elite ...
Z: Yeah, and you know we hung around with artists and sciencey people.... We were the nerds and we wanted to get out of there, so we all came together to get through it.
This simultaneous rejection by/rejection of social groups or cultures associated with working-class masculinity represented a dialectic present within many of the friendship dyads under study. On the one hand, there was an experience of alienation relating to the "bogan's" role in the enforcement of orthodox codes of behavior relating to gender and sexuality. On the other, this was not described in terms of untrammelled subjugation, but rather motivated discourses of middle-class superiority over a brutish "other." Robert and Michael's friendship is also positioned in opposition to working-class masculinity within the context of university architecture classes. Michael describes the distinction between the drafting and the technology students, revolving around the middle-class virtues of expertise, discipline and civility:
M: It was a pretty blokey course.... There was a divide between the drafting students and the technology students ... the drafting students were like neanderthals and we wanted to be architects.... We were a bit arrogant, a bit snobbish in terms of how we treated drafting students because we did see them as being the footballing, beer guzzling crowd.
Later, Michael makes an explicit connection between this "neanderthal" working-class masculinity and patterns of homophobia in response to a question from Robert:
R: That simpatico that you have with gay people, is that part of your whole political-ethical position generally?
M: I think it forms part of that sort of framework.... I think you need to have a little consistency across everything you believe in ... and again, I think it's one reason why the blokey boofhead crew aren't as tolerant, is because they're ignorant.... They've got a very narrow worldview.
This disaffection with social groups or institutional locations associated with working-class masculinities is perhaps not a surprising feature of the life narratives offered by gay male research participants (Collinson, 1988; Embrick, Walther, & Wickens, 2007). Due to the symbolic positioning of gay men as archetypal representatives of a "failed masculinity," and the homophobia often associated with the pursuit of hegemonic masculinities, gay male participants regarded working-class masculinities as potentially dangerous. However, these patterns of avoidance and disaffection were also a prominent theme during interviews with heterosexual participants, usually as a consequence of an experienced departure from gender norms. To a question posed about why he thought his friendship network primarily consisted of women and gay men, Carl responds:
C: I suppose I'm quite a feminine guy, I'm not a real manly kind of guy, so I guess that that might be a reason I suppose.... I just seem to get on better with females than males I suppose [...] I don't share the interests of your typical males, like cars and that kind of things, like I don't have an interest in that.
This construction of friendships between men across sexual orientation as a haven away from gender orthodoxy by heterosexual participants is echoed by Heath, who describes moving from a provincial town to Melbourne as a liberation from "bogan" culture:
H: I feel like there's a bit of a closed-mindedness from those places to a whole lot of things. It was pretty conservative with things about like needing to be blokey to spend time with the guys.... And yeah, my friendship groups now are really different from that small-mindedness, like I have a group of friends to go out to art galleries with.
In this section, I have documented the construction of an imagined hyper-masculine working-class culture by both heterosexual and homosexual research participants, thought to be dangerous as a consequence of its homophobia and commitment to rigid systems of gender differentiation. This sense of danger was tinged with an imagined superiority. Research participants understood themselves to be more educated, open-minded and rational in their self-described rejection of the homophobic and sexist taboos associated with "orthodox masculinity." Working-class men, as such, performed the function of the "intolerant other" against which an "inclusive masculinity" could accrue value. In the following section, I will examine questions raised by these discourses, relating to middle-class gendered experience, classed hierarchies between men, and the role that friendships between men across sexual orientation play in the negotiation of these.
"BAD" WORKING-CLASS AND "GOOD" MIDDLE-CLASS MASCULINITIES
Anderson's (2005) distinction between orthodox and inclusive masculinities was articulated by research participants in characteristically classed terms. The discomfort with homosexuality and gender deviance ascribed to working-class men was associated with the perceived exaggerated masculinity of this group. However, as I will contend below, research participants understood this commitment to "orthodox" gender roles in terms of anxiety. Working-class men needed to delineate boundaries between gay/straight and masculine/feminine because of existential fears about their own gender and sexual identities, or their ability to compete in a world within which White masculinities were not automatically privileged (Bonnett, 1998; Fine, Weis, Addelston, & Marusza, 1997).
What became of research participants' understandings of masculinity within these performances of inclusivity? Masculinity and femininity are binary opposites that are defined against one another; masculinity is not femininity, and vice versa (Connell, 1995). Previous research expounding the framework of inclusive masculinity theory suggests that the patterns of misogynistic and homophobic regulation characteristic of orthodox masculinity may be virtually absent within particular educational and sporting contexts. Yet, without this abjection of "feminine others," the central mechanism in the constitution of male gender identities, why should we understand inclusive masculinity to be masculinity at all? Why not merely inclusiveness, or even resistance to masculinity? Within previous studies, the term "inclusive masculinities" is implicitly used to indicate that the research is about men. Yet this usage of masculinity as "what men do" is problematic. It negates a discussion of the investments that women may have in masculinity (Halberstam, 1998), and creates conceptual difficulties when examining masculine attributes that may describe a minority of men, such as outstanding athleticism (Connell, 1995).
Several interviewees framed their commitment to anti-homophobia and their liberal understanding of gender roles in terms of a rejection of masculinity. When asked directly, many research participants, both gay and straight, opposed the notion of a normatively defined set of behavioral attributes associated with men. Jeff, for instance, stated that he "did not think in those terms"; Simon suggested that gender non-conforming behavior should not compromise one's legitimacy as a male, which he regards as being established by the mere possession of a penis; while Heath critiqued the role of masculinity in the creation and maintenance of inequalities between men and women. Of course, these spoken rejections of normative gender identities should not be taken to imply an immunity from the socializing effects of a culture that is profoundly gendered. They nevertheless have a political significance at the level of stated attitude.
In opposition to these dismissals of normative gender roles were articulations of what a number of participants regarded as a more "highly developed" middle-class masculinity that supposedly moved beyond the anxieties of "bogan" manhood. For instance, when asked what he believed to be meant by the term masculinity, Boris responded in the following manner:
Well, stereotypical, your stereotypical masculinity is strong, silent, doesn't show emotion, claims not to feel pain.... But your real bloke is brave enough or strong enough or confident enough to speak about his emotions, will not be the strong silent type, will not regard physical means as the first line of attack for any given problem.
David, again along similar lines, makes a distinction between his own interpretation of masculinity that centers upon the body and its role in the projection of confidence, and a "stupid kind of masculinity":
The big thing is how someone carries themselves.... You can have a big build and look down at the ground, lack self-confidence, and it doesn't work. But there's also the stupid kind of masculinity. Big and dumb could be described as masculine. A football supporter. But I just wouldn't waste my time.
These distinctions between styles of masculinity revolved around particular imaginings of class. The participants' preferred understandings of male gender highlighted attributes coded implicitly as middle class, such as a rejection of physical violence, a preference for resolving disputes through reason, and a willingness to express emotion. Interestingly, however, while working-class masculinities were figured as an exaggerated commitment to gender norms, research participants theorized them in terms of anxiety. Boris characterizes "stereotyped" conceptions of masculinity in terms of emotional and verbal repression, as a consequence of a felt need to conceal weakness. "True" masculinity, he claims, requires the bravery to engage in the expression of personal truths or emotions. Constructing orthodox masculinities in terms of fear enables the enlightened "new man" to construct himself as more confident, strong, and masculine than the "bogan other." He is rational and self-assured enough to maintain a positive sense of self without reproducing the inequalities and repressions associated with conventional understandings of gender and sexuality. A statement from Boris at the conclusion of his one-on-one interview evidences this relationship:
T: Do you have anything that you'd like to discuss that we haven't talked about yet?
B: Not specifically ... I mean, have you got what you were looking for? [...] 'Cause I just want to make sure your research is going to go as smoothly as it can. Yeah I mean, David and I always give each other a hug when we meet anyway. That is how frightened I am.
This final comment distinguishes Boris from the anxious "bogan" other, terrorized by the possibility of physical contact with gay men. His lack of concern about hugging his co-participant is projected as a sign of a self-confident strength, indicating that he has moved beyond heteronormative fears of homosexuality. Simon, similarly, relates the unwillingness of some heterosexual male acquaintances to engage in physical contact with fear:
I've got straight men in my life who are too scared to give me a hug, because it's not seen as a masculine thing to do ... but that pisses me off. So I have less time for them, if they're so narrow minded.
Robert, when asked about his understanding of masculinity, immediately discusses sexuality. The definition of masculinity as homophobia (Kimmel, 2003) is inverted, such that only confident, rational and civilized practitioners of inclusivity are masculine:
R: I think comfort in your own sexuality is terribly important ... the word "homophobia." I mean, "fear of men" ... it doesn't say, hating men, or hating others, it's fear of (gay) men, really.
These associations between masculinity and anxiety have been a major element within recent theorizations of male gender identity (Butler, 1993; Kaufman, 1999). I do not wish to challenge the empirical validity of these associations. Rather, I am interested in the identity work associated with these discourses, and the particular ways in which these understandings of anxious masculinities were classed within the context of this study.
The invocation of the homophobic working-class subject encountered within this research appropriated rhetorical weight from this history of elitist imaginings of working-class life. These discourses, further, had a performative effect. The aesthetics and ethics of "middle classness" were laid claim to and reproduced through this "othering" of working-class masculinity. Antipathy toward "the lower orders" is a central component of the rhetorical devices used to iteratively create the cultural realities of middle-class existence. Stephanie Lawler (2005, pp. 431-434) discusses class relations in terms of the "politics of disgust," whereby the construction of the working class as an unthinking, homogenous, unhygienic, and tasteless "mass" acts to position the middle-class self as critical, non-conformist, clean and tasteful. Or as Binnie and Skeggs (2004, pp. 45-46) put it, "white, working-class culture is the abject constitutive limit by which white middle-class multicultural citizenship is known and valorized."
The figuration of the "working class" as a social problem within middle-class imaginaries has an extensive history (Williams, 1974). The construction of the working class as a dangerous social pathology requiring enlightened and reformative intervention seems to have solidified during the Great Transformation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Polanyi, 1975) as a response to the development of densely populated, industrializing urban centers. The real and imagined patterns of unrest these emerging social arrangements engendered created substantial anxieties among elites, particularly surrounding the emergence of socialist and trade union movements, the proliferation of a deviant underclass, the supposedly low quality, intellectually moribund and manipulative nature of popular culture, and racist associations between the working-class and "uncivilized" populations encountered during European imperialist expeditions (Bonnett, 1998; Jenkins, McPherson, & Shattuc, 2002; Kudlick, 1996).
Articulations of inclusiveness along the axes of gender and sexuality within this research appeared to contribute to patterns of exclusion with regards to class. The abjection of the homophobic working-class subject relied upon historically situated transmissions of socially structured and hierarchical class relations. This data subsequently necessitates a reevaluation of the assertion that, where inclusive masculinities do emerge, they exhibit no tendency toward domination or inequality, but rather enable the proliferation of non-hierarchical relations between masculinities, or a "positive hegemony." The abjection of working-class masculinities discussed above may be described as positive to the extent that it acted as a device that normalized anti-homophobia within the self-described middle-class cultures occupied by research participants. Yet, this distinction between "inclusive" and "orthodox" masculinities, as lived and imagined by interviewees, emerged as a distinctively classed affair, with the value associated with the performance of the "middle class" former dependent upon the abjection of the "working class" latter.
Previous analyses of "inclusive masculinities" have tended to be relatively apolitical. Certainly, the attitudes toward sexuality and gender non-conformity evidenced by research participants in this study should be regarded as substantial improvements upon many features of orthodox masculinities. However, it remains important to examine the potential for emergent social relations to engender new forms of social inequality. In this article, I have contended that the performance, practice and articulation of inclusive masculinities within the friendships between men across sexual orientation under study became imbricated in the production of inequalities surrounding class, or cultural capital. Indeed, these inclusive masculinities seemed to derive value, and draw meaning, from an opposition to imagined working class "others."
To be clear, this article is not contending that these relationships are caused or consciously motivated by a desire to accrue the middle-class cultural capital associated with inclusiveness. Friendships between gay and straight men, like all relationships, emerge out of the complex interplay of a variety of historical, contextual and interpersonal variables; and further, identifying the instrumental, self-interested accumulation of cultural capital as the motivation behind these friendships belies the genuine patterns of affection that seemed to underpin them. I have, rather, demonstrated the extent to which the practice of inclusiveness can be incorporated into particular narrativizations of the self that depend upon class distinction.
What is particularly at issue is the "instrumentalization" of discourses of sexual or gender equality (Pettersson, 2011). The notion of instrumentality is intended to capture the extent to which the political and personal advocacy of egalitarianism in these forms can be deployed to establish hierarchies over others. This relationship is perhaps most commonly discussed regarding intersections between gender and ethnicity, within which colonialist discourses of national, ethnic, religious or racial superiority are justified by referencing the sense of "civilization" demonstrated by a particular group's treatment of women (Mohanty, 1997). To be clear, this article is emphatically not attempting to justify inequalities surrounding gender or sexuality; nor is it seeking to pursue a form of moral relativism that renders the homophobia or misogyny of "other" social groups worthy of respect. Rather, it seeks to raise the difficult, and perhaps unresolvable, question of where, how and if, the discourses of anti-homophobia and class elitism examined above can be separated from one another.
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TIMOTHY BARRETT, * Department of Sociology, Monash University, Melbourne.
Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to the author, email: email@example.com
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|Title Annotation:||gay and straight men|
|Publication:||The Journal of Men's Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
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