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Does it make me gay?

Recently I introduced a man to pegging and anal play for the first time. Depending on your particular prejudices and stereotypes you may have already created an image of what he was like. This may not resemble the reality of a working class, heavily tattooed mid fifties man whose smiles of pleasure made him beautiful. Afterwards he jokingly asked the question I had heard before “Liking that stuff doesn’t make me gay does it?” I knew the genuine fear that lay behind the question, one Carter has written of, not casual homophobia but a fear born in a particular age and class, and deep rooted. I reassured him that if liking anal made you a gay man, then I was one, and added that going down on a woman didn’t make you a lesbian, and he left with a smile and a promise to be back.

The idea of sexuality being determined by the sex acts you perform would seem like something out of the ark if it was not the idea pushed also by radical feminists. The existence  of political lesbianism is no different from the man who believes liking a strap on makes you gay. The fact we would laugh at a 15 year old troll asserting the latter, but have allowed it for the former says a lot about the classism and worship of academia in our society. A sex act no more determines your sexuality than wearing make up, drinking pints or owning dungarees. A woman who is sexually attracted to men and women is bisexual, or possible pansexual if that is a term they prefer, to claim that they are a lesbian because they are not having sex with men at any particular moment makes as much sense as saying I am straight because my partner is a man. (Although many LGBT people have claimed exactly this of course)

This is not to deny the right of people who have had sex with men in the past to identify as lesbians, sexuality does change, as does ones understanding of oneself. As I wrote here there is a parallel world where my sexuality developed at a more natural pace and i am happily married to a woman with a houseful of cats. However if you insist, as political lesbians do that sexuality is all about the outer, the performance, then you must also accept that liking pegging does indeed make one gay.

This goes deeper however, as the kind of rad fems who say sexuality is nothing more than a performance of certain acts also say the same about gender. for them gender is a social construct with no real meaning outside of performance. There is an exampe of their thinking here. (Content note Imadildo is a known swerf/terf and abusive in the extreme) Now gender and sexuality are often muddily conflated, and we have to be careful not to make the same mistake. What I want to point out here is the thought processes that go into saying both sexuality and gender are about the outer performance and not the inner feelings.

In the opening of the piece it is claimed that everyone accepts that gender is merely constructed out of behaviors, in the same way no doubt that “everyone” accepts that liking a strap on makes you gay. Everyone being short hand for the few small minded bigots the writer hangs out with. I have written before of my concept of being cis. To summarize were I brought up on an island without mirrors, or any concept of gender I would know myself to be a woman. Other cis women have performed the same thought experiment I did, to imagine having a penis, being male, in detail, and reported the same feelings of distress and even nausea. This is not to say that everyone who identifies as cis needs to have such a strong, almost dysphoric reation, gender is no doubt a spectrum rather than a zero sum game. However what this, admittedly anecdotal, shows is that it is not just trans people who have an inner sense of their gender, cis people share that too. We are simply not asked to prove what we mean when we say I am a woman or I am a man. The outward expressions of gender, the behaviour that radical feminism confuses for gender, are simply set by time, place, class and culture. The wigan pit brow lasses wore trousers, and had their femininity questioned, but even the Victorians did not question their gender. They broke the norms in dress and behavior, but were still women.

Of course the idea gender is mere behaviour is also racist, positing a white, eurocentric norm as the definition of womanhood. Sojourner Truth touched on this with her famous aint I a woman speech. Women of colour have consistently been denied admittance to the class called woman by white men and women. They agreed that gender is performative, and that women of colour did not fit the prescribed looks and behaviors necessary to be seen as women. There is a direct line of descent from this reasoning to the radfems of today, one they seem proud of and unwilling to address.

The idea that gender is mere behavior has at its root the belief that we can all chose the most fundamental aspects of our identity, our gender and our sexuality. Oddly radical feminists attack choice feminism but their very theology is based on the idea of choice, they chose to be lesbians, and appropriate the lesbian identity as something to do with having sex with other women, and this leads them to believe gender is a choice. In doing so they also reinforce the gender norms that oppress all, of any gender.  In the FWSA piece the author attempts to write about language, as if Nozick never happened. One of the few things modern philosophy of language can agree on is that all language is innate, not in the learning it sense, but in that my private language and your private languages are merely attempts to express our innermost beliefs about an event. That communication occurs at all could be seen as a miracle, or perhaps proof of the existence of the babel fish. The word woman has meaning to me, another meaning to Butler, but neither of those meanings is anything but a private internal belief about the world. Which is exactly what trans women and men I know report about their gender. None of which is performative, and none of which reifies the gender norms the radfems so heartily endorse.



10 comments on “Does it make me gay?

  1. Lordsummerisle
    August 10, 2014

    Second article I’ve read of yours today and I’ve enjoyed them both. Gender and sexuality can be so individually complex I wouldn’t even begin to try to help someone with their own. But, pegging certainly isn’t gay, I sleep with men somewhat regularly and I don’t think of myself as either gay or bisexual, I have no romantic interest in men at all, just enjoy having sex them. It took me years to understand this, to be honest I still don’t really, but I’m at least comfortable with it now being a part of me.


    • jemima2013
      August 11, 2014

      thank you so much!
      it is far more complex than insert X in Y isnt it? sometimes in our desire to apply the right label to people we forget they are only right for ourselves, everyone has to work out for themselves who they are. I am glad you are at peace with who you are though


  2. David
    August 13, 2014

    I’m a man who finds I get a sexual frisson, response, call it what you want, with some ciswomen, transwomen and transmen whom I find attractive, but not with anyone presenting as male. That is just a fact I’ve observed.

    I don’t know why that is, and I don’t really care; if I feel like taking things further with someone with whom that I get such a response with, I’ll ask politely, whether by word or gesture, and I take will happily take no for an answer.

    If a man makes a pass at me and I don’t have that frisson, or anyone else, or otherwise I don’t want to take it further, I’ll tell them I’m flattered, but no thanks.

    Exactly the response I have had and always accepted from women with whom the attraction wasn’t mutual, or who for whatever reason didn’t accept my invitation.

    I’ve never felt curious about what it would feel like to make love with a man in any way, or to be penetrated anally, by a strap-on or cock, or to suck a cock.

    If I did, I’d try it, there would be no shortage of volunteers to help me! If I were forced to, and found I enjoyed it, I’d seek it out again, if not, I wouldn’t.

    But that’s my choices, I’m not going to judgemel anybody else’s choices, whether those choices are consciously made, or physiologically determined.

    Anybody who says what I am, or do, or my attitudes, or anybody else’s are ‘wrong’ is to me a bigot, whether they call themselves a feminist, a real man or a liberal

    We are what we are; and we all have a right to be what we are; nobody else has a right to tell us what is right or wrong, unless we are doing harm to someone.

    If you tell me I’m gay, or bi, or any other label that I don’t think is appropriate for my particular orinentation, I’ll say so and why if you’re interested enough to hear it.

    If you won’t hear me out, or continue to use it to me, despite my saying I think you’re wrong, then I just assume you’re an abusive bully and avoid your company.

    Just my rant.



    • jemima2013
      August 15, 2014

      Thank you for your comment, not a rant at all in my opinion, lots of great points!
      I think it is bullying to say someone must fit into boxes imposed by other people. Its a way of not listening to what they are saying and instead demanding your voice is what matters. Your description of what you do, and dont like, reminds me of a friend, who is a bi man, but doesnt like anal with other men. However it is often assumed that because he is bi he must want to fuck or be fucked. So many people want to put us in their little convient boxes, and sexuality and gender rarely work like that.


  3. Pingback: Thoughts on developing a cis heuristic | Valery North - Writer

  4. umlolidunno
    September 8, 2014

    Hi! Just stopping by with some of my infamous and extreme abuse:

    “For them gender is a social construct with no real meaning outside of performance.”
    That’s the viewpoint I argued *against* in that blogpost. It’s much more than mere performance, and it is internalised as we learn about the world around us. This restricts our choices in very real ways, which is why I didn’t invoke individual choices as a remedy. Neither I nor Butler propose a nativist account of gender, so what you’re saying here about sexuality doesn’t really pertain to that discussion at all.



    • jemima2013
      September 8, 2014

      If thats the view you argued against then you didnt do it very well. perhaps of you spent less time policing other people you might write more clearly?


      • umlolidunno
        September 8, 2014

        Stop policing?! I couldn’t possibly. “‘Allo allo allo” I thought when I saw the pingback, “What’s going on here?” before blowing my whistle and giving chase. Just the other day, I even clipped a young scamp round the ear for stealing lollies, the rascal.

        Most of the time though, and the bit I like best, is where I sit on my arse doing nothing and calling it “paperwork”. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.


        • jemima2013
          September 8, 2014

          not sure who these comments are for, but trying to reinvent yourself as someone who isnt abusive to trans women and sexworkers online doesnt work when people have memories


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