Under the Big Top

Towleroad’s plug for the PBS series “Circus” caught my eye last week. Well, okay, it was the photo of the hottie twin jugglers appearing in the PBS series that caught my eye. It instantly inspired me to Google them, which took me to their website. Like any reasonable gay man on the hunt, I immediately went to the galleries, where there were dozens of pics of the handsome, hard circus hunks.

Going back for a return visit yesterday, I discovered that the boys’ website is now “suspended.” I’m guessing that a horde of lustful gay boys like me swamped their server. Thus is the price of fame… and being identically gorgeous, young, blond, tightly muscled, scantily clad pretty boys.

Who among us hasn’t had a fantasy starring acrobatic, abercrombie-esque blond sexpots? Ever since the Brewer twins, many of us have been haunted with the perplexing, multiple-taboo-confronting fantasies of twins that like to strip down, show off their bodies, and look amorously at one another. While Jake and Marty LaSalle don’t actually fill this bill (no real amorous looks that I can find), they don’t seem to have any problem posing shirtless, arms around each other, and if they’re smart (and they appear to be), I bet that they know they’re marketability as performers can’t help but be enhanced by the homoerotic subtext that I’m reading into their story (to be clear, it’s not there… I’m reading it into their story).

On the tragic  news that Jake is breaking up the act to go to medical school (that selfish bastard), I’m reminded of the very first, full-on, gay fiction I ever read. It was also a circus story, penned by Marion Zimmer Bradley, entitled The Catch Trap. I haven’t read it for over a decade now, but as I remember it, The Catch Trap explored the growing romantic relationship between two young trapeze artists in the 1940s, helpfully rendered on the cover as gorgeous, muscled hunks with bulging pecs, wearing skin-tight leotards.

The juxtaposition of the real-life prettyboy circus performers, the LaSalle brothers, and the fictional homoerotic romantic romp of The Catch Trap, makes me ponder the role of performance and imagination in homoeroticism in general. Heirs of centuries of suppressed and repressed “real” stories of men who love men, many of us are still left with only our imaginations to fill in the blanks of how our kind lived and loved throughout history. The performance of hardbody, hunky, circus straight boys today and the entirely fictional creation of hardbody, hunky, circus gay boys fifty years ago both appeal to the same eroticized imagination, I think. I’ve often been dismissive of stereotypes of the “creative gay man,” destined to be an interior designer or a tortured artist (or both), but perhaps there is something not-quite-hard-wired about many gay men, engineered upon this foundation of suppressed lives and loves. We read between the lines, read into otherwise unrelated text, and imagine out of thin air our homoerotic motifs because we don’t have the benefit, even today, of seeing romance and sex and normative relationships of ourselves in 99.99% of films, television, books, poems, etc., etc. Perhaps the muscles of our creative imaginations are, indeed, more defined, toned, and sturdily built than others, because that’s the way we’ve had to cope with rejection of all things homoerotic in mainstream culture.

In any case, I’m finding myself lusting for some big-top boys in tights these days.

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