Summary: In her article “Performing Gender Identity” (in Language and Gender: A Reader), Cameron argues that men are under constant pressure to constitute themselves as masculine. This pressure, at times, quickly turns into outright anxiety and terror, especially when it becomes more and more difficult to stabilize heterosexual masculinity in the absence of an object that can safely be identified as the target of desire proper. I use this nonthreatening clip from “Scrubs” to introduce students to the idea that the line between homosociality and homoerotics is very thin, blurred, and quite arbitrary. The ever-presence of the possibility of a homoerotic relationality between men, who, in this instance, cannot find an other through whom they can safely express their desire for each other, exposes the absurdity of manhood as not only a performance that is always already lost, but also as a performance of loss and as a mode of subjecthood which actively forbids itself an unpredictable and undefined range of intersubjective experiences. When hegemonic heterosexual masculinity attempts to “face the facts about me and you, a love unspecified,” as J.D. says, the homoerotic components of the intersubjective experience (where Audre Lorde finds the “chaos of our strongest feelings” —“The Uses of the Erotic”) are instantly alienated and turned into fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Their song is performative: it is a painful and quasi-conscious play that creates and sustains the kind of masculinity they assume and expect to already have, by constructing, bit by bit, the contours of intolerable desire, gaze, and touch... In Cameron's article, this gesture (of separating and dichotomizing homosociality and homoerotics) turns out to be potentially violent. There, in order to desperately preclude the possibility of homoerotic desire exposing itself, men produce an absent other, where they displace their own desires, project their own fears and terror, regulate their own anxieties, and externalize the unpredictable and subversive elements of intersubjectivity. This mythical monstrous absent other, constructed through a cooperative effort of sustained conversation about it, and alienated and terrorized as “the anti-thesis of man,” then serves as the basis of a kind of masculinity that was expected to already be safely present.
Submitted By: Mehmet Atif Ergun