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January 26, 2014 6:07 AM   Subscribe

On Gay Male Privilege
posted by roomthreeseventeen (147 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
I for one welcome this "just because you are gay doesn't mean you can yell 'Nice tits!' at my girlfriend" sentiment.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:37 AM on January 26 [21 favorites]


"Whatever the cause is, it becomes clear: If there isn’t any kind of transactional exchange happening, then women lose their value in gay male subcultures."

This isn't really particularly surprising. "Gay" subculture is specifically oriented around their sexual orientation, which is exclusive of women. Gay clubs are supposed to be places where gay guys can go to meet other gay guys. It's a "boy's club" that is basically exclusive of women, but it's pretty much acceptable because it's not a power structure.

If they're misogynistic in general society, that's not "gay male subculture," that's a gay man in the larger culture. Queer-friendly clubs, rather than gay male clubs, I imagine, don't make it hard for women to get drinks.

The article had a lot of good points, but the best point (gay guys are still guys, and still benefit from male privilege) was muddled because of a very weird rumination on how women are considered in the context of a subculture demarcated by their sexuality.
posted by explosion at 6:39 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I thought that was a real misstep as the opening for an article that otherwise raised some good and timely points. The fact that (straight?) women go into a gay men's pickup bar expecting a "prime cut of meat" but being dissapointed that they can't "eat", that they get the "stink eye" and have to "wait longer" for "watered down drinks" has a lot more to do with their own rudeness and unrealistic expectations than it does the very real problem of gay male misogyny.

I've heard some truly vile and visceral female-body-hate from some of my fellow gays and in some situations they've been in a position to express that through various types of privelege, exclusion, hateful speech and so forth. I'm not aware of more direct instances of abuse, unwanted contact, etc, but then, my milieu is mostly male, which is in some ways problematic by itself. Anyway, an interesting article, so thanks.
posted by Drexen at 6:50 AM on January 26 [27 favorites]


Yeah, I thought that was a real misstep as the opening for an article that otherwise raised some good and timely points. The fact that (straight?) women go into a gay men's bar expecting a "prime cut of meat" but being dissapointed that they can't "eat", that they get the "stink eye" and have to "wait longer" for "watered down drinks" has a lot more to do with their own rudeness and unrealistic expectations than it does the very real problem of gay male misogyny.

I think those are two different issues. Expecting to meet a "prime cut of meat" at a gay bar = not realistic. Expecting a drink that's not watered down, without an extraordinary wait seems perfectly fair to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:52 AM on January 26 [34 favorites]


Granted, I live in a place where pretty much every bar is an everybody bar, but I have to stop and stare at the fact that any gay bar is so locked in the 80's as to make it hard for a woman to get a decent drink at the bar, much less any of the other salient points in the article. I must be completely and totally out of touch with "reality."
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:55 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Haven't lesbians been saying this same kinda stuff for years?
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:58 AM on January 26 [33 favorites]


I'm never going to pull a tone argument thing on someone who's been groped and is pissed off about it, but if your goal is educating guys, and you're a guy who should have the emotional distance from the issue to do so, you could be a little gentler about this? But I say this mostly with regards to the touching thing. I am astounded by how much things have changed in terms of how modern progressives are thinking about bodily integrity and consent, just since I was a teenager. It's great! It's also complicated, and when you call someone out for being an asshole at a party, well, yes, it usually goes poorly.

This is why I like the "problematic" thing, because it signals that, hey, there's an issue here but I know you're a person who is not trying to be an asshole.
posted by Sequence at 6:58 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


From The Atlantic, in an article on the reduction in number of lesbian bars in New Yor comes one possible explanation of the perceived less-welcoming attitude: As Jodi O’Brien, the chairwoman of Seattle University’s Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, explains, "lesbian presence in mixed spaces is typically more tolerated than gay male presence, especially if there are displays of affection."
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:00 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Progress for all of us gets closer when we use our hands to help each other up as humans rather than to grope others as objects.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:00 AM on January 26 [9 favorites]


If I'm reading him right, his basic point is one of intersectionality -- gay men are privileged in some ways, less privileged in others (and more complicatedly so when you consider race, which is not taken up in this essay), and that as mainstream gay culture has developed it has built on that in problematic ways.

I've never spent much time in gay bars (I'll go with friends once in a while, but that's about it), but all of the women I've ever dated and many female friends have loved gay clubs and bars for the usual reasons (less harassment, better dance music). I've never heard stories of their being made unwelcome in the ways he describes, but maybe they fall into one of the "ok" categories he describes, or perhaps some places are simply more welcoming than others.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:05 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


It makes perfect logical sense why a gay bar would exclude women. First you start with your gay bar, where everyone inside you can hit on without worrying having that super-awkward conversation about "yeah, I'm not like that..." Then women show up, which you're not interested in sexually, and those attract straight men, and then your space is gone. This isn't privilege, this is "you are not wanted here, you are not supposed to be here, fuck off."
posted by Veritron at 7:05 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


Clubs aren't really always about fairness. Some clubs will charge a cover for men but not for women. It may not be fair to the men, but it does help to create the atmosphere in the club people want to attend it for. People want to go out and have a good chance of finding a partner. Women in gay male clubs are not potential partners.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:08 AM on January 26


While there aren’t any publicly-posted placards posted to the effect of NO BROADS ALLOWED.

He's never been to Sadies, where the manager would frequently scream at the bouncers -- "I've told you a million times, DON'T LET THE FISH IN!"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:09 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I, for one, will be glad when the fad of trying to characterize everything as "privilege" dies out. It's more accurate and illuminating to characterize the relevant acts in terms of discrimination prejudice.

What's mostly at issue here has nothing to do with "privilege"--it's sexism (male sexism against females, obviously). There's the bit in the middle where he says that gay males can pass in the corporate world and so on, i.e. that they can avoid discrimination against gays much more easily than women can avoid discrimination against women. So I guess that's the sort of thing the title might have in mine. But the rest of it's basically about sexism.

The bit toward the end is also rather odd, and out of place. I suppose I can't see why it's a problem for gay dudes to prefer masculine straight dudes. I mean, if it's ok to prefer males to females (or vice-versa), I don't see any reason why it would be wrong to prefer masculine people to feminine people (or vice-versa). Of course that doesn't mean that you get to be a dick to the people you don't prefer...but it's inconsistent to wring your hands over one of these preferences but not the other.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:15 AM on January 26 [25 favorites]


Since we seem to be obsessing over the first paragraph to the exclusion of the entire rest of this beautiful article, I'd like to ask the many of you who have no doubt opened the thread first and found something to fight about to please go read the fucking article first and see how you feel.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:20 AM on January 26 [34 favorites]


A makeover of the word “gay”, of this particular identity, and its unfortunate brand of privilege that trivializes women...

There's a lot of on-point stuff in the article but there's an essentialism in the way rohin talks about "the current packaging of gay male identity" that not only doesn't fit with the reality of the multiple gay male identities that actually exist in the wild but is also deeply unfair. The way he can just toss off comments like, "many gay men spend little actual time interacting with women or regarding them as human beings" without any evidence is just awful. Read the piece again and see how many times rohin pulls that particular move:

As gay men, we are being wholesale conditioned to believe that when we diminish women, it’s okay...

Who's doing this conditioning, again? Who's believing it, again? The article's provocative, sure, but also terribly simplistic and undermined by its own evidence-free style of generalizing argument. Reducing drag culture to Karl Lagerfeld's approach to women and Jessica Lange's roles on American Horror Story without also noting the liberating power of genderplay is such classic non-anthropological nonsense it's difficult to take the argument seriously. How about talking to some actual drag queens? Where are the people who find the idea of genderplay and costume play deeply liberating from standard male roles, in this article's argument? Nowhere, they would complexify the picture.

I'm glad it was linked, and sure it'll provoke good conversation, but there's something deeply off-base with the way rohin is framing his points about the ass-patter at the party, etc., in a general argument about "gay culture."
posted by mediareport at 7:23 AM on January 26 [13 favorites]


Er, "discrimination and prejudice," not "discrimination prejudice."

and "have in mind," not "have in mine."

Stupid brain.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:31 AM on January 26


The gay vs queer part was interesting. As the author mentions the word confounds people, and used to be a slur, but now it's being used by those looking to differentiate themselves from all the gay stereotypes mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

Very we'll written article. And yeah, the Mizrahi boob grab was atrocious.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 7:32 AM on January 26


It makes perfect logical sense why a gay bar would exclude women

You mean straight women. The problem is that in a lot of gay bars, the assumption is that all the women are straight, which a) means that gay dudes get angry at women for getting their assumed heterosexuality all over them and b) straight women get unreasonably offended when a women has the gall to hit on them.

Lesbians can't pick up chicks anywhere, man*.

The fact that gay is assumed to mean a certain type of gay male is actually an issue. I have a coworker (upper middle class, white, male, gay) that I have to remind about existence of other types of queer people once a week. I'm not even kidding. I joke about getting a special signature for my email that says P.S. lesbians at the bottom.

*slight over exaggeration, yes.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:33 AM on January 26 [23 favorites]


It makes perfect logical sense why a gay bar would exclude women

No, it doesn't.
posted by mediareport at 7:39 AM on January 26 [25 favorites]


It's late. I have another long day tomorrow. And so I clicked 'close tab' at around the fourth or fifth time he extrapolated from his and his gay male friends' behaviour to all gay men.
That only took me, what, four paragraphs? Possibly five.

Sure the article might raise things about the gay male scene that can be problems - racism and sexism don't just go away because you're a minority of a different kind. There are many kinds of discussions about the specific ways men are arseholes on Grindr, or how intense focus on sex and sexuality can dehumanise how gay men treat people of both genders. But my main takeaway is that idea that it's just that now gay men, especially white gay men, are just not considered oppressed enough to be concerned about.

And honestly? By the fiftieth time a women comes up to a gay man in a gay bar and tells them how much they love to go dancing at gay clubs and how great it is that all these attractive men are around and how their boyfriend hates going out but they're going to try and drag him here because he'll doesn't realise how fun it is, and even if he doesn't come yay us! ... it's fair to think 'What you treat as your playground is actually my life.'

But if it wouldn't be reasonable to regard all those anecdotal women as representative of the whole, the same should be applied to this guy and his article.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:41 AM on January 26 [20 favorites]


One of the best nights of my recent life involved being taken out to a couple lesbian bars by two female mefites, one straight and one not (you know who you are and thank you again).

One would think that this old guy, in the tow of two attractive younger women would not receive a warm welcome in those establishments on a Saturday night. My experience was far from it. I was treated to drinks, and one dyke I did not even know invited me outside to smoke a joint. And I did not see a reticence in any behaviors that can be associated with a same-sex bar.

Maybe this was because I have transitioned, as a male, to the point where the only part of my game that works is "avuncular," but it was a great time I felt welcomed as part of that bar culture for that night.
posted by Danf at 7:45 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]


I think that a lot of people are missing the fact that a) he's a gay male who supposedly doesn't act that way and b) he actually talks about the fact that there are other gay male cultures out there? That was the whole point of the gay vs. queer thing.

I mean, it goes both ways - there are a lot of straight women out there who treat gay dudes as if they're automatically going to be Their New Gay Bestie, not the guy as an individual.

There's a shop owner near me that ups the New Gay Bestie persona up to 11 - with extra sassy! - and it seems to be a successful business model for him. It's a shop that caters mostly to women, and seems to be mostly successful with women who don't have much other exposure to queer culture. And I always think twice about going in there - not because I've got an issue with flamboyant gay men, but because I don't want to be part of a culture that fetishizes gay men as accessories for straight women, and shopping there makes me feel uncomfortably implicit in it.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:47 AM on January 26 [8 favorites]


he actually talks about the fact that there are other gay male cultures out there?

I think it's possible to read rohin's piece as, "There's One Sexist Gay Culture and My, Better, Queer Culture." The number of times he indefensibly generalizes about all gay men is pretty clear, I think, and supports that interpretation.

'What you treat as your playground is actually my life.'

True, but I figure that's true for any tourist situation ever, including the many where I've been the one treating someone else's life as a playground. Goes around, comes around, so straight tourists in the queer bar get a bit of a break as a reminder of what it's like to be touristed.
posted by mediareport at 7:54 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


"But if it wouldn't be reasonable to regard all those anecdotal women as representative of the whole, the same should be applied to this guy and his article."

...I ...I don't really see how you could be reading this as saying that all gay men have the problem he is describing, he isn't even saying that all of his gay friends have this problem. Rampant, unrepentant misogyny is however, nevertheless a huge and largely unaddressed issue in gay communities. I mean, the latent homophobia inherent in the thinking process necessary to think that shit like holding a straight bachelorette party in a gay bar would even be remotely ok is also a problem, but the answer to that is not groping women, or watering down their drinks, or including a virulent hatred of women in your straight-face ensemble.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:57 AM on January 26 [13 favorites]


I think it's possible to read rohin's piece as, "There's One Sexist Gay Culture and My, Better, Queer Culture." The number of times he indefensibly generalizes about all gay men is pretty clear, I think, and supports that interpretation.

Gay men are a part of queer culture too. And he actually makes a point of starting many of his statements with 'many', so that there is room for gay men to exist outside of the statements he's making.

If it doesn't apply to you, congratulations on not being an asshat. But just because the statement doesn't apply to you doesn't mean that he doesn't have a point about (the dominant hegemonic American) gay cultural in general.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:08 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Autostraddle: Why Do Gay Men Keep Touching My Boobs
posted by divabat at 8:24 AM on January 26 [8 favorites]


doesn't mean that he doesn't have a point about (the dominant hegemonic American) gay cultural in general.

Again, I'll mention that I think there are many good points in the article. It's just weakened by the weak points, is all.
posted by mediareport at 8:29 AM on January 26


there are a lot of straight women out there who treat gay dudes as if they're automatically going to be Their New Gay Bestie

'Inflatable Gay Best Friend' toy elicits Tesco apology.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:34 AM on January 26


As a young feminist. I would frequent gay male bars with female friends in order to have some space. It was the one place where we could drink, talk intensely and dance and not be bothered by straight men. Yes, there was the same misogyny displayed on the walls, the dress and in the speech – but never to the intensity of a straight bar. It was the one place, as women, where we could relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Misogyny is a condition that exists in our culture – and many men (regardless of their sexuality) are trained to maintain it.
I can’t remember who wrote it – but I believe it was a feminist, and it was along the line of: the biggest error straight men made was not aligning themselves with gay men – as what both groups have in common is an obsession with their penises. Can you imagine what kind of world this would be for women if straight and gay men aligned?. Thank goodness they haven’t figured this out.
posted by what's her name at 8:37 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]


Can you imagine what kind of world this would be for women if straight and gay men aligned?. Thank goodness they haven’t figured this out.

It might be on the agenda for the next Global Man-Summit! I'll check the newsletter.
posted by erlking at 8:41 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I've received this phenomenon as a straight passing, probably bi woman (one of those people to whom it's generally not worth the bother but if a woman is feeling indulgent I'm down for it), of gay men presuming that sexualized contact is non-threatening- ranging from greeting me with "hey sexy!" up to being surprise humped. I've also been asked twice if I wanted to make out for the point of making out- implication that it is not "meaningful" so I might have fun.

Since straight men don't always approach me in a sexualized fashion because of pure desire, but also as a threat gesture and as gender role policing, this gets a bit awkward. Honestly most of of the time I don't know how to respond to a lot of stuff other than outright hostility to the humping incident, followed by sarcastic social shaming to make is clear that that was sexual assault, regardless of intent.

There's a weird gender performance overlap thing going on that goes with the flamboyant version of gay identity. I always function under the premise that someone's outwards presentation means little to their sexual pastimes, but I feel like as much as my gender/orientation gets accused of trying to get a gay BFF there is sometimes an opposite assumption that I'm down for *being* a gay person's BFF with all the bizarro land gender thing- maybe it's intended as reassurance they are not going to hit on me, and their idea of women and what they want is a very narrow box?

(Note: I don't think all or most gay men do this- it's just a weird thing that pops up occasionally.)
posted by Phalene at 8:45 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Related: Gay Dudes, Can You Just Not? (and the elaboration), about transphobia and transmisogyny in gay male subcultures (and 'progressive' people/outlets like The Daily Show, pop culture, wider society, etc. the elaboration elaborates).
It's more accurate and illuminating to characterize the relevant acts in terms of discrimination [and] prejudice.
Yeah, I agree. "Privilege" too often denotes something the privileged possess, when all it really boils down to is, "A person who differs from you in one or more qualities they have no control over has to deal with difficulties you don't." Which should turn your empathy on and make you look at what they're dealing with instead of waxing endlessly about life difficulty settings or declaring you don't have privilege (and honestly, heck, you might not! it's complicated and often an imperfect vehicle for discussing the ideas here) and otherwise continuing to ignore various kinds of discriminations (or just the ways in which other people live) in favor of high fiving and/or shaking fists at other people in your upper-middle class bubble. I use privilege-framings, and can be inconsistent about it, but I feel like there can be a kind of defeatist attitude with them; like, "some people have privilege, some don't, that's just the way the world works." When, no, the whole idea is that it isn't.
posted by byanyothername at 8:47 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


[A few comments deleted; maybe we can just skip the derail about who's turning on whom. (Not who's turning whom on, that would be different.)]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:51 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Some clubs will charge a cover for men but not for women. It may not be fair to the men,

Not just unfair, but often illegal.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:53 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


When you see a club or bar admitting women for free, or providing free drinks, it may be worth bearing in mind the truism noted on MeFi many years ago: if you're getting something for free you're not the customer, you're the product.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:57 AM on January 26 [77 favorites]


Being a straight male, I don't know a lot about this, but I will recount hanging out with a gay friend at his ex-bf's place and watching Miss Universe on the DVR. Wow, it was a lot of "I bet you suck good d**k with that mouth" and similar sentiments thrown at the screen. I must admit, I laughed without thinking about how maybe what they were saying was not so good. I thought it was okay because they were gay.

Also my close female friend hates one particular gay bar around here because they really give you crap there.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on January 26


Most gay male bars are meant to be safe spaces for gay males looking to hang out with and meet other gay males, without having to look over their shoulder. If someone actively and deliberately disrupts any kind of safe space and its purpose, they should not be surprised if their rude behavior makes them feel unwelcome. There are also many more opportunities for safe spaces for 51% of the population which enjoys legal and societal protections that half of 10% do not. That isn't to say that straight women looking to have a night out with the girls should be automatically barred from safe spaces made by and for gay men, but some thoughtful consideration for circumstance and purpose for why these places exist is almost always useful.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


Yeah, if you go to a straight bar you might be the product and have to deal with the negative attention that brings with it. If you go to a gay male bar you are now diluting the product and now face the negative attention that comes with that. Hard to really win as a lady. As business owners and human beings though everybody should employ some basic respect when it comes to things like keeping your hands to yourself and making sure the customers the business has welcomed in are not being harassed or poorly served by staff.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:51 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I can’t remember who wrote it – but I believe it was a feminist, and it was along the line of: the biggest error straight men made was not aligning themselves with gay men – as what both groups have in common is an obsession with their penises. Can you imagine what kind of world this would be for women if straight and gay men aligned?. Thank goodness they haven’t figured this out.

Sometimes I don't like the word ally because it reminds me too much of the board game Diplomacy.

Now a very silly part of my brain wants to offer to support the lesbian navy into the North sea. The asexuals will never see it coming!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:54 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]


straight women looking to have a night out with the girls

The women the author refers to were his friends, going to the gay bar with him (a gay man).

This article, along with some other things I've been reading and discussing lately with friends has really made me rethink my love for T Lo. I'm interested in their celebrity analysis, but the article really put some things a (lesbian, fwiw) friend of mine had to say about their toxic approach to fashion into context.
posted by immlass at 9:55 AM on January 26 [7 favorites]


I read this yesterday.

I've never been a big bar-goer (or one at all, really) but I do kind of feel like it's worthwhile for there to be places where gay men can go and just have it be gay men, for the guys that want that. Like I'm sympathetic to straight women's desire to have a place where they can go dance with a minimum of harassment, but also gay men have very few places where we can go and not worry even a little that someone is going to be shitty. I live in a liberal part of a liberal town and I still generally shy away from, for example, briefly touching my fiance's hand when we're out at a restaurant. So I'm sort of inclined to think it's probably ok for there to be some men-only gay bars? Especially since it's so easy for a woman to think "oh I've been going to this gay bar and it's great, I'll bring my boyfriend along and we can dance" and after a while, a gay bar in a metro area can turn into just a bar. All of this happening, of course, in the context that it's illegal to be explicitly gender-segregated, so any segregation is effected by means of shitty behavior. Ugh.

As Drinky says, it's hard to really win as a lady, but I also think it's hard to really win as a gay man? I guess I don't have a good answer.

I also agree that there's an extent to which gay men think it's totally ok to say really shitty things about women's dress/bodies/etc and a lack of respect for women's rights to their own bodies. Hello, you do not grab or touch someone's body without their permission, why is this hard for people? And it's not sassy or funny or anything other than shitty to say stuff like "oh honey you should not be wearing those pants" (or whatever).

Bleh.
posted by kavasa at 10:02 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


When you see a club or bar admitting women for free, or providing free drinks, it may be worth bearing in mind the truism noted on MeFi many years ago: if you're getting something for free you're not the customer, you're the product.

I agree, and that's why I hate Ladies' Night. The whole point of LN is to fill the club with women to get men in the club, paying and buying drinks. It does treat women as products and most men as saps, and I think it really poisons the well for a comfortable place for singles to meet. It makes it predatory and unfun, especially if you're not one of those alpha males that preys on the 'product'.

I have a SO, and haven't been to a club in years, but I always liked going with my lesbian friend to gay bars (both men and women): the atmosphere was much more like "this is a place to meet and have fun and just relax" instead of the bizarro stalking practice that most straight clubs are like.

Can straight culture import fun clubs like that? I don't need it anymore, but I'm sure there's plenty of guys out there that just want to meet women on their own terms.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:03 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Most women at gay bars will be there with gay male friends, usually very good friends who will not countenance going to any other kind of bar, therefore giving their female besties the choice of visiting the gay bar or not hanging out with them at all.

But I'm not sure why this discussion has come to be predominantly about how invasive women are in gay bars, rather than gay male attitudes towards women, which is what the article is about.
posted by Summer at 10:13 AM on January 26 [63 favorites]


f someone actively and deliberately disrupts any kind of safe space and its purpose, they should not be surprised if their rude behavior makes them feel unwelcome

Yeah, hi, straight and gay women by their mere presence are not disrupting a safe space.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:31 AM on January 26 [18 favorites]


I've never been a big bar-goer (or one at all, really) but I do kind of feel like it's worthwhile for there to be places where white men can go and just have it be white men, for the whites that want that. Like I'm sympathetic to black men's desire to have a place where they can go dance with a minimum of harassment, but also white men have very few places where we can go and not worry even a little that someone is going to be shitty.

Yeah. I totally see where you all are coming from.

Seriously, if it was a bar where people of color were being harassed and be made to feel unwelcome, would we have so many people arguing for "we need our own special space"?
posted by happyroach at 11:52 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


That kind of analogy is far from clear-cut and actually just muddies the waters here, it seems to me.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 AM on January 26 [18 favorites]


I once stumbled into the Big Cup coffee shop in Chelsea in Manhattan. I was coming back from a Salvation Army foray and wanted something to eat.

At that time (mid-90s) it was a daytime gay male hangout. Since it otherwise looked like your average hipster coffee shop, I had no way of knowing this. (I found out later from the NYT or Time Out, this being pre-Google.)

Then I noticed that the gender ratio in the Big Cup was a little skewed.

Since I was very thin and had short hair and somewhat androgynous clothes, I think it took a few minutes for the penny to drop on both sides.

/note on tone -- I have no problem with gay male hangouts, but I think it's funny that I didn't know.
posted by bad grammar at 11:57 AM on January 26


I do feel like I should point out that as the author points out, the unwanted objectification and physical contact thing doesn't seem (to me) to be as one-way as the heterosexual analog. I've had straight women smack my ass or try to make out with me before without invitation, assuming that as a gay male I'm basically a prop or a convenient stand-in for a hetero guy. That "shit straight women say to gay men" video with the "can you feel my boobs to see if they're uneven? no, FEEL them" made me laugh with recognition.

But to be totally clear, I agree that there is no excuse for the behavior he is describing. I think it has a lot to do with that "ironic X-ism often has a similar effect to real X-ism" thing we had a MeTa thread about previously - I wouldn't doubt that most of the gay men described in this article didn't think that what they were doing was actually effectively misogynist, but at the end of the day your boobs are not any less grabbed without permission on national TV just because the person who did it was gay, jfc.

Also this made me crazy:
At a recent presentation, I asked all of the gay male students in the room to raise their hand if in the past week they touched a woman’s body without her consent. After a moment of hesitation, all of the hands of the gay men in the room went up. I then asked the same gay men to raise their hand if in the past week they offered a woman unsolicited advice about how to “improve” her body or her fashion. Once again, after a moment of hesitation, all of the hands in the room went up.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhh
posted by en forme de poire at 12:09 PM on January 26 [8 favorites]


If I'm reading him right, his basic point is one of intersectionality -- gay men are privileged in some ways, less privileged in others (and more complicatedly so when you consider race, which is not taken up in this essay), and that as mainstream gay culture has developed it has built on that in problematic ways.

Also I think the way increasing mainstream acceptance of gay men and their increasing, out of the closet media presence has shaped gay male culture in the past twenty years. The writer mentioned the way in which "straight acting" macho (but not too macho) middle or upper class men are the current gay ideal has shoved all other interpretations of being a gay man to the background and how this gives certain classes of gay men roughly the same privileges as those of straight men (up to a certain extent).

Which is I think a key point: the acceptance of gay people into "mainstream" society depends a lot on their willing assimilation and adoption of mainstream values, which of course means buying into a whole set of poisonous privileges.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:15 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Again at the risk of being redundant I don't want to claim that either direction is more or less prevalent, because it kind of doesn't matter: I think unsolicited straight->gay and gay->straight groping are both part of the same general patriarchal principle that goes "people who are lower on the totem pole are sex objects and you can touch them without consent." I think there was a trans MeFite who also mentioned that sudden genital-grabbing was something she'd experienced as well, and I think there are parallels there too, as well as e.g. how women of color are often cast in media and treated in person...
posted by en forme de poire at 12:17 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Most gay male bars are meant to be safe spaces for gay males looking to hang out with and meet other gay males,

Well, yeah, but it's still somewhat unfair that it's once again women who are being blamed, when there are few to no safe spaces for straight women. In straight bars, you get hit on by assholes or worse, gay bars hate you and in the lesbian bars you have the same problem as in the straight bars, only now you have to explain that, while, actually, you're not that way inclined.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:20 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


gay men are privileged in some ways, less privileged in others

The next step is to realize that almost everyone is privileged in some ways and less privileged in others, which is why it's better to talk about privilege on a societal level and not on an individual one. Kind of like BMI.

Yeah, hi, straight and gay women by their mere presence are not disrupting a safe space.

Well, I tend to agree but I don't think it's a given. There are plenty of "safe spaces" which would consider themselves to be disrupted by the mere presence of straight men, for example. So it depends on how you mean safe in this context.
posted by Justinian at 12:22 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


I hang out mostly with gay men. And most of the time we meet at a gay bar.

Between having my ass grabbed (jokingly), the constant sexual innuendo, and the comments, it's not a safe space for gay men, even though that's the predominant crowd. It's a bit of a taste of what women get, so while I can't live a woman's experience, I can certainly empathize.

And at the same time...I can't see my friends congregating at a straight bar, because of the crap that ensues when we do. So yes, I consider that gay bar a safe space. It's a place where I won't have to worry about getting my ass kicked when I walk outside, or have to deal with some shitty homophobe's nasty comments.

There's also a lesbian bar in the area. I went there once, and it was the most singularly unwelcome and unpleasant experience I've ever had in a bar. I lasted about ten minutes through the shitty looks, the rude behavior, and the nasty insults before I said fuck it, dumped my drink on the floor and walked out.

So what am I trying to say? There are shitty people everywhere, and sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield. I'm off to the bar soon to celebrate one of the bartenders birthdays, and it's going to be fun. That's the reason I go, to be with friends, and that, to me, overrides any shitty behavior on the part of the patrons. I can deal with bullshit by ignoring it. It doesn't define the experience of being with good people and enjoying good company.
posted by disclaimer at 12:23 PM on January 26


But I'm not sure why this discussion has come to be predominantly about how invasive women are in gay bars, rather than gay male attitudes towards women, which is what the article is about.

I think it's because the article leads with the treatment of women in gay bars and then uses it as an illustration of the kind of attitude he's talking about, which is totally legitimate, but really feels unfair because it seems to gloss over a really complicated issue. It's a pretty distracting way to start the piece and made it a tough read through the first third. His later points eventually offer some sort of insight as to the culture that might fuel some of the treatment but never quite touches on the issue of cultural spaces.

I love his distinction between "gay" and "queer", which is an important thing missing from a lot of people's vocabulary. I think it's super important to note that gay culture and queer culture are very different things.

“Queer” is an awesome word; it sets a place at the table for everyone, including the same “gay” identity which itself would shun most who identify as “queer” in the way it’s constructed now. What this means is that to identify as “queer” is to be at ease with your own masculinity and femininity that you’re not constantly having to fear for your own gender expression.

If we tie that back to the space issue you get the information that a lot of people were missing:
What some people refer to as a gay bar can actually be a queer bar. These are our favorite bars - the ones where there's a good mix of straight, lesbian, and gays, and is not at all mentioned in this article. They're safe spaces for everyone to mingle, and if you called it a gay bar this article wouldn't make much sense to you.

A gay bar is a place where you can reasonably expect to be groped a lot if you're a guy. It can be incredibly disgusting and rough. It can also be very liberating to be in an environment where you are attractive and can meet people and not have to worry about hitting on the wrong person. I don't think that having a gay space is a bad thing at all. I don't think it's a very interesting place for non-gays to hang out, but everyone should be able to share in the experience without fear of being treated terribly.

There are a lot of problems with gay culture as pointed out in the piece. We certainly could treat each other better. I also don't think it's useful to dismantle it in favor of queer culture, but starting to adopt the same open and accepting attitude would certainly make it a lot more pleasant.

I really like the breadth of topics in the piece, there's a lot to chew on.
posted by grizzly at 12:26 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Who exactly are gay bars safe spaces for? From all I hear reading a lot of people in the queer community, lots of them can be pretty shitty for people outside of the masculine-appearing white cisgender gay male group at the top of that particular totem pole.

I sort of hate the thing about treating women in gay spaces badly because men will chase after them and dilute the pool. Women didn't suddenly decide to be treated like sex objects and be chased around to be objectified wherever they go. I mean, if you want to have a male-only space for whatever reason, say that, but it's pretty unfair to blame women for the way men treat them.

I think that this article illustrated a lot of shit that gay men get away with because of the fact that we see sexual harassment and assault as something fulfilling some kind of sexual desire on the part of the harasser/assaulter. Sexual assault and harassment are about power and about keeping people in their place; they're about asserting that people lower on the privilege totem pole are open to be molested and their bodies are up for public discussion whether they consent to that or not. The idea that non consensual sexual touching is okay when done by gay men to women because there can't be attraction there is fundamentally buying into one of the basic principles of rape culture: that harassment and assault are about attraction and not power.

When you assume it's about attraction and then remove the attraction, it's no longer a violation and the victim no longer is allowed to feel violated. When you assume it's about establishing power and hierarchy, it becomes a lot clearer why women who are the victims of this kind of behavior are upset by it.
posted by NoraReed at 12:35 PM on January 26 [55 favorites]


When I read the anecdote in the article I thought if I was at a gay party in Harlem and someone hit my ass I'd be kind of flattered. However the anecdote reminded me that I broke up with a boyfriend in college because he smacked my ass in front of a bunch of people!

No way no how does anyone grab my boobs without permission ;)

But my friendships with gay men have not been of the kind described, thank goodness - one of my friends once said he hated talking about clothes. We could talk all day and never once talk about those kinds of things, and that is why I love him (although he lives far away now).

For a couple of years I worked out in a gym in Chelsea that was well known as a gay hangout - often I'd be the only woman there. I was happy to be ignored, and felt only kindly brother/uncle type interactions. I don't remember a single comment about my body. I often thought about what it was I liked so much about the atmosphere. A large part of it was that I was ignored - but at the same time I just loved being surrounded by men. I would have never changed that by bringing other women or straight men there. I have to say I was treated very, very well, even though I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone.
posted by maggiemaggie at 12:41 PM on January 26


I, for one, will be glad when the fad of trying to characterize everything as "privilege" dies out. It's more accurate and illuminating to characterize the relevant acts in terms of discrimination and prejudice.

The thing is, privilege covers passive benefits from often passive social mechanisms that are kinda hard to talk about in terms of "acts of discrimination and prejudice."
posted by bleep-blop at 12:54 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


When you assume it's about attraction and then remove the attraction, it's no longer a violation and the victim no longer is allowed to feel violated. When you assume it's about establishing power and hierarchy, it becomes a lot clearer why women who are the victims of this kind of behavior are upset by it.

Really well said.

And I think it's important to remember that just as articles talking about straight male privilege aren't an attack on all straight men, this author isn't vilifying all gay men; instead I think he's calling attention to the idea that some really pernicious and anti-woman behavior seems to be getting a pass and going uninterrogated within our community.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:54 PM on January 26 [12 favorites]


At the risk of deploying an irrelevant anecdotes, I will say that as a gay dude, some of the best nights I had in college were going to lesbian night with a big mixed queer group of people, and I was fortunate enough to be treated like a friend and a guest and not an interloper. I also understand why people want unambiguous spaces where they don't have to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about cruising, but it's also too bad if gay men aren't extending the same kind of warm welcome to other sexualities. (And now writing that, I wonder if there's a little internalized homophobia there - can't let the straight people see us actually macking on each other, we have wholesome hetero-friendly images to protect!)

Too bad the lesbian dance nights I knew about seemed to have the half-life of fresh produce, while for some reason the gay male megaliths I found the most annoying seemed to linger like the mostly-impotent ground cinnamon sitting in the back of your spice cabinet for the last decade...
posted by en forme de poire at 1:05 PM on January 26


There does seem to be a lot of assuming that women in gay bars are straight. Frankly, the last primarily gay women's bar in the Toronto village* closed days before pride last year -- and if you prefer light pop and dance to hip hop, men's bars and dances are much preferrable, even if they do have a dearth of pretty ladies.

*there are other bars and event nights scattered around the city

Speaking more generally: men do seen to dominate the public spaces in the queer community. This affected my coming out process: I went down to the "gay ghetto" as a teen, hoping to find a space where I would feel comfortable as a bisexual girl, but all I saw were places for men - even the famous Second Cup steps. It took a long time before I did begin to find where I fit within the queer community (a few decades).

It's bad enough that I once heard a man declare in a public meeting that "the gay community is 80% male". I was agog at his attitude. Sure, 80% of the people in a gay men's bar might be men, but that's not the end or beginning of the queer community.
posted by jb at 1:41 PM on January 26 [7 favorites]


Who exactly are gay bars safe spaces for?

In one sense, everybody. As a straight man, I feel safer and happier there than in other bars. Subtracting homophobes from a crowd makes any space a better place to be.

In another sense, straight people visiting gay bars should be very aware that they are visiting someone else's safe space. I have seen straight women behaving disruptively and that's bad. I can't imagine why straight people of either gender would go there to pick up - that's terrible. As for me, I don't seem to be attractive enough that any man's ever been disappointed by trying to pick me up.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:54 PM on January 26 [6 favorites]


For a gay man to call a woman fish (and I have witnessed someone calling a woman who was ostensibly his friend this) is no different than his calling her a cunt.
Most of the gay bookstores I have visited have been inclusive spaces. Not so the one in Denver in the mid 90's. There were only male themed books in stock and I was treated archly. I have also been in feminist bookstores with "women buyers only" signs in the lesbian section and I was not happy with that either. I understand owners not wanting men slobbering over the erotica, but men who liked a lesbian author published by a feminist press assigned in a women's studies class who wanted to read more would be denied access. This was in the 90's before Amazon
posted by brujita at 2:01 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


dinty_moore: If it doesn't apply to you, congratulations on not being an asshat. But just because the statement doesn't apply to you doesn't mean that he doesn't have a point about (the dominant hegemonic American) gay cultural in general.

The same can be said about straight women in gay male spaces. It's the same method of saying that your behaviour is a discomfiting display of privilege, but my behaviour is acceptable and only causes problems if you're being selfish.
But considering we're not all discussing things from the dominant hegemonic American gay cultural perspective, I feel other voices have their place.


brujita: For a gay man to call a woman fish (and I have witnessed someone calling a woman who was ostensibly his friend this) is no different than his calling her a cunt.

My experience is it is mostly my female friends who use the word and refer to people as cunt, so always context. I think drawing a parallel between the two words is foolhardy, even though it's not a term I'd use to describe a woman. It appears to me that fish and fishy are more drag queen slang, but your mileage may vary.

One of the acceptable roles of the gay man today is to be the aforementioned Sassy Gay Friend. Somewhat flamboyant, crude if not particularly sexual, good with appearances, the sort of man who will actually tell you if your bum looks big in those pants and if that colour is working for you. It is an assigned role, like most stereotypes based in some truth but far from the only truth, and is something that I think most gay men have been presumed to be at some point or the other. In media, the Sassy Gay Friend often gets the funniest lines and the most vicious quips, and it's one of the few ways they can be lauded without being particularly threatened - or threatening. Now, because gay men can fall into those behaviours either through truth or having the role thrust upon them are they also suffering from the dominant cultural patriarchy, or is it all of a sudden that they get immediately shunted into being oppressors without empathising with their predicament the same as you would with women with internalised misogyny?

And, of course, as has been stated time and again, some people are just arseholes.


And while I'm quoting other users,
what's her name: I can’t remember who wrote it – but I believe it was a feminist, and it was along the line of: the biggest error straight men made was not aligning themselves with gay men – as what both groups have in common is an obsession with their penises. Can you imagine what kind of world this would be for women if straight and gay men aligned?. Thank goodness they haven’t figured this out.

This was just offensive and stupid. Not a great black mark of mythical misandry, just common or garden reductive generalising of a hacky stand-up's 'women only think about shoes, men only think about sex'. And implicitly ignores female homophobes, of which there is quite the number.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:59 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Being heterosexual, I find it difficult....make that impossible....to understand homosexual attitudes, social interaction proclivities, sexism prejudices, or derisive stances toward women any more than I would about my friendships and interactions with men....or midgets or persons of different races.

That said, I respect the rights of gays to live the choices they've been given or made.
posted by chuckiebtoo at 5:01 PM on January 26


The same can be said about straight women in gay male spaces. It's the same method of saying that your behavior is a discomfiting display of privilege, but my behavior is acceptable and only causes problems if you're being selfish..

A) Funnily enough, I already talked about that earlier in the thread! Yes, it can go both ways. No, not all straight women act that way, but maybe we need to work on not treating each other as accessories. That does not excuse the actions of gay men who treat women like shit.
B) Thanks for assuming I'm straight? What? Dude. P.S.: Lesbians. (well, bisexual women, but to continue the callback)
C) To continue this point: Many gay men treat women like this. Not just straight women. Women. If anything, that culture is far more derisive to women who are not femme, or are obvious about not looking or dressing for the male gaze. So, to excuse this by blaming 'but straight women', is missing the point by a large margin, and further marginalizing other gay people by ignoring their existence.

But considering we're not all discussing things from the dominant hegemonic American gay cultural perspective, I feel other voices have their place


Considering that this article is talking about the dominant hegemonic American gay cultural perspective, guess what, that's what the conversation is focusing on! If you don't consider yourself to be part of that culture, well then - congratulations, have a cookie, they aren't talking about you. Nobody is saying all gay men are like this. Nobody. We are saying it's endemic as part of the popular version of 'gay culture'.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:27 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I sort of hate the thing about treating women in gay spaces badly because men will chase after them and dilute the pool. Women didn't suddenly decide to be treated like sex objects and be chased around to be objectified wherever they go. I mean, if you want to have a male-only space for whatever reason, say that, but it's pretty unfair to blame women for the way men treat them.

It's not only about straight men coming in, it's about women themselves in gay male spaces if they are there to avoid straight men. Gay men have very restricted areas where they can openly mingle and look for partners without a boatload of potential social and physical dangers in the way.

Women have many more spaces where they can feel more secure that the single act of expressing their sexual orientation will not lead to imminent harm, but even so it's totally understandable why women might want to escape the insane, often physically dangerous, toxic ways straight male culture treats them. However, it's not a given that gay men should not mind if that escape comes at the expense of their spaces when they are not the people creating this problem.

Women are the majority of people in the United States, gay men and women are a small minority. Women should be able to create their own safe spaces to be free of straight men, if that is what they want, without having to take advantage of the space a minority group has carved out for themselves.

But again, none of this excuses expressing this frustration with poor treatment and harassment. If you let someone in, they are your guest and should be treated that way.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:28 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


This thread is really making me want to start a ladies only bar or something like that. Maybe an ace bar? Drink, dance, don't hit on each other.

Policing it seems pretty hard, though.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:35 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


(Oh, and also the main point is straight men need to start fixing our broke ass culture so other groups don't have to go out of the way to adjust to the wake of our stupidity)
posted by Drinky Die at 5:43 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I really appreciated this article; it helped me articulate an unease that I've felt for a while, but haven't quite known how to address. One of my closest friends runs in this very "gay," (as opposed to queer) all-guy, club-oriented circle. I've never been to an actual gay bar with him, but I've been to lots of house parties, dinners, and gay 'nights' with him and his friends, and it really gives a different meaning to the word objectified.

It's not that people are groping me against my will; it's more subtle things, like bluntly complimenting my body, and insulting my clothes, hair, etc. in ways that no one else in my life ever does. They treat me as extraneous - not bothering to introduce themselves to me when they enter a conversation I'm having with my friend, for example. And even if it isn't rooted in attraction, they way people will treat me is absolutely premised on looks, in this very particular and superficial way. They pay more attention to me if I'm dressed up in fancy, girly clothes, wearing a lot of makeup, and have my hair down. Otherwise, I may as well be invisible.

What really brings it home to me is this: more than once, I've been at these parties with one of my (female) friends who is a model. The guys will come up to her and say things like, "Oh, you are gorgeous," and sort of touch her hair or coo over her or whatever, and they'll leave me standing there like an asshole, like I don't even exist. It's the kind of thing you'd imagine happening in the worst straight bars, but the truth is, we've been friends for twenty years and it has never happened to us a straight bar; even straight guys who are more interested in her at least register me as human. It's the gay guys for whom our looks are the only thing that matter, and who therefore think it's okay to ignore me and treat my friend like a pretty dress-up doll.

I just want to say (in my brief editing window) that I absolutely don't think that this is a culture-wide problem...most of my gay guy friends are cool and feminist and amazing. I think it's an offshoot of a particular club cultural that embraces superficiality and looks above-all, and I think (hope) it's actually a culture that's sort of on its way out...
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:02 PM on January 26 [39 favorites]


I ran out of editing time, but I was going to reiterate that most of the younger guys I know fall pretty far on the 'queer' side of the author's proposed queer/gay spectrum.

More importantly, though, dinty_more, I would TOTALLY invest in that ladies-only bar.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:12 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]



This article, along with some other things I've been reading and discussing lately with friends has really made me rethink my love for T Lo. I'm interested in their celebrity analysis, but the article really put some things a (lesbian, fwiw) friend of mine had to say about their toxic approach to fashion into context.


I quit reading T Lo awhile back. They posted something about seeing nipples on a woman. I commented about us all having nipples, they deleted it.

After that, I started noticing more and more, how much of their commentary was really body policing of women. The more I really thought about it, the angrier I became.

I had to walk away as I do not want to help perpetuate that into our society.

(also, the term fish just pisses me off in pretty much all forms.)
posted by SuzySmith at 6:20 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


I think the bigger picture is everyone should treat everyone else with respect. Everyone. This comes up on this site sometimes where people want to argue about who doesn’t deserve respect from who, and which group is entitled and justified to engage in shitty behavior.

If busy you’re trying to figure out who’s allowed to be disrespectful to who you’re doing it wrong.
posted by bongo_x at 6:25 PM on January 26 [10 favorites]


If you have to treat gay bars as a zoo, could you at least feed the bears?
posted by angerbot at 6:30 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


In another sense, straight people visiting gay bars should be very aware that they are visiting someone else's safe space.

It seems a bit daft to have an expectation that an establishment that serves alcohol is anybody's "safe space", so fuck that notion. It's a bar, a public accommodation, all should be welcome to all of them.
posted by amorphatist at 7:15 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


If everyone is in all bars gay folks are gonna have a hard time finding a place that will have a high density of potential partners to mingle with, that's not fair. This sort of socialization is a part of our culture and how people meet up and make connections. This isn't just because of homophobia, it's a numbers game when your orientation isn't as common.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:23 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


> that's not fair.

I can see your point. Well, I suppose it would make things clearer if there were signs posted saying "Straight men, straight women, and lesbians legally allowed to enter, but you are unwelcome here", as this seems to be the goal?
posted by amorphatist at 7:32 PM on January 26


It seems a bit daft to have an expectation that an establishment that serves alcohol is anybody's "safe space", so fuck that notion.

Why does that seem daft to you? Why does it make you so angry?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:33 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


It seems a bit daft to have an expectation that an establishment that serves alcohol is anybody's "safe space", so fuck that notion. It's a bar, a public accommodation, all should be welcome to all of them.

Gay bars are different, in that they have historically played a role as a second home for people who are still legally discriminated against on a regular basis. For some in the gay community, the gay bar has been a first home when they've been beaten, thrown out, harassed. If you're not gay and you come into this safe space, maybe first understand that you are a visitor and act accordingly. Calling your hosts misogynists for having penises is maybe not something you do as a guest in someone else's home.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:35 PM on January 26 [8 favorites]


I can see your point. Well, I suppose it would make things clearer if there were signs posted saying "Straight men, straight women, and lesbians legally allowed to enter, but you are unwelcome here", as this seems to be the goal?

I...feel like I have dreadfully miscommunicated at some point here but I'm not sure exactly where I went wrong.

To try and clarify, my point is that you can welcome everybody but if you do the numbers still skew towards under-representing gay folks because they are a minority of the population. I think it's okay if they want to have bars where their experience is as "target rich" as it might be for hetero folks in straight bars.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:37 PM on January 26


It seems a bit daft to have an expectation that an establishment that serves alcohol is anybody's "safe space", so fuck that notion.

Why does that seem daft to you? Why does it make you so angry?


It doesn't make me angry, 'fuck that notion' doesn't imply that. But it is daft. A safe space is not one where there are unknown drunk people, but maybe you experience a higher class of unknown drunk people.
posted by amorphatist at 7:41 PM on January 26


If you're not gay and you come into this safe space, maybe first understand that you are a visitor and act accordingly.

That's a two way street; one should also be courteous to visitors, which is part of the article's thesis by my reading.

Calling your hosts misogynists for having penises is maybe not something you do as a guest in someone else's home.

Whut? Who said or implied this?
posted by amorphatist at 7:50 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


This is so frustrating. Once again we have a situation where group Y are saying, "yes, this happens. It happens to me, to my friends, and it is not cool." And then a bunch of people get all bent out of shape that we even dare suggest there's a problem, conflating "SOME members of group x do this" with "ALL members of group x do this," and then that's taken as reason to completely discount the very real problem that was the thesis, and then it gets further diluted with members of group X explaining why they have it worse, and/or why they've never heard of this problem so therefore it probably doesn't exist, and/or why the original problem is really NBD, and/or why group Y are fucking things up themselves, and god, we have trod this ground so many, many times. It's exhausting.
posted by shiu mai baby at 8:03 PM on January 26 [33 favorites]


I can't identify a single comment in this thread that discounts the idea that women can receive poor, abusive treatment at the hands of gay men.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:16 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I think that the fact that this thread seems to be treating the crux of the article as 'some women went to a gay bar and were sad about the reception they had', instead of 'men treating women as objects and sexually assaulting them, then getting visibly angry when women dared to push back' is at least minimizing the issue.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:29 PM on January 26 [18 favorites]


I think one should consider why gay men might react negatively to suggestions that they are a group likely to engage in sexual assaults. Even if you say it's just SOME of them.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:46 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


The current partner of one of my best friends represents this gay misogynist trope to a tee - and it drives me crazy. We're all hanging at a bar, gay/straight/queer/men/women whatever, all having a good time with no judgment, and he can't help himself but be this terrible caricature of the fabulous gay dude, talking about how vaginas are icky (he even refers to himself as a 'pure gay' because he was born by c-section. I shit you not.).

He really needs someone to give him a shake because he absolutely relies on the "but I'm gay and therefore it's ok and my jokes are HILARIOUS" attitude. However, since he's my mate's boyfriend, I'm not comfortable raising the topic.
posted by modernnomad at 8:56 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I think one should consider why gay men might react negatively to suggestions that they are a group likely to engage in sexual assaults. Even if you say it's just SOME of them.

Unwanted groping is sexual assault. The majority of this article is talking about objectification and sexual assault. How is this even a question?

I'm part of a privileged group that is known for some pretty shitty behavior, too. A couple of them. If someone wants to help call the groups I'm part of out on their shitty behavious, more power to them. You know, instead of claiming not all educated, not all white, not all Americans, not all cis people are like that. WE KNOW. Crying about that instead of looking at the actual issue isn't helpful.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:58 PM on January 26 [6 favorites]


Quentin Crisp has a bit in his autobiography where he says that camp behavior is basically a stagy imitation of upper-class feminine mannerisms of the 1920s.1 I think he's correct in his observation, although not in his conclusion that gay men fundamentally want to be women.2 When I read his observation it hit me like a ton of bricks: we each of us have adopted role(s) and a huge amount of what we do is adopted to suit that role. Our clothes, our occupations, our speech habits aren't just there for practicality or even to fit in; they make a statement: this is what I am! I am one of the people who does these things!

It's sad but not surprising that some gay men have adopted the touchy-feely catty mannerisms of TV sitcoms: the gay men in sitcoms are witty and charming and attractive and make excellent models, and their mannerisms create a persona which is hugely identifiable. If you're at all unsure about yourself and how you present to other people it must be a huge temptation to adopt that persona as your own.

The thing that really shakes me sometimes is: how much of what I do is actually adopted as a similar signalling device? Here I am wearing Western clothes assigned for use by men, sitting in a chair, communicating by typing (as opposed to sitting on the floor, in a circle, talking face to face or whatever). What's real about me? What's fake? If I discard the role, what's left of me? I really have no idea. It's scary.

1 I can only find part of it online, at Goodreads.
2 Yes, you see what I did there.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:02 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


Of course gay men are a group likely to engage in sexual assaults. They're men, aren't they?

They are a group of men who have been stereotyped as pedophiles and uncontrollable perverts. Maybe to you dealing with that might be crying and dodging the "actual issue", but it's an actual issue in the literal sense to some people.

So, don't automatically frame resistance to memes pegging them as assaulters as "standard X Y" because there is something else going on here. That doesn't mean you don't address the issue of assaults, but it does mean that you need to learn a little bit about the issue so you can approach the circumstances that make it unique when you try to fix it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:04 PM on January 26 [4 favorites]


A safe space is not one where there are unknown drunk people, but maybe you experience a higher class of unknown drunk people.

This is meaningless andecdata, but - though I'm not a big bar goer - I've been in plenty of gay and straight bars over the years - filled with drunk people in both instances. And where I have seen plenty of fist fights in straight bars, I've never seen a fist fight in a gay bar.

All this is to say, you can't generalise about what you think is a safe space vis-a-vis whether the crowd is drunk or not.
posted by crossoverman at 9:11 PM on January 26


All this is to say, you can't generalise about what you think is a safe space vis-a-vis whether the crowd is drunk or not.

All evidence suggests that drunk people are more dangerous in just about every way, so I will generalize away.
posted by amorphatist at 9:23 PM on January 26


The homophobic discourse in which queer men are assumed to be perverts/rapists/child molesters/etc is one in which straight men use their fear of being preyed on by queer men to justify homophobic action; much of it is founded upon a fear of being objectified, assaulted or otherwise treated in the way that women are as a matter of course. Gay men who sexually assault and harass women are using that particular patriarchal structure to prop themselves up and, by using that structure in that way, they are buying into it and giving it credence in their spaces. The counterculture and revolutionary aspects of queer culture often exist specifically as a reaction to gay culture doing this.
posted by NoraReed at 9:26 PM on January 26 [9 favorites]


I think what the frustrating part about trying to find resolutions about these topics is that what we have are two marginalized groups that mutually feed into each other's oppressions here. If you look at the complaints occurring from each side directed at the other, it's not hard to see how these dynamics fit into each other and perpetuate in cycles. We have gay men encroaching on women's physical spaces through sexual harassment - but on the flipside, we have women encroaching on the safe spaces of gay men and transforming them into hetero spaces by making the false claim that they're somehow permitted to take another marginalized group's space for themselves because they lack space. For the fag hag label, we have the sassy gay best friend label, both depersonalizing, stereotyping and objectifying each other respectively. Claims made by women labeling gay men as sexual predators unfairly abuse the history of accusations of sexual deviancy used to marginalize gay men; but comments about how disgusting female anatomy is abusive of the history of delegitimization of female sexuality. And so forth.

What I think is important here is that it's important to recognize that at this stage, playing the privilege game no longer is a helpful way of thinking. Both parties fill both the roles of oppressors and oppressed simultaneously in these mutual dynamics, and it is incredibly naive for one party to continuously insist that they are less privileged and the other party should cede 100%. Compounding this issue is that fact that the white mainstreams of both groups in this circumstance have a pretty damn bad reputation for trying to make oppression all about them while ignoring the fact that other marginalizations exist - I don't know about you guys, but as a disabled queer PoC I'm kind of sick of watching white feminists and white gay men duke it out as if they were the only oppressed people on the planet.

I mean, ultimately, it would be nice if one or both groups could just suddenly drop being oppressive and listen, but that's admittedly hard to do when the other keeps refusing to acknowledge their own respective privileges. So I think there's something to be said for mutual accountability on both sides rather than trying to clumsily stick each other into oppressor roles when neither clearly fit into that category?
posted by Conspire at 9:28 PM on January 26 [28 favorites]


What I think is important here is that it's important to recognize that at this stage, playing the privilege game no longer is a helpful way of thinking.
...
I don't know about you guys, but as a disabled queer PoC I'm kind of sick of watching white feminists and white gay men duke it out as if they were the only oppressed people on the planet.


I have no idea if this is masterful sarcasm or not.
posted by amorphatist at 9:33 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


The homophobic discourse in which queer men are assumed to be perverts/rapists/child molesters/etc is one in which straight men use their fear of being preyed on by queer men to justify homophobic action

And one in which straight women use their fear of their children being preyed upon to justify homophobic action. Don't try and pass off responsibility for homophobia on to men, it's a shared crime.

"Gay men who sexually assault and harass women are using that particular patriarchal structure to prop themselves up and, by using that structure in that way, they are buying into it and giving it credence in their spaces."

So...gay men harass women because of the patriarchal structure in which queer men are viewed as male rapists? I'm kinda lost here, sorry.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:38 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I have no idea if this is masterful sarcasm or not.

You may choose to interpret either way, but even in the least charitable version I don't quite see how commenting that a group insisting on one's oppression as central to the exclusion of others creates erasure of other marginalizations - as clearly seems to be going on in a lot of the commentary in this thread. Would you be able to comment on what it is you find unpalatable about my thesis that privilege does not occupy simple good-bad-oppressor-victim dynamics, and that both sides need to see accountability? Would it help you find it less hypocritical if I added a disclaimer that I agree that I can be capable of behaviors that leave me still complicit in the marginalization of both white gay men and white women, even if I personally feel very exasperated by their constant ignorance and respect for other identities?
posted by Conspire at 9:45 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


So...gay men harass women because of the patriarchal structure in which queer men are viewed as male rapists? I'm kinda lost here, sorry.

Gay men who harass and assault women are using a patriarchal (or, really, kyriarchal) structure in which they establish dominance over another group (women) through individual displays that show that they have power over them. These displays consist of harassment or assault.

They are using a structure that actively oppresses them in order to prop themselves up within it. The contradictions that you're seeing in there are because of the hypocrisy inherent in these sorts of behavior being seen as okay.
posted by NoraReed at 9:49 PM on January 26 [12 favorites]


I think what Conspire means by "the privilege game" is something like where privilege is reducible to something binary or to a single quantity, as opposed to existing along many different and sometimes interdependent dimensions. So casting "privilege" as a Manichean battle between two groups writes everyone out who doesn't fit neatly into the mainstream of those groups, or who may also be oppressed on different/interacting axes.

Or on preview, what he said.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:50 PM on January 26


Would it help you find it less hypocritical if I added a disclaimer [...]

Sorry for the confusion, I think we're misunderstanding each other. First you say "playing the privilege game no longer is a helpful way of thinking", and then you say "as a disabled queer PoC I'm kind of sick of watching white feminists and white gay men" ... i.e. you pull privilege rank (aka "playing the privilege game"). I couldn't tell whether this was intended for humorous effect or not.
posted by amorphatist at 9:52 PM on January 26


Again, I think you're misunderstanding Conspire here. I don't read him as "pulling rank," but rather as pointing out how binarizing privilege like this -- gay men have it because they're male, so straight women are "real" victims! no wait, straight women have it because they're straight, so they are the "real" victims! -- can't account for oppression within and between oppressed groups, plus no matter who "wins," it's always going to end up erasing something real about how the other side is systematically discriminated against and disempowered.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:59 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Gay men who harass and assault women are using a patriarchal (or, really, kyriarchal) structure in which they establish dominance over another group (women) through individual displays that show that they have power over them. These displays consist of harassment or assault.

Is establishing dominance over women something you think men intend when they go to gay male bars, or is this behavior an unfortunate emergent consequence of their presence in the same spaces?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:59 PM on January 26


Drinky Die, I'm pretty sure NoraReed is talking about incidents like the ones described in the article - unwanted sexual contact, unsolicited criticism about appearance, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:02 PM on January 26


Since when is the Golden Globes red carpet a gay male bar? This isn't just about gay dudes being pissed about women in their bars.

Though, if it was just about gay dudes being pissed about women in their bars, I have a hard time thinking sexually assaulting them would be the ideal solution.
posted by NoraReed at 10:03 PM on January 26 [12 favorites]


Oops, yeah. Sorry, Nora, I've misplaced my handle on the conversation. Stepping out now.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:07 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the "women in gay male bars" thing is really a separate and more complicated issue from the idea that it's all right for a gay man to touch and police a woman's body. Treating anyone but a homophobe as unwelcome in a gay bar seems wrong to me. At the same time, it can feel demeaning when straight women treat my sex life as a tourist destination.

And I have to strongly reject the idea that gay bars cannot be "safe spaces" in an important sense simply because there's alcohol. Unfortunately, for two people of the same sex to kiss in public or in a predominantly straight bar (in the USA, at least) is still to invite cat-calling, mocking, being ejected, or even potentially being physically assaulted. Gay bars may not be "safe" in the absolute sense - maybe even in other important senses - but they are still some of the only public places where I know I can show physical affection for another man without some percentage of my brain having to scan for threats in the background.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:27 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


Argh, OK, to clarify two things, 1) that last paragraph was directed to other responses in the thread and not to the FPP itself, and 2) when I talked about "tourism" I'm aware that it doesn't describe the situation in the FPP at all, I realize nobody in this thread is actually defending that kind of bachelorette party-esque behavior, and of course it in no way justifies people being singled out because of their gender.

Anyway cool, looks like I wrote two things and both of them are basically contributing to derails. Awesome show great job.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:11 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


They are a group of men who have been stereotyped as pedophiles and uncontrollable perverts. Maybe to you dealing with that might be crying and dodging the "actual issue", but it's an actual issue in the literal sense to some people.

You'd probably have more of a point if most of the protest wasn't from people denying that they were part of that culture at all, or if gay men's stereotypical sexual appetite extended to women.

You know what? I am more than willing to talk about how women also objectify and fetishize gay men, how women are also culpable for many of the same behaviors that are described in the article, and how women expect more access to gay men's bodies, because it's 'not sexual'. I am not trying to prove that women are more oppressed than gays, or anything like that. Of course there's shit on both sides of the aisle.

I am not willing to give gay culture a free pass because some gay men are uncomfortable with talking about how gay culture can lead to the objectification and fetishization of women, just because gay men have an unfortunate stereotype of sexualizing and victimizing men. I'm sorry. No.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:27 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure it's being uncomfortable talking about it so much as there's not much more to say besides the fact that it's shitty and wrong and most people here agree on that fact. And honestly, I don't have the slightest clue where to start to change it. I mean calling people out is good, but at least for my part, people either don't do this sort of thing in front of me often, or I am too oblivious to notice it. Maybe it does happen more than I think and I need to be more mindful. But even beyond that, I don't know what I can do personally to make more people understand that this sort of behavior is not OK. And that bothers me.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:41 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I think that saying this behavior is not OK is just exactly what needs to be done. And maybe it is part of a growth process for everyone - as gays (and queers) become more mainstream, friendships between women and gay men will be less cliche-ridden and maybe their portrayal in the media will become less cliche-ridden.

On the women's side, the whole gay bar as tourist destination for bachelorette parties is pretty stupid, but it should be OK for me to hang with my gay friends there.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:26 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I am not willing to give gay culture a free pass because some gay men are uncomfortable with talking about how gay culture can lead to the objectification and fetishization of women

You see, here's where I think it's more helpful to talk about specific behaviors and practices rather than rely on broad statements about "cultures." Because what may be getting backs up a bit is the way that the article sort of implicitly and a couple of comments here more explicitly suggest that "gay culture" is all circuit-parties-gay-bars-Real Housewives-Perez-Hilton-bitch-you-look-fierce-ass-grabbing, when in fact what we're talking about are the habits and behaviors of a particular kind of gay man, usually a young one (or in the case of men like Hilton, a youth-worshipping one) and usually a resident of one of the larger cities. This is a little like framing criticisms of violence and misogyny in hip hop as criticisms of "African American culture." At that point, any validity the original criticisms have are going to be obscured by this myopic, totalizing model of "culture."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Women should be able to create their own safe spaces to be free of straight men, if that is what they want, without having to take advantage of the space a minority group has carved out for themselves.

The thing is, women really can't create their own safe spaces. It is, as far as I know, currently illegal in the United States to have a bar that only caters to one gender. And if there's a bar with mostly women, and men are allowed in the door, they are going to come in.

The whole "no women should darken the door of gay bars" is kind of weirdly a longing for a time that was much more homophobic. Because there is no way to bar an entire gender legally, or to bar people based on sexual orientation legally. So it seems that for the "safe space" of a gay bar, there's been a lot of reliance on other people being too homophobic to walk into that. Well, that doesn't exist anymore. So what do you do about it? The answer really shouldn't be "Behave as offensively as possible and hope they leave."

Also, I think I've seen a sign on the door of a gay bar in Capitol Hill, at least, explicitly stating that women weren't welcome. But I could be misremembering, it's been a while.
posted by corb at 8:32 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


dinty_moore: B) Thanks for assuming I'm straight? What? Dude. P.S.: Lesbians. (well, bisexual women, but to continue the callback)
...Nobody is saying all gay men are like this. Nobody. We are saying it's endemic as part of the popular version of 'gay culture'.


It doesn't really make it better to say it's merely what most gay men do. Also, offering a cookie as a pat on the head to fellow commenters is extremely patronising and therefore not particularly conducive to a reasonable conversation.
Also, the discussion (and the article) has predominantly revolved around gay male spaces and straight women's place in them. If you perceived an assumption of your own sexuality, or even that of other commenters that have added to this thread, I would suggest that is on you.

The thing is, I have met gay men like the article describes, sure. I understand cultural forces that can push them that way. But I also think it's more likely that it's a way for unpleasant people to be unpleasant, and not indicative of (yes, many) gay men in the way that the article and some commenters would suggest. It's a bad behavioural pattern, it should be discouraged, but when it's described as endemic or even suggested as something that happens in a vacuum, naturally there will be some pushback.

Additionally, I'm not one to draw inflammatory analogies, so I will add that informing people that they cannot define what is a safe space for themselves and/or declaring that they are wrong for thinking so without any actual authority over places mentioned, is highly dismissive and not the sort of claim that would be made if it was about a group you were yourself a part of. So stating you know better continues what Conspire eloquently pointed out as arguing past each other, with a heaping of condescension besides.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:50 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Because what may be getting backs up a bit is the way that the article sort of implicitly and a couple of comments here more explicitly suggest that "gay culture" is all circuit-parties-gay-bars-Real Housewives-Perez-Hilton-bitch-you-look-fierce-ass-grabbing, when in fact what we're talking about are the habits and behaviors of a particular kind of gay man, usually a young one (or in the case of men like Hilton, a youth-worshipping one) and usually a resident of one of the larger cities.

This has been phrased a number of ways through this article and discussion – ‘the gay male community’, ‘a gay male community’, ‘many gay men’, ‘gay culture’, 'the hegemonic American gay culture', not to mention the discussion of privilege. There have been many, many posts since then that have clarified that this does not refer to all gay men. The article makes the point that there are gay men that exist outside of this culture, and gay cultures that do not resemble the one that is in the article. If there were any actual confusion, I expect that it could have been cleared up before now.

Mentioning it as a culture and a community is important because this isn't due to individual bad behavior: it is due to behavior that is encouraged by media representations of gay male/female friendships an expectation of mannerisms, and lack of sanction from the specific gay male community where it tends to take place.

If you perceived an assumption of your own sexuality, or even that of other commenters that have added to this thread, I would suggest that is on you.

I took this comment:

The same can be said about straight women in gay male spaces. It's the same method of saying that your behaviour is a discomfiting display of privilege, but my behaviour is acceptable and only causes problems if you're being selfish.


To mean, in which you were replying to directly me, as ‘you’ meaning ‘straight woman’. If I misinterpreted you, I apologize.

Also, the discussion (and the article) has predominantly revolved around gay male spaces and straight women's place in them.

The article spends most of its length talking about women who are not interacting in gay male spaces, unless every space a gay male exists in is considered a gay male space. The Golden Globes is not a gay male space. A friend’s birthday party in Harlem is not necessarily a gay male space (I mean, it literally could be a gay man's space, but we don't know that). There are numerous reports of interactions with women that may or may not take place in gay male spaces. All we know about them is that they involve gay men talking about or to women.

The fact that this discussion is mostly about straight women treating gay bars as tourist destinations is a derail. Yes, talking about his female friends getting poor service in a gay bar was an unfortunate way to start off the article. However, there was more to the article than the first few paragraphs, and I’m honestly wishing that I could have started an FPP about 75 comments ago about straight women in gay bars, because it’s clear that’s the issue a lot of you need to talk through, but that does not have much to do with the majority of the article.

Also, offering a cookie as a pat on the head to fellow commenters is extremely patronising and therefore not particularly conducive to a reasonable conversation.

Honestly, if all you can add is that you don’t disrespect women and aren't are not involved about the culture this article is talking about, well, what do you expect? Good for you? Maybe we’re talking about people that aren't you? I can’t give you anything more than a ‘thanks for not being an asshole’. We know it’s not all gay men, thanks for informing us again, but you are not adding anything substantive to the conversation.

Which, honestly is coming off a little too harsh on commenters like Zalzidrax, who admits he doesn't act that way, but would like to do more to help. Which is actually pretty awesome on his part.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:26 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


I think a response of "we're not talking about you" in response to concerns of erasure of marginalized queer cultures isn't particularly appropriate here. It's not just women that the young white hegemonic media-supported gay subculture treats poorly - it's also non-gender conforming or "feminine" men, it's also men of color, it's also older men, and so forth. By addressing a very narrow and traditionally privileged column of the gay community as dominant and appropriating its issues to only focus on treatment of women to the exclusion of other minorities - as this article actually does so itself in its pretty limited viewpoint presumably stemming from the author's privileged scope of experiences, you do inadvertently erase the struggles and abuses that marginalized queer men face from mainstream white gay culture as well.

And this goes back to my original point that when you're dealing with oppression between marginalized groups, there needs to be shared accountability. There is a huge difference between saying "we're not talking about you" to a group of white men versus a group that has not enjoyed the same hegemonic privileges and has constantly been erased and mistreated by both mainstream feminist and gay culture. I see you complimenting Zalzidrax for recognizing his own accountability, which I also think is awesome - but it feels decidedly one-sided when you continue to use rhetoric that continues to erase intersectional marginalizations and paint discussion of the other side of the exchange of how women treat gay men badly as a tandem issue to how gay men treat women badly as a derail. As with any interactions between marginalized groups, it is not a one-sided exchange, and it's almost impossible to separate "here's how gay men treat women badly" from the issue of "here's how women treat gay men badly" because they feed into each other's issues and create circular dynamics. And I think the constant attempts on both side of the equation to reduce the other party's issues to trivial, not omnipresent enough to matter, and "actually" part of their own theory isn't very helpful.
posted by Conspire at 11:24 AM on January 27 [10 favorites]


Yeah, for the record, I'd love to do more to help actively undermine this current of misogyny as well, and it's something I'll continue to think about and would welcome input on. I also totally agree that the bar thing is a derail vis-a-vis the main thrust of this article.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:27 AM on January 27


I think the treatment of "femme"/NGC guys by mainstream gays can be seen as part and parcel of this same current of misogyny, right? It goes back to the same fucked-up ideas of femininity as a contaminant that men must always guard against in order to remain authentically male.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I agree, but I think there's something inappropriate about how mainstream feminism attempts to prop up feminist theory as a grand unifying theory to all marginalization as if to imply that movements and discourse should focus on women and misogyny primarily because then we'll solve "all the other issues" as we go along. I mean, certainly I appreciate and use the ideas of misogyny and sexism in application to queer issues, but I'm not happy when it's overextended to claim that queer men should be standing in solidarity with white feminist women especially when it ignores the accountability that women hold in these situations.
posted by Conspire at 11:48 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


We know it’s not all gay men, thanks for informing us again

Except that the false generalization is being made, time and time again, that it is in effect all gay men. The person who wrote this article not only does not speak for us as a whole, he does not speak about us as a whole. Putting aside for the moment that this generalization is a falsehood, I hope that some perhaps one day appreciate that this generalization is offensive and divisive to gay men of all backgrounds who not only stand in solidarity with women, but are, in social and legal terms, on the whole, still often more marginalized.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:25 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


The bar thing is absolutely a derail and we should drop it.

I think one of the problems is maybe that while people in this thread seem sympathetic to the idea that gay men and straight women are mutually complicit in a dynamic that dehumanizes both of them, the article doesn't really present it that way. The author does a good job of describing how "gay men" as he's using it is not a category that includes all groups of gay men, but I do have a problem with his contention that gay males accepted (or benignly ignored) in mainstream culture to the extent that they now have generally more privilege or more important privileges than women.

For example, when he says things like "American subcultures that are unwelcoming of gay culture are now the exception, not the rule," or that advances in the last two years have erased most marginalization of gay men, I think that's actually pretty provincial and naive of him. Even in NYC, there were high-profile gay bashings and murders within the last year, and gay people in most of the USA are still likely to lack access to basic rights like workplace and housing non-discrimination. He hand-waves over what I think is an important line from the Daily Kos article, which is that data suggests that gay men are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of both anti-gay abuse and violent gay bashings than lesbians, who sadly also get plenty themselves. Instead the author states that "if we live in the right cities, look for work in the right circles, we will be allowed access to the same advantages of manhood as our straight brethren do," which, well, citation hella needed for one thing, and for another, even if this were totally 100% correct, it wouldn't change the fact that if you live in the wrong city, or even the wrong part of the right city, you not only lack those advantages but are marginalized in very real ways that are specific to being queer and not particularly helped or even made worse by being male.

At the same time, I absolutely agree with him 100% that unsolicited sexual contact and policing of women's bodies by gay men is a big problem and that we need to be more willing to call that out when we see it, and I welcome the idea that we should be thinking about ways to "queer" gay culture as a whole.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:55 PM on January 27 [5 favorites]


I think that's actually pretty provincial and naive of him

At the absolute least, limiting an examination of gay culture to what one sees in one's corner of Manhattan and what one consumes in terms of highly-processed pop culture is a fairly artificial view, and one that leaves out a whole variety of shared experiences outside of TV and NYC. Even if Macklemore can get on the telly and sing about same-sex marriage, for instance, it is still illegal in most of the US and symptomatic of a general legal framework that maintains second-class legal and social status outside of the marriage debate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:07 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Except that the false generalization is being made, time and time again, that it is in effect all gay men. The person who wrote this article not only does not speak for us as a whole, he does not speak about us as a whole. Putting aside for the moment that this generalization is a falsehood, I hope that some perhaps one day appreciate that this generalization is offensive and divisive to gay men of all backgrounds who not only stand in solidarity with women, but are, in social and legal terms, on the whole, still often more marginalized.

Of course. But that is no different than acknowledging that not all white people are racist and not all men are sexist when we discuss those topics. It is often said on MeFi that when people are complaining about being victimized regularly by a group in general, members of that group should not try and deflect those complaints (ie talking about female on male violence in a thread about the reverse - which is exactly what the bar derail here is like) or just whine that "well not EVERYONE is like that!". How many stupid privilege derails have we had where some white dude new to the concept comes in and says "I'm not privileged! I've worked hard my whole life and have never treated anyone else badly!"

We always say that people ought to shut up and LISTEN, and even if they personally are not responsible for ever doing the bad things complained of, and instead shouid better keep an eye out for others in their community that do those things or at least acknowledge the potential that it may be happening withotu them even realizing it.

No one is claiming that all gay men disrespect women - but there are many people in this thread who have said they have witnessed such behaviour regularly amongst a certain element. That deserves acknowledgement and discussion, not dismissal or blame-shifting.
posted by modernnomad at 5:10 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


But what "gay" privilege are you even talking about? Your assumption that gay men hold a certain privilege over women only holds true if you willfully discard and erase any identity to focus on a certain subset of gay men who are white, rich, able-bodied, body-and-gender-policing, capitalist, and homonationalist - those who have assimilated unchallenged into the North American hegemony to adopt its privileges while leaving the rest of us in the dust. You discard and erase the vast, vast majority of queer men who do not occupy this sphere in order to make a rhetorical point about privilege.

But privilege is not subtractive. You cannot assume white gayness as a starting point, and assume that the more "deviant" you get from this "normative" model, the more privileges are taken away from you. I will never be white. I will never be able-bodied. I will never be masculine. And as a result, I have not and will never own these privileges. I never had them in the first place; they were therefore never taken away from me.

But regardless, I am gay.

And my sexuality does not belong solely to the hegemonic white boys that the media loves to center around.

Stop snatching it from me and giving it to them.

In the artificial totem pole that these hegemonic white boys have developed for themselves, the vast majority of queer men sit near the bottom. What are you trying to get me to accomplish by foisting a set of privileges I've never owned as part of my gay identity on me? At least with white people, you can have them speak to other white people with more authority than that of PoC. But I am not and will never be seen as a mentor, advisee, conversationalist, or anything but maybe the exotic fucktoy if one of them is feeling bored enough to deign to acknowledge my existence. I do not passively enable anything.

Thus, I'm not just denying my societally-sanctioned capability for this behaviour - I am denying the presence of an overarching gay group or theme in general that owns these privileges. And I am certainly not willing to hand over the label of "gay" to exclusively those who sit at the top either. The North American hegemony aids them enough in this appropriation of what is supposed to belong to more than a privileged minority; do not lobby feminist thought to support them as well.

I will stand in solidarity with with women on this issue, but not as an outsider ally but as a fellow marginalized by the ableist sexist racist white gay hegemony that you're trying to paint me as somehow complicit in. Do not minimize my stake in this issue. I find the privileged hegemony of gay men groping women to be disgusting as well, and I recognize my own capability for misogyny as a man - but at the same time, I will not accept privilege for rhetoric's sake if it means ceding my gay identity to those who want to paint it as white as default.

In this way, it is crucial not to parrot privilege 101 points but think critically about what privilege as a thought tool actually entails and is intended to work towards. I thought feminism was about toppling the patriarchy - or does that only apply when the patriarchy is used solely as a weapon against white women?
posted by Conspire at 6:41 PM on January 27 [11 favorites]


No "broad" tag?
posted by telstar at 7:02 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]



I for one welcome this "just because you are gay doesn't mean you can yell 'Nice tits!' at my girlfriend" sentiment.


i 100% agree with this.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:08 PM on January 27


Conspire, I just want to say your comments in this thread are unusually well-phrased, provocative and interesting. Thanks.
posted by mediareport at 8:11 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


To reiterate, I am by no means suggesting that gay men are privileged as a group in general (nor that gay culture is necessarily antithetical to the interests of women); I was simply using a reference to the discourse that surrounds discussions of privilege to focus on the idea that it is important to listen to people's lived experiences and address the causes of any harms they may be suffering. This underpins privilege discourse, but is an idea that is applicable in all contexts where behavioural complaints are being made. Including the examples provided in the article, there are numerous participants in this thread saying this is a problem they have come across.

Listening to and "hearing" victims is always superior than attempting to deflect their complaints by saying either a) they do bad things too (the bar derail) or b) not all members of the group being complained about do those bad things and therefore lets talk about that instead of addressing the underlying issue that has generated the complaints. These are both classic derailing moves, and there's no reason that gay men get a pass on them simply because they are themselves a historically marginalized group.
posted by modernnomad at 8:46 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Then I would recommend that you note, as has similarly been brought up multiple times in this thread, framing your arguments as privilege with gay men as the oppressor is abusive of gay men in the wider context and contributes to the erasure of intersectional expression of queerness.

Again, mutual accountability is required when you're operating between marginalized groups that simultaneously occupy dual roles of oppressor/oppressed. I am receptive to discussions around how gay men treat women, and in this specific incidence the issue of casual sexual harassment by gay men - although I would question if I'm actually the correct audience if you're going to be instructive on your claims as opposed to looking out for solidarity, as I have noted I am also marginalized by patriarchal hegemonic gay subculture. I am not going to be receptive if your discussion demands erasure of my marginalization and an unquestioned upholding of the white hegemonic gay subculture as central and default - especially when gay communities are split so strongly privilege-wise on assimilationist vs. "deviant" lines. And I am absolutely going to be offended if your argument abuses and calls on homophobic tropes such as the sexual deviancy of gay men.

So maybe that means you're going to have to address the white gay hegemony instead of "gay men" in general in your points. I'm sorry if inherently hegemonic groups have ruined this concept for you, but I am assured that you're able to grasp the distinction between granting a rhetoric concession to another marginalized group as an act of acknowledging your own privileges in your role as oppressor tandem to oppressed, as opposed to ceding to a tone argument.
posted by Conspire at 9:19 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


meta
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:30 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


modernnomad, I think everyone in this thread acknowledges that misogynist behavior on the part of gay men is awful and should stop. And indeed, going back to the article, I agree with a lot of the points the author raises.

However, it's one thing to claim there are misogynistic threads running through gay culture and gay men can act in misogynist ways: of course this is meant to be read with the understanding that of course this doesn't mean "all gay men are misogynists." It's totally another thing, though, to suggest, as the author seems to be doing under "The Advantages of Manhood", that as of the last two years gay men have become so much more privileged that they are now eclipsing women. I think this contention is not only a) inaccurate and misleading, but also b) damaging to the conversation, for the reasons that Conspire and others have pointed out here.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:31 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Well I'm pretty sure neither of my comments call on homophobic tropes "such as the sexual deviancy of gay men" and I explicitly said I am NOT framing my arguments as gay men as privileged, so I'm going to assume you are talking to someone else.
posted by modernnomad at 9:31 PM on January 27


I'm in agreement with what en forme de poire said, but just to clarify my stance, I absolutely do not deny that misogynistic behaviour from gay men is a thing - and furthermore, I am also not happy with attempts to explain away, minimize, or excuse the impact or spread of misogyny within gay culture. If I didn't make this clear enough from the beginning, I apologize; while I'm supportive of these criticisms, there's not much I can say other than I have no dispute with them, and so my primary contribution is using my own experiences to generate meta-criticism.

But again, I emphasize the importance of the meta-criticism. From I understand how difficult it can be, if you're coming from an outsider perspective unfamiliar with queer culture, to see how strongly gay males are split amongst privilege lines based on their capacity to assimilate into a hegemonic role whether deliberate or not - especially when mainstream presentation of male homosexuality largely focuses on those who successfully pass as unthreatening to western hegemony. Look at media representation, look at pride, look at the stereotypes of gay men that permeate our culture: they are all white, rich, able-bodied, capitalist, nationalist, masculine men - and the few stereotypes and representations that aren't normative are uniformly portrayed as negative and deviant. But despite this media focus, I would argue the latter category of queer men who do not or can not conform to hegemonic acceptability is much, much larger population-wise. And it can be really easy to miss that especially in articles like this, which perpetuate the concept that there is a gay "mainstream" with only a cursory mention to "queer" subculture.

Thus, the purpose of the meta-criticism is to ensure that the rhetoric and target of the criticism does not serve to marginalize and erase the identities of non-normative queer men even further. I understand the need to call out misogyny in gay culture - but I also think it's important to do so in a way that does not extrapolate the privileges of a minority subculture that has been integrated into western hegemony due to their lack of threat to the status quo as the privileges of the entire marginalized group.
posted by Conspire at 10:56 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


That's all fair, and well-put.
posted by modernnomad at 11:08 PM on January 27


For a gay man to call a woman fish [...]

Is there a corresponding term when gay women want to be offensive, or is "men" felt to be sufficient?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:15 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


What you treat as your playground is actually my life.

If your life consisted of being at a club all day drinking I'd imagine it would attract a lot of tourists and they would feel like your life is intentionally sculpted into a playground, but I feel this quote belongs in more "playground almost literally = life" contexts like indigenous citizens of tourist-y areas and even then there's usually a whole fake playground inserted somewhere for the tourists to aggregate and most of the conflict they encounter is encountered between destinations. In that case the citizens often "need" the tourists economic benefits so the tourists complain "oh, they need our tourism money and now they have it so how can they be gruff?" :(

But everyone has a right to be gruff, even people who themselves have partaken in making a "deal" will complain about it afterwards let alone inhabitants of a country whose tourism board and government and such have done all of the deal making. In many cases the indigenous country "needs" tourism money because its economy and resources have already been repeatedly plundered by imperial forces who also bring them the tourists they "need."

More accurately, the giddy woman in this story treats your mostly-play-ground (the gay club) as a less-pressure, maybe safer-feeling and yeah, giddy playground. Maybe they like the stimulation of being around a dude with dude hormones and dude looks who has no desire to have sex with them and can possibly relate to them more like a "girlfriend," so there's an extra "yay, this is off the hook, look I'm hanging around homos!" aspect to "haggery."

More than "play" happens at bars and meeting people where you can be reasonably sure they're there to be around other people and aren't going to violently flip out if you approach them is especially important for gays, but while I think it's fair to say this, it's more likely than not to get you the "oh, drama!" reaction than "oh my, I guess I didn't realize" and I'm on a foot and mouth tear lately so I guess I'm saying that in a lot of words, but I understand it as grumbling and think it's fair to grumble and we all grumble about things, and it's usually tolerable if it involves people we love and the grumbling itself is how we tolerate the thing that makes us grumble, by grumbling about its grumbleworthiness
posted by lordaych at 7:31 AM on January 28


I quit reading T Lo awhile back. They posted something about seeing nipples on a woman. I commented about us all having nipples, they deleted it.

I very rarely even read the comments because I have a comments-are-cesspools mentality most places, but this conversation and the others I've had have really focused my attention on the language and choices about what looks ugly or aging or whatever. Also sometimes they're just wrong, and I'm all "wtf she looks gorgeous?" while they're ragging on the celeb.
posted by immlass at 8:50 AM on January 28


Actually, a lot of the comments at TLo are good. (Or were, before I gave up on them, mostly because of their absolute refusal to listen to women's comments about actual everyday clothing -- they'd have a fashion-in-the-street item with a celeb in a long skirt in the summer, say "wow, that must be so hot!", get a million comments saying that it's very comfortable, and then a few days later post another celeb in a long skirt and say "sure, women wear this and say it's comfortable, but it just looks so hot we don't believe them! Don't wear long skirts in the summer!" And all the X-type prostitute jokes for the Miss Universe pageant.)
posted by jeather at 9:07 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Ok, sorry, one last thing that got on my nerves about this article. The author appears to be asserting that part of male privilege that extends to gay men is a relative freedom from sexual assault ("Similarly, so long as we know how to wear our poker faces, we aren’t likely to get sexually assaulted as women do"). I was curious about how well we know this, and found that actually it appears to be much more complicated than the author suggests. According to this study (apparently the first of its kind, conducted in '11), lesbians and bi women have the highest lifetime assault rates of 43%, gay and bi men follow with 30%, women in general have 11-17% and men in general have 2-3%. (The info I could find elsewhere suggests that rates of sexual violence against trans people are sadly even higher at >50%.) So the fact that the gay men in that classroom in the article were much less concerned about being a victim of crime than the women may in fact reflect internalized societal norms, more than they reflect an accurate judgement of risk. (They didn't study the rate of poker faces -- itself problematic if this means in part "passing for straight," though that's a whole separate ball of wax -- so I can't comment on that part.)

Again: absolutely not trying to make it into an oppression contest. These numbers could also be divided by socioeconomic status or race and could look quite different, for instance; in any case, whether it's 43% or 3%, it's still way, way too much. But I do want to point out that the author makes some very sweeping claims that don't seem to me to be particularly well supported, and that I think end up as a result minimizing gay marginalization in a somewhat misleading way. And the really frustrating part is that of course, none of this is even necessary to support the points about mainstream gay culture's currents of misogyny that he touches on most.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:45 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


"Similarly, so long as we know how to wear our poker faces, we aren’t likely to get sexually assaulted as women do"

Yes, I think that is a bullshit thing to say.
posted by crossoverman at 6:33 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


So, gay misogynists, unlike straight misogynists, can absolutely go for a level of separatism/apartheid that straight misogynists cannot, by dint of the latter still *wanting* something from women.


On the other side of a different coin (both sides existing at the same time, without being dependent on each other, you understand)
As a women myself, straight women can absolutely impinge on the safe space of queer men.
I have literally had to drag, carry, and manhandle drunk women who were assaulting gay male friends of mine, off said friends. They were trying to grope, kiss, and making overly graphic and not-very-funny suggestions that they wanted their sperm/babies/etc. This typically happened to my youngest, most mild-mannered friends - it was like there was a switch flipped, that these women realised these attractive, intelligent males would never even be sexual predators towards them. Which for them, apparently meant, woohoo! It was the chance to be the sexual predator they'd always wanted to be! Or something.
Anyway, who is surprised that occasionally oppressed classes turn around and revisit their oppression on others?
Still, the only really obviously segregated spaces I've seen are bathhouses.

Secondly, I've been at parties of gay men who have passively avoided me for a bit. Different crowd, I'm not saying it is the same dynamic. But, I approached it as, no one is obligated be friends with me (then again, no one I know introduces themselves when they join in a party discussion either). In many cases, they'd tend to warm up to me once they realised that I... wasn't looking for a New Gay Best Friend.
You know what I mean, right? Objectification, again, turned around.


Many gay men also have 'beauty as a performative art' as a hobby, so they will discuss that... hobby. But usually in a performative way, which means social masks are fully, fully in place. It would take a long time to look into the ways and whys of how that is expressed.
posted by Elysum at 7:45 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


According to this study (apparently the first of its kind, conducted in '11), lesbians and bi women have the highest lifetime assault rates of 43%, gay and bi men follow with 30%, women in general have 11-17% and men in general have 2-3%.

I can't read the full study, but I'm curious as to how they define sexual assault. That's the one factor that seems to skew most studies. I would wager the true total to be much, much higher. I know staggeringly, staggeringly few women that have not been at least mildly sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
posted by corb at 7:22 AM on January 29


The Myth of "Gay Male Privilege"
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:08 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


corb, the article is a retrospective study of several individual samplings that seemed to use pretty different methods, so the definitions of assault vary. They also did not re-determine rates for heterosexuals/entire genders because the individual studies didn't sample many, so they're just comparing to rates from other meta-analyses. The article did look separately at child, adult, intimate partner, hate-crime-related, and lifetime assault risks.

Most research into sexual assault does not seem to be broken down by the sexual orientation of the victims, so there's much less data than for e.g., women in general. I also agree that there's almost certainly under-reporting, though in the absence of data I wouldn't necessarily expect that to vary by gender and sexual orientation.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:00 AM on January 29


Oh yeah, I definitely agree - I was more arguing that the entire thing should be shifted to the right rather than that it should be selectively messed around with. That's definitely a problem with meta-analysis, but they definitely have to work with the best they have!
posted by corb at 9:02 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Wow, the author of that HuffPo piece managed to totally and completely miss the point.
posted by Asparagus at 9:13 AM on January 29


Wow, the author of that HuffPo piece managed to totally and completely miss the point.

... Or touched on many of the points raised here as being relevant. Depends on your perspective, I suppose.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:19 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Maybe instead of "missing the point" it would be more accurate to say, "acknowledged the point, minimized and dismissed it, and proceeded to move on to and rant about unrelated issues."
posted by Asparagus at 9:27 AM on January 29


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