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4 May 2010, 4:09 pm 3 Comments

Zack's Ramblings: Nobody Knows You, and Everybody Gives A Damn

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen

I initially intended this post to quote extensively  from Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant’s “Sex in Public” but I cannot find a free copy online. Oh well. Still, pretty relevant reading if you can find it.

Picture this: On a balmy spring evening, a middle aged couple bring their 8 year old daughter into the living room to deliver some very exciting new. Holding hands, and trying not to grin, they explain that after years and years of trying they will finally be having that little brother they’ve all been praying for. The little girl, her eyes wide, takes a look at her father’s strong hands, the sweater her mom usually only wears when gardening, the lines around their smiles. She only has one question for them, and she can barely contain herself in asking. She leans forward, and takes a breath: “How did you concieve? How many times did you fuck her, dad? Was mom on her belly? On her back? Did she come? Did it hurt?”

Gross, right? This would never happen. Besides the fact that most people of any age aren’t interested in the intimate happenings of their close relatives, there is an ironclad social rule that sex between straight people is private. Your gradeschool teachers, a bus driver, the people across the courtyard. You would never think to ask them about the way they fuck in anything resembling polite conversation. Part of this has to do with lack of variation – it’s generally assumed that “P” in the “V’ is the only way they do it — but mostly because one of the less-discussed straight priviliges is the assumption of a sex live that is really no one’s business.

Contrast this with the questions that queer folks get asked about their sex lives on a daily basis. Because our sex is strange and foreign, it is often treated with a curiosity and forthrightness usually reserved for things like recipes and where you got your shirt. Do we even think twice about this anymore? In my green, hand-and-blowjob only days, I remember sitting around with any number of close hetero compatriots and debating what it is like what someone’s dick actually meets someone’s ass and stays for tea. We wondered how much poop might reasonably involved and how big the active partner has to be before pain is caused. A couple years later, things have changed. I have all the answers, but the world at large still has questions.

A close non-parental relative of mine has been obsessed with my sex life (and all gay sex life) since the minute I came out to her. This person, who I would prefer to not even see in a bikini, turns into a perverse question monster if we’re left alone for ten minutes at a time. She wants to know how guys decide who is top or bottom, what happens if two tops end up in bed together and what positions allow for such a fascinating act as anal sex to happen. I know I’m not alone in this. One friend of mine actually has his mom say “can you imagine ___ taking it in the ass?” to his sister during a casual talk about his dating life. And EVERYONE I know has had to assure someone close to them that they are, in fact, using condoms dililgently when the situation calls for them.

In short, something about gays don’t trigger the “this is none of my business” button when it comes to people’s sex lives in casual conversation. Or, for that matter, in legislation. Look at the number of laws that exist against gay people. Some are overtly about our sex lives, like the blessedly overturned Lawrence V. Texas but most simply pray on the widespread assumption that gay people carry sex around in their pockets, for everyone to see, at all times. DADT makes gay sex everyone’s business, as the root of that law is the fear of gay soldiers distracting the unit by either having sex with each other or trying to have sex with the heteros. All the proceedings, at heart, come down to talking about gay people’s sex lives in very open forums. Much of the case against ENDA is boiled down to “protecting the rights of people who might try to molest my children or wear a dress in the men’s room,” which again brings gay sex to the front of the public discourse.

In an ideal world, we’d recognize that queer people don’t have the run on unusual sex. Straight couples everywhere engage in spidermans and hot karl’s and battering rams. They have open relationships and play around with BDSM engage in group sex. But they have a shield of heterosexuality between them and the eyes of the world. Which leaves us as sitting ducks, the sexual others who are always on display. The two options I can think to combat this would either be for straight people’s sex lives to be just as frequent a conversation topic, or to never discuss sex again in the polite world. I can’t say I find either of those to be appealing.


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3 Comments »

  • cathy said:

    actually your opening comments remind me of a related phenomenon – inappropriate questions about gay parents and the origins of their spawn. gay sex doesn’t produce a baby, but the curiosity effect transfers to the nonsexual nature of our baby-making and people ask questions no one would ask a straight couple. “who’s the father/mother/sperm donor/surrogate?” is the tip of the iceberg, from what i’ve observed.

  • Luke said:

    I have recently experienced some of the same feelings. I think part of it is that many equate Gay- identity with solely who we like to have sex with. Therefore everything about us including the name we call ourselves becomes about sex. All rooted in hetero-normative bias. Here are my thought on it: http://pastureraisedqueer.blogspot.com/2010/05/warning-this-blog-contains-adult.html

  • Is Tom Daley “Actually” Gay? | Infotainment said:

    [...] what he isn’t, which is straight. He gave up a huge amount of privilege — including that of a private body — to ensure that young queer athletes have more professional role models than can be counted on [...]

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