October 28th, 2006


The homosocial

Let's consider "the homosocial"; the idea that men have a suppressed, de-sexualised homo-orientation which operates in the social realm, making their business, work and leisure relationships particularly intense, and their world of power particularly difficult for women to break into. The homosocial can express itself positively -- in the form of pacts, squash games, beer quaffing and other jock-type male bonding. But it can also express itself negatively as fierce rivalries, sparring and conflict. Even when this happens, though, women are often surprised by the intensity of the hate, which can seem like the flipside of a peculiar form of male-on-male love.

I'm not really sure how the homosocial applies to me; I prefer to spend my time with women. So much so that I undervalue and ignore excellent male artists in favour of their girlfriends. I've mentioned Hikaru Furuhashi quite a few times on Click Opera, for instance, yet passed over her brilliant (ex-)boyfriend, Sean Talley, whose new blog is great.

It reminds me -- I remind me -- of Leos Carax. I loved Carax's films in the 80s, so when my wife Shazna befriended him in Paris (partly in revenge for me spending so much time with Kahimi Karie) I asked whether I could join them for coffee one day. The answer came back: Leos only likes the company of women. Carax was apparently too like me to like me.

Of course, it could be that this avoidance of homosocial bonding is itself an intense form of male-on-male passion. "You're a secret macho," Hisae told me when I explained the concept of the homosocial to her yesterday. "You can't deal with men because they bring out your aggressive, competitive side." It's true; anyone who's read my comments on Neomarxisme knows how intensely savage I can be.

Or how about the strange, fraught tale of my relations with New York indie record store Other Music? Last year, I blogged rather critically about their newsletter. The next time I entered the store, manager Josh Madell confronted me with an angry, betrayed, emotion-filled rant. "I'm on the verge of crying," I wrote at the time. It was all oddly intense, much more than a spot of tension between an artist and a record store.

This year, I didn't dare go into Other Music at all. I just didn't want to mix my record-shopping with the kind of feelings you get visiting an ex-lover with whom you've had a painful break-up. Just as I'd done with, say, John Peel or the NME (to name two of my failed homosocial bondings back in the UK music industry), I pretty much assumed I'd never be stocked by Other Music again, never be mentioned in their newsletter. It was just as well I had an alternative world to flirt with, a world less fraught with paranoid misunderstandings, a world generally better aligned with my own worldview: the art world. Sure, Pitchfork might not be returning my calls, but I had Chrissie Iles and Roberta Smith giving me a big thumbs up from the art world (a career path dominated by women, heterosocial bliss for someone like me)!

So it was with a rush of emotion -- the return of the homosocial repressed, if you will -- that I discovered that Other Music has this month reviewed Ocky Milk. And reviewed it rather kindly.

"I'm actually a bit nervous reviewing the latest Momus release," wrote -- gasp! -- manager Josh Madell, "as I'm all too aware that he frequently critiques his critics in his blog, and he took strong offense to what he (absurdly) viewed as a slight in these pages last time around". Palm frond duly extended, Josh ends with an ever-so-slightly mocking pean: "You're great Momus, a genius and a true star, also handsome and smart and cool as can be…OK?"

Okay, that's acceptable flattery. Now what do we do, keep our clothes on?

See, there's the rub. I'm so used to seeing sex as the ultimate reward for my cultural activity that "success" defined in terms of selling records, making money, gaining the respect of male peers, having the industry behind you, and all the rest of that homosocial stuff seems... well, gay. And if I actually were gay, this homosocial bonding thing would be logical enough -- it would lead to sex. But I'm straight, which is why I want women to run the world. I want making it and making out to be the same thing.