Thursday, October 21, 2010

Male Homosexuality and the Hatred of the Female Body

I understand that the daily frustration of being gay in a homophobic society must be incredibly painful. I mean that I understand it on a logical level but I can never truly imagine what it must be like. I hate homophobia as passionately as I hate racism and xenophobia of any kind. What I don't understand, though, is why the very reasonable rage of gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body. If anybody is likely to have at least a minimal understanding of what a gay man experiences when his sexuality is devalued, ridiculed and repressed by society on a daily basis, it's a woman who goes through a very similar set of experiences. Then why do some gay men enjoy engaging in verbal assaults on the female body so much?

I first encountered this phenomenon when I was reading the novel Count Julian by the greatest living writer Juan Goytisolo. The novel is the greatest masterpiece of the second half of the XXth century, in my opinion. Still, the scene where the narrator takes an exploratory trip around Queen Isabel's reproductive system and describes it with disgust and horror is very unpleasant for most female readers.

Today one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post where he turns around the homophobic discourse that questions and often interrogates him about his sexuality. The post is really good and funny. That is, until it starts ridiculing the female body in a very offensive, nasty way:

The vigina must be the strangest organ in all creation. It’s a curious little fleshy miniature canyon with understated accessories sometimes hidden by a forest and other times just plain bare. Then there are the breasts for which I fail to see the purpose off during intercourse, it seems like they would just get in the way and could potentially be hazardous. Depending whether they are coconuts or tennis balls they do have the potential to cause a concussion or lead to suffocation.


I understand that a gay man must be enraged by society's effort to redirect his desire towards the acceptable choice of a woman as a partner. However, isn't it obvious that women, their bodies, their sexuality are really not to blame for any of this? Just like a gay man is born with his sexuality, a woman is born with her body. It isn't something one chooses most of the time. Being disgusted with the female body is as stupid and vile as being disgusted with homosexuality.

46 comments:

Pierre said...

In my defense I must firstly state that my blog post is meant to be seen as humorous and in no way aimed at ridiculing the female body.

The post is a commentary on questions and preconceptions I as a gay male face from the heterosexual society.

I respect women more than heterosexual men maybe because I don’t view them as mere sexual objects.

I would love to get your perspective on what I wrote about the male body as well. It cuts both ways.

Anonymous said...

Just to be fair I think you should tell your readers the whole story Clarissa, and not just one side of it. Pierre wasn't just making comments like that about the female body, he was making comments like that about the male body too.

"But then having sex with straight men could be daunting too. For woman having to deal with a penis and testicles could pose their own challenges as not all men are created equal and not all men tend to their gardens. Being faced with an erect penis and not knowing how it works could easily lead to confusion, and when it’s surrounded with a tropical rain forest, moist and uncultivated its appeal factor can easily drop to zero – that expedition is only meant for the truly adventurous. Then there are the differences, some wieners are turtle necks and others are kosher, and some women prefer the one over the other. And when the one eyed monster turns out to be an eager spitting cobra, nasty and salty surprises usually follow."

Like Pierre said, his blog is meant to be humorous (I was laughing when I read his post, I thought it was entertaining).

Jenny

Anonymous said...

Just to be fair, I think you should give your readers the whole story instead of a small aspect of it. Pierre didn't only make comments like that about the female body, he made comments like that about the male body also.

"But then having sex with straight men could be daunting too. For woman having to deal with a penis and testicles could pose their own challenges as not all men are created equal and not all men tend to their gardens. Being faced with an erect penis and not knowing how it works could easily lead to confusion, and when it’s surrounded with a tropical rain forest, moist and uncultivated its appeal factor can easily drop to zero – that expedition is only meant for the truly adventurous. Then there are the differences, some wieners are turtle necks and others are kosher, and some women prefer the one over the other. And when the one eyed monster turns out to be an eager spitting cobra, nasty and salty surprises usually follow."

Like Pierre said, it's meant to be humorous (I was laughing when I read his post, I thought it was entertaining). In other words, I didn't take it seriously.

Jenny

Anonymous said...

In other words, I didn't take his comments seriously, because they weren't meant to be serious.

Jenny

Julian Real said...

There's no defence of gay men venting misogynistic horseshit about women's bodies. And, the most woman-hating men I've ever known, by far, are heterosexual. And it is, after all, heterosexual men who act out that hatred on and against women's bodies intimately and interpersonally, as well as verbally and through harassment. Why do straight men show such contempt for women's bodies? Aren't they supposed to "love" women?

I've seen some misogyny among gay men, and when gay men groan if I speak about menstruation, or if gay men say "GROSS" about any aspect of women's bodies, I'll quickly note how gross men's bodies can be, and how grossly used men's bodies often are to do harm to others, male and female.

I recently learned of a woman being assaulted by both gay and straight men. That's the first time I'd heard of gay men sexually assaulting any woman--physically, I mean. Meanwhile, practically every woman I know has been called the b word, the c word, and has been incested, molested, or raped by a straight man. So, to me, the question is totally valid, but let's not forget "the problem population of dudes" aren't the gay ones when it comes to assaulting and degrading women's bodies. Again, this cuts gay men no slack whatsoever in being misogynistic in any way, shape, or form. I'm personally sick to death of hearing gay men speak about women as if they were [fill in the stereotype], but there's nothing I've heard from gay men that wasn't taught to them by het men and heterosexist, straight male-dominated society.

Clarissa said...

"Just to be fair I think you should tell your readers the whole story Clarissa, and not just one side of it."

-I did link to the entire post, so people can read it and form their own opinion. I disagree that it's the same for male and female bodies. The male body is historically and culturally constructed as the golden standard, while the female body is otherized and presented as diseased, feeble, dirty, etc. from times immemorial.

I had a male colleague tell me to my face in class (interrupting my presentation in avery condescending way) that the female body is "perennially lacking, a constant absence." That's offensive to me.

Clarissa said...

Thank you for commenting, Julian. I'm flattered to see you here.

"but there's nothing I've heard from gay men that wasn't taught to them by het men and heterosexist, straight male-dominated society."

-That is absolutely and undeniably true.

Pierre said...

I must say I am finding this discussion absolutely fascinating.

I am cognizant that I am new here and that all participating may know each other and this kind of makes me feel like an intruder/voyeur.

But I must say I am getting an education.

I feel like I am getting an education and some insight into the female psyche that I never knew existed!

Clarissa said...

There is no female psyche, Pierre. :-) Just as there are no male or female ways of thinking, learning or behaving.

But I'm glad you're enjoying this. You are always welcome.

Bianca Reagan said...

What a great discussion!

Dominique Millette said...

This: "There is no female psyche." We're people. I never ceased to be amazed thatso many guys find it difficult to wrap their brains around such a concept.

Dymara said...

Dominique: They're TAUGHT to think that. It's not surprising at all, really, but an artifact of sexist culture; we're all surrounded with messages saying men don't understand women, men can NEVER understand women, women are a mysterious other, women are Not Like Men, etc, etc. It's not so much that these men _actually_ can't understand women as people, but that many of them uncritically accept those messages, and automatically write off all of our behavior as 'weird woman stuff' right off the bat.

Yonmei said...

I love it when heterosexuals blandly confirm that lesbians don't actually exist.

Not really.

"What I don't understand, though, is why the very reasonable rage of gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body."

Wow. Apparently, to you, I'm not even really homosexual. I'm a -absence-. I'm a lesbian.

Clarissa said...

Yonmei: please try to read before you comment. The post discusses a blog written by a gay man and the comments made by him.

Your anger is completely misplaced here, which you would know if you read the post before proceeding to have a weird outburst.

Yonmei said...

Yonmei: please try to read before you comment.

Thank you. I just love being patronised by straight women.

The post discusses a blog written by a gay man and the comments made by him.

Yes. And in the title of your post you refer to "homosexuality" as something that leads to "hatred of the female body", ie women can't be homosexuals, and you claim that the rage of "gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body." Well, no it doesn't - because I'm a gay person too.

I exist.

The language of your post dismisses my existence.

You react to my anger at your dismissal of my existance as "a weird outburst".

No, it's not in the least weird. Admittedly, it comes from someone whom apparently doesn't exist in your world...

Clarissa said...

Lesbians don't exist in this post, not in the world at large. I'm glad this blog matters so much to you, but a single post on this blog doesn't equal the entire world.

" the rage of "gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body." Well, no it doesn't - because I'm a gay person too."

-Did you notice the word "often"? Or did you choose to read is as "always"?

Yonmei, I don't care whether you are a lesbian or not. I don't have any idea whether you are a lesbian or not. If you are, that's fantastic, good for you. If not, that's also fantastic and also good for you. Still, it is perfectly ok in y opinion to write a post addressed to the gay men's sometimes unhealthy attitude to the female body which I did.

It seems like you are trawling blogs, looking desperately for something you find offensive. And I mean you personally, so stop hiding behind your sexuality. Just you, not all lesbians, not any lesbians, is failing to read a post for the third time in a row.

Dymara said...

Actually, this lesbian is also annoyed. I realized you were talking about gay *men* once you explicitly said so, but that you acted like 'homosexuality' only refers to gay men, and continuing to defend that position, is... well. Yeah, pretty erasing.

Clarissa said...

OK, now I understand what the problem is. It's the title of the post.

Rule 4 of successful blogging: a title needs to be very direct and very provocative. People who don't follow this and other rules of successful blogging keep waiting for years to have at least somebody come to the blog.

Homosexuality does not only refer to gay man and I never said it did. It does refer to them. But not exclusively.

Have you ever heard the sentence "all poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles", which is always used to illustrate the most common logical mistake?

Inferring from the post's title that I suggest that homosexuality ONLy refers to men is precisely that mistake in logic.

Yonmei said...

OK, now I understand what the problem is.

No, you don't.

The problem is twofold: the language of your post (not just the title) erases lesbians from existence: and you are angrily denying that the problem exists and acting like it's the fault of lesbians for getting angry at being erased.

Your quoting "the rules of successful blogging" is yet another problem: you're being patronising. I clicked on the link despite the title, because I had reasonable confidence that a link found via Feministe would be okay: and then I found it wasn't. Just another straight woman for whom lesbians aren't really real... even, apparently, when we comment on your blog.

Karen said...

Why not just alter it to "Male Homosexuality and the Hatred of The Female Body"?

One extra word will not weigh down an already longer-than-usual title - and the result won't offend your lesbian readership. I'd call that a decent outcome.

Yonmei said...

"Rule 4 of successful blogging: a title needs to be very direct and very provocative. "

Oh, I see. You were trying to provoke lesbians into coming over to your blog, not erasing us. How... nice.

It seems like you are trawling blogs, looking desperately for something you find offensive.

No, Clarissa. You posted a link to this post on Feministe's Shameless Self Promotion Sunday. I clicked on it despite the title, because I find that Feministe Sundays is generally one of the best link-roundups. When you invite Feministe readers to come over and view your blog, to accuse us of "trawling" when we come seems... impolite.

Clarissa said...

"the language of your post (not just the title) erases lesbians from existence: and you are angrily denying that the problem exists and acting like it's the fault of lesbians for getting angry at being erased."

-I don't understand a word of this, honestly. How can anybody "erase" lesbians if their existence is a fact of objective reality? How can a post not mentioning lesbians and simply addressed to a different issue "erase" them?

Let's say, you write a post saying "Academics' Hatred of Libraries." I read the post and discover that you only talk about a specific group of academics in the post, say, scientists. people in the Humanities are not mentioned. How would that be offensive to me as an academic in the Humanities? How would that "erase" me if it's self-evident to me and evrybody else that I exist?

I honestly don't get this at all.

Clarissa said...

"No, Clarissa. You posted a link to this post on Feministe's Shameless Self Promotion Sunday. I clicked on it despite the title, because I find that Feministe Sundays is generally one of the best link-roundups. When you invite Feministe readers to come over and view your blog, to accuse us of "trawling" when we come seems... impolite."

-Once again, I don't see how this changes any of what I said. If you were following links with the primary intention of finding something to be upset about, it's irrelevant where the links were posted.

""Rule 4 of successful blogging: a title needs to be very direct and very provocative. "

Oh, I see. You were trying to provoke lesbians into coming over to your blog, not erasing us. How... nice."

-Do you notice that you have chosen not to see that the word "direct" comes first?

Clarissa said...

"One extra word will not weigh down an already longer-than-usual title - and the result won't offend your lesbian readership. I'd call that a decent outcome."

-That sounds reasonable and easy to do. Why didn't somebody suggest this in the first place?

Yonmei said...

That sounds reasonable and easy to do. Why didn't somebody suggest this in the first place?

Why didn't you ask how you could edit your post so that it wouldn't be offensive, instead of complaining that lesbians are weird to be offended?

Also, you need to change "gay persons" to "gay men".

Clarissa said...

I never said "lesbians were weird." I said you were weird. Now, I will ask you either to find a quote from me where I say that lesbians are weird or accept that you just lied.

Yonmei said...

I never said "lesbians were weird." I said you were weird.

Actually, when I told you it was offensive to erase my sexual orientation, you told me that was a "weird outburst".

Given that you have now acknowledged that it was offensive, and have corrected your original erasure, you clearly yourself need to acknowledge that your original nasty, patronising response was wrong: you needed to ask me how you could correct your offense, not get mad at me for pointing it out and defensive of your initial offense.

Consider it a "teaching moment". I hope you'll never forget lesbians exist again.

Clarissa said...

Yonmei: I have no interest in discussing anything with a dishonest person like you. Please do not address any further comments to me since I have no interest in them. Your hysteria and lies are boring.

Anonymous said...

Clarissa:

yonmei fits all classic definitions of a troll:

(a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response[1] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet))

Why waste time on them?

J.

Clarissa said...

J.: yet ANOTHER troll? Jeez, how many can one poor blogger deal with? :-)

I'm sure you are right and I got trapped again in the web of a crafty troll.

Clarissa said...

Although now that I think about it, it can easily be the same troll as usual. Which is a relief, in a way, because I'm kind of used to the usual troll and don't mind it as much.

Yonmei said...

"What I don't understand, though, is why the very reasonable rage of gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body. "

No, it doesn't.

My very reasonable rage as a gay person against the homophobic society never translates into a rage against the female body, and nor does that of most of the other gay people I know. Most of whom are gay women. Lesbians.

Just fix your erasing language and quit complaining about how the nasty lesbian is trolling you, would you?

Also read Unreality and the politics of experience. It was good.

Clarissa said...

Yonmei: I already understood that the difference between the words "often" and "always" is too hard for you to grasp.

However, as I said before, you either take back your ridiculous lying accusations, or don't bother addressing any comments to me any more. I have no patience with liars who can't even recognize when they have been caught out in their outright, disgusting, insulting lies.

Anonymous said...

Why do you keep responding to the troll, then?

J.

Clarissa said...

J.: Because I'm beyond insulted by this loser's suggestion that I said "all lesbians are weird." That's a vile lie, and it's mind-blowing that anybody would stoop as low in their unhealthy paranoia as to ascribe such ridiculous statements to me. And keep insisting on it.

Milana said...

J. is right. You are wasting your time on this freak. While there are some readers (wink, wink) who are eagerly expecting your review of The Fall of Giants. :))))))))))

Clarissa said...

Milana: I'm glad people are interested in the forthcoming review. I already read 30% of it, so it's coming soon. :-)

konkonsn said...

...

Wow, Clarissa. Privilege check yourself. Your responses to Yonmei are completely uncalled for and display an unawareness of the politics of silencing and erasing those without power. I highly, HIGHLY recommend you actually take a moment to listen to Yonmei instead of just writing her off as a troll because she is not a troll. She is actually giving you good advice. Privilege 101 is about listening to the disenfranchised instead of pretending like you know better.

And hey, maybe she wasn't lying. In fact, maybe that was her view on the situation. Just because it isn't your view doesn't make it a lie.

I also find this disturbing: "Your hysteria and lies are boring."

You should look up how hysteria has been used to silence women and then not use that word again to try and call someone's emotions into check when they are rightfully angry.

Yonmei said...

Because I'm beyond insulted by this loser's suggestion that I said "all lesbians are weird." That's a vile lie, and it's mind-blowing that anybody would stoop as low in their unhealthy paranoia as to ascribe such ridiculous statements to me. And keep insisting on it.

While you let your commenters call me a "freak" unchallenged. I see.

A discussion about this post (and your response to my comments) on my own journal led to a commenter there suggesting that if you had not erased lesbians from your original post - if you had not erased the equally mocking comments about male anatomy! - you might have had to take on board the OP's point: "Obviously if lesbians (or bisexuals for that matter) exist, then straight women might have to consider why they fancy men."

And that would be too disconcerting, wouldn't it? Instead, pretend the post you are responding to is about "Male Homosexuality and the Hatred of the Female Body" (which hatred certainly does exist) and ignore the point he was making, that comfortable heterosexual women should question their sexual orientation too...

Clarissa said...

"And hey, maybe she wasn't lying. In fact, maybe that was her view on the situation. Just because it isn't your view doesn't make it a lie."

-What view?? I either said that lesbians are weird or I didn't. If this person can't quote where exactly I said that, then I didn't. And she lied. What if I accuse you of saying that "all Jews are dirty" and fail to provide a shred of evidence? Would that be a lie or "my view of the situation"?

As for "privilege", feel free to consult my view on people who use this term here:

http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/08/privilege.html

A little quote from that post in case you don't have time to follow the link: "For me, any use of the word "privilege" today equals the person's saying as loud and clear as possible: "I refuse to think, consider, and analyze and try to hide this refusal underneath empty verbiage."

Clarissa said...

Now everything has become crystal clear. The only reason for Yonmei's insistence on spouting idiocies is her desire to promote her unpopular blog here. How pathetic.

konkonsn said...

I'll admit I was tired when I replied and misunderstood what you meant by lying. Still, it seems that a rather strong misconstruction of the situation. Yonmei never said that you used the exact words, "Lesbians are weird." She said that you thought she was weird, and she's angry over the situation for being a lesbian, so conflating the two gets her sentence, which is not her literally saying, "This is what you said," but generalizing it. She's not lying; she's telling you what she perceived.

It seems to me you take things very literally both by misunderstanding the idea of how your post can be an erasure of lesbians and also by taking ONE thing a person said out of context and hyper-focusing on that. You're missing the forest for the trees, and I don't know if this is just the way you think (you have some links to Asperger's at the top) or if you're the type of person who likes to argue instead of actually listening to other people, so you pick and choose your examples to make the fight that much easier.

In any case, your post on privilege, ironically, REEKS of privilege. It's certainly nice to be able to ignore people who call you out on your silencing tactics by saying they're just being whiny and trying to silence you. By dismissing them so easily, you're able to not check your own issues and see that perhaps, just maybe, they were right.

Clarissa said...

konkonsn: I have been blogging for 18 months and have had 114,000 visitors in that time. Do you know how many times I have had this same experience of some hysterical weirdo coming here to scream and protest because of some completely imaginary offense? And then - every single time - it turned out that their only goal was to promote their blogs in this strange way.

I don't bear any responsibility for anybody's "perceptions" and "conflations." When a normal, reasonable person asked me to change the post title, I did so immediately. Still, the weird troll kept trolling, screaming, perceiving and conflating. I would advise you not to take the troll's arguments too seriously. It's just trying to promote its website, that's all.

Kian said...

I read Pierre's statement as satire, but what you said about gay men learning sexism and misogyny from straight men was spot on. I'm a gay trans man and the constant expressions of disgust at female-assigned anatomy is the most tiring and annoying part of gay male discourse. The guys that turn me down for sex usually are the same guys who regularly express misogyny. They turn me down because of the presence of a vagina, not because I lack of a penis, as many think is the case. And they feel no shame in telling me how much I disgust them for daring them to be attracted to someone who has a vagina.

Clarissa said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective, Kian. I think it's important that this issue gets addressed and more people think about what it entails for those who suffer as a result of this kind of a rejection. The anatomy we are born with should in no way impose limits on our lives.

wriggles said...

What I don't understand, though, is why the very reasonable rage of gay people against the homophobic society often translates into a rage against the female body.

It's the path of least resistence, everyone does it, including straight women and lesbians, with our body hating swipes against ourselves.

By the way, whatever you think of the way Yonmei expresses herself, she was absolutely correct, you did do the usual of forgetting that 'gay people' includes women.

I must admit, I didn't notice-this time-until it was pointed out and I immediately recognised it. It's so ubiquitous it is sometimes hard to note. Which hints at why this is problematic;

but there's nothing I've heard from gay men that wasn't taught to them by het men and heterosexist, straight male-dominated society

Among the worst I've ever heard was that women should be "stapled at both ends", by a group of gay men, it was presented as humour too.