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List of Figures                                                 vi
Acknowledgements                                               vii

1   Introduction: Performing Male Trouble                        1
2   Sacrificial Masculinity in The Passion of the Christ        36
3   Impotent Masculinities in Made in China and InterMission    58
4   Homosexuality and Subjection in Shopping and Fucking and
    Faust is Dead                                               84
5   Wounded Attachments in the Live Art of
    Ron Athey and Franko B                                     109
6   David Blaine, Fathers 4 Justice, and the Spectacle of
    Heroic Masculinity                                         146
7   The Jackassification of Male Trouble: Incorporating the
    Abject as Norm                                             160
8   An Ethic of Fragilization                                  182

Notes                                                          191

Bibliography                                                   218

Index                                                          229


Introduction: Performing
Male Trouble

         At the beginning of the twenty-first century it is
         difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in seri-
         ous trouble.1
                    Anthony Clare, On Men: Masculinity in Crisis

         [T]rouble sometimes euphemized some fundamentally
         mysterious problem usually related to the alleged mys-
         tery of all things feminine.2
                      Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and
                                         the Subversion of Identity

         [T]o leave masculinity unstudied, to proceed as if mas-
         culinity were somehow not a contingent form of gen-
         der/sexuation, would be to leave it naturalized, and
         thus to make it necessary, to reproduce contingency as
         necessity, to protect masculinity from change.3
                     Calvin Thomas, Masculinity, Psychoanalysis,
                                            Straight Queer Theory

To think of ‘crisis’ as a performance is to imagine that the disruption it
signifies is actively or even carefully produced; or, to extend the theatri-
cal analogy, even affected. Understood from this perspective, we might
infer that there are active agents of crisis, and agents in whose interest
crisis acts. We might even deduce that crisis somehow distributes agency,
or that agency involves the distribution of always already critical terms
and positions. To think of masculinity as an embodied, social, and
political domain in which crisis might be performed is to conceive of
gender and sexuality as a performative arena of sorts, where ostensible
2   Male Trouble

disorder does not simply signal the radical dissolution of form but
rather its reorganization.
   This book is concerned with the performance of so-called masculi-
nities in crisis, where the term ‘performance’ denotes both a doing
of gender and its representation in drama, theatre, live art, guerrilla
performance, public spectacle, and film. Since the 1990s, men have
increasingly appeared across a range of social and aesthetic practices as
troubled subjects, with Western masculinity repeatedly reported to be in
a critical state. Situated at the intersection of performance and cultural
studies, this book is committed to exploring the emergence of the dis-
course of critical masculinity, while looking to a pertinent selection of
performative practices mainly drawn from American, British, and Irish
contexts, in order to examine the articulation and negotiation of that
trouble. Discrete analyses are bound by the understanding that the dis-
course of masculinity in crisis is itself highly performative, in a manner
that both shapes and illuminates a wide spectrum of cultural activity.
   The title of this book alludes to Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Fem-
inism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), which marked a watershed in
contemporary thought on gender and sexuality upon its publication,
and was widely received as one of the most important interventions
in preceding discourse. Unlike previous critiques, Butler’s scholarship
sought to reconsider the heterosexual assumptions of feminism that
limited the category of gender it seemingly sought to expand. An initial
provocation for Butler’s research was the idealization of certain catego-
ries that merely reproduced gender hierarchies, often with homophobic
consequences. With this in mind, Butler’s writing worked to undermine
the presumed primacy and consequent privileging of heteronormativity,
in order to expose the field of gender to radical rethinking without
   While Butler’s reconceptualization chiefly took the form of philo-
sophical interrogation, her writing was spurred on by social realities. In
the preface to the republication of Gender Trouble in 1999, for example,
Butler asserts of the original text: ‘[I]t was produced not merely from
the academy, but from convergent social movements.’4 Throughout
the 1980s and 1990s, these influences included the growth of the gay
and lesbian movement, dominated by concerns for equal rights and
responses to AIDS; ongoing feminist debate, including the stirrings
of Third Wave Feminism; and masculinist backlash, and the growth
of masculinity studies as an academic discipline. It was in response
to these social, cultural, and theoretical conditions that Butler laun-
ched her critique of all claims to gender naturalness by exposing the
                                                   Performing Male Trouble 3

tenuousness of gender categories that nonetheless exert violence on
individuals. Analysing identity as performative, rather than innate,
Butler’s criticism performed a radical queering of the grounded pre-
sumptions of heteronormativity.
   The initial publication of Butler’s text gave shape to the gender trou-
ble felt during preceding years. Its republication in 1999, along with
the release of Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’ (1993),
underscored that questions surrounding acceptable gender and sexual-
ity were increasingly pertinent. While many gay, lesbian, and feminist
scholars readily embraced Butler’s writing for mobilizing a new wave
of intellectual focus, its reception in the field of masculinity studies
was more considered. Torn between resistance to gay, lesbian, and
feminist accusation, the fear of emasculation, and also a real desire to
reconceptualize notions of masculinity outside limiting homosexual-
heterosexual distinctions, the deconstruction of masculinity within its
own academic field was a more tentative process. While I am not claim-
ing that Butler’s work had a direct impact on these developments, it
certainly exerted significant influence, and there is a synchronicity
between its release, urgent critiques of heteronormativity, and reports
on the critical condition of masculinity that qualify it as a key refer-
ence text in any study of gender and sexuality surrounding this period.
While a range of minoritarian voices had been declaring their own trou-
bled positions most vehemently since the 1960s through developments
in identity politics, these reverberations instituted a similar troubling
of masculinity ‘from within’, most notably, from the 1980s onwards.
As the title Male Trouble suggests, gender could no longer be seen as the
problematic domain exclusive to female subjectivity: masculinity was
equally in need of attention.

Popular resonances

Contemporary discourses of dysfunctional masculinity cite a number of
reasons for the condition of the typically heterosexual, white, Western
male. In the social sciences, researchers have described this figure as the
‘redundant male’,5 a product of years of economic, social, and biological
marginalization. More specifically, he has been understood as the victim
of decades of gay, lesbian, and feminist insurgence, and concomitant
changes in the gender and labour orders.
   Writing in The Irish Times in 1999, for example, John Waters earnestly
hoped that in the coming years men would ‘finally start to stand up for
themselves […] to confront the sources of the propaganda which makes
4   Male Trouble

possible their marginalisation from home, family and society, to chal-
lenge the bully-boys and bully-girls, the misandrists and the feminazis’.6
Similar concerns were frequently expressed in the decade’s phenome-
non of men’s lifestyle magazines, with Men’s Health Magazine, launched
in the United Kingdom in 1995, for instance, regularly encouraging its
young, international readership to ‘Give yourself an MOT’.7 Talk shows,
which grew exponentially during this time period, often debated
changes in the role of men, with variations of topics such as ‘Too Many
Bad Dads Around’,8 often stimulating discussion. John Beynon identi-
fies the year 2000 as a high point of the debate in the West, claiming
that it ushered ‘the masculinity in crisis summer’: ‘While bookshops
across the United States were full of boy-crisis books, the press in the
United Kingdom carried endless articles on the subject following the
publication of Anthony Clare’s book.’9 In the work in question, On Men:
Masculinity in Crisis (2000), Clare provocatively asks: ‘It is true that patri-
archy has not been overthrown, but its justification is in disarray […]
In a world of equal opportunity for the sexes, can men renegotiate the
relationship with themselves and with women?’10

Figuring troubled masculinity

Of course, representing masculinity extends well beyond the turn of
the twenty-first century. René Girard suggests that one of the central
messages of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, for example, is that ‘all masculine
relationships are based on reciprocal acts of violence’.11 What differen-
tiates the representation and study of masculinity in the 1990s from
preceding eras, I argue, is the systematic focus on the gender order as
an issue in itself: masculinity’s contingency, its violent conditions of
construction, its precarious modes of operation, and the effects of its
expectations on male individuals. Further, the complex and often frac-
tious relationship between a range of masculinities and femininities
is forced into sharper relief. We might say that the defining feature of
masculinity became its dysfunction.
   This book is dedicated to examining a selection of emblematic per-
formances and representations. While the study primarily considers
masculinity in a cross-disciplinary, Western context, it is perhaps useful
to map further the foregrounding of ostensibly disaffected masculini-
ties within discrete traditions. In drama and theatre, for instance, the
works of Sam Shepard (True West, 1980) and David Mamet (Glengarry
Glen Ross, 1983) in the US have been widely noted for spearheading
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 5

representations of troubled masculinity at the latter end of the twenti-
eth century. So too have the early works of British playwrights Harold
Pinter (The Homecoming, 1965) and Edward Bond (Saved, 1965), and
Irish playwrights Tom Murphy (A Whistle in the Dark, 1961) and Brian
Friel (Philadelphia Here I Come, 1964). Dramatists in the 1990s contin-
ued this tradition by exploring problems around divergent masculinity,
while simultaneously experimenting with aesthetic and form. In the
United States, the works of Edward Albee (Three Tall Women, 1991),
Terence McNally (Corpus Christi, 1998), and Tony Kushner (Angels in
America, 1991–2) addressed matters of male gender and sexuality, in par-
ticular, homosexuality. With reference to the latter, Christopher Bigsby
notes, ‘Gay playwrights, once forced to express their concerns and com-
mitments obliquely, if at all, increasingly staked out their territory in
the American theatre.’12 In Britain, so-called In-Yer-Face theatre also
foregrounded these matters, led by writers such as Anthony Neilson
(Penetrator, 1993), Sarah Kane (Blasted, 1995), and Mark Ravenhill
(Shopping and Fucking, 1996; Faust is Dead; 1997). Reflecting on this
period’s unique preoccupation with fraught masculinity, Aleks Sierz

  [W]hen drama dealt with masculinity, it showed rape; if it got to
  grips with sex, it showed fellatio or anal intercourse; when nudity
  was involved, so was humiliation; if violence was wanted, torture
  was staged […]theatre broke taboos, chipping away at the binary
  oppositions that structure our sense of reality.13

During the same time period, the work of Irish playwrights Conor
McPherson (This Lime Tree Bower, 1995), Gary Mitchell (In A Little World
of Our Own, 1997), and Mark O’Rowe (Made in China, 2001) consistently
explored marginalized masculinities.14
   Although perhaps less popular than drama and film (for reasons of
practical and even aesthetic accessibility), live art is arguably the most
immediate of all forms of performance, its close affiliation with identity
politics ensuring that it never veers far from such concerns as they arise.
This is especially true of developments in 1990s performance, with Lois
Keidan of the Live Art Development Agency in the United Kingdom

  During the late 90s live art has proved that it is uniquely positioned
  to articulate and represent seemingly problematic issues through
6   Male Trouble

    alternative strategies and that it is one of the most flexible and
    responsive artistic tools there is to pursue new ways of representing
    and responding to these shifting and uncertain times.15

Although much of the form’s earliest stirrings as performance art were
mainly associated with feminist politics, as in the work of the French art-
ist Gina Pane (The Conditioning, 1973), the American performer Carolee
Schneemann (Up To And Including Her Limits, 1973), and the Yugoslavia-
born Marina Abramovic (Thomas Lips, 1975), the 1990s witnessed an
increase in performances which explored the relationship between male
identity and masculinity.
   Building on a tradition of visceral experimentation led by artists such
as the Austrian-based Viennese Aktionists since the 1960s, the work
of the Italian-American artist Vito Acconci (Trademarks, 1969) and the
American-born Chris Burden (Shoot, 1971) explored the relationship
between masculinity, sexuality, and violence. In Bob Flanagan’s Visiting
Hours (1994), for example, the American performer who suffered from
cystic fibrosis staged his own hospitalization, prompting questions
about the relationship between masculinity, sexuality, and illness. Flan-
agan continued with similar projects until his death in 1996. In later
works by the American-born Ron Athey and the Italian-born Franko B,
this experimentation was continued in more explicit ways.16 Although
arguably working within much more hybrid forms, I suggest that the
endurance practices of the American performer David Blaine, and even
the performative protests of the UK-based Fathers 4 Justice, might also
be situated alongside, if not within, this tradition.
   While film has an equally long history of privileging male characters
and their perspectives, as most stringently critiqued by Laura Mulvey in
‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (1975),17 the time frame under
analysis is notable for its deconstruction of long-circulating myths of
masculinity. Manohla Dargis writes that Hollywood film, long fasci-
nated with spectacular masculinity, is notable for its softened represen-
tations of male gender during the 1990s, a trend she attributes to the
impact of Second Wave Feminism:

    The second wave of feminism helped wash away these damaged
    men, and in their place emerged new paradigms embodied by
    Mr. Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Douglas and
    Harrison Ford. Age and evolving audience taste would in time make
    relics of Mr. Stallone and Mr. Schwarzenegger’s cartoon macho,
    while Mr. Douglas and Mr. Ford mellowed, their edge blunted. The
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 7

  stars who have stayed the course – Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Keanu
  Reeves, Will Smith and that apotheosis of eternal boy-man, Tom
  Hanks – remain freshly young in look and attitude, their masculinity
  carefully sublimated.18

Also during this time, the films of Quentin Tarantino often parodied,
or interrogated, representations of the macho-male aggressor, as in Pulp
Fiction (1994), and revealed – not without irony – that even the most
violent men have feelings. At the height of the decade’s deconstruc-
tion, David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999, based on the novel by Chuck
Palahniuk) explored the centrality of masochism to the stability of
heterosexual male identity.19 In the United Kingdom, films like The
Full Monty (1997) saw men openly admit their social marginality but
also exploit their masculinity as a commodity for financial gain. More
recently, Billy Elliot (2000) imagined a new generation of less narrowly
defined, however sentimentalized, men and masculinities. In addition
to these popular works, the art house films of Derek Jarman, who died
of AIDS in 1994, explored the social position of homosexuals often by
comparing them to Christian martyrs who were also sacrificed for their
beliefs. Jarman’s The Garden (1990) juxtaposed homosexual men next
to Christian iconography, much like his earlier films Sebastiane (1976)
and Caravaggio (1986). In Irish cinema, films like When Brendan Met
Trudy (2001), InterMission (2003) and Adam and Paul (2004) screened the
socially marginalized Irish male.20

Heteronormativity, masculinity, and
the Western imaginary

Acting in counterpoint to these intimations of crisis, certain voices
have highlighted the discrepancy in discursive and institutional reali-
ties. If the condition of men and masculinity is so critical, such indi-
viduals ask, why is the world we live in still so patriarchal? The gender
theorist Lynn Segal sees the link between heterosexuality, men, and
power firmly in place and argues that it needs to be made clear that
not all men are failing, unemployed, or unhappy.21 Pamela Robertson
suggests that men are busy creating a litany of wrongs in order to claim
rights. The notion of crisis, she suggests, is nothing more that a discur-
sive strategy circulated by men in order to reoccupy centre stage and
reclaim patriarchal privilege.22 While Robertson is correct to point out
the discursive-institutional disparity, her perspective is too pervasively
suspicious. Robertson’s reservation does not acknowledge that there
8   Male Trouble

are many masculinities within the gender order, not all of which are
necessarily privileged by patriarchy. As leading thinkers in masculinity
studies such as Robert William Connell have pointed out, in a given
moment in history, any male subject who does not conform to the
hegemonic norm of masculinity is relatively peripheralized.
   Of interest to the Euro-American breadth of this project, Connell
figures twenty-first century hegemonic masculinity as essentially globa-
lized and transnational,23 and not easily reducible to nation-based terms
of understanding. His perspective on Western masculinity finds resonance
in the work of Charles Taylor who in Modern Social Imaginaries (2004)
conceives of modernity not as homogeneous or coherent, but ‘that histor-
ically unprecedented amalgam of new practices and institutional forms
(science, technology, industrial production, urbanization), of new ways
of living (individualism, secularization, instrumental rationality), and of
new forms of malaise (alienation, meaninglessness, a sense of impend-
ing social dissolution)’.24 While societies may differ in the exact way
they modernize, Taylor argues that they do share certain characteristics.
These features constitute a ‘modern moral order’, which sees society as
comprising individuals who exist for their mutual benefit, rather than
for the sake of the state itself. In this, the desires of ‘man’ – that is, the
modern subject – can be seen to supersede all other potential social and
political goals. For most Western cultures, the question of identity and
individual desires is of central social and political importance.

Que(e)rying crisis

While remaining mindful of the reservations espoused by Segal and
Robertson, my primary concern here is to illuminate blind spots in the
production and circulation of these discourses. Or, to put it another
way, I suggest we might see the discourse of masculinity in crisis as a
cultural performative in its own right, rather than an epistemology, as
such. Further, I look to a specific selection of case studies to discern how
these dynamics are played out. It is interesting to note, however, that
discourses of crisis rarely concede to the condition’s reconstitutive
dimension. In place of this presumption of stasis, or failure, I suggest
that crisis is not an end in itself but a period of disorder that precedes
and precipitates a longer period of productivity, restructuring, and
redevelopment, which may even lead to the reestablishment of the
temporarily agitated norm. In fact, crisis is to be seen as a constitutive
element of all social, political, and economic systems, a fact that seems
pertinent during the current global recession. Further to this, indeed
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 9

following on from it, we should appreciate that certain kinds of crises are
also constitutive of subjectivity. Writing specifically on masculinity in
theatre, Michael Mangan draws attention to this condition by claiming:

  Crisis is […] a condition of masculinity itself. Masculine gender
  identity is never stable; its terms are continually being redefined and
  re-negotiated, the gender performance continually being re-staged.
  Certain themes and tropes inevitably reappear with regularity, but
  each era experiences itself in different ways.25

Corroborating this recuperative thesis, recent studies have revealed
how throughout the twentieth century, national crises and trauma
(translated as emasculating) have been quickly followed by periods of
remasculinization. George Mosse, for example, identifies the rise of
Fascism in 1920s Germany as the assertion of a fanatical, militaristic mas-
culinity in response to national humiliation in the Treaty of Versailles
following the First World War.26 Leon Hunt understands the ‘uncertain
maleness’ of 1970s Britain as an effect of working through the disintegra-
tion of the Fordist heavy industries, deteriorating labour relations, the
impact of First Wave Feminism, and the rise of the gay movement.27
Susan Jeffords identifies a rise in macho-masculinity in the United States
throughout the 1980s, as exemplified in the figure of Rocky. Jeffords
equates this development with a form of masculinization in response to
1960s hippy culture, and the allegedly weak leadership of President Jimmy
Carter.28 Writing this introduction in 2010, in the wake of an economic
crash, I am painfully reminded of the relationship between vulnerability
and violence via numerous news reports that attest to the rise of national-
ism and racism, undoubtedly followed by other forms of insidious exclu-
sion. What seems important to note here is that there is nothing new about
troubled masculinity. However, at the turn of the twenty-first century,
this trouble has been foregrounded and congealed in a proliferation of
performative practices that might be seen to signal if not an ontological
crisis, then something of a creative impasse.
   In Masculinities and Culture (2002), John Beynon identifies the emer-
gence of four main themes in the representation and study of masculinity
in the past decade: (1) the New Man and the Old Man; (2) men running
wild; (3) emasculated men; and (4) men as victims and aggressors.29 While
examples of each of these types are readily identifiable across culture,
this book is chiefly concerned with the relationship between so-called
emasculated, victimized, and aggressive men. Moreover, I am interested
in examining how overlapping positions of abjection, emasculation,
10    Male Trouble

masochism, sacrifice, victimization, and corporeal im/penetrability work
to articulate and negotiate trouble. However, the study maintains that
when masculinity is repeatedly articulated through troubled positions,
the endurance of subjection, or gender trouble, works to secure identity.
The book understands the selected performances and representations of
masculinity to operate within a normative-queer continuum, the former
term denoting the standard cultural proscription for male behaviour and
the latter denoting its deviant Other, which includes homosexual as well
as all non-normative masculinities. The analysis examines how heter-
onormative, heterosexual white masculinity is disturbed by its inherited
claims of authenticity and naturalness, repeatedly compelled to recuper-
ate and reassert its terms. The examination also considers how gay mascu-
linity relates to this heteronormative expedient. Compared to normative
male subjectivity that affirms itself through endurance, the study reveals
how gay subjectivity is represented as ‘naturally’ abject, self-destructive,
and willing to self-sacrifice, and also seemingly compelled to mimic
the terms of heteronormativity and not necessarily to subversive effect.
Moreover, the book understands the frequent and often frenetic reitera-
tion of gender norms, or what Butler refers to in ‘Imitation and Gender
Insubordination’ (1991) as the panicked performativity of heterosexual-
ity,30 as self-subjugating performatives towards mastery, insofar as the
rigorous disciplining of desire, and the display of aggressive male prow-
ess, ensure the subject’s certain stability. If identity crisis is revealed in
these terms, the book asks is this the inescapable deadlock of subjectivity,
or are there alternative/futural possibilities for performing the subject?

Mapping trouble

In Judith Butler and Political Theory: Troubling Politics (2008), Samuel
Allen Chambers and Terrell Carver expand the concept of ‘trouble’ as it
resonates with/in Butler’s writing:

     Our goal in this book is to explore the types of trouble that Butler has
     got herself and her readers into, to investigate the manner in which
     she has made trouble and to track the effects that her troubling has
     had on politics and the political. In so doing we seek to bring Butler
     into clearer view as a political thinker – to bring to light her political
     theory as a politics of troubling and troubling of politics.31

Chambers and Carver are keen to situate trouble within a wider politi-
cal field, emphasizing the connection between troubling gender(s) and
                                                Performing Male Trouble 11

troubling politics. Similarly, I assert the importance of considering how
certain performances and representations dialogue with discourses of
masculinity in crisis, mindful that troubled and troubling masculinities
retain the capacity to upset, or conspire with, political spheres beyond
the immediate spaces of performance and representation. The chapters
that follow create psychoanalytically inflected queer conversations with
examples from drama, theatre, live art, guerrilla performance, public
spectacle, and film in order to consider how male trouble is performed
and typically managed. The performative practices examined not only
exemplify male trouble, but in taking place within public spheres (or,
as with dramatic texts, intended to take place within such spaces), are
shaped by the desire to have masculinity widely register as traumatized
and traumatic.32 Crucially, however, I think of male trouble as a perfor-
mative practice, or a set of performative practices, perpetuated through
discourse, performance, and representation. I choose varied case studies
not to deny local resonance, but to reveal something of the ubiquity
of this phenomenon. The work discussed here has broadly emerged
between 1991 and 2007, and although this time frame is neither fixed
nor finite, it shares temporal co-ordinates with Butler’s Gender Trouble,
subsequent urgent critiques of heteronormativity, and widespread
claims to masculinity in crisis.
   I maintain that male trouble should be considered as a conglomera-
tion of performative practices with no easily measured relationship to
the reality of male experience or masculine ontology. Even so, given the
particular foregrounding of troubled masculinity in the time period in
question, we might consider the work to emerge during significant local
sociocultural junctures: Reaganite backlash in America, and the mobi-
lization of a religiously inflected War on Terror under two Republican
administrations; the legacy of Thatcherite Conservatism in the United
Kingdom and the modernization of the Labour Party; the economic
acceleration of Celtic Tiger Ireland in the 1990s following the recession
of the 1980s. While unique histories shape the geographical loci that
I conflate into a Euro-American context here, I also think that global
capitalism is a central defining force in the regulation of identity poli-
tics. This is not a sociological book, but it nonetheless proposes that
bearing such a context in mind is useful for beginning to conceptualize
the West’s cultivation of a specific range of masculinities that matter
during this period.
   In addition to these parallels, further resonance might be found in
thinking about the male body as a social synecdoche, the limits of
which mark the limits of hegemonic norms. It is worth noting that the
12   Male Trouble

turning of the twenty-first century has coincided with great anxiety
in the West, marked by increased concerns over the penetrability and
violability of masculine Euro-American borders. While this anxiety may
be said to have culminated in the September 11th terrorist attacks on
New York’s World Trade Center, the fear of the feminine Other (mainly
in the form of the Middle East) pre-existed and has persisted since
2001. Although none of the work analysed in the book directly refers to
such a macrocosmic politic threat – perhaps with the exception of the
performances of Taylor Mac which I look to in brief in the last chapter –
as masculinity serves and is privileged by patriarchy, I suggest that the
fear may be seen as an implicit context of the Western imaginary that
binds the work together, manifest in the will to shape, discipline, and
empower the male body. In defining the boundaries of the body politic,
and in confirming the resilience and resistance of that body through
endurance, the work considered here may also be seen to explore the
necessity of such subjection in the service of the political body. On
many levels then, this is a book about the questioning and testing of
borders: the borders of the body, the borders of masculinity, and the
borders of heteronormativity.
   In Chapter 2, I consider how the performance of sacrifice works to
inscribe the law of heteronormativity through a reading of The Passion
of the Christ (2004). The study situates the film within the normativizing
family discourse that has inflected debates surrounding homosexuality
and gay marriage in the second half of this decade, while revealing
how anxieties surrounding normative stability are central to the film’s
narrative and visual modes. The chapter argues that these phobias find
embodiment in the androgynous figure of Satan and the evil children
that s/he engenders, all of whom must be destroyed through Christ’s
crucifixion. The role of sacrifice in the reproduction of heteronormativ-
ity is explored by considering the contributions of René Girard, Georges
Bataille, and Slavoj Žižek.
   The management of castration anxiety, or as Calvin Thomas would
have it, scatontological anxiety, is explored in Chapter 3.33 This sec-
tion examines how masculinity is structured around fantasies of
hypermasculine idealization that demand extraordinary displays of
power, authority, and violence. Focusing on the play Made in China
and the film InterMission, both written by Irish writer Mark O’ Rowe,
the chapter traces the operation of matrices of desire and identifica-
tion that shape this system of expectation, and argues that even when
male characters fail to materialize fantasy phallic figures, they celebrate
impotence, abjection, and victimization. Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s
                                                Performing Male Trouble 13

writing on abjection, the chapter argues that the texts illustrate the
pliability of the laws of heteronormativity, by mapping how male
authority is recuperated through the reification of processes of endur-
ance rather than active achievement.
   Chapter 4 analyses the relationship between homosexuality, sub-
jection, and fears of social degeneration in British playwright Mark
Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking and Faust is Dead. In reference to
Shopping and Fucking, the chapter examines how self-destructive behav-
iours, which culminate in fantasies of penetration, posit subjection
to ‘the father’ as a performative strategy for redirecting feminine and
homosexual identifications, and by extension, alleviating social dis-
array. In the case of Faust is Dead the chapter investigates how self-
destructive desires (as exemplified in the self-mutilating gay character
Donny, who kills himself) are related to the absence of stable father fig-
ures, with self-harm signifying a desire for the interdiction of paternal
Law to effect the masculinization of unruly homosexual subjectivity. In
these analyses, Jacques Lacan’s paternal paradigm and Fredric Jameson’s
theorization of late capitalist culture and schizoid subjectivity are
   Continuing with the question of gay subjectivity, Chapter 5 explores
the performativity of self-harm in the live art of Ron Athey and Franko B.
The live performance, visual, and photographic work of these artists
stands out for its grotesque violence, chiefly manifest in self-mutilat-
ing and bloodletting practices. While puncturing the gay male body is
historically a provocative response to homophobic reactions to AIDS, it
is also fraught with limitations. Complementing previously introduced
theories of sacrifice with the contributions of José Esteban Muñoz and
Amelia Jones to performance studies, the chapter suggests that while
the work under consideration is expressly motivated by identity trouble,
the centrality of biography, selfhood, and bodily integrity ultimately
reify male authorial prowess and bolster the impenetrability of the male
   Chapter 6 analyses spectacles of heroic masculinity as they relate to
the high-risk endurance performances of David Blaine and the public
protests of Fathers 4 Justice. The chapter explores how these perform-
ances begin at a point of male trouble and, drawing on the work of
Jean Baudrillard and Lacan, considers how the public, heavily media-
tized nature of the work functions to elevate and resignify that crisis in
reconstitutive ways.
   Chapter 7 situates Jackass within discourses of recuperative laddism.
Focusing on the film Jackass: The Movie (2002), with reference to the
14   Male Trouble

MTV television series, the chapter explores how the discursive strate-
gies of laddism might be seen to involve a calculated transposition of
masculine norms, designed to licence a whole range of misogynistic and
homophobic behaviours. The examination considers how masculinity
is constructed through masochistic acts, presented as rites of initiation,
that involve the abjection, figurative castration, and penetration of the
male body. It also explores how, through various acts of playful mim-
icry, males performatively control their abject other(s) in the service of
affirming a stable masculine core.
   In the last chapter, I primarily think through the contributions of
Leo Bersani and Bracha L. Ettinger, alongside the work of the New York-
based performer Taylor Mac. I do so to advance an ethic of fragilization
that would involve borderlinking with trouble, so as not to foreclose
other relational possibilities in being and becoming.

Critical interventions

Male Trouble finds impetus in a range of scholarly interventions into the
area of masculinity and queer studies. In addition to Butler’s philosophi-
cally textured research, for instance, the book owes much to the socio-
logical writing of Lynne Segal, Susan Faludi, Robert William Connell, and
Michael Kimmel. Segal’s Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing
Men (1990) is an important early exercise in troubling masculinity, by
addressing its pace of change and the manner in which masculinities are
produced at complex historical and social junctures. Similarly, Faludi’s
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (1991) explores
the reactionary politics of the feminist movement, while Stiffed: The
Betrayal of the American Man (1999) seeks to account for the troubled
and troubling response of men to their social disenfranchisement.
  Equally formative has been the work of Connell whose Masculinities
(1995) and The Men and the Boys (2000) continue to inform our under-
standing of the construction of masculinity at the intersection of power
and labour relations. Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History
(1996) remains a significant addition to the development of an anti-
masculinist approach to the study of masculinity that considers how
the gender order is a constantly changing social construct, while his
edited collection with Michael Messner, Men’s Lives (1989), explores
how working-class men, men of colour, gay men, older and younger
men construct different versions of masculinity.
  Within the context of American literary and cultural studies,
David Savran’s Taking it Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism and
                                                   Performing Male Trouble 15

Contemporary America Culture (1998) traces the genealogy of the fantasy
of the white male as victim in American culture, beginning with the 1950s’
hipster and ending with more recent figures like Iron John, Rambo, and
Timothy McVeigh. Pressing Freudian theory to cultural materialism,
Savran considers poetry, drama, biography, legal documents, media and
popular discourse to argue that victimization became a means by which
white masculinity qualified its legitimacy and regulated its hegemony in
this period of American culture.
   Additionally, Kaja Silverman’s Male Subjectivity at the Margins (1992)
analyses representations of ‘“deviant” masculinities – masculinities whose
defining desires and identifications are “perverse”’.34 Using psychoana-
lytic theory to read literature and film, Silverman explores ways in which
male identity has been represented as fractured and marginal through
various strategies, including masochism and victimization. However,
in pitting these strategies chiefly as examples of ‘phallic divestiture’,35
the trajectory of Silverman’s work differs from mine.
   Further, Calvin Thomas’ theoretically sophisticated readings of mas-
culinity in the fields of literature, mass culture, and film in Male Matters:
Masculinity, Anxiety and the Male Body on the Line (1996) and Masculinity,
Psychoanalysis, Straight Queer Theory: Essays on Abjection in Literature, Mass
Culture, and Film (2008) have, through focusing on the relationship
between abjection and writing, signposted alternative critical possibili-
ties for thinking about masculinity, representation, and the reproduction
of heteronormativity. Further, Thomas’ work foregrounds how produc-
tive such a project might be for feminist and queer scholarship, as well as
for critical masculinity studies.
   Although not strictly concerned with gender and sexuality, Peter
Stallybrass and Allon White’s The Politics and Poetics of Transgression
(1986) offers sharp insight into the operation of transgression, a key
dimension to the question of trouble. Analysing a wide variety of texts
from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, using literary theory,
history, anthropology, and psychoanalysis, the authors explore the
hierarchical dynamics between high and low culture in four symbolic
domains: psychic forms, the human body, geographical space, and the
social order. One of the central assertions of Stallybrass and White’s
study is that the relationship between the high and the low is ambiva-
lent and contradictory, with the lower order of things ‘both reviled and
desired’. The writers expand on this peculiar dependence, noting:

   Repugnance and fascination are the twin poles of the process in
   which a political imperative to reject and eliminate the debasing
16    Male Trouble

     ‘low’ conflicts powerfully and unpredictably with a desire for the
     Other […] A recurrent pattern emerges: the ‘top’ attempts to reject
     and eliminate the ‘bottom’ for reasons of prestige and status, only to
     discover, not only that it is in some way frequently dependent upon
     that low-Other (in the classic way that Hegel describes in the master-
     slave section of the Phenomenology), but also that the top includes
     that low symbolically as a primary eroticised constituent of its own
     fantasy life.36

Of crucial significance is the authors’ insistence on the contradictory
interplay between the high and the low, the socially elevated and the
socially marginal, insofar as it parallels the relationship between the
normative dominant and the queer ‘subordinate’. If we are to fol-
low Stallybrass and White’s psychocultural thesis, all subjectivity ‘is a
mobile, conflictual fusion of power, fear and desire […] a psychological
dependence upon precisely those Others which are being rigorously
opposed and excluded at the social level’.37 For this reason, the writers
continue to suggest that ‘what is socially peripheral is so frequently
symbolically central’.38 This critique is useful for this project insofar
as it suggests that the Symbolic and the abject enjoy a dynamic, often
self-serving relationship, and that this is discernible in the ‘highest’ and
the ‘lowest’ of cultural forms. Their elucidation of the complex relation-
ship between the sociocultural centre and the margin provides a way of
thinking about the normative and the queer as it relates to male identity,
in addition to underscoring the value of looking to examples of so-called
high and low cultural practices as I arguably do here. Given the pic-
ture they paint, we might query how, if at all, transgression or social
transformation is possible? Or, to put it another way, we might ask if
there are queer relational modes that are not defined by the jouissance
of transgression which ultimately sustains and reproduces the system of
relationality ostensibly being challenged? I cannot claim to answer all
of these questions in this book, but they are timely for queer studies.

Psychoanalytic inflections

While the preceding paragraphs sketched a sociocultural context and
provided an overview of this book, the project’s main methodology
is woven from psychoanalytically inflected queer theories, or rather,
queerly inflected psychoanalytic theories. Precisely because these dis-
courses are complex, it is useful to explicate them at length at this stage.
Accordingly, the following pages are dedicated to rehearsing some of the
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 17

central frameworks which will be engaged further in individual chap-
ters, in particular those theories that elaborate upon the relationship
between subjection and the production of male subjectivity. Again, it
is worth reiterating that discourses of crisis can be understood as potent
performatives inseparable from other modes of cultural activity, and
because of this, equally in need of interrogation.
   Psychoanalytic theory centralizes the role of identification in the devel-
opment of subjectivity. In foundational Freudian and Lacanian accounts,
identification lays the very foundations of subjectivity, with works
by Butler emphasizing the additional role of enactments. In his intro-
duction to the edited collection Psychoanalysis and Performance (2001),
Patrick Campbell’s elucidation of the interplay between psychoanalytic
interpretation and the performing arts has implications for the study of
the practices considered in the book:

   [I]f performing is a process in which individuals, physically present
   on stage, think, speak and interact in front of other individuals,
   then that very activity must throw into relief crucial questions about
   human behaviour. In making the hidden visible, the latent manifest,
   in laying bare the interior landscape of the mind and its fears and
   desires through a range of signifying practices, psychoanalytic proc-
   esses are endemic to the performing arts.39

While Campbell’s critique is primarily of live performance, I suggest
that his claim is also true of any representation that is performative, or
illuminates something of the performativity of identity, in that these
can also be seen to have interiority, latency, and signifying value.40

The lost object

Sigmund Freud’s paper ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1917) seeks to
account for the self-punishment displayed by those who lose loved ones.
Freud believed that such self-attacks might lead to hysteria, obsession,
or depression, and sought in his analysis of these experiences to under-
stand the structure of the psyche and the role of identification to these
phenomena. In this paper, Freud differentiates between experiences of
mourning and melancholia. While the lost object of mourning can be
readily named and accounted for, this is not true of melancholia:

   The melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking
   in mourning – an extraordinary diminution in his self-regard, an
18    Male Trouble

     impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. The patient represents
     his ego to us as worthless, incapable of any achievement and morally
     despicable; he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be
     cast out and punished. He abases himself before everyone and com-
     miserates with his own relatives for being connected with anyone so

Freud goes on to suggest that when the subject loses a loved one, the
ego internalizes that other into its structure, taking on attributes of that
other and sustaining it through imitation. The process of an object-
decathexis is overcome through an act of identification, designed to
incorporate the other in the self. While mourning is typically overcome
with the psychic ‘release’ of the lost love, ongoing melancholia can be
seen as a way by which the other, psychically internalized, is reproached
for its loss.
  In The Ego and the Id (1923), Freud makes the claim that the harbour-
ing of lost loves is not just significant to adult life, but also formative in
the initial construction of the ego and its object-choice:

     [W]e have come to understand that this kind of substitution has a
     great share in determining the form taken by the ego and that it
     makes an essential contribution towards building up what is called its
     ‘character’ […] When it happens that a person has to give up a sexual
     object, there quite often ensues an alteration of his ego which can
     only be described as a setting up of the object inside the ego[…]42

Further, he suggests that while an adult may possess the capacity to
resist the influences of abandoned object-cathexes, childhood identi-
fications are usually fixed, and are related to the formation of the ego
ideal as it is governed by identification with the father and the mother
in the Oedipus complex. In a ‘positive’ complex, as the story goes, the
male child rejects the object-cathexis established with his mother in
favour of identification with his father. Freud maintains that the success
of the Oedipus complex and the assumption of masculine and feminine
positions are also dependent upon the resolution of ‘the constitutional
bisexuality of each individual’.43

Fractured reflections

Jacques Lacan’s systematic reading of Freud is heavily influenced by
post-structural linguistics, an intersection which sees him conceive of
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 19

the subject as having no fixed relationship to the external world, as
with the sign to its referent. Deconstructing popular theories of the
subject as essential and knowable, Lacan conceives of the subject as a
discursive construct, fragmented and unstable. Subjectivity is not an
innate disposition in Lacanian theory, but a position occupied within
language, precipitated by the social interpellation of individuals.
   Social interpellation takes place across three main stages of develop-
ment which also roughly correspond to orders of consciousness, known
as the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic orders. Central to the
Imaginary is what Lacan refers to as the ‘mirror stage’, a moment/phase
when the infant joyously apprehends its reflected image and misrecog-
nizes itself as separate from its mother, a total and integrated identity.
In ‘The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in
Psychoanalytic Experience’ (1949), Lacan describes the mirror stage as
a critical phase of identification(s) in the development of subjectivity:
‘We have only to understand the mirror stage as an identification, in the
full sense that analysis gives to the term: namely, the transformation
that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image [...]’44 This
instance anticipates the child’s assumption that there is an objective
‘I’ to others and that this image is what ‘I’ am like. The incongruity
of the child’s sense of self with its idealized stable representation, or
méconnaissance, predisposes the ego to fiction and illusion, and pre-
cipitates the assumption of the signifying position of ‘I’ within the
Symbolic order.45
   The shift from the Imaginary to the Symbolic stage comes about as
a result of the wielding of paternal Law. While the child has, up until
this point, not differentiated between itself and its mother’s body, it
now becomes aware that its father has some degree of precedence over
the right to enjoy the mother. Known as the Oedipus complex, this
stage sees the linguistic interdiction of ‘No’ by the Name-of-the-Father
disrupt imaginary identifications in favour of symbolic ones, forcing the
child to suppress its desire for its mother, and take up a position within
the Symbolic register.
   In the Lacanian model, it is the Symbolic order of language that offers
the subject identity, in particular gender and sexual identity, by afford-
ing it access to its various signifying systems, orders, and laws. Insofar as
entry is dependent upon paternal interdiction, however, the Symbolic is
also the realm of male authority, a fact that perpetuates the privileging of
male symbolization over female. This is primarily due to the child’s rela-
tionship to the phallus during the Oedipus complex. In ‘The Significa-
tion of the Phallus’ (1958), Lacan figures the phallus as ‘the signifier
20    Male Trouble

intended to designate as a whole the effects of the signified;’46 the
master signifier at the centre of the Symbolic sphere which gives it stabil-
ity, by anchoring the play of signifiers, and by facilitating the generation
of meaning. As such, the phallus also plays a central role in the forma-
tion of sexed subjectivity. According to Lacan, this involves the

     installation in the subject of an unconscious position without which
     he would be unable to identify himself with the ideal type of his sex,
     or to respond without grave risk to the needs of his partner in the
     sexual relation, or even to accept in a satisfactory way why the needs
     of the child who may be produced by this relation.47

Although Lacan claims that both males and females are constituted by
lack, from the moment in the mirror stage when they identify them-
selves as separate from the mother’s body, he claims that boys and girls
perceive this lack differently. While eager to point out that the phal-
lus is not the same as the penis – ‘the phallus is not a phantasy […] It
is even less the organ, penis or clitoris, that it symbolizes’48 – the psycho-
analyst maintains that the signifier is modelled upon such cultural

     It can be said that this signifier is chosen because it is the most
     tangible element in the real of sexual copulation, and also the most
     symbolic in the literal (typographical) sense of the term, since it is
     equivalent there to the (logical) copula. It might also be said that, by
     virtue of its turgidity, it is the image of the vital flow as it is transmit-
     ted in generation.49

Lacan refrains from naturalizing male dominance by suggesting that
boys only think they can possess the phallus because they have penises,
and so do not acknowledge this lack to the same extent as girls. In
‘On a Question Preliminary to any Possible Treatment of Psychosis’
(1955–6) he remarks that females, in lacking penises, serve ‘as objects
for the exchanges required by the elementary structures of kinship’.50
Following on, we might say that something of profound misperception
rather than biological determinism is responsible for the construction
of heteronormative masculinity as the most dominant and powerful
gender order. This is most clearly evidenced in the supremacy of patri-
archy, which seduces the male subject with the promise of plenitude.
Lacan’s explication of the relationship between the phallus and male
                                                Performing Male Trouble 21

identity has also informed subsequent gender theorists to coin the
term ‘phallic masculinity’ to describe its most aggressive manifestations.
While the mirror stage is the realm of imaginary identifications and the
construction of the ideal ego, the Oedipus complex is the realm of sym-
bolic identification with the father and the formation of the ego ideal.
In this account, subjectivity is constituted through a process of recogni-
tion and misrecognition, identification and disidentification.
   However, the perpetuation of male dominance through the construc-
tion of masculinity and patriarchy demands certain sacrifices from its
would-be subjects. That is to say, the success of the male subject within
the Symbolic is dependent upon his compliance to certain normative
codes of behaviour initially encountered in the Imaginary stage. First, in
order for the male subject to be fully assimilated by the Symbolic order
and later privileged by its ruling system of patriarchy, he must submit to
the Law of the Father and be symbolically castrated. He must extricate
himself from the mother’s body, and all associated experiences, and do
as the father demands. From this moment on, male subjection – the
(willing) submission to paternal Law – is established as a central feature
of normative male identity, organized around a sacrificial economy of
exchange: the reward for subjection is the assumption of a privileging
‘masculine’ position within the Symbolic. The subject’s contract with
the Law is regulated in the denial of the lack inaugurated by maternal
separation in the Imaginary, and in the excessive production and sub-
limation of desire in efforts to master law, language, and culture, those
defining features of the Symbolic. This involves the male subject who
conforms to normative masculinity continually misperceiving, or over-
estimating his entitlement to patriarchal privilege.
   While female subjectivity also necessitates the repression of desire in
the Oedipus complex, the girl does not misperceive her relationship to
the phallus to the same extent, and resigns herself to trying to be the
phallus for the male (by having children, for example). Lacan accounts
for this sex differentiation in terms which revolve around ‘a being and a
having’ of the phallus.51 Further, the female subject is not compelled to
completely repress her pre-Oedipal experiences, for in childbearing, she
maintains affinities to the Real and Imaginary orders. Regarding these
distinctions, Coppélia Kahn observes of girls:

  Her femininity is reinforced by her original symbiotic union with her
  mother and by the identification with her that must precede iden-
  tity, while his [a boy’s] masculinity is threatened by the same union
22    Male Trouble

     and the same identification. While the boy’s sense of self begins in
     union with the feminine, his sense of masculinity arises against it.52

Not only is male identity figured as sacrificial in the Oedipus com-
plex but in the Symbolic too where if he wishes to be privileged by
patriarchy, the male subject must control deviant desires by adhering to
specific, normative codes of masculinity. In this polarizing arrangement,
masculinity is defined as a rigorous sacrificial regime, characterized by
the necessary self-disciplining of desire. As Elisabeth Badinter writes,
‘To be a man signifies not to be feminine; not to be homosexual; not
to be effeminate in one’s physical appearance or manners; not to have
sexual or overtly intimate relations with other men; not to be impotent
with women.’53 Or, as Butler suggests in The Psychic Life of Power (1997),
‘Becoming a “man” […] requires repudiating femininity as a precondi-
tion for the heterosexualization of sexual desire and its fundamental

Abject potentiality

A number of feminist thinkers such as Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, and
Jacqueline Rose have pointed out that the Symbolic order is premised
upon the repression of experiences of the female body. For Rose, abject
violence is made most vividly manifest at the rational pinnacle of
Symbolic Law.55 Kristeva, in particular, highlights how this repression is
revealed at the level of the social in her writing on the semiotic and the
abject. In a bid to interrogate the perceived phallocentrism of prevailing
psychoanalytic models, Kristeva reimagines the order of the Real and
its relationship to the Symbolic. In Revolution in Poetic Language (1984),
she conceives of the Real as the semiotic, a pre-Oedipal stage and order
defined by the sensual experiences of the female body: ‘the drives,
which are “energy” charges, as well as “psychical” marks’.56 For Kristeva,
however, the complete repression of semiotic drives is impossible, for
in being discursive effects, subjects are always subjects-in-process, the
interplay of ‘both semiotic and symbolic’ laws.57 In this formulation,
even a ‘positive’ Oedipus complex is never fully secure, for identifica-
tion with the father is continuously disturbed by identification with the
mother. Kristeva claims that the semiotic has the power to disrupt
the Symbolic, by drawing attention to it as an incomplete signifying
process. In Patrick Campbell’s elucidation, this is owing to the semiot-
ic’s capability of ‘disrupting the “status quo” [of the Symbolic], allow-
ing the feminine to re-enter discourse through its very exorbitance, its
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 23

transgressing of the phallocentric signifying process’.58 To illustrate this
point, Kristeva draws on the disruptive function of art: ‘In “artistic”
practices the semiotic – the precondition of the symbolic – is revealed
as that which also destroys the symbolic, and this revelation allows us
to presume something about its functioning.’59
  The semiotic’s troubling potential is most vividly and violently dem-
onstrated in encounters with the abject. In the seminal work Powers of
Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982), Kristeva figures the abject as that
which ‘disturbs identity, system order. What does not respect borders,
positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite’.60 In
being ‘opposed to I’ the abject draws the subject ‘toward the place
where meaning collapses’,61 to the point of the subject’s annihilation.
Kristeva relates responses of abjection to the repression of pre-Oedipal or
semiotic experiences of the female body. The feelings of disgust incurred
by encounters with blood, excrement, and the skin on milk, she sug-
gests, are expressions of the Symbolic order’s insistence on system,
order, and boundary-making; and of the prohibition on transgressing
the Law. In resisting symbolization, the abject defies the Name-of-
the-Father; it exists as a père-version.62 This père-version also takes the
form of the père-vert, the abject human whose life resists (or is refused)
assimilation to the Symbolic realm. Such a figure continually challenges
the subject’s coherence by arousing the feeling of ‘the impossible within
[…] that it is [the subject] none other than abject’.63 In disturbing the
chain of socially acceptable Oedipal identifications, this figure con-
stantly questions the Symbolic domain’s convention, as ‘a deviser of
territories, languages, works’.64

Performative displacement

Butler further investigates the dynamic of Kristeva’s abject within
Lacan’s Symbolic register, in the context of gender and sexuality.
Crucially, Butler attempts to think outside the heteronormative frame-
work of Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva by conceiving of gender and sex not
in terms of biology but citational performativity. In Bodies that Matter
Butler describes a performative as ‘that discursive practice which enacts
or produces that which it names’.65 Like Lacan’s theory of interpella-
tion, but with an added emphasis on acts as well as identifications,
Butler claims that the production of gendered identity occurs through
the citation and reiteration of social norms, conventions, or laws. Their
assumption is not a single act or event, but the effect of an iterable prac-
tice, and identity is only secured as stable through seamless repetition.
24    Male Trouble

  To illustrate this point, Butler describes how the act of naming sex –
for example, ‘It’s a girl’ – sets in motion a process of ‘girling’:

     This is a ‘girl’, however who is compelled to ‘cite’ the norm in order
     to qualify and remain a viable subject. Femininity is thus not the
     product of choice, but the forcible citation of a norm, one whose
     complex historicity is indissociable from relations of discipline,
     regulation, and punishment. Indeed there is no ‘one’ which takes on
     a gender norm. On the contrary, this citation of the gender norm is
     necessary in order to qualify as a ‘one’, to become viable as a ‘one’,
     where subject-formation is dependent on the prior operation of
     legitimating gender norms.66

Invoking Kristeva, Butler argues that this process of constructing viable
subjects is premised upon the existence of ‘abject beings, those who
are not yet “subjects”, but who form the constitutive outside to the
domain of the subject’.67 And given that the ‘normative phantasm of
“sex”’68 is a creation of a heterosexual discursive matrix, Butler identi-
fies homosexual non-subjects as the abject correlatives of heterosexual
subjectivity. Such figures represent what is unliveable, unthinkable,
and unintelligible to Symbolic Law. And yet, as Kristeva suggests of
encounters with the abject, Butler claims that these abject non-subjects
have disruptive potential. In defining the limit of the subject’s domain,
they continually threaten to expose the fragility of normative subjec-
tivity, ‘the self-grounding presumptions of the sexed subject […]’.69
The abject non-subject constantly threatens to puncture the borders
of the subject and the heteronormative regime it depends upon for
   Moreover, Butler questions the identification readings offered by
Freud in ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ and The Ego and the Id, Lacan’s
writing on the mirror stage and Oedipus complex, and Kristeva’s theory
of primary semiotic drives. Notably, she challenges the fixity presumed
by these readings. In her examination of Freud in Gender Trouble, Butler
questions the psychoanalyst’s claims of object-cathexis and paternal
identification. In The Ego and the Id, Freud understands the femininity
of boys to relate to bisexuality, claiming that this primary condition
‘makes it so difficult to obtain a clear view of the facts in connection
with the earliest object choices and identifications, and still more
difficult to describe them intelligibly’.70 Butler suggests that Freud
is compelled to introduce the Oedipus complex in order to explain
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 25

why the boy must reject the mother and identify with the father, but
not only that, choose masculine or feminine positions. Butler argues
that the imperative to reject the mother might not solely function to
resist castration, but possibly a homosexual cathexis:

   That the boy usually chooses the heterosexual would, then, be the
   result, not of the fear of castration by the father, but of the fear of
   castration – that is, of the fear of ‘feminization’ associated within
   heterosexual cultures with male homosexuality. In effect, it is not
   primarily the heterosexual lust for the mother that must be punished
   and sublimated, but the homosexual cathexis that must be subordi-
   nated to a culturally sanctioned heterosexuality.71

In Identification Papers (1995), Diana Fuss takes similar issue with Freud’s
topography, which aims to draw a line between identification – ‘the
wish to be the other’ – and desire for the sexual object – ‘the wish
to have the other’. Desire and identification are problematically and
improbably presented, according to Fuss, in a way that renders Butler’s
offering conceivable:

   For Freud, desire for one sex is always secured through identification
   with the other sex; to desire and to identify with the same person at
   the same time is, in this mode, a theoretical impossibility […] The
   two psychical mechanisms, which together form the cornerstone
   of Freud’s theory of sexual identity formation, work in tandem to
   produce a sexually marked subject [… however ] psychoanalysis’s
   distinction between wanting to be the other and wanting to have the
   other is a precarious one at best, its epistemological validity seriously
   open to question.72

In Gender Trouble Butler also queries the distinctions and psychic typo-
logies presented by Freud in ‘Mourning and Melancholia’. She points
out that when the lost loved-object (the mother for boys in a positive
complex) is internalized, it is not given up, just preserved within the ego.
There it resides alongside paternal identification, which is the realm of
the ego ideal. Acting as a policing agent in the consolidation of mas-
culinity (and femininity), through guarding normative sanctions and
taboos, the ego ideal turns against the ego (of which it is a component),
to ensure success. Unravelling this psychic presupposition, Butler sug-
gests that gender identification itself is best understood as a kind of
26    Male Trouble

melancholia, with the sex of the lost object becoming psychically inter-
nalized as prohibition:

     Because identifications substitute for object relations, and identif-
     ications are the consequence of loss, gender identification is a kind of
     melancholia in which the sex of the prohibited object is internalized
     as a prohibition. This prohibition sanctions and regulates discrete
     gendered identity and the law of heterosexual desire. The resolu-
     tion of the Oedipal complex affects gender identification through
     not only the incest taboo, but, prior to that, the taboo against

If the relationship to the lost object is actually homosexual rather than
heterosexual, as Butler suggests it may be (lost because of the taboo on
homosexuality, which precedes the incest taboo); and if gender is a kind
of melancholia which results in the internalization of that lost object,
then the prohibition against having a same-sex love object might be
seen to precipitate a desire to become that lost object. The original pro-
hibition ultimately effects a desire to reproduce the gender of that sex.
Through this model, Butler suggests:

     [I]dentity is constructed and maintained by the consistent applica-
     tion of this taboo, not only in the stylization of the body in com-
     pliance with discrete categories of sex, but in the production and
     ‘disposition’ of sexual desire […] dispositions are not the primary
     sexual facts of the psyche, but produced effects of a law imposed by
     culture and by the complicitous and transvaluating acts of the ego

If, in the works of Freud and Lacan, gender identification is based on
prohibition, Butler strongly questions the possibility of its successful
consolidation. (She also questions the maternalist discourse of Kristeva
for its heterosexual assumptions.) The excluded term in both accounts,
she asserts, is ‘an excluded sexuality that contests the self-grounding
pretensions of the subject as well as its claims to know the source and
object of its desire’.75 If heteronormative, heterosexual subjectivity
depends on the implementation of the taboo on homosexuality, then
Butler argues that certain identities that fail to internalize this taboo
inevitably fall outside of heteronormative intelligibility. Fuss echoes
this problem, noting the difficulty of singular, stable, complete identi-
fication to settle in her reading of Freud: ‘The astonishing capacity of
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 27

identifications to reverse and disguise themselves, to multiply and con-
travene one another, to disappear and reappear years later renders iden-
tity profoundly unstable and perpetually open to radical change.’76
   Butler gestures towards looking to troubled identification, manifest in
the failure to imitate, repeat, and reproduce coherent gender, in order to
dissemble the presumptive heterosexual matrix:

   If ‘identifications’, following Jacqueline Rose, can be exposed as
   phantasmatic, then it must be possible to enact an identification that
   displays its phantasmatic structure. If there is not radical repudiation
   of a culturally constituted sexuality, what is left is the question of
   how to acknowledge and ‘do’ the construction one is invariably in.
   Are there forms of repetition that do not constitute a simple imita-
   tion, reproduction, and, hence, consolidation of the law […] What
   possibilities of gender configurations exist among the emergent and
   occasionally convergent matrices of cultural intelligibility that govern
   gendered life?77

In Bodies that Matter, imagining the political ramifications of disiden-
tification brings Butler to consider the affirmation of that slippage,
owing to the fact that ‘the failure of identification is itself the point of
departure for a more democratizing affirmation of internal difference’.78
In Disidentifications: Queers of Colour and the Performance of Politics
(1999), José Esteban Muñoz embraces both Fuss’s and Butler’s work (in
addition to that of Michel Pêcheux79) for paving the way towards ‘an
understanding of a “disidentificatory subject” who tacitly and simulta-
neously works on, with, and against a cultural form’.80
   In Gender Trouble Butler invokes the work of Nicolas Abraham and
Maria Torok to further extend this question of where to locate and how
to analyse the subversive possibilities of identification. In the collected
essays of Abraham and Torok, titled The Shell and the Kernel (1994), the
psychoanalysts claim that Freud’s theory of identification pertains to the
realm of incorporation with ‘the prohibited object settled in the ego in
order to compensate for the lost pleasure and failed introjection’.81 While
introjection belongs to the work of mourning, incorporation belongs to
the work of melancholia. Crucially, however, incorporation is not a proc-
ess but a fantasy that imagines an object into an interior space. Where,
Butler asks, is the incorporated space that sustains identifications through
melancholy? ‘If it is not literally within the body’, she suggests, ‘perhaps
it is on the body as its surface signification such that the body must
itself be understood as an incorporated space?’82 Butler’s interrogation
28    Male Trouble

of this locale is understandable, given that Abraham and Torok maintain
that incorporation is ‘magic’ and ‘must remain’ concealed. After all,
‘it is born of prohibition’ and ‘the ultimate aim of incorporation is to
recover, in secret and through magic, an object that, for one reason or
another, evaded its own function’.83 As a naturalized site, Butler’s look to
the body is not surprising. Certainly Abraham and Torok maintain the
operation of incorporation in the field of representations, affects, and
bodily states.84 But similarly, fantasies of incorporation become another
way through which the lost love object is acknowledged and symboli-
cally recuperated. Unless there is ‘an openly manic crisis’85 which would
amount to a blatant, hysterical acknowledgement of the lost object,
incorporation is a subtle, secret act that signposts the graveyard in the
ego. This dynamic might be seen to resonate with the external and
internal body explorations of Ron Athey and Franko B discussed in
Chapter 5. Butler unites her theory of the psychical structure of gender
identification with Abraham and Torok’s elaboration of incorporation.
In doing so, she suggests that gender identification is accomplished with
the denial of loss and the encryption of loss in the body:

     As an antimetaphorical activity, incorporation literalizes the loss
     on or in the body and so appears as the facticity of the body, the
     means by which the body comes to bear ‘sex’ as its literal truth. The
     localization and/or prohibition of pleasures and desires in given
     ‘erotogenetic’ zones is precisely the kind of gender-differentiating
     melancholy that suffuses the body’s surface.86

In this account, incorporation is an act that reveals and literalizes loss in
or on the body. Incorporation is act/moment/sign of gender trouble.

The subject of subjectivity

What emerges in these writings is a picture of subjectivity as inher-
ently melancholic, effected through repression, prohibition, and self-
punishment; marked in, on, and through the body. And this body,
despite the best efforts of the ego-police, can never completely conceal
this loss. Within these narratives, subjectivity is constantly haunted by
loss, although it must be denied in order to lay claim to stable identity.
Even apparently secured or normative identity is not safe. The more
stable the gender affinity, Butler warns, the less resolved the original
loss, with rigid gender boundaries merely serving to conceal that loss.87
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 29

At this point it is important to note that these readings of subjectiv-
ity are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. It is equally worth asserting
that while many of these hostile frameworks do not sit easily with this
author, it seems necessary to press them to further analysis, not least of
all because they go some way to explain the sacrificial bond that secures
subjectivity in our cultural imaginary, and which is traced throughout
this book. While this is the picture of identity that emerges through
classical psychoanalytical writings, it is embellished by other works that
address more specifically the relationship between sacrifice, subjection,
and male identity.
   Freud goes some way to describing the relationship between subjec-
tion and subjectivity. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) is his
first explicit attempt to account for masochistic dispositions. Described
as ‘the most common and the most significant of all the perversions’,88
sadism and masochism are deemed to upset the Oedipus complex, not
least of all because of their pervasiveness. At the same time, Freud blurs
the common distinction by suggesting that sadistic and masochistic
leanings psychically co-habit: ‘The most remarkable feature of this per-
version is that its active and passive forms are habitually found to occur
in the same individual.’89 Freud continues his investigation of sado-
masochistic dispositions in ‘A Child is Being Beaten’ (1919). Chiefly
based on case studies (four females and two males), this paper accounts
for female-beating fantasies in a three-part structure: (1) ‘My father is
beating the child whom I hate’;90 (2) ‘I am being beaten by my father’;91
(3) ‘I am probably looking on’, typically at other boys being beaten.92
Freud notes that the first and third of these stages are similar and con-
scious, the second stage is ‘never remembered’,93 most likely because
it has been repressed owing to the ‘unambiguous sexual excitement
attached to it’.94 Typical of his Oedipal configurations, Freud impresses
that ‘none of these incestuous loves’ – the desire to be beaten/fucked/
loved by the father – ‘can avoid the fate of repression’95 and the female
subject’s desire in the second sequence is even too difficult to represent.
Desire is consequently displaced into the final fantasy, in which the
female appears as a sadistic spectator. Although phases one and two
of these fantasies appear to be sadistic, this is only true in their formal
construction as the self-identified spectator is vicariously masochisti-
cally satisfied, by virtue of the fact that the boys in the final scenario
are ‘nothing more than substitutes for the child itself’.96 Guilty desire
for the father, then, is transformed into a theatricalized fantasy of being
punished by the father, this disavowal resulting in ‘punishment for the
30    Male Trouble

forbidden genital relation, but also the regressive substitute for that relation’,97
the final phase converging a sense of guilt with sexual love.
   The female subjects under Freud’s analysis reveal a fracturing of
sexual normativity. As David Savran points out, Freud’s analysis reveals
‘a subject who is radically divided, both spectator and victim, producer
of desire and recipient of punishment, sexually aroused and desperately
guilty’.98 As this study is concerned with masculinity, I want to read
the Freudian topography specifically in light of male subjects. What
is particularly interesting with female fantasies, when set in dialogue
with their male counterparts, is the centrality of the dominated male –
invariably a father figure – in spite of the sex of the confessing subject.
For Freud, this fantasy construction precipitates a masculinity complex,
which sees girls ‘only want[ing] to be boys’.99 In other words, it is
through her subjugation that the female desires to be a boy, and spur
masculinization. Savran draws attention to the homosexual investment
in Freud’s beating scenario owing to the fact that the males are seemingly
punished for loving the father:

     The female is thus reconfigured as a male homosexual. According
     to Freud’s analysis, normative constructions of both gender and
     sexuality are thus severely disrupted by the masochistic scenario.
     The female subject is rendered both homosexual and heterosexual,
     masculinized and feminized, her passivity at once affirmed and con-
     tradicted by its projection on to a male homosexual subject.100

While Freud initially brushes aside males with ‘beating-phantasies in
men are connected with another subject, which I shall leave on side
on this paper’,101 his commentary on the shifting positions of female
fantasies seemingly leads him to do just that. In his account, norma-
tive positions are similarly challenged in male-beating fantasies. Freud
suggests that the male subject imagines three phases to his subjection:
(1) ‘I am being beaten by my father’;102 (2) ‘I am loved by my father’;103
(3) ‘I am being beaten by my mother’.104 As in the female scenario, the beat-
ing corresponds to sexual love: ‘being beaten also stands for being loved
(in a genital sense), though this has been debased to a lower level owing
to regression’.105 The unconscious fantasy of stage two is thus repressed
in favour of the conscious third stage. Even so, the male beating fantasy
figures the male as inherently passive: not only in stage two with its
blatant homosexual investment but in stage three, where the mother
figure is endowed with ‘masculine attributes and characteristics’.106 In
both female and male masochistic fantasies (termed feminine, reflecting
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 31

the assumed naturalness of female passivity), normative constructions
of gender and sexual identity are radically disrupted:

   The boy evades his homosexuality by repressing and remodelling
   his unconscious phantasy: and the remarkable thing about his later
   conscious phantasy is that it has for its content a feminine attitude
   without a homosexual object-choice. By the same process, on the
   other hand, the girl escapes from the demands of the erotic side of
   her life altogether. She turns herself into a man, without herself
   becoming active in a masculine way, and is no longer anything but a
   spectator of the event which takes the place of a sexual act.107

In his analysis of both male and female subjects, Freud identifies a
repressed desire to be beaten by the father, which ‘lives on in the uncon-
scious after repression has taken place’.108
   While Freud’s observations in Three Essays and ‘A Child is Being Beaten’
serve to build a theory of masochistic subjectivity, his argument strives
for an ontogenetic explanation in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920).
Here, the death drive is positioned in contrast to the pleasure principle, or
Eros. Freud suggests that libido functions to neutralize the death instinct,
by redirecting it outside the individual.109 However, if this primary
sadism is bound up libidinally, the individual becomes the subject of
its own aggression. Freud continues his investigation towards a pri-
mary masochism in ‘The Economic Problem of Masochism’ (1924).
Here, not only does he claim a primary, or ‘erotogenic’ masochism –
‘a condition imposed on sexual excitation’ – but two derivative forms:
feminine masochism, ‘as an expression of the feminine nature’ in male
subjects, and moral masochism, ‘a norm of behaviour’.110 Although all
forms are related, owing to the claimed masochistic primacy, this is
particularly true of erotogenic and feminine strains. Feminine maso-
chism, labelled as ‘the most accessible to our observation and least
problematical’111 is an exclusive perversion of male subjectivity, the
female understood to be naturally masochistic. Freud describes maso-
chism as something of ‘performance’, or ‘the carrying out of the phan-
tasies in play’,112 which typically relate to desires of ‘being gagged,
bound, painfully beaten, whipped, in some way maltreated, forced
into unconditional obedience, dirtied and debased’.113 Considered at
various stages of the book, these desires are given expression in The
Passion of the Christ, the performances of Ron Athey and Franko B and
Jackass, for example. Similarly, Freud notes the occurrence of mutila-
tion and torture, while claiming them to be less frequent. He impresses
32   Male Trouble

that in male masochistic desire, the male assumes the traditionally
female role of ‘being castrated, or copulated with, or giving birth to a
   Moral masochism is less explicitly concerned with sexuality and fan-
tasy than with a behavioural norm, or the mental suffering considered
in this project, most explicitly in InterMission. Freud typifies this strain
as a turning of the other cheek, irrespective of one’s relationship to the
masochist (erotogenic and feminine relate to being beaten/loved by the
father). Moral masochism is due to the demands of the ego for punish-
ment by the introjected parental voice of the super-ego, or the actual
parental powers themselves. Inevitably, Freud injects it with libidinal
significance, however, owing to the fact that guilt takes an unconscious
position in the sealing of the Oedipus complex. Its conscious emergence
marks the resexualization of the identity matrix once more: ‘Conscience
and morality have arisen through the overcoming, the desexualization of
the Oedipus complex; but through moral masochism morality becomes
sexualized once more, the Oedipus complex is revived and the way is
opened for a regression from morality to the Oedipus complex.’115 The
moral masochist, then, creates scenarios for which he must be punished
by his sadistic conscience or ‘the great parental power of Destiny’.116 He
is compelled ‘to do what is inexpedient, must act against his own inter-
ests, must ruin the prospects which open out to him in the real world
and must, perhaps, destroy his own real existence’.117
   Central to Lacan’s paradigm of subjectivity is a masochistic relation,
with castration (submitting to the Law of the Father) ultimately affo-
rding the male a masculine position within the Symbolic. While this
pact is first forged on a subconscious level, it is also practised in the mis-
perceptions, over-estimations, and over-determined identifications of
normative masculinity and patriarchy. It is also revealed in what Butler
refers to as performative slippages,118 or those acts that reveal a subject’s
failure to fully internalize its social contract. Butler associates this mani-
festation of incoherence with the disconnect between the call of the Law
and its articulation – similar to Jacques Derrida’s notion of différance,
‘the structured and differing origin of differences’119 – in which pre-
sumptions of gender naturalness are undermined. Lacan also observes
evidence of this incomplete identity formation in analysis. In The
Ego in Freud’s Theory and in The Technique of Psychoanalysis (1954–55) for
instance, he equates the death drive with the Symbolic’s tendency to
produce repetition: ‘the death instinct is only the mask of the symbolic
order […] The symbolic order is simultaneously non-being and insist-
ing to be.’120 In The Psychoses (1955–6) he understands compulsive,
                                                  Performing Male Trouble 33

repetitious behaviour as an insistence on the signifier, or ‘the insistence
of speech’121 that binds the subject to the Law. Later still, in The Other
Side of Psychoanalysis (1969–70), Lacan relates this repetition to the
death drive, and the desire to go beyond the limit of knowledge, that
is, the return of jouissance,122 or the will to exceed the pleasure princi-
ple and seek death. At various points in The Family Complexes (1984),
he identifies the death drive in the re-enactment of the complexes –
the weaning from mother; the intrusion of other children into the
child’s life; the Oedipus complex – which works to secure socialization
and symbolization.123 Against Freud, who gives the death drive biologi-
cal roots, Lacan positions the drive as intrinsic to the Symbolic order,
not only as a disruptive force, but as a constitutive feature. Although
his view slightly changes over time, all nuances are useful towards
understanding the role of self-subjugation and the destructive drive as
part of the Symbolic’s imperative to signify presence. Less indicative
of joyful resistance, as Kristeva maintains of the semiotic surge, Lacan
associates the drive with being bound to the Law. This is the dead-
lock that he is led to when discussing the interdependency between
death drive and jouissance in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1959–60)
when he asserts: ‘We are, in fact, led to the point where we accept
the formula that without a transgression there is no access to jouis-
sance, and, to return to Saint Paul, that that is precisely the function of
the Law.’124
   Slavoj Žižek highlights the sacrificial component to Lacan’s ordering,
which is a central structuring motif within the case studies considered
in this book, suggesting that ‘a sacrifice enacts the disavowal of the
impotence of the big Other’.125 The subject does not sacrifice to gain
himself, but rather to fill in the lack in the Other, ‘to sustain the appear-
ance of the Other’s omnipotence or, at least, consistency […] one sacri-
fices oneself (one’s honor and future in respectful society) to maintain
the appearance of the Other’s honor, to save the beloved Other from
shame’.126 However, he suggests that there is also a more ‘uncanny’
dimension to Lacanian sacrifice, in which the Other is duped to think
one is missing something it once had:

   [O]ne sacrifices not in order to get something from the Other, but in
   order to dupe the Other, in order to convince him/it that one is still
   missing something, i.e. jouissance. This is why obsessionals experi-
   ence the compulsion repeatedly to accomplish their compulsive
   rituals of sacrifice – in order to disavow their jouissance in the eyes
   of the Other.127
34    Male Trouble

Dennis King Keenan reads Žižek to succinctly suggest that the primor-
dial sacrifice of the Thing (das Ding) does not simply involve the loss of
the Real, rather that the Real (as drive) is the ‘driving force’ of desire:

     It ‘is’, rather, nothing but loss, nothing but radical negativity, nothing
     but radical sacrifice, nothing but the sacrifice of sacrifice (nothing but
     a surplus that is the condition of the possibility and the condition
     of the possibility of the symbolic order.) As such, the primordial
     sacrifice (which is the emergence into the symbolic order) is not an
     act of exchange that ultimately pays. The subject gets ‘nothing’ in
     exchange […]128

While the subject might get ‘nothing’ in exchange for castration, the
symbolic fiction maintains that the ability to play with the Real is a
heroic act that might afford the subject centrality within the Symbolic.
This is especially true for males who are doubly removed from the Real –
‘totally-outside and too-early that it is forever-too-late to access’129 in
Bracha L. Ettinger’s words – and because of this have more to gain, and
simultaneously more to lose. This heroic playing with the Real, I suggest,
is observable in the performances of Fathers 4 Justice, but especially
David Blaine. While Freud suggests that masochism disrupts coherent
identity, later Lacan reimagines Freud’s Oedipal desexualization as a
trauma in subject formation. However, as suggested in the previous
paragraph, he reads the repetition of seemingly destructive, compulsive
behaviours to signify a will to resolve the trauma by being successfully
bound to the Law: in the ostensible absence of Law, the subject liter-
ally issues it upon himself. This is what the desperately decentered gay
characters in Mark Ravenhill’s plays illustrate so effectively. Given this,
wilful abjection, emasculation, masochism, sacrifice, the resistance to
destabilizing bodily penetration, and victimization – terms and posi-
tions which inevitably fold into each other – do not simply announce
moments of gender trouble, but the performative construction and
delimitation of identity.
   Although I have taken something of a theoretical detour, it seems
necessary in order to unravel the complex discursive relationship
between masculinity and subjection. At this point, however, I would
like to weave a gentler, contrapuntal voice into the conversation. In
Derek Jarman’s monochromatic film Blue (1993), a speaker imagines ‘An
infinite possibility/Becoming tangible.’130 While the work specifically
deals with serious illness due to AIDS, it fundamentally draws attention
to the relationship between aesthetic invention and human becoming.
                                                 Performing Male Trouble 35

The words find resonance in John Caputo’s exposure of the limitations
of the language of identity:

  For when we speak of the ‘I’ or the ‘we’ or the ‘self’, we are employ-
  ing a certain shorthand that glosses over the complexities, that
  hastily summarizes the current state of an inner archaic conflict in
  which there are numerous competing forces, constantly shifting, and
  unsteady alliances and unexpected turns yet to be taken.131

The landscape Caputo depicts is turbulent but mobile, and not inflex-
ible to change. While this book seeks to examine performances and
representations of troubled and troubling masculinities interlinked with
performative discourses of crisis, it does so not to present this condition
as fixed. Rather, the book ultimately seeks to expose, if not destabilize,
the phallic, sacrificial model of subjectivity to which masculinity seems
so heavily indebted, and in which it remains often violently immured.
If trouble has been a central mode of male signification in recent years,
then perhaps now it is time to take seriously the infinite possibilities of
our becoming: possibilities which are always almost tangible, but never
fully realized to the point of being firmly fixed.

A Whistle in the Dark 5                   Batman 155, 157–158, 212n32 and
Abject, the 14, 16, 22–24, 58–59, 65,       n40
  67–68, 72, 78–80, 84, 88–90, 98,        Baudrillard, Jean 13, 97–98, 100,
  104, 113, 115–116, 123, 144–145,          102–103, 106, 174
  160, 162, 164–165, 176, 181, 186        Be(a)st of Taylor Mac, The 188–190
Abjection 9, 12, 13–15, 23, 34, 45,       Beating fantasy 29–32, 42, 207n25
  58–59, 66–69, 78–80, 83, 88–90,         Beating 42–43, 49–50, 71–72, 75–77,
  114, 118, 125–126, 131, 136–136,          79, 111
  141, 144–145, 152, 157–158,             Berlant, Lauren 56–57
  162–165, 174, 178, 183, 187,            Bersani, Leo 14, 160, 169–170,
  202n68, 212n40, 216n4                     183–184, 187
Above the Below 149–155                   Beynon, John 4, 9
Abraham, Nicolas 27–28, 122–123,          Bigsby, Christopher 5
  170                                     Billy Elliot 7
Abramovi´ Marina 6                        Bio-virtual 107
Abu Ghraib 128–129                        Birds, The 48
Acconci, Vito 6                           Biressi, Anita 152, 154
Acting out 127–128, 193n40                Blaine, David 6, 13, 34, 161–162.
Acuña, Jason 172–173                        See chapter 6
Adam and Paul 7                           Blasted 5
Agamben, Giorgio 50, 142                  Bloodletting 13, 111, 114–115, 130,
Albee, Edward 5                             133, 136, 141
Alexander the Great 73                    Blue 34
Allain, Paul 148                          Bond, Edward 5
Angels in America 5                       Borderlinking 14, 187
Animal House 180                          Boscagli, Maurizia 144
Anti-Semitism 36–3, 41, 49                Boundary-trespass 47, 90
Artaud, Antonin 49, 84, 118, 131,         Boyarin, Daniel 40
  143, 198n35                             Braveheart 40
Athey, Ron 6, 13, 28, 31, 146.            Brown, Wendy 109, 111, 113
  See chapter 5. For performance          Buckingham Palace Protest 155
  details see 206n10                      Burden, Chris 6, 140, 161–162, 168
Attachment 52, 57, 66–67, 86              Buried Alive 149
Authority 12–13, 19, 38, 41–42, 54,       Burton, Tim 157, 72
  60–64, 72, 75–76, 78–80, 83, 90–91,     Bush, George W. 38, 55
  97–98, 106, 113, 118, 120, 126,         Butler, Judith 1–3, 10–11, 14, 17,
  133–134, 140–141, 143–144, 148,           22–28, 32, 47, 58–59, 61–62, 90,
  158, 160, 168, 171, 174–178               95–96, 114, 118–119, 126, 132, 170,
                                            178, 188
Badinter, Elisabeth 22
Badiou, Alain 182, 185–187, 215n65        Campbell, Patrick 17, 22
Bakhtin, Mikhail 174, 180                 Candib, Lucy 60
Bataille, George 49–52                    Capitalism 87–89, 93, 98, 181

230   Index

Caputo, John 35, 53–54                    Derrida, Jacques 32, 53–54, 116,
Caravaggio 7                                142–143, 173
Carlton, Darryl 115                       Di Benedetto, Stephen 59–60, 132
Carter, Jimmy (President) 9               Dionysus 112
Caruth, Cathy 135                         Dirty Sanchez 161
Carver, Terrell 10–11                     Disidentification 21, 27, 109–110,
Castration 12, 14, 25, 32, 34,              194n70
  40–41, 80, 93, 95, 104, 106,            Dismemberment 149, 167, 178
  111, 121–122, 124                       Dive of Death 149
Cathexis 18, 24–25, 96                    Dolan, Jill 119
Catholicism 36                            Dunne, Ryan 168, 170–171
Caviezel, James 56                        Dutoit, Ulysse 183
Celtic Tiger 11
Chambers, Samuel Allen 10–11              Ébranlement 183. See self-shattering
Child, the 48                             Edelman, Lee 47–48, 90, 170
Christian 38–39, 45, 47, 49–50,           Effeminization 40, 64
  55–57, 112, 117, 121–122, 133, 141      Emasculation 3, 9, 34, 58, 63, 155,
Christianity 36, 38, 51. See chapter 2.     167, 178
Christ-like 116, 137. See chapter 5.      Encryption 28, 123
Circus 153–154                            England, Dave 163–167
Clare, Anthony 1, 4                       Eroticism 42, 29, 50, 52
Cohen-Cruz, Jan 148                       Ethics 14, 113, 129–130, 173,
Commodification 88, 111, 178–179,           182–188
  181                                     Ethnic 37, 101, 185
Compassionate Conservatism 56             Ettinger, Bracha L. 14, 34, 182,
Conditioning, The 6                         186–188
Connell, Robert William 8, 14, 91         Excrement 23, 58–59, 68–69, 71
Conservative 11, 36, 38, 55–57            Exhibitionism 126, 139, 157
Corp propre 145
Corpus Christi 5                          Faludi, Susan 14
Crawford Municipal Gallery 140            Falwell, Jerry 38, 54
Cross-dressing 61–62, 112–115,            Fantasmatic 42, 47–48, 95, 170
  117–118, 124, 188                       Fantasy 12, 15–16, 27, 29–30, 32,
Crucifixion 37, 42–45, 54, 121, 138,        66, 69–70, 76, 81, 92, 94–96,
Cut, The 104                                107, 117, 147, 153, 172–173,
                                            186, 188
Danckwardt, Joachim F. 127–128            Farrell, Colin 72–73,
Daredevil 73                                77, 83
Dargis, Manohla 6                         Fascism 165
David Blaine: Magic Man 148               Fathers 4 Justice 6, 13, 34.
David Blaine: Street Magic 148              See chapter 6.
Dean, Tim 107                             Faust is Dead 5, 13. See chapter 4.
Death-drive 38, 48, 90                    Feminism 2, 6, 9, 160–161, 175
Debord, Guy 148                           Fetishism and fetishization 48,
Dehumanize 48, 52                           53–54, 72, 110, 112, 114, 122, 125,
Deleuze, Gilles 92, 117, 137, 173           171, 181
Deliverance 111–112, 117,                 Fight Club 7, 73
  120–123                                 Fincher, David 7, 72
Denby, David 37                           Flanagan, Bob 6
                                                                   Index 231

Foucault, Michel 87–100, 104, 142      HIV/AIDS 2, 7, 13, 34, 39, 47, 90,
Four Scenes in a Harsh Life 111–121,     109, 111–112, 115, 120–122, 125–
  134, 136                               126, 133
Fragilization 14. See chapter 8        Hocquenghem, Guy 121
Franko B 6, 13, 28, 31, 146.           Homecoming, The 5
  See chapter 5. For performances      Homo sacer 50, 56, 142
  details see 206n10                   Homographesis 90
Freedman, Jonathan 41                  Homophobia 2, 13–14, 40, 59–61,
Freud, Sigmund 15–18, 23–27,             65, 73, 89–90
  29–34, 40, 42, 45, 49, 52, 66–70,    Homosexual panic 176
  74–75, 79, 87, 93, 95–96,            Homosexuality 3, 5, 7, 10, 12–13,
  104–105, 112, 115, 117,                22, 24–26, 30–31, 37–40, 43,
  121–123, 126–128, 132, 163,            46–47, 50, 56, 63, 66–69, 78–79, 83,
  165, 169                               111, 117, 119–121, 128,
Fricker, Karen 67                        140–142, 169–170, 175–176, 178–
Friel, Brian 5                           179. See chapter 4
Frozen in Time 149–155                 Homosocial 67, 78, 161, 166,
Full Monty, The 7                        175–176, 200n34
Fuss, Diana 25–27, 64–65, 95–96,       Houdini, Harry 146
  104–105                              House of Commons Protest 155
Futurity 47–48                         Hunger Artist, The 154–155
                                       Hypermasculinity 42, 55, 57, 60–61,
Galperin, William 181                    64–65, 72–74, 76, 78, 80–81, 83,
Geller, Jay 41                           115, 170
Genet, Jean 128                        Hysteria 17, 28, 160, 177–178,
Gibson, Mel, See chapter 2               187
Girard, René 4, 12, 36, 55–57,
  141–142                              I’m Not Your Babe 136–138
Glengarry Glen Ross 4                  Iceman Cometh, The 149
Greatest Story Ever Told, The 36       Identification 12, 13, 15, 17–19,
Green, André 127                          21–28, 32, 45, 49–50, 56, 59, 64–68,
Gross, Martin 87–88, 97                   70, 75, 78–79, 81, 87, 89, 91, 93,
Guantánamo 128–129                        95–97, 100, 104–105,
Guattari, Félix 92, 137, 173              112, 121, 128, 130, 133, 141,
Guerrilla performance 2, 11, 146,         170, 178,
  148, 155, 158                        Impotency 59–60, 62, 65, 76,
Gutenberg, Andrea 140                     80–81, 83
Gynophobia 122                         In A Little World of Our Own 5
                                       Incorporation 18, 27–28, 50, 123,
Hamlet 91                                 170, 181
Harvie, Jen 148                        Incorruptible Flesh 111, 112,
Heddon, Dee 110                           123–128
Hegel, Georg W.F. 16, 81–82            Indestructibility 142–145, 165, 172
Hegemony 8, 11, 15, 38, 69, 78, 90,    Infantilization 115, 130–132, 160,
 91, 93, 188                              171, 177
Heterosexism 119, 124                  InterMission 7, 12, 32. See chapter 3
Heterosexuality 7, 10, 25, 89,         Interpellation 19, 23, 91
 97, 119, 126, 160, 169, 170,          Introjection 27, 32, 170
 174–176, 179                          Irigaray, Luce 22, 44
232   Index

Jackass 13–14, 31, 157.                  MacCormack, Patricia 188
   See chapter 7                         Made in China 5, 12, 96.
Jakobsen, Janet R. 38                     See chapter 3
James, Henry 176                         Mama I Can’t Sing 133–136
Jameson, Fredric 13, 87–89, 104          Mamet, David 4
Jarman, Derek 7, 34                      Man Without a Face, The 40
Jeffords, Susan 9                        Mangan, Michael 9
Jenks, Chris 179                         Margera, Bam 171–172
Jesus of Nazareth 36                     Martyrs and Saints 112–123
Johnston, Adrian 185                     Masochism 7, 10, 14–15, 29 31–32,
Jones, Amelia 13, 121, 129–130,           34, 70, 80, 93, 95, 111, 125, 175,
   142                                    178
Jouissance 16, 33, 43, 51, 80, 107,      Maternity 21, 26, 66–67, 80, 112,
   141, 146–147, 155, 177, 184,           121, 131, 133, 136, 141
   187, 196n122                          McGhehey, Ehren 164–165
Joyce 112                                McNally, Terence 5
Judas Cradle 128–130                     McPherson, Conor 59
Judeo-Christian 39                       Melancholia 17–18, 24–28
                                         Messner, Michael 14
Kafka, Franz 154                         Micropolitics 104
Kahn, Coppélia 21                        Middleton, Peter 64–65
Kane, Sarah 5                            Miglietti, Francesca Alfano 144
Kaplan, Ann 174                          Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen 68, 81
Keidan, Lois 5–6                         Miller, David 175
Kimmel, Michael 14                       Miller, Toby 73
King of Kings 36                         Misogyny 14, 59–61, 65, 73, 112,
Knoxville, Johnny 161–163,                114, 125, 143, 156
  165–168, 171–174                       Mitchell, Gary 5
Kojève, Alexandre 81–82                  Mosse, George 9
Kristeva, Julia 12–13, 22–24, 26, 33,    Mourning 17–18, 24–25, 27, 79, 96,
  45, 58, 67–68, 78, 80, 88–89, 124,      123, 138–139
  126, 133, 144, 164–165, 180.           MTV 14, 87, 105, 161, 168, 174,
  See abject and abjection                181
Kubiak, Anthony 109                      Mulvey, Laura 6, 76–77
Kushner, Tony 5                          Muñoz, José Esteban 13, 17,
                                          109–110, 142
Labour Party 11                          Murphy, Tom 5
Lacan, Jacques 13, 17–21, 23–26,         Murray, Timothy 125
  32–34, 38, 43–44, 51, 61, 66, 68,
  71, 77, 81–82, 84, 87–88, 91, 95–96,   Narcissism 139, 145, 184
  105–107, 119, 126, 146–147, 158,       National Theatre of Ireland
  163, 167, 169, 178, 182,                 (Abbey) 59
  186–187                                Neilson, Anthony 5
Laddism 13–14, 160–162, 171–172,         Nietzsche, Friedrich 113, 144
Laing, Stewart                           O’Rowe, Mark 5, 12. See chapter 3
Last Temptation of Christ, The 36        Objet a 77, 81–82
Lenau, Nikolaus 97                       Oedipus complex 18–24, 29, 32–33,
Lion King, The 91                          87, 95–96, 170, 176
                                                               Index 233

Oedipus Rex 4                        Royal Court (theatre) 87
Oh Lover Boy 138–140, 156            Rude Guerrilla (theatre company) 98
Optimism (queer) 183
Ordinary Decent Criminal 73          S.W.A.T. 73
Out of Joint (theatre company) 87,   Sacrifice 7, 10, 12–13, 21–22, 29,
  89, 94                                33–35, 58, 107, 112–113, 117, 121,
                                        130–131, 136, 140–142, 178, 182–
Pane, Gina 6                            184. See chapter 2.
Passion of the Christ, The 12, 31.   Sadism 42, 70
  See chapter 2                      Sadomasochism 69–71, 179
Pêcheux, Michel 27                   Saint Paul 33, 38, 53
Pellegrini, Ann 38                   Saved 5
Penetrator 5                         Savran, David 14–15, 30
Peterson, Alan 167                   Scarry, Elaine 103
Pettitt, Lance 83                    Scatology 59, 65, 68, 162–168,
Phallic masculinity 21, 35, 61,         199n10,
  144–145, 182                       Scatontological 12, 71, 192n33,
Phallocentrism 22–23, 143, 184,         201n52
  186                                Schizophrenia and schizoid
Phallogocentrism 43                     subjectivity 13, 87–88.
Phantasy 20, 31, 187                    See Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Phantom 123                             Guattari
Phelan, Peggy 114                    Schmitt, Richard 60
Philadelphia Here I Come 5           Schneemann, Carolee 6
Phillipou, Nick 97                   Schneider, Rebecca 144
Phillips, Adam 146, 184              Sebastiane 7
Pinter, Harold 5                     Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky 67, 175–176,
Pitchfork Disney 96                     200n34, 216n4
Prisoner of Love 128                 Segal, Lynn 7–8, 14
Prohibition 128                      Self-harm 13, 98, 105, 112–116, 125,
Prothero, Stephen 55                    128, 130, 133, 144, 161, 172, 175
Psychosis 186–187                    Self-shattering 169–170, 183–184
                                     Shoot 6, 168
Quinn, Michael 73                    Shopping and Fucking 5, 13.
                                        See chapter 4
Raab, Chris 163                      Sick 140
Rancière, Jacques 147, 188           Sierz, Aleks 5, 97
Rank, Otto 186                       Silverman, Kaja 15
Ravenhill, Mark 5, 13, 34.           Snapper, Julia 128
  See chapter 4                      Snead, Matthew 188–189
Reik, Theodor 139, 169               Snediker, Michael D. 183, 189
Republican administrations 11,       South Park 37
  38, 56                             Spacey, Kevin 149
Ressentiment 72, 113                 Stallybrass, Peter 15–16, 69, 152
Rich, Frank 38–39                    Stam, Robert 180
Richards, Mary 119–120,124, 143      Steger, Lawrence 123–128
Ridley, Philip 96                    Stein, Gertrude 112
Robertson, Pamela 7–8                Steve-O 163–164, 169–171, 173–174,
Rose, Jacqueline 22, 27                 176
234   Index

Stewart, Suzanne R. 93                Vertigo 149–155
Stylites 150                          Victimization 9, 10, 12, 15, 34,
Superhero 155–159                       59, 72, 74–76, 78–79, 82–83,
                                        111, 113, 116, 122, 178,
Tait, Peta 153                          182–183
Tarantino, Quentin 7                  Viennese Aktionists 6
Taylor Mac 12, 14, 188–190            Virtuality 102–103, 106–107,
Taylor, Charles 8                       205n72
Temporality 185–190, 217n21           Visiting Hours 6
Theweleit, Klaus                      Viva La Bam 161
Thin Red Line, The 184
This Lime Tree Bower 5                Weakness 53–54, 63,
Thomas Lips 6                          177–178
Thomas, Calvin 1, 12, 15, 71,         Wegner, Peter 127–128
  157–158                             Whannel, Garry 160
Three Tall Women 5                    When Brendan Met Trudy 7
Tigerland 73                          White, Allon 15–16, 69, 152
Torok, Maria 27–28, 122–123, 170      Wildboyz 161
Tower Bridge Protest 155              Working through 126–128, 131,
Trademarks 6                           136, 143
Trans-fixed 140                       Wounded attachment 109, 111,
Trauma 9, 11, 34, 111–113, 115–116,    140, 142, 145
  122–123, 125,127–128, 130–131,
  133, 135–136, 145, 154, 183, 187    You Make My Heart Go Boom 140
                                      Young, Iris Marion 89–90
Universalism 185, 187
Up To And Including Her Limits   6    Žižek, Slavoj 12, 33–34, 36, 38, 44,
Urban, Hugh 52–53                       51, 53, 102, 122, 141, 160, 176–178,
Utopia 142, 217n21                      181, 184–187, 215n65

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