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Desiring Brotherhood


having a great appetite for every activity

eating, drinking,

gambling, riding, fornicating; this voracity suggests the aggressive

rapacity of military manhood. Known around the stables as “The

Buffalo . . . because when in the saddle he slumped his great heavy

shoulders and lowered his head” (McCullers, 2001c: 323),

Langdon is described as virile, agile, and hulky. Compared with

Langdon’s excellent horsemanship, Captain Penderton is no rider

at all. The soldiers snicker at him and give him the nickname

“Captain Flap-Fanny” because when viewed from behind, “his

buttocks spread and jounced flabbily in the saddle” (323).

Penderton’s flabby, soft butt is vividly contrasted with Langdon’s

impenetrable, taut body. In her feminization of Penderton’s butt,

McCullers hints at his unorthodox sexuality. In fact, his marriage

to Leonora seems to be an arranged one of appearances due to his

latent homosexuality. As McCullers writes, when Leonora

“married the Captain she had been a virgin. Four nights after her

wedding she was still a virgin, and on the fifth night her status was

changed only enough to leave her somewhat puzzled” (318).

Heteronormativity underpins the concept of masculinity and,

particularly in the Army, sustains the ideal of warrior masculinity

that excludes nonnormative masculinities.


In “Pleasures and Dangers of Shame,” queer scholar Michael


See Michael Warner’s discussion of the heteronormative in

The Trouble with

Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life



For discussions of

World War II and American psychiatry’s joint effort with army to discriminate

against homosexuals, see John D’Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman’s


Matters: A History of Sexuality in America

(1988: 288-291). However, repression

breeds resistance. Despite military psychiatrists’ prejudiced definitions of

homosexuality in the 1940s, World War II also created an encouraging setting for

a generation of young Americans to experience same-sex love and to participate

in the emergence of a gay subculture. For many gay men, the military indeed

provided entry into a world suffused with same-sex relationships. As D’Emilio

and Freedman claim, “World War II was something of a nationwide ‘coming out’

experience” (1988: 289). D’Emilio’s another book,

Sexual Politics, Sexual


(1983), also supplies a helpful analysis of the lesbian and gay

movement in the U.S. from World War II to the historic Stonewall Riots.