Thesis Title: Masc4Masc: Masculinity, Gay Men, and the Cultures of Online Cruising
This research project explores how gay dating and cruising apps and websites are contributing to the refashioning of gay communities both on and offline, investigating how the former digital platforms interact with the latter offline spaces such as bars, clubs and bathhouses, and the relationship between gay men’s online and offline identities.
Specific attention and focus is given to examining how these apps and websites facilitate, reinforce and even encourage a normative performance of masculinity and how these carefully constructed performances often feed into a culture of effeminophobia, body fascism, and a shift in gay community values towards a less radical outlook – both politically and culturally. The project therefore contributes to the fields of identity and contemporary digital cultures and directly addresses the distinction between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ in relation to masculinity and gay men.
As such, the project is ethnographic in nature and draws from interactions with users of cruising apps and websites, via interviews with informed participants, conducted online as well as in person (where appropriate and feasible). Further visual materials that come in for analysis, particularly in relation to the construction of masculinity, rely largely on gay pornography.
The methodology used by Tim Dean in his book Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking and by David Halperin in How To Be Gay are both sources of inspiration for the way in which I wish to research subcultures and minority sexual communities. The research is also fundamentally informed by queer theory in an attempt to both understand why normative masculinity is so pervasive and to also deconstruct it, with work by Guy Hocquenghem, Leo Bersani, José Esteban Muńoz and Jack J. Halberstam being largely influential for this purpose.