Queers Do It Better

Queer people seem to be laboring under less sexual shame than cis, straight people. Don’t get me wrong–I know plenty of very cool, sexually liberated cis, straight folks, and some queer people who are completely shut down around sexuality. But in my observation, the trend is stark and striking. The queer people I know just seem more relaxed, uninhibited, embodied, and joyful when it comes to sex and gender. Anyone who’s ever been to a Pride parade probably has some sense of what I mean.

Alma and I have recently been discussing this as a fascinating paradox of our cissexist, heterosexist culture. You’d think it would be the reverse: that since cis, straight people are constantly told their sexuality and gender are legitimate and good, they would be confident and happy and free. And at the same time, since queer people are constantly shamed and berated, especially as we’re growing up, you’d think we would be limping along, loathing ourselves, barely functional.

Yet almost the reverse seems to be true. So many cis, straight men and women are suffocating under extremely narrow ideas of what it means to be a man or woman, what it means to be a lover. So many people feel that if you need or want to discuss your sexual desires with a partner, you have already failed, for you should be able to read minds. So many people feel their bodies are broken and horrible because they don’t fit some absurd standard.

Meanwhile, queer folks, having already broken the mold, seem much more willing and able to figure out what works for us and ask for it. There is far less of a taboo within queer subcultures on stuff like using sex toys, doing kinky stuff, etc. I’m also thinking of trends like gay and lesbian couples having more equitable divisions of housework.

And so, ironically, being shamed and rejected actually offers a special path to freedom. We can never fit the boxes, so oftentimes, we simply quit trying. Gender roles can’t accommodate us, so we figure out what works in each relationship. The heteronormative script can never work for us, so we write our own.

We initially challenge the system as an act of pure survival. But pull one thread and the whole damn tapestry falls apart. Pretty soon we’re challenging the system just for fun.

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5 comments

  1. PlainT

    This is a really interesting point! Ultimately only a narrow slice of “straightness” is applauded by society, informed by culture and religion and a fear of being seen as “queer”. While I hate the phrase “everyone’s a little bit gay”, I think we can say “everyone is a little bit queer”, inasmuchas queer being anything outside of mainstream acceptance in our society. Snowden once said “saying you don’t care about the right to privacy because you don’t have anything to hide is like saying you don’t need freedom of speech because you don’t have anything to say.” Queer liberation is really about sexual liberation as a fundamental right; you could be straight but your right as a consenting adult to engage in activities you find fulfilling/pleasurable is what pride is all about. There are plenty of people that fall along the asexual spectrum, or the gender-nonconforming spectrum, or who enjoy threesomes or light BDSM or certain fetishes… who happen to be into members of the opposite gender. Freedom to explore sexual preferences at all has been hard-won thanks to queer activism; it seems that the only people who aren’t benefiting from the pride movement are people who believe shame is necessary. But if you ever experience a critical mass of shame so big you can’t ignore it, and start to see it as a product of societal pressure rather than a personal failure, as many queer people experience through coming out, then you maybe start seeing the world a little differently and choose to turn your shame into pride.

  2. Dexxy

    I do see your point on a general level, however, being an active member of the London fetish scene I see liberalism towards sex on all levels, gender and sexuality. But you do make a good point about our lack of box filling. Great post.

    • rimonim

      Thanks for bringing this up–there are definitely certain subcultures where people of all genders and orientations have questioned these norms.

  3. Tea With Ess

    I believe this applies to all part of life. As queers who never fit any box, you constantly need to talk to your partner about everything from who’s cooking dinner to how you like to have sex. There’s very little that we are able to take for granted in the relationship compared to frighteningly many cis heterosexual relationships. We (my wife and I) often contemplate over how little heterosexuals seem to talk to each other and how this affects their relationship in a bad way.

  4. Christopher Hazell

    This post got linked in the commentshere, where part of the discussion is about categories that are marked or unmarked, and privileged or non-privileged.

    And what I’ve realized, not having thought about it much before, is that just because a category is privileged and unmarked, that doesn’t mean it’s not still policed.

    When the world is divided into, say, straight people (Who are right and good) and queer people (who are reviled and subjected to violence) the straight people are all quite conscious of the fact that they can be ejected from the straight category if they behave in the wrong way. They must constantly work to maintain their straight bona fides, lest they be cast out into the queer darkness. This creates stress and difficulty.

    Something that came up was Stephen Colbert’s frequent jokes about how he “doesn’t see color”, and I got to thinking about how that only works in the context of our particular time and place, where overt racism has been driven underground. The joke is that Colbert’s character can congratulate himself for his advanced, magnanimous position on race while ignoring things like institutional racism, or any of the ways race still does matter.

    But imagine the Colbert character is living in a suburb any time in the 50s or before, and a reporter asks him “That family that just moved in next door to you is the first black family to live in this neighborhood, how does it make you feel to have black neighbors?”

    If he says, “Oh? Are they black? I don’t see color so I didn’t think about that. They seem like nice people and good neighbors and that’s all that matters” then suddenly that’s not a joke, that’s a brave, potentially even dangerous stand. Because in that time whiteness was policed, and being white wasn’t just about having the right skin tone and parents; in many places part of being white was supporting racial segregation. Failing to do so might well bring political consequences, or even actual violence.

    White people were on top in America in the 50s, but at the same time they all knew that if they didn’t perform their whiteness correctly, they were putting themselves at risk. I would say the same is true of most groups that are somehow privileged; the privilege comes with the knowledge that it can also be revoked, and that you must work to maintain it.

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