Last week, I said that a certain conversation I had “took a turn for the very queer: methods by which to freak out straight people.” It finally happened, folks: I got accused of being homophobic for saying something that, to me, was a queer in-joke.
Because I do enjoy freaking out straight male fetishists or what?
If it were just about freaking out straight people, there are much easier targets: the pearl-clutchers who probably would get just as riled up by a long-sleeved bodysuit as me passionately kissing a cute girl, for instance. I don’t generally go for them because all too often, when I was a Muslim, I was assumed to be one of them. In some ways, I was one of them, but I didn’t want to be, so I pretended to be more comfortable with sex than I actually was. The memory is uncomfortable. I prefer to aim higher, anyway. I want to disrupt something other than simple prudishness.
Thanks to the popularity of “gay marriage” and the hyperfocus on it as the defining LGBT issue, there is a new breed of cis bro that fancies itself “LGBT-friendly” and “pro gay rights” for the brave act of… not actively opposing same-sex marriage. Men of this sort think that they know everything about everyone who isn’t straight or cisgender and believe they should be absolved for using slurs or otherwise being homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic. They also think that it’s cute to call themselves “lesbians” because “they love women, too!” Hurr hurr.
Some of these dudes not only fetishize women who enjoy non-platonic activities with other women, but think it’s their evolutionary-biological right to tell us all about their boners. I may only have become a self-described radical queer in the past few years, but even my accommodationist baby bi self wasn’t having it. After I came out, I had concocted a preloaded answer: “It’s not to turn you on, you know.” I found that, no matter how calmly and matter-of-factly I said it, no matter how I cushioned it, these men would become angry. To them, it was a given that my sexuality existed for their gratification and that they were being benevolent. Better to be beaten off to for it, they reasoned, than to be beaten up over it. They expected me to be grateful to them for not demonstrating outright hostility.
One such man I once knew, a man exposed to just enough feminism to be annoying, chastised me for being sex-negative and for shaming his sexuality when I told him that Sapphic activity didn’t exist merely to arouse him. Another lesson in civility for the marginalized: No one cares if you’re civil if you’re saying something that they don’t like, especially if it confronts their sense of entitlement to your very person. I stopped giving credit where it wasn’t due and thought about how I could assert myself.
I came up with my strategy for messing with straight male fetishists by remembering an experience I had as an undergraduate. Sociology 69: Sociology of Sexuality (now course-coded Sociology 64, boo!) was a life-changing class for me. One night of the term involved watching a carefully-curated set of pornographic video clips, followed by a Q&A with porn stars (the Belladonna came in the year I was there).
The porn progressed from more to less normative, starting with your typical hetero “girl is masturbating, man strides in with erection” scenario to a FMF threesome to girl-on-girl. The third, if I recall correctly, involved two blondes each with a red lipstick print tattoo on her buttcheek. They tentatively poked at each other’s clits with French-manicured talons, lapped at the air directly in front of each others’ labia to great dramatic but little actual effect, and then fucked each other with their lucite heels. All of the aforementioned actions took place on the hood of a yellow muscle car.
By the time I took the class, I had seen enough porn to be bored by the initial offerings on the screen. I was, however, fascinated by the reactions of the men who showed up to Porn Night, especially since I’d never seen some of them actually in class before (and was sure that a number of them weren’t actually enrolled in the course). The straight men in the audience had nothing but cheers and claps for these first few clips, especially the girl-on-girl scene.
They had no such accolades for what came next: a scene involving two butch dykes making out rather ferociously as one slammed the other against a wall and fingered the heck out of her. As I found myself transfixed by the scene, I didn’t notice the male audience’s changes in facial expression, but their raucous noises had definitely stopped. I stayed transfixed as the male prison sex and kink scenes unfolded before me, to the squirms of the audience. I didn’t know it yet, and wouldn’t admit it for another year, but I had found my people.
I remember that night when I think about how to put male fetishisizers of my sexuality in their place. I channel their discomfort over my annoyance. Now, when a man hurr-hurrs at me about all the sex he’s imagining me having, I swiftly disavow him of his notions by telling him about the sex I’ve had with women; the further away it is from that girl-on-girl scene, the better. If I’m in the right mood, I’ll butch it up by using crude rather than sensual language and being as grunty as possible.
The crestfallen looks I get in response are both more satisfying and less scary than the anger I used to get back when I was still playing at being a nice little queer.