In Defense of Barsexuals and Faux-Mos

Last weekend was Pink Training! Which was wonderful, because I got the chance to give a couple of awesome workshops (Bi Awareness and a bi space) and spend time with some of the fantasticest people in the country. It also meant that I got way too little sleep and DEFINITELY had no peace ‘n’ quiet to do some writing. Am still recovering. May always be still recovering. So here’s a repost, originally published in BoLT Magazine. Enjoy!

I have a confession to make. Despite appearances, and the very title of this article, I am guilty. I’ve done it, you see. I’ve made the snarky comments and given the disparaging looks alongside the rest. The targets of this behaviour? You know, ‘them’. Those expletive deleted straight girls who go around kissing each other to attract guys. Seriously, who do they think they are? They give the rest of us a bad name, right? Aren’t they pretty much the reason why some straight guys seem to think they have a right to elbow in on gay lady couples? Don’t you know how annoying that is? Jeez.

Yeah, I’m sorry.

All this time I’ve been blaming them and you know what? They are not the problem. They’re really, really not. If any of you readers here today are straight (or straightish) women who like to get drunk and kiss girls in bars? And if you think it’s fun that lots of straight/bi guys are into that? Awesome sauce. I wish you much fun and many margaritas.

See, here’s the thing. It’s easy to blame the barsexuals and faux-mos for homophobia and objectification of women. But, seriously? Homophobia and objectification of women are things that have been around a long time. They were there long before Katy Perry, before Madonna kissed Britney, before tAtU. They were even there before Ellen got dumped by whats-her-name who decided she’d been straight all along. They’ve been around since before the ice melted in the world’s first mojito, and nothing the drinker of that mojito did afterward is to blame for their existence.

When talking about straight girls who kiss girls, it’s easy to forget that they’re a lot like, you know, us. Us queer (or queerish!) types. We are all figuring out ways to navigate being women in a society that has some seriously messed-up ideas about female sexuality. Except that straight girls have to do it without one major superpower that queers get. You see, queer chicks and gay ladies have the option to do that navigating relatively free of the pressure to be sexy-to-men. We get to define ourselves, to desire as well as to be desired, and since we’ve gone to the trouble of coming out we might as well just own up to what we’re into, quit stressing about whether it’s socially acceptable, and bloody well have some fun with it. We’ve already been called dykes and queers – so what if someone thinks we’re slutty as well? We get to play with how to do gender and relationships, to write our own scripts in a way that’s really difficult for straight people. Trust me on this one. It’s harder for me when I’m involved with straight cis guys*, and I’m a queerass bi chick who’s been living in gayland all my adult life.

So while straight women get all that awesome straight privilege and can merrily skip down the aisle to have their love blessed by any religion, and legitimised by any state they choose, while their parents cry tears of happiness, those of us of a queerer persuasion do have an edge when it comes to exploring our sexualities**.

You know how annoying it is when straight guys go around assuming that queer chicks are all there for their amusement and gratification? When you’re off having a decidedly one-on-one night out with your ladyfriend and some guy comes up and grabs your ass? Or sits down right next to you and asks if he can join in? Isn’t it nice when you get the hell out of there, go home, close the door behind you and don’t have to deal with that anymore? Straight chicks don’t get to do that. For them, there isn’t that space to be romantic, and be sexual, without any sexist or misogynistic assumptions. Or any risk of male privilege raising its (often unwitting) head.

We live in a world steeped in sexism, in misogyny, in male privilege, and in heteronormative assumptions. In the male gaze. Is it therefore surprising that, in that world, a lot of women explore their desires within that context? And given misogyny, given sexism, given the ubiquity of the male gaze and heteronormativity, why the hell are we blaming the women for the actions of sexist men?

Men don’t take same-sex lady couples seriously because they don’t take women seriously. They think they can elbow into our time and our space because they’re used to thinking they can elbow into women’s time and space. They think all lesbians want is a man because we live in a culture that tells us, time and time again, that sexuality is about men and done to women.

At the end of the day, it’s nothing to do with the straight chicks kissing each other in the bar. They’re just women living in a heteronormative, patriarchal world and having a bit of fun within that context.

And hey, I know more than a couple of queer chicks who started figuring out their sexuality when they were straight chicks kissing other straight chicks in bars. If that doesn’t subvert the paradigms, I don’t know what does.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

* Because trans guys are way more likely to have had to have done a lot of script-writing and figuring-stuff-out of their own. Not because they’re less dudely. Because they’re not less dudely. Duh.

**Assuming, of course, that we live somewhere with a reasonable number of us.

In Defense of Barsexuals and Faux-Mos

15 thoughts on “In Defense of Barsexuals and Faux-Mos

  1. Jen

    Good piece nicely argued.

    It’s not something I’ve seen much of (my nightclubbing days are behind me and I never really went to that kind of a bar…) but when I have what’s outraged me was not “they are aping queerness!” but “they are doing it so unconvincingly!”

    It’d probably be good for us all if there was as much ‘doing it for attention’ acceptablilty for boy-on-boy canoodling in bars. So far as I can tell that’s still not the case, which I think makes your case stronger.

  2. 2

    Nice post. Like Jen, it’s not something I’ve seen too much of, but it did crop up occasionally and, as Jen said, it always seemed rather false. I think that’s probably what comes when your heart’s not really in it …

    I don’t know whether I’m entirely ready to defend girls who snog their female friends on the dance floor for the benefit of straight guys (whether the guy in question is a stranger or their partner), and that’s mostly because I know that there will be those who do it not because of expectations from a male-driven point of view or privilege, but as the next step in the quest for attention.

    I’m not saying they’re all doing it for that reason, not by any means, but there are *some* who do, and I’ve always found such bids for people to notice them rather tiresome. I wonder also whether it contributes, and to what extent, to the portrayal of bisexuality in fiction. For the most part, a “bisexual” as far as TV and movies are concerned, is a women who mostly sleeps with other women, but will put her predominantly lesbian sexuality on hold long enough to allow the male protagonist to join in, watch, or do whatever will satisfy the fantasies of the guys watching it (and writing it).

    Admittedly one has to realise that TV/movies are dominated by men, and the portrayal of all sexualities is going to reflect their opinions, prejudices, and desires … the trouble is that leaves bisexual men like myself entirely out of the equation. I shouldn’t whinge I suppose … it’s hard to be portrayed as sluts, serial killers, or weirdos if you’re not portrayed at all (and, obviously, I am all three of those things, but only at weekends) 🙂

    Sorry, I appear to have rambled off a bit … great post! Shall be back later to read more!

    1. 2.1

      Mostly agree, just one minor point: they are trying to get attention, because women are told that their value lies within male perception. Their worth is judged on how much they are noticed, but trying to be noticed is unattractive. Women are caught in the awkward situation of ‘needing’ male attention but having to seem like the don’t. So attention seeking? Can’t really blame them.

  3. 3

    As a woman, I don’t get it from either point of view: I don’t get kissing other women to titillate men and I don’t get men wanting to watch other women fooling around.

    I do get the point-of-view problem, though. I had a huge and unexpected fight with my then boyfriend after I paused in the doorway of a strange bar to orient myself to the room and to see what was where. He was jealously furious that I had “displayed myself to the whole room” when from my point of view, I was looking over the room.

  4. 4

    Thanks for writing this. I always get pissed off at those faux lesbians, partly because I feel they’re trivialising the sexuality of gay people by turning our love into a cheap gimmick employed for the titillation of straight guys. And partly because they rub in the fact that so much of what is acceptable in our society is determined by the desires of straight men; straight men find “chicks kissing” to be hot, so women are encouraged to make out; straight men find guys kissing to be “gross”, so guys like me are bashed up and made invisible.

    But as you point out, it’s easy to get angry at these women, when they’re really just as victimised as we are… the root cause of the problem is that straight male sexuality is the default sexuality, and it forces all of us who are not male or not hetero to conform…

    I’ll remember this post the next time I feel angry at two straight women making out, and I’ll remember that they’re not the ones who deserve the brunt of my anger.

  5. AJ

    I don’t really care about two straight girls kissing to explore their sexuality. I understand that everyone needs to test the waters and experience different things. The ones who do it to get guys’ attention annoy me, but I don’t harbor strong feelings of ill will toward them.

    The ones that really get under my skin are the ones who “come out” as lesbian because they think it’s kewl and later date men anyways. Most of them know they aren’t, and the ones who genuinely aren’t sure are still questioning but are in too much of a hurry to jump into “gay culture” that they don’t wait to actually evaluate their physical and emotional attractions towards women.

    No, they aren’t the root of all homophobia, but they do contribute to it. Even I tend to have the same dismissive and unbelieving attitude toward high school or college LGBT people that most people had-and some actually still have-toward me, an attitude I always hated. I try not to be that way, but after so many “lesbians” I knew who ended up straight I kind of stopped taking coming out announcements seriously.

      1. AJ

        Um…okay… Kind of wish you had said what problem you had specifically with my comment, I’m open to differing opinions. I tried not to be harsh and to keep it fair. I guess it was judgmental, as most opinions are, but I’m just going off of experience.

  6. 8

    Sorry and all but I DO blame barsexuals for SOME of the shit that I get, it’s the pathetic and desperate attention seeking behaviour they exhibit that means I do get hassled and asked if blokes can “join in” when I am out with my girlfriend, they then tell me I don’t “look like a lesbian” . And whilst I totally understand the part about elbowing in, the women like that encourage elbowing in which is gradually making things worse. They give straight people and gay women a bad name.

    1. 8.1

      You don’t see how blaming women for the actions of men is.. incredibly fucked-up, no?

      If men want to ask you and your GF if they can “join in”, then that is 100% the fault of the men doing that.

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