I woke up this morning to find a tweet to kick off this blog:
What an amazing tweet """joke"""? It is presumably intended as a joke, because it has the formal properties of a pun: the delivery, the pace, the staged distancing from the word that suggests one is about to analysis it ("apparently"), the ersatz suggestion of an alternative meaning ("may be").
So, based on this, we'll decide it is a "joke". Now, "low cock" could have a number of easily-found puns: massive cocks that swing low would be my first thought, though I can see why small men have "low cocks". Clearly, a support group for men who have MASSIVE cocks is a much funnier idea than a support group for men who are small and whose cocks are therefore relatively low, but it would require a bit more irony, a bit of a lighter touch.
The issue, however, is whether it is a "gay" joke or a "homophobic" one. One's instinct is that one must defend against the "homophobic" charge, rather than begin from a position of the joke being "gay-friendly" for one simple reason: if you're going to talk about a support group called "low cock" with a pun on height, surely it would be a support group for gay dwarves. Not "small gay men". Gay dwarves. But Aaronovitch refuses to go there; he is being sensitive about how people describe themselves and avoiding pejorative terminology when it comes to stature, but he is willing to make it "gay". This suggests that he has some sense that the comedy may be pejorative, but he's going there anyway. He's going there.
Based on this analysis, we can see that he is being sensitive to the possibility of a pejorative connotation but, when it comes to gays, doesn't care. Fair enough? Now, here's the issue: why is "gay" there at all? Of course, small details make a joke come to life; we accept that. But the question remains. Why is "gay" there? There are at least a number of possible answers insinuated by Aaronovitch: Gay men are defined by their cocks, and so a support group for short men would never be called "low cock" unless those men are gay; or, gay men are interested in cock, and so a support group is really an opportunity to find more of it. In other words, to justify the "sexualization" of the support group as one that might be named "Low Cock" and to justify the "sexualization" of "Cock" itself, he slips in "Gay". Is this homophobic? Suggesting that gay identity is a sexualized one in this casual, probably stereotypical way, with the underlying belief that "man" is not a sexualized identity in this way, is not akin to queer-bashing, but it's a bit feeble, isn't it? Does it matter if Aaronovitch is gay or not? Actually yes: if he is gay, then this reference to gayness may be a _personal_ touch; if he is not, it is a depersonalizing touch.
What do you think?