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A History of Sexuality in Houston, TX, and Saint Paul, MN

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The idea that stories truly have beginnings goes against the postmodern ideology active in the rest of this tale. Beginnings and endings are a tool authors have to swoop in the moment before the action kicks in, and leave shortly after the emotional resolution. Narrative stretches on before and beyond these moments.

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This story could start with a computer. This start recognizes the power of the digital age. This story was written on a computer, and will be read on a computer, so it might as well start with a computer.

Marco is back in Texas waiting for the AHL season to start. He doesn't want to be in Texas, and he doesn't want to be waiting for the AHL season. He wants to be in Minnesota waiting for the NHL season, but like Mick Jagger says, "You can't always get what you want."

Marco is bored and waiting and on the internet. The internet is a marvelous and dangerous place. It exists to spread information and pornography. Sometimes new ways of thinking are the worst type of disease.

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Once upon a time in Houston, Texas, Marco Scandella googled the boy he thought was cute. He knew it wasn't a great thing to do, that he was kind of being a creeper, but he didn't really care. He was bored and the internet was vast and it kind of just happened. It didn't have to mean much.

The thing is that the internet is a vast tangled bramble of information, and last names never belong to just one person, and anyway: Instead of finding terrible draft pictures of Kris he was redirected to the wikipedia page of French philosopher Michel Foucault.

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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher who theorized new ways of thinking of power. He is known for works including The Archeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and the three volume History of Sexuality. Foucault rejected the labels of post-modernism or post-structuralism, but those are the two schools of thought that he is most closely associated, along with Queer Theory, a field which popped into existence in the early nineties, and was highly influenced by his work.

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Kris Foucault is a winger for the Houston Aeros. He was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the fourth round of the 2009 entry draft. So far he's played one game for the Wild and racked up the impressive stat line of 0-0-0, but that's just one game. He's got good size, is a good skater, with good hands. He might go somewhere. Or he might not.

Marco thinks Kris is cute.

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Michel Foucault and Kris Foucault are not related. This should be obvious, but it's worth noting that the two appear to have nothing in common except for a last name.

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The internet cares more about Michel than Kris. This shouldn't come as a surprise. Philosophy is a far more fascinating subject than mediocre hockey players, even mediocre hockey players that the reader is seriously crushing on. Marco agrees.

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Alternatively, this story could start with a person. After all, isn't the point of stories to use literature to explore the human condition?

(That's a terrible, pretentious thing to say. This story is built on the idea that there's nothing wrong with being horribly pretentious, as long as it is self aware pretentiousness.)

This story can start with a person, interacting with other people, and having feelings about these interactions, as humans are prone to do.

If this story starts with a person it doesn't start in Houston, Texas; it starts a few weeks earlier in Saint Paul.

As a rule Marco doesn't notice teammates—he doesn't notice teammates as anything other than teammates or friends. As a rule they can't become bodies worth desiring; muscles, skin, whatever, he isn't noticing.

It isn't a body that trips him up, it's a smile, Kris's stupid smile on Kris's stupid face.

(Marco will admit he has problems with thinking nice things about his crushes. It isn't that he doesn't like them, it's just that he doesn't want to like them. Liking dudes he knows is inconvenient. He doesn't appreciate having feelings.)

He should be better than this. He has practice ignoring all kinds of attractive possibilities. Marco can't even convince himself that Kris is super great. It's just weird.

This year wasn't the first time he met Kris, but it was the first time with all this extra noticing, awkward smiling, strange not-flirting, all buddy-buddy getting along and playing together. It's kind of alright. It doesn't mean anything other than making another friend on the team. He isn't looking for it to mean anything more.

During the scrimmage they're both on Team Red. Saturday is not great hockey. The exhibition all-player shootout ends in a tie and keeps going. Granlund's second shot goes in. Marco's doesn't. Then it's over.

Marco is really into his bed in Saint Paul. It's big, tall enough for his whole body, the ideal bed. He is going to miss this bed in Houston. He sleeps deeply and is thankful for the lack of dreams.

Sunday is a bit better. Marco doesn't have anything to prove, he just wants to play good hockey. Kris gets a goal and an assist. Green still wins. It's been a long week.

After that the coaches have parting words. Then it's time to say good game, nice to see you, nice to meet you, see you in Houston, see you around, etc, etc, to the guys. It's just random happenstance that the last person he talks to on his way out is Kris. They don't say anything exciting, just that it was nice playing together, hoping that happens again, and wouldn't it be cool if that happened in Minnesota not Texas? Yeah, that would be super.

He can wish all he wants. For now he's going to take advantage of the Twin Cities night life while he has the chance.

We'll get back to this adventure, but the POV character has to learn some new vocabulary words first.

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This is a nonlinear narrative. Linear narratives are for squares. This is a story for people.

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This story does have a middle. It would be hard not to have one. The middle of this story has two parts, going out in Minneapolis, and googling shit in Houston. These things happen one after another, but for the purpose of this narrative they're all wrapped up in each other.

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It's November in Houston, and Marco is bored, so bored. The AHL is bursts of back to back games and days that have to get filled with something. In his spare time he's been reading.

He started with the work of Michel Foucault, but quickly discovered that Michel Foucault can be pretty fucking incoherent some of the time. Not all the time, but enough that Marco has to mix in some other authors for variety and his own sanity. Somewhere in the series of hyperlinks away from Michel Foucault he clicked onto the idea of Queer Theory.

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Queer Theory. What can be said about queer theory? It's about the breakdown of stable binaries and the multiplication of categories. Books and books have been written about queer theory. Trying to explain queer theory in the manner it deserves here would be a disservice to the narrative and the subject.

Queer theory is vast and wonderful. Queer theory is a bunch of white gay men who think their problems are the worst problems. Queer theory can fuck you up. Queer theory will take you behind the bar and sucker punch you, then french kiss you before dropping to zir knees for a world class bj. Then Queer Theory stands up and says that none of this matters because it never really happened, it's all just discourse. Queer Theory. Fuck Yeah.

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Queer theory grew from the works of Michel Foucault. It was expanded by writers such as Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, and David Halperin. Queer Theory rocks Marco’s world. Discourse! Power! Docile bodies! Bio-power! The panopticon! Performativity! Drag! He takes it all in, wondering what the hell this stuff, is other than completely crazy and probably awesome?

It was confusing, but it explained so much! He was able to see the way discourses around sex operated in his own life.

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It was a revelation to stop thinking about the sex talk around him as mere conversation, but as discourse drenched with power. The vulgarities of locker room bragging are a discourse to reaffirm heteromasculinity. It's the group's collective power acting to keep individuals in line, making it an imperative to talk about sex the same well everyone else does or else get classified as abnormal, which can never be good for team unity. It is the sports world's discourse on masculinity that makes Marco and his keyword an unspoken impossibility, because hockey players are all tough guys, which means there's no way they're gay, not even a little bit.

Obviously that isn't true, but it's a discursive truth. To disrupt that discourse, to illustrate its falsity, would bring down the wrath of the various powers invested in making that discourse look like reality. And those powers are really fucking scary. Those powers include: Deadspin, and Tim Thomas, and the critics of You Can Play; the teenage fanboys that haven't learned better than saying "that's so gay" when something isn't the way they think it should be; the fact that hockey is an industry that benefits from Republican tax breaks, never mind the conservative social policies that come with it. It's heteromasculine power that drives bloggers to call Crosby "Cindy" and makes the Sedin's lack of offense at being called women strange and European. It's a hell of a lot of power and Marco doesn't want to get in its way.

It's the dominant discourse on heteromasculinity that ruins Houston. If it wasn't for discourse, spending the winter in Houston wouldn't be a terrible thing at all. Sure it had been almost 80 and almost October in Minnesota, but that won't last. No matter how mild it may be, a Minnesota winter is guaranteed to be worse than the same season in Texas.

Houston may stay hot, but it doesn't have the Cities’ reputation for tolerance. In Minnesota there's room for him to slip past cockblocking discourse and get himself laid. It may be the state of hockey, but he's discreet and so far everyone's been Minnesota nice enough to not make it into an issue. Minnesota is starting to feel safe; still unsettled, still uncertain, but it's working.

Texas is Texas, and Houston doesn't have any weird to keep; it's just really Texan. Marco is Canadian (he has a silver medal), and the whole idea of Texas kind of freaks him out. Even though people don’t care that he plays hockey it’s still Texas and he doesn’t know how to make that work. There’s probably a solution, but it might involve more bravery or disregard than he can muster at the moment.

The point being, Texas is great for weather, but bad for sex. When the lockout started it became apparent that he was going to be stuck in Texas till god knows when so Marco knew that he had better take advantage of any chances to hook up that come up.

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Of course he goes out in the Twin Cities.

(We can talk about this now in the language of queer theory, which catches nuances that a heteronormative viewpoint would miss.)

How to frame his night out raises the question about what kind of discourse on sex fits in a narrative like this. Should it be in the mode of confession, documenting every glimpse of flesh that increases his heartbeat or makes his blood rush? This discourse could take the form of a list of impure thoughts. A psychoanalytical discourse may be fitting: How did the locker room form his desires? How has the closet made him want bodies like his own yet different? Can we ask and observe where his eyes fall: on bodies with muscles that could play hockey. And what do his hands reach for? Slender bodies, soft bodies, bodies unlike his own and those of his teammates. And what does that mean? Is this done in denial; with intent; is it an intentional denial? How does that make him feel? It would be a thrill to take part in a sexy discourse on sex, erotic moans and groans, the sound of flesh against flesh. Only that could far too quickly become a discourse on engineering: tab a, slot b, a checklist of acts on the way towards pleasure. And yeah, he's checking those boxes, he's checking those boxes real hard baby don't stop; but hearing the acts rattled off one after another—mouth to mouth, mouth to cock, cock to cock, fingers to mouth, etc., etc.—that could get dull fast.

There has to be a discourse. The absence of words is still a discourse, one constructed of silence. Marco doesn't talk about his sex life much; his locker room stories are mostly made up. Maybe if the hockey thing doesn't work out he'll write het romance novels; he knows a lot of creative phrases to describe how great breasts feel.

For this narrative to hold it's tongue and skimp on the racy details may be doing a disservice, because it's one of the rare spaces where those specifics can be told. To counter the common silences this here discourse should be as explicit as fuck: fucking explicit: explicitly fucking: etc, etc. It was dirty and hot, real hot, all of that.

And it was private. That privacy was important. It would never have happened it it wasn't private, and that would have been a shame. For better or worse this narrative is honoring that privacy, leaving the specifics up to the powers of the imagination. Simply let it be said that it was a real good time.

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He remembers it in Houston when everything seems undoable.

He still doesn't know what to do about Kris.

He doesn't need any more anxiety. He has hockey pressure and vague religiously motivated guilt and queer panic. He doesn't need to add relationship drama to the list, even if it does mean regularly having great sex with someone he really likes. He needs it like a hole in the head. He needs it like a stab wound. He wants it though, but that doesn't mean he'll take it.

Self deprivation is comfortable. He is accustomed to deny his impulses. He knows he can't have everything he wants, fuck, he can't have most things he wants. He has a good life. The rest is secondary. Perfection is an impossibility. He doesn't want perfection. He doesn't know what it would look like if it bit him. (That might have happened before, if perfection was wearing the skin of a slender young man who left teeth marks on his neck and shoulder that were hard to explain, but a pleasure to have.)

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This story doesn't have an ending. Having an ending would be against the spirit of the project. The conflict at the heart of this story cannot be resolved through a concise plot. The conflict isn't interpersonal, it's ideological.

Maybe even philosophical.

If there has to be a villain let it be heteronormativity, even though it's a terrible villain. Heteronormativity can't be punched in the face.

There isn't a hero. Marco refuses the position.

There is a love interest, but Kris doesn't know he's been cast in this role. That doesn't matter. It isn't a love story.

And this isn't an ending.

It's a declaration of not knowing what else there is to say.