Words

The "Gay Porn With a Different Ending" Comment, and the Problem With Homophobia in MMA

Fightland Blog

By Sarah Kurchak

In a bizarre pre-vote debate that could have come straight from the mind of Armando Iannucci, the New York State Assembly’s historical 113-25 vote to lift their near-twenty year ban on the mixed martial arts, one particular comment stood out amongst the rest:

In a joking aside, openly gay NY assembly member (and brother of talk show host and ardent MMA fan Rosie) Daniel O’Donnell discussed his early research into the sport. “Well, I should really like it,” he quipped. “You had two nearly naked hot men rolling around on top of one another trying to dominate each other and just in case you don’t know, that’s gay porn with a different ending.”

The comment earned laughs from the live audience, but drew ire from the MMA community, who quickly jumped on O’Donnell’s assessment for both its classlessness and its inaccuracy.

As a bisexual woman who appreciates both MMA and gay porn, I can appreciate the frustration caused by this unfortunate joke. With the exception of the Naked Kombat oeuvre, these two sources of entertainment have so little to do with each other that the Venn diagram of MMA and gay porn is actually two separate circles who leave an empty seat in between each other when they go to the movies together and make awkward and awful “no homo” jokes about their friendship. Whether its the smell, the intense focus on what’s actually happening when you’re engaged with an opponent, the omnipresent threat of staph infections, or all the above, there are actually few things less sexy than grappling in any of its competitive forms. In fact, the erotic properties, homo or otherwise, of MMA are so low that there’s not even any slash on the subject beyond a few stories about One Direction. And the innovative and imaginative writers of fanfic have an impressive ability to find homoerotic subtext in almost anything. There is slash about good looking puppets from a 1960s children’s show and there’s no UFC slash. There is some gay and lesbian cage fighting porn out there (which you can search for yourself if you’re interested, but be warned that the performers are not black belts in any of the techniques they demonstrate), because Rule 34 of the internet can’t entirely be denied, but that’s not really what O’Donnell or anyone else who makes the MMgay joke is really talking about, is it?

But I’m increasingly becoming just as exhausted by the response from fight fans, writers, and practitioners as I am with the initial joke itself. Granted, “I wish to point out that grappling disciplines aren’t gay while also expressing my place within or allyship with the LGBT community” is not the smoothest point to make under any circumstances. Take, for example, the very words I’m writing right now, or this well-meaning clunker from amateur wrestling vet and advocate Billy Baldwin when he was asked about the possibility of openly gay competitors in his sport:

“I can only speak for myself, when I wrestled in high school and college, I probably did compete against several who were gay, just based on the percentages. I admire and respect not only the guts it took someone like Jason Collins in the way he did, getting support from Martina (Navratilova) and Kobe (Bryant). There’s been a major shift in the LGBT community.  As for wrestlers’ acceptance… I would have no problem with it. In fact it would probably be a real change in attitude if it happened. I always heard from those ignorant people who thought, why would you want to compete in a sport with all those hairy, sweaty guys. It’s a ‘gay’ sport. Well, I’d like to show you how ‘gay’ it is. Let me take you to that patch of grass over there and I’ll be your flight instructor.”

Still, we can do better than some of the molestation jokes and sub-Seinfeld not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that-type quips that have been going around in the aftermath of O’Donnell’s observations.

The former isn’t acceptable under any circumstances and the latter has long since reached its expiry date. “The Outing,” the episode of Seinfeld that launched grappling’s favorite go-to sentiment for discussing the over-hyped possibility of the homoeroticism involved in engaging in close quarter combat, came out in 1993. For context, this means that the line and the attitude that came with it are actually older than the NY state ban that was just shut down. Perhaps it’s time to do away with the jokes and the “no romo” and “It’s only gay if you make eye contact” memes, too. Wrapping an ostensibly tolerant stance in your own potential anxiety about sexuality and adding a winking joke on the end is no longer progressive or particularly helpful, and a does a disservice to a sport populated and enjoyed by as many smart and decent people as mixed martial arts can be.

If you’re wondering what to say instead the next time the old “MMA is so gay!” chestnut resurfaces—and we all know it will—new women’s bantamweight champ Miesha Tate recently offered a great perspective in the similarly thoughtful Fox News piece “Is the UFC ready for an openly gay male fighter?”

When asked about the sexual potential of fighting, Tate said “If you’re not comfortable with who you are and yourself, that kind of close contact, it doesn’t make any sense to me. Someone’s sexual preference has nothing to do with it anyway... If you’re busy thinking about that when you’re fighting somebody, your mind frame is in the wrong place anyway.”

 

Check out these related stories:

Velvet Gloves Is New York City's First and Only Boxing Club for Gay Men

Fightland Meets: Liz Carmouche

Fallon Fox, MMA's First Openly Transgender Fighter, Is a Super Hero

 

Comments