Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Heads up, everyone: this is an angry post and it’s a hurt post.  If you aren’t up for dealing with that right now, this is your chance to exit.  That being said, I wanna address an issue that is incredibly important to discuss, yet gets written off as no big deal: misogyny in the queer community, specifically on the part of gay men.  I’ve been thinking and talking about this a lot recently and have gotten mixed responses.  Mostly, the gay guys I’ve talked to are totally unaware of this problem and don’t see how their own behavior fits these patterns.  Ugh.  Women…eh, reactions range from “OMG I KNOW I HAVE SO MANY STORIES JUST LIKE THAT” to “Are you kidding me?  There’s no way it could be that bad.  They’re gay–it’s not like that.”

Oh but it is like that.

[TW: body policing, casual misogyny, and sexual harassment/unwanted touching]

Groping and commenting on others’ bodies (unsolicited, without consent) is a huge problem, regardless of whether you claim to be sexually attracted to that type of body or not.  This happens especially in the case of gay men feeling entitled to women’s bodies.  In a society in which gay men are stereotyped as feminine, they’re both damned for that (“good men are masculine”) and celebrated as experts on femininity.  Since women are supposed to be feminine (cuz we all gotta be gender-conforming, amiright??), gay men are presented as having authority over how women should dress, act, modify our bodies, etc.  Think of the gay bff or fashionista stereotypes.*

What does this mean?

Body policing.  Comments that are not only unwanted, but are potentially incredibly harmful to our body images, self esteem, and mental health.  Touches that, if initiated by straight men, would immediately be identified as sexual harassment.  A lot of misogyny.

Not Sure I’m Following You…

I’m not gonna go into a whole spiel about how and why this happens, trying to convince you that it’s a problem.  If you’re confused or not familiar with this subject, I suggest you check out two articles:

  • Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies” by Yolo Akili – posted last November on The Good Men Project.  I was so excited to find this.  He explains the problem well and I’m always relieved to find folks in privileged positions doing a good job educating our own.  Writing as a queer man of color, he also touches upon the added oppressive dynamic of white men feeling entitled in any way to the bodies of women of color.
  • “Why Do Gay Men Keep Touching My Boobs: The Autostraddle Mini-Roundtable” – Autostraddle writers pick up where Akili left off.  This actually turned into an incredibly interesting (and, it seemed, healing) conversation on Autostraddle.

I’m so glad to see other people discussing the problem of gay men’s sexism prominently and to find shared experiences with other queer women (see: Autostraddle’s comment section, which is mostly devoid of derailing BS posts).  Honestly, it’s something I face a lot, and I’m not always around people who get what I’m talking about.

So…What are you talking about?

  • “You need more makeup.  Here, let me do it.”  DID I ASK YOU TO GRAB MY FACE?  FUCK NO.

  • “Why are you wearing makeup?  You don’t need that.”  Umm HELLO NOT DOING IT FOR YOUR APPROVAL.  I wear makeup for myself, regardless of when you think it’s appropriate.
  • So many anti-vulva/vagina comments.  Vaginas don’t have to be your thing, but disparaging remarks are not needed.  Bodies with vaginas aren’t inherently disgusting, thank you very much, nor are we desperate for your approval.

    Gabby from Autostraddle
    : “The comments are always quintessentially linked to what my/our vaginas might smell or look like. (Sidenote- if you don’t eat it, devour it, lick it off your fingertips, then don’t even for a second make a comment on that shit. Maybe if you did then you’d have the right to say something.  Maybe then you’d describe it as tasting like fresh cantaloupe or smelling like every good secret reason you’ve been late to class this week…)”
  • “I’m totally gay, but it is kinda nice to put your penis in one [a vagina].”  Wow, thanks for reducing bodies with vaginas to just vaginas…or, as they’ll now be known: NPRs (nice penis receptacles).  Note: being told this as a queer cis woman was exceedingly awkward, among other things, because he said it as though I should be grateful that someone was–in the same sentence–telling me he was totally not attracted to me, but that my body was good for something anyway.  Great.
  • Frequent comments against queer women, especially lesbian women. “I used to be beautiful, but now I look like a lesbian!”  Note: gay men seem shocked when I call these remarks out; I’m not really sure why.  Is it because they’re reading me as straight and are surprised that I care about queer women?  Is it because they think women–femme women particularly?–are passive and won’t cross them?  Are they totally oblivious to everything?

  • At a former job, a supervisor and a coworker–both gay men–speculated loudly about what my pubic hair looks like and whether or not I trim it.  They were standing right in front of me.  They laughed.  I didn’t say anything because I was so taken aback that I didn’t have a clue what to say.  Just be cool, otherwise they’ll think I’m super uptight.  Remember, they’re gay men so they don’t really mean it in a sexual way so it’s totally fine, right???  

  • All of the comments about my boobs.  All of the comments.  I have very large breasts and gay men (among others) tell me this frequently–in varying amounts of detail–as though I didn’t know.  Thankfully, there’s usually no attempted touching, perhaps because I give off a “touch me and I’ll break your fingers” vibe.
  • Calling me babe.  At work.  The first time they meet me.  When I’ve made it clear I don’t respond to that word.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m definitely into affectionate nicknames.  But unless we have a rapport in which we’ve established that that’s okay, just stick to my name.  For the record: babe is never okay for me.

  • A (queer guy) ex would play with my boobs in this really negatively objectifying way, like they were toys that weren’t actually connected to my body, like I didn’t have so many feelings connected to them (emotionally as well as physically).  I never found a way to tell him how much this bothered me, cuz ya know I was obviously being irrational, right?  He couldn’t be objectifying me, I mean we’re both queer and he was my intimate partner and HOLY SHIT SO MUCH BULLSHIT.
  • Calling people bitches all the time.  As a term of endearment.  As a put-down.  Just stop, okay?  Just because you’re gay doesn’t make it magically okay for you to refer to your friends/your coworkers/your cats as “all my bitchez.”  Did you miss the chapter about that actually being (potentially) really offensive, reductive, and hurtful?  See also: don’t fucking try to reclaim slurs that aren’t yours to reclaim!

What to do?

Regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity, check yourself!  Where do you fit in these examples?  Have you experienced or witnessed any of them?  Do you perpetrate them?  Gay men: as individuals, many of you are marvelous and dear to me.  But as a group, do not assume you and I will be best friends, simply because we’re both feminine or because you’re gay.  As you might imagine (after reading all this), I’m pretty fucking wary of you.  That doesn’t mean I will bite your heads off immediately; it means I will be guarded around you until you demonstrate that you have your shit together and are aware of yourself and the space you take up.  Check yourselves and check your friends.  Deal?

* Obviously not all gay men are feminine or into fashion.  Yes, those are stereotypes and yes, stereotypes are confining and need to be broken down.  That’s another (related) conversation.  If you post comments about being a gay man who’s not obsessed with fashion, you might be completely truthful, but you’re not being helpful.  You’re derailing the conversation.  You don’t suddenly become not oppressive just because you break stereotypes.

** I clearly wrote this from my perspective as a femme queer woman.  I can’t speak for masculine-of-center women and non-binary folks, but my perception is that there’s a different sort of bullshit that goes down there, more in the vein of “why would you be a woman (or a person ever perceived to be a woman) and be masculine?  You’re wasting your femininity (cuz women are inherently feminine, right??).”  Ughhh so many problems.  I have all of the love for butches, masc-of-center, and gender non-conforming folks.  Y’all are beautiful, handsome, and endlessly snazzy.  Here is my adorable face, just for you:

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Comments on: "He Didn’t Just Objectify Me, Did He? – Gay Men and Misogyny" (21)

  1. Sometimes I have no words for this kind of thing, even though I’ve totally seen it happen. So I’m just gonna nod vigorously and say YES. PREACH IT.

  2. Ah, such a needed conversation.
    I’ve had the whole “let me touch your breasts & comment about them-and it’s going to be ok since I’m a gay man” happens so often it’s nice to know I’m not bringing this on my self.
    Greatly done 🙂

    • We are so NOT bringing this on ourselves! I mean, we exist and have breasts. That’s not an open invitation for anyone. This doesn’t seem like a difficult concept, and yet…

  3. yes, this, so much. i and my friends have a lotttt of stories of gay boys in high school thinking it’s absolutely hilarious or appropriate to rip our fashion styles to shreds, use lots of unasked for ‘cutesy’ nicknames, make really sexual and uncomfortable comments, touch parts of my body i don’t like other people touching, especially without knowing someone really well….etc. and then i have lots of other stories of gay boys who were awesome and sweet and totally respectful of me. but yeah, i have noticed and hated this trend/phenomenon. i especially had one gay friend in high school who liked to hug people really really hard and not let go when you asked them to, and joke about rape in the process. ummmmmm no.

    • Ughhhh. Megan, I am so sorry. Stories like yours make me want to scream at everyone. That shit is NOT OKAY. The mainstream gay+lesbian organizations (aka the ones that tend to throw trans* and queer people under the bus) put forth this idea that there’s a natural alliance between queer men and queer women. Not so much. I no longer see gay men as my automatic allies; they need to prove that they’re not oppressive douchebags first.

  4. PREACH. I’m was a manager in my last workplace, and a year or two ago there was a gay gentleman working for us who frequently touched and/or made comments about the breasts of some of our lady employees. It wasn’t until he “jokingly” groped a male manager (and was subsequently fired) that the issue was brought to our attention–he made a lot of women uncomfortable, and they felt that because he wasn’t sexually attracted to them, it wouldn’t be considered a valid sexual harassment claim. It breaks my heart to this day that so many of my team members felt uncomfortable in their workplace, but didn’t feel that they could come to me about it because he was gay. This is such a necessary conversation.

  5. Wonderful post! Fortunately I don’t think I have ever had a male touch my breasts without permission, but I get TONS of comments on how my boobs look (mostly from women actually, but some are from queer guys) and I just don’t really know how to react. It’s like when someone comments on my weight. It feels like it’s my business, and when someone starts discussing my body, even in a “positive” way, I go from this place of confidence in my appearance to feeling like I am being judged.

  6. Some of these things happened to me last night (ugh, and it was someone who didn’t even know me for more than five minutes, let alone anything about me), but have also been for a long time. Thank you for putting into words something that’s bothered me for a long time and never really had a good way to express it!

    Also, NPR. That is a great acronym that should probably never actually be a thing. But I have to say, I chuckled.

  7. I was threatened with being kicked out of a gay club after my boi rescued me from the unending gropings of a gay guy on the dance floor. He had picked me up against my protests and I was climbing from him to my lover to get away, and I got a warning for having both feet off the floor. Not sure how the bouncer missed the blatant sexual harassment/ assault, but when I feel more comfortable at a straight club than with my own community, that’s a problem.

  8. Ive had simmilar experiences. I had a guy grab my crotch at a club a couple of years ago, and i really freaked out. People were like “but he’s gay” i dont care who he is HE JUST GRABBED A STRANGERS VAGINA!

  9. Every time I write a post like this, it encourages me to see other people thinking about these same issues, but breaks my heart to know that y’all are dealing with this same shit. Ugh! Thank you to everyone who commented here or on my FB and shared stories. Much love!

  10. I’m glad to hear somebody else say something about this. I’ve noticed that there are some gay men that are just extremely and unselfconsciously misogynistic. When I was much younger I thought that maybe it was because they simply had no use for women, and so it was easy to look down on them. While I still think that there may be some truth to that, I think it has a lot to do with male privilege. It’s funny, because lesbian women are – often falsely – called out for hating men, and yet nobody ever seems to want to call out misogyny in gay men. It’s like privilege is still a thing in the queer community. Who knew? (sarcasm)

  11. dude i just love you a lot. thank you.

  12. Rachel and Syd said:

    I googled “gay misogyny” and voila. Short version: Two gay guys moved in next door to liberal minded Mom/Dad/kiddo. Musician Mom (me) marched in rallies for AIDS funding in the 80s in California, sat by bedsides. Could not be more gay friendly. A boundary dispute ensued when they announced plans to put up giant fences and double the size of their house on a tiny lot smack in the middle of the main flow of the river when it floods (is right behind our houses, catastrophic flooding a few yrs before they showed up, we knew what we were talking about). We were polite – they were OUTRAGED! Older guy is slick realtor, younger guy fancies himself a badass. “We are going to sue you m**********s asses and take everything you have!” I was a “c*** b*****”, and the whole neighborhood was accused of homophobia. Say WHAT?!? Play the gay card much, dudes? 7 yrs later, the whole neighborhood has changed, no more block parties, everyone appalled. A couple of spoiled, greedy selfish brats, they are. Anybody else been caught unawares by something like this? One of the morals: being gay doesn’t mean you’re more or less likely to be a jerk.

  13. Rachel and Syd said:

    ps to above, re: misogyny: the majority of Mr. BadAss’s bullying is towards the females here. Slur of choice is “c***”, younger guy mostly stalks and harasses when only females are around, I am “la bruja” (bitch/witch), shouts at me to “swish that thing” if he sees me walking, hassles my 15 yr old teenager (mocks her, tries to scare her), and so far we all just avoid them, which is nonviolent protest I guess, vs going to court, for what, a restraining order? What good would that do, really? Might scare him into behaving better, I guess, but ug. We have never sued anyone in our lives, and it feels like they are controlling you, if you have to do that. It’s so ugly, sitting in a court, like a little baby who can’t get along. We think they would love, love it. Negative attention is still attention, we think they don’t care. We try to just put it out of our minds and live our lives, but they still tell people we are homophobic and that I in particular am a “crazy bitch”, a “fucking c***.” Have never been through anything like this in my life. Our little city is a gay mecca in the middle of a very conservative area. Eventually, if you behave like that, word gets around just because of the size of our town, and with that kind of ugly behavior going on elsewhere in their lives we have heard, but so what. Doesn’t change anything here, if they are callled to account. 7 AM leaf blowing, speeding, letters threatening to sue us, letting their gigantic aggressive dog loose in the neighborhood so it can charge people, whatever will make things unpleasant in this formerly lovely place. We are NOT vengeful angry people. In fact I truly forgive the younger guy, I think he had a terrible childhood. It’s no excuse, but I have compassion for him. It’s harder for me with the older guy – he was raised in a privileged environment and knows exactly what he is doing. I think he uses younger guy as a proxy for his own anger. It’s sad. They have destroyed the ambience of our neighborhood, while claiming to have made it better with a fancier house. Argh. I think they both truly do hate women, in particular and especially, but not because they are gay. Just part of their overall confusion and anger.

    • Wow, I’m sorry to hear about your truly unpleasant neighborhood drama. I am not suggesting any correlation between sexual orientation and being a jerk; clearly there are jerks and lovely people of all different sorts. My article addresses behavioral standards within the gay male community that normalize misogyny, some of which might explain (in part) how your neighbors relate to you.

  14. This is a ridiculous article , I have been out since 18 andf am in mid life and never saw this happen in my life.

  15. How do you know a feminist is telling a lie ? She is breathing.

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