Zoe Zhang/MiC

Suck my dick,” among its many vulgar variations, remains a hallmark of the various mundane and profane phrases heterosexual men utter to each other every day. Maybe it’s the immense and intense visceral sensationalism, the colorful imaginative elicitation, a temporal subconscious sexual re-orientation or perhaps just a joke, but there appears to be an ongoing tendency among straight men everywhere to ironically express erotic sentiments toward each other. What might seem to be a banal social phenomenon in actuality places us in an expansive linguistic liminality, especially when we consider the broader implications these suggestive sayings hold in relation to homo-sociality, masculinity and manhood as a whole. 

To philosophy scholar Jeff Casey, “Queerness is a specter that haunts straight male relations.” He maintains that straight masculinity contains within it a colossal amount of internal contradictions. The rigid chains of heteronormativity, the paradoxes of the patriarchal system and the corruptive nature of capitalist ideology all serve as a testament to the fervent and phallic testosterone-fueled psyche of the modern (heterosexual) man. The creation of class society (a male invention) has structured our current social existence to be rife with unfettered individualism, competition and vice, thus antagonizing any authentic intimacy among men. 

It is ironic that the subtext of many straight male bonding activities is exquisitely erotic. Jungian psychotherapist Thomas Moore ascribes our bodies as imaginative, mythical and mythological erotic landscapes. Our penchant for literalism hinders us from seeing the inherent homo-sociality in the male-dominated endeavors of contact sports, video gaming, working out, pre-going out rituals and nightlife, Greek Life, the military and gang activities. As Black womanist Audre Lorde describes, the erotic can be viewed as “providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person.” When considering the notions of Moore and Lorde in tandem, it becomes clear that much of male homo-sociality is simultaneously homo-erotic (not to be infused/confused with homo-sexual). Eros, according to French writer Georges Bataille, always entails a certain transgression. Sports and video games simulate (physically or virtually) a breaking of societal norms and behaviors through their systemic brutality. We inter-act in ways in which we normally wouldn’t. Act is the key word here. The performance of masculinity that many straight men act out is characterized by what sociology scholar David Grazian describes as “relentless competitive spirit, distant emotional detachment, an insatiable heterosexual desire, all commonly displayed by the sexual objectification of women.”

Grazian likens the male affairs of nightlife as a homo-social “girl-hunting” ritual rife with rivalry. He makes the claim that pre-gaming — which often occurs along gendered lines — involves an indulgence in drinking, drugs and party music, which maintains and fast lanes confidence and courage for the night ahead. In the animalistic world of mating and dating, Graizan proclaims that males’ peers remain the “intended audience” for their performance. With their sexual encounters as events of the ego, paradoxically, many men objectify women, not just for ephemeral pleasure, but in order to gain high standing and status, high ranking and reputation among each other. And the post-gaming cool-down, run-down and discourses of the night between male friends only furthers this phenomenon.

As feminist theorist Marilyn Fryre explains in “The Politics of Reality,” “All or almost all of that which pertains to love, most straight men reserve exclusively for other men. The people … whose respect, admiration, recognition, reverence and love they desire … those are overwhelmingly other men … From women they want devotion, service and sex.” The favorite actors and musicians, athletes and politicians of straight men remain majority male. Y’all saw their Spotify Wrapped reveals. Ironically, straight men seek approval from other (straight) men above all else while often avoiding actual intimacy. 

Casey claims that “Paradoxically, the embodied desire for heteronormativity depends upon homosocial relations that in turn often manifest homoerotic and even homosexual desires and behaviors.” In other words, in constructing a society of male supremacy built on rigid gender binaries and hegemonic masculinity, heterosexual men have indirectly subjugated themselves into segregated same-sex spaces, all of which hold ambiguously erotic orientations. This is not to suggest that straight men are repressed homosexuals, but quite the contrary. Such spaces simultaneously create what gender scholars Nils Hammarén and Thomas Johansson refer to as a “straight panic in which individuals experience anxiety about how others perceive their sexuality, and thus, feel a need to confirm their heterosexuality.” 

Inevitably, heterosexuality requires homophobia. Psychology scholar Gregory Herek asserts that hegemonic masculinity is in part determined by “what it is not — that is, not feminine and not homosexual.” It is not enough to not be gay, but one must be anti-gay as a means of maintaining and reaffirming one’s status as heterosexual. Likewise, sexuality scholar Jay Clarkson claims that “even the most masculine gay man’s homosexuality denies him the ability to truly achieve the power inherent in hegemonic masculinity no matter how masculine the gender performance because he will always be marginalized simply because he is not heterosexual.”  

While growing up, I presented more feminine and flamboyantly than I do today. I was thus incessantly mocked and made fun of, mostly by other males, for how I dressed and spoke, for my mannerisms and mere existence in the world. I was threatened by those I thought I was close to — called a faggot to my face and behind my back by boys I thought were my friends. Even today, as I stand comfortably in my own queerness and bi-sexuality, many of my relationships with straight men have felt oppressive, rife with unequal power dynamics and treatment. My sexuality is rarely seen as legitimate to theirs. The comfortability, desires and preferences of straight men, without fail, prevail over anyone else. Embracing my bi-sexuality has become complicated by our society’s dualistic tendencies to see everything within the binary of male/female, masculine/feminine or gay/straight. The hyper-masculinization and hyper-sexualization of Black men as well as the vast array of anti-queer sentiments within the Black community have ultimately convoluted my ability to be physically, emotionally or spiritually intimate with anyone. Yet as queer liberation theologist Marcella Althaus Reid posits, bi-sexuality is not limited to a physical sexual practice but a mode of thinking that transgresses the constrictive boundaries of being. At the end of eternity, our souls have no sex. Sadly, many straight and gay men and women persistently perpetuate bi-phobia, abnegating the multi-faceted essence of our existence. Nonetheless, it is clear that queer men as a whole will never hold as much worth in society as their straight counterparts.

Along these same lines, the irony of straight male ironic eroticism is evident in how simultaneously aligned yet antithetical it is to actuality. Conversational irony is an “intentionally inconsistent” verbalization, which is often associated with aggressiveness, a common characteristic of hegemonic masculinity. In conversational irony, there is often an opposition between what is said and what is meant. Yet as linguistic scholars Rachel Giora and Ofer Fein explain, irony does not entail an elimination of what has been said yet “communicates the difference between the dictum and the implicatum.” So when straight men say “suck my dick” to other men, it might mean metaphorically to merely “shut up” or may suggest some other negative evaluative expression. Nevertheless, we can also understand what is literally being said as an exemplification of hidden values: receiving (oral) is traditionally associated with masculine sexual dominance, while giving is seen as passive submission. Note, keeping with the patriarchal positioning and the corrosion of capitalist ideology, giving and receiving become imbued with a hierarchical structure in which to give is perceived as lesser. Thus, an ironically erotic demand for one of the same-sex to suck another man’s dick presupposes the act of giving orally and being passive as an inferior state of being. 

Even in queer spaces, topping, which does admittedly correlate with giving nevertheless maintains it’s connection to “manliness” through it’s concurrence with penetration. Despite the venereal vulnerability of bottoming and its bodily byproducts, to bottom in today’s times is to be subjugated to relative femininity, literal passivity and fallacious inferiority as a result of our colonial conditioning. As critical gender and culture scholars Billy-Ray Belcourt, George Dust and Kay Gabriel assert, “In a homonormative semiotics of sex, topping is an enactment of gender; it is a performance of masculinity, which is bound up in the erotic life of whiteness.”

The unnerving notions of neo-liberalism — as observed in our culture’s collective digital mediation of sexuality through the seductive lure of algorithmically antagonistic corporate-owned social media, dating and hook-up apps, as well as the co-optation and de-radicalization of queerness — has manufactured within modern-day queer spaces an all-encompassing superficiality and hyper-sexuality. To Belcourt et al, “Relations between gay men are stuck in the rut of the sexual.”

It makes sense, then, why “suck my dick” and other erotic explicatives issued by heterosexual males are expressed as ironic. The hyper-sexual nature of homo-eroticism pervades all same-sex male interactions. Beyond “suck my dick” men will say phallic phrases like “on his ass” as a metaphor for berating someone. The frequently uttered, “F— you” carries with it an ironically ambiguous, obvious yet often obscured notion of eroticism. In the undertones of what’s uttered is the staggering association of penetration with weakness and fragility. These phrases falsely equate sexual passivity and penetration as an inherently punitive subjugation.

Deconstructing the ironic eroticism of male heterosexuality allows us to see how the social construction of sexuality in our society has played out along rigid patriarchal lines. It also enables us to see the homo-sociality embedded in everyday male culture that is often expressed in such ways that eschew authentic intimacy. Sexuality remains much more complex than our culture is willing to confess. From the physical and literal to the figurative and metaphorical, we should do more to divulge in discourse on our every-day sexuality. In doing so, we can gradually unravel the unruly formations of patriarchal power for good.

MiC Columnist Karis Clark can be reached at kariscl@umich.edu