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Edge of Seventeen: Juvenile Agony and Youth Fantasies in New Queer Adolescence Films
Unformatted Document Text:  The absence of any explicit visualization of same-sex intercourse in Beautiful Thing corresponds to the (mis)representation of (gay) men’s sexuality in mainstream cinema. According to the logic of (hetero)sexual difference, in which masculinity and femininity are bound to an active/passive division, to be penetrated is to be placed in the despised position of femininity and, thus, to lose one’s claim to manhood. According to Brett Farmer (2000), this is why anal penetration features so prominently in the patriarchal imaginary as the ultimate humiliation of the phallic male subject (pp. 205-6). Further, Susan Bordo argues that even straight male actors are rarely shown – on their faces, in their utterances, and not merely in the movements of their bodies – having orgasms. In sex scenes, the moanings and writhings of the female partner have become the conventional cinematic code for heterosexual ecstasy and climax. Bordo notes that the male’s participation is largely represented by caressing hands, undulating buttocks, and – on the rare occasions – a facial expression of intense concentration. “Mostly, men’s bodies are presented like action-hero toys – wind them up and watch them perform” (Bordo 1999, p. 191). The absence of all-male passionate intercourse is also conspicuous in Get Real, another British queer adolescence film. When Steven comes home after a party, he takes off his shirt and suddenly sees John standing in his room, holding a (symbolic?) half-full bottle. John asks if he can use the toilet and then kisses Steven on the lips, telling him about an erotic, albeit unfulfilled, encounter he had had with another boy of his age during a school trip. John then cries out “What’s wrong with me?” and Steven comforts him. Interestingly, it is John, the athletic ultra-male, who bursts into tears and challenges hetero-normative formations of masculine conduct. “I’m so scared,” he admits, “Don’t leave me.” Following this intimate confession, they kiss passionately to the soundtrack of a romantic melody. Their first sexual encounter is not shown. Next morning, John awakes naked in Steven’s bed (his muscular buttocks fully exposed), while infatuated Steven is making him breakfast. In contrast to Beautiful Thing and Get Real, the first-sex scene in The Edge of Seventeen is much more explicit and extremely erotic, although it does not include any frontal nudity. First, Rod, the college student unbuttons and removes young Eric’s shirt caressing his smooth, skinny chest. Then Eric removes Rod’s shirt to expose a muscular, tanned and hairy chest. This physical and erotic disequilibrium between the same-sex partners reflects the fact that gay men as men live dually within the systems of meaning of the dominant order

Authors: Padva, Gilad.
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The absence of any explicit visualization of same-sex intercourse in Beautiful Thing
corresponds to the (mis)representation of (gay) men’s sexuality in mainstream
cinema. According to the logic of (hetero)sexual difference, in which masculinity and
femininity are bound to an active/passive division, to be penetrated is to be placed in
the despised position of femininity and, thus, to lose one’s claim to manhood.
According to Brett Farmer (2000), this is why anal penetration features so
prominently in the patriarchal imaginary as the ultimate humiliation of the phallic
male subject (pp. 205-6). Further, Susan Bordo argues that even straight male actors
are rarely shown – on their faces, in their utterances, and not merely in the movements
of their bodies – having orgasms. In sex scenes, the moanings and writhings of the
female partner have become the conventional cinematic code for heterosexual ecstasy
and climax. Bordo notes that the male’s participation is largely represented by
caressing hands, undulating buttocks, and – on the rare occasions – a facial expression
of intense concentration. “Mostly, men’s bodies are presented like action-hero toys –
wind them up and watch them perform” (Bordo 1999, p. 191).
The absence of all-male passionate intercourse is also conspicuous in Get Real,
another British queer adolescence film. When Steven comes home after a party, he
takes off his shirt and suddenly sees John standing in his room, holding a (symbolic?)
half-full bottle. John asks if he can use the toilet and then kisses Steven on the lips,
telling him about an erotic, albeit unfulfilled, encounter he had had with another boy
of his age during a school trip. John then cries out “What’s wrong with me?” and
Steven comforts him. Interestingly, it is John, the athletic ultra-male, who bursts into
tears and challenges hetero-normative formations of masculine conduct. “I’m so
scared,” he admits, “Don’t leave me.” Following this intimate confession, they kiss
passionately to the soundtrack of a romantic melody. Their first sexual encounter is
not shown. Next morning, John awakes naked in Steven’s bed (his muscular buttocks
fully exposed), while infatuated Steven is making him breakfast. In contrast to
Beautiful Thing and Get Real, the first-sex scene in The Edge of Seventeen is much
more explicit and extremely erotic, although it does not include any frontal nudity.
First, Rod, the college student unbuttons and removes young Eric’s shirt caressing his
smooth, skinny chest. Then Eric removes Rod’s shirt to expose a muscular, tanned
and hairy chest.
This physical and erotic disequilibrium between the same-sex partners reflects the fact
that gay men as men live dually within the systems of meaning of the dominant order


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