Yesterday, I nearly read Politico Magazine’s issue about masculinity. But I didn’t. I had just seen an article, “Making A Gay Masculinity” by Fred Fejes, from some academic outfit I semi-subscribe to, had sent. I didn’t read that and I didn’t read Politico. I spent the morning writing about a MAGA rapper instead. And then my friend Dorothy sent me one of the Politico articles, How Bronze Age Pervert Built a Twitter Following and Injected Anti-Democracy, Pro-Men Ideas into the GOP. I had never looked into who “Bronze Age Pervert” is, although presumably he’s wealthy Romanian immigrant, an MIT, Columbia and Yale graduate, right-winger Costin Alamariu, and the “two” of them have become MAGA culture heroes.
I’ll be honest; at first, the MAGA part of this interested me less than the inherent homoeroticism in a Bronze Age Pervert tweet, this one:
The young men are sizzling hot. I started skimming the Rose Gray Politico story but it’s dense and meandering and I just wasn’t in the mood for either dense or meandering that early in the morning. So I went back to the deleted Fred Fejes article and rescued it… and wound up reading that instead. He teaches at Florida Atlantic University but doesn’t write in English well so I’m going to clean up the quotes. Referencing Unmasking the Masculine by Alan Petersen, he wrote that “many scholars investigating masculinity claim a strong feminist and gay-affirmative stance… [I]n many discussions of masculinity, while the existence of gay males is often acknowledged, it is just as often quickly passed over as either being a’ special’ case of masculinity, or as being too exotic or too marginal to a truly relevant.”
“All humans who have penises,” he wrote, “are masculine. However there are different types of masculinities, ranging from the hegemonic traditional concepts of man as aggressive breeder to the stigmatized masculinity of homosexuals. Yet to argue that anatomy is truth ignores the fact that physical accounts of the body are themselves cultural constructions.”
Now he’s wandering into the territory where Ron DeSantis is going to demand he be immediately fired. After all, Florida Atlantic University is in both in Boca Raton and a public university with around 30,000 students (part of the Florida state university system that Meatball Ron has asserted control over in his “war against woke.”) And the budget is nearly a billion dollars annually.
Thomas Lacqueur, in his book Making Sex (1990), extensively documents how prior to the 1700s anatomical descriptions of the body were based on the assumption that there was only one sexed body, the male, and that the female was an inferior copy. In the 1700s, this was replaced with the modern notion that there are two sexes— male and female— which complement one another. Theories of masculinity based on the two sex model have implicit heterosexist assumptions which construct a system of power relations which subordinate all types of sex not associated with reproduction. Finally, most discussions of masculinity minimize, if not totally make invisible, the phenomenon of erotic desire.
It is much easier to construct theories of identity based "sexuality" and "gender" than talk about explicit sexual desire and practices.
Perhaps a more productive view of the relation between masculinity and homosexuality is found in Gayle Rubin's seminal article "Thinking sex: Notes for a radical theory of politics of sexuality" (1982) in which she argues that constructions of gender are part of a larger coercive sexual regime of cultural attitudes social practices and legal regulations organized around the goals of biological reproduction and heterosexual dominance. Gay male sexual desire, because of its choice of both sexual object and specific sexual practices, falls way outside of what she terms the "charmed circle" of "good," "normal," and "blessed" sexuality). Heterosexual masculinity has been articulated in terms of identity and practices aimed at achieving the major goals of the sexual system. For the gay male however, sexuality and identity are based on desire which itself is a fluid construct Traditionally there is no overarching system of regulation and control; there is no "normal" way to be gay that is enforced through law, medical, and psychological knowledge, and custom and socialization. Just as Monique Wittig argued that "A lesbian is not a woman," perhaps one can argue that a gay male is not a "man," if by "man" we mean an identity and sexuality structured in and bounded by heterosexual masculinity and the requirements of the sexual system.
To start from the position that gay males are not men raises a number of interesting questions, the major one being, given this situation, how do gay males come to define themselves and how does society— and the coercive heterosexual regime embedded in society— come to define gay males? For gay males, this anomalous position represents the possibility for the creation of many different homosexual identities and sexualities. Following Butler's notion of performativity, we can argue that gay males draw upon the various texts of heterosexual masculinity as the basis for the construction of their own identities, yet the end product is not simply a distorted mirror image of heterosexual masculinity.
Rather the product is a deconstruction and recombination of many of its elements, reconfigured in such as way as to produce a multiplicity of identities-from the hypermacho leather daddy to the effeminate, yet powerfully dominant drag queen— whose meanings are very different from that of heterosexual masculinity and which cannot be simply "read-off' or "read-against" the original heterosexual masculine text.
For the heterosexual regime of society, the challenge has become even more pressing as lesbians and gay males have emerged in the modern democratic political arena as active political actors demanding equal legal standing with heterosexuals. Such demands often strike directly at the core of heterosexual regime which then quickly responds-witness the political firestorms over "gays in the military" and "gay marriage," both fierce defenses of traditional heterosexual notions of masculinity and sexual relations. While fiercely defending its own prerogatives, the heterosexual system at the same time has developed new ways of regulating same-sex desire and practices. In the past, such desire and practices, and the identities which emerged from them were outlawed and pathologized, and the gay male and the lesbian existed as the abnormalized "Other" who marked the boundaries of what was "normal." Currently however, with the emergence of lesbian gay political movement, such strategies of regulation are being successfully challenged, yet following Foucault, it is important to note that the existence and the limited successes of the lesbian and gay political movement reflect less of a "liberation" from oppressive and outdated sexual laws and customs, and more the opportunities for the creation of new identities and new modes for the regulation of sexual desire and sexual practices.
Although the legal and the medical realm remain to be very important spheres for the definition and regulation of identity, today the realm of media practices constitutes the great definer and enforcer of identity, and it is within this realm lesbians and gays have recently become very visible. While one can argue that their visibility bespeaks a growing social acceptance, one could also argue that at the same time the media is part of the larger social process of creating identities for lesbians and gays.
Two areas of media practices are noteworthy for the emergence of construction and regulation of gay male identity: advertising, and mainstream film and television.
Up until the early 1990s, most major advertisers were very reluctant to explicitly appeal to the gay and lesbian community. Today the gay male audience is seen as a very lucrative market for producers of upscale products and services. (Lesbians typically do not have as appealing demographics and are thus not seen as attractive a market.) National gay magazines such as The Advocate and Out are filled with full page glossy ads for Calvin Klein, Armani, American Express, Niemann Marcus, Seiko, and many others. Local gay newspapers, which for decades played the role of a minority press now tailor their content to attract the audiences mainstream advertisers look for. Advertising, of course, has always been a strong shaper of gender identities, but for gay males, the advertising directed at them is of particular importance. Traditional lesbians and gay males become aware of their sexuality in a family environment that offers little information or positive role models People "coming out" search the interpersonal and media environment to understand their feelings and sense of difference.
Media images are very powerful in helping one develop a sense of identity. Where as in the past most media images of gays were negative, today a gay male can turn to the gay media for information and role models. However the advertising saturated gay media would instruct the young male that to be a gay male in today's world one would be young, white, Caucasian, preferably with a well muscled, smooth body, handsome face, good education, professional job, and a high income. Indeed, there is very little difference between ads the mainstream advertisers aimed at heterosexuals males and those aimed at gay males.
Many gay male consumers, of course, happy about the recognition from mainstream advertisers and accept the masculine representations as desirable, but as Sarah Shulman notes, "A fake homosexuality has been constructed to facilitate a double marketing strategy: selling products to gay consumers that address their emotional need to be accepted while selling a palatable image of homosexuality to heterosexuals consumers that meet their need to have their dominance obscured.”
In the past, "coming out" was chiefly about acknowledging long repressed sexual desires; today it is as much if not more about consumption and the creation of an acceptable masculine image.
If gay media offers gay males images of a same sex masculinity acceptable to society at large, mainstream media, particularly film and television, offers images of a homosexual masculinity very acceptable to heterosexual audiences. While there have been lesbian and gay characters on television since the 1960s, in the 1990s affirmative representations of lesbians and gays have increased in number. While this may bespeak a greater social tolerance of lesbian and gay males, it also reflects a major project of cultural redefinition. While in the past same sex desire and the males who practiced it were depicted as "not really men" at best, and sick and depraved at worst, today representations of gay males in the media often separate same sex desire from the males who practice it, representing the latter in a positive, masculine, and upbeat manner while making the former invisible.
Mainstream media gay masculinity is a curiously de-sexed, deeroticized phenomenon. A number of common strategies are employed. One is to show gay males as non-sexual. In the Mike Nichols movie The Birdcage, for example, it is hard to imagine a sexual relationship between Albert (Robin Williams) and Armand (Nathan Lane), the two main characters who portray a gay couple in a longterm relationship. Another strategy is to portray a single gay male in an environment dominated by very heterosexual sexual desires and liaisons— Spin City. A growing popular way to portray gay males is to show them as young, attractive, intelligent, professional, and masculine, but partnered with a heterosexual woman in an emotionally rich, satisfying, but chaste relationship as in the films The Object of My Affection, As Good As It Gets, My Best Friend's Wedding, and the popular television series Will and Grace. Even films made now by lesbian and gay filmmakers such as Rose Troche's Bedrooms and Hallways represent this trope.
In many ways, this construction of a gay media masculinity reflects the fact that the growing visibility of lesbians and gay males is occurring during a very conservative period in American culture, and thus presents a representation of gay males that in no way challenges the heternomativity of mainstream society. These strategies construct very acceptable images of a gay masculinity which, because of their nonsexual character, do not threaten traditional notions of masculinity. In a sense, they are a variation of the strategy of the closet. In the past, a gay male acted masculine as a way hiding the fact he was gay.
Today, a gay male can be both masculine and openly gay, but cannot in any way suggest that being gay has anything to do with erotic desires and practices.
Rosie Gray noted that Bronze Age Pervert’s “vision is an extreme one, built around a rejection of equality, democracy and other promises of modern liberalism— and it’s being taken seriously by prominent conservatives and Republicans. BAP counts Michael Anton, former White House national security spokesperson, Darren Beattie, a former Trump White House aide who was fired for speaking at a white nationalist conference, and a number of young former Trump staffers among his readers. A review by Anton for the conservative think tank the Claremont Institute said the book [BAP’s self-published Bronze Age Mindset] speaks directly to a ‘youthful dissatisfaction (especially among white males) with equality as propagandized and imposed in our day.’ In the years since the book came out, BAP has only grown in popularity, even despite being banned from Twitter for a period until late last year. In a speech earlier this year, Peter Thiel said that while he found BAP’s solutions to modern problems ‘tempting,’ he disagreed with his ‘distortions to the Judeo-Christian tradition.’ Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance follows BAP on Twitter… BAP has become a key figure in the world of conservative masculinity influencers.”
For BAP, the elevation of this vision of masculinity in society comports with his ideal social order, where the strongest rule— and there are no curbs on their dominance, no efforts to protect those who have less power and certainly no attempt to equalize groups. BAP believes in natural differences between humans along racial, ethnic and gender lines, and compares non-Western societies to “yeast” mindlessly perpetuating themselves. BAP argues that equality itself, even democracy, is a dead end, and he believes in eugenic breeding to preserve what he views as superior stock. “I believe in Fascism or ‘something worse’ and I can say so unambiguously because, unlike others, I have given up long ago all hope of being part of the respectable world or winning a respectable audience,” BAP wrote in a 2021 essay. “I have said for a long time that I believe in rule by a military caste of men who would be able to guide society toward a morality of eugenics.”
…BAP’s critique of society aligns with an increasingly prevalent view on the right. Conservatives have become more and more preoccupied with liberals’ emphasis on diversity and equity. Big-name politicians campaign against “wokeness.”
…And BAP’s ideas about masculinity, though expressed in an esoteric and eccentric way, reflect modern conservative handwringing about the role of men. Illustrating how BAP’s and other masculinity gurus’ ideas prefigured and seeped into flagship conservative thinking was Tucker Carlson’s 2022 documentary The End of Men, which argued American males have been physically and politically emasculated in a world that has become hostile to masculinity and need to recover their own inner strongmen.
Much of what BAP has to say is too rich for the blood of most conservatives who aspire to mainstream respectability. But BAP’s basic diagnosis of the problem isn’t so far off from what conservatives have been hearing for years from more mainstream sources, including powerful figures on the right like Thiel, who said in 2009, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
…An account with that name became a regular poster in 2010 — while Alamariu was in the middle of graduate studies at Yale — on anonymous Internet forums Salo and The Phora, which are now defunct. Early posts show that the ingredients for Bronze Age Pervert were already in place.
On April 16, 2011, BAP, whose profile photo was a muscular young man pulling his tank top to the side to expose a hairless, defined pectoral muscle, pitched a “radical new proposal” to other Phora users.
“From a eugenic point of view, we should accept and encourage the so-called ‘gay liberation’ movement,” BAP wrote. He believed, he wrote, that “it is very likely that the majority of human males are homosexual.” Furthermore, “it is better to encourage them to be so, in order that the few (2-3%) of men who are alpha by nature should impregnate most of the women. There will be social chaos and an era of destruction upon us, but human nature will benefit as the majority of men, who are homos, will no longer breed.” This proposal presages a key plank of modern BAPism: the denigration of family life and the valorization of the male “alpha.”
BAP’s posts on Salo, where his profile picture was a fully nude male figure shot in black and white from behind, sometimes amount to juvenile “shitposting.” “Oboma [sic] won because i masturbated,” he posted Nov. 7, 2012. His posts show an interest in the same themes that continue to animate his career today: which men are gay and how not-gay he is, bodybuilding, genetics, nationalism, beauty, etc.
They also reveal glimpses of a person who struggled with the expectation of partnership and marriage. In a post from 2015 on Salo, BAP indicates that he had left the U.S. He described seeing women from different countries in a cafe where he now lived and being taken with the beauty of the Brazilian women but disgusted by the American women, who to him were “animals” and “dog women.” “Probably the worst part of living the US is this experience of never being carried away by desire for a woman in this way, because none of them are capable of inspiring it,” BAP wrote. He was 34 at the time he wrote the post. In 2016, BAP chimed in to a Salo discussion about marriage and the advantages of “mail order brides.” “No one is worth marrying,” BAP wrote. “Marrying is inherently a bad deal for men. This is why bachelorhood was illegal in early Rome… Marriage is a social and political institution, that men had to be coaxed in by law and by being given tremendous legal privileges (ownership of the wife and family, including often power of life and death). But even with those privileges it’s hardly worthwhile. This is why I say I would only consider marriage to a very rich woman.”
…Alamariu’s work shows a deep suspicion of democracy that ties into his views about male supremacy and hearkens back to his graduate work on tyranny. The modern meritocratic state, he argues, doesn’t work because of its focus on consensus-building and equality, which prevent real achievement and empower the weak; society functions better under the rule of leaders like Putin and Brazilian strongman Jair Bolsonaro who govern like real men, without regard for public opinion or fairness.
I’m going to guess BAP is a closet case steeped in profound denial. He skirts around the relationship between the fascist culture he admires and the homoeroticism that has always been a part of it— the denigration of women, the male camaraderie and chauvinism, homosocial bonding, and the glorification of physicality and BAP’s own emphasis on masculine ideals, warrior symbolism, and the hierarchical structures intersecting with the fascist— and monarchist— movements replete with homoerotic undertones and subtexts.
George Mosse was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin in 1918. His family escaped to Switzerland in 1933 and settled in England. Like BAP, he was also gay, but not panicked by it and not in the closet. His family relocated to the U.S. in 1939 and he eventually graduated from Harvard, where he was a member of the Socialist Club. Mosse saw the kind of nationalism/racism that BAP exalts, as the chief menace of modern times. As a Jew, he regarded the rejection of the Enlightenment— an anti-woeness of his day— as a personal threat. In his book, Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (1985), he explored the intersections between nationalism, sexuality, and the construction of masculine identity in fascist movements. He discusses homoerotic undertones in the aesthetic and cultural aspects of fascism. In a review at that time Peter Stearns noted that “New standards of respectability, which Mosse picks up in the eighteenth century, won over the middle class and then reached both higher and lower on the social scale during the nineteenth century. Respectability involved sexual restraint and widely divergent images of the male and the female; it also entailed attacks on sexual deviance, including homosexuality, masturbation, and, in a particularly novel twist, lesbianism. The canons of respectability began to loosen toward the end of the nineteenth century, with bohemians, youth movements, and back-to-nature impulses prompting a new interest in the human body. It was at this point, particularly, that nationalism crucially supported respectability by converting the new interests into safe, sexually passionless outlets of patriotism. A similar mixture described the standards of male friendship from the eighteenth century onward, where eroticism constantly threatened but was held at bay by the devotion of male camaraderie to the nationalist cause.” Sound familiar?
American scholar of gender studies, Dagmar Herzog, in her 2005 book Sex After Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany explored the intersection of sexuality, memory, and politics in post-fascist Germany, delving into the complex relationship between homosexuality, homoeroticism and fascism, examining how the legacy of Nazism influenced attitudes towards sexuality in post-war Germany. In the Sage review, Annette Trimm wrote that “For the two decades after Konrad Adenauer's Christian Democratic Union came to power in 1949, political discourse was dominated by those who wished to master the Nazi past (or obfuscate their own complicities) by rhetorically replacing murder (genocide) with sex as the primary locus of human sin. Christian commentators and policy makers in the 1950s succeeded in overcoming the sexual tumult of the early post-World War II years and creating an atmosphere of extreme sexual conservatism that included a crackdown on homosexuality and other ‘perversities’ and a rhetorical sanctification of the ideals of family and motherhood. They argued that the Nazis had undermined German civilization through the promotion of licentious behaviour and promiscuity and that only a return to traditional family values could guarantee the survival of freedom and democracy. The generation of progressive intellectuals that came of age in the late 1960s reacted to these arguments by denying their historical validity. Partly out of personal resentment for restrictive upbringings, and partly in rapturous adoption of the theories of Weimar sexologist Wilhelm Reich and other Freudian Marxists (including a selective reading of the Frankfurt School), the New Left argued that National Socialism was the original source for the authoritarian and sexually repressive attitudes with which they had grown up. They linked sexual repression to Nazism so convincingly that scholars ever since have confidently portrayed National Socialism as the apotheosis of state attempts to control and constrain human sexuality. But Herzog's meticulous investigation shatters this neat narrative. It reveals that post-war representatives of both the Protestant and Catholic churches, despite their own recent complicity in Nazi crimes and their self-serving unwillingness to face the enormity of the Holocaust, were actually presenting the more accurate version of sexual life in the Third Reich. The Nazis, Herzog convincingly demonstrates, had developed an ingenious social programme of simultaneous ‘incitement and disavowal’: they spoke a language of sexual restraint and purity for those who wanted to believe in it, but they promoted extra-marital sexual activity in a variety of ways and as part of a conscious strategy to seduce citizens into following the goals of the regime. The New Left's arguments about Nazi prudery must thus be seen, she insists, as articulating an antipostfascist critique. Quite unselfconsciously, the New Left was reacting only to the sexual mores that their parents had adopted since the collapse of Nazism in 1945. They neither explored nor even really wished to know the details about what sex had looked like under fascism. The Holocaust was invoked as a means of reinforcing the point, sometimes at the risk of extreme insensitivity to its victims. These insensitivities were displayed not only by Christians who compared abortion to the Holocaust, but also by feminists whose justified struggles with their erstwhile colleagues in the New Left often involved the argument that women had been among the primary victims of Nazism.”
German sociologist Klaus Theweleit was born in 1942 in what was then East Prussian and is now part of Russia. His book Männerphantasien (1977)— translated as Male Fantasies (1987)— is a study of the "proto-fascist consciousness" in general and the bodily experience of former soldiers in particular. His topic is basically the "fascist male imprinting and socialization,” analyzing fascist culture and masculinity through the lens of male fantasies and the role of homoerotic imagery. He explores how fascist movements, particularly the paramilitary Freikorps in Germany, exhibited homoerotic elements in their aesthetics, rituals, and literature all of which involved violent and authoritarian ideals. He explored how the Freikorps utilized homoerotic imagery and symbolism as a means of constructing a hyper-masculine identity and how that the paramilitary culture, with its emphasis on aggression, discipline, and a warrior ethos exactly like the one BAP idealizes, drew upon homoerotic elements in its aesthetics, rituals, and literature. In fact, Theweleit analyzed the literature produced by Freikorps members, examining how their writings often contained homoerotic imagery and themes. He suggests that these homoerotic elements served to reinforce a sense of camaraderie, loyalty, and the ideal of the male warrior. He asserted that the homoerotic elements found within fascist culture were not necessarily indicative of the sexual orientation of individuals involved, but rather symbolic expressions of power, domination, and a hyper-masculine ideal. I would call that deep closet cases… like BAP.