The Sexuality Blog: Gay men are playing The Respectability Olympics, and everyone is losing

Someone once said, many of the problems gay men around the world face would vanish if all gay men would embrace feminism with the fervor of Feminazis, and every day that person is proven right.

As a community, gay men are very misogynistic, to straight women, to gay women, to trans men and to themselves. Sure they are more acutely aware of prejudice and oppression because of their sexual orientations, but they also enjoy extensive privilege that being comfortable in skin as men accords them, often at the expense of everyone else. This is a privilege gay men are especially unwilling to give up, usually citing their oppressions as justification for their commodification of black women as social identity to put on and discard. This unwillingness to self examine, means they have appropriated many of the oppressions used to control women and now use it to control the sexual activity of other men.

Respectability politics, a situation where a person denies themselves rights and privileges to appeal to a group other than the one they identify as, is as old as time and particularly pervasive in emotional, sexual relationships, heterosexual and homosexual. Because women are considered lesser and expected to validate the masculinity and sexual identity of men, their sexual activity is policed and only permitted when it is sanctioned by or in concert with the demands/desires of a man with ‘authority’ over said woman, either by birth, marriage or religious/sociocultural/political association. With respectability politics there is only the sanctioned purity of virginity, the sanctioned sex of marriage and whoredom, no in-betweens, no compromises. As such women are required to sacrifice greatly to appeal to men or suffer ostracization and isolation for performing sexual acts with men not sanctioned by those with authority over her.

Gay men, so indoctrinated in heterosexual gender roles, divide themselves by sexual preference then ascribe these divisions archetypal gender roles and expectations.

Tops become de facto males, and bottoms become de facto females. And from there everything else applies. Gay bottoms are shamed for seeking out and enjoying casual sex, by the very people who have sex with them, in the same way women are for exercising sexual agency. The more sex a gay bottom has had, the less desirable they become based on respectability politics, for serious term relationships. Casual sex is conflated with a lack of domesticity and loyalty. Tops on the other hand are praised for the sexual conquests, strung a victory necklace and carried around the square. It is common to hear people suggest that bottoms are incapable of loyalty and fidelity that their access to self solicited sexual activity corrupts them till they become less than human, suitable only for intercourse.

Respectability politics harms everyone, because it denies members of the LGBT community sexual agency, often forcing them to hide sexual activity, often with disastrous consequences. It also creates false divisions in the community and encourages a discriminatory class system. Bottoms will never be good enough maintain the purity required of them, it is not because they don’t try but because the system is rigged to always lose.

We can kill respectability politics in LGBT spaces, but everyone has to chip, especially the system’s biggest benefactors.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail