Increasingly these days the get-up of the gay guerrilla is de regueur. Walk into
any gay bar in the country and chances are you’ll see a whole troop of guys dressed
in combat gear. The dancing queen has become Action Man. Complete with gripping
hands and eagle eyes.So what is it with the army camp? Why are so many gay guys dressing up as squaddies?|
Writer and broadcaster John Lyttle says the explanation is in the jeans.
Or rather, in the combats. Gay or straight, men like to show their balls.
“All males, biologically speaking, have aggression built in, but it’s more valued
and prized by gay men simply because of insecurities over their sexual identity
brought upon by growing up in a straight society.”
|But in an effort to eradicate the psychological pansy some
guys over-egg the pudding. “They tend to overcompensate by exaggerating masculinity
into a grotesque parody of itself,” says Lyttle. Coming from Belfast, Lyttle finds the squaddie
look unsettling. “I think it’s incredibly threatening. On one level it’s like Jews
having to see fetishists dressed up in Nazi leather gear.” |
Most of the squaddies you see on the scene however are harmless fashion victims
as Jeffrey Weeks, Professor of Sociology at London's South Bank University, explains,:
“Being an individual is lonely. Most people want to be part of a crowd so you dress
to conform with that crowd and you think you’re being individual, but you’re actually
reflecting a collective shift in taste.”
But wasn’t being gay all about standing out from the crowd and daring to be different?
Isn’t there a contradiction in a culture that emphasises individualism but buys into
collectivism? Weeks thinks not. “You could argue that a world of multiplying
individualism’s leads to a kind of tribalism.” Er, in other words, when enough
gay men start dressing differently in the same way, they inadvertently end up
sharing a stereotypical style. And before you can say “Hello Dolly”, a combat
clone is created.
For John Huston, (aka Squaddie John), however, there’s more to the army attire than
meets the eye. The combat garb embodies a host of hard-core sexual interests,
including handcuffs, hog-ties, stainless steel toys, straight jackets, cold showers,
correctional custody, escape and evasion exercises and recreational brutality.
“Submitting to military type discipline has distinct advantages over your
run-of-the-mill master/slave scenario”, says Huston.
“Military uniforms are part of creating an environment built on power structures into
which an individual may attempt to lose some of the unattractive features of individual
choice and thus individual responsibility, which can be a sexual fantasy. It’s about being
the perfect soldier rather than a total slave. You get physical achievement not drug induced
loss of control, personal worth not personal denigration.”
So what does Huston make of the designer squaddies mincing along Old Compton Street
in their Gap combats? “They’re wannabes. You can dress in any clothes you like but
it doesn’t change the man inside.
The guys who dress up to play are just like the guys who
wear the uniforms for real - there are no rules and you can't make assumptions.”
It’s all a hall of mirrors and you shouldn't be fooled. The reflection might not match the reality
“Everyone thinks that the person they’re attracted to is really hard and masculine and a
top, but they’re just as varied and diverse as the person looking," says Weeks.
Uniforms worn by military men present an image of enhanced masculinity and authority that often
has a strong sexual appeal to many gay men. People tend to dress like those they’re attracted to,
or the people they wish they were. Not as they really are. So while the guy in
the combats at the bar may look like Private Ryan, he’s more likely to be Private Pike.