Thursday, January 28, 2010

My gay or the highway

I liked the idea of Brian Moylan's post denouncing the my-gay phenomenon, then I read it and... no. Yes, friendships between straight women and gay men have been exploited in pop culture, with the evil yet entertaining force that is SATC allegedly leading the same women who think it's necessary to walk four in a row in stilettos to think they each need 'their gay.' Yes, the expression 'my gay' is obnoxious. But has anyone not on a reality show or attempting to get quoted for a trend piece ever used it? Are there really living-and-breathing women who see their gay male friends as accessories?

So, from the standpoint of a straight woman who for geographical and professional reasons might well know more gay than straight men, each item torn to shreds:

1) "No Setting Us Up." Agreed that if you know two gay men (or women), just the two, assuming they'd be perfect for each other is naive. I've gotten the 'I have this friend who's Jewish, you two should be friends' line, a variant of this phenomenon, and I get it, not needed. But! Lots of us, particularly in big cities, humanities departments, and the like, know plenty of people of both sexes who are gay. And people are people, friends are friends. Friends set friends up with people of that friend's preferred gender, using their knowledge of that friend as a person. Most blind dates won't work regardless, but it's not, as the Gawker post suggests, that straight women are incapable of understanding 'type' when the friend in question happens to be a gay man. Suggesting that women 'can't' set up gay men in fact encourages the whole 'my gay' trend, as though friendships of this nature exist outside the normal friendship rules.

2) "We Don't Want to Go Shopping." Hmm. Agreed that gay men don't want to go to women's-only stores, any more than straight women can keep from yawning in the men's Banana Republic. Again, a SATC myth - why would gay men find it interesting to spend hours watching women try on clothes? But if the store has equal-ish sections, or if one or both parties are willing to shop in either section (in my own last such outing, for the record, I was the one scouring men's Uniqlo for myself - the sizes can be tiny!), why not?

3) "We'll Give You Sex Tips, but No Lady Business." I can't say I have this graphic discussions with any of my friends, and my only knowledge of what gay men will and won't discuss in this arena comes from Dan Savage, who's A-OK with lady business, so... maybe this is correct. Intuitively, I see why it might be, given that the one thing we can say about gay men that's not a stereotype is that their sexual expertise and interest centers on men rather than women.

4) "Your Boyfriend Drama Bores Us." By this, what's meant, apparently, is mundane, domestic, 'he leaves the seat up'-esque blah. Straight women don't want to hear this from other straight women, either. That, and people in couples with non-complaint complaints about their relationships annoy their single friends, gender and gayness being irrelevant to the situation.

5) "We Won't Hit on Your Boyfriend In Front of You." Agreed that it's wrong to assume gay men are so full of lust for all males without exception that they will find generic hetero bf in stained khakis anything special. But if the bf is appealing, and seems like me might go both ways? How is this so different from a female friend who might or might not engage in such behavior?

6) "Do Not Come to Our Clubs." OK, this one is fair. I've never understood why so many straight women think it's cool to go to gay bars. My own experience of this, coming from discussions with my fellow hetero ladies and from having been to such establishments, is that the whole 'it's awesome, no one will hit on you!' line of thought fails both because it comes from this perspective of imagining that one simply cannot enter a room with men and alcohol without attracting endless male attention, and because give it a moment and even some men at gay bars will hit on women, because it's a bar, and it's late, and there's such a thing as bi.

7) "You Are Not a Gay Man Trapped in a Woman's Body." FTM gay men won't love the line in the post about the crotch being that which divides gay men from straight women. Gender is an identity and not an organ. This point aside, female-born sorts who identify as women but express that they feel themselves to be gay men are really saying that they find many aspects of femininity as it's demanded of women - or even of female biology - frustrating, and that they envy gay men, who get to at once be male and ogle men. If a woman says this line with no awareness of the continued discrimination against gays, fine, agreed, not sensitive. But it's the continued difficulties faced by women that caused the line to be uttered in the first place. Moylan's off in comparing the straight woman/gay man relationship to that of white people who covet/brag about black friends. Because straight women and gays are both members of marginalized groups, the women benefiting from straight privilege, the gays from male privilege. We can argue how marginalized one group is relative to the other - there's no reason to believe this is an equal-measure situation - but the racial comparison here doesn't hold. (For the record, I don't personally think I'm a gay man trapped in a woman's body, but on various occasions gay men have suggested I am just that. Oh well!)

7 comments:

Petey said...

"Do Not Come to Our Clubs." OK, this one is fair. I've never understood why so many straight women think it's cool to go to gay bars."

Well, beyond the reasons you go on to try to debunk, there is also the point that gay clubs tend to correlate very highly with good dance experiences.

If you are a woman or a straight man who is in the mood for a night of actual dancing, gay clubs are often an excellent bet.

"the whole 'it's awesome, no one will hit on you!' line of thought fails both because it comes from this perspective of imagining that one simply cannot enter a room with men and alcohol without attracting endless male attention, and because give it a moment and even some men at gay bars will hit on women, because it's a bar, and it's late, and there's such a thing as bi."

Beyond just bi, there is also the category of straight men who are at the gay club to dance, and end up finding some unexpected pastry for dessert.

But that said, having spent some time in the company of women at both gay and straight clubs, I will note that my experience is that the pickup approaches women receive at gay clubs are more minimal, less intrusive, and perhaps most importantly, of an entirely different tone. There is a certain kind of clumsy alpha-dog-wannabe approach frequently seen in straight establishments that simply doesn't happen to women in gay clubs.

In short, if you are a woman who is often annoyed at unwanted attention received, and/or you are a woman who enjoys a night of dancing, gay clubs can be attractive for incredibly sensible reasons. Now, of course, if you are cramping the style of your gay friend by tagging along, then obviously you need to learn to be a better friend. But that's a separate topic.

Phoebe said...

Petey,

Unlike the Gawker poster, I don't think women who go to gay clubs are committing some heinous sin. But I think sometimes straight women who state an outright preference for gay bars a) overestimate their own charm, and b) ignore that bars are bars, and even the gayest are not some kind of magical sex-free zone for women (for the reasons I give - alcohol and desperation being universalizers, bisexuality being a real phenomenon) and because, as you point out, straight men are everywhere).

The 'better' dance experience for straight women is largely about a lack of groping, or a belief, however unfounded, that one is there 'just' to dance. How going to gay clubs means better dancing for straight men is beyond me, other than that they might imagine they'll get a chance to dance - then hook up with - the sort of women so desirable, and so lacking in desperation, that they simply must go out with teh gays. If nothing else, straight men at gay clubs have correctly picked up on the fact that a certain number of women who said at the beginning of the evening that they've had it with men will, later on, have changed their minds; there's also the possibility that, if only on a subconscious level, straight women will get some extra 'conversion' thrill from picking up a man at a gay bar, even if the man never claimed to be gay. Point being, I don't see gay-vs-straight-clubs as being primarily about which music's played where, and where the dance moves are superior.

Petey said...

"The 'better' dance experience for straight women is largely about a lack of groping, or a belief, however unfounded, that one is there 'just' to dance."

But, of course, one can be there to 'just' dance. Dancing is fun, much as playing tennis is fun. While the mating ritual aspects are never completely separate from dance, one can indeed genuinely desire to go out to 'just' dance.

"Point being, I don't see gay-vs-straight-clubs as being primarily about which music's played where, and where the dance moves are superior."

This is at the core of where I take issue with you. I'm asserting that gay clubs, on average, really do have a better dance floor culture. There is just more emphasis on it and refinement of it.

-----

"How going to gay clubs means better dancing for straight men is beyond me"

It holds no appeal for me to go to a gay club stag, but consider other scenarios:

1) Show up with a girlfriend.

2) Show up with a girlfriend and a coed group of friends.

3) Show up with a coed group of friends.

Some of the best extended dancing experiences in my life fall in these categories.

Phoebe said...

What can I say? Petey, I think you're officially too fabulous to be commenting on this blog.

Sigivald said...

Are there really living-and-breathing women who see their gay male friends as accessories?

The number of the former combined with human diversity/perversity suggests that the answer must be "yes".

I suspect the number is equivalent to those who see their non-gay friends as accessories, and thus pretty damned small.

Phoebe said...

Sigivald,

Yes, everything's out there, particularly everything that involves imitating something seen on TV. There was an implied 'in perceptible numbers.'

Petey said...

"Petey, I think you're officially too fabulous to be commenting on this blog."

Noted with sadness. I shall now get off of your lawn.