Masculinity of the Month: Rob Halford

I’m going to try to start a new thing here, a somewhat regular (monthly I reckon), post on a particular persons masculinity I really like. It might be an in-depth look, or just a snapshot. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.

…So, to kick us off, I’m going to go with Rob Halford, the veteran lead singer of veteran heavy metal band Judas Priest (‘cos I’m a sucker for a leatherman)

Here he is, In all his leathery goodness.

A quick bit of back story, Judas Priest, the band for which Halford is most well-known for his involvement with, has been around since the 70’s and is a well-known and respected elder statesman of heavy metal music. They are still working and touring (I had the great pleasure of seeing them last year). In the late 90’s Halford stepped out of the heavy metal closet to Advocate magazine.

I find this intersection of metal and sexuality interesting, as someone with what I would say a casual relationship and appreciation of metal  music, as a genre it’s stereotypically aggressively heterosexual, if not explicitly homophobic. Certainly I would say the genre as a whole was overtly masculine and often misogynist. Now I’m not going to go so far as to say that the prominence Halford in the mainstream heavy metal scene for so long is representative of some broader acceptance of homosexuality,  by all accounts (by which I mean – The Internet) Halford’s sexuality was something of an open secret. But I really don’t know enough about Mr Halford, his sexuality, or the world heavy metal to make those sort of grand sweeping statements.

But I do see some interesting similarities in performance and representation; the theatricality and the ‘campness’ of a lot of metal, and certainly Judas Priest. I like that (to me & I imagine others) the association of heavy metal and homosexuality is one not oft or easily made, and I really like that Mr Halford somewhat problematises both those neat little identity categories.

So Rob Halford’s masculinity, as I’ve seen it represented through music, presentation and performance: With its mix of aggression, flamboyance and macho posturing, and especially the way in he adds challenges traditional representations of heavy metal culture mean he’s my pick for the first ‘Masculinity of the Month’.

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5 Comments on “Masculinity of the Month: Rob Halford”

  1. Clarisse Says:

    Have you done much looking into gay leather culture? There’s some really fascinating stuff there, which intersects with my own interests because gay leather was one of the first really public faces of BDSM (in fact, the only BDSM history museum in the world was started by gay leathermen — oh my god I HEART THE LEATHER ARCHIVES — I used to volunteer there).

    I remember attending a lecture by a guy from the CDC, I think his name was David Moskowitz, who was studying HIV patterns among leathermen. One thing he noted in the lecture was that there are three (or at least he only noted three) studies/papers that look into what attracts gay men to the leather subculture.

    1) Because they fetishize leather itself (eh … I buy that this might be true for a few, but given all I know about leathermen, there’s just no way that’s it for all of them).
    2) Because they’re into BDSM, and that subculture is obviously the go-to place for that.
    3) Because they identify as highly masculine, or “hypermasculine” as the researcher put it, and leathermen were the most obvious place they could go to express that.

    Theories 2 & 3 were most compelling for me, and they make me wonder how gay men who like S&M but don’t feel compelled to be hypermasculine resolve that (I’ve seen some mostly-heterosexual BDSM clubs that have queer nights, so maybe that’s a more welcoming environment for such dudes). Or, on the flip side, how hypermasculine gay men who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in S&M resolve that.

    • Clarisse, I havn’t really examined gay subcultures in any meaningful way, just an interest. I’m particularly keen on leathermen and bears. It’s something I should get around to getting into, such a rich area. I would have thought they were pretty highly theorised and examined groups, my causal browsing certainly supports that idea.

  2. Nio Says:

    Hmmmmm, now that I’m a vegetarian, does that mean I can’t have a thing for people dressed in leather?

    Anyway, diggin’ this “masculinity of the month” thing. I might hijack that idea just once for my own blog at some point in the future and do a writeup about the artist Len Lye. Cool!

  3. […] Supposedly, most male fetish wear looks ‘submissive’. FAIL. No, no it does not. And even if it did, so fucking what? Will the sky fall in if (gasp) you leave […]

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