Why Anderson Cooper Is A Thing

If you think about how many moments in our daily lives are about ignoring or negotiating the sex lives of straight people — from jokes about dads with shotguns on the porch, or about what’s going to happen on your wedding night, or “I saw mommy kissing daddy’s [whatever],” to how you deal with your son-in-law, to what being a grandparent is really about — and think about just how much of etiquette, social interaction, communication are about getting around the sticky subject of straight people fucking, you can understand why straight people get so weird about gay people: There’s none of that social filter built in, the sexual aspect is not blurred out like it is with straight people.

Imagine if you didn’t have that filter with straight people: All you would think about is them fucking, all the time, because that’s mostly what straight people talk about. Dating, romance, sexy clothes, losing weight, marriage, weddings, their kids… It’s always Sex, sex, sex with you people. You’ve just normalized it to the point where you see it as a safe part of culture.

There’s no assumption that gay people are doing normal nonsexual things most of the day, like with straight people, because as far as straight privilege is concerned, gay people are just straight people who have gay sex: That’s the main thing that sets us apart.

It’s why the simple answer to the dumb question How do I explain this gay stuff to my kids never occurs to the people that ask it, because they can’t imagine leaving out the sex part in their own construct of what gay people are about: You can say “Some princes want a princess, some princes want a prince,” without blowjobs coming up a single time, just like when you’re explaining straight relationships.

“Coming out” is going to keep being everybody’s business until those things equalize, and I don’t know that they ever will. But especially here — and in Pride season, when so much is written online about “these gays aren’t as gay as they used to be” — I think it’s important to think about this distinction, between socially mediated sexuality vs. sexuality-as-identity.

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6 thoughts on “Why Anderson Cooper Is A Thing

  1. Your writing on privilege resonates with me, even though often it's that uncomfortable straight white guy “oh, god, do I do that?” sort of terror.

    So I'm clear that the conceptualization as gay people as “straight people who have gay sex” isn't accurate, and “gay people” is probably the correct concept, but what does that mean?

    That's an earnest question, and I realize every person will likely have a different answer.

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  2. Every time I read something on Knees Up, I inhale so big it feels like breathing for the first time. (Or at least breathing actual oxygen after being trapped underwater for a really long time.)

    What's particularly interesting/annoying to me — probably because I work in gay media and am literally saturated in other people's rage right now because of Emily's story line on PLL — is how a lot of gay people also can't filter out the gay sex thing. Like, how many other identity groups are sitting around having conversations about “Well, if she touched a penis after she touched a vagina, she can't really call herself one of us because a REAL one of us would only ever touch more vaginas after touching a vagina for the first time.” Straight people are obsessed with what body parts gay people are sticking where; gay people are obsessed with what body parts *other* gay people are sticking where. HOW ELSE WILL WE KNOW HOW TO DEFINE PEOPLE?!

    It's maddening from every direction.

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  3. …But what does that mean?

    Too early to say, I guess. But if I had to put a label on it, I'd go with the prince/princess thing for now. It's tempting to fall into the “gay people shouldn't have to just ape straight relationships” thing, but avoiding that is easier than pointing out that straight people have all different kinds of relationships too.

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  4. Heather, thanks. You're the best.

    I'm with you on the larger implications of the Emily thing, but there's also a sticking point for me in that the show itself isn't really built for that kind of complexity that you've been writing about: You can't get lauds for “gay teen visibility” and also say “it's more complex than that.”

    Lesbians are starved for visibility and representation, to the point where they will even pretend Willow Rosenberg isn't the Worst*, and there's a bit of hand-biting inherent in taking that away. Even if philosophically or culturally it's a sophisticated or brave choice, it's a bit heartless.

    (Not that I think Emily's storyline will even go there in the end — I think he's a mole — in which case, the switcheroo will actually have merit both in gay terms and in terms of the way the show operates.)

    * (Joke! But not really!)

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  5. For sure about lesbians being starved for representation and visibility. Although, I'll see your Willow Rosenberg and raise you all of Glee. I think, for me, I'm just always going to sprint away from the mob and go, “This thing has GOT to be more complicated than your pitchforks and torches.” Also, no one can accuse me of NOT making a TV show more layered and nuanced in my own imagination than it is on-screen. :)

    But I don't want to hijack your post with this nonsense. I really think you've struck on something vitally important here about sexual identity and the process of coming out, and it's a balm to the smugness of the last 24 hours on Twitter and Tumblr.

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  6. This is one of my pet peeves when I hear straight people (mostly men) ask why gay people have to talk about being gay all the time. Like, “*I* don't care what you do in bed,” as if we're broadcasting our sexuality for no reason at all. But plenty of people through the ages have “cared” what we do in bed and have tried to keep us from doing it. I've also harped on the hetero proclivity toward having every possible conversation that involves sex… as you say, weddings, babies, any reference to husbands or wives… and then if you merely utter the word “gay” or “lesbian” they're all “Stop talking about your sex life!”

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