Here is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about in my gay experiences: sexual bigotry. Because sure there are many things that “turn me on” and that “turn me off” in potential partners…but when does likes and dislikes become prejudice? That’s something that’s not always discussed and made crystal clear. In the gay world, in everything from grindr, scruff, and all the rest. We see a plethora of profiles with headless torsos and announcements of what guys don’t like “no fats, no femmes, no blacks…” Its such a common rhetoric at times one wonders if gay guys ever actually define what they like in each other (perhaps all too common in other contexts of our socialization with each other too). But there is growing backlash in the gay community that pegs the “no <insert here>” profile gays as bigots. On the other side of the argument guys want to say “its just my preference” trying to defend that they do not have any obligation to like something sexually that they do not authentically feel attracted to. Often this issue focuses to much on the polarity of the problem and ignores more practical conversations. Indeed, nobody should ever feel obligated to be attracted to someone (therefore feeling like they have to have sex with someone) when they do not authentically feel that way. But is it appropriate to introduce yourself to someone (even when your intentions are purely sexual and nothing else) by announcing things you are repulsed by in sweeping generalizations? This is the paradigm I want to deconstruct.
Sexuality is a very personal and individualized experience and yet such a dynamic spectrum of social relations. Its difficult to cover any topic of sexuality without both considering its social function and its uniqueness in individuals. We all find things “attractive” and we all have things that are “turn offs.” Some people are turned on by pain for instance…I am not one of those people, that’s definitely a boner-killer for me. But regardless of your likes and dislikes it’s so important that we find partners that are compatible with our sexual desires. I definitely do not want a partner who wants me to participate in sadomasochism, not because I have moral problems with consenting adults that want to participate in it…but because *I* do not want to participate in it myself with any potential partner I want to have sex with. That’s pretty fair, right? I think so far anybody I talk to would agree with me there. If you don’t…you’re pretty much advocating for unconsensual pain-inducing sexual violations of people (there is a word for that, it’s called rape)…that’s just not cool. But when we get into the realm of generalized qualities about people such as being masculine or feminine, being in a certain ethnicity or race, having certain physical characteristics such as a big or small body, all of a sudden liking or disliking such qualities becomes a social issue of debate.
The reason I believe these discussions end up getting really messy is because of the moral conflict between “bigotry is bad” and “rape culture is bad.” People sometimes look at the debate and see a conflict between those values. People feel their preferences are their sovereign rights and they have no obligation to have sex with anyone they don’t want to. On the other end people feel announcing a dislike of vast generalizations of people “No femmes, No fats, No black” is a form of bigotry. I feel both bigotry and rape culture is immoral so how can we have a discussion about this issue that respects both of those values? We have to start by not polarizing the issue into extremes. You can “not be a bigot” and say you aren’t interested in having sex with someone. You can also find ways to hold bigotry accountable without implying that people “ought to have sex” with someone when they don’t want to.
When I have different partners, I would be lying if there were not unique characteristics about them that I find attractive. I’ve liked guys a lot bigger and stronger than me and get turned on by that quality. I’ve liked getting lost in a partners dark eyes and dark hair to match. I could write an entire homoerotic poem about physical characteristics that turn me on in my partners. I’ve liked partners with intelligence that can go deep into a discussion about something I am passionate about and legitimately been turned on by it. I’ve also been turned off by things like smoker’s breath when I make out with a guy that smokes a lot. I am turned off by qualities like “neediness” or “pushiness.” I am turned off by certain personalities if they are incompatible with mine. And yes I am turned off by female anatomy, I am not disgusted by it, the human body is beautiful in all its forms and spectrums of gender identity combinations, but in strictly the sense of my individual sexual feelings, biological organs do make a difference for me. But is it appropriate for me to put on my grindr profile: “only guys with dark hair and eyes, must have a dick not a vagina, smokers are disgusting, if you’re not strong enough to pick me up and throw me around I don’t want to talk to you!” Wow I just made a great impression, didn’t I? Such a polite way to introduce myself to a world guys. Some that may fit these parameters and others that don’t. Such as guys with blond hair, some with skinny bodies, some that smoke, and some that may actually have a vagina (but are still very much men)…But it’s just my preferences right?
I may not like smoker’s breath…but I am not going to call someone who smokes “disgusting.” I may like having a sexual partner that is stronger than me, but I am not going to treat guys that don’t have that quality rudely because of it. There are plenty of characteristics and manifestations of the male body that I am unattracted to and it’s not even always clear why nor is it always consistent…it just is. But is it really necessary for me to introduce myself to people by announcing what kind of guys I don’t like? It would be like getting a sign and wearing it as I walk around in a gay bar saying “I do not like guys that are…” and then expecting the people around me to not have a problem with that, including the ones that fit those characteristics. I think we could agree this would not be appropriate behavior in an “in-person” social setting…so why is it appropriate to put on a social media profile? Many people respond at this point with “it’s just a hook up app.” Well besides the fact that Grindr is not limited to that purpose and is often used for many other reasons beyond just that…having intentions to use it for hook-ups “only” is no excuse to be an asshole. If you have intentions to hook-up in a gay bar (and many guys do) would that justify the sign we just talked about? No it wouldn’t.
Also for those that want to define Grindr from their narrow perspective as “hook-up app” only. May I direct you to their website that defines itself as “dating and social app.” You may also find their “our values” section an enlightening read about how the company defines itself:
“Grindr is a global community for men of all backgrounds to connect with one another. We strive to create a safe space where all are welcome to be who they are and express themselves without fear of judgment…You can find what you’re looking for on Grindr without stepping on anyone’s toes. We have zero tolerance for discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender, race, body type, or age. Basically, we don’t like assholes. Instead of sharing what you’re not into, share what you’re into.”
In short, the company does not define grindr that way, YOU DO. You’re the one trying to create that reality, not the app. The company itself does not define their product to be used in one limited way nor do they endorse sexual bigotry. So whatever delusional idea you have about some make-believe grindr rule book that limits it’s use and endorses behavior to what you are attempting to justify…let me enlighten you in that, that rule book does not exist! There are many kinds of “connections” men can have…rather dates, hook-ups, or friends both on grindr and in-person…and guess what…you don’t have be an asshole in whatever connection you want to have. Grindr does not endorse this behavior, so stop using that as an excuse. Gay spaces have always been a spectrum of intentions (rather cyber or in-person). You have people hooking-up, dating, and developing friendships all in the same space simply because we have nowhere else to have connections to other gay people in a heteronormative society. If you want to hook-up in one of the few gay spaces available to you…GREAT! If you use it for other things…GREAT! It should be that way…but still, you don’t HAVE to be an asshole about it when you want specific things out of it.
I think personally that Grindr gives good advice in the cited quote above taken from their official website. To preserve your right to both like and dislike things sexually without being a bigot, all you have to do is focus on what you want, not what you don’t want when interacting with people. Don’t introduce yourself by defining people that you are repulsed by. If you don’t want to talk to someone, simply don’t talk to them. If you don’t want to have sex with someone, don’t have sex with them. You are not obligated to respond to someone simply because they spam your inbox with endless “hi” and “looking” messages. In fact someone expecting you to give them attention just because they are attracted to you and want it is harassment. Use that block button. I know I have. But you can enforce your boundaries without wearing a sign that says “no fats, no femmes, no blacks.” You can reject someone without implying that you find something about them repulsive. If you find masculinity attractive maybe you could say “masculinity is hot, I’ve always had a thing for guys that….” If you want to celebrate something you like, you can do that without implying that people are repulsive. I celebrate the fact I like dick. It’s a beautiful organ, its smooth soft skin, the pink head at the tip…the liquid that comes out of it when you play with it the right way…the places you can put it when it gets hard 😊. But I don’t need to start talking about the reasons why I am turned off by vagina to celebrate my sexual feelings for dick. Got it? I don’t have to call someone vapid to be attracted to a deeply intellectual personality. I don’t have to call someone a skinny bitch to chase after big strong guys.
Sure maybe in a conversation with a good friend you can talk about your sexual likes and dislikes as a matter of sharing intimate information about your lives. That’s not a crime to like or dislike something. But you don’t have to wear a sign and make announcements to the whole world implying what kind of people are repulsive to you. You can exercise your right to say “no” and enforce your sexual boundaries without putting someone down for thinking your attractive and having the audacity to say it. A compliment is always nice, harassment isn’t…but a compliment is not a crime don’t treat it as such. I mean lets put a reversal on it “no whites, no cisgenders, no fit muscle jocks, no masc. Femme4femme.” Sure if you are on the receiving end of that rejection you probably haven’t heard it enough for it to really phase you (because the social dynamics have always been in your favor). But imagine hearing it ALL THE TIME, and feeling like the only reason you can’t get laid or find a date as much as you want is because the majority of the world finds you repulsive for being those things. It probably would piss you off to see people advertise the fact that they don’t want anything to do with you all the time and insult you just for looking at them. Sure you might understand that you’re not entitled to anything from others when it comes to having sex or getting their affection…but it would be nice of them to not put you down all the time just for being in their presence and being yourself.
I have written many blogs about the spirit in the gay community and our internal issues and social dynamics with each other. I love you guys. I really do. Some of my closest friends are other gay men and I have always felt a special connection to my gay friends and to gay spaces. There is just a unique life force and understanding between gay men (when you learn how to find it and tap into it)…but only when we play nice with each other. We have the opportunity to co-create our common spaces in ways that are more positive and supportive for all of us. Believe it or not each one of us plays a part in the reality we create in our community. Being gay is hard enough without us always putting each other down for shallow reasons. Lets celebrate our homosexuality and the diversity of it, instead of choosing to impose limitations on the potential of how wonderful our gay spaces can be.