Monday, 1 October 2012

448: Woody Allen - Lancers

“Lancer – The Hair Conditioner for Men”
0.00 - 0.50

“Everything you always wanted to know about sex* (*but were afraid to ask)”

Written and directed by Woody Allen
Adapted from the book “Everything you always wanted to know about sex* (*but were afraid to ask)” by David Reuben M.D.

Tom Mack as Football Player
Don Chuy as Football Player

Two football players, their authenticity proven by their awkwardness reading their script, share grooming tips. You too need not worry about being concerned about you appearance, as men possessed of such hamfisted masculinity take the curse off . Nothing sissy here. British readers may remember almost identically crappy ads from the ‘70s with Keven Keegan and boxer Henry Cooper. What’s the joke other than these are crappy adds? It’s not until the football players walk into the background and out-of-focus that we get the pay-off which is a rather passionate clinch. Whammo, all the signifiers that have produced all the metrosexuality jokes for the last 15 years.

As to why this gay-themed sketch appears in the film’s “What Are Sex Perverts?” segment, well that derives from Reuben, not Woody Allen (though in his earliest films, he employs a few rather crude gay stereotypes”).

Dr Reuben’s book, “Everything you always wanted to know about sex* (*but were afraid to ask)” was published in 1970, when all mainstream medical authority followed the official definition of homosexuality as a mental disorder. To read any gay memoir of the sixties is to be struck by the fact that almost every gay man (in America, maybe not so much the UK) was in therapy grappling with his socially aberrant urges. If he was lucky his psychiatrist would gently coax his client to accept his homosexuality and live a healthy life. If he was unlucky then his shrink would blithely inform him that he could convert to heterosexuality, and that therefore any gay feelings and activities were a personal failing, with much resultant guilt and self-disgust. This element of Reuben’s book for the masses led to quite a few campaigns by gay groups in various countries to get the book banned (vide Rand Holmes’ 1971 Harold Hedd strip).

At the end of 1973 the board of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted unanimously to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Thus rendering Dr Reuben exemplary strictures outdated. Which seems like the delightful cue for a relevant excerpt from Gore Vidal’s demolition job of Reuben’s book. Ta Da:

New York Review of Books, June 4, 1970

On the subject of homosexuality, Dr. Reuben tries to be a good sport. Yet at heart he is angry with the homosexualist who perversely refuses to enter into it penis-vagina relationship. It would be so easy to straighten him out. If he would only visit "a psychiatrist who knows how to cure homosexuality, he has every chance of becoming a happy, well-adjusted heterosexual." I wonder if Dr. Reuben might be got up on a charge of violating the fair advertising practices act - on the ground that no such psychiatrist exists: It is true that the late Dr. Bergler enjoyed announcing "cures," but since no one knows what a homosexualist is (as opposed to a homosexual act), much less what the psychic life (as opposed to the sex life) of any of his patients was like, his triumphs must be taken on faith.

However, it should be noted that anyone so disturbed by society's condemnation of his' natural sexual instinct that he would want to pervert it in order to conform would, no doubt, be a candidate for some kind of "conversion" at the hands of a highly paid quack. Yet to change a man's homosexual instinct is as difficult (if not impossible) as changing a man's heterosexual instinct, and socially rather less desirable since it can hardly be argued, as it used to be - the clincher, in fact, of the natural lawyers - that if everyone practiced homosexuality the race would die out. The fact of course is that not everyone would, at least exclusively, and the race currently needs no more additions.

As a religious rather than a scientific man, Dr. Reuben believes that there is something wicked (he would say sick) about the homosexual act. Therefore those who say they really enjoy it must be lying. He also believes implicitly a set of old queens' tales that any high school boy in Iowa (if not the Bronx) could probably set him straight on. "Most homosexuals at one time or another in their lives act out some aspect of the female role." Aside from his usual inability to define anything (what is a male role? a female role?), he seems to mean that a man who enjoys relations with his own sex is really half a man, a travesty of woman.

This is not the case. The man involved in a: homosexual act is engaged in a natural male function; he is performing as a man, and so is his partner. That there are men who think of themselves as women is also a fact, as the visitor to any queer bar will have noticed (those Bette Davis types are with us from Third Avenue to Hong Kong), but they are a tiny, minority, not unlike those odd creatures who think of themselves as 100 percent he men on the order of Lyndon Johnson, another small and infinitely more depressing minority, which of course includes the thirty-sixth President.

Dr. Reuben is also horrified by what he thinks to be the promiscuity of all homosexualists. But then "homosexuals thrive on danger," he tells us, and of course their "primary interest is the penis, not the person." As usual no evidence is given. He takes as fact the prejudices of his race-religion-country, and, most important, as I shall point out, class. Reading him on homosexuality, I was reminded of the lurid anti-Semitic propaganda of the thirties: All Jews love money. All Jews are sensualists with a penchant for gentile virgins. All Jews are involved in a conspiracy to take over the financial and cultural life of whatever country they happen to be living in. Happily, Dr. Reuben is relatively innocent of making this last charge. The Homintern theory, however, is a constant obsession of certain journalists and crops up from time to time not only in the popular press but in the pages of otherwise respectable literary journals. Fag-baiting is the last form of minority baiting practiced at every level of American society. Dr. Reuben tends to gloss over the social pressures which condition the life of anyone who prefers, occasionally or exclusively, the company of his own sex. Homosexualists seldom settle down to cozy mature domesticity for an excellent reason: society forbids it. Two government workers living together in Washington, D.C., would very soon find themselves unemployed. They would be spied on, denounced secretly, and dismissed. Only a bachelor entirely above suspicion like J. Edgar Hoover can afford to live openly with another man. In any case, homosexual promiscuity differs from heterosexual only in the atmosphere of fear in which the homosexualist must operate. It is a nice joke if a Louisiana judge is caught in a motel with a call girl. It is a major tragedy if a government official with a family is caught in a men's room.

For someone like Dr. Reuben who believes that there is no' greater sin than avoidance of “heterosex - penis and vagina," two men who do live together must, somehow, be wretched. "'Mercifully for both of them, the life expectancy of their relationship together is brief." Prove? I wrote for the tenth time in the margin. But we are beyond mere empiricism. We are now involved in one of the major superstitions of our place and time and no evidence must be allowed to disturb simple faith.

Dr. Kinsey (dismissed by Dr. Reuben as a mere biologist) did try to find out what is actually going on. Whatever Kinsey's shortcomings as a researcher, he revealed for the first time the way things are. Everyone is potentially bisexual. In actual practice a minority never commits a homosexual act, others experiment with their own sex but settle for heterosexuality, still others swing back and forth to a greater or lesser degree, while another minority never gets around to performing the penis-vagina act. None of this is acceptable to either Dr. Bergler or Dr. Reuben because they know that there is no such thing as bisexuality. Therefore Dr. Kinsey's findings must be discredited. To the rabbinical mind, any man who admits to having enjoyed sexual relations with another man must be, sadly, consigned to the ranks of Sodom. That the same man spends the rest of his sex life in penis-vagina land means nothing because, having enjoyed what he ought not to have enjoyed, his relations with women are simply playacting. Paradoxically, in the interest of making money, the mental therapists are willing to work with any full-time homosexualist who has never had a penis-vagina relationship because deep down they know he does not enjoy men no matter what he says; This is the double standard with a vengeance.

Driving through Wyoming, a Jewish friend of mine picked up a young cow hand and had sex with him. Dr. Reuben will be pleased to note that my friend was, as usual, guilt-ridden; so much so that the boy finally turned to his seducer and with a certain wonder said, "You know, you guys from the East do this because you're sick and we do it because we're horny." My friend has never recovered from this insight into that polymorphic goyisher world best revealed some years ago in Boise, Idaho, where a number of businessmen were discovered frolicking with the local high school boys. Oddly enough (to the innocent), as husbands and fathers, the businessmen were all long-time homesteaders in penis-vagina land. So what were they up to? Bisexuality? No, it does not exist. Evidence dismissed, just as all accounts of other cultures are also unacceptable. Turks, Greeks, Moslems. . . Well, as one critic likes to say, that is another context (disgusting lot is what he means).

[We all know what the reference to J. Edgar Hoover means nowadays. The government official in a men’s room almost certainly refers to the scandal around President Lyndon B. Johnson’s advisor Walter Jenkins who was arrested for cottaging in October 1964.]

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