Eventually, it comes back to the scene where the cornered pacifist has that thug garroted to a jagged sill. "My neck's on the glass," pleads the invader, his voice quaking with atavistic fear. Then comes David's adrenaline-strained declarative:
Good. I hope you cut your throat.
The one whose conscience writhed over a felled dove. Is still a man. "I will not allow violence against this house." You remember.
Of course, David Sumner wasn't a fag. Wasn't even real.
Mark Bingham was both. A last-second passenger on board United Airlines Flight 93, bound for the Bay Area, on September 11, 2001, Bingham is thought to have been among that small group of men who stormed the cockpit when the stakes were clear. He may have led the charge. We needn't tempt mythology to understand. When there is no recourse to civilized order, men act. You imagine a spontaneous kinship. A plan, derived in focused urgency, by a group of men. A brotherhood. You imagine the treble of women crying, and the pulse quickens, as when David turns to his wife and commands, "Do as you're told." Peckinpah wasn't masturbating.
The story is that Bingham had faced off against thugs before, once at gunpoint. The story is, he was proud of his scars. He was a jock. According a former boyfriend, Bingham "hated to lose — at anything." Mishima's "purity of sentiment" comes to mind.
Of course, Mishima was a fag. Jocks made fun of him.
Across the desk is a man of mien. Could be an executive, a cop, a sergeant, a professor, a tradesman, or a union boss. But let's suppose he is a lawyer. This man is not your father. You profess to hate this man, this boss, this authority. Perhaps just as you hate your father, for the usual specific reasons. But there is work to be done, and you are confronted, or seduced, by his command presence. A spell. The man looks you in the eye, outlines the task at hand, and your role. And it is understood, somehow, even as you are bewildered by your deference. You will rise to this occasion . . . because.
"There's something to this 'being a man' business," writes Jack Malebranche in his unapologetic, un-pc, pro-homo polemic, Androphilia. Something that fights and acts and creates and cries on Bob Paulson's tits. It's just that the rainbow barfags have forgotten, as culture-bound affectations transmute into a tired script that reduces to a parade. The ones who only pretend to read Genet, who cling to an insouciant female romance, are living a different lie. It isn't just a matter of aesthetics, or crudely conceived biology. Nature is a fascist bitch, but a lisp isn't a badge.
Do I have an opinion? Same-sex marriage is for lesbians. I like Steve McQueen and Powers Boothe and Sergio Leone and Project Runway. Gentility was never the rub. Take a swing at Tim Gunn and I bet he hits back, with a clenched fist.
Jack Malebranche, aka Jack Donovan, is an artist, a writer, a Satanist, an androphile. Jack Malebranche is not gay. Let's talk about it.
You are a man with a sexual preference for men, yet you reject the
label "gay." What's in a word?
JACK MALEBRANCHE: What’s in a word? What is the
difference between a paleoconservative and a neocon, a socialist and a
communist, music and noise, between black and nigger? We use language to
conceptualize our world and make important distinctions that change the way we
perceive ourselves and the way others perceive us. Some people claim that they
reject all social labels, but this is a cowardly posture. Identify yourself.
Stand for something. Say what you are. Make distinctions. Discriminate.
Any good high school English teacher will tell you to mean what you say and
say what you mean. Why then when we discuss homosexuality do we have to speak
of it in cutesy euphemisms? Why can’t we say exactly what we mean without
frosting it with a brightly colored sugary coating?
The word gay doesn’t precisely describe male homosexuality. It prances
around the issue. The word gay describes an entire cultural and political
movement. It describes a way of being and behaving and believing that expands
far beyond a mere sexual preference. So for a man who prefers to have sex with
men, but who finds himself at odds with the ideas, beliefs, aesthetics and
culture that the word gay also communicates, identifying himself as “gay” is
technically and meaningfully inaccurate.
With “androphilia,” I take this one step further. Homosexuality is accurate
and fine for casual conversation because it is widely understood, but
homosexuality is not particularly specific. Androphilia adds an additional
level of distinction. I do not simply prefer to have sex with male bodies. I am
attracted socially, sexually and conceptually to adult men and adult
masculinity. “Andro” means MAN. The word “man,” like the word “gay,” and the
word “woman,” is loaded with meaning. I am not merely attracted to adult males,
I am attracted to the expression of the MAN archetype in men. And in so many
ways, the values and qualities associated with archetypal masculinity have an
opposing polarity to the values and the central culture of the gay community.
It is this opposing polarity, this sense of having values that are
irreconcilable with the values expressed in the word “gay” that makes the
distinction between “androphile” and “gay” both valid and
In Androphilia: A Manifesto you advance a broad critique of
contemporary gay culture, and you challenge a number of commonly held
views within the gay community. You argue that homosexuality isn't
necessarily innate. You question the presumed solidarity of homosexual
and feminist interests. You contend that a "Gay Advocacy
Industry" promotes an "illusion of oppression and victimization"
to advance a narrow leftist political agenda. And perhaps most unforgivably,
you express opposition to same-sex marriage. Setting aside the substance
of your dissenting views, I'm curious as to how your book has been received in
the gay community? Have gay-identified critics taken notice? Or are you
"off the reservation," as they say?
If I am “off the reservation” it's a matter of my own doing more than anyone
else’s. In Androphilia I wrote unapologetically that gays are not my
“family” or my “people,” and that aside from a handful of shared experiences I
have little and often less in common with them than I do with other groups of
“people.” I don’t spend time in gay parts of town or gay restaurants and I
really don’t seek out homosexuals as friends—though I do have some friends who
happen to be homosexual. It would by hypocritical of me to expect the gay
community to embrace me or my work.
That said, there are a lot of intelligent guys who identify themselves as
“gay” but who consider themselves to be free thinkers. Some of them identify
with outcasts and underdogs and enjoy seeing someone shake things up a bit.
Plenty of them are able to read a book critically and step back and say “I
agree with this and disagree with that,” as any smart reader should. Some of
these gays have publicly reviewed Androphilia, and while many of them
ultimately defended the gay community, they were not entirely unsympathetic.
Even one gay reviewer who wrote “let’s just agree to hate it,” was able to work
a few kind words into his review. Some guys really liked the book, recommended
it to friends and started calling themselves androphiles. A few went off and
joined the army!
The only people who really go off the deep end about the book are extreme
feminists and queer theory zealots, but despite their academic posturing these
people operate within a closed intellectual system based on highly questionable
Can you be more specific — about these "highly questionable
The pursuit of knowledge isn’t the primary goal of any “study” program
grounded in feminism. There is an obvious political agenda there. That’s the
only reason why these programs even exist. While superficial debate occurs over
doctrine and details, if you don’t buy into the primary goal and service the
central idea, you are not “with the program.” It’s like arguing with someone
who studies theology. God is the ultimate justification for every path of
study, for every argument. The theologian’s claim to authority comes from God.
If you pull God out of the equation, the whole thing falls apart.
If you don’t agree that creating a gender-neutral society is possible or
desirable, then “feminist scholars” and “gender studies scholars” wield no real
intellectual authority. If you aren’t prepared to accept on faith alone that
sex is just a skin-deep costume, or that human societies have some sort of
moral imperative to collectively wish-away or blind themselves to any meaningful
differences between the sexes and do away with all gender roles, these people’s
criticisms can be evaluated more realistically. They are priestesses and
priests, propagandists, political operatives, interested parties. I’d no sooner
expect objectivity from Karl Rove or a Jehovah’s witness knocking on my door.
I’m familiar with their racket and I don’t find their arguments to be
especially convincing based on my own first hand observation of human behavior.
Advocates of a gender-neutral society, including queer theorists, feminists
and most gay rights advocates, often pose as freedom fighters, but like most
freedom fighters, they are really just advocates of a different system of
control. They are outcasts who want to be accommodated, people who believe they
were on the bottom, and who believe that they should be at the top. They are
people who have been scorned or underestimated, who believe they should be
celebrated. They are not objective, and they want what’s best for them, not
necessarily what is best for you or for society as a whole.
As you can see, I’m not objective, either. But I’m honest about it.
A recurring theme in Androphilia concerns how gay culture has come to
embrace a radical feminist position that sees masculinity in wholly negative
terms, thus encouraging a kind of ideological jam where male homosexuality is
easily equated with effeminacy. By contrast, you describe yourself as an
"unrepentant masculinist" and defend the value of
male-centered ritual and tradition. If gay activists have erred in
rejecting masculinity, is there a danger of replacing one gender-cult with
A danger to whom?
While I’ve framed the discussion in my own terms and articulated things that
are not necessarily always articulated, the ‘gender-cult’ of masculinity is
hardly my invention. If anything my presentation of it is often a remedial one
for guys–like myself–who missed the boat the first time around. Negotiating
the gender-cult of masculinity is something that every man has to do, even if
he never speaks about it in those terms, even if he never speaks about it at
all. The cult of masculinity may have taken a few hits, but sit down with an
average group of men for a while when women are not present and I think you’ll
find that it is alive and well, though in practice I find that men’s’ reverence
for masculinity is generally more nuanced and thoughtful than the goofy caveman
television sitcom version would lead one to believe.
You praise masculinity in nakedly religious terms, as an ideal to be preserved
and defended if civilization is to flourish. But we live in a time and culture
where the conscious affirmation of male identity is often met with ridicule. If
same-sex-oriented men are emasculated by cultural expectations, do you perceive
a greater threat in the broader cultural devaluation of traditionally masculine
Absolutely. Our culture’s strategy for integrating women into the workforce
has unfortunately been to strip men of any distinct virtues, qualities, social
roles or responsibilities. This is one of the great tragedies of our time, and
time will tell if this gender neutral society thing is really sustainable,
practical or even truly desirable.
Women don’t often understand this, because they are women, and womanhood is
something gained automatically through reproductive maturity, but MAN is an
earned status. “Person” is a substantial demotion. My opinion is that if you
don’t expect men to act like MEN, mere “persons” is exactly what you will get.
“Persons” make adequate drones for the busywork of modern life, I suppose.
Your focus on the "feminist critique of masculinity" and your
rejection of culturally perpetuated effeminate affectations could lead some
readers to wonder whether "androphilia" is in some sense a byword for
misogyny. Have you encountered this line of criticism? And how do you respond?
Most people who throw around the word “misogyny” a lot are completely
Did you know that the root of hysterical comes from the greek “hysterikos,”
meaning “suffering of the womb?” What’s in a word, indeed…
I do not advocate any REAL violence against women and I would take the
traditional line that it is the responsibility of men to protect women from
harm. However, it is not and has never been the responsibility of men to
indulge every female…hysteria.
There are countless women of intelligence and accomplishment in the world.
Most of them would prefer not to identify themselves with most “feminist”
hysterics, and those women should be judged according to their own merits and
An interesting digression in Androphilia centers on the work of Adolf
Brand, an early advocate of homosexual rights and a critic of sexual
essentialism (as expressed in the antiquated theory of uranism). By any modern
standard, Brand would be considered a dodgy character (he defended pederasty),
but you offer a qualified defense, arguing that his work sought to remove
homosexual attraction from its pathological status. Do you think that Brand's
largely forgotten views are relevant to contemporary debates over the nature of
I think Brand is important in the sense that his work shows that in the
earliest stages of the development of what has become the modern gay rights
movement, there was a homo at the forefront calling “bullshit.” Brand’s
contemporaries were essentialists who believed that homosexuality was the
result of an internally feminine disposition. Many gays today still believe
this, and much of the half assed social “research” done on behalf of gay
liberationists seeks to prove this stereotype to score political points. The
side effect of this position is that every man who has ever had sex with
another man is forever labeled “masculinity challenged” even if his behavior in
every other aspect of his life suggests the contrary. Brand believed that
homosexuality could fit into traditional society, and that practiced within
certain boundaries (his would be different from my own) it could be a healthy
expression of masculine sexuality—even for some men who would later marry and
father children. Brand believed that the “female soul” argument was baloney. I
brought up Adolf Brand in Androphilia because as a history lesson he
proves that my antipathy towards the gay essentialist line and my rejection of
sub-masculine status is hardly a post-liberation phenomenon.
Your views on the nature (and nurture) of sexual orientation are
confoundingly nuanced. While you don't dismiss the notion that sexual
preference — and effeminate traits in some men — may be partly rooted in
biology, you are skeptical of the more deterministic view that people are
necessarily "born that way." Why do you see the question as being
more complicated than Melissa Etheridge would have us believe? And does it
Human sexuality is confoundingly nuanced. Human psychology is confoundingly
nuanced. We absorb and process an inconceivable amount of data, and it
seems incredibly facile to advance the idea that a certain behavior—which is
expressed in a wide variety of ways by a wide variety of very different
people—is always attributable to the same simple biological on/off switch. To
say that homosexual childhood abuse never results in an awakening of homosexual
tendencies which may not otherwise have ever been expressed is just as absurd
as saying that it homosexuality is always the result of childhood sexual
trauma. To say that peer affirmation of homosexuality will have absolutely no
influence on the willingness of an individual to indulge in homosexual
experimentation is just as absurd as saying that people will stop having
heterosexual sex if homosexuality is accepted. To say that being in the right
place at the right time with the right pal doesn’t have any influence on
whether or not two otherwise heterosexual men will cross their normal
boundaries and engage in homosexual sex seems highly unlikely—most gay males
don’t even believe that! Many of the same gays who will toe the “born that way”
line in public will brag privately that they can “get” a straight guy, or even
that they prefer them! And the idea that predominately homosexual men are
somehow incapable of being sexually attracted to women or developing strong
feelings for them is an outright lie. Gays who advance the “born that way”
argument aren’t interested in truth, they are interested in easy answers and
I don't get the sense that you're quite in step with Foucault, but there
might be a vaguely structuralist current in your thinking. For example, you
argue that the common understanding of sexuality is skewed by a cultural
fixation on polarities, most conspicuously between male and female. The idea
seems to be that binary thinking locks us into these reductive categories,
where same-sex attraction between males is easily construed in simplistic
terms that promote and reify a culture of effeminacy. Is it your view that
contemporary gay studies have blinded us to the more complex and diverse
reality of sexuality? It seems relevant that bisexuality is often blithely
dismissed by gay commentators and comedians.
I don’t know if I’d always say that about “gay studies” but I would agree
that contemporary gay culture does both oversimplify the complexity of human
sexuality and reify a culture of effeminacy. Gay comedians and commentators invite
self-proclaimed bisexuals under their rainbow umbrellas, possibly for a variety
of suspect reasons. But the reality of bisexuality seems to be incompatible
with the absolutist “born that way” platform of hardcore gay advocates. They
don’t have a good answer to this question, and it is something they like to
sweep under the rug, because it rightly makes them uncomfortable. Bisexuals are
the black sheep of that particular “family.”
I find it fascinating the way debates over human nature play out in political
terms. Where racial differences are in question, biological theories are held
to be gauche (or more politely, "discredited") while purely
environmental explanations are credulously endorsed by people who've never
bothered to look at the evidence. But when the subject turns to sexual
preference, the default orthodoxy does an about-face and we are confidently
assured that biology rules the day. When public discourse is so overwhelmingly
molded by wishful ideology, is there a place for disinterested curiosity?
One can only hope.
You've had relationships with women, and in your book you state that
you might have led a productive and satisfying life under antiquated norms
which stigmatized homosexuality. Yet your perspective — and your experience —
clearly owes something to sexual liberation, if only in the more narrow
libertarian sense. Given your position, I'm curious as to your thoughts on the
old days of closeted homosexuality, when men led double-lives or whatever.
Assuming that decriminalization of sexual behavior was a positive development,
do you think there might have been social value in the marginal status of
homosexuality that has largely been replaced with broader social tolerance? Was
there a baby in the bathwater?
When gays came out of the closet, what I think they collectively lost as men
was a connection with their fellow men—a sense of purpose and belonging among
them. When homosexuality was practiced covertly, a man who preferred men was
still forced to function as a man in mainstream society and was still saddled
with the same expectations and pressures that other men have to negotiate.
There were no special rules for homosexual males, because homosexuality was not
part of a man’s public identity.
The gay community embraces everyone and doesn’t expect its men to be
anything but gay and “proud” of it. There is no pressure to be a “good man”
because gays aren’t held to the same standards as other men. The gay community
offers a place to hide from those sometimes oppressive expectations, and from
the unforgiving judgment of other men. Gay males can surround themselves with
women and gays who will flatter their egos and make them feel special no matter
how they behave or what they do. They only have to “be themselves,” and that’s
a luxury most men don’t have.
I believe there is a place for homosexuals in a tolerant, sane society. The
phenomenon of homosexuality is a historical constant. That doesn’t necessarily
mean that there’s some magic gene that turns it on, but it does mean that if
you have a society with a hundred people, it seems like a few are usually going
to end up having homosexual tendencies. Probably more if that society has a
huge surplus or if homosexuality is incorporated in some way that doesn’t slow
the birth rate or encourage a cultural submissiveness that makes that society
vulnerable to a more aggressive one. The causes are really irrelevant here if
you’re willing to accept the simple fact that “homosexuality happens.” So if a
society is not suicidal or self destructive or self-hating, if it has a set of
values and interests and a collective culture it wants to protect and ideally
promote—which includes placing a high value on a culture of reproduction and
rearing children in a way that ensures the society’s future—it has two basic
choices when it comes to dealing with homosexuality. It can either foster a
culture that is inclusive of homosexuality in a way that supports that goal, or
it can marginalize homosexuals leave them to hatch subversion on the fringe. If
you’re smart, and this rarely happens, you pick choice A. If you’re not, you do
what Christians have usually done and pick B. Modern gay culture is a
by-product of marginalizing homosexuals, who “came out” in cahoots with the
various forces who want to dismantle western culture—the culture that
The thing I have in common with many more socially conservative homosexual
Christians is that we believe society needs to acknowledge that “homosexuality
happens” and envision a noble role for the homosexual which encourages
homosexuals to support the collective culture and mainstream family life. When
homosexual men and women remained closeted and got married, or, as in some
parts of Chinese history or often in the case of royal blood, they fulfilled
their duty to society by having children and teaching them respect for their
culture, even as they dallied on the side with men. That’s an ethically sketchy
position to be in, but in some ways it worked and maintained social order. Some
people, like writer Andrew Sullivan, for instance, believe that allowing
same-sex marriages will allow homosexuals to assimilate sufficiently into a
healthy, normal, reproductive society. But that’s an oversimplification.
Homosexuals can’t have children naturally. They will never be on truly “equal”
footing in that area, and if adoption is advocated as the “one true path,” that
puts wealthier homosexual couples in a better situation morally—which is
When you look back to WWII you see a lot of men who served who were men
first, Americans second, and they had this homosexual thing on the side. I am
always happy to hear it when young androphiles ignore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
and consider joining the armed forces. I interviewed one of them and posted
that interview to my web site at androphilia.com under the heading “Andro in the Army.”
Androphiles serving in the armed forces are in some sense closeted but they
have a profound respect for order and a desire to serve society in some way.
We have all of these young men who are probably never going to have kids or
wives—why not encourage them to make some use of themselves and go into
professions designed for men, or where men have a natural advantage of some
kind? Some of those same professions also put a strain on heterosexual
marriages and make active parenting more challenging. Law enforcement.
Firefighting. Soldiers. Park rangers. Merchant marines. Pilots. Long range
transportation. Even healthcare and education. Why create this socially
subversive, pleasure seeking culture of self congratulatory nothingness when
you can encourage these men to do something that will give them a sense of real
purpose and worth? Put them to work supporting society’s infrastructure,
instead of chipping away at its foundations.
I’m an advocate of holding homosexual men to the same set of expectations as
other men, in the traditional sense. They should be expected to be strong and
self reliant, they should be judged by their achievements and their actions,
and they should be expected to have some sense of honor. They should be
expected to do the right thing and take responsibility for their actions
without resorting to the shirker’s response of blaming society for their
personal failings. But taking it a step further, I think these men have to be
inspired to serve society, to do more than just attempt to mimic the nuclear
family and appear ‘normal.’ As a society it makes sense for us to promote a
noble, productive ideal for homosexual men that doesn’t set them up with the
natural handicap of not being able to reproduce without resorting to bizarre
and often expensive arrangements which will never quite be the same as “raising
your own kids.”
Gay culture shows homosexual males how to behave like clowns, how to get
laughs at their own expense, or to get laughs by gossiping or insulting others.
The gay community celebrates “fabulousness” and shows homosexual males how to
be the center of attention, no matter what kind of attention. It shows them how
to be beautiful and popular and desired in the way that high school girls want
to be beautiful and popular and desired. Perhaps the only really
complimentary—if fairly pathetic—role gays have traditionally played in society
is helping women get dolled up so they can find a mate. “Honey, put on some
lipstick and fix your hair—you’re unfuckable.” I guess one could make
the argument that all of the hairdressers and makeup artists and fashion fags
perform a service to society as some sort of sexual lubricant for straight
I think androphiles, for the most part, have far more potential. But
as a society, we have to expect more of them if we hope to get it. We have to
expect them to be men, ask them to be good men, and show them how they can
become extraordinary men.
Even among readers who largely agree with your ideas, I suspect there
will be some who pause over your affiliation with The Church of Satan
Can you explain your attraction to Satanism? I know this is an area where there
is considerable misunderstanding.
Well, Satanism is a topic almost intentionally prone to misunderstanding.
There has always been something rebellious in me that reacts to sacred cows,
pointless taboos and privileged lies with a resounding “NO!” And then, more
soberly, with a thoughtful “Why? Cui Bono?” This aspect of my nature is
really what initially attracted me to Satanism and later to The Church of
Satan. Satanists, and I mean the REALLY interesting ones, not just the dorky
ooky spooky cheese-ball Internet Goths, are extreme individualists who tend to
revel in what the Hoover Hog calls “thought crime.” Satanism is a no-bullshit
worldview that portrays men as animals, which is exactly what they are. I can’t
argue the truth of that.
I am also attracted to the idea of choosing (or becoming) one’s own God in a
world where God is, metaphorically speaking, dead, and almost everything
certainly seems to be permitted. As an artist, I like the idea of employing
religious psychodrama, because I don’t think hard science and reason are always
the appropriate tools to use with the human animal to achieve a particular
result. Anton LaVey said that he saw Satanism as something bridging the gap
between psychology and religion, and I think that’s a neat idea.
However, the real misunderstanding that troubles me and seems to contradict
with my work as it has evolved is what Satanism implies to many people in terms
of personal morality and ethical codes. Satanism makes personal ethics a
personal matter, and that leads a lot of people to assume that Satanists have
no ethical code beyond “me first.” Sometimes that seems to be the case, but
Satanism also acknowledges that just about everyone is really going to
take care of themselves first. Satanists are just more honest with themselves
Personally speaking, I have enormous respect for “good men.” When I deal
with firefighters and policemen and military men and others, men who put
themselves in danger to protect the infrastructure of civilization or to help
people, I am humbled and inspired. It is a joke amongst my friends that I am
almost physically incapable of lying, and I try to do “the right thing” when
facing some sort of ethical conundrum, often at my own expense. Integrity and
sincerity are extremely important to me. Compared to most average guys,
whatever their religious affiliation or sexuality, in many ways I’m practically
a Boy Scout.
This runs contrary to most people’s ideas about what it means to be a
Satanist, but it doesn’t conflict with my own understanding of its philosophy.
Satanism is very much a do-it-yourself religion when it comes to personal
ethics. It’s an individualistic religion that provides very few ethical codes
so that individual adherents can make up their own minds about what is right
and wrong. My personal code of honor was developed freely and consciously.
Upon first pass it's easy to get the impression that your take on the gay
community is something of a caricature, but the biographical sketch you provide
in Androphilia makes it clear that you're au fait with the trappings and rites
of the subculture that you criticize. You've participated in GBLT meetings and
pride parades, and you even had a stint as a go-go dancer. When you look back
over your youthful travels in the demimonde you've come to reject, are there
any regrets? And also, what the fuck, man? — A go-go dancer?
Well, most men probably do things in their late teens and early twenties
that they find embarrassing later. It is only because I switched gears so
dramatically later on that I am maybe a little more embarrassed than others.
I can’t say that working in New York City nightclubs in the early 1990s
wasn’t educational, because it was. It taught me a lot, up close and personal,
about aspects of human nature most of people find exotic and somewhat alien.
But as a man who has hung out with and even dated drag queens, who spent
years of his life going from nightclub to after hours surrounded by a veritable
Village People of gay stereotypes, who has worn makeup and corsets, who has
been in the most fashionable gay bars and the nasty ones with fisting videos
and cum on the floor, and who was also young and good looking enough to put on
a pair of jeans and a baseball cap and walk into any of those places and look
like fresh meat, I believe I am uniquely positioned to call gays out on their
bullshit. They can issue all of the sanitized press releases they want, but I
know what they do and how they behave and what they say when they aren’t trying
to score sympathy points with straight people.
There's a memorable line in Androphilia where you write: "I
signed on for William Burroughs and Jean Genet and Tinto Brass' Caligula and
rumors about Lord Byron and ancient Greece," but of course, by the time
you made your way to Christopher Street, the "dodgy undercurrent"
which lured you had already been supplanted with RuPaul-branded fashion
gestures, and ubiquitous politics. John Rechy is dead and Dennis Cooper won't
shut up. Is there anything left of the "sexual outlaw" subculture
that ignited your curiosity? Is it relegated to pornography?
The “outlaw” aspect of homosexuality is going to be especially attractive if
you’re working through a stage of adolescent rebellion. If you read Rechy’s The Sexual Outlaw there’s this sense of rage against the machine teenage
rebellion there that is still running just beneath the surface in many segments
of the gay community. There’s this underlying belief that somehow “freedom”
means having sex in public parks and “scaring the straights.” It’s oppositional
in a careless, selfish, irresponsible way.
To really be “outlaws,” you have to be doing something that is
truly…outlawed. Homosexuality is so mundane now, at least in the majority of
the modern western world. I think that’s as much a result of the information
age as it is a result of gay activism. You really have to work at it if you
want to maintain the sort of mystery and unspeakable horror that an old
fashioned bogeyman requires. It’s too easy to fact check someone or just look
up anything that you’re curious about. I’ve written elsewhere that the
widespread availability of every imaginable form of pornography has
desensitized a lot of people to homosexuality and while they may agree or
disagree with various gay agenda action items, the “shock value” just isn’t
there in the same way that it used to be. Today, homosexual sex is not
particularly dangerous or extremely taboo, and it doesn’t have this
intersection with the criminal world that Genet wrote about—which also brought
a raw, malevolent masculinity into the mix.
I was sitting at a bar with two of my straight co-workers the other day and
one of the guys showed me a funny video clip someone forwarded to his phone
which showed some dude getting drunk and accidentally having sex with a
transsexual. This father of four is sitting there laughing at a graphic image
of a man having anal sex with another male who has a hardon. With this kind of
thing floating around, any modern homo “outlaw sex” subculture is going to seem
a little forced, artificial and…retro. The “nasty sex pigs” and “BDSM bears”
and so forth are really just guys who like to have kinky sex, and the idea of
it being forbidden is just another turn-on, some Sadean headspace that depends
on endlessly escalating transgression and ever more novel forms of fetishism
I wonder if making every masturbatory fantasy a reality is really the best
use of a man’s time. But I really don’t have any problem with people getting
their rocks off in funky ways as long as they’re not being pretentious about it
and posing as if inventive fucking is some sort of meaningful rebellion.
To answer your question, though, since an element of danger always adds
interest and excitement to sex—homo or hetero—I think it will always figure
into pornography in some way. And moving forward, that’s probably where it
In your essay, "Agreements Between Men" (which appends the main
text of Androphilia), you articulate your reasons for opposing of same-sex
marriage. Now that the defeat of Proposition 8 has blown into a full-scale
media spectacle, I wonder if you have been inclined to revise your position? I
know this is an area where you explicitly allow that there may be good faith
disagreement among androphiles.
Am I inclined to revise my position? Hardly. The tantrums, hissy fits and
hysterics that followed the passing of Prop 8 in California have very publicly
validated Androphilia’s criticisms of the gay community and of gay
My opposition to same-sex marriage issue has two main layers: the
political/legal and the aesthetic/cultural. While I suspect that many
androphiles may disagree with me when it comes to the political and legal
issues surrounding the same-sex marriage debate, I hope that they’ll put those
differences aside when they think about marriage in cultural and aesthetic
terms, because I think I have some interesting ideas to offer that could inform
or inspire the way they conceptualize and sanctify their own relationships—even
if they ultimately choose “marriage” as a legal solution for financial or other
I do think society as a whole has an interest in encouraging cohesive
reproductive nuclear families founded by one man and one woman, and I think it
is absolutely fine to reserve a specific institution specifically for that
purpose. I don’t see it as an “equality” issue, because I believe that men and
women are different, and that comparing a male/male relationship to a
male/female relationship is like comparing apples with oranges.
That said, I suspect that same-sex marriage will eventually become a reality
in all of the United States. Gay advocates have legal momentum on their side
and public opinion is inching in that direction. Any national prohibition on
same-sex marriage will be dead in the water for the next few years given the
current political climate. When same-sex marriage happens on a broad scale, all
intermediary solutions will be voided, and anyone who receives Domestic Partner
or Civil Union benefits will ultimately be forced to marry or see their unions
dissolved or rendered inconsequential. So, I believe I will lose this argument,
but I’m not going to change my position to be fashionable. That would be
kind of gay.
What really interests me is the idea of a union between two men as
intellectual and aesthetic territory that remains under-explored and virtually
undeveloped. I’m an androphile. I appreciate the different character of MEN and
the different experience of manhood. I think there’s something different about
the way two men relate to one another privately and publicly. The nature of
manhood demands a different sort of balance, a different approach to problem
solving and negotiating issues of personal autonomy, and a different conceptual
aesthetic. Whether the legal solution of marriage seems practical or not, the
social and cultural institution of marriage—an institution with literally thousands
of years world of baggage—is an awkward fit, to say the least. We have
thousands of years of poetry and history and art and theater that conceptualize
marriage as a romantic mating dance between a man and a woman. Aesthetically
speaking, even the most modern marriages tend to be elaborate presentations of
the “virginal” bride. For two men it just isn’t the right thing.
This is actually the subject of the follow up to Androphilia, which
is almost finished. For the past two years I’ve been working with a co-writer,
Nathan F. Miller, who has done some really in-depth research on the concept of
blood-brotherhood. It’s a rite familiar to most people even today, but it has a
rich history and has been practiced by cultures on virtually every continent in
some way or other for thousands of years. It’s also a practice that is, with
very few exceptions, specific to males. The idea of the book is to take this
masculine style of solemnizing a bond between friends and apply it to bonds
between androphiles. We’re designing Blood-Brotherhood as a “toolbox for
the imagination” that androphiles can pull ideas from as they conceptualize
their own relationships and ritualize their bonds. My compadre and I actually
performed our own adaptation of a blood-brotherhood ritual to celebrate our 10th
year together. The documentation of that rite is the subject of the book’s
final chapter—it moves the idea out of the realm of theory and demonstrates one
way that blood-brotherhood can be put into practice within the context of a
homosexual relationship between men.
You open Androphilia by stating that you never wanted to become a
"professional homosexual." In that spirit, it's worth noting that
prior to your foray into cultural criticism, you were an accomplished artist.
Do you still paint?
Well, a few of my velvet paintings were actually recently featured on the
“Fangtasia” set of HBO’s True Blood series, but I’ve moved on as an artist.
I’m currently refining my technique by painting realistic portraits of men in
oils, with the aim of eventually producing some large, surrealistic paintings
based on Yukio Mishima’s suicide. As far as painting is concerned, I’ll
be dropping the “Malebranche” pseudonym, which I’ve outgrown for the most part,
and I’ll be using Jack Donovan, which is my “real life” name.
I have to ask: what did you think of Brokeback Mountain?
This may be difficult to believe, but I really haven’t seen it. A lot of
people who were inspired by Androphilia also found it very inspiring. I
own a copy, because I’ve been told by so many people I ought to see it, but I
can’t bring myself to watch it. The film came out while I was writing Androphilia
and the way that the gay community latched onto it and fagged it up—I believe
that was a year full of gay men parading down the street in pink sequined
cowboy outfits—was so typical. It became a punchline before anyone even saw it.
I was also kind of put off by this mainstream “gay cowboy movie” based on a
heterosexual woman’s fantasy about what it must be like to be a closeted
homosexual cowboy in love, directed by a foreigner and starring two
heterosexual men. Some of my readers have also pointed out to me that it is
really just another tragic, tortured “love that dare not speak its name”
parable. But again, I really don’t know. At this point it has become sort of a
curmudgeon’s badge of honor for me to be able to honestly say that I haven’t
seen it, so I suspect it will continue to collect dust in my DVD collection.
8 thoughts on “The First Rule of Androphilia: An Interview with Jack Malebranche”
I would love to see a conversation between JM and Peter Sotos.
Not that I necessarily disagree, but why do men have a duty to protect women? Is it because we are so cute and paedomorphic?
JM’s point about feminism is extremely important. Feminism takes the denial of evolutionary biology to such an extreme that we end up with “knowledge” like “rape isn’t about sex.”
JM’s position is nuanced. Simplifying a little, I might accuse JM of doing the opposite of what the feminists do: of *romanticizing* evolutionary biology and especially sexual dimorphism.
Evolutionary biology is not looking out for our happiness. Sexual dimorphism is a consequence of the particular mating strategy of our ancestors. Is it really so wonderful? JM’s conception of masculinity actually sounds great. But looking at the evo-bio and traditional social sources of value, femininity is kind of a crap deal. Men are held to standards of honor, courage, valor – and women are judged based on sexual chastity and perhaps aptitude at lactating.
(Of course, I think that’s fine for some people – some people are really into sexual chastity and lactation.)
I like that JM points out that marriage is traditionally about female virginity – a contract for breeding capacity between a woman’s male relatives and her husband. It’s strange between two men, absolutely. But does it make any more sense for lesbians or modern heteros?
Here’s my problem with marriage: It’s apparently slightly better for raising children (at least if you’re white – http://www.unews.utah.edu/p/?r=080306-2). But marriages don’t last unless they’re enforced by a miserably coercive society (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/19/asia/divorce.php). And change in marital status is associated with even worse outcomes than stable single parenthood (http://sswr.confex.com/sswr/2005/techprogram/P2259.HTM). And of course stepfathers are horrifically dangerous (http://psych.mcmaster.ca/dalywilson/Cinderella_Effect.pdf).
So the choice for a society seems to be between (a) being extremely coercive and promoting marriage at the expense of personal liberty (especially for women) – think of the children – or, if it’s not willing to do that, (b) trying to figure out some other way of managing humans’ biological drives.
Well Sister, if you accept the premise that the strong have an obligation to protect the weak, then I think it’s clear why men would have a duty to protect women, since men are generally stronger than women. If you don’t accept this premise, then I guess all bets are off.
I take your point that women and girls are traditionally more praised for chastity than men are, but I think it would be a mistake to reduce the tradition’s view of female virtue as a mere virginity/motherhood cult of some kind. Think of St. Joan of Arc, St. Theresa of Avila, and soon to be St. Teresa of Calcutta. Yes, they were all chaste, but I hardly think they were praised and continue to be praised merely because they took and kept their oaths of chastity.
Andy, I think there has to be more information contained in “men have a duty to protect women” than just the average strength difference. Épée fencers are, on average, stronger and larger in stature than foil fencers, but it seems weird to generalize to “épée fencers have a duty to protect foil fencers.”
Dimorphism doesn’t begin to explain it. The male protective impulse toward women (and girls) is EP 101, amplified through a complex skein of culture and tradition and myth.
Here is Steve Sailer in 2003 on the public reaction to the Jessica Lynch story (itself a germinal mythic narrative):
“From a traditional perspective — supported in recent years by the new science of evolutionary psychology — it makes sense for many men to risk their lives to try to free a beautiful young woman. Humans evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in small bands. Fertile females were the critical resource. Even if all the males in the band but one died, he could still face up to his tribal duty and impregnate all the women in the band.
But if too many younger females were killed or stolen by an enemy group, the band’s survival was in doubt. As University of Florida zoologist Laura A. Higgins wrote in 1988, ‘Because fewer of them are needed to produce and maintain offspring, from a population maintenance perspective, males are more expendable than females.'”
Females’ childlike appearance is significant inasmuch as it is a signal for fertility. Males don’t go to lengths to protect all women equally. They are more readily summoned to action when the victim is young, attractive, and phenotypically similar. This fits neatly with a basic indie-adaptive theory that seeks to optimize reproductive fitness by ensuring sexual access to fertile females, and it fits with a more expansive altruistic imperative that arises through adaptive kin-selection.
Disparate cultural responses tell the same story. The public imagination isn’t stirred over just any threat to just any female. Once you get specific, the romance of valor is degraded to a brutish genetically-driven strategy. Just look at the stories that preoccupy Nancy Grace for high ratings, and the ones that don’t make the cut. A missing slender young white beauty from the suburbs equals ratings. But a missing black girl from an urban enclave somehow doesn’t tweak the same emotional response. Everyone remembers the Jessie Lynch farce, but somehow the viewing public didn’t seem overmuch concerned when Shoshana Johnson’s terrified face was shown on the evening news. No phony-baloney rescue mission was launched to save her black ass. Chivalry isn’t dead, but it is finicky.
The male urge to protect women is further complicated — and nursed — by an opposing tension that is revealed through the naked lens of pornography. Men glorify the protection of the fairer sex in part because at some not so primal level, they want unfettered sexual access to their flesh. The boundaries and myths fostered through culture and civilization seek to sublimate and channel the rapist’s urge into something removed and sanitized and structurally adaptive. It’s like cheering for the home team instead of invading Canada.
Chip, I don’t think evolutionary strategies explain everything. I mean that both in a general sense, and with regard to this particular issue. Yes, beautiful, elegant Elizabeth Smart generated more interest that some nappy-headed skank from the ‘hood would have. But… it’s also true that most people would look down on a group of thugs roughing up an old lady than they would in a similar case where they picked on someone less frail and vulnerable. I think most of us are aware of a moral code whereby it’s especially unsporting to pick on someone smaller and weaker than yourself. Where this moral code comes from is up for debate, of course, and such debates can be tedious and are generally not worth engaging in (I judge from experience). But I think it’s fair to say that protective behavior doesn’t necessarily stem from an impulse to want to propagate our species.
I enjoyed this interview very much, and I’m planning to check out Jack’s website. However, the fact that people can’t communicate without resorting to “that said” or “moving forward” is very upsetting to me. I can’t take anyone seriously once they have offended my delicate sensibility in this manner!
I take your point that women and girls are traditionally more praised for chastity than men are, but I think it would be a mistake to reduce the tradition’s view of female virtue as a mere virginity/motherhood cult of some kind.
In the world the most eternal happiness is ordinary, in the life most long-time has is to cherish. Cherish the love between, cherish life, cherish your health. Cherish the dribs and joy, cherish the colorful world. Cherish your network meet!