The Franciscan friar Diego de Landa, in the mid-sixteenth century, and the Holly-wood film producer and director Mel Gibson, in the early twenty-first century, created Maya men as beings with perverted and penetrated bodies. In 1566 Landa wrote his Relación de las cosas de Yucatán, an extensive text about the Maya people. In 2006 Gibson released Apocalypto, a Hollywood film in which all dialogue was in Yucatec Maya. Landa and Gibson both argued that they showed the true Maya world, but each expressed a visceral reaction to Maya sacrifice and, in so doing, infested their own fantasies with nightmares of savage Maya men. This essay argues that by analyzing the voyeurism and fantasies of Landa and Gibson, we can come to terms with the position of Maya masculinity in modern Western imaginations. Moreover, by working to understand Landa’s and Gibson’s investments in perverse Maya men, we can think about why Western people formulate fantasies of colonized subjects. Finally, these fantasies of non-Western subjectivities can speak to the stakes involved in queer theory’s understanding of the social sphere, the heterosexual family, and the child as a sign of the future.
Making Maya Men: Fantasy, Voyeurism, and Perverted Penetration
Pete Sigal is professor of history and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies at Duke University, author of The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture (2011), and coeditor of Ethnopornography: Sexuality, Colonialism, and Archival Knowledge (2020). He has also published From Moon Goddesses to Virgins: The Colonization of Yucatecan Maya Sexual Desire (2000) and Infamous Desire: Male Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America (2003). He is completing a study of colonialism and sexuality that examines sexual fantasies in the modern world from various perspectives, nations, and time periods in order to broadly relate modern sexual pleasure to the colonial gaze.
Pete Sigal; Making Maya Men: Fantasy, Voyeurism, and Perverted Penetration. GLQ 1 January 2020; 26 (1): 1–34. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-7929083
Download citation file: