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25 April 2011, 4:00 pm 30 Comments

Rants: Misogyny in Gay Rhetoric

Submission by Julian, TNG contributor

It makes me cringe when I hear a straight guy embark on a long tirade about how he could never possibly have sex or be intimate with another guy.  I sigh and think to myself, “Not this again. What an asshole. You don’t like dick. I get it!”

It’s understandable that a straight guy doesn’t want to have sex with another guy.  The problem for me is the drawn out and debasing lecture in which he frames his dislike.  It’s the soapbox diatribes about the awful, repugnant, I’d-rather-die-than-yada-yada-yada aspects of male-to-male intimacy that rub me the wrong way.  It’s the subtle and innocuous way that heterosexism keeps homosexuality on the margins while reasserting its own dominance that I resist.  Intentions aside, this rhetoric by straight guys regarding homosexuality only serves to devalue homosexuality—posing it as a distortion, an inferior derivative of heterosexuality.
Even though I’m fresh out of the closet, I’ve noticed that gay guys have countered this dominance by imitating and flipping this rhetoric on its head—“I could never have sex with a girl.  Pussy is so nasty!”  In order to affirm their own validity and push heterosexism off its pedestal, gay guys adopt this same technique—that is, to speak casually about heterosexuality as a perverted, strange, and repulsive orientation.  However, it usually goes along the lines of expressing disgust for the female body in another demeaning soapbox tirade.  If someone is not attracted to women, fine; but these exaggerated discourses are unnecessary and harmful.

This is where the misogyny of gay rhetoric surfaces.

I find this misogynist tone in everyday speech uncomfortable and problematic.  Uncomfortable, because it leaves little room for those of us who are situated somewhere between/outside the gay/straight terms to express our desires honestly.  It has become taboo for a queer guy to admit that a girl is appealing (sexually or otherwise).  The dynamic created by this misogyny mirrors the fear that makes straight guys shout “No homo!” if their hand brushes against another’s.  Moreover, this speech is problematic because it tramples on many aspects of feminist struggles.  Throughout our history, women have been marked economically, socially, and essentially inferior to men based solely upon anatomy—submitting them to lack of credibility in public life, to objects for men [to conquer or to romanticize], and to insecurity.

To express such overwhelming disgust for the female bodies only reinforces this oppressive tradition—male dominance and misogynist rhetoric.  If gay guys are not attracted to women, fair enough; but the drawn out or exaggerated monologues are not necessary.

Historically and currently marginalized, LGBTQ must tirelessly fight for identity, voice, and validity on all fronts.  However, I’m concerned when the struggle to find identity by one group is based on antagonism toward another; when one oppressed demographic finds a way to stand by stepping on another.  Employing misogyny to combat heterosexism is hypocritical and simply unjust.  It polarizes identities and weakens movements for liberation by advancing the oppression of others.

Even though our histories are different, women and gay men suffer under similar forces which try to confine gender roles and control sexuality.  However, if we are secure enough in our own identities, we won’t need to degrade others in order to find a voice; we won’t have to push others aside in order to stand.  In fact, we can resist heterosexism more effectively if we refuse to perpetuate oppressive rhetoric and become allies for others in their struggles.  Such solidarity leaves little room for the tyranny of hierarchies.  Rather than imitating heterosexism, solidarity will enable us to stand with, rather than on, others and it will give us new strength in our fight for liberation.

 


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30 Comments »

  • Lord Beardsley said:

    Amen! This has long been a topic of discussion among my friends and I. The world needs more people like you in it.

  • Macha said:

    It drives me nuts to see one oppressed group participating in the oppression of another. But that’s the “victim” mentality, something Margaret Atwood discusses in her book Survival, looking at the different levels of victimization in Canadian literature – you can be a victim who denies it, one who victimizes others, one who moves beyond victimization and becomes a creative non-victim, or others. People will do bad things to those who are different, to those who are “other,” who are “the unknown.” What you do with those experiences is your choice. Turning your anger to victimize others doesn’t help anybody.

  • michael said:

    Spend a few hours at a nudist pool club and you’ll discover that ALL genitalia is pretty disgusting, especially when un-aroused and exposed to daylight.. Luckily, when faced with the possibility of sex, something in your brain flips a switch and makes the genitalia of your choosing pretty appealing. Show a guy who’s on a raging monologue on the vulgarities of the vulva a few pictures of up close flaccid cocks and you know he’ll react equally repulsed.

    That said, the core of this piece is one that is very essential to the queer rights movement. Vilifying other queer people for the sake of self aggrandizement and self justificaiton only perpetuates the I’ve-got-mine-so-good-luck-getting-yours mentality of so many in mainstream gay (while male) culture. We need unity before we’ll get rights, and stopping the degradation of our peers is one of the most important first steps.

  • Hovikstad said:

    Frankly, I find your broad, generalizations of “gay rhetoric” more alarming that the claims in this post. It’s just as closed-minded and defamatory as the actions you denounce. Maybe being “fresh out of the closet” you need more time to experience the wide range of attitudes of the gay community.

    I’ve heard rants like this many times from self-loathing people ashamed of being gay and insisting on denouncing stereotypes as a way of distancing himself from the uncomfortable reality that you are gay. Hating the “gay misogyny” that may or may not exist is just as disrespectful and counterproductive.

  • Macha said:

    @ Hovikstad – um, no, I’m pretty sure that hating hate (misogyny) is just the right thing to do. It’s possible to be disrespectful when you’re fighting hate, but being turned off by hate, and pointing out how wrong it is the way Julian does here, is not disrespectful.

  • lol wtf? said:

    Holy shit.

    Fags really are pussies huh?

    Pro tip: Don’t stick so much dick in your ass, it makes you a butt hurtt loser.

  • AmateurInvest said:

    LoL i like how haters have such constructive monologues. Sexism is always stupid said by straight or gays equally

  • Amy said:

    All the gay men I’ve ever met are all misogynistic perverts. Scum. I just feel sorry for their mothers.

  • Jean said:

    Amy, I’m glad you are spending your free time trolling LGBTQ websites and making the extra effort to add your thoughtful comments. This seems like a very productive hobby and provides insight into your intelligence level. Welcome to the discussion – sorry you can’t keep up.

  • HeiD said:

    I have a very active, very opinionated gay brother, hes the only boy out of 4, and us 3 girls are very smart, successful, strong and independent women. It was a surprise to me when I heard my brother talk misogynistically many times during his family visit, including in front of my mother who is one of the most influential women in my life. Im disappointed that he thinks so lowly of women when he has had more than enough examples of wonderful women around him. He is the baby, and will always be loved, supported and allowed to be what he is but find it distasteful that he releases his frustration of being ‘different’ by attacking something else. I sent him this article and can only hope he realizes his error. Its simply uncool.

  • KJN said:

    If anyone is still moderating TNG, may I make a couple of suggestions? One, install Captcha or something like it to cut down on the spam comments; and two: initiate some kind of time limit protocols on blog post commenting. Trolls are running around resurrecting long-dormant comment threads. The zombie commentary and the spam bots are really dragging this site down. Thanks!

  • Amy Michele said:

    I have an observation based on a teeny tiny perspective. In the town where I live at the sheriffs’ sub-station (the town’s public safety office) is a majority gay leadership in the male sheriffs who direct the place. One is heterosexual although he uses cocaine once in a while. One (and this has NOTHING to do with any other carbon matter in the world) is a sleeze – he just likes to greasily stick it to anyone that strikes his fancy female or male. And the others are gay. Out of six guys one is straight, one bisexual but I don’t think that is the correct term in his case considering how sleazy he is, and four are gay. One recently “converted” (came out of the closet). The one who just came out of the closet had an encounter with one of his co-workers and I kind of think that brush brought him out of the closet. I don’t think he would have explored same sex relationships had the other not moved in on him and initiated him so to speak.

    One of the guys is pretty mild mannered, but he is with a group where the alpha-male is extra-aggressive. The group as a whole has become increasingly aggressive and even antagonistic toward everyone. They seem to have a veneer of small-townness (as opposed to Fullerton Police Department where they lack all I.Q. and should all die – Police in a police state are no ones friends.)

    I don’t think Elton John would ever grow militant on people. I don’t think every gay guy has to be Liberace to be gay or Rock Hudson.
    But I have a question that maybe you can you consider and answer. Do gay guys attracted to the military service or to being sheriffs tend to be more aggressive than the run of the mill off the street off the rack gay guy? Cuz these guys seem to start picking on little innocuous folk first to practice being tough so that they can all out wage kicking war on whomever they wish. The fairly mild mannered guy used to stick to himself. But he’s ready to watch blood lust now. If you’re a gentleman gay guy I wouldn’t want you anywhere near these dudes. Cuz I suspect they have to “crack down” on anyone who comes with a label – call it equalization. I’ve noticed that some black cops tend to “crack down” more on blacks and I wouldn’t doubt a type of bigotry of gay cops against the gay public. These guys aren’t allowed to go to clubs or “gay” bars to meet guys.

    It scares me the way they are. The alpha-male likes to act as if he’s Ronald Reagan.

    Thanks for reading and your consideration.

  • Amy Michele said:

    I have another subtopic for this post. In gay literature (“Literature” with a capital “L”) the theme of misogyny comes up. I’ve not read misogynistic themes in gay literature about female anatomy but more so about female personas. For instance “Maurice” by E.M. Forster and “Street Car Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (although “Streetcar” is complicated because Tennessee Williams loved his character Blanche) both show misogynistic attitudes toward women. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote covers a misogynistic attitude about superficial, flighty, self-absorbed gold-diggers although most people see Holly’s charm bypassing the misogyny, and the film did not depict her personality true to the book. The male narrator’s character in the film is not true to the book either. By the way, about “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Capote I didn’t see that the narrator was homosexual at all, but I was naive and totally inexperienced in the world when I read it. I saw him as a big brother. Is the male protagonist in the book obviously gay and I just didn’t see it?

    The traits that count as misogyny in gay literature are against female character traits not physical traits. Is there any validity to the idea that females simply turn gay men off in emotional and psychological ways? (I think that straight guys tend to be turned off by women’s affects.) I know that the “community” (is that a forced community of some sort) for “LGBT” is sort of a lobbying force. I don’t think that gay guys like most females’ personas. I don’t think gay guys like lesbians except as a lobbying force and as co-authors of social commentaries. (I can’t count the time that gay guys in the presence of lesians have “honey”‘d me in a falsetto or talked about their “sisters.” (It’s kind of annoying.)

    I’ve never been an insider to any group by the way. I’ve been made fun of by gay guys, experienced the rancor of lesbian women whom I’ve slighted cuz I said things like “This is the first lesbian party I’ve ever been to), been sneered at by transgenders (she could have sat next to me on the bus), made fun of by the straight male man, had the female straight grocery clerk stare me down and snicker, and been the bunt of jokes by my relatives. So I while I cherish cleverness from the troops I hope someone will bypass “me” and consider the topic of homosexual misogyny in literature and answer if gay guys just don’t like females’ personalities. Do gay guys loathe female personalities more so than staight guys. Dostoevsky had misogynistic themes but he wasn’t gay I don’t think. So did Norman Mailer and he definitely wasn’t gay. (Was he?)

  • Amy Michele said:

    In short, what makes ya’all think you’re any different from straight guys when it comes to misogyny? I mean if straight guys really loved us they wouldn’t say “pussy,” “tits,” or a host of other – gag me and put me to sleep – icky words.

    They would read Shakespeare to us. (Rub our backs, take out the trash without being asked, scour the bathtub, hug us and cuddle us at bedtime. I doubt we’d be having that much sex but we’d be happier.)

  • Amy Michele said:

    STRAIGHT MEN WOULD BRING US CHOCOLATE – darn it! And they would never be repelled by the way we look in swimsuits after the age of …. whatever. They wouldn’t care what we looked like in SWEAT SUITS.

    Gosh you’re sensitive.

  • Amy Michele said:

    i thought i had finished my posts.

    Um – I can prove that gay guys are misogynistic. I didn’t event the term “fag hag.”

  • Mike said:

    @Amy Michele: “gay guys are misogynistic”

    yeah, and “black guys like chicken” and “women talk too much”

    oh, and “stereotypes suck” so stop relying on them to prop up your high school caliber arguments.

  • Christian said:

    @HeiD
    “I have a very active, very opinionated gay brother”
    I suppose “opiniated” means has that nasty habit of stating his opinion, as opposed to giving in and singing kumbaya?

    “hes the only boy out of 4, and us 3 girls are very smart, successful, strong and independent women”
    So he had to grow up with three sisters who are just full of themselves: seriously, who describes in the world themselves as “very smart, successful, strong and independent”? What are you trying to hide from yourself?

    “It was a surprise to me when I heard my brother talk misogynistically many times during his family visit”
    If you had known your brother at all, you would have known long ago and would not have been surprised. Too busy focusing on the “”very smart, successful, strong and independent women” to take a notice of him?

    “including in front of my mother who is one of the most influential women in my life.”
    Ouch! Three self-congratulating sisters, one idealized and overbearing mother, and a father so absent he is not even worth mentioning.

    “Im disappointed that he thinks so lowly of women when he has had more than enough examples of wonderful women around him.”
    “more than enough examples of wonderful women”: wow, and the self-congratulating goes on! I think the syllogism goes like this:
    1. “he has had more than enough examples of […] women around him”
    2. “he thinks […] lowly of women”
    3. so it follows that his low opinion of women is a well-thought position based on years of experience from the inside, as opposed to rumour and furtive impressions.

    In other wor words: the women of the house were unbearable to live with, and you were too busy self-congratulating to notice any of it, let alone take notice of your brother whom you have only lived NEXT TO (as opposed to living WITH him). Thus, you did not even notice how much he resented growing up with you, and it only comes out now whenever he is put back in the same dreaded environment.

    Now forget everything I just said and send yourself a bouquet of flowers with a greeting-card that says: “you’re the greatest, sis!”

    PS: has the idea ever crossed your mind that most men who have actually experienced what women are like hold similar opinions to your brother’s, but that gay men are the only ones who can actually ‘afford’ to voice them out loud? Meaning: they don’t have to care about the consequences, such as “you aren’t getting any” or a hysterical hissyfit.

  • Jane G. said:

    LOLOLOLOL! Amy Michele: Any guy who wants to rub your feet and read you Shakespeare without making a move to have sex with you IS GAY!!!!! Maybe he does, but the straight man always has his eye on the prize, honey. And they will never be repulsed by your genitalia. All these silly romantic notions my fellow women harbor about men! If you are over the age of 25, they are pathetic.

    Anyway, I appreciate this article. I think the gay community does have some issues with misogyny that they are in denial about, and I think their fight against homophobia is compromised as a result. I don’t think that gay men, however, have a monopoly on misogyny. Some of the worst misogyny I have experienced has come from women. It’s biology. Women cannibalize other women because every woman is an inherent threat to their biological viability. Gay men likewise perceive women as a threat because they are directly competing with women. But, most women are baffled by this because the playing field is not even. Gay men are not a threat to our sexual or biological viability. They are not on our radar. Other women are. If a guy left me for another woman, I would be devastated. If he left me for a man, I would be relieved, because the rejection would not be a reflection on me as a woman, but rather on his gayness.

    As for those men who identify as straight, but speak disparagingly of women or criticize women’s physical attributes or are repulsed by female genitalia, I think they are latently gay. I don’t think they want to think about it. Straight men don’t care that much about the bits and pieces of us. Trust me, as long as you don’t smell bad or embarrass him or are a total drag to be with or insist that he rub your feet and read you Shakespeare, he will be grateful that you gave him the time of day. He doesn’t care that you have pimples on your butt or that your boobs are lopsided. He is just glad you have a butt and boobs and a vagina. Gay men care about the pimples on your butt and that your boobs are lopsided!!!! Remember that. It will put things in perspective for you. Men are simple. ALL of them. And I love them for it.

  • Jane G. said:

    @Christian

    So you are saying that her brother’s gayness is born out of his resentment for his mother and sisters? Are you suggesting that homosexuality is learned? You say that any man who “experiences what women are really like” will be misogynists like HeiD’s brother. Wow. I think you fit everyone’s definition of “bad for the gays.” Your hatred of women is pathological and sad. You have reduced your homosexuality to a mere symptom of that hate. I feel sorry for you.

  • Jane G. said:

    …This is not to say that lots of really and truly straight men aren’t misogynists. I think there are those straight men who want us but don’t know how to go about it or encountered negative women growing up or for whatever reason just really hate women and want to put us in our place. I also know a lot of gay men who really do like women. Just like there are women who really like other women and have strong friendships with them. It all boils down to education, achievement, and self-esteem. If you have more to think about than just sexual politics, civility always wins the day.

  • Laura P. said:

    I think it’s terrible that gay men are misogynists. When’s the last time you heard a lesbian say anything misandrist?

  • Christian said:

    @Jane G. : “So you are saying that her brother’s gayness is born out of his resentment for his mother and sisters?”

    No, and neither did I contend that the Earth was flat.

    I did however conjecture that his low opinion / disregard / resentment of women was a direct result of living with three self-congratulating sisters and an overbearing mother.

  • Hassan said:

    Laura P.

    “I think it’s terrible that gay men are misogynists. When’s the last time you heard a lesbian say anything misandrist?”

    If we go by stereotypes,lesbians are considered misandric moreso than gay men are considered misogynistic.

    As for your question,I encountered one two days back on a forum.
    She was a Lesbian Separatist who believed sexism was inherent in ALL MEN and could not be eradicated,and that men were ‘less civilized’ than women and kept society back,preventing it from progressing any further.
    She suggested that the only solution to eradicating patriarchy was to eradicate men from women’s lives by way of Lesbian Separatism and reducing as much contact with men,ALL men,as possible.

  • Alyssa said:

    @HeiD

    I used to be in the exact same position as your little brother. I was the little (nd only) brother in a family of older, smarter and stronger independent women. I admired and looked up to them but I hated women with a passion. Why did I hate women? I didn’t actually know at the time.

    As it turns out the reason was I was trans. My misogyny was driven by jealousy.

    Since coming out, I now consider myself a feminist.

    So have you considered that maybe your brother is trans?

    He probably isn’t but it might be worth investigating the source of his misogyny and find out whether it’s jealousy or just caused by socialisation with misogynistic gay men.

  • Naomi said:

    Thanks so much for posting this article, I’m a straight woman with a lot of LGBT friends and just last night two gay friends just kept going on about how disgusting they found vaginas and I found it difficult to articulate just why it upset me so much. We all need to show a bit more solidarity!

  • peter said:

    Jane you are incorrect. Romance trumps sex for some of us, and more so with age. But nice attempt at sexism and stereotyping.

  • Anonymous said:

    Hmmm … I think the issue is not that gay guys are especially misogynistic, but that the culture’s rationales and explanations for misogyny fall apart when we witness misogyny in gay guys. If gay guys are spew the same (or worse) about women as straight guys do, then the phenomenon cannot be attributed to the strains of heterosexual relationships. Furthermore, if women of both orientations also spew misogynistic rhetoric, that indicates that the misogyny is built into the culture as a whole, not some “battle of the sexes.”

  • Mitch said:

    The problem lies in the attitude that people have no value unless you can fuck them. Here’s a novel idea. Lets assume there’s more to people than what we can wring out of them sexually and stop being assholes to each other…It’s a long shot I know.

  • Jennie said:

    Wow-I’m really happy that I discovered your site! Your take on misogyny and gay men is beautifully written and is definitely an issue in gay society. I generally adore gay men but unfortunately have come across some here and there who thought it was o.k. to make misogynistic generalizations and hateful comments about women around me. (I am an openly bisexual woman). Of course I called them on it. I felt very hurt and disappointed from hearing those immature words from my “friends.” I try to educate them about this-most just laugh it off. Thank you for writing a female-positive article on your feelings on this important issue. We are all oppressed as gay/bi/trans etc. We need to realize this and ban together to fight the patriarchy! Hurting each other shall get us nowhere. Thanks again for your writing:)

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