Homophobia and Gender Ambivalence
Gender performances, drag, and gender mime are not always subversive online. In her book Bodies that Matter, Butler writes:
"it is clear that there are domains in which heterosexuality can concede its lack of originality and naturalness but still hold on to its power. Thus, there are forms of drag that heterosexual culture produces for itself-- we might think of Julie Andrews in Victor, Victoria or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie or Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot where the anxiety of a possible homosexual consequence is both produced and deflected within the narritive trajectory of the films. These are films which produce and contain the homosexual excess of any given drag performance... and though these films are surely important to read as cultural texts in which homophobia and homosexual panic are negotioated, I would be reticent to call them subversive. Indeed, one might argue that such films are functional in providing a ritualistic release for a heterosexual economy that must constantly police its boundaries against the invasion of queernes, and that this displaced production and resolution of homosexual panic actually fortifies the heterosexual regime in its self-perpetuating task." (p. 126)
Drag is not always subversive online. In her essay Coming apart at the Seams, Shannon McRae describes how "more than a few straight men have become female for a while to experiment with other men. Some try in on a dare, perhaps as a characterstically nineties form of macho bravado, simply to see if they can pass, to be better women than women. A familiar rite of passage on LambdaMOO involevs young men inciting other men to write a convincing female description of themselves and then successfully seduce a player who is notorious for boasting of his netsexual prowess with women. For these boys, "passing" is a game, something to be gotten away with." (p. 249) Obviously, these examples of users experiences with passing do little to shatter the masculine-feminine binary, and remain firmly within its confines.
However, other writers observed forums in which the ability to completely manipulate the presentation of ones body and gender lead to some truly remarkable expermimentation with sexuality. McRae goes on to describe other players who pass in cyberspace in order to learn about sex from the point of view of another gender. Some experience different feelings or types of power as they explore traditionally masculine or feminine aspects of themselves that they did not know existed and would normally consider Other to themselves. Others experiment with sexual interactions that would never occur in real life. Some dispose with traditional genders and sexualities entirely, presenting themselves as animals, or fantastic creations.