The queer activity of extreme male bodybuilding: gender dissidence, auto-eroticism and hysteria

Richardson, Niall (2004) The queer activity of extreme male bodybuilding: gender dissidence, auto-eroticism and hysteria. Social Semiotics, 14 (1). pp. 49-65. ISSN 1035-0330

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The paper seeks to expose the incoherencies within the activity of bodybuilding, suggesting that both the bodybuilder's body and the activity of bodybuilding can be regarded as 'queer'. However, the paper will not use 'queer' as a trendy synonym for 'gay' but will focus on queer's potential to describe mismatches of sex, gender and sexuality. 'Queer' draws its subversive potential from being in opposition with 'normal' rather than 'heterosexual'. The paper will argue that the extreme, competition standard, male bodybuilder's body is a gender dissident body which simultaneously affirms masculine and feminine characteristics: muscles and angularity are combined with curvaceousness, hairlessness and made-up skin. A body which offers a haemorrhaging of meaning. The second part of the paper will focus on the activity of training in the gym. It will suggest that the experience of pumping up, which has famously been described as a sexual experience, is a form of dissonant sexuality. The auto-eroticism of pumping up in the gym can even be described in the archaic term of 'onanism'. The paper will conclude by asking why someone would want to push his body to such an extreme degree of freakiness and will suggest that the condition of hysteria may be useful in understanding the obsessive activity. Although hysteria has been culturally connected to the female body, Lacan described hysteria as gender confusion. The hysteric is confused as to his/her gendered subjectivity in relation to the phallic order. The bodybuilder, like the hysteric, seeks a complete rejection of the body, owing to a lack, in his history, of symbolization of the body. Therefore the bodybuilder dreams of an autotelic body and this causes erotogenic zone displacements and the resulting auto-eroticism of extreme, male bodybuilding.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Depositing User: Niall Richardson
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:27
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 09:00
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