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PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:59 pm 
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Well sure, but the sooner they're liberated from that closet mentality the better, next thing you know they get married and start living one of those double lives. That would be too bad. We all know that road leads to grief and more grief and not just for the the guy alone.

And anyone who still wants to live in that yesteryear macho world really needs to get with it. Masculinity is what you are not what someone else makes of it for you.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:10 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 8:02 am 
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Paul and Frank are not gay



:? :) :o

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:34 am 
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:yeahright:

And I'm straight... yep.

:happy0192:


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:33 am 
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:14 am 
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Rise of male student support groups sparks row at British universities
by Caroline Davies
Monday 23 November 2009

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A male student at Oxford University, where he can join MC-O should he wish to explore masculinity with his male peers. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

After decades of feminism, equal rights and "women-only" support networks, a lower, deeper voice is attempting to make itself heard at some of Britain's leading universities.

Male students are "manning-up", setting up men's groups to celebrate and explore the concept of masculinity amid accusations of sexism and gender stereotyping. Manchester University has created the first official MENS Society — Masculinity Exploring Networking and Support — despite outrage from critics who claim the existence of such a group undermines women's ability to speak out for equality.

Meanwhile, at Oxford University the formation of Man Collective — Oxford (MC-O), launched "as a response to the current state of masculinity" has been branded "reactionary and ridiculous".

Detractors allege they are just a front for macho activities and beer-drinking marathons, but supporters insist they are essential as young men struggle to cope with the pressures of being a man in the modern world.

Alex Linsley, 20, founder of MC-O, said: "There is so much conflicting information for men. There is massive confusion as to what being a man means, and how to be a good man. Should you be the sensitive all-caring, perhaps the 'feminised' man? Or should you be the hard, take no crap from anybody kind of figure? Neither of those are particularly useful paradigms. But there's perhaps things we could learn from both perspectives".

Men, who could feel pressured to "man-up" in a mixed gender environment, might feel less vulnerable discussing such issues in a male-only setting.

The Merton college student admits launching his organisation with the testosterone-fuelled invitation — "Have you got balls? Literally. If you have how does that make you feel?" — has drawn stinging criticism. Given that men already dominate political and economic life, British society didn't need "much more celebration of masculinity," claimed one critic.

Kat Wall, the Oxford University's student union vice president for women, accused him of gender stereotyping but welcomed the debate and hoped he would work with the women's campaign to "facilitate a discussion forum on the issue of masculinity".

But Linsley, an economics and management student who started MC-O after being struck by the number of 18- to 25-year-old males committing suicide in Oxford, has also received positive feedback.

While self-improvement among women was common with magazines bursting with advice, there was little for men, was the message. "Do you expect men to mysteriously find their own way alone?" questioned one supporter on the Cherwell university newspaper website. "I want to create this forum for men, so men can learn from each other and discuss these issues and make a positive step forward," said Linsley.

In Manchester, the MENS Society, which despite its name has women among its 306 members, claims it highlights not just masculinity issues, but also raises funds and awareness for men's mental health, testicular and prostate cancer as well as male rape and domestic violence issues. Its campaign for official ratification from the student union's societies committee has provoked furious debate. Originally called the Men's Society, it has now agreed to the MENS compromise. Founder Ben Wild, 21, a politics and modern history student, said he was "relieved that the societies committee has acknowledged the importance and promising benefits of this new society, the first of it's kind in a UK university".

"Why have one? Because so little was being done on raising awareness on issues specific to men, such as male depression, which occurs because they can't live up to this very idealised traditional masculine role," he said.

Such arguments hold little sway with opponents, however. Olivia Bailey, NUS national women's officer, said: "Discrimination against men on the basis of gender is so unusual as to be non-existent, so what exactly will a men's society do?" "To suggest that men need a specific space to be 'men' is ludicrous, when everywhere you turn you will find male-dominated spaces," she added.

Caitriona Rylance, chair of Manchester Communist Students, said that while the society now claimed to be about "self-betterment" it's original aims were "Top Gear shows, gadget fairs, beer-drinking marathons and Iron Man competitions".

Wild responded: "There has been so much false information peddled. I'm teetotal, and our first event was a sober pub crawl. And we've compromised on our beard-growing contests to make it more inclusive."

Professor Marilyn Davidson, an expert in diversity and equality at the Manchester Business School said: "It is interesting that this is happening. And there is an obvious need. One of the problems men have is that they don't have the support networks when they are under stress that women do. "If we were talking about business and all-male clubs, they were the gatekeepers who were stopping women entering. But I don't think these groups are doing that. It's not us against them. It's just about supporting each other."

Patrick Leman, from Royal Holloway University of London, said: "In some senses it is to be welcomed, because it is good that young men reflect on who they are and what they should be doing. That sort of reflected self-awareness is not something that is particularly associated with men. But I went to Oxford, and it could, of course, just turn into another awful drinking society."

However, Martin Daubney, 39, editor of the lads' magazine Loaded, was contemptuous. "I don't think men are remotely confused about what it takes to be a man. They just get on and do it. My generation would not sit round and build a website about being confused. It's complete navel-gazing bullshit."

Source: Guardian UK.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:56 pm 
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The Kingdom in the Closet
By Nadya Labi

Sodomy is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, but gay life flourishes there. Why it is “easier to be gay than straight” in a society where everyone, homosexual and otherwise, lives in the closet

Yasser, a 26-year-old artist, was taking me on an impromptu tour of his hometown of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on a sweltering September afternoon. The air conditioner of his dusty Honda battled the heat, prayer beads dangled from the rearview mirror, and the smell of the cigarette he’d just smoked wafted toward me as he stopped to show me a barbershop that his friends frequent. Officially, men in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to wear their hair long or to display jewelry—such vanities are usually deemed to violate an Islamic instruction that the sexes must not be too similar in appearance. But Yasser wears a silver necklace, a silver bracelet, and a sparkly red stud in his left ear, and his hair is shaggy. Yasser is homosexual, or so we would describe him in the West, and the barbershop we visited caters to gay men. Business is brisk.

Leaving the barbershop, we drove onto Tahlia Street, a broad avenue framed by palm trees, then went past a succession of sleek malls and slowed in front of a glass-and-steel shopping center. Men congregated outside and in nearby cafés. Whereas most such establishments have a family section, two of this area’s cafés allow only men; not surprisingly, they are popular among men who prefer one another’s company. Yasser gestured to a parking lot across from the shopping center, explaining that after midnight it would be “full of men picking up men.” These days, he said, “you see gay people everywhere.”

Yasser turned onto a side street, then braked suddenly. “Oh shit, it’s a checkpoint,” he said, inclining his head toward some traffic cops in brown uniforms. “Do you have your ID?” he asked me. He wasn’t worried about the gay-themed nature of his tour—he didn’t want to be caught alone with a woman. I rummaged through my purse, realizing that I’d left my passport in the hotel for safekeeping. Yasser looked behind him to see if he could reverse the car, but had no choice except to proceed. To his relief, the cops nodded us through. “God, they freaked me out,” Yasser said. As he resumed his narration, I recalled something he had told me earlier. “It’s a lot easier to be gay than straight here,” he had said. “If you go out with a girl, people will start to ask her questions. But if I have a date upstairs and my family is downstairs, they won’t even come up.”

Notorious for its adherence to Wahhabism, a puritanical strain of Islam, and as the birthplace of most of the 9/11 hijackers, Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that claims sharia, or Islamic law, as its sole legal code. The list of prohibitions is long: It’s haram—forbidden—to smoke, drink, go to discos, or mix with an unrelated person of the opposite gender. The rules are enforced by the mutawwa'in, religious authorities employed by the government’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The kingdom is dominated by mosques and malls, which the mutawwa'in patrol in leather sandals and shortened versions of the thawb, the traditional ankle-length white robe that many Saudis wear. Some mutawwa'in even bear marks of their devotion on their faces; they bow to God so adamantly that pressing their foreheads against the ground leaves a visible dent. The mutawwa'in prod shoppers to say their devotions when the shops close for prayer, several times daily. If they catch a boy and a girl on a date, they might haul the couple to the police station. They make sure that single men steer clear of the malls, which are family-only zones for the most part, unless they are with a female relative. Though the power of the mutawwa'in has been curtailed recently, their presence still inspires fear.

In Saudi Arabia, sodomy is punishable by death. Though that penalty is seldom applied, just this February a man in the Mecca region was executed for having sex with a boy, among other crimes. (For this reason, the names of most people in this story have been changed.) Ask many Saudis about homosexuality, and they’ll wince with repugnance. “I disapprove,” Rania, a 32-year-old human-resources manager, told me firmly. “Women weren’t meant to be with women, and men aren’t supposed to be with men.”

This legal and public condemnation notwithstanding, the kingdom leaves considerable space for homosexual behavior. As long as gays and lesbians maintain a public front of obeisance to Wahhabist norms, they are left to do what they want in private. Vibrant communities of men who enjoy sex with other men can be found in cosmopolitan cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. They meet in schools, in cafés, in the streets, and on the Internet. “You can be cruised anywhere in Saudi Arabia, any time of the day,” said Radwan, a 42-year-old gay Saudi American who grew up in various Western cities and now lives in Jeddah. “They’re quite shameless about it.” Talal, a Syrian who moved to Riyadh in 2000, calls the Saudi capital a “gay heaven.”

This is surprising enough. But what seems more startling, at least from a Western perspective, is that some of the men having sex with other men don’t consider themselves gay. For many Saudis, the fact that a man has sex with another man has little to do with “gayness.” The act may fulfill a desire or a need, but it doesn’t constitute an identity. Nor does it strip a man of his masculinity, as long as he is in the “top,” or active, role. This attitude gives Saudi men who engage in homosexual behavior a degree of freedom. But as a more Westernized notion of gayness—a notion that stresses orientation over acts—takes hold in the country, will this delicate balance survive?

‘They will seduce you’

When Yasser hit puberty, he grew attracted to his male cousins. Like many gay and lesbian teenagers everywhere, he felt isolated. “I used to have the feeling that I was the queerest in the country,” he recalled. “But then I went to high school and discovered there are others like me. Then I find out, it’s a whole society.”

This society thrives just below the surface. During the afternoon, traffic cops patrol outside girls’ schools as classes end, in part to keep boys away. But they exert little control over what goes on inside. A few years ago, a Jeddah- based newspaper ran a story on lesbianism in high schools, reporting that girls were having sex in the bathrooms. Yasmin, a 21-year-old student in Riyadh who’d had a brief sexual relationship with a girlfriend (and was the only Saudi woman who’d had a lesbian relationship who was willing to speak with me for this story), told me that one of the department buildings at her college is known as a lesbian enclave. The building has large bathroom stalls, which provide privacy, and walls covered with graffiti offering romantic and religious advice; tips include “she doesn’t really love you no matter what she tells you” and “before you engage in anything with [her] remember: God is watching you.” In Saudi Arabia, “It’s easier to be a lesbian [than a heterosexual]. There’s an overwhelming number of people who turn to lesbianism,” Yasmin said, adding that the number of men in the kingdom who turn to gay sex is even greater. “They’re not really homosexual,” she said. “They’re like cell mates in prison.”

This analogy came up again and again during my conversations. As Radwan, the Saudi American, put it, “Some Saudi [men] can’t have sex with women, so they have sex with guys. When the sexes are so strictly segregated”—men are allowed little contact with women outside their families, in order to protect women’s purity—“how do they have a chance to have sex with a woman and not get into trouble?” Tariq, a 24-year-old in the travel industry, explains that many “tops” are simply hard up for sex, looking to break their abstinence in whatever way they can. Francis, a 34-year-old beauty queen from the Philippines (in 2003 he won a gay beauty pageant held in a private house in Jeddah by a group of Filipinos), reported that he’s had sex with Saudi men whose wives were pregnant or menstruating; when those circumstances changed, most of the men stopped calling. “If they can’t use their wives,” Francis said, “they have this option with gays.”

Gay courting in the kingdom is often overt—in fact, the preferred mode is cruising. “When I was new here, I was worried when six or seven cars would follow me as I walked down the street,” Jamie, a 31-year-old Filipino florist living in Jeddah, told me. “Especially if you’re pretty like me, they won’t stop chasing you.” John Bradley, the author of Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005), says that most male Western expatriates here, gay or not, have been propositioned by Saudi men driving by “at any time of the day or night, quite openly and usually very, very persistently.”

Many gay expatriates say they feel more at home in the kingdom than in their native lands. Jason, a South African educator who has lived in Jeddah since 2002, notes that although South Africa allows gay marriage, “it’s as though there are more gays here.” For Talal, Riyadh became an escape. When he was 17 and living in Da­mas­cus, his father walked in on him having sex with a male friend. He hit Talal and grounded him for two months, letting him out of the house only after he swore he was no longer attracted to men. Talal’s pale face flushed crimson as he recalled his shame at disappointing his family. Eager to escape the weight of their expectations, he took a job in Riyadh. When he announced that he would be moving, his father responded, “You know all Saudis like boys, and you are white. Take care.” Talal was pleased to find a measure of truth in his father’s warning—his fair skin made him a hit among the locals.

Marcos, a 41-year-old from the Philippines, was arrested in 1996 for attending a party featuring a drag show. He spent nine months in prison, where he got 200 lashes, before being deported. Still, he opted to return; he loves his work in fashion, which pays decently, and the social opportunities are an added bonus. “Guys romp around and parade in front of you,” he told me. “They will seduce you. It’s up to you how many you want, every day.”

‘Gulf Arab Love’

One evening in Jeddah after a sandstorm, I sat in the glass rotunda of a café on Tahlia Street. I’d spent many nights there, interviewing men who were too nervous about being caught with a woman to invite me to their apartments. In a country with no cinemas or clubs or bars, the family sections of cafés and restaurants are popular dating haunts, and during my time in Saudi Arabia, I saw many heterosexual couples talking quietly together, while the girl’s cover—her girlfriends—sat nearby.

On this occasion, I was accompanied by Misfir, 34, who was showing me how to navigate Paltalk, a Web site similar to the one where he met his boyfriend three and a half years ago. Misfir told me that “bottoms”—men willing to be penetrated—are in short supply, and he advised me that if I wanted to generate responses to my postings, I should come up with a screen name that hinted at such willingness. We settled on “jedbut,” and I logged on to the “Gulf Arab Love” chat room, introducing myself as a bottom.

Within minutes, I had more admirers than I could handle. They dispensed with small talk, asking for my “ASL”—age, size, and location—without preamble. “Jeddah_bythesea” cited his private dimensions and sent electronic “nudges” when I was slow to respond. “Jedbuilt” pressed me to continue the conversation by phone, but I was distracted by the flirty attentions of jed-to-heart.” However, jed-to-heart’s tone changed when I revealed I was a journalist:

JED-TO-HEART: I lie

jedbut: who do you lie to?

JED-TO-HEART: I lie in my work

JED-TO-HEART: with my family

JED-TO-HEART: but I’m gay

JED-TO-HEART: I can’t say I’m gay

jedbut: is that hard? to lie? do you tell people you like women?

JED-TO-HEART: that why I lie

jedbut: what do you think your family will do if they find out?

JED-TO-HEART: yes

jedbut: are you married?

JED-TO-HEART: ohhhhhhhhhhhhh I think I will kill myselif

He went on to write that he kept his sexual preference a secret from just about everyone, including his wife of five years.

Back in Gulf Arab Love the next day, I encountered “Anajedtop,” who said he liked both men and women; he too was married. I told him I was a journalist, and we chatted for a bit. I asked him if we could meet. He was hesitant, but he seemed curious to find out whether I was for real. We arranged to get together that evening at the Starbucks on Tahlia Street. I waited for him in the family section, which opens out onto the mall and is surrounded by a screen of plants. A mall guard patrolled just outside. At first, Anajedtop avoided my eyes, directing his comments to my male interpreter. “I went in [the chat room] to get an idea of the bad people in those rooms so that God will keep me away from those kinds of things,” he said, his leg jiggling nervously. He abandoned this weak cover story as our conversation progressed.

He claimed to prefer women, though he admitted that few women frequent the Gulf Arab Love chat room. In the absence of women, he said, he’d “go with” a guy. “I go in and put up an offer,” he said. “I set the tone. I’m in control.” To be in control, for Anajedtop, meant to be on top. “It’s not in my nature to be a bottom,” he said. I asked him whether he was gay, and he responded, “No! A gay is against the norm. Anybody can be a top, but only a gay can be a bottom.” He added, “The worst thing is to be a bottom.”

The call to prayer sounded over a loudspeaker, and his leg began shaking more insistently; he put a hand on his knee in a futile attempt to still it. The guard hovered. “I’m worried the mutawwa'in might come,” Anajedtop said, and rushed off to catch the evening prayer.

What is ‘gay’?

In The History of Sexuality, a multivolume work published in the 1970s and ’80s, Michel Foucault proposed his famous thesis that Western academic, medical, and political discourse of the 18th and 19th centuries had produced the idea of the homosexual as a deviant type: In Western society, homosexuality changed from being a behavior (what you do) to an identity (who you are).

In the Middle East, however, homosexual behavior remained just that—an act, not an orientation. That is not to say that Middle Eastern men who had sex with other men were freely tolerated. But they were not automatically labeled deviant. The taxonomy revolved around the roles of top and bottom, with little stigma attaching to the top. “‘Sexuality’ is distinguished not between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ but between taking pleasure and submitting to someone (being used for pleasure),” the sociologist Stephen O. Murray explains in the 1997 compilation Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. Being a bottom was shameful because it meant playing a woman’s role. A bottom was not locked into his inferior status, however; he could, and was expected to, leave the role behind as he grew older. “There may be a man, and he likes boys. The Saudis just look at this as, ‘He doesn’t like football,’” Dave, a gay American teacher who first moved to Saudi Arabia in 1978, told me. “It’s assumed that he is, as it were, the dominant partner, playing the man’s role, and there is no shame attached to it.” Nor is the dominant partner considered gay.

However much this may seem like sophistry, it is in keeping with a long-standing Muslim tradition of accommodating homosexual impulses, if not homosexual identity. In 19th-century Iran, a young beardless adolescent was considered an object of beauty—desired by men—who would grow naturally into an older bearded man who desired youthful males. There, as in much of the Islamic world, sexual practices were “not considered fixed into lifelong patterns of sexual orientation,” as Afsaneh Najmabadi demonstrates in her 2005 book, Women With Mustaches and Men Without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity. A man was expected to marry, and as long as he fulfilled his procreative obligations, the community didn’t probe his extracurricular activities.

A magazine editor in Jeddah told me that many boys in Mecca, where he grew up, have sexual relations with men, but they don’t see themselves as gay. Abubaker Bagader, a human-rights activist based in Jeddah, explained that homosexuality can be viewed as a phase. “Homosexuality is considered something one might pass by,” he said. “It’s to be understood as a stage of life, particularly at youth.” This view of sexual behavior, in combination with the strict segregation of the sexes, serves to foster homosexual acts, shifting the stigma onto bottoms and allowing older men to excuse their younger behavior—their time as bottoms—as mere youthful transgressions.

In Islamic Homosexualities, the anthropologist Will Roscoe shows that this “status-differentiated pattern”— whereby it’s OK to be a top but not a bottom—has its roots in Greco-Roman culture, and he emphasizes that the top-bottom power dynamic is commonly expressed in relations between older men and younger boys. Yasmin, the student who told me about the lesbian enclave at her college, said that her 16-year-old brother, along with many boys his age, has been targeted by his male elders as a sexual object. “It’s the land of sand and sodomites,” she said. “The older men take advantage of the little boys.” Dave, the American educator, puts it this way: “Let’s say there’s a group of men sitting around in a café. If a smooth-faced boy walks by, they all stop and make approving comments. They’re just noting, ‘That’s a hot little number.’”

The People of Lot

Yet a paradox exists at the heart of Saudi conceptions of gay sex and sexual identity: Despite their seemingly flexible view of sexuality, most of the Saudis I interviewed, including those men who identify themselves as gay, consider sodomy a grave sin. During Ramadan, my Jeddah tour guide, Yasser, abstains from sex. His sense of propriety is widely shared: Few gay parties occur in the country during the holy month. Faith is a “huge confusion” for gay Muslims, Yasser and others told me. “My religion says it’s forbidden, and to practice this kind of activity, you’ll end up in hell,” he explains. But Yasser places hope in God’s merciful nature. “God forgives you if, from the inside, you are very pure,” he said. “If you have guilt all the time while you’re doing this stuff, maybe God might forgive you. If you practice something forbidden and keep it quiet, God might forgive you.” Zahar, a 41-year-old Saudi who has traveled widely throughout the world, urged me not to write about Islam and homosexuality; to do so, he said, is to cut off debate, because “it’s always the religion that holds people back.” He added, “The original points of Islam can never be changed.” Years ago, Zahar went to the library to ascertain just what those points are. What he found surprised him. “Strange enough, there is no certain condemnation for that [homosexual] act in Islam. On the other hand, to have illegal sex between a man and a woman, there are very clear rules and sub-rules.”

Indeed, the Koran does not contain rules about homosexuality, says Everett K. Rowson, a professor at New York University who is working on a book about homosexuality in medieval Islamic society. “The only passages that deal with the subject unambiguously appear in the passages dealing with Lot.”

The story of Lot is rendered in the Koran much as it is in the Old Testament. The men of Lot’s town lust after male angels under his protection, and he begs them to have sex with his virgin daughters instead:

Do ye commit lewdness / such as no people / in creation (ever) committed / before you? For ye practice your lusts / on men in preference / to women: ye are indeed / a people transgressing beyond / bounds.

The men refuse to heed him and are punished by a shower of brimstone. Their defiance survives linguistically: In Arabic, the “top” sodomite is luti, meaning “of [the people of] Lot.”

This surely suggests that sodomy is considered sinful, but the Koran’s treatment of the practice contrasts with its discussions of zina—sexual relations between a man and a woman who are not married to each other. Zina is explicitly condemned:

Nor come nigh to adultery: / for it is a shameful (deed) / and an evil, opening to the road / (to other evils).

The punishment for it is later spelled out: 100 lashes for each party. The Koran does not offer such direct guidance on what to do about sodomy. Many Islamic scholars analogize the act to zina to determine a punishment, and some go so far as to say the two sins are the same.

Two other key verses deal with sexual transgression. The first instructs:

If any of your women / are guilty of lewdness, / take the evidence of four / (reliable) witnesses from amongst / you/ against them; and if they testify, / confine [the women] to houses until / death do claim them, / or God ordain them / some (other) way.

But what is this “lewdness”? Is it zina or lesbianism? It is hard to say. The second verse is also ambiguous:

If two men among you / are guilty of lewdness, / punish them both. / If they repent and amend, / leave them alone …

In Arabic, the masculine “dual pronoun” can refer to two men or to a man and a woman. So again—sodomy, or zina?

For many centuries, Rowson says, these verses were widely thought to pertain to zina, but since the early 20th century, they have been largely assumed to proscribe homosexual behavior. He and most other scholars in the field believe that at about that time, Middle Eastern attitudes toward homosexuality fundamentally shifted. Though same-sex practices were considered taboo, and shameful for the bottom, same-sex desire had long been understood as a natural inclination. For example, Abu Nuwas—a famous eighth-century poet from Baghdad—and his literary successors devoted much ink to the charms of attractive boys. At the turn of the century, Islamic society began to express revulsion at the concept of homosexuality, even if it was confined only to lustful thoughts, and this distaste became more pronounced with the influx of Western media. “Many attitudes with regard to sexual morality that are thought to be identical to Islam owe a lot more to Queen Victoria” than to the Koran, Rowson told me. “People don’t know—or they try to keep it under the carpet—that 200 years ago, highly respected religious scholars in the Middle East were writing poems about beautiful boys.”

Even Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab—the 18th- century religious scholar who founded Wahhabism—seems to draw a distinction between homosexual desires and homosexual acts, according to Natana DeLong-Bas, the author of Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (2004). The closest Abd al-Wahhab came to touching upon the topic of homosexuality was in a description of an effeminate man who is interested in other men at a wedding banquet. His tone here is tolerant rather than condemnatory; as long as the man controls his urges, no one in the community has the right to police him.

Religious scholars have turned to the hadith—the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad—to supplement the Koran’s scant teachings about sodomy and decide on a punishment. There are six canonical collections of hadith, the earliest recorded two centuries after Muhammad’s death. The two most authoritative collections, Rowson says, don’t mention sodomy. In the remaining four, the most important citation reads: “Those whom you find performing the act of the people of Lot, kill both the active and the passive partner.” Though some legal schools reject this hadith as unreliable, most scholars of Hanbalism, the school of legal thought that underpins the official law of the Saudi kingdom, accept it. It may have provided the authority for the execution this February. (Judges will go out of their way to avoid finding that an act of sodomy has occurred, however.)

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The gay men I interviewed in Jeddah and Riyadh laughed when I asked them if they worried about being executed. Although they do fear the mutawwa'in to some degree, they believe the House of Saud isn’t interested in a widespread hunt of homosexuals. For one thing, such an effort might expose members of the royal family to awkward scrutiny. “If they wanted to arrest all the gay people in Saudi Arabia,” Misfir, my chat-room guide, told me—repeating what he says was a police officer’s comment—“they’d have to put a fence around the whole country.”

In addition, the power of the mutawwa'in is limited by the Koran, which frowns upon those who intrude on the privacy of others in order to catch them in sinful acts. The mandate of the Committee on the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is specifically to regulate behavior in the public realm. What occurs behind closed doors is between a believer and God.

This seems to be the way of the kingdom: essentially, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Private misbehavior is fine, as long as public decorum is observed. Cinemas are forbidden, but people watch pirated DVDs. Drinking is illegal, but alcohol flows at parties. Women wrap their bodies and faces in layers of black, but pornography flourishes. Gay men thrive in this atmosphere. “We really have a very comfortable life,” said Zahar, the Saudi who asked me not to write about homosexuality and Islam. “The only thing is the outward showing. I can be flamboyant in my house, but not outside.”

This strikes many Saudis as a reasonable accommodation. Court records in Saudi Arabia are generally closed, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the mutawwa'in are most likely to punish men who are overtly effeminate— those whose public behavior advertises a gayness that others keep private.

Filipinos, who have little influence and less familiarity with the demands of a double life, seem to be especially vulnerable. When I asked Jamie, the Filipino who says he gets followed down the street by Saudi men, whether he was gay, he answered, with a high giggle, “Obviously!” But he has paid a price for his flamboyant manner. He used to wear his thick black hair down to his shoulders, concealing it with a baseball cap in public, until recently, when he ran into a man in a shortened thawb at a coffee shop. The mutawwa asked for his work permit. Even though he produced one, Jamie was shoved into an SUV and driven to a police station.

“Are you gay?” a police officer asked after pulling off Jamie’s cap and seeing his long hair. “Of course not,” Jamie said. He challenged the cop to find a violation, and the officer confirmed the mutawwa’s report that Jamie was wearing makeup, dressing like a woman, and flirting. After spending a night in jail, Jamie was taken to mutawwa'in headquarters in Jeddah, and a mutawwa interrogated him again. When he tried to defend himself, the mutawwa asked him to walk, and Jamie strode across the room in what he considered a manly fashion. He was eventually allowed to call his boss, who secured his release. Jamie cut his hair—not out of fear, he says, but because he didn’t want to bother his boss a second time.

Jamie laughed as he told me of his attempts at dissimulation; though the stakes can be high, efforts to stamp out homosexuality here often do seem farcical. The mutawwa'in get to play the heavies, the government goes through the motions, and the perps play innocent—Me? Gay? Few people in the kingdom, other than the mutawwa'in, seem to take the process seriously. When the mutawwa'in busted the party that led to Marcos’s deportation, they separated the “showgirls” wearing drag from the rest of the partygoers, and then asked everyone but the drag queens to line up against the wall for the dawn prayer. At the first of the three ensuing trials, Marcos and the 23 other Filipinos who’d been detained were confronted with the evidence from the party: plastic bags full of makeup, shoes, wigs, and pictures of the defendants dressed like women. When the Filipinos were returned to their cells, they began arguing about who had looked the hottest in the photos. And even after his punishment and deportation, Marcos was unfazed; when he returned to Jeddah, it was under the same name.

The threat of a crackdown always looms, however. In March 2005, the police crashed what they identified as a “gay wedding” in a rented hall near Jeddah; according to some sources, the gathering was only a birthday party. (Similar busts have occurred in Riyadh.) Most of the party­goers were reportedly released without having to do jail time, but the arrests rattled the gay community; at the time of my visit, party organizers were sticking to more-intimate gatherings and monitoring guest lists closely.

The Closeted Kingdom

To be gay in Saudi Arabia is to live a contradiction—to have license without rights, and to enjoy broad tolerance without the most minimal acceptance. The closet is not a choice; it is a rule of survival.

When I asked Tariq, the 24-year-old in the travel industry, whether his parents suspected he was gay, he responded, “Maybe they feel it, but they have not come up to me and asked me. They don’t want to open the door.” Stephen Murray, the sociologist, has called this sort of denial “the will not to know”—a phrase that perfectly captures Saudi society’s defiant resolve to look the other way. Acknowledging homosexuality would harden a potentially mutable behavior into an identity that contradicts the teachings of Islam, to the extent that Islam deals with the subject. A policy of official denial but tacit acceptance leaves space for change, the possibility that gay men will abandon their sinful ways. Amjad, a gay Palestinian I met in Riyadh, holds out hope that he’ll be “cured” of homosexuality, that when his wife receives her papers to join him in Saudi Arabia, he’ll be able to break off his relationship with his boyfriend. “God knows what I have in my heart,” he said. “I’m trying to do the best I can, obeying the religion. I’m fasting, I’m praying, I’m giving zakat [charity]. All the things that God has asked us to do, if I have the ability, I will do it.”

Amjad cited a parable about two men living in the same house. The upstairs man was devout and had spent his life praying to God. The downstairs man went to parties, drank, and committed zina. One night, the upstairs man had the urge to try what the downstairs man was doing. At the same moment, the downstairs man decided to see what his neighbor was up to. “They died at the stairs,” Amjad said. “The one going down went to hell. The one going up went to heaven.” For Amjad to accept a fixed identity as a gay man would be to forgo the possibility of ever going upstairs.

But as the Western conception of sexual identity has filtered into the kingdom via television and the Internet, it has begun to blur the Saudi view of sexual behavior as distinct from sexual identity. For example, although Yasser is open to the possibility that he will in time grow attracted to women, he considers himself gay. He says that his countrymen are starting to see homosexual behavior as a marker of identity: “Now that people watch TV all the time, they know what gay people look like and what they do,” he explains. “They know if your favorite artist is Madonna and you listen to a lot of music, that means you are gay.” The Jeddah-based magazine editor sees a similar trend. “The whole issue used to be whether that guy was a [top] or a bottom,” he told me. “Now people are getting more into the concept of homosexual and straight.”

But new recognition of this distinction has not brought with it acceptance of homosexuality: Saudis may be tuning in to Oprah, but her tell-all ethic has yet to catch on. Radwan, the Saudi American, came out to his parents only after spending time in the United States—and the experience was so bad that he’s gone back into the closet. His father, a Saudi, threatened to kill himself, then decided that he couldn’t (because suicide is haram), then contemplated killing Radwan instead. “In the end,” Radwan told me, “I said, ‘I’m not gay anymore. I’m straight.’” Most of his gay peers choose to remain silent within their families. Yasser says that if his mother ever found out he’s gay, she would treat him as if he were sick and take him to psychologists to try to find a cure.

Zahar, at 41, has managed the unusual feat of staving off marriage without revealing himself to be gay. Marriage would devastate him, he says, and exposure of his homosexuality would devastate his family. So Zahar has employed an elaborate series of stratagems: a fake girlfriend, a fake engagement to a sympathetic cousin, the breaking off of the engagement. As he put it, “I schemed, and I planned. I don’t like to con people, but I had to do that for my family.”

In the West, we would expect such subterfuge to exact a high psychological cost. But a closet doesn’t feel as lonely when so many others, gay and straight, are in it, too. A double life is the essence of life in the kingdom—everyone has to keep private any deviance from official norms. The expectation that Zahar would maintain a public front at odds with his private self is no greater than the expectations facing his straight peers. Dave, the gay American I met, recalled his surprise when his boyfriend of five years got married, and then asked him to go to the newlyweds’ apartment to “make the bed up the way you make it up,” for the benefit of the bride. “Saudis will get stressed about things that wouldn’t cause us to blink,” Dave said. “But having to live a double life, that’s just a normal thing.”

Most of the gay men I interviewed said that gay rights are beside the point. They view the downsides of life in Saudi Arabia—having to cut your hair, or hide your jewelry, or even spend time in prison for going to a party—as minor aggravations. “When I see a gay parade [in trips to the West], it’s too much of a masquerade for attention,” Zahar said. “You don’t need that. Women’s rights, gay rights—why? Get your rights without being too loud.”

Embracing gay identity, generally viewed in the West as the path to fuller rights, could backfire in Saudi Arabia. The idea of being gay, as opposed to simply acting on sexual urges, may bring with it a deeper sense of shame. “When I first came here, people didn’t seem to have guilt. They were sort of ‘I’ll worry about that on Judgment Day,’” Dave said. “Now, with the Internet and Arabia TV, they have some guilt.” The magazine editor in Jeddah says that when he visits his neighbors these days, they look back at their past sexual encounters with other men regretfully, thinking, “What the hell were we doing? It’s disgusting.”

When Radwan arrived in Jeddah, in 1987, after seeing the gay-rights movement in the United States firsthand, he wanted more than the tacit right to quietly do what he chose. “Invisibility gives you the cover to be gay,” he said. “But the bad part of invisibility is that it’s hard to build a public identity and get people to admit there is such a community and then to give you some rights.” He tried to rally the community and encourage basic rights—like the right not to be imprisoned. But the locals took him aside and warned him to keep his mouth shut. They told him, “You’ve got everything a gay person could ever want.”

Source: The Atlantic.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 10:56 am 
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Interview: Steven Russell on infamy, escaping prison and Phillip Morris
by Laurence Watts
21 October 2011

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Steven Russell pictured in 1997 (Photo: George Hixson)

Steven Russell was originally imprisoned for fraud. Four successful, non-violent, love-fuelled prison-escapes later and he has achieved infamy. His life is immortalised in the film ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’, in which he is portrayed by Jim Carrey.

He is currently serving a 144-year sentence in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility. Laurence Watts interviewed him by exchange of letters.

Moviegoers love a good crime flick. We love a good chase and we love to watch hapless police being given the run-around by criminals and conmen. We especially love it when these words appear on screen: based on a true story. Hollywood knows this. Thus, Phil Collins played Great Train Robber Buster Edwards in the 1988 film Buster and Leonardo DiCaprio played forger and impersonator Frank Abagnale in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. What was different about Jim Carrey’s decision to play fraudster and escape artist Steven Russell in 2010’s I Love You Phillip Morris was his character’s sexuality: Steven Russell is gay, on screen and in real life. How involved was he with the movie?

“Not at all,” he tells me. “Phillip was involved extensively. He was released in November 2003. Ewan McGregor spent a few days with him at his home in Arkansas. I’ve only seen bits of the movie during media interviews, but from what I’ve seen the movie looks awesome. After the film was released my mail increased from about five or six letters a month to thousands.”

Russell’s infamy began on March 13th 1992 when he escaped from Harris County Jail, Houston, Texas. When Russell had been sentenced a month earlier he knew that if he remained in prison he would never again see his lover, Jim Kemple, alive. Kemple had AIDS.

“Keep in mind that Texas was asking me to serve ten years for insurance fraud, another six months for passport fraud and Virginia wanted 90 days of jail time from me for theft,” says Russell. “By the time I was to get out of prison, Jim would be dead.”

Russell decided to escape. He studiously observed the prison’s guards, acquired a t-shirt and some red sweat pants and stole a Walkie Talkie. When the time was right he changed out of his prison jumpsuit, into his new clothes, walked past the prison guards, into the visitors’ area and out through the front door.

“My first escape worked because I used that portable police radio to tap on the window of the guard’s picket. The guards thought I was an undercover police officer. It was such an adrenaline rush. Those first moments of freedom felt amazing. Best of all I knew I would get to see and take care of Jimmy. He lived another 26 months after my escape.”

Russell and Kemple fled to Mexico City, only returning to America because of money issues and Kemple’s health. Russell spent two years on the run with Kemple, caring for him as his health deteriorated. Eventually the police tracked Russell down in Philadelphia. He was back in custody. Kemple died a few weeks later, which devastated Russell.

In the spring of the following year, 1995, Russell met Phillip Morris in the prison law library. Morris was serving time for automobile-related theft. They fell in love. By the end of the year they were both paroled and set about building a life together. Eager to provide for Morris, Russell falsified his resume and got a job as the CFO of a health management organisation called NAMM. During the four months he worked for them, in early 1996, he stole $800,000. Why wasn’t going straight an option for him?

“The HMOs put Jim and I through hell during his illness,” says Russell. “They wouldn’t cover the cost of certain treatments. At NAMM I watched executives badger their medical directors to put pressure on network physicians to get patients out of the hospital as soon as possible because otherwise it would affect their bonus. That got my revenge genes all greased up. I decided to make NAMM pay for their deeds as well as the other HMO’s deeds towards Jimmy.”

Russell was back in jail at the end of May 1996. Pending trial and facing a 45-year sentence for theft, his bail was initially set at $900,000. Russell decided 45 years was simply too long to serve. Impersonating a judge, he called the district clerk’s office and reduced his bail amount to $45,000. Once free on bail, he fled. It was his second escape. Three days later however he’d been caught and was back in jail.

His third escape happened five months later when he again walked out the prison’s front door. This time he was dressed as a doctor, having dyed a white pair of prison scrubs green using water and Magic Marker pens. He and Phillip fled to Mississippi, but were arrested within ten days.

Russell’s fourth and final escape was his most audacious. He falsified his medical records, lost a huge amount of weight and faked the symptoms of late stage AIDS. Believing he was about to die the authorities admitted him to a hospice near San Antonio on special needs parole in March 1998. Next, Russell called the hospice from an internal phone, impersonating a doctor specialising in experimental AIDS treatment. He had himself taken away from the centre to take part in the fictitious treatment and later declared himself dead. He was free. Did he feel bad about the fraud? After all, his former lover died of AIDS.

“No,” says Russell. “In Texas, an escape from custody can be prevented using deadly force. An escape will never be successful unless you use the least intrusive means of escaping. I viewed the AIDS blast of 1998 as the safest way for everyone involved to accomplish my goal of escaping.”

Since Russell is once again behind bars it goes without saying that he was recaptured. He was caught because he refused to let go of something law officials could track: Phillip Morris. Because of his track record Russell is now kept in what is effectively solitary confinement. It wasn’t always like this for him. What is prison generally like for gay men?

“It’s not easy being in prison if you’re gay,” says Russell. “If you aren’t willing to fight, it’s going to be hell. The vultures, who consider themselves straight, are going to try and have sex with someone who is openly gay.”

I mention Britain’s Kray twins, both of who spent more than 25 years in prison for racketeering. While Ronnie Kray was openly bisexual before his imprisonment, his twin Reggie reportedly started having relationships with men only after many years in prison. Can prison change someone’s sexuality?

“No,” answers Russell. “I happen to believe that if a man has sex with another man in prison then he is either gay or bisexual. Coming to prison did nothing to change his sexual proclivity.”

Catch Me If You Can’s Frank Abagnale served just five years in jail. He was released on condition he assist federal authorities counter the types of forging he had perpetrated. Would Russell consider a similar deal consulting on prison security?

“I think it would be an excellent career,” he says. “However prison officials think they know everything and would never accept advice from an ex-con. That’s why you’ve never heard of it happening.”

With no further escapes in the last 13 years, the additional security Russell is now placed under might be said to be working. It is however hard to see what danger he still poses to society. Does he hold out any hope that he might one day be released?

“It’s not something I spend much time focusing on,” he says. “Don’t take that to mean that I’m a negative person. I just realise the odds are against me. The folks who run this state took what I’ve done personal. Right now though, I’m doing just fine without all of the drama my prior life afforded me.”

Source: PinkNews.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2013 6:04 am 
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Men's facial hair affects perceptions of manliness, health
May 1, 2013

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St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire prepares to run his fingers through the beard of closing pitcher Jason Motte after the third out and a 3-1 victory of the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on October 17, 2012. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

SYDNEY (UPI) -- Male facial hair influences people's judgments of men's socio-sexual attributes but these judgments are often contradictory, researchers in Australia say.

Professors Barnaby J. Dixson and Rob C. Brooks of the University of New South Wales showed heterosexual men and women photos of men -- some clean-shaven, some with light stubble and some with 10 days of beard growth.

"We quantified men's and women's judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded," the researchers wrote in the study. "We also tested the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women's ratings."

The study, published in the journal Evolution & Human Behavior, said women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. However, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive, the study said.

Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings didn't differ according to fertility, the researchers said.

"Our findings confirmed beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggested an intermediate level of beardedness was most attractive while full-bearded men might be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring."

Source: UPI.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:57 am 
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Huh? What? Facial hair? :happy0192: :evil grin:

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:52 am 
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Panic in the Locker Room!
February 10, 2014
by Frank Bruni

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A news flash for every straight man out there: You’ve been naked in front of a gay man.

In fact you’ve been naked, over the course of your life, in front of many gay men, at least if you have more than a few years on you. And here you are — uninjured, uncorrupted, intact. The earth still spins. The sun rises and sets.

Maybe it was in gym class, long ago. Maybe at the health club more recently. Or maybe when you played sports at the high school level, the college level, later on. Whether we gay guys are one in 10 or one in 25, it’s a matter of chance: At some point, one of us was within eyeshot when you stripped down.

And you know what? He probably wasn’t checking you out. He certainly wasn’t beaming special gay-conversion gamma rays at you. That’s why you weren’t aware of his presence and didn’t immediately go out and buy a more expensive moisturizer and a disc of Judy Garland’s greatest hits. His purpose mirrored yours. He was changing clothes and showering. It’s a locker room, for heaven’s sake. Not last call at the Rawhide.

On Sunday evening, in a story in The Times by John Branch and on ESPN, a college football star named Michael Sam came out. Because Sam is almost certain to be drafted, he could soon be the first openly gay active player in the National Football League — in any of the four major professional sports in the United States.

Most reactions from the sports world were hugely positive, even inspirational.

Some were not.

“It’d chemically imbalance an N.F.L. locker room,” an N.F.L. personnel assistant, speaking anonymously, said to Sports Illustrated. I think steroids, Adderall and painkillers have already done a pretty thorough job of that, and on the evidence of his comment, they’ve addled minds in the process.

Sports Illustrated quoted an unnamed assistant coach who also brought up the fabled sanctum of Tinactin and testosterone. “There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room,” he said. “If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it?”

To his question, a few of my own: When did the locker room become such a delicate ecosystem? Is it inhabited by athletes or orchids? And how is it that gladiators who don’t flinch when a 300-pound mountain of flesh in shoulder pads comes roaring toward them start to quiver at the thought of a homosexual under a nearby nozzle? They may be physical giants, but at least a few of them are psychological pipsqueaks.

And they’re surprisingly blunt and Paleolithic. When NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer recently brought up the possibility of an openly gay player with Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, he said: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?” Vilma added.

Well, a squeal would be unmanly, Mace might not be enough and N.F.L. players tend to use their firearms away from the stadium, so I’d advise him to do what countless females of our species have done with leering males through history. Step away. Move on. Dare I say woman up? Or Vilma could use a line suggested by the sports journalist Cyd Zeigler on the website Outsports.com: “I’m so telling your boyfriend you stole a peek.”

The anxiety about the locker room makes no sense in terms of the kind of chaotic setting it often is, with all sorts of people rushing through, including reporters of both sexes. It’s a workplace, really, and more bedlam than boudoir. The anxiety depends on stereotypes of gay men as creatures of preternatural libido. (Thanks, but I lunge faster for pasta than for porn.)

And it’s illogical. “Every player knows that they are playing or have played with gay guys,” John Amaechi, a former pro basketball player who came out after his retirement, told me. It’s just that those gay guys didn’t or haven’t identified themselves. Why would doing so make them a greater threat? Wouldn’t an openly gay athlete have a special investment in proving that there’s zero to worry about?

Michael Sam proved as much at the University of Missouri, where teammates learned of his sexual orientation before their most recent season. They finished 12-2, and are publicly praising him so far. Nothing about trembling or cowering in the showers. The person who raises that fear, Amaechi said, “is a bigot finally falling over the cliff and grasping for any straw that might keep their purchase. When every rational argument is gone, you go with that.”

Source: New York Times.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:38 pm 
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Bit by bit, macho stereotypes lose ground
12 February 2014
By DAVID CRARY

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Traditionally, the American male was measured against the stoic hero who shook off all doubts, vanquished all foes and offered women a muscular shoulder to cry on.

But that was before feminism, gay-rights activism, metrosexuals. Husbands took on a greater share of housework and child care. The military welcomed women and gays. A romantic movie about gay cowboys, "Brokeback Mountain," won three Oscars. And this week, the ground shifted under the hyper-masculine realm of America's most popular pro sport - the National Football League, it seems, will soon have its first openly gay player.

Off the playing field, in their daily lives, countless American men are trying to navigate these changes. For some, it's a source of confusion and anxiety. "Men are conflicted, ambivalent," said James O'Neil, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut who has written extensively on men's struggles over gender roles. "On one hand they've been socialized to meet the old stereotypes." he said. "On the other hand, particularly for men in their 30s and 40s, they begin to say, `That's not working for me. It's too stressful.' They're looking for alternative models of masculinity."

But for other Americans, the upheaval is a good thing. "Ultimately, confusion about modern masculinity is a good thing: It means we're working past the outmoded definition," wrote journalist and blogger Ann Friedman in a nymag.com article last fall titled "What Does Manhood Mean in 2013?"

After World War II, at least on the surface, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus of what American manhood was all about. It was typified by Gary Cooper and John Wayne on the movie screen, by the GIs on America's foreign battlefields, by the executives with homemaker wives and no corporate worries about gender diversity. The feminist movement that emerged in the 1960s fractured this consensus and fueled significant, though gradual, changes in many Americans' perceptions of gender roles and stereotypes. By now, although women remain underrepresented as CEOs, they comprise close to half the enrollment in U.S. medical and law schools, and are being welcomed into military combat units.

Over the same period, perceptions of manhood and masculinity also have evolved. Surveys show that husbands are handling far more housework and child-care than they used to, though still less than their wives. Soccer icon David Beckham proved that a male sports star with a celebrity wife could embrace nail polish and flamboyant fashion without losing his fans. "The women's movement showed that women didn't want to be restricted by their gender role, and it's opened things up for men to not be restricted as well - they can be stay-at-home dads, they can be nurses," said Bonnie Grabenhofer, a vice president of the National Organization for Women, though from her perspective the pace of change has been "agonizingly slow."

Fatherhood remains a key element in the discussion of masculinity, and there seems to be broad support for encouraging fathers to be more engaged in child-rearing than they were in the past. As evidence, Christopher Brown, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, notes that the military is investing more energy these days in supporting soldiers' roles as parents. "Fathers are really embracing that broader role," said Brown. "It's become accepted that they can share more of the work, and more of the joy."

Ask Tom Burns of Ferndale, Mich. He chose his current job with a Detroit-area publishing company because it offered flexible working hours that give him more time with his daughter, who's in second grade. "I could have taken a better paying job with less flexibility ... but I can't imagine how I would function," said Burns, 36. "I use the time piecemeal to make sure I can attend concerts, do class functions. It was important to have a career that allowed me that work/home balance."

Among the growing (but still small) cohort of stay-at-home dads is Ben Martin of Brookline, Mass., husband of a physician. "My wife, Wendy, brings home the bacon, I cook it, and our two kids (ages 9 and 7) would eat it, except our 7 year old is too picky to eat bacon," Martin wrote recently on his blog. In a telephone interview, Martin, 35, said his goal "is to be as good a husband and father as I can be." "I'm going to do what's practical, what's right for my family," he said. "I like to think of that as a trait that a lot of men would appreciate." Still, Martin says he knows few other stay-home dads. "I get curious looks sometimes when I drop the kids off at school," he said. "It's a little isolating at times."

James O'Neil, the UConn professor, would like to see an expansion of psychological support for men wrestling with changing expectations. "There's denial about men having problems related to gender roles," he said. "We need to break through that."

Gays as well as heterosexuals have played a role in the changing concepts of masculinity. Certainly, Michael Sam - the all-American defensive end who this week told the rest of the country what his University of Missouri coaches and teammates already knew, that he was gay - is already helping break down stereotypes about gay men. But there were many examples before him, including Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis and NFL players such as Jerry Smith and David Kopay who came out after they retired. Louganis, while still in the closet, impressed the world with his fortitude at the 1988 Seoul Olympics by winning the gold medal despite suffering a concussion in a preliminary round.

"When it comes to gay men, the script is being rewritten," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, a leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. "It's a wonderful thing happening as the definition of manhood evolves, and it becomes more inclusive of more types of men."

Merriam-Webster defines manhood as "the qualities (such as strength and courage) that are expected in a man." Such qualities should be preserved, even amid all the changes, says Holly Sweet, a Boston-area psychologist and co-director of the Cambridge Center for Gender Relations. "There are so many good things about being a man - being a provider, being honorable, taking care of others, taking responsibility, being fair," she said. "It's not about picking on gays or dissing women."

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:30 pm 
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Sex in men's prisons: 'The US system cultivates rape. If you treat people like animals, they behave like it'
by Patrick Strudwick
Saturday, 1 March 2014

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An inmate in Arizona's Maricopa County Jail who has volunteered to work on the chain gang. Corbis

The crook of another man's elbow is on my Adam's apple, pressing down, choking me. After just a couple of seconds, I panic and gasp.

Shaun Attwood, who spent more than five years in some of America's toughest prisons, including Arizona's infamous Maricopa Jail, is showing me how men in prison are raped. "Generally they put the victim to sleep with a choke hold – locking the windpipe like this," he says, rendering me unable to reply. "Within about 10 seconds you're unconscious."

Attacks don't always begin like this. Sometimes, "they'll lure them with drugs and get them really high – 90 per cent of prisoners shoot-up drugs". Sometimes they'll trick the victim into a debt and then make them repay it with sex. Other times it can start with a beating or stabbing.

Human Rights Watch estimated in 2010 – three years after Attwood left jail – that 140,000 US inmates have been raped. Other studies have helped fill in the quantitative picture: 21 per cent of prisoners in the Midwest reported being forced into some form of sexual activity, according to Prison Journal. Young inmates are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, says Just Detention International, an organisation devoted to ending prison rape. Similar statistics aren't available in the UK but in the year 2011 – there were 103 male and female prisoner-on-prisoner sexual assaults.

The statistics, then, we know. The jokes, of course, we know, too: "Don't drop the soap!" is repeated so often by so many as to become Britain and America's prison-rape refrain – a chorus of discomfort to muzzle the horror. But the 3D picture of prison rape in America, the how and why and what happens next, is scarcely uttered because those who survive the system almost invariably have no voice. Attwood, however, a tall, skinny, somewhat geeky 43-year-old from Widnes, doesn't just have a voice, but has written three books on life inside. And his latest, Prison Time, details the sex – consensual or otherwise – the prostitution, the pimping and the equal, loving relationships behind bars.

The details of which cast fresh light not only on the culture, politics and dynamics in America's penitentiary system, but on the nature of male sexuality itself. Heterosexual? Bi? Gay? Labels erode, irrelevant, in the absence of women and societal constraints. We begin by discussing rape because it is everywhere in prison and everywhere in his book, an ever-present threat.

"I was constantly mentally preparing to fight to the death to stop it happening to me," he says. "I would leave pens out [in my cell] – I was getting ready to, you know..." his voice trails off. Pens can be a deadly weapon. They can also blind. (A transgender inmate called She-Ra, whom Attwood became friends with, was so broken by gang rapes she finally stopped them by popping an eyeball out of one of her attackers.)

"I had a profound determination to stop it happening because once that's happened to you, everyone finds out and the whole prison society will treat you differently. From then on you're game for anyone to do anything to do you. Not only sexually, but in any way you will be taken advantage of."

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Shaun Attwood photographed in Widnes last month (Mike Poloway)

It's not only young men who are more likely to be raped, but obviously gay ones, too. What are the chances, then, that a young-ish gay man such as myself would be raped? Attwood looks down. "It is inevitable," he says quietly. "And no one on the outside is interested. Until someone's son is calling them from prison saying, 'I've got a cellmate with a padlock in a sock who is threatening to rape me,' they couldn't care less."

In 2003 – a year after Attwood's incarceration for dealing ecstasy on the Arizona rave scene – a federal law was passed, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, decreeing statistics must be compiled nationally and grants given to prisons to help reduce rape. This manifested in what Attwood calls "rape classes". "It involved us being taught about rape and being told we have to report rape," he says with a snort of derision. "Everyone laughed throughout and said to the teacher, 'We are not going to report rape!'. If you report anything in prison you're deemed a snitch and it's KOS – kill on sight – for snitches. At the end of the class everyone was saying, 'They might as well give us rape kits' – a how-to." Not that they needed it. Immediately after the class, "a mentally-ill prisoner was gang-raped. No one reported a thing".

Is there anything, then, that could be done to stop it?

"When you've got two guards watching hundreds of prisoners – to keep costs down – prisoners can do whatever they want. The US prison system cultivates rape. If you treat people like animals, they behave like it."

Unsurprisingly, in such an epidemic, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are sky-high. Attwood says in one prison, he counted up the cons with hepatitis C: it came to two-thirds. Many had HIV. The only ones receiving treatment were those who had taken legal action. And thus, some prisoners had full-blown Aids.

Without realising, Attwood himself illustrates how normalised inmates become to rape and sexual assault, to the extent they don't even recognise it. In Prison Time, he describes walking in on a young man being forced to fellate another prisoner, an act considered rape in several states and many countries. But when I ask if Attwood ever witnessed a rape, he says no. And when I ask if he felt he had been assaulted when another lag grabbed him, French-kissed him and groped him with hands moist with lubricant Attwood replies: "No, not at all. If I did that to a woman in a bar, that's sexual assault, but in prison the limits are completely different from society."

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Shaun Attwood, photographed by a fellow inmate at Buckeye Prison, Arizona, 2004

The man who grabbed him he had nicknamed Jeeves. This is because Jeeves was his "butler". Jeeves was sexually obsessed with Attwood and so offered to work for him cleaning his cell and looking after all domestic concerns – a dynamic from which he derived sexual kicks. There was no payment, just the thrill of it. He would make advances to Attwood fairly regularly, but was always rebutted. To the English inmate, Jeeves was comparatively harmless – before being moved to this cell, Attwood would have to walk past another every day in which resided a prisoner called Booga. He documents their first meeting:

"I'm pulled into a cell reeking of backside sweat and masturbation, a cheese-tinted funk. 'I'm Booga. Let's fuck,' says a squat man in urine-stained boxers, with WHITE TRASH tattooed on his torso...I can't believe my eyes when he drops his boxers and waggles his penis... He grabs me. We scuffle... When I feel his penis rub against my leg, my adrenalin kicks in so forcefully I experience a burst of strength and wriggle free."

For Attwood, escaping rape, as well as "murder, or even having bones broken or teeth knocked out", for nearly six years was "freakishly" lucky, and thanks in part to his "English wit" and "people skills" as well his friendships with some of the gang leaders. Other prisoners avoid rape – or at least consider themselves to be avoiding it – by becoming a "punk".

This relates to the word's original meaning – the receptive male partner in anal sex – but in prison becomes a job, an identity. You are a receptacle, owned by another. "They tend to be the younger, prettier inmates – or the transsexual ones," explains Attwood. "If you're a big, bad gang member, which gives you the right to have a punk to use for sex, as long as you're the 'giver', it's not considered remotely gay."

The particulars of this relationship can vary. The higher up the prison strata (which generally means the more violent) the gangster, the better looking his punk. "But he's got to fight to maintain that punk. It's a warrior society." The punk becomes their property. And as such, can either be kept for their sole use or pimped. "People use them like a commodity and rent them out," he explains. But it's only others with high status who hire them. "Some will allow their punks to be unfaithful with other punks only, which is called 'bumping pussies'. It's all tied up in notions of property ownership, with sexual jealousy a secondary factor."

The rules of ownership are also governed by race. With most prisoners grouping socially on racial lines, so, too, must their punks. "A punter – say a Mexican American – might rent a white punk from a white pimp, but a Mexican American wouldn't be running a white punk."

As Attwood utters these words in his rather resonant Cheshire tones – an excitable Gary Barlow if you will – he attracts several glances. We are in a vegetarian restaurant called The Beano, in Guildford, where he now lives. Tables of slate-haired women are seemingly unused to hearing about sexual slavery as they chow down on mushroom lasagne. They look round again when he describes a prisoner regularly selling his semen to another who used it in ways perhaps unsuitable to describe in a newspaper. And again when he enthuses about the aforementioned She-Ra melting down bits of plastic to make dildos. Needs must.

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An inmate taking exercise at Maricopa Jail (Getty Images)

Attwood is as out of place here as he was in Arizona's prisons. But the "shy" raver who went to America's Wild West aged 21 to become a stockbroker, before giving it up to supply the state's party scene with ecstasy, could scarcely care less. He is alive and five thousand miles from the world that stripped his identity like white spirit. Even his sexual identity, even after just a few years, started to wane, tracing a fairly typical trajectory for inmates. "Early on, the other prisoners told me, 'After so many years you'll start to turn', and I was like, 'No, no, no, I've got a girlfriend'. But, gradually, all my belief systems and conditioning started falling away. Being in prison made me question my own sexuality."

Three magnets started tugging at his old heterosexuality. First, prison mores.

"Any number of activities deemed 'gay' on the outside aren't inside," he says. "Being the 'top' in anal sex? Receiving oral sex from a [pre-operative] transsexual? Considered perfectly straight."

Then there were the transgender women themselves – found in male prisons because the American system doesn't recognise chosen gender. One in particular, called Gina, he describes lusting after, fantasising about, and coming "this close" to having sexual contact with, prevented only by her pimp.

And finally, there is the vast, gripping loneliness.

"The deprivation of physical contact in any form plays a huge role," he says, frowning and looking more forlorn than ever. "You miss the warmth, that bond, the intimacy, the touch." He enunciates the words as if salivating over an exquisite dessert. "Going without sex kills you – it's one of the hardest parts." At this he shrieks with laughter, a paroxysm of stress and relief. Now, he has a girlfriend.

But he wasn't just unusually lucky to avoid rape or extreme violence; he was almost anomalous in never engaging sexually with another prisoner. "The majority are at least receiving oral sex from a transsexual." One of whom, he says, cut her own testicles off in her cell, to quell testosterone.

But perhaps more striking and surprising than all of the above is the tender, loving relationships he documents. Mostly, couples keep their relationship private, as having anything valuable on display leaves one open to sabotage. But not all. "There was one couple – an older and younger guy – and the young guy had broken up with him, so he was crying his eyes out, running across the recreation field, shouting, 'You broke my heart!' in front of all the men. It was quite a sight."

And when forced apart, for example when one prisoner is moved to a lower security unit, they would then often deliberately get into trouble to be moved back with their partner. "Lots of these guys had wives or girlfriends on the outside who knew nothing about these relationships, and they'd return to them, on release."

Although unsure about the previous sexual identity of some of these men, Attwood is certain of one thing: the longer the sentence, the higher the chance of crossing the line. "Presently, I couldn't imagine ending up with a man, but I know you change over time – after a 10- or 15-year stretch I would in all likelihood be thinking differently. Your old life gets crushed out of you."

He also received some aching love letters from ostensibly straight prisoners. One of which was from a Mexican mafia hit man called Frankie who imagined being engaged to Attwood and explaining how he wants someone he can "make love to". "I spoke to Frankie on the phone last year, he's back with his wife. I asked him how he reconciled all this and he said, 'My mind works in all kinds of ways'." He shrieks with laughter again.

After everything the writer witnessed, it is perhaps no surprise that seven years on, Attwood remains psychologically scarred. "I still have nightmares," he says. "I used to get flashbacks." This might also explain the place where he chose to make a new life. "I don't want any more mad excitement. I've had enough of it, so Guildford's perfect for me. Just to be able to walk along the river, sit on a bench and stare at the water. It's the height of ecstasy".

'Prison Time' is available now (Mainstream Publishing, £12.99)

Additional research by Andrew Mackereth
Source: Independent UK.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:17 pm 
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Cockocracy: Size matters in the locker room, researcher finds
By Christopher Morriss-Roberts
March 17, 2014

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South African rowers celebrate 2012 Olympics medal - Ezra Shaw

Interviews with British athletes confirm what we all know -- guys look and compare, and the bigger the better.

Does cock size really matter in sport? In short, the answer is yes. The bigger the better, but if it's too big, there will be doubts that you can use it.

My doctoral research took me on a journey gaining insight into embodiment and masculinity in sport. As a podiatrist I undertook my research journey with a focus of understanding the experiences of athletes and their footwear. My work produced some interesting findings about footwear and sports shoes and I entitled this podolinguistics. However, to get men to think about their shoes and feet in sport, I had to dismantle the role of embodiment (how men connect with their bodies, and experience life through their bodies). This produced some significant findings, which related to muscle bulk, and more notably, penis size. This work is published in my first book 'Jockocracy: Queering Masculinity and Sport', which is peer reviewed under the publishing arm of the 'Journal of Sport and Society'.

As a podiatrist, specializing in sports sociology, I never thought that I would spend so much time talking about penis size, the role of the penis, and how penis size can shape a sports teams understanding of masculinity.

After ethical approval was granted, the research involved interviewing eight athletes; four self-identified gay men and four self-identified straight men. The participants were recruited from professional and semi-professional sports clubs around London, and undertook a one-hour semi-structured interview at the University of East London.

The athletes included in this study are three soccer players (all straight); one soccer and rugby player (straight); one fitness trainer (gay); one bodybuilder (gay); one squash and tennis player (gay) and one former pro gymnast (gay).

The data were analyzed utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), developed by Jonathan Smith in 1995. The methodology only requires a small number of participants due to the intensive analytical process. These interviews took over a year to analyze. (See more on the methodology below).

The research suggested that men look at each other’s cocks, as a gauge to see how big or small they are, comparing themselves to the rest of the team or men in the locker room. The activity of checking out each other occurred irrelevant of sexuality and the type of sport; all participants noted that they looked at each other’s cocks in the locker room.

This knowing of who has a large cock and who didn’t within a homosocial environment helped individual sporting males climb up a social hierarchy of importance. Those with the larger penises were revered and idolized by their teammates as a symbol of masculinity. These "large-cocked" individuals became a focus of camaraderie and team building within their sports environments. The cock became a focus on which to banter, create nicknames, and enjoy the fundamental basics of being a man. Two nicknames that were mentioned included "schlonger" and the "biggest dick in Scottish basketball."

It was particularly interesting to note that two of the gay athletes did feel more self-conscious changing in front of other straight athletes, while the straight athletes did not have the same inhibitions. The bodybuilder suggested that if gay athletes were looking, they were probably not just checking out your size, but also possibly hoping for something more. He then suggested that in changing in front of straight athletes, there was no sexual tension, so it didn’t matter. Controversially he also added, that he thought it was "unfair to change in front of heterosexual athletes, in case they felt uncomfortable." It was interesting that this "gazing by the gays" has become a more complex situation than that experienced by the straight athletes, and their locker room changing habits.

This looking and/or fear of looking became quite interesting in the shower, where some of the straight athletes suggested that they "slap their cock around a bit" so it didn’t look too small in the communal showers. The semi-erect penis in the shower became another form of banter, with laughing over the fact that "one of the other athletes might have turned you on." The gay athletes didn’t report this as something they would do; they did suggest that there was an attempt to perform in a heteronormative manner to de-emphasize queer behavior, and having an erection wasn’t a good way to go about it.

Many of the athletes noted the fact that if they had a teammate with a large cock, the nicknames and banter followed them outside of the locker room and into their social lives. It was noted that on a night out with their respective teams or teammates, cock talk and banter followed them into pubs and clubs. For example one athlete started "if schlolger was chatting to a girl, we would all jump on him, and let her know he had a massive cock," promoting him as an idol of sporting masculine prowess. The rugby player telling this particular story seemed to suggest that women weren’t really impressed with this banter; "they often just rolled their eyes," he said. It was significant that this wasn’t a one-off experience and most of the athletes engaged in such activities outside of the locker room environment.

It was interesting to note that one rugby player discussed another athlete who had a really huge cock; he felt that the only reason he was still in the team was because he had a "massive cock" and in actual fact "he wasn’t very good at rugby." It was interesting to gain insight into the fact that actually a large penis in the rugby environment was more important than sporting ability, simply because it cemented the team in unity.

In the thesis I argue that a large penis is now an essential component of hegemonic masculinity, and should be considered a new tenet of masculine capital; taking into account the significance it has on social hierarchy in the sporting environment. I have called this cock-supremacy.

There is a down side to having a large cock. If it was too large, your fellow athletes sometimes doubted that you could actually use it sexually, or that someone would allow you to use it on them. There was an understanding that as an athlete you had to be sexually active; it added significantly to masculine capital, and the qualities associated with a sporting hegemonic male. A large cock couldn’t just be a symbol of masculinity, it had to be used in the sexual context. The large-cocked athletes knew that they had to be sexually active to maintain their positioning within a masculine sporting environment. If you couldn’t deflect this potential reputation, you would become labeled "the 40-year-old virgin" who stays at home and watches TV. So having a large penis comes with responsibilities and expected duties.

It was significant to note that those with a small penis were often seen as the admirers of the large-cocked guys, but not in a homosexual, or derogatory way. It was also highlighted that those athletes who were fat, generally had a small cock. The fatter athletes were considered to be hegemonically negative in this scenario, and so was his small penis. These athletes were placed at the bottom on this social hierarchy; it was suggested that they probably had to work harder to be part of the team.

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Taking all of this into account, all the athletes did discuss this fact that fear of exposing their cock for the first time in the locker room was evident. Those with the largest cock and balls were always perceived to be the most confident. However, until you could gauge your positioning to the rest of your teammates, it was a stressful experience for all regardless of cock size, sexuality or sport.

The politics of the cock is sport, or cockocracy as I like to call it, is up for debate. Some athletes might not like to think it exists; some might embrace the concept whole-heartedly and acknowledge its truth in their own experiences. The politics of the penis, this new insight into cockocracy in sport, is an interesting and fascinating facet to the sociology of all male sporting environments. So to conclude, my work suggests that cock size does matter in sport, irrespective of sexuality, sporting discipline and age.

Dr Chris Morriss-Roberts is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, UK. He has been working in Higher Education for nearly 10 years, with a focus on teaching the psychology and sociology of health. Since finishing his doctoral thesis nearly a year ago, Chris has since been developing his research and publication career. Last year he published "Jockocracy: Queering Masculinity and Sport," focusing on the work taken from his doctoral thesis. This publication and an article in PodiatryNow, UK, on podolinguistics and athletes created a vast amount of international interest. Chris is now working on developing the sociological construct of podolinguistics further.

Methodology: To finalize, reference will be make to the volume of data represented in this study, from a qualitative research context. The data was analyzed utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), developed by Jonathan Smith in 1995. This analytical approach focuses on the phenomenological (experience), the hermeneutic (interpretation) and the idiographic (individual as part of the whole). The focus of this analytical approach is on a small number of participants, with an extensive in-depth analysis. The aim is to dismantle meaning, experience, and the usage of language to expose the experiences of the participants.

The eight recruited participants should be a very similar representation to many other athletes in western sporting communities; this is referred to as a homogenous sample. This research is therefore not suggesting that the findings from the study are representative of all athletes, in sporting homosocial communities, but there will be some homogenous similarities found in some same sex sporting communities, where athletes work in competitive environments. The principle researcher is aware that this isn’t a blanket representation of all athletes, all over the world, but the sample could be mapped to similar communities and backgrounds in the context of sports sociology research such as this.

Source: Outsports.

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