Disidentifying Dave’s Gym


Indeed, sports and fitness have frequently been a locus of disidentification for many queers, whose identifications with the imagery of masculinity and femininity offered in sports pointedly recovers an often disavowed homoeroticism latent in much sports activity. Singer Gay Pimp’s “Soccer Practice” plays raucously with gym culture, simultaneously fetishizing and queering jocks, sports, and other markers of traditional masculinity, such as fraternities and the military. The naive jock who serves as the object of Gay Pimp’s advances slowly realizes that Gay Pimp means something quite sexual when he suggests that he wants to do “manly” things with him and get “dirty” together. The video, which circulated widely in the early 2000s, worked rhetorically to bolster gay men’s investment in constructing alternative kinds of masculinities that would emphasize the desire for strength but also mutual affection and sexual pleasure (“nothing wrong with helping a buddy out”). At the same time, the Gay Pimp unabashedlyand much more explicitly than the earlier pulpscalls to the fore the homoeroticism of gyms, sports, frats, and even the military. In the process, he remixes various masculinist cultures to make room for alternative erotic practice.

Such disidentification has become so common in sports and gym culture that it is even parodied in some gym advertisements, such as this one for Dave’s Gym:

Daves  [sic] Gym Advert. YouTube.com

The parody suggests the mobility of rhetorical practices: queers, in the formation of community, might disidentify with a particular kind of masculinist culture, queering its imagery and values through erotic fetishization; but such practices, as soon as they achieve any notable publicity, can be re-routed, with the queering of such images in this case remixed to parody, perhaps even somewhat mock, the queer. Muñoz is right to note that “[d]isidentification negotiates strategies of resistance within the flux of discourse and power” (19). And yet, the queer rhetorical practice has certainly been successful; acknowledging and playing with the homoeroticism of gym environments surely creates, at least to some extent, a potentially more open space, in which multiple trajectories of sexual and intimate desire are valued.

We must point out here that Muñoz aims his intervention in Disidentifications not just at straight cultural practices but at lesbian and gay ones as well, noting that queers of color often both identify and disidentify with white-dominated lesbian and gay cultural and representational practices. Indeed, David Wallace argues recently in Compelled to Write: Alternative Rhetoric in Theory and Practice for a rhetoric of “intersectionality,” which he understands as “critical to work in queer theory, which argues we must get beyond binary notions of identity” (5). The binaries of black/white, ethnic/nonethnic, as well as gay/straight and female/male, must be challenged in ways that understand the structural and systemic construction and positioning of particular subjectivities but that do not essentialize or naturalize them. More pressingly, Muñoz and Wallace insist that we think multiply about subjectivity, that we understand how the experiences of sexuality, race, ethnicity, and gender complicate one another, and how rhetorical practices might have to shift to articulate and intervene in particular representations and debates about sexual experience and identity. For instance, while black dancers appear in Gay Pimp’s “Soccer Practice,” the video predominantly focuses on a very particular white gay male cultural formation: gym culture. This is not to say that only whites (or only men) go to the gym; rather, we acknowledge a particular class privilege amongst gay white men who can afford both the time and money to develop their bodies at membership-driven gyms. Further, the presence of the two black cheerleaders, with one “going down” on the Gay Pimp, suggests relative subordination of race in this video. At best, this video assumes a predominantly white male spectatorship; at worst, it backgrounds race as an issue, graphically casting black presences in subordinate or “serving” roles.

Being attentive to such intersectional analyses will allow us to understand some of the complexities and multiplicities of queer rhetorical practice. In the remainder of this essay, we focus primarily on the queernesses of such practices, even as we call for additional work on how such queernesses intersect multiple identity positions and practices. A focus on queer rhetorical practice, then, seeks to catch those moments in which a self-conscious intervention is made in discourses of normalized, and normalizing, sexuality. Muñoz argues that “…disidentification [is] a hermeneutic, a process of production, and a mode of performance” (25). Agreed. More broadly, we see queer rhetorical practice as engaging production and reproduction of multiple “texts” to perform alternate hermeneutics. Such performance becomes archival when particular thematics or ways of seeing and performing queerly cluster together, creating trajectories of explicit or implicit intertextual reference. The examples drawn from sports and fitness, stretching from the Physique Pictorials to the parody advertisement for Dave’s Gym, form a mini archive of queer rhetorical practice in which we see how particular images are picked up, remixed, recast, and rerouted multiple times to question normalizations and the disciplining of desire around particular desires. Throughout, the queer practices, amongst which disidentification forms one powerful example, remain rhetorical to the extent that they intervene in publicly circulating images and norms to critique and open up alternative pathways for desire and identification.


Soccer Practice-Gay Pimp. YouTube.com