Tuesday night, Jane Ward of the University of California, Riverside had over 100 people close their eyes to imagine sorority sisters pouring chocolate syrup on one another and demanding the new pledges to lick it off everyone else. At her talk, “Haze Him! White Heteromasculinity, Anal Resilience and The Erotic Spectacle of Repulsion”, Ward juxtaposed this image with the same scene only with males to demonstrate how sexual fluidity is much more naturalized among women.
Ward’s book “Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men” was published last July, and Tuesday night’s talk was an extension of the topics covered in the work.
At the talk, Ward discussed the homosexual contact between straight white males as a part of hazing rituals and how it affects their heteromasculinity. Heteromasculinity is the social and cultural pressure that in order to conform and to reaffirm their masculinity, males must fit a certain physical and sexual mold.
“Hazing is not simply a practice, it is also a heteroerotic trope,” Ward said. “I wanted to ask where straight, white men in the dominant cultures fit into these incongruent sex practices.”
Ward largely focused on hazing in fraternities, while constantly connecting it to the military’s hazing techniques. She detailed common practices of both institutions such as crossing the line, where lines of males use their mouths to retrieve things from each other’s anuses, and the elephant walk, where lines of males walk while grabbing the penis of the male behind them with one hand and use the other hand to grab the sphincter of the male in front of them.
“Military initiation ceremonies like crossing the line offers straight males an opportunity to endure homosexual penetration and then stand up unbroken, still a straight dude,” Ward said. “The idea being that if you endure together this kind of mortifying, humiliating and embarrassing homosexual act, then that not only toughens up your body, but it will also build and strengthen that bond around you.”
Many people unaffiliated with NYU attended this lecture, and the audience comprised people ranging from curious freshmen to professionals. CAS senior Sophia Chen said this topic was very pertinent to her since her senior thesis regards pornography and its authenticity.
“I’m taking a class on anthropology of sex and gender right now, and this ties into what we’ve been learning about — heterosexual masculinities,” Chen said. “I’m also really interested in seeing the demographic of people who showed up.”
Gallatin junior Don McCaffrey bought her book when it was released and was excited to hear her speak, since he found her perspective as a professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies fascinating.
“For me, I’m originally from the U.K. and it’s interesting for me to hear about the fraternity culture from a different perspective,” McCaffrey said. “This would never be addressed in the UK, given that we don’t have any fraternities, so this idea of fraternal sexuality is very interesting to me.”
Throughout the talk and even during the question and answer session, Ward tried to keep the mood light with heavy topics, because she finds sex a funny subject. However, she ended on a serious note.
“Hazing creates a ‘not gay’ context in which straight men can touch each other’s bodies and bolster their heteromasculinity at the same time,” Ward said. “We have not focused enough attention on the vast array of sexual activities that take place under the banner of male sexuality.”
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