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August 29, 2005

Comments

miz_geek

Ha! I'm reminded of my experience at the U of Minnesota. I was taking "The Social Construction of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality" in the Women's Studies department (it was a relatively large class - probably 50 students). We were discussing the prevalence of pornography as a means for young people (especially boys) to learn about sex, and what impact it might have on their opinion of women. The straight women commented, and so did the lesbians. Several gay men pointed out that they'd looked at porn and it hadn't made them straight. Finally, someone said, "Are there any straight males here to give us their perspective?" Silence. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Antigone

Somehow, I doubt that women as a whole are "braver". More like, we're allowed this, it's "okay" if we're gay, as long it's just college bi "experimenting".

Although, I will give that women grow up faster than guys do in some things. Example: When I was working for Northwest Youth Corps (basically, hike to the middle of no where and dig trail), it got cold at night. The girls figured out after about 2 days that if we snuggle, it'll be warmer at night. It took the guys two weeks to do that.

metamanda

miz_geek is onto something I think. I've never taken a formal queer studies class (um... I'm assuming the term is not offensive given that all my LGBT friends use it to refer to themselves, but if you'd prefer greater formality I'll drop it) but i'm guessing it involves some examination of how gender roles are constructed, how some people don't quite fit in those roles, and how those roles can change over time or be changed within a subculture. Does that sound right? So I think such a class would draw students that are interested in questioning rigid gender roles: a lot of queer students, a lesser but still significant proportion of straight women, and even fewer straight men. I'm just going to hazard a guess that just about all queer kids are forced to examine the social construction of gender whether they like it or not. I'm guessing also that a lot of straight women are going to wonder about it because they're discontented with the role they are expected to play. And I think relatively few straight men will have experienced that discontent. There's just less pulling them towards a queer studies class, so there will be fewer straight men in one even if the push away due to homophobia were equal all around.

That said, while all out queer kids have a difficult time in high school and maybe even into college (depending on the college), I think the guys are in more danger of out and out violence. In my high school plenty of lesbians were out, and I think only one guy was out as bisexual. Safety in numbers may have been a factor, but that one guy took a lot of flak.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

In my high school, not a single person, male or female, was out. Three decades do make a difference.

Hugo

Metamanda, I call the course "queer history"; I'm fine with the term.

I spent many years being the sole outspoken "straight man" in courses on sexuality and gender; sometimes I relished it, other times I loathed it. The discontent to which you refer may indeed be a source of the greater female interest as well...

djw

Lynn, I was in HS from 89-93; if anyone was out I never heard about it (1000+ students). It was the summer after I graduated, just months before starting college, that I first met an out gay person. I don't know if this is still typical in small, rural towns, but I wouldn't be surprised.

mythago

Hugo, I'm going to pick on you a little because even your course title excludes bisexuals: women have more latitude to experiment with bisexuality than men do. There is a great deal more social approval of women having sex with other women--as long as they don't do so exclusively or by prference--whereas with men, a single drop is enough to raise the ugly specter of faggotry.

Hugo

True, mythago. On the other hand, a course that focuses heavily on the narrative history of the gay and lesbian movement can't really focus much on a group that has much less of a separate history. That doesn't mean we don't acknowledge bisexuality; heck, we discuss it quite a bit. At the same time, there is no "bi rights" movement on the scope of the gay and lesbian movement, nor am I quite sure what such a movement would be interested in, beyond recognition and acceptance. Hence, less of an explicit focus.

mythago

At the same time, there is no "bi rights" movement on the scope of the gay and lesbian movement, nor am I quite sure what such a movement would be interested in, beyond recognition and acceptance.

Don't make me dig up a reading list on you, Hugo! ;)

One of the things bisexual people want is a fuller acknowledgment of the spectrum of human sexuality, instead of a binary division into all straight/all gay, and an awareness that our view of sexual orientation isn't historically or culturally universal.

But that's a bit of a side point--mainly I was noting that being "bi-curious" is considered acceptable, or at least not terrible, in women (in some cases, preferable), while in men anything other than 100% is suspect. All a woman who gets an odd comment need to is say "Lesbian? Me? That would be a big surprise to my boyfriend," and then the worst anyone will think is that she's a Hot Bi Babe.

As with so much of sexism, it's one of those privileges that has an ugly flipside. That "whoa, two chicks!" attitude turns very ugly many a time, when the drooling guys realize that the two chicks are only interested in other chicks.

Hugo

"One of the things bisexual people want is a fuller acknowledgment of the spectrum of human sexuality, instead of a binary division into all straight/all gay, and an awareness that our view of sexual orientation isn't historically or culturally universal."

Indeed, which is what I meant by recognition and acceptance. We do cover all these things. But that's a different agenda than the struggle for marriage benefits.

And as far as the tremendous hostility towards (and even denial of) male bisexuality, agreed completely.

Jack

Braver women, huh? Well, I guess it don't take much for a woman to be braver than ol' Hugoboy. Hey, Hugo! Wanna box? ROFL

Sarah Dylan Breuer

Metamanda, I wouldn't say that lesbians and bisexual women are in less danger of "out and out violence" than gay men -- just that for women, the violence is more likely to be rape, which is less likely to be recorded as gaybashing even if what the attacker(s) are yelling while they do it suggests that the woman was targeted in large part because they thought she was lesbian.

Sally

women have more latitude to experiment with bisexuality than men do. There is a great deal more social approval of women having sex with other women--as long as they don't do so exclusively or by prference--whereas with men, a single drop is enough to raise the ugly specter of faggotry.

I think women even have greater latitude to be lesbians, as long as they're cute. I think maybe that's because faux-lesbianism is a big theme in porn, so merely the thought of hot girl on girl action is a turn-on for a lot of straight guys, and they can imagine that "hot" (by their standards) lesbians' sexuality exists for their voyeuristic pleasure. Lesbians become threatening when it becomes clear that they don't care about turning on straight men. And one of the ways to signal that is to present one's self in ways that straight men aren't supposed to find attractive. Ergo, being butch or otherwise not-conventionally-sexy is probably more problematic than being a conventionally-cute lesbian.

I could totally be imagining that. But it seems right to me.

Mr. Bad

Hi Hugo.

I think that the issue surrounding your thesis that women are "braver" than men in this context is similar to the question that Dr. E. asked you re. whether or not you actually "like" men. Specifically, it's how one defines "bravery."

If one considers attending a class where one will likely be in the like-minded majority (both in the class and on-campus, which in the vast majority of cases are quite PC and gay-friendly), and thus, among friends, then perhaps your thesis that this makes women "braver" holds up. However, I personally don't think that it takes a whole lot of courage to go to a class and speak up in agreement with a friendly majority. To me, the men who enroll in your classes - be they gay or straight - are the brave ones because being a male attending a women's studies course is likely to put oneself in a (more or less) hostile environment simply by virtue of being male; this is especially true for straight men. This goes back to theories re. "diversity" and "critical mass," whereby colleges and universities have argued that there needs to be a "critical mass" of minorities (in your case, men, especially straight men) in a given situation for them to feel comfortable enough to speak out honestly. Thus, I think your example provides evidence that it is men - not women - who are in fact more courageous if/when they attend women's studies courses, regardless of whether or not those classes address issues of homosexuality.

But then, you probably figured that I would disagree with you on this point, eh? :)

Hugo

I'll readily agree, Mr. Bad, that it does take a fair amount of courage for men to enroll in and speak up in a women's studies class. This morning, I met my students in this semester's women's history course for the first time -- 36 women and 4 men, if the enrollment holds...

Mr. Bad

BTW Hugo, I subscribe to Glenn Sacks' e-newsletter, and not only did he have some kind things to say about you (although he still disagrees with you on many points), but he also congratulated you on your upcoming wedding (this week?).

I would like to add my congratulations re. your pending matrimony. May you enjoy wedded bliss as much as I have. :)

metamanda

>Metamanda, I wouldn't say that lesbians and bisexual women are in less danger of "out and out violence" than gay men -- just that for women, the violence is more likely to be rape

Good point, thanks Sarah, I think you might be right and rape-as-hate-crime would be really hard to track down. And actually I did think of Brandon Teena (sp?) as a counter-example when I was writing that. I'm basing my statement on what I've seen personally, which is that my lesbian friends have mostly had an easier time coming out. I'm curious whether being an out queer woman makes you more likely to get raped?

That said, I was physically threatened / gay bashed and almost got into a fistfight at my senior prom. Ironically, I hear the guy who started it came out sometime in college. What may have saved me was that it was public, and he would have gotten a lot of flak for hitting a girl 70 pounds lighter than him. I think if I were a guy, or if no one else had been present, it might have gotten pretty ugly.

But I've just heard of so much worse than that happening to gay men in high school.

To put things in context, I graduated in '97 and my school was in a medium-sized midwestern city.

>women have more latitude to experiment with bisexuality than men do.

Again, from personal experience... plenty of out bi female friends. NO out bi male friends. Several male friends who, after a couple drinks, will admit that they are attracted to both sexes but only sleep with women (or only sleep with men). I do think it's because bi men are likely to get the same flak from homophobes as gay men and in addition have a hard time being accepted by either the straight or the gay community. (And this is in san francisco.)

>your thesis that women are "braver" than men

Well, to be precise it was his student's thesis and he didn't so much endorse it as say it's "worth considering" which, given the interesting things people have had to say on this thread, it seems it was. :)

And congrats, Hugo, on the wedding.

mythago

I think women even have greater latitude to be lesbians, as long as they're cute.

Except that "lesbian" in the whole faux-porn mentality means "has sex with women," not "won't have sex with men."

Lynn Gazis-Sax

I so don't get the "lesbians are sexy to straight men" thing. If there's not a woman in the picture, it's not sexy to me.

Mr. Bad

Lynn Gazis-Sax said: "I so don't get the "lesbians are sexy to straight men" thing. If there's not a woman in the picture, it's not sexy to me."

Lynn, as a straight man, I couldn't agree with you more. Lesbians hold no attraction whatsoever for me - whether or not they would be considered physically beautiful - and I know of no other straight men that feel differently. Yes, some men enjoy woman-on-woman porn, but I think it's the eroticism enjoyed by the 'recipient' that turns the guys on. It's similar to seeing hetero porn: The men ignore the 'giver' (in this case, the man) and focus on the responses of the 'recipient;' the 'giver' is irrelevant. Which IMO is why gay porn mostly does nothing for men (except perhaps grossing them out), because in that case the 'recipient' is just another guy.

mythago

and I know of no other straight men that feel differently

I have no idea whether or not you're in the majority on this, but certainly there's a huge market for "lesbian" porn. (And just about every out bisexual woman I know wishes she had a "No, You Can't Watch" T-shirt.)

The best explanation I've heard for this is the idea that it's sex, but there's no guy in the picture to look at--too confusing if you're getting turned on and there's a naked man there, too. Though I think your 'recipient' theory also makes a good point.

Mr. Bad

mythago wrote: "I have no idea whether or not you're in the majority on this, but certainly there's a huge market for "lesbian" porn. (And just about every out bisexual woman I know wishes she had a "No, You Can't Watch" T-shirt.)"

myth, I think that this is once again a case of women assuming that men are a lot more interested in them and their activities than we really are. Trust me, I don't care to watch you all, not does anyone that I know.

Continuing: "The best explanation I've heard for this is the idea that it's sex, but there's no guy in the picture to look at--too confusing if you're getting turned on and there's a naked man there, too. Though I think your 'recipient' theory also makes a good point."

Again, I think you're assuming way too much here. We really aren't bothered or "confused" by naked men - we see them all the time in the mirror and in the locker room, and we are fully aware of what we're all about. Are you passively suggesting that we're a bunch of latent homophobes? If so, I'm mildly offended by that IMO negative stereotype.

yami

I just moved in to an LGBT-themed co-op, which explicitly welcomes straight allies as well. Though it's difficult to determine people's orientation without compromising the "safe space" of the house, I'm aware of about twice as many straight women as straight men.

I think we're missing something if we think of this strictly in terms of people being turned off from associating themselves with queer folk, though - there are advantages to it as well, which I think are more obvious to women. Queer-friendly spaces tend to be feminist-friendly, for one, and gay women generally feel like less of a sexual threat than straight men.

metamanda

Mr. Bad, I've asked some of my male friends about the "lesbian" porn thing (some of them express a marked preference for it). And they've basically said that instead of one attractive woman and one man that they pretty much ignore, it's *two* attractive women and they can imagine themselves into it since there's no guy there, or just watch and enjoy double the fun. It's basically replacing a neutral element with a positive one. The fact that real lesbians wouldn't want them there doesn't really enter into the fantasy. I think, by and large, there's nothing wrong with fantasy, until someone demonstrates problems dealing with reality (i.e. becoming hostile or obnoxious towards real lesbians).

mythago

myth, I think that this is once again a case of women assuming that men are a lot more interested in them and their activities than we really are.

No, Mr. Bad, it's not. Please read carefully: I didn't say "most men are interested in 'lesbian' porn" or "most men harass bisexual women." Only that there are enough of them to drive a large sector of the porn market, and that it's a common experience for out bisexual women to have experienced a lot of harassment.

We really aren't bothered or "confused" by naked men - we see them all the time in the mirror and in the locker room

In a sexual context?

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