Queer and Queerer Ep. 36 – Sorry, You’re Too Gay For Me

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This week’s episode is in many ways an extension of episode 34, the interview with Devon Hunter. Peterson’s partner, Glen Retief, had a very strong reaction to some of the things Devon discussed, so he makes his first appearance with Zack and Peterson this week to discuss the “gay for pay” issue. Coming from a perspective of promoting sex-positivity based on his experiences as a gay white male living in Apartheid South Africa, Glen feels that it’s judgmental and inappropriate to condemn the idolization of straight men by gay men (in pornography or otherwise). Zack and Peterson still contend that it’s a reinforcement of patriarchy and internalized homophobia—that it is injurious that gay people have preference against members of their own community. This week’s episode just begins to scratch the surface of a complicated issue. Take a listen and leave your own thoughts!

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Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Read Devon Hunter’s blog post on “the unobtainable straight man.”

» Liked today’s erotic poem? Check out Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History.

» Pre-Order Glen Retief’s soon-to-be-published memoir, The Jack Bank.

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There are 15 Comments to "Queer and Queerer Ep. 36 – Sorry, You’re Too Gay For Me"

  • Devon Hunter says:

    I agree with a couple of the nuances Paul brings up; however, it is an inconsistency amongst scholars that has always irritated me that they will alternatingly rely upon and then dismiss personal experience as a valid citation. It is not an isolated personal story of my experience to talk about experencing self-hatred from gay men who then visit their aggressive heteronormativity on other gay men. What proof is there that gay-for-pay is destructive to gay men??? Really? When your fantasy extends into reality, and you are incapable of being courteous (let alone attracted) to other LGBT people, then your orgasms are the seed of the very homophobia that oppresses you in the first place! This is not innocent. Perhaps it is odd for a porn model and sex worker to say this, but no, not all expressions of sex are innocent until proven guilty (especially not when something dysfunctional threatens to replace that which is wholesome).

  • Devon Hunter says:

    Where did I get Paul from… sorry, I meant Glen.

  • Jacob Woods says:

    I just read a book by David M. Buss called The Evolution of Desire which really opened my eyes to another explanation to sexism and why males and females find certain qualities in the opposite sex attractive. Though society, culture, and media have an effect on how we perceive attraction, David argues that underlying biological strategies are playing a roll in what is considered attractive.

    There were two very small sections that looked at homosexuality in the book and one thing that was brought up was that gay men do actually have more sexual interactions than heterosexuals. This was not because gays are “evil” and just over erotic. It is because men both gay and straight have underlying evolutionary mechanisms which make them more likely to go into a relationship out of physical attraction and for sex than women who have a focus for long term mating strategies. Women statistically focus more on commitment than on attraction. But that doesn’t mean women don’t find masculine men less attractive. They still like their men but they are likely to focus on what can the guy provide than what the guy looks like.

    As research finds that gay males have a hypothalamus similar to that as women and knowing that gay males are more likely to be successful in finding sexual hookups, the question I have is this: how much could biology be playing a part of this negativity toward feminine gay guys?

  • Shirley says:

    I loved this episode. Very interesting discussion!

  • Hey, just catching up now that I have unlimited bandwidth in the US again. Thanks Devon for commenting. I will make sure that Glen sees what you wrote.

    Jacob, hmmm, it makes me wonder about the role of testosterone. It is a potent drug that does effect sexuality in the bodies experiencing it. In hearing the stories of female-to-male transsexuals and their encounters with the first flush of testosterone, I am reminded of that biological aspect of desire.

    Shirley, I will let Glen know. Of course, he is one of your biggest fans.

  • Denaturalised says:

    It is not prescriptive to say that viewers of porn that features gay-for-pay actors are a) aware of the true status of the actors’ sexual identifications, and b) engage in watching these representations specifically because there are gay-for-pay actors, and c) derive a specific sexual pleasure from a very very closed reading of the text in as much as they require the gay-for-pay actor to harbour interior feelings of disgust while performing?

    Gay-for-pay could otherwise and alternatively be eroticised as a narrative whereby a mixture of ideologly and economic incentive proves time and again that ‘straight’ men are capable of breaking away from the binary fixity of the heterosexual construction of masculinity to the point that they can be physically and sexually accessed by ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ men alike. This now achieves a queer goal, where the foundations of power that place limitation of men because of identity are agitated, weakened and crumble.

    A belief in “mandatory disgust” is actually a sign that the observer is possibly more embedded in heteronormativity than the gay-for–pay actor himself. To the ‘gay’ man who views gay-for-pay porn with this mindset, fetishising disgust may actually be a tool for destabilising and denaturalising the heteronormative demands on their identity. I know that I have eroticised men in power, usually teachers, and found that it has helped me dispose of or sublimate the toxic by-products of the heterodoxy.

  • Glen says:

    Devon, for a porn star you do indeed seem to have a lot of judgments to pass on other people’s orgasms!!!

    The key words you used there are “crossed into reality.”

    If someone has a rape fantasy in the privacy of their own bed, would you agree that’s their business, or would you view that orgasm as sick, just like the gay boy who enjoys fratpad.com or corby fischer? I would say no, sexual fantasy in itself is just fine and harmless, an example of how we humans are just sexual beings.

    What if this fantasy “crossed into reality”? I.e. the person tried to literally experience sexual violence. Then surely we’d both agree this is sick and this person needs counseling and help. But ONLY when the fantasy “crossed into reality.”

    Ditto for one of the leathermen you talk about approvingly at the beginning of your podcast, when you talk about the need for diversity in the LGBT community. If one of these guys’ dungeons’ “crossed into reality” and they actually started kidnapping people at the local Starbucks and torturing them with the clamps and cuffs they’d bought at the sex-positive stand at Folsom Street, you and I would both call for said leather daddy’s arrest and prosecution. That doesn’t mean that every orgasm inspired by boundgods.com is evil and pathological, though.

    The same is true for gay men who fetishize gay-for-pay. Having an orgasm to the thought that the straight guy would rather be doing something else is FINE. “Crossing into reality” and acting rude towards gay men, or rejecting femme gay men who apply for a job, or discriminating against flaming queens–that is morally wrong.

    What is so hard to understand about these principles of sexual ethics? They aren’t rocket science. Just stop asking me to think critically about my orgasms and ask me to think critically instead about the way I live in the real world, day to day, in situations that really matter. Leave my orgasms alone, please.


    • ZackFord says:

      Glen, I very much appreciate where you’re coming from, and perhaps even moreso given my learning experiences since this conversation.

      It seems we definitely agree with the potential for harm when fantasies are realized, and I definitely don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with a fantasy about straight guys. In fact, I’ll go so far as to admit that I’ve personally enjoyed erotica I’ve read with mind control/hypnosis themes that speak to this.

      Devon, as a gay man trying to serve a gay clientele in the adult entertainment industry, seems to have experienced some consequences to this fantasy/fetishization. As an actor in a gay porn film, he was treated with less respect than the straight actors he was working with. As a dancer, he has seen clients favor the straight dancers over him, merely because he acknowledges he is, in fact, gay. While the fantasy might not actually be hurting the individual that holds it, it certainly sounds like there are consequences for members of the gay community by its realization.

      So, what you just said about acting rude towards gay men, that’s what I think Devon is responding to. In fact, it sounds like Devon has seen it a lot. Peterson and I have certainly noticed the similar phenomenon of gay men who demand “masculinity” and “straight acting” from anyone before giving them the time of day. Again, while not directly sexually harmful, this is culturally harmful. I think Peterson and I both saw it as an embrace of oppression, a support of the very patriarchal male privilege that informs homophobia to begin with.

      I think you’re perfectly in the right to defend your orgasms and defend whatever it is that gets you off. My concern is the real-world consequences if it’s the ONLY thing that can get a person off (or gay men who bury or ignore any sexual desire OTHER than a straight man because of internalized homophobia). And certainly I think Peterson is right to draw connections to ex-gay rhetoric, because a person who can only find sexual pleasure with someone who doesn’t share it could very likely struggle to find a meaningful committed relationship. It’s not physical harm like the rape or dungeon master fantasies, but it’s still realized harm, and certainly concerns worth discussing.

      Perhaps where our conflict has been is an understanding of “crossed into reality.” I think Devon certainly comes from a place where he has witnessed it, and I think Peterson and I speak from a similar place of concern that those realities are extending into our culture beyond just people’s fantasies. I am not personally trying to tell someone what can get them off, but I think a gay man who can only get off at the expense of the gay community and his own ability to be loved is a concern worth raising.

      What would it have to look like to you to have “crossed into reality?”

  • Glen says:

    Hi Zack,

    I’ll admit when we did the podcast, my thoughts were along the lines of, “Zack is from Mars and I am from Venus–and Zack is turning my boyfriend into a Martian!”

    But yes, I think we in fact share much more than divides us. I really appreciate your sensitivity to the need for sexual liberty, which is so related to other liberties dear to my heart, like artistic and imaginative liberty.

    And I recognize the real social problem you are talking about. It is tiresome and truly very destructive, the way so many gay men reject the feminine and try to both “be” and be close to femininity. Not much sexual or any other liberation there, as you point out!

    I’m also very grateful to Devon for having integrity and being an out gay male in the world of porn, even though this meant unjust losses to him, financial and otherwise.

    I just continue to think that asking people to “think critically” about their sexual fantasies is a bad move, first because it has a totalitarian whiff about it, and second because it’s just hard to change people’s desires. (Just ask the ex-gay movement).

    Better to put the horse of social justice in front of the cart of sexual fantasy. Perhaps in a more equal society people’s sexual fetishes will also change–but the goal needs to be justice, not politically correct sexuality.


    • ZackFord says:

      Glen, I agree that it’s hard, if not impossible, to change people’s desires, but I actually think it’s important and healthy to think critically about our desires. We might not always arrive at an answer to “Why do we have them?” but I think it is important to think about what role they play in our lives. Some may never affect us outside of our sexuality, but others very well could.

      Thinking critically doesn’t mean judging or denying any of them. It’s just a call to understand them and understand how they intersect with other aspects of our lives. Desires that are not realized sexually could very well express themselves in other ways. Tapping into understanding them helps us better appreciate them and makes sure we are aware of other ways they might be affecting us.

      If there was no motive or expectation about change or denial, do you think you’d be more open to the idea of “thinking critically” about desire for the sake of just better understanding our own sexuality?

  • Glen says:

    Oh, I just noticed a typo in my post above. I meant to say “try to both “be” and be close to heterosexual masculinity.” This behavior–call it heteronormative–is, of course, destructive because it undermines queer community. It also takes away the freedom to play with gender or to be oneself, gender-wise.

    In a sex-negative society I am not emotionally OK being asked to think critically about any sexual desire or fetish. It is simply too emotionally loaded. Maybe in a queer utopia where all manner of sexual quirks and differences are happily and relaxedly embraced, I will myself be relaxed enough to look at my sexuality with benign, neutral curiosity, and go, “Hmmm…. isn’t THAT interesting!” Or in a very safe circle of friends, where everyone is joyfully owning up to all manner of libidinal insanity–because libido is by definition unruly–I could heave a breath and admit, “Yeah, there’s something kind of sad about how fascinating I find the breaking of the hetero taboo on a site like fratpad, which has straight guys acting gay. Homophobia has obviously shaped that desire.”

    But that’s not the world we live in. Sexuality is NOT safe. And so being asked to be “critical” about my sexuality–from Left or RIght–feels oppressive to me. It was not so very long ago feminists were writing porn bans in Canada (Catherine McKinnon) and supporting the arrests–for domestic violence–of S/M tops in San Francisco. See Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex,” in the anthology Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. Those feminists wanted S/M tops and bottoms to think critically about their fetishes. When the fetishists told the feminists to fuck off, some feminists at least advocated their arrest (in the case of the tops) and psychiatric institutionalization (in the case of the bottoms).

    People have to have sexual freedom and respect for sexual diversity before they are asked to think critically about their desires and fantasies. Would you ask a trans person to think critically about why s/he was trans? A black person to think critically about which African-American mannerisms they had adopted, and if these were healthy and helpful to them? If you wouldn’t ask these questions–why not? Just questions, right? Don’t be so defensive–what harm could it possibly do you to just think about a question? But no, this ignores social context. The truth is that some questions are just unhelpful, retrograde, and oppressive. These questions should not be asked, and energy is best spent thinking about other concerns.

    • ZackFord says:

      It seems that “think critically” has a loaded context for you that it doesn’t for me, so I’m going to respect that difference between us.

      What I am promoting is merely the concept of considering, exploring, realizing, and understanding our desire, being metacognitive about them. Not to be critical of them, but to just understand them in deeper ways. To respond to your example, it’s not the idea of asking a trans person why ze is trans, but asking hir how being trans is going to affect other aspects of hir life. That’s actually a very important part of the transition process!

      We have very different perspectives and experiences that inform them, and that’s what I think makes this whole conversation engaging. My reaction to your last comment is that… I’m not sure I understand how a person can have sexual freedom (and I mean personally, not legally) if they are not prepared to try to better understand their own desires. I guess I see them as horse and cart rather than cart and horse; you have to have the courage to own your own sexuality in spite of the social contexts working against it in order to truly be free.

      Likewise, I stand with you in deploring the banning of porn or arresting of members of the leather community. I have absolutely no interest in criticizing, denouncing, or prohibiting anybody’s desires. Interestingly, the very questions you find to be emotionally loaded and socially oppressive, I see in a light of deepening understandings and social liberation.

  • […] I know we did a show where we interviewed a gay porn star and then my partner Glen came on and disagreed with the porn star ( and yes, that put me dab smack in the middle between my gorgeous man and a porn star.) But this […]

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