One illuminating instance of this is Cameron's (1997) analysis of how heterosexuality is performed. The data for this study is a conversation between five White male American college students sitting at home watching a basketball game. This conversation was recorded by one of the participants, who used it in a class Cameron taught to discuss sports talk. Upon examining the tape, however, Cameron noticed something else: apart from talk about the basketball game, the single most prominent theme in the conversation was gossip about men whom the speakers identify as "gay." Cameron concludes that this kind of gossip is a performative enactment of heterosexuality, one structured by the presence of a danger that cannot be acknowledged: namely the possibility of homosexual desire within the speakers' own homosocial group. In order to defuse this threat and constitute a solidly heterosexual in-group, the speakers localize homosexual desire outside the group, in the bodies of absent others, who become invoked as contrasts. What is most ironic about this enactment of heterosexuality is that in order to convey to one another that the males under discussion really are "gay," the students engage in detailed descriptions of those other males' clothing and bodily appearance, commenting extensively, for example, on the fact that one supposedly gay classmate wore "French cut spandex" shorts to class in order to display his legs, despite the fact that it was winter.
Discussing this aspect of the students' talk, Cameron observes that the five young men are caught up in a contradiction: their criticism of the "gays" centres on [the "gays'"] unmanly interest in displaying their bodies .. . But in order to pursue this line of criticism, the conversationalists themselves must show an acute awareness of such "unmanly" concerns as styles and materials ("French cut spandex" .. .), what kind of clothes go together, and which men have "good legs". They are impelled, paradoxically, to talk about men's bodies as a way of demonstrating their own total lack of sexual interest in those bodies. (1997: 54) In other words, the students' desire in this homosocial context to distance themselves from the specter of homosexual desire leads them to structure their talk in such a way that it is not only similar to stereotypical "women's language" (besides topics, Cameron also analyzes how the speakers engage in a variety of "cooperative" discourse moves usually associated with women) - in its fine-tuned attention to the bodies and sexualities of other men, the talk is also not unlike stereotypical Gayspeak. Imagine telling them that.