I’ve described two alternative male groups (the gay ones, not the tribal ones though there’s overlap) whom I follow because they are NOT white middle-class male “suits.” I was watching Idris Elba — black, handsome, scary enough to play an African terrorist but smooth enough to play Stringer Bell and to be suggested for a black James Bond, but then I watched a vid on Netflix about his new clothing line (“Superdry”) and gave up. It’s not that he isn’t remarkable and admirable, but he is — regardless of this very high end clothing line — a suit in spite of selling fine hoodies and coats. Today almost any artist, whether actor or writer or painter, must devote time and energy to the “business” of being them. They are really merchants. If they have enough energy left, they create their own merchandize.
James Hillman, a post-Jungian therapist whose work I admire for its clarity and usefulness, had a set of theories about what he called the “puer” and the “senex” which roughly equated to the youngster and the old man. This idea easily slid to father/son and then had a bonfire edge to it when the obsession with pedophilia and age-difference abuse burst out. So I want to make it clear that I’m talking about two separate culturally imagined and produced groups which exist to some degree in reality. The media plays around their edges, but both of the groups demand a certain degree of secrecy for practical reasons, which then necessarily becomes catnip for those who want to find out things, believing it will give them more importance, make them more attractive to others.
“I know something you don’t know” is rather like “my father can beat up your father.”
I should say that there’s no such thing as uniform categories when it comes to people, so every category of males is a spectrum, maybe in a couple of dimensions. In fact, these days persons are able to physically/genitally cross-over from female to male, or to be male, but very close to female, or female/nearly male. It has always been possible to change, elaborate, fake, and mutate the cultural gender assignments. Consider the women who fought in the Civil War as men. Consider today’s female fighter pilots. So every generalization here is provably false. Not science, not even art, maybe play.
One of these groups could be considered examples of the Senex. I’m thinking of the double-veterans of combat war who explored intense physical male/male pair bonds as soldiers and then again barely survived the AIDS plague that “drowned” so many so quickly in spite of every effort to save or at least comfort each other. In terms of “gay” they might be classified as “leather” because of their gear, and then again inside “leather” they might be called “bears.” Easily imitated with tattoos, beards, metal attachments, and motorcycle garb and so on, the real people at the core don’t have to prove anything. They are aging out, but not done yet. (letskickass.org is newest, actupny.org is the classic.)
In terms of Western Culture, they seem exactly what “male” is supposed to mean: gladiators. And yet Geoff Main, who did so much to define tough gay males, was an environmental scientist, a progressive, and yet again a novelist exploring both physiology and terrorism. The contradictions are what make them so fascinating and yet their central “spine” (to use acting terms) is strong and consistent, born of ordeal. They are not just people who lose their temper and body-slam interviewers; nor are they showboats like Jesse Ventura who are able to go political.
The Puer, the boy, whom some consider a sub-category of narcissism or Peter Pan — who refused to grow up — is in the group I’m thinking of who are survivors of stigma, street wars, and families who eat their children. They are always among us. I’ve been watching “Outlander” about the Jacobite Rebellion in historical England Romann Berrux, as “Fergus” plays the puer among the roaring, hairy soldiers, always slipping through, probably with something stolen in his pocket. There is even a scene in which he is sexually attacked, though he escapes just in time.
Inevitably a boy who has nothing, not even pickpocket skill, can end up selling his body, his being itself, either for himself or for a pimp. This means he will need drugs to bear it and this means he will need money for drugs. This means he will be infected with HIV. This is not portrayed in “Outlander,” but many contemporary films address it. None from the point of view of the boys themselves except for Cinematheque, in which the stories and filming are produced by boys climbing out of this world. Hallucinatory, passionate.
They are often pushed back by the remnants of the old sex culture, the same one that insists that all men pretend be a certain way for advertising purposes (metrosexual? daddies? frat boys?) while insisting on a falsehood: that all men are raging with sexual desire that can hardly be contained. (Which contradicts the need for Viagra which is sometimes covered by insurance when contraceptive pills are not.)
The truth is that all men — most humans, both genders, all ages — pursue power and status which is meant to provide security but in fact promotes risk. This old sex culture sees stigma as a way of forcing compliance to the general customs of the day, defining avoidance and punishment as the only way to preserve virtue and preventing any kind of effective safety net by taking a let-them-die attitude. HIV infection? Nature’s way of cleaning up. A viral flood that will remove anyone who does the nasty — OR has a transfusion, or is a medical person dealing with blood, etc., or is born to an infected mother. Nature has no regard for culture — it has to be the other way around: culture adapting to nature.
The culture of “lost boys” is hindered by their often solitary and secretive nature, like leopards rather than lions. But since they live on the predator/prey line — more deadly when enforced geographically by ICE — they have benefited hugely from the Internet. Small pocket devices, social media contexts, connecting across great distances, searching and locating, have made it possible to form groups that can stay informed and alerted. Okay, like guerrillas. They are not Boy Scouts, they are not observant of written law, they live in the interstices of a broken culture.
One way to trap them is clinics that provide HIV care, pills that would set them free, the same as birth control pills, except that their need for them chains them to locations where ICE and other enforcers can find them. Those who want boys to die and women to be pregnant are opposed to funding these clinics or any other compassionate outreach.
This is all wild speculation based on reading, but a bit of rather privileged reading. The boys will separate out whatever is truth, the same as the “iron men” of the HIV survivors, the AIDS activists, will do. So far, I don’t see connections between the two groups. Since they existed historically, they may surface.
In the meantime, I’m going to think about rez Indians for a while. It's North American Indian Days in Browning.