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Gay for Pay

By
September 17, 2009

So the other day I was searching around on the internet for my favorite episode of the Tyra Show (you know, the one where the pregnant school teacher is addicted to eating chalk and Tyra wages some totally insensitive but oh-so-fierce modeltherapy magic on her ass) and instead I came across an oldie but goodie: “Gay for Pay.” In this classic episode, Tyra invites a number of “all american guys” onto the show, and informs the audience that there “is something that [they] might find shocking about these men.” Unfortunately, the surprise isn’t that these men have huge cocks and have formed a collegiate fencing team where they replace the weapons with their giant tools and film themselves in action. If you’re as disappointed as I was when I found this out, I recommend heroichomosex.org.

Anyway, as the title of the episode suggests, Tyra explains that what is shocking about these men is that they are in some capacity “gay for pay.” While this term is most often used in reference to “straight” men who, for a steep fee, film pornos where they have sex with other men (gay or straight), the definition is actually quite broad. Any “straight” individual who agrees to do something “gay” in exchange for monetary compensation could conceivably be called “gay for pay.” Tyra manages to assemble a rag-tag group of gay-for-pay guys, including two porn stars, some strippers, and a bunch of gay-bar bartenders. In traditional Tyra style, she-who-wishes-she-was-Oprah asks a series of ill-advised questions that clearly put these men on edge.

Now, as a man who loves having sex with men, I can tell you there is nothing more alluring than a man who would never have sex with me. I am certain that I’m not the only one who feels this way, and that this feeling has nothing to do with my sexuality or the genders involved in my particular fantasy. In fact, my intense desire for guys who want nothing to do with me has consistently helped me understand why drunken, apparently desperate women at Paces are, counterintuitively, more likely to touch my crotch after I’ve told them that I sleep with men. I just want what I can’t have, and I enjoy fantasizing about walking what I can’t have through the steps of having sex with another guy for the first time.

What I hadn’t contemplated until watching this episode of Tyra is how these guys actually think about their sexuality. I mean, yeah, I’ve sat through the standard pre-gay-for-pay interview, where the “straight” guy’s apparent “straightness” is measured either by how uncomfortable he looks when presented with a neon colored dildo, or how quickly he responds with a number over ten to the question “How many girls have you fucked this week?” And, as long as these men pass the “I don’t have sex with guys” or “I jack off with my gorgeous athlete buddies in the locker room while talking about women” litmus test, I am happy to have my fantasies fulfilled. I never actually considered or cared how these guys label themselves sexually when they’re not on camera having their behinds examined for what they claim to be the first time.

Needless to say, Tyra and her minions in the audience were insatiably curious how these guys identified, and could not be convinced that they weren’t at least a little bit “gay.” This curiosity led Tyra to partake in interrogation-room like questioning. What do you mean that you’re not turned on when you have sex with other men? How can you say you’re not the least bit attracted to your sexual partners in these films? How do you turn off the feeling of stubble and muscles? Would you still say you’re 100% straight? Are you straight are you straight are you straight? Huh huh huh??! At one point, Tyra asks an uber-famous male gay-for-pay porn star, Dean Coxx, if he’s 100% straight. “Absolutely…” he says, “100% straight.” Tyra then turns to Dean’s girlfriend, Courtney, who is sitting in the audience. “I have a little different interpretation, I guess, of sexuality…” she tells Tyra. “I love him, I know that he’s heterosexual, but I also think he’s a little bit bisexual.”

Blah blah blah. Gay straight bi gay straight bi. Beyond the fact that Courtney is clearly an idiot: WHO THE FUCK CARES?! First of all, Tyra, lay off. They are what they say they are. Secondly, I’m personally not into labels. Who cares who is gay, who is straight, who is queer, bi, pan, poly, omni, innie, outie, Charlie, the chocolate factory or whatever the heck else? I’m going to let you in on a little secret: this episode of Tyra felt like a condensed version of my life at Swarthmore. From the moment that I stepped onto Swarthmore’s campus, I felt pressured to label myself. During my tour I was told about “queer” students and “queer” student groups. When another spec questioned the use of the term “queer” the tour guide carefully informed him that this term was chosen by the Swarthmore LGBTQ community to represent itself. At the student activities fair, I watched as students walked around wearing prefabricated identities in the form of stickers: “Queer as Fuck!” one said; “Straight but not Narrow!” read another. I went to a SQU meeting where the words “queer” and “straight” were thrown around the room like gelt at Hanukkah. Within a week of classes, Swarthmore’s prevailing sexual forces – straight and queer – had already been drilled into my mind.

Guess what Tyra? Guess what Swarthmore? I’m a man. I bang men. All night long. But I’m not gay, and I’m sure as heck ain’t queer. I’ve never felt “gay” or “queer.” I’ve never found the “queer” community approachable, here at Swat or otherwise. I just don’t get what it is about “not being straight”- which is basically the definition of queer- makes me anything like other so called “queer” people. Do I really have more in common with a transguy, or a woman who sleeps with women, than I do with a so called “straight” guy? NO. I do not. Men who have sex with men don’t all dress or talk the same way, they don’t have any unifying physical feature or even unified cultural background. Men who have sex with men can’t even claim that they have the same kind of sex. Take me for example. I’ll admit that I don’t love butt sex. I mean, yeah, it’s hott (note to editor, the extra t is intentional), I crave it every now and again, but it’s not what I do everyday. And I know a good number of so-called “gay” and “queer” guys who have never done it backwards, and don’t plan on it. I know, shocker, right?

Queer culture at Swarthmore also advocates the “queer” community as a source of support for “queer” students. How many queer groups do we have again? Thirty seven? In theory, the so called common struggle that the “queer community” experiences, the common prejudices targeted at those who are “queer” would seem to make queer students the best equipped to help their peers with “queer” issues. Unfortunately, I’ve never found this to be the case at Swarthmore. When attempting to reach out to the “queer community,” I was never accepted. When asking for help, I was told in subtle ways that I wasn’t “queer” enough. I didn’t use the lexicon correctly, I didn’t call myself “queer,” I didn’t go to SQU meetings; I hated coming out week; I hadn’t experienced prejudice like they had. And, worst of all, I wasn’t interested in dealing with the gossip and exclusivity that plagued a large portion of the loud-and-proud Swarthmore “queer community.”

I’ve heard time and time again that “straights just don’t get it,” or that, “they’re blinded by their straightness.” I’ll tell you, when I couldn’t turn to the queer community for help sorting out my sexuality and sex life, I turned to my straight friends. Yeah, I lost a couple of friends in the process. (Religion can be a real bummer, folks.) But, with a couple of exceptions, the vast majority of support I got was from so called “straight” folks, both on and off campus. It actually took me a while to realize that I was being provided with this support – I had been told time and time again by the queer community at Swarthmore (and elsewhere) that relying on “straights” would be equivalent to expecting Sharples gefilte fish to be tasty.

I’m not quite advocating an end to “queer/gay/lesbian/whatever” communities or identities. I’m not downplaying the value of having a “safe space” to return to when things get rough. Not everyone has had the same experiences as I have. I know some people feel that they have been emotionally destroyed by the “straight” people in their lives and have relied on “queer communities” at Swarthmore and elsewhere for intense amounts of support.

I’m just suggesting that there’s another way to go about experiencing sex and sexuality. A way that doesn’t involve the words “queer” or “straight,” that doesn’t involve a “queer community.” Believe it or not, the so called “straight community” and the so called “queer community” have much more in common than not. Sexual feelings and love play an important part in most people’s lives, no matter how they identify or don’t identify. This is why I personally reject sexual labels. Because I’m not “gay,” or “queer,” I’m human.

So, a brief note on the future of this column. Friends, I promise I will never pull a Tyra. You are what you say you are. You say you’re straight, you’re straight. You say you’re queer, you’re queer. But, when I write about my sexcapades, don’t expect me to label myself or describe things in terms of concrete sexual identities. This is not, I repeat, IS NOT A COLUMN ABOUT A QUEER MAN, or QUEER SEX. This is a column about a guy who fucking loves sex and the drama that comes along with it. A guy who sleeps with guys but is in no way gay or queer. A guy who admittedly knows a shit-ton about people of all sorts of physical, mental and emotional types getting it on.

So, Swarthmore. What next? Got some ideas? Some questions for me about my personal life? Go ahead, ask me the most embarrassing, penetrating (pun intended) question you can think of. Next time, I promise a little bit less philosophizing and a whole lot more sex.

62 Responses to Gay for Pay

  1. Aidan

    September 17, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Pink Narcissus, I fucking love you.

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  2. D

    September 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly that sexuality (among other things) is labeled very harshly at Swarthmore. For example, do I join SAO because I'm Korean, or HAN? Wait, why are there two groups in the first place? Should I join SQU, COLORS, all of them? More importantly, why should I even care when I don't care to politicize and essentialize my racial/sexual identity because I see it as just the way my genes have been variegated across humanity's pool and mapped onto my body? And why do I keep getting subtle (and some not so subtle) nudges to join these groups? STOP!

    You articulate how I (as one of those people on the margins of the queer community) have felt pressured to join different queer groups on campus, and have even participated in creating one that I would hope fulfilled my particular niche. But I realize that I'm just human like you, and that I don't belong with those who would proclaim a war on other sexualities, or struggle for visibility and acceptance. Cause I appreciate and think there's a place for people who do so in this world, and simultaneously, that's not my place.

    As a gay man myself, I can walk into a bar and see a quarter of the heads immediately turn, half ignore me, and a quarter look with interest. I don't give a shit about the 50% that won't look at me simply because I'm racially or physically not their type. I can deal with that. Not everyone has to treat me with respect or fall in love with my body for me to be happy. There are certain power differentials with which I am privileged as a queer asian male, and others in which I am not. I deal and move on, quite successfully. Others can do what they like.

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  3. NostalgicSenior

    September 17, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Yay! And that's what college is supposed to be about. Not finding some club where you fit in, or group with the best category to match what people judge you to be, but finding yourself, and being comfortable with yourself. I am a woman who loves everyone, male, female, gay, straight, whatever. I love everyone. And that doesn't mean that I have to go to a little meeting to believe that I am a wonderful person, and people should get to know me.
    Thank you for saying what a lot of students need to hear.

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  4. A. Massi

    September 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I actually saw that episode of Tyra, unfortunately.

    Otherwise, Narcissus, I just wanted to thank you for bringing up these very valid issues into a public forum. I think your feelings re: the Swat queer community and sexual labels/politics in general are things that would resonate with many an identifying-queer student here, as well as folks who feel disenfranchised or alienated — if we would discuss them openly.

    I'm definitely looking forward to further installments.

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  5. Peter '11

    September 17, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Unfortunately? That episode of Tyra is AMAZING! The one with Sasha Grey, teenage post-feminist hardcore porn star extraordinaire, is wonderful too.

    And yes, this column is sweet. Yay.

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  6. SB

    September 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Thank fucking god. Finally. This is the column I've been waiting for. A column that doesn't use pretentious PC euphemism and labels to place everyone in their own little special sexual cubbyhole. It's about people, and the people they have sex with, period.

    I've never felt the least bit comfortable with so-called "queer friendly" organizations on campus because every time someone is "queer" or "straight" or "bi" or "trans" or "genderqueer" or whatever term is in this week, it becomes a little harder to identify them as human… and Fred Phelps has more in common with a transsexual Hmong lesbian than with any caricature or cartoon that's ever existed.

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  7. Allegra Black

    September 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks yo. It's nice to hear a non-crazy voice on campus…especially after going to SQU for the lolz.

    And especially after finding the queer community more threatening and irritating, with a few rare and disturbing exceptions, than the numerous homophobes I've encountered.

    -aka Argos:

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  8. WL

    September 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    The reality is that the very "queer community" people bash and demonize all the time does not exist. There are inevitably overlaps between people who attend certain meetings and people with friends in common who identify as "queer" but this imagined, exclusionary, horde of "queer"-identified people simply does not exist. I highly doubt any of the people who hate on "the queer community" or leaders of queer groups on campus have any significant level of understanding of who those people are, what their politics are, how they identify, who they are friends with, and what type of personal background they come from. To think of them as a singular unit is to engage in the casual, lazy labeling that opponents of the "queer community" argue against.

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  9. MS

    September 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

    I love many members of the "queer community" as individuals, but I absolutely understand what you mean about feeling excluded for not being queer enough and uncomfortable with the heterophobia (is that even a word? whatever) in that circle. I don't agree with everything you say, but kudos for having the balls to say it so publicly. I wish the queer community heard opinions from perspectives like yours more often.

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  10. Katie Seville

    September 17, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    I'm glad that you let off some steam Mr. Pink (I'd appreciate if you'd make your real name known, like we all are). I however have to disagree for the most part.
    You ask why you would identify with gay people more than straight people. YOU, don't and that's your decision. You basically asked why women should identify with women more than men, or why people of color or certain religious backgrounds form groups together: because sometimes it's nice to be able to discuss that part of myself with people who share a similar trait. Also, the heterophobia that has been mentioned…I have noticed some of this to a degree, but I've also noticed a fair amount of homophobia, and even racism in the dorms (at least in my freshman dorm).

    @SB and Mr. Pink: While I agree that labels are often show a distasteful aspect of human society, it is also a way in which we communicate more easily. Instead of launching into a detailed description of why I find this and/or that person attractive/unattractive and why, I could just say that "I'm bi". For me "queer" is in fact a convenient umbrella term. I can tell someone that I'm not straight, without giving them the extra details. But hey, that's just me. I don't know if you're a freshman or not (obviously I can't just look you up, can I?) but yeah "queer" does get thrown around alot. Why? Because it's convenient.

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  11. Katie Seville

    September 17, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Also @ SB: I'd appreciate if you didn't imply that my identifying in a certain way makes it harder to identify me as "human". That hurts.

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  12. Fits of Rage

    September 17, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Dear Pink Narcissus,

    Since you, a person too afraid to author anything that could be interpreted as non-heterosexual under your own name, published your thoughts in the Gazette, I thought I would publish some of mine about your cathartic first column:

    1. Your characterization of women at Paces is troubling. Are you sure that you aren’t the one who is desperate for attention? Your column this week is a good indication of what you are looking for this semester from your readers – validation.

    2. What does it mean to you to be a man? How do you define masculinity? Do you only have sex with people who you think are masculine? Why?

    3. Why do you so adamantly refuse to label your late-night clandestine sexcapades anything but ‘sex with men’? Have you ever considered the meaning of ‘internalized homophobia’ or ‘self-hatred’?

    4. Why are you afraid of having something in common with other people who have sex with people of the same gender or with people who reject the gender binary? Surely, even if your drag troupe name isn’t Shirley, you can’t be so arrogant to assume that none of ‘them queer folk’ have had ‘normal’ experiences to which you might relate.

    5. Your definition of ‘queer’ is awfully narrow, probably because you have effectively isolated yourself from any of the conversations that are going on in the community about what ‘queer’ means. ‘Queer’ is not just about sex. It is not just about the shared experience of engaging in behavior that is still marginalized in most countries. It is not just about seeing the world from the margins, which you clearly have experience doing. It is not just about taking political action or social action and acknowledging the interconnected experiences of oppression that every community must confront. It is about many, many things and there is no one right definition of ‘queer’. To be sure, though, your challenge of labels, dogmatic pursuit to stake out your place in the community, and desire to shape the conversation about LGBTQIAGNC … are absolutely, 100% QUEER. Get over it.

    6. The closet is an awfully lonely place, so I’m glad your straight friends were there for you. I’m sorry that you didn’t know anyone in the community who could help you through a difficult time and I’m sorry that you felt intimidated by the voices of students who have already gone through these processes. If you ever need a ‘normal’ straight-acting but certainly not straight friend on campus, look around. We do exist. Sometimes, you have to ask for help if you need it.

    7. Fuck those haters who say you aren’t ‘queer’ enough. You ought to redirect some of your arrogance into an effort to claim ‘queer’ or whatever word you want for yourself. I hope that, at Swarthmore of all places, you can be authentic to yourself.

    8. Yes, Swarthmore can feel like the oppression Olympics, but it’s not if you don’t let it become that way. I’m not asking you to experience prejudice. I’m asking you to acknowledge your privileged existence which has thus far allowed you to operate under the radar without feeling discrimination. In short, I’m asking you to challenge the conditions that have perpetuated said discrimination against members of all communities.

    9. Not all ‘queer’ people hate straight people. In fact, I would say that most don’t. Your experience seems to have persuaded you otherwise. I recommend that you make better friends, ones who won’t judge you for being friends with your other friends.

    10. The ‘queer’ community is one part of every community, whether it is defined by race, class, nationality, religion, ability, size, shape, political orientation, professional affiliation, etc. Understanding how our communities fit together, interact within, and work with each other to make change is what is most important, not how our communities are divided.

    I know you want to feel normal. I know you want to assimilate. I know you don’t want anyone telling you that you can’t be normal. Just make sure that, in your pursuit of normalcy and validation this semester, you learn a little bit about you are losing.

    Sincerely,
    Fits of Rage

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  13. Fits of Rage

    September 17, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    about *what* you are losing.

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  14. Argos

    September 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    No but seriously. Queer as a sexual label ought to have gone out with modernism. What you do is totally not who you are, unless of course you want it to be. Anyway, you're attacking someone who's just expressing his identity in his own way, as if yours is any better.

    Seriously? That is so not nice. And it's part of what makes me hate SQU.

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  15. Fits of Rage

    September 17, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Dear Argos,

    1. Why should queer have gone out with modernism?

    2. Critique does not equal attack.

    3. I'm not a SQU member.

    - Fits of Rage

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  16. Petra

    September 17, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Um, before, we start accusing our columnist of cowardice for not revealing his name, we should remember that this is a *sex* column where he plans to be open about his sexy life and times on the internet. Queer or non-queer (choose a label, any label, no label), I think it's a good decision.

    Keep talking, Pink.

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  17. Argos

    September 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Maybe this is me as a biologist as opposed to a philosopher getting things mixed up, but I've been under the impression that one of the big things about modernism was its tendency to want to place things into black and white categories.

    Anyway, I've kind of ended up associating categorization of multiple kinds: gender, sexual orientation, Linnean taxonomy, with modernism.

    Now you could say that things, any sorts of things, exist on a continuum, which in fact they do. But the thing about continuity is that it doesn't discontinue.

    In other words, I think categories and labels are dumb. Everyone is a category unto themselves.

    Aside from that, I don't see how Narcissus is showing any kind of fear of commonality with self-IDing queers. He's just suggested that there isn't a whole lot of commonality there.

    And why would there be?

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  18. Ariel Horowitz

    September 17, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    @Argos – "In other words, I think categories and labels are dumb. Everyone is a category unto themselves."

    That would be great if everyone started out from an equal playing field and interacted with one another based only on characteristics unique to the individual. Unfortunately, we live in a world one's membership in number of socially constructed categories defines huge parts of one's experience and a world in which society is structured to promote certain categories of people and demote others. I'm not trying to say that that should necessarily have any bearing on how any given person thinks of him/her/hirself, but rather that simply declaring that every individual is unique doesn't make societal interactions between groups go away or become less important (or, indeed, useful from an activist point of view).

    Shorter: what you do is part of who you are because everyone else says it is and ignoring reality is a bad idea.

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  19. Argos

    September 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    What everyone else says does not equate with what is real.

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  20. Ariel Horowitz

    September 17, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    @Argos – That depends on what they're talking about. It doesn't equate with what is real, for example, in science or in math (ontology and epistemology notwithstanding). But it does equate with what is real about things that are made up by group consensus, like society and the way that society operates. This only matters because any society has huge effects on every single person who lives in it.

    As a note, I'm not trying to argue for or against the label "queer" or any other label for any behavior outside society's anointed favorite of monogamous heterosexuality (since I identify as straight, it's not my discussion to have). But the idea that we move around the world as pure individuals is a fiction, and a dangerous one at that.

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  21. SB

    September 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Katie: I fear you may have misunderstood my remarks. The point is that labels are by their very nature dehumanizing, because they abstract the qualities of a human being and simply elevate one quality until it is used to define and identify the person. Some labels are unavoidably common, but I strive to work towards a society in which all people are recognized holistically.
    Calling someone "queer" or "straight" or for that matter "male" or "female" or any other descriptor reduces, in some infinitesimal way, that person's status as a human being alongside every other human being who has ever lived. It's tiny, but it's there, and it grows and grows as people consider themselves part of a million small groups (many overlapping) instead of one big one. The idea of a "queer community" (or a "white community" "male community" "rich community," to use some adjectives traditionally associated with privilege) is that there is some group of people who are like each other in some way, and, in that same way, unlike anyone who is not in that community. Like it or not, it is an act of severing oneself from the community of human beings. It may be supportive and useful but it is toxic to species-wide social progress.

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  22. Peter '11

    September 17, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Fits,

    "You ought to redirect some of your arrogance into an effort to claim ‘queer’ or whatever word you want for yourself. I hope that, at Swarthmore of all places, you can be authentic to yourself."

    "Why do you so adamantly refuse to label your late-night clandestine sexcapades anything but ‘sex with men’? Have you ever considered the meaning of ‘internalized homophobia’ or ‘self-hatred’?"

    "your challenge of labels, dogmatic pursuit to stake out your place in the community, and desire to shape the conversation about LGBTQIAGNC … are absolutely, 100% QUEER. Get over it."

    When you put it in this order, you don't see the problem here?

    I will point out that, for practicalities sake, there are some benefits to simple labels. Katie's right about that. But there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with his sex with dudes label that he has chosen. It's completely clear in conversation what he's talking about, not giving anyone the wrong idea, etc. From a semantics point of view it's perfect sound and gets across everything he would want it to. He has simply not chosen your label because it's too bogged down in the identity politics BS that you're trying to force on him at this very moment. Get it?

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  23. A

    September 18, 2009 at 1:03 am

    SB: "I fear you may have misunderstood my remarks. The point is that labels are by their very nature dehumanizing, because they abstract the qualities of a human being and simply elevate one quality until it is used to define and identify the person. Some labels are unavoidably common, but I strive to work towards a society in which all people are recognized holistically."

    You're assuming that people don't identify with more than one label.

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  24. SK

    September 18, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Love.

    (Sidenote: In the years I've been here, the DG sex column authors have never published their names because of the explicit and personal nature of the content.)

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  25. alex

    September 18, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Why is it that these sorts of refreshing opinions only emerge when I'm abroad?

    also LOL @ allegra.

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  26. James Robinson

    September 18, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Folks, before you go on with this spirited discussion, please take a step back, breathe, and realize that this is probably the most thoughtful comment threads I've ever seen on the DG. For that alone, Mr. Pink, I thank you heartily. I've had similar feelings about SQU as you, and it's good to hear a rant about it. But seriously, much love to SQU and the other queer organizations on campus, I don't think anyone could rightly deny that they provide an invaluable service to the student body. And seriously Mr. Pink, on with the sex.

    Oh and argos, I prefer to identify as a homo Homo sapiens sapiens.

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  27. Fits of Rage

    September 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    To Petra: Maybe Pink Narcissus should write two columns. One can be his sex column that he authors using his pseudonym. The other can be his “I have issues with the Swarthmore community” column that he authors using his real name. If he is going to be publishing his thoughts each week about the Swarthmore ‘queer’ ‘community,’ he ought to take ownership of them and expect criticism. Failure to do so is cowardly.

    To Argos: Categorization and labeling make conversation possible. They also enable us to find commonalities. The tendency to compare oneself with another is part of human nature.

    To Argos and Author: “Do I really have more in common with a transguy, or a woman who sleeps with women, than I do with a so called “straight” guy?” Maybe you do … I’m suggesting that you might not be aware of the commonalities you have with the ‘queer’ ‘community.’

    To Author: “I’m a man. I bang men. All night long. But I’m not gay, and I’m sure as heck ain’t queer.” It sounds like you’ve had some bad experiences with the world labeling you, but aren’t you tired of this game yet? It’s alright if you are or aren’t. It’s also alright to admit to someone that you are somewhere on the spectrum. Gay and queer are not dirty words.

    To Ariel: I agree.

    To SB: I reject your claim that labels are dehumanizing. I’ve never found that to be the case. I’m also keenly interested in your desire to remove all labels and force everyone into an unlabelled category, in spite of the diversity of our experiences. I know that my understanding of these identity labels – the baggage, the privilege, the opinions, the politics, and the social movements – has greatly enriched my life and changed the way that I see the world. Your attempt to remove all labels and ignore the very real diversity of our experiences would thus dehumanize me. You may not realize it, but your attempt to trivialize the diversity of our experiences and homogenize our population is toxic in and of itself. Worst of all, your attempt to deny the reality of our shared experiences is a distraction from your broader agenda to force assimilation onto me. No thanks.

    To Peter: Whether or not he acknowledges it, he will be free-riding (see classic free-rider dilemma) on the progress that has been made by the queer movement every time he has sex with someone. The historical baggage can be ignored, but it does not go away. Consider for a moment the millennia-long sociopolitical struggle that has secured him the privilege to ‘free-ride’ all over campus. Ariel summed up his free-riding quite nicely, as “behavior outside society's anointed favorite of monogamous heterosexuality.” So before you go and call identity politics BS again, thus demonstrating your ignorance of a struggle that preceded your and my existence, think about the reality of life as a man who has sex with men … think about the bar raids that still go on today, the morality-based and class-based plays that are performed for the sake of ‘cleaning up our society.’ Think about the ways in which engaging in behavior considered outside of the norm, or having lower income, or a different skin color, or a disability actually impact our existences. Just … think. Use that Swarthmore education for some good.

    To James/Author: On with the sex, as long as it is consensual, etc.

    Note — I am using 'To' not '@' as I am not proposing that we talk at each other, but to each other.

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  28. Argos

    September 18, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Fits of Rage: If you want to put down a column that is evidently of value to non-heterosexual students on our campus who are dissatisfied with the queer community, shouldn't you post yr name as well?

    Someone does not want to use a certain word. Why is this such a problem with you? He didn't suggest you cannot call yourself queer, just that he doesn't want to.

    I think you're a little bit paranoid, kiddo.

    So, someone has been struggling for 1000 years to allow FlowerBoy to have buttsecks all over campus? What the hell are you talking about?

    Pop some quaaludes and chill, yo.

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  29. Adam '12

    September 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Dear Human,

    Could you clarify your position on labels? You wrote "I personally reject labels," but also identify yourself as "a man who loves having sex with men." MSM is a label. It may not have the same history of semantic struggle as "gay" or "queer," but it is indeed a label. Furthermore, while you say you do not "identify" as queer or gay, your actions certainly belie your words.

    Thank you for adding your unique voice to the diversity of opinions in queer communities. There is not one "community," and as your column shows, these communities are by no means monolithic.

    Wishing you all the best with your manly and dramatic sexcapades,

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  30. James

    September 19, 2009 at 12:04 am

    "I’m not quite advocating an end to “queer/gay/lesbian/whatever” communities or identities. I’m not downplaying the value of having a “safe space” to return to when things get rough. Not everyone has had the same experiences as I have. I know some people feel that they have been emotionally destroyed by the “straight” people in their lives and have relied on “queer communities” at Swarthmore and elsewhere for intense amounts of support.

    I’m just suggesting that there’s another way to go about experiencing sex and sexuality. A way that doesn’t involve the words “queer” or “straight,” that doesn’t involve a “queer community.” Believe it or not, the so called “straight community” and the so called “queer community” have much more in common than not. Sexual feelings and love play an important part in most people’s lives, no matter how they identify or don’t identify. This is why I personally reject sexual labels. Because I’m not “gay,” or “queer,” I’m human."

    I'd just like to bring attention to the above paragraphs, particularly the first sentence of the second paragraph. Narcissus is merely outlining his own view on sexuality as a result of his own personal (and he recognizes that they are his own, and not typical) experiences and defending his right to stake such a position, not making any larger statement about the legitimacy of the way others choose to label themselves.

    Also, @FoA answering to Petra, this article, if you read the concluding statements, is serving as an introduction into the column as a whole by explaining what to expect (sex) and what to not expect (queer sex) in the future. Thus it was completely germane, and not merely an exercise in cowardice.

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  31. Peter '11

    September 19, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Haha, maybe he rejects his name as yet another label. Ever thought about THAT? I've never really understood why people think there's something wrong with anonymity. Especially at such a small school, if you try hard enough, I'm sure you can figure out who he is anyway.

    "Whether or not he acknowledges it, he will be free-riding (see classic free-rider dilemma) on the progress that has been made by the queer movement every time he has sex with someone. The historical baggage can be ignored, but it does not go away."

    Yes, I will acknowledge that that's a fair point. But isn't that kind of nice that he's able to do that? Isn't that kind of the point of a movement like that, that a person could have that aspect of themselves NOT be an overriding aspect of who they are, and an impediment in their life? That they could have the liberty to participate in or opt out of the movement? That they, and not you, can decide whether to hold that baggage? And if it's not part of the point, don't you think it should be?

    And furthermore, I don't think campus queer communities do very much at all to affect the outside community anyway. Prove me wrong.

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  32. Argos

    September 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Agreed. I doubt SQU has done much to help Iran's queer Problems.

    I salute you, Peter.

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  33. A

    September 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    In no way has SQU, at least since i've been here, been politically charged. SQU is not political, it's social. Some people may come to it to try and figure out their individual politics, but SQU does not push for particular agendas. If you want activism, look at QSA or the LGBT Symposium. (Though, i'm not arguing that either does much outside of the immediate Swarthmore community either). If you're going to try and talk about the queer community, get it straight. (no pun intended)

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  34. A. Massi

    September 19, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    I'd like first just to agree with James: I'm glad that this dialogue is happening and that it's being conducted, almost, completely maturely and respectfully. Keep it up, Swatties!

    William & Adam: I think it's interesting that you two have commented, at least partly, on the same issue in different ways. Myself, reading this piece reminded me of how very diverse and, possibly, fragmentary the Swat queer community can be. I, like Adam, took the author's work as attempting to publicly highlight this fact {again, only in my opinion and experience, that the queer community here is not a coherent whole is often forgotten in public dialogue or even in SQU}. So, yeah, I'm totally behind the idea that the community is not some kind of one-tone stone block.

    On the other hand, I find it incredibly interesting that directly after William's comment, a MS wrote, "I love many members of the "queer community" as individuals, but I absolutely understand … " For MS, and many other folks with whom I've chatted, there is some kind of perception of a "queer community." The people whom I've talked to don't mean the WHOLE community but a subset of it {depending on whom I'm talking to, the subset changes}. So, William, it's entirely possible that the community "bash and demonize" still doesn't exist, even as a little pocket of people — but if people are perceiving one, I feel that the effect is the same.

    Fits of Rage: I understand you're upset with the content of this article, but your response seemed, to me, to exemplify some of the author's points of marginalization and isolation. Calling the author "a person too afraid to author anything that could be interpreted as non-heterosexual under [his] own name" is simply blatantly disrespectful and, as many people have pointed out, false; advising him to "[f]uck those haters who say [he isn't] ‘queer’ enough" after asking, "Why do you so adamantly refuse to label your late-night clandestine sexcapades anything but ‘sex with men’? Have you ever considered the meaning of ‘internalized homophobia’ or ‘self-hatred’?" seems a wee bit hypocritical. One of Pink's complaints was the idea of a mold: he felt that a queer person at Swarthmore must think certain things and act certain ways. Your questioning of his sexual identity seems to me that very vibe of "you aren't queer enough" or "you aren't queer in the right way" or, more fittingly, "you aren't queer, and you should be." I personally found this attitude very offensive, having experienced it from the other way: when I go home, my parents discard my identity in favor of the assumption of the dread "lesbian phase." You likewise seem to discard his own identity, or lack thereof, and fill the space with your own projections.

    Also, a correction to your one of your points {which, by the way, I find were fabulous jumping-off points for my own thoughts, so thank you!}: you mentioned a "millennia-long sociopolitical struggle" and his free-riding over it. I'm not sure if you were simply referring to a larger politics of oppressed groups {ie minority groups, in general}, but there has been no millennia-long struggle for queer rights. In fact, I'd probably argue that there have been very few historical struggles, fought by any minority group, of that length. The medical term and label "homosexual" was invented in 1892, as many of us know {holla, Professor Judson}. The concept of organizing sexuality around primary object choice {ie men, women, both or neither} began to form and dominate the discourse around this time as well. Freud sort of clinched it, I think. Even so, the struggle for gay rights proper might not have started until Stonewall — I'm sure there are history buffs who know more than I. At any rate, I'm willing to state, with a little authority, that "gay rights" or the "Struggle" was not yet an issue safely up to the Industrial Revolution. Pink seems to be tapping into a much older tradition of NOT finding it essential to his identity who he sleeps with so much as other things {although he might very well reject other labels, such as ethnicity and gender, that would have been important to, say, a late Empire Roman citizen}.

    As a very last note, Fits, I'm with Peter: if somebody would rather live their life "free-riding" {as you put it}, I hope the movement has gotten us to the place where someone can state, "I'm a man, I sleep with men; if I "settle down," it'll be with a man, but I'm not gay," without people googling their eyeballs at him. I'd like to see the movement get us to the point where people don't have to come out because, at that point, there would be no "Surprise!" element of a person being queer as opposed to straight.

    A: I'm tired and ill, so I may have missed it — I'm not sure where your comment came from, precisely. I do think it's important to point out that "gay," "lesbian" and "queer" are incredibly politically charged terms, and SQU is "Swarthmore Queer Union," thus containing one loaded word in its title and being composed of very many people who identify in these ways {although not exclusively, by any means}. By nature, it must be a little political.

    Perhaps you find that an unfair argument. To your claim, "SQU is not political, it's social," I would like to agree. The official description of SQU is a support network for the queer community of Swarthmore. On the other hand, I think reality plays out differently, at least some of the time. A prime example is Coming Out Week. As someone who has attended SQUboard this year, I'd note that the committee for COW {oh, man, bad acronym} was spawned out of the SQUboard Retreat. Do you not find Coming Out Week political? Moreover, I think SQU falls victim to the classic "small community" problem. If you have a community of a hundred cheese-lovers but only ten cheese-lovers make known their thoughts on cheese flavors and taxes {and they seem to mostly be in agreement}, the larger community of food-lovers will think that all cheese-lovers like smoked Gouda and want to lower the tariff. Fair or not, the political and the personal get blurred all over the place at Swarthmore, and SQU and the queer community are no exception. I think perception can make a reality {other people have pointed out that no matter how you reject labels, people will still understand you in categories; that reality affects you, however much you may hate it: I will always be a woman to strangers, for example}, and it's definitely a challenge for SQU, SQUboard and the people involved in these organizations to keep thinking about.

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  35. Argos

    September 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    To Adriana and Pink Narcissus:
    Both of you are extremely awesome. Thanks to the two of you.

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  36. TI

    September 20, 2009 at 1:33 am

    I feel like this discussion has strayed from Pink's argument about labels and has turned into a discussion about the "Queer Community," primarily SQU. As a member of SQU, I feel like we get a lot of criticism about how we don't appeal to certain individuals. Yes we try to get more people to attend, but it is difficult to appeal to everyone. It is especially difficult to appeal to people who do not even attend or have ever attended SQU. SQU can be molded to whatever each individual needs from it, but it requires people actively taking part in planning and shaping it. Maybe, Argos, you should attend a SQU Board meeting and suggest things (such as topic ideas, events, ways to make things inclusive) instead of just complaining from the periphery.

    -TI

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  37. Argos

    September 20, 2009 at 2:08 am

    I mean, I used to go to SQU board on occasion, and it's kind of everything I hate about SQU distilled into something even worse.

    Anyway, if I don't like the idea of a queer group, should I be trying to force a queer-group-for-people-who-hate-queer-groups agenda on you guys? I doubt you'd want that.

    It isn't that SQU doesn't appeal to certain queer individuals – it doesn't appeal to most queer individuals. If 20% of students here identify as queer, then we have what, 300 queer students? SQU feels more like a bitchy clique. And I don't think a bitchy clique and a support group go together all that well.

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  38. TI

    September 20, 2009 at 3:30 am

    In my four years here I have never seen you at SQU Board.

    If you have gone to a SQU Board meeting, have you taken the initiative to plan anything or do anything constructive.

    I don't know where you are getting these statistics from.

    You nor I can speak for what does and doesn't to most queer individuals on campus.

    I never see you involved in campus life period. All I see is that you complain endlessly on these DG articles.

    I know SQU doesn't work for everyone and I don't expect it to, but for those that it does help, your remarks and your use of the space for "LOLz" is disrespectful and devaluating.

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  39. TI

    September 20, 2009 at 3:31 am

    P.S. Leave Tyra out of this

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  40. DCJ

    September 20, 2009 at 11:27 am

    "In my four years here I have never seen you at SQU Board."

    Well that just settles it. Since YOU have never seen her, she can't possible have gone.

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  41. Argos

    September 20, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Yeah, I went my freshman year, fall semester, when it was held before Open Hours. Unless that was the Sager planning committee, but everyone present was queer.

    TI, do you monitor my activities enough to know that I'm not involved in campus life? That's kind of frightening.

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  42. A. Massi

    September 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

    TI, you might want to reread paragraphs six through nine of Pink's piece, if you think that his argument re: labels is devoid of discussion of the Swat queer community and/or SQU.

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  43. Peter '11

    September 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    A. Massi,

    BEST. COMPLETELY BIZARRE. ANALOGY. EVER.
    I prefer an English farmhouse cheddar myself.

    But I digress…

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  44. Love.

    September 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Y'all are too much.

    Dear Pink Narcissus, you've spoken honestly in your column and everyone must appreciate that. With time and maturity, we'll all understand the point that you've made here and not be so threatened by the differences among us that we have to polarize and label – whether straight or gay or sliding in between.

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  45. Argos

    September 20, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I should probably make my arguments with regards to labels and categories a bit clearer when I say they don't exist. What I mean is that…they aren't real, not that they aren't meaningful to people and do not affect our lives. Just want to be clear on that.

    I mean, most IRL oppression (i.e. scary stuff that exists outside of Swarthmore) I've encountered was based upon a stranger's arbitrary categorization of me. Sometimes they figure I'm gay, usually they figure I'm some sort of transperson; the latter case generally results in more "oh shit, I'm gonna end up dead in an alleyway" kind of thinking on my part. My own identity has no bearing on those situations, obviously, as what matters is someone's perception of me.

    Now, I can still say that I think labels are dumb because they tend to be discontinuous in nature, and discontinuous thinking is rarely valid. Clear-cut categories are not that great in general, at least I don't think they are.

    I guess the above is primarily directed at Ariel. I probably more or less agree with you but want to phrase things or think about things differently.

    TI:
    I think I've pissed you off more than I should have. I was trying to suggest that I respect SQU's role as a support group but think that, if it were a bit less cliquey, it would make a better support group. Or maybe we could have separate groups for socializing and support. Not that I want another schism.

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  46. Aidan

    September 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    TI: I have to giggle a bit with your role here, in context of the discussion on anonymity and all. If only because Argos did identify herself, you haven't, and yet you use allegedly identity-specific information to make what's mostly an ad hominem attack. OH, OK anonymous person, the DG commenting community is going to respect your apparent stalking of Argos.

    Admittedly, a reread of your comments doesn't suggest you're complaining about the Narcissus' anonymity, so you're not a hypocrite (yay?); it's still all a little headache-inducing, though.

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  47. Ariel Horowitz

    September 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    @Argos – Okay, sure, but you're trying to apply empirical logic in an inappropriate place. Clear-cut categories are great when you're thinking about the population level, and they often suck when you think about individuals, so I guess you could make the argument that their suckiness at the individual level means that they're dumb.

    That doesn't change the fact that when you say labels are dumb and shouldn't matter, that ignores the way that society actually operates, because in society labels are extremely important. When you say "they aren't real", that statement is only valid if you mean (for example) "they don't feel real to me" as opposed to "they have no antecedent in reality". It's fine if you want to make the argument that in the future, we should use labels less and de-emphasize their importance, but right now, that's not how things are, so making statements about how labels "aren't real" right now doesn't make sense — they are real, because they have real effects, even if they're not the effects that you think they should have.

    You seem to be criticizing the idea of identity categories because you find that they don't reflect the way that you or others conceive of yourselves. That's a valid criticism to make, but you should recognize that self-description isn't the purpose of such categories. The purpose is to differentiate what's "other" from what's "normal" — as such, the male is used as the gender-neutral, the word "heterosexual" was invented after the word "homosexual" (thanks, Prof. Judson), "white" is hardly seen as a race per se as opposed to the lack of a race even today, etc. Even though identity labels can be used to empower, their primary purpose is to oppress, so the fact that you're complaining that (to play off an old feminist phrase) the master's tools don't feel good in your hands seems a little odd to me.

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  48. Argos

    September 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I have every right to apply faulty logic to myself. I never said you have to as well.

    Other than that, I don't understand your argument. I AGREE with you. I think I have been to some extent agreeing with you but using a different phrasing.

    Stop telling me how I should argue. You're making me cry.

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  49. Argos

    September 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Also, I like to take my ad hominem attacks in person, so if TI or anyone else is genuinely annoyed, they should find me and chat.

    Also: devaluating isn't a word.

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  50. Peter '11

    September 20, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Actually, devaluating is a word, albeit devaluing is more common.

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  51. lalaland

    September 20, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Pink Narcissus, Thank you very much for this column. It articulates ****EXACTLY**** how I feel, especially since members of SQU have chastised me for, um, doing things that most interest me, instead of devoting my time to an organization whose mission is I'm-not-sure-what (to be fair, I've never attended a SQU meeting) for people who never even got to choose whether they wanted to be queer (or whatever label most pleases us) in the first place (I'm not a self hater, I'm a realist).

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  52. Chris Wickham

    September 20, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Can one of the (apparently) many people who so vitriolically hates SQU please articulate why? Although I'm not a regular SQU goer (I have commitments during SQU and QSA meetings), I've always thought that all of its members, particularly its leaders, are extremely friendly and accepting. I've never witnessed any 'pressure to identify' which seems to be smothering way more people on campus than I thought. SQU is primarily a group of queer people helping each other in the struggle to crystallize an identity, which, for many, because of its marginalization in society, is difficult to come to terms with. And, given how friendly the atmosphere and so many of the people are, I can't help but cringe at its characterization as a 'bitchy clique'. If you don't like it, don't go, and why the bitter hatred and resentment? Just chill out. Seriously. If it's not representing you, represent yourself. If you don't like some of the people in it, tell those people to go fuck themselves, but leave the group, which provides an awesome space for lots of people, whether or not they're integral to it's running, to gather and discuss whatever is on their mind regarding the identity (and a guy who fucks guys IS an identity, PN). And if you've NEVER BEEN (looking at you lalaland), give it a shot. It's nice, and sometimes there are interesting discussions.

    On a more related note, I'm looking forward to more about fucking guys PN, I'm a big fan. The more adventurous, graphic, mind-boggling, and thought-provoking the better.

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  53. Argos

    September 21, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I think the way this started was with people stating that they don't like labeling their sexual orientations. That made a lot of people happy and then a few people very unhappy. Oh no!

    I don't normally go to SQU. Occasionally I go out of boredom or to support a friend who is facilitating or whatever. Then I get there and remember why I don't normally like to go.

    Anyway, I think I've been pretty clear on my support for SQU as a support group, but also on my wishing that it was less cliquey. I think my characterizing the group in this way is one of those things that you either get or don't get. I'm not sure how to articulate in what exact way the group constitutes a clique.

    I mean, I'm cool with the queer rights movement in general, and I don't want my own personal discomfort with certain things to be taken as actual opposition or moralizing.

    I'm trying to use my I-Statements, but sometimes they don't work out the way I hope.

    Example:
    I think classical Nahuatl offers better gender-neutral pronouns than the English language and so should be more extensively assimilated into our lexicon.

    That was an opinion.

    Aztec human sacrifice is wrong.

    That was moralizing. Note the absence of the first person.

    Please do not take me overly seriously if I am using I-statements.

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  54. Peter '11

    September 21, 2009 at 2:14 am

    I, for one, think that "they" is a perfectly adequate gender (and obviously plural) neutral term and wish that the people in charge would just make it happen. Any fancy made-up words like zee just make you sound stupid. That was a "you" statement. It's like the opposite of an "I" statement. I don't care.

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  55. James Preimesberger

    September 21, 2009 at 2:39 am

    @Chris – "and a guy who fucks guys IS an identity, PN." I just feel like pointing out that a sentence like that in an otherwise harmless post renders the entire response frustrating. How can you tell somebody what is and what isn't an identity? That is the entire point of this article. Pink can decide whatever the hell he wants.

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  56. The Sepia Sodomist

    September 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Imagine my surprise upon receiving a text from a friend asking me if I had written an anonymous and contro. sex column for the Gazette. Pink Narcissus, apparently we think and write alike. And here I thought I was the deviant to end all deviants. Your article shows me you've got guts, an attractive quality sorely lacking in our student body.

    So I have a question for you:

    meet me for a drink?

    Yours,
    The Sepia Sodomist
    sepiasodomist@gmail.com

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  57. Peter '11

    September 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    lol, a lot of weird stuff happens on the gazette but I think this is the first time an anonymous columnist has been outright propositioned. I suppose there's no rule against that?

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  58. Jack Keefe

    September 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    No, Peter. No there is not.

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  59. Urooj Khan

    September 22, 2009 at 12:34 am

    And also not the first time. Though…possibly last time the columnist was propositioning the commenter.

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  60. A. Massi

    September 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I'd just like to raise that there is now a meeting being held on Tuesday, September 29th, at 10:00 PM in Kohlberg 201. The official blurb is here:

    "Interested in continuing the Pink Narcissus-inspired conversation from the Daily Gazette? Want to sit down and really get a chance to discuss identity and labeling at Swarthmore?

    Come to Kohlberg 201 this Tuesday, September 29th, at 10:00 PM to talk about “queer” as a label, how it's used on campus and SQU’s role as a group that defines "queer."

    The discussion will be about issues related to identifying or not identifying yourself on campus and queer culture. If SQU has taken on the role of creator of “the queer community” and if SQU's space is perceived as a certain set of values {political, social: whatever you like}, what are the implications for the broader range of students on campus?

    This meeting is OPEN to all Swarthmore students; It will be facilitated by Adriana Massi and Adam Chuong, class of 2012."

    PLEASE TELL EVERYONE! PLEASE COME! I have no dignity, and I don't mind groveling.

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  61. disappointed

    December 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Where did this column go? It started some significant discussions, but we never got another one. I wish we had.

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  62. P. Floyd

    December 10, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Me too! I hope all is well with you, Pink!

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