Sex talk
Speaking of Masculinity

Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

In the good old days, boys played with trucks, girls played with dollies, and that was that. In these postmodern times, though, ideas about gender are considerably more malleable. Though many queers welcome the change, gender flexibility doesn't please all gay men. Says one fellow, "I'm sick and tired of people assuming that gay guys are all girly-girly. I'm certainly not. I'd much rather wrestle than listen to Judy Garland."

Rigid ideas about what Real Men should be like can extend to the bedroom, too. Even amongst queers, traditional-gender activists have been known to deride men who are into getting fucked – or even sucking dick – as "effeminate." Penetration, according to them, turns a manly man into a punk.

Counters one longtime observer of the gay scene, "It's pretty damn quaint to assume that the more someone likes to get fucked, the nellier he is. Haven't those guys ever heard of butch bottoms? Or drag queens who turn out to be really fierce tops?"

From Bangkok to Bangor, Maine, folks have long confused sexual orientation, sexual preferences, and gender, and homophobes have decried those folks who dare to vary from any of the "norms." And stereotypes abound: Many a young man on the brink of coming out has wondered whether his desire for Dick or Dave will require he give up football for flower arranging. (The answer, incidentally, is an unequivocal "no.")

Continues our longtime observer, "What's remarkable is how vehemently some self-defined masculine gay men disdain behavior that doesn't conform to their idea of what's acceptably male. Some criticisms of anal sex – that it's more likely to transmit STDs than mutual masturbation is – are reasonable. And if some guys find buttsex aesthetically distasteful, that's their right. But the idea that getting fucked makes you somehow inferior? Hell, that's the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from hardcore homophobes and shitfaced fratboys."

To be sure, "masculinity," and the power it traditionally bestows, can be a big, stiff bone of contention. And heaven knows that traditional icons of the butch – cowboys, soldiers, leather-clad bikers, and the like – are still major players in many a gay fantasy. "But," says a transgender activist, "I thought we were beyond the point where if you have a penis – or not – or if you like to suck guys off – or not – that means you have to behave in one highly gendered way or another."

Indeed, transgressive gender-play can be hot for lots of homos. Plenty of kinky scenes revolve around a man becoming a "slutty girl" once he hits the sheets. But that sort of thing makes other men acutely uncomfortable. "Do we have to play into every stereotype the straight world lays on us?" wonders one. "Even when we're having sex?"

So do the vociferously mucho-male laddies protest too much? It's a truism that many homophobes are conflicted over same-sex tendencies within themselves. Could some of the anti-fem crowd operate not from a sense of their own strength, but out of deep-seated insecurity?

Our transgender activist concludes, "It really doesn't matter. I'm not their shrink. Sure, there are certain sexual behaviors, like barebacking, that deserve to be widely criticized. But otherwise, gay men who have been oppressed themselves have no business telling other queers what sort of sex they should or shouldn't have. Or how stiff their wrists should be, for that matter."

Sexuality is, thank goodness, more complex than some folks would prefer. Just because a fellow likes getting screwed, that doesn't mean he can't be into stock-car racing. And a guy can do his nails without wanting to get nailed.

And that's the bottom line.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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