It’s the middle of the night and my brain is going a million miles an hour. I’ve been stuck on this puzzle since seeing a Facebook post in which some people were accused of treating gay men like puppies, calling them adorable, etc.
Now, I’m not targeting this post because I think it’s right or wrong, but because it’s a real point brought up by a real person and it’s something we should really consider both sides of.
The reactions were interesting and some people responded favorably to a curt note I made in response to another post that scratched the surface of my thoughts on the matter. I don’t really like to stir the pot or take things too personally on Facebook, but I have a lot of thoughts on this and the notion of objectifying homosexual men, in particular.
Firstly, while tempting, I couldn’t dismiss it. As an ally and a member of the community, when someone makes a charge like that or is asking for mercy on a particular point, it’s important to always stop and really hear it.
It’s hard to go wrong checking your own privilege.
And, indeed, I could see where it could feel unseemly for grown-ass men in couplings to be called cute or adorable. Particularly if you see it over and over and over again.
In that case, however, context is everything. Most of the friends and friends of friends that we, as m/m writers and fans, encounter have a singular common interest. That lack of het couples being called cute? It’s because, really, a lot of what binds this grouping together is m/m. So I don’t think it’s surprising not to see f/f or m/f couplings on my timeline.
And…it’s not unusual for me to hear women saying about any pair, “They make a cute couple.” Maybe a better choice of words would be “a handsome couple” in this case, but “cute” is what you’ll hear whether it’s prom pictures, wedding photos, walking in the park images, whatever. “Jen and Brad are so adorable together, why did they break up?”
That said, I can certainly see how it can come across as, “Aren’t these gay people adorable being all gay at each other? Aww, gay. Isn’t gay the best?” That is weird. If you see yourself in that statement, just take a moment and consider that. It’s certainly enthusiastic, but it can feel objectifying and creepy. Just take the enthusiasm down a smidge.
Basically I saw it as a misunderstanding, maybe a conflict of culture that some attention and introspection could alleviate.
What rankled me and what will always rankle me is the lack of privilege checking when it comes to being a man and what it means in this culture.
Many men who are gay don’t really see themselves a privileged. I mean, hell, you can’t get married, right? That’s pretty big.
But women often don’t have rights to own their sexuality. Think about slut shaming. Really think about it. Think about women who have to confront horrendous attacks for just wanting contraception. Consider popular book 50 Shades of Grey being tagged “mommy porn” in a dismissive way, as if women beyond a certain age or having borne children are somehow no longer allowed to engage in erotic thoughts.
Now consider these women who have found a safe space, a venue in which they can freely express their desires to one another, to share them in a way that isn’t made fun of. Where there’s chatter and basically, it’s okay to have kinks. To like this or that. Basically, a place in which to own their sexuality.
Then imagine that in that safe space, someone says, “No. Wrong. Bad.”
Imagine being told that your expression of sensuality grosses them out.
Probably not hard for most gay men to relate to, and yet, in this aspect, it’s often deemed Totally Okay to wag fingers at women.
I’m not going to say that there aren’t places and times that cross the line. I’m not even going to say that it isn’t objectifying. But that often is what desire is, it’s what desire does. There’s a whole industry called porn that banks on the very human need to objectify for sexual desire and release.
Is it awesome? No. I can totally relate to wearing a nice outfit and having some unwelcome dude staring at my cleavage and having thoughts I can’t control, nor do I agree with him having. Hell, he may not even WANT to be thinking or feeling that.
What we see and what we desire are part of us. Just as it’s part of anyone within the QUILTBAG community.
There can be many reasons for this that are rational and many that are not.
I think some women take on the banner of being an ally because they so relate to that uncomfortable feeling of being objectified and don’t want to do it, but can’t really think of an alternative that doesn’t do damage. Maybe their idea of being an ally is well-intentioned but not followed through.
But the thing is, no one should have to be an ally to read/watch/love m/m. Do call yourself an ally if you want to stand up for someone who is oppressed, but not because you feel like you aren’t allowed to enjoy what you enjoy without being a freedom fighter.
This isn’t meant as a take down of anyone, it’s simply my thoughts in a discussion that is worth having. I wanted to provide my perspective on it, but also, I needed to get out my thoughts so they’d maybe stop swirling in my brain and let me sleep.
2 thoughts on “Thoughts on pictures and privilege”
You wrote this ages ago, but I just wanted to say that you’ve made excellent points. Well written.
thank you! ♥
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