Graduate student, writer and queer activist living in Paris
April 17, 2013
I am not quiet during sex. I communicate my desires and ask the same of my partners. I believe that this not only creates a safe sexual environment but makes for the most pleasurable experience for everyone. If I’m making sounds that aren’t words, that more or less means I’m having a good time. People generally respond well to this type of nonverbal feedback; I’ve only had one person object to my use of nonverbal expression, and that was Peter.
Peter is a gay man I slept with once. I met him in a gay bar when I was living in New York, and I thought he was perfect. He worked with homeless queer youth. He had a dog. He was a little taller than average, and stocky, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and Puma high tops. He was bearded. He said things like “you’re so unlike everyone your age” (he was 11 years older than I) and “I never go home with anyone the night I meet them.” When he did come home with me and we were naked in my bed, he kissed my neck, and I moaned, high-pitched and breathy. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t do that. It’s faggy.”
Now, this was several years ago, and I hadn’t yet learned that people like Peter are to be either ignored, laughed at or taught, so I became a caricature of “not faggy”: I grunted (no more moaning), I pretended that I wasn’t hurt by what he said (feelings are for girls, as I recalled learning during childhood), and I tried to act as masculine as possible, because that is the opposite of faggy, the opposite of the femme gay man who gestures, speaks quickly in a high-pitched voice and says “darling.” I became that silly thing because I wanted Peter to love me.
He stood me up on our next date, and I never heard from him again.
Eventually surpassing the typical “what did I do wrong?” stage of self-hatred, I asked myself, “What does it mean that Peter called me faggy for expressing pleasure?” And so I learned that people like Peter are part of a larger problem: pervasive misogyny.
Typically we say that “fag,” “sissy,” “nancy,” “nelly” and “fairy” are homophobic words, and although they certainly are used to perpetuate homophobia, they are not homophobic in and of themselves; the usage of any of these words as slurs usually targets people with male-sexed bodies who do not act sufficiently masculine. They prize masculinity by demonizing femininity. This is probably rooted in some outdated, essentialist reading of gender where women are biologically the weaker, pathetic sex, but we know today that in addition to being totally offensive, gender essentialism is more or less bullshit, because women can vote and work and beat men into submission, and men can cook and clean and stay at home with the kids. But although it was relatively easy to deconstruct the misogyny in Peter’s abuse, getting to the root of why a man, while lying naked with another man and kissing him, would call that man’s expression of pleasure too gay is a more complicated subject. I would suggest that Peter calling me faggy is part of a larger queer cultural heritage.
Queer people live in a constant narrative of struggle; today we struggle for legally recognized marriage, and in 2003 we struggled for the right to have consensual sex, but 60 years ago queer role models fought for the right to exist in public or private. To gain those rights, they used an effective strategy called assimilation, which dictated that queer people look and act as much as possible like straight people. The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis both did it intentionally in the ’50s, and it was probably the most aggressive option to say “we are normal, just like you” at a time when police were encouraged to raid gay bars, arrest patrons and publish their names and faces in the newspaper the following day. However, “just like you” literally bleached queer people of color from the movement and rendered trans people invisible, because “just like you” referred to white men in power and their wives who had the sway to validate any queer identity legally. Assimilation was successful in that discrimination against LGBT people is now illegal in many forms, but it also created an “acceptable gay man,” and he was white and masculine and certainly did not say “darling.” It also created and validated a favorite excuse for anti-gay bigotry, “I’m fine with gay people as long as they don’t flaunt it,” because suddenly there were gay people who were not “normal.” “Normal” gay men today ape that heterosexual excuse for bigotry by blaming “abnormal” gays for the the maltreatment of gays as a whole.
Peter is a “normal” gay man, so when my behavior started to drift outside “normal,” he reprimanded me much in the same way that police officers, gym teachers or parents might have done in the ’50s (and today, to be fair). And although the ’50s were over 60 years ago, that attitude remains pervasive: Look at any on gay dating website or smartphone app and you’ll see our twisted heritage as “preferences” based on a hierarchy of who can pass as a successful straight man: “Looking for masc, musc, no femmes, white only.” Though the irony that none of us is straight does not escape me, I’d like to focus more on how regressive this is; we are literally contributing to our own oppression by upholding this bizarre heritage of misogyny created in the ’50s.
So let’s make life easier on all queer people and stop mimicking the worst parts of heterosexism. Who knows? We could even begin to support each other. How revolutionary.
if you can explain to your children that an immortal man in a red suit who lives in the north pole travels around the entire world on one night every year on a sleigh carried by magical flying deer i think itll be easy enough to tell them two people are in love
By barring particular outfits from school, dress codes help boys identify and objectify “inappropriate” girls and women. Girls who violate dress codes are violating rules, and girls who violate rules are bad. Bad girls can be desirable and sexy, but they don’t necessarily deserve respect (even from other girls).
And where respect is absent, objectification is easy. In her guide to self-objectification, Caroline Heldman explains how sexually objectified women are dehumanized and viewed as “less competent and worthy of empathy by both men and women.” Those who are dehumanized may be mistreated and made to feel inadequate. And if poor self-image is linked with objectification, it isn’t hard to see that this cycle feeds itself: Those who are objectified by others are treated as less than human, and in understanding themselves as less than human may self-objectify.
Asking girls to cover up is a Band-Aid solution to far more socially ingrained problems such as general misogyny and rape culture. As long as a girl or woman is always sexualized, it won’t matter how much she covers up—she’ll still be faulted for her inappropriate behavior.
So many possibilities await me! Loves undiscovered, connections that I may not have been able to make before. As I read more and more profile descriptions I become disheartened. “No fat” I see. I take in phrases such as “no femme” or “masc only.” Everything I’ve learned in my courses about feminisms has been thrown out the window. […]
The attitudes that emerge on Grindr, however, are counterproductive to many movements. Numerous profile descriptions include languages such as “no femme” or “masc only,” which acts to devalue many men who may not fit into the traditional prescriptions of masculinity that have been scripted and assumed in our patriarchal society. Often, this language can become transphobic, using slurs that exclude many users. Many profiles also include language such as “top only” or “top/verse.”
Misogyny has crept so greatly into our culture that even sexual positions within the gay community have become politicized. To admit openly that your preference is being a bottom is to admit an air of what is perceived as femininity. Many users mask this fear by adding the term “vers” or versatile because it allows space to negotiate.In a community that for centuries has been forced time and time again to prove their masculinity, femininity has become stigmatized to a degree that is often frightening and exclusionary.
Racism is also prevalent in our current Grindr culture. Some phrases that are popular are “no Black, no Asian” or “white guys to front of the line.” People are being given value based upon their race. However, for some, if they aren’t being rejected, they are being fetishized. For example, another popular moniker is “Rice Queen” or “Rice Daddy,” which is a racist descriptor used to describe gay men of non-Asian descent who are particularly attracted to Asian men. As a former Grindr user who disclosed his Jewish identity on his profile, I was subjected to an interesting mix of messages such as, “I’ve always wanted a Jewish husband” and “Do you have any Jew gold to spare?” […]
As a self-identified “fat femme bottom” the world of Grindr is often one that can be cruel to me and others like me. […] It isn’t uncommon for these identities to make others feel uncomfortable. I can identify as “femme” but this does not erase the male privilege I inherently have. I am, however, devalued to an extent, by the femininity I display.
There’s so much I want to say about this, but I don’t think I could put it succinctly or wisely enough at this point. Suffice to say, if I’m flicking through profiles on say, dudesnude (I don’t use grindr, but it’s similar), nothing - and I mean NOTHING - turns me off a guy quicker, or more completely and profoundly than seeing upon his profile the kind of statements mentioned above.
this is a real question, not trolling and i hope this curiosity doesn't border with transphobia. what does it mean to be trans* in a space where we challenge gender as a social construct and its definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman? through identifying with a gender, would that be identifying with society's standard of what it is? if so, is this even problematic?
That’s a great question, and one I definitely had to think about a lot when I was coming out as trans. I obviously can’t answer for everyone, but I can tell you the type of thinking that I did on this topic for my own understanding of myself and my gender.
I grew up in a gender-role-free, super feminist household. my parents made decisions together and always were of equal “power” and dictated who did what chores based on who was better at them, not what gender they were (e.x. my dad fixes things cause he likes to. He also does the sewing because my mom doesn’t know how to. My mom mainly cooks because if my dad did we’d be having scrambled eggs every night, and NOBODY wants that. My mom also never changed her name when she got married, and that’s a non-issue in my family.) My parents let me be who I wanted to be and wear what I wanted to wear since I could make those choices by myself. This meant that the fact that I liked t-shirts and those awful zip-off cargo pants was a gender neutral decision (and a poor decision, but, hey, I was 12).
I was raised as a feminist, and carried that on through college, becoming one of the executive board members of our feminist club at IC. So naturally, it WAS difficult at first to explain to myself how I knew I was a man when I didn’t want to believe that there were specific roles I should be filling as any gender. In fact, when I came out to my mom, her biggest concern was that I wasn’t going to be a feminist anymore, and that I would try to be this macho jerk in an attempt to fulfill a stereotype. Obviously, that didn’t happen, because that’s not who I am.
For me, being a man doesn’t have to do with society or “gender roles” or anything. It’s just who I know I am, and who I’ve always been. I’m comfortable existing as male, and I feel like shit pretending to be anything other than that. It’s hard to explain, I guess. It’s something I just know because it’s in my brain. I don’t pretend to do or like “manly” things to validate my gender. I like the same things I’ve always liked, I do the same things I’ve always done. I just know that the person doing those things is male, and that’s not a question.