‘Straight-ish’

agency, constraints, and the linguistic negotiation of identity and desire in online personal advertisements among men seeking men

Authors

  • Chris VanderStouwe Boise State University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.30939

Keywords:

agency, constraint, identity, desire, msm

Abstract

Despite a robust literature on agency in language, gender, and sexuality research, constraints on agency as seen through multiple layers of identity, conflict, or construct are less clearly discussed. Through an analysis of straightidentified men seeking other men on a popular internet personal advertisement forum, I examine the language that individuals posting in men-seeking-men online personals employ to balance a self-presentation as a straight male while simultaneously seeking same-sex partners. To do so, I build upon current conceptualisations of agency to focus on the linguistic manipulation and negotiation of the constraints to their agentive abilities to construct identities and desires. These discursive negotiations serve to separate one's identity from one's desires in terms of space, time, and agency and create a nuanced understanding of these men's sexuality.

Author Biography

Chris VanderStouwe, Boise State University

Dr Chris VanderStouwe is a lecturer in linguistics and gender studies in the Department of English at Boise State University. His research lies in sociocultural linguistics, especially at the intersections of language with sexuality and identity. His work has included research on safe spaces in university settings and straight-identified men and constructions of gender and sexual identities. His current work includes projects involving queering the digital linguistic landscape and a large, long-term ethnography in a local drag performance community focusing on language and performativity within and among community members.

References

Aguirre-Livingston, P. (2011) Dawn of a new gay. Retrieved 3 June 2013 from www.thegridto.com/city/sexuality/dawn-of-a-new-gay.

Ahearn, L. (2001) Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology 30: 109–37. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.30.1.109

Alderson, D. (2005) ‘Not everyone knows fuck all about Foucault’: Will Self’s Dorian and post-gay culture. Textual Practice 19(3): 309–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502360500196284

Althusser, L. (1972) Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Arnold, L. (2015) The reconceptualization of agency through ambiguity and contradiction: Salvadoran women narrating unauthorized migration. Women’s Studies International Forum 52: 10–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2015.07.004

Baker, P. (2013) Public Discourses of Gay Men. London: Routledge.

Birnholtz, J., Fitzpatrick, C., Handel, M. and Brubaker, J. R. (2014) Identity, identification and identifiability: the language of self-presentation on a location-based mobile dating app. In MobileHCI 2014: Proceedings of the 16th ACM International Conference on Human–Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services 3–12. New York: Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/2628363.2628406

Boellstorff, T. (2011) But do not identify as gay: a proplectic genealogy of the MSM category. Cultural Anthropology 26(2): 287–312. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1360.2011.01100.x

Bogetic, K. (2013) Normal straight gays: Lexical collocations and ideologies of masculinity in personal ads of Serbian gay teenagers. Gender and Language 7(3): 333–67. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v7i3.333

Bonilla-Silva, E. and Forman, T. (2000) ‘I am not a racist but …’ Mapping white college students’ racial ideology in the USA. Discourse and Society 11(1): 50–85. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926500011001003

Bruthiaux, P. (1994) Me Tarzan, you Jane: linguistic simplification in personal ads register. In D. Biber and E. Finegan (eds) Sociolinguistic Perspective on Register 136–54. New York: Oxford University Press.

Coupland, J. (1996) Dating advertisements: discourses of the commodified self. Discourse and Society 7(2): 187–207. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926596007002003

Crystal, D. (2001) Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139164771

Crystal, D. (2011) Internet Linguistics: A Student Guide. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203830901

Davies, B. (1991) The concept of agency: a feminist poststructuralist analysis. Social Analysis 30: 42–53.

Del Teso?Craviotto, M. (2006) Language and sexuality in Spanish and English dating chats. Journal of Sociolinguistics 10(4): 460–80. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9841.2006.00288.x

Del Teso-Craviotto, M. (2008) Gender and sexual identity authentication in language use: the case of chat rooms. Discourse Studies 10(2): 251–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445607087011

Duranti, A. (2004) Agency in language. In A. Duranti (ed.) Companion to Linguistic Anthropology 449–73. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Fitzpatrick, C., Birnholtz, J. and Brubaker, J. R. (2015) Social and personal disclosure in a location-based real time dating app. In 48th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) 1983–1992. Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2015.237

Gaudio, R. (2014) Acting like women, acted upon: gender and agency in Hausa sexual narratives. In L. Zimman, J. L. Davis and J. Raclaw (eds) QueerEexcursions 170–94. New York: Oxford University Press

Gershon, I. (2010a) Breaking up is hard to do: media switching and media ideologies. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 20(2): 389–405. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1395.2010.01076.x

Gershon, I. (2010b) The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Ghaziani, A. (2011) Post-gay collective identity construction. Social Problems 58(1): 99–125. https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2011.58.1.99

Haimson, O. L., Brubaker, J. R. and Hayes, G. R. (2014) DDF Seeks same: sexual health-related language in online personal ads for men who have sex with men. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 1615–24. Toronto: CHI.

Jones, R. (2005) ‘You show me yours, I’ll show you mine’: the negotiation of shifts from textual to visual modes in computer-mediated interaction among gay men. Visual Communication 4(1): 69–92. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357205048938

Jørgensen, K. M. (2015) Doing Intimacy with Grindr. Paper presented at Geomedia, Karlstad, Sweden.

King, B. (2011) Language, sexuality and place: the view from cyberspace. Gender and Language, 5(1). 1-30. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i1.1

Landovitz, R. J., Tseng, C. H., Weissman, M., Haymer, M., Mendenhall, B., Rogers, K., and Shoptaw, S. (2013) Epidemiology, sexual risk behavior, and HIV prevention practices of men who have sex with men using GRINDR in Los Angeles, California. Journal of Urban Health, 90(4), 729-739. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-012-9766-7

Leap, W. (1998) Ed. Public Sex/Gay Space. New York: Columbia University Press.

Leap, W. (2005) Finding the centre: claiming gay space in Cape Town, South Africa. In M. van Zyl and M. Steyn (eds) Performing Queer: Shaping Sexualities 1992–2004 235–66. Cape Town: Kwela Press.

Lester, N. A. and Goggin, M. D. (2005) In living color: politics of desire in heterosexual interracial black/white personal ads. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 2(2): 130–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/14791420500082668

Mackenzie, C. and Stoljar, N. (2000) Relational Autonomy: Feminist Perspectives on Autonomy, Agency, and the Social Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Manalansan, M. (2003) Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822385172

Mills, S. and Jones, L. (2014) Analyzing agency: reader responses to Fifty Shades of Gray. Gender and Language 8(2): 225–44. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i2.225

Mortensen, K. (2010) ‘I’m a decent girl’: refusing sexual invitations in an intimate heterosexual encounter. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual International Gender and Language Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 19 September.

Mortensen, K. (2015a) A bit too skinny for me: women’s homosocial constructions of heterosexual desire in online dating. Gender and Language 9(3): 461–87. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v9i3.17273

Mortensen, K. (2015b) Language and sexuality in an online-mediated world: Interactional workings of desire in heterosexual online dating. PhD thesis, University of Copenhagen.

Ng, E. (2013) A ‘post?gay’ era? Media gaystreaming, homonormativity, and the politics of LGBT integration. Communication, Culture and Critique 6(2): 258–83. https://doi.org/10.1111/cccr.12013

Phillips, R. (2013) ‘Are you clean?’: HIV, illicit drugs, gay male subjectivity. Paper presented at the 20th Annual Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference, American University, Washington, DC, 15–17 February.

Podesva, R. J. (2011) Salience and the social meaning of declarative contours: three case studies of gay professionals. Journal of English Linguistics 39(3): 233–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0075424211405161

Rega, B. (2013) ‘No queens, chocolate, or fried rice’: anti-effeminate and racist discourse among gay men. Paper presented at the 20th Annual Lavender Languages and Linguistics Conference, American University, Washington, DC, 15–17 February.

Rice, E., Holloway, I., Winetrobe, H., Rhoades, H., Barman-Adhikari, A., et al. (2012) Sex risk among young men who have sex with men who use Grindr, a smartphone geosocial networking application. Journal of AIDS and Clinical Research S4: 5. https://doi.org/10.4172/2155-6113.S4-005

Robinson, B. and Vidal-Ortiz, S. (2012) Displacing the dominant ‘down low’ discourse: deviance, Sane-sex desire, and Craigslist.org. Deviant Behavior 34(3): 224–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2012.726174

Shalom, C. (1997) That great supermarket of desire: attributes of the desired other in personal advertisements. In K. Harvey and C. Shalom (eds) Language and Desire: Encoding Sex, Romance and Intimacy 186–203. London: Routledge.

Thorne, A. and Coupland, J. (1998) Articulations of same-sex desire: lesbian and gay male dating advertisements. Journal of Sociolinguistics 2(2): 233–57. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00042

VanderStouwe, C. (2013) Religious victimization as social empowerment in narratives of discrimination from California’s Proposition 8 campaign. Journal of Language and Sexuality 2(2): 235–61. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.2.2.03van

VanderStouwe, C. (2015) Combating privilege, regulating language: the struggle to create and maintain university safe spaces. Journal of Language and Sexuality 4(2): 272–87. https://doi.org/10.1075/jls.4.2.05van

VanderStouwe, C. (2016) ‘Straight-ish’: constrained agency and the linguistic constructions of sexual identities, desires, and practices among men seeking men. Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.

Ward, J. (2008) Dude-sex: white masculinities and ‘authentic’ heterosexuality among dudes who have sex with dudes. Sexualities 11(4): 414–34. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460708091742

Ward, J. (2015) Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men. New York: New York University Press. https://doi.org/10.18574/nyu/9781479860685.001.0001

Zimman, L. (2010) Biology, socialization, and identity: accounting for the voices of female-to-male transsexuals. Retrieved on 28 February 2019 from www.researchgate.net/publication/43648043_Biology_socialization_and_identity_Accounting_for_the_voices_of_female-to-male_transsexuals.

Zimman, L. (2014) Agency and the gendered voice among female-to-male transgender speakers. Paper presented at 8th Meeting of the International Gender and Language Association, Vancouver, Canada, 6 June.

Published

2019-04-08

How to Cite

VanderStouwe, C. (2019). ‘Straight-ish’: agency, constraints, and the linguistic negotiation of identity and desire in online personal advertisements among men seeking men. Gender and Language, 13(1), 122–145. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.30939

Issue

Section

Articles