Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making Jake

A regular refrain in this blog is the question of what causes me, specifically me, to desire what I desire, in men and in wrestling, and how these things are tangled up in my sexuality. One psychological theory claims that imprinting early in life determines who and what we animals come to regard as a fit mate in adulthood. For example, wrestler Jake Jenkins reminds me of a boy, somewhat older than I, bigger, stronger, more capable, and more self-assured too, who lived next door to me when I was four or five. As an only child, I wanted this boy to be my big brother--I did not want to be him or be like him as much as I wanted him to complete me, as a brother and a buddy, a way of looking at one's own sex that is, I would assume, fairly normal in gays before they develop sexually.

That would apparently be my imprint, and it would have been the end of my inquiry if Jake were somebody I take a unique interest in, an interest shared by few other people.

But from his first appearance at Rock Hard Wrestling and then, shortly afterwards, at BG East, Jake achieved near cult status among gay wrestling fans that was immense, immediate, and spontaneous. So, then, I am far from alone. And I doubt that my early childhood friend could have lived next door to that many other little boys, unless he was the Johnny Appleseed of m4m wrestling lust.

What makes Jake attractive to so many different people? A lot of qualities actually: hard muscle, a photogenic face, a high level of comfort with his body. These became apparent quickly, after a few publicity shots, and then after his first match, his personality, speed, and combat skills confirmed the high hopes the photos and catalog blurbs had stirred in eager fans. So we're not just talking personal sexual development here; we're talking about a cultural (or subcultural) phenomenon. To understand this sort of appeal, we have to consider archetypes--Jake's historical and cultural prototypes.

When I first saw a photo of Jake, I remember making an immediate association with a well-known work of art: Hippolyte Flandrin's iconically "gay" painting of a young male nude by the sea, 1835-36.

That impression was immediately followed by the thought that Jake's face is remarkably like that of Antinous, a favorite of the Emperor Hadrian. Antinous died under mysterious circumstances before the age of twenty, Hadrian then deified him, and his handsome likeness was replicated throughout the Roman empire in innumerable statues.

That Jake might closely resemble a gay archetype and a gay consort to the fourteenth Roman emperor might partly account for his popularity among gay men, regardless of Jake's own sexual orientation. But my imagination would not stop there. How about that kid in Little House on the Prairie? Doesn't his dark tousled hair resemble Jake's? Aren't the eyes and nose similar? Perhaps even the full and well-formed lips? Of course, Jake is more studly, but a lot of affection can be spent on a face as genial as this:

And what about Jake's match against Kid Karisma in Hunkbash 12 last summer? Is it only a coincidence that BG East put him in white trunks and kneepads, or that he wrestled Kid K barefoot? I wonder how conscious the decision was to make Jake echo pro-wrestling icon Kevin Von Erich, in gear, if not in blond arrogance.

And I don't think I'm mistaken in regarding KVE too as something of a particular icon for gay wrestling fans, at least for those of us of a certain age. He has certainly remained a prototype for me over the years. When I talk about "sexy" and "pro wrestling" (and the words do slide together easily on my tongue), the image of young Von Erich invariably springs to mind.

And I hope the comparison is not too strained (as if a second-century Roman catamite was not obscure enough), but Jake reminds me of at least one vintage muscleboy wrestler on the underground scene: Randy Page at BG Enterprise. If there is little to compare about the two men's faces, they have somewhat similar builds and, more importantly, similar reputations for taking a businesslike attitude towards grappling. Page was not much on showmanship, but his mat technique was electrifying. And though I sense much more star potential in Jenkins, no small part of his appeal to me and others is that the man can seriously wrestle.

Years ago I saw a Jim Jarmusch movie in which a tourist in Memphis shares her Elvis scrapbook, pairing photos of The King with pictures of Madonna, the Buddha, and the Statue of Liberty as proof that virtually everyone and everything is Elvis. Perhaps a small part of what I'm doing here now is to prove that Jake Jenkins is Elvis, too. 

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