Ned Mayhem’s Giant Clit: Opening Up New Possibilities for Cisgender Masculinity in Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous

Performance and Performativity term paper. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out.

Ned Mayhem’s Giant Clit:

Opening Up New Possibilities for Cisgender Masculinity in

Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous

            Jill Dolan writes that “expressions of sexuality… illustrate the operation of gender codes and constructs” (63) and that “the way people perform their sexuality influences how they wear their gender” (63). I will interrogate Dolan’s assertion through a close reading of Ned Mayhem’s performance in the pornographic film Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous (Fuckstyles). Ned Mayhem “wears” his cisgender[1] masculine gender in a subversive and unexpected way, and this gender performance is supported and influenced by his performance of queer heterosexual sex. The queer context of Fuckstyles, a film that consistently rejects hegemonic performances of sexuality and gender, gives Ned Mayhem the authority to assert an alternative cisgender masculinity by disrupting the compulsory heterosexuality that naturalizes both feminine (Dolan 63) and masculine gender performances. The specific context of Ned Mayhem’s scene with Maggie Mayhem further supports his alternative performance of cisgender masculinity, through the queer heterosexual sex they engage in. Ned Mayhem’s performance of cisgender masculinity presents a possible “remaking of gendered reality along new lines” (Butler Performativity i), and this “remaking” is possible only because of the queer context of the film itself, the queer heterosexuality of the specific scene, and Ned Mayhem’s own performance of alternative cisgender masculinity.

Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous won the 2012 Feminist Porn Award for “Most Deliciously Diverse Cast,” and includes 8 scenes featuring a variety of performers. Although this paper will focus exclusively on the scene between Ned and Maggie Mayhem, and will look specifically at Ned Mayhem’s performance of queer heterosexual sex and masculinity, the context of the film as a whole is relevant to the discussion because, as Terry Lovell notes, “[t]ransformative political agency lies in the interstices of interaction, in collective social movements in formation in specific circumstances” (2). The “specific circumstances” presented by Fuckstyles’ queer framing and explicit rejection of naturalized performances of gender or sex provides support for the queer heterosexuality performed by the Mayhems. The film and each of the performers in it are part of a queer “collective social movement” (Lovell 2).

The “collective social movement” found in Fuckstyles is part of what Lynn Comella refers to as the “alternative sex-vending movement” of sex-positive feminist sex-stores (81). This movement is “committed to changing the cultural conversation about sex and pleasure” (81) and is ideally situated to participate in and support the “remaking of gendered reality along new lines” (Butler Performativity i) that Ned Mayhem undertakes in his performance of alternative cisgender masculinity. Judith Butler writes that “[g]ender norms have everything to do with how and in what way we can appear in public space” (Performativity ii). Since Ned Mayhem’s gender performance is an attempt to open up new gender realities, and he undertakes this work by disrupting expectations of cisgender masculinity, it is critical to recognize that the “public space” into which Fuckstyles is marketed and viewed is not the same public space that mainstream straight pornography inhabits. His endeavours may be more successful in one public space than in others, particularly since the gender norms in each space are different.

However, these disparate public spaces cannot be assumed to be totally separate. As Ingrid Ryberg points out, “[empowerment] is an ongoing and collective process of negotiating the norms that both surround and incorporate us” (141). We are surrounded by the norms of our specific subcultures, but we are also surrounded by the norms of the dominant culture. The collective negotiation that occurs must take into account multiple sets of norms, and subverting the norms of the dominant culture, as Ned Mayhem does, must necessarily include both the support of the subculture and awareness of the gender codes of the dominant culture. Ryberg points out that pornography, even queer, lesbian and/or feminist pornography, can become part of the “sexualized public sphere” (146), and that “any understanding of queer, feminist, and lesbian porn as potentially sexually empowering needs to take into account where, when, and how the experience of it takes places” (146). This echoes Butler, who states that “[w]hen and if subversion or resistance becomes possible, it does so not because I am a sovereign subject, but because a certain historical convergence of norms at the site of my embodied personhood opens up possibilities for action” (Performativity xi-xii). Ned Mayhem’s successful subversion of cisgender masculinity extends the transgressive intent of Fuckstyles “alternative sex-vending movement” (Comella 81) into the “sexualized public sphere” (Ryberg 146) of the pornographic viewer, and is only possible because of the possibilities opened up for him by Fuckstyles and the movement that the film is part of.

Ryberg describes this overlap of public spheres as creating a situation where queer and feminist pornographers’ “sexual performances work through the norms, conventions, and taboos shaping and pressing on their lives, bodies, and desires” (151). One such norm that can be seen “pressing on” and being challenged in the Mayhems’ scene is compulsory heterosexuality. Jill Dolan defines heterosexuality as “the pattern of linking oppositional gender classes into sexual partnership” (63), and I am using this definition to refer specifically to heterosexual acts rather than heterosexual identities. This is an important distinction, because Ned Mayhem identifies as “a queer cis male pervert scientist” (Mayhem n.p.). There is room within Dolan’s definition for two queer individuals to engage in heterosexual sex, and this is the case in the Mayhems’ scene in Fuckstyles. It is specifically this queer heterosexual sex that enables Ned to subvert expectations of cisgender masculinity. The intersection of Ned Mayhem’s queer heterosexual sex and his alternative cisgender masculinity is where Dolan’s claim that “the way people perform their sexuality influences how they wear their gender” (63) is performed. It is through his queer heterosexual performance that Ned Mayhem’s alternative cisgender masculinity can disrupt compulsory heterosexuality from within.

The interaction between Ned Mayhem’s performance of heterosexual sex and his performance of alternative cisgender masculinity is complex. Jill Dolan writes that “[o]nce heterosexuality is no longer compulsory, femininity also becomes suspect as a “natural” construct” (63). Though she is concerned with femininity, her argument may also apply to masculinity. Steve Neale notes that it is “very rare to find analyses that seek to specify in detail, in relation to particular films or groups of films, how heterosexual masculinity is inscribed and the mechanisms, pressures and contradictions that inscription may involve” (277). It is, therefore, a stretch to assume that Dolan’s argument applies as readily to masculinity as it does to femininity. However, both Neale and Garlick link cinematic gender codes (Neale) and pornographic gender codes (Garlick) of masculinity explicitly to heterosexuality.

The Mayhems performance of heterosexual sex is, therefore, a critical context within which Ned Mayhem’s alternative cisgender masculinity occurs. Maggie and Ned Mayhem begin their scene by establishing themselves as a cisgender heterosexual couple. Their clothes indicate that they are professional, and that they are a man and a woman. Maggie Mayhem’s tasseled black dress positions her as a femme woman, and Ned’s suit positions him as a professional, masculine man. Not only does this establish the cisgender and heterosexual nature of their pairing, it points to their position in the middle class, a move that further legitimates and gives authority (Lovell 10-11) to Ned Mayhem in his subsequent subversion of tropes of masculinity. Lovell notes that “[p]ure acts of resistance are as rare as unequivocal acts of submission” (12), and the success of Ned Mayhem’s performance of alternative cisgender masculinity is due, in part, to the fact that he is initially positioned in an acceptable way. If it is true that “[t]he ‘disposition to resist’ may coexist with a desire to (appear to) conform” (Lovell 13), then what we see in the first few moments of Maggie and Ned Mayhem’s scene is the appearance of conformity masking the ‘disposition to resist.’ Ned Mayhem does not enter the scene in a transgressive role, but is introduced in what appears to be a standard cisgender heterosexual role.

Additionally, unlike any other scene in Fuckstyles, the pairing of a femme woman and a masculine man engaging in heterosexual sex calls up tropes associated with straight pornography. In particular, this framing mirrors the pornography that anti-pornography feminists assert “proclaims and effects an inequality, that is, it institutes the subordinated status of women” (Butler Sovereign 352). The initial few minutes of the scene continue in this vein. This critique of mainstream heterosexual pornography, whose tropes are echoed in Maggie and Ned Mayhem’s scene in Fuckstyles, has not changed much in the decades since it was first leveled against pornography. Steve Garlick, writing in 2010, claims that “[h]egemonic [heterosexual] masculinity within the pornographic imagination defines a pattern of gender relations in which men are both in control of women and of themselves” (608). Steve Neale, who focuses on cinematic rather than pornographic masculinity, also asserts that “current ideologies of masculinity involve so centrally notions and attitudes to do with aggression, power and control” (Neale 279). Garlick also cites control as a key element of hegemonic masculinity (608-9). In the early moments of their scene, Ned Mayhem calls Maggie a slut, spanks her, and appears to conform to the ideals of hegemonic heterosexual masculinity that both Garlick and Neale describe. The power dynamic appears to be set, and predictable.

Ned Mayhem’s subsequent subversion of the hegemonic ideal of pornographic heterosexual masculinity is given further transgressive authority because it emerges from a performance of gender and sexuality that appears to indicate an internal consistency. Judith Butler notes that “the “appearance” of gender is often mistaken as a sign of its internal or inherent truth” (Performativity i), and this mistake underscores the relevance of his entry into the scene in clothes and behaviours that indicate normative heterosexual masculinity. Butler goes on to say that,

gender is prompted by obligatory norms to be one gender or the other (usually within a strictly binary frame), …and…, there is no gender without this reproduction of norms that risks undoing or redoing the norm in unexpected ways, thus opening up the possibility of a remaking of gendered reality along new lines. (Performativity i)

Ned and Maggie Mayhem appear to conform to this performance of gender in their first few moments in the pornographic scene. They perform gender that does exist in the “strictly binary frame,” and when they move outside of the norms they “[open] up the possibility of remaking gendered reality along new lines” (Performativity i). Ned Mayhem’s performance of cisgender masculinity is an example of the risk that Butler predicts when she says “every act of reproduction risks going awry or adrift, or producing effects that are not fully foreseen” (Performativity i). In this case, though, the performance goes intentionally awry and willfully “[remakes] the gendered reality” (Performativity i) of the scene.

The first point of departure from hegemonic masculinity is in Ned Mayhem’s constant communication with Maggie Mayhem. Garlick notes that “[t]he male body in pornography is almost always figured as a machine that functions with an almost emotionless, technical efficiency” (608). This is supported by Steve Neale, who writes that “[h]eterosexual masculinity has been identified as a structuring norm” (277), and says that this performance of masculinity is “marked not only by emotional reticence, but also by silence, a reticence with language” (280). From the beginning to the end of the pornographic scene, Ned Mayhem rarely stops speaking. In the early moments of the scene his speech asserts control and appears to conform to hegemonic ideals, but the very loquaciousness he brings to the scene begins to mark his performance of masculinity as outside the norm. Rather than simply flipping Maggie Mayhem over and spanking her, he describes what he’s going to do and keeps up a running commentary throughout the spanking. Not only is he open with his language, he is also open with his emotions, and as the power dynamics shift back and forth between them, they both talk almost constantly, creating a running dialogue. Throughout the scene, he talks about what he feels, both physically and emotionally. He “loves” Maggie Mayhem’s breasts and cunt, and at the end of the scene they hold each other close and he tells her that he “loves her so much” (Fuckstyles).

Lovell states that “[s]ome speech acts seem to have almost magical power. They make a difference in the world” (2) but “[t]he magic only works when the words are spoken on the right occasion in the right manner by one who is authorized to utter them” (3). If Ned Mayhem has the authority to perform these speech acts that “make a difference in the world” (Lovell 2), then his speech, and his performance of alternative cisgender masculinity, has this magical power and can shift the acceptable performance of cisgender masculinity away from the model of reticence that both Garlick and Neale articulate. Ned Mayhem’s subversion relies on his authority, and Lovell notes that “authority is legitimated in two directions: by the position or social status that gives the right to its exercise and by the recognition of those who are subject to it” (6). Ned Mayhem establishes his authority in the first direction by his performance of the tropes of heterosexual masculinity. This first authorization is a deployment of iterable gender norms to establish and stabilize gender identity and subjectivity, followed by radical subversion from this place of established authority and legibility.

The second direction of legitimization is where Lynn Comella’s theory about context becomes important. Although he calls on hegemonic tropes to legitimize and authorize his performance of cisgender masculinity, his subversion of these tropes only succeeds because of the queer context of the film and because the viewers of the film. It is the viewers who are subject to this exercise of authority, and this authority can only be successful if the viewers understand themselves to be watching a film that interrogates and questions gender and sexuality. When Maggie Mayhem applies a vibrator to Ned Mayhem’s penis and refers to his penis as a “giant clit” (Fuckstyles), his legibility as a cisgender man is called into question. This moment has the potential to undermine the authority that Ned Mayhem has established in the scene to this point. And yet, “through performances that have no prior authorization in social norms, institutional norms may yet be derailed with authority” (Lovell 4). While it is true that there is no prior authorization for cisgender masculinity that includes reference to a “clit,” the queer context of Fuckstyles provides a space within which the Mayhems can derail the institutional norms of masculinity.

Lovell states that “because social norms and institutions depend for their reproduction on iteration and re-iteration in performance, there is a ‘logic of iterability’ that makes even the most entrenched institutionalized norms vulnerable to subversion and transformation through transgressive performances” (4). Ned Mayhem uses this ‘logic of iterability’ to his advantage in this scene, first establishing himself as a predictable heterosexual cisgender man, then engaging in linguistic and emotional openness that undermines this performance without shattering it, then allowing the power to shift with Maggie Mayhem taking control at various points, then by engaging in feminizing comments and finally returning to a position of cisgender masculinity when he comes on Maggie Mayhem’s chest. This final return to the tropes of heterosexual pornography, the money shot that ends the sexual activity, is an important reassertion of his authority to speak to the possibility of an alternative performance of cisgender masculinity.

Ned Mayhem voluntarily steps into a position of sexual dissidence (Lovell 6) and it is from these positions that Lovell, relying on Butler, “looks for movements of radical contestation and transformation” (Lovell 6). It is through his queer heterosexual performance that he is able to “wear” (Dolan 63) an alternative gender performance. Although this performance is context-specific, and his authority to open up new possibilities for cisgender masculinity may not extend beyond the feminist porn creating, marketing and viewing sphere, it is still a crack in the hegemonic ideal, and one worth noting.

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. “Performativity, Precarity and Sexual Politics.” AIBR. Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana 4.3 (2009): i-xiii. AIBR. 13 Feb 2013. Web.

—. “Sovereign Performatives in the Contemporary Scene of Utterance.” Critical Inquiry 23.2 (1997): 350-377. JStor. Web. 5 Feb 2013.

Comella, Lynn. “From Text to Context.” The Feminist Porn Book. Eds. Tristan Taormino, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley and Mireille Miller-Young. New York: The Feminist Press, 2013. 79-93. Print.

Dolan, Jill. The Feminist Spectator as Critic. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.

Garlick, Steve. “Taking Control of Sex?: Hegemonic Masculinity, Technology, and Internet Pornography.” Men and Masculinities 12.5 (2009): 597-614. Sagepub. Web. 20 Apr 2013.

Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous. Dir. Courtney Trouble. Perf. Maggie Mayhem, Ned Mayhem. Pink Label, 2012. Film.

Lovell, Terry. “Resisting with Authority: Historical Specificity, Agency and the Performative Self.” Theory Culture Society 20.1 (2003): 1-17. Sagepub. Web. 13 Feb 2013.

Mayhem, Ned. “Home.” Mayhem Multimedia. Oakland: Mayhem Multimedia, n.d. Mayhemmultimedia.com. Web. 20 Apr 2013.

Neale, Steve. “Masculinity as Spectacle.” The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality. Eds. John Caughie and Annette Kuhn. London: Routledge, 1992. 277-287. Print.

Taylor, Evin. “Cisgender Privilege: On The Privilege of Performing Normative Gender.” Gender Outlaws. Eds. Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010. 269-273. Google Play Book.


[1] “Cisgender people are those whose gender identity, role, or expression is considered to match their assigned gender by societal standards” (Taylor 269).

One comment on “Ned Mayhem’s Giant Clit: Opening Up New Possibilities for Cisgender Masculinity in Fuckstyles of the Queer and Famous

  1. […] things that I’m researching and working on academically – I’m doing a major revision of the paper on Ned Mayhem with the assistance of the professor I wrote the paper for, with the end-goal of submitting it to […]

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