Archive for the ‘Sexuality’ Category

I just posted on my facebook about being amused that I’ve pretty much become the stereotypical man-hating, lesbian feminist who wears combat boots.

And I was thinking more about this, and how I wear combat boots all the time these days- but but often with dresses and such. So being femme even though I wear combat boots I don’t look like the stereotype of a lesbian.

Which then got me thinking about being fat, which is often a stereotypical lesbian trait. The awesome Lea Delaria had some asshole comment on her twitter I think it was about how she was a walking stereotype being a fat, butch lesbian.

But I’m fat and femme. And these often feel like contradicting points to me. Even though they are not at all. But if you were to say “fat lesbian” I think most people would be more likely to picture someone who looks like Lea Delaria than Mary Lambert.

Speaking of which, how adorable are they! *swoon*

On the other hand I follow a lesbian page on facebook that primarily talks about femme visibility. It’s cool, but I notice a lot of the time there is stuff I just can’t relate to, because “femme” ends up being used to mean “conventionally attractive”, but the two are not necessarily the same thing. I’m femme. I’m attractive in my own way, but I’m not conventionally attractive. And the biggest part of that is because I’m fat.

#fatfemmeproblems

I’m just going to leave this there because I’ve been drinking and I’m not sure how to nicely conclude my rambling thoughts on this.

So apparently there was a study which found that among the lesbians sampled 75% were overweight or obese.

I first heard of this when I saw this article on my facebook feed about what is wrong with the statistic. The woman who wrote that article mainly takes issue with the fact that the sample size for lesbians was 87 compared to a sample size of 5,460 straight women.

I read this awhile back, and it made me uncomfortable, but I often like to stop and sit on those kinds of thoughts and feelings for awhile so I give myself time to think through why. But my thought at the time and my thought now remains- so what if it is true?

Putting aside whether the statistic is good or accurate, I’m more concerned with why we care one way or the other.

The author of this article is concerned that this statistic will be accepted as fact, will morph into countless memes and jokes used to mock lesbians and “delegitimize our sexuality”.

But it seems to me- as a fat lesbian- that the underlying issue to that is that it’s considered mock worthy to be a fat lesbian.

Ferndale Pride with Extra Lesbian Sticker

Fat Lesbian! … Fat extra lesbian? … or Extra Fat Lesbian?

Side note: I took 3 selfies at ferndale pride with 3 stickers- extra queer, extra gay, and extra lesbian (all 3 being terms I identify with), and of course it’s the extra lesbian one, which was most relevant to this post, that I like the least. Oh well. 

And why should this statistic “delegitimize our sexuality”? Being fat does not make my sexual orientation any less legitimate.

The author of the article explains further: “the publicity around this ’75 percent of lesbians are fat’ statistic on social media is at present exacerbating the stereotype that ‘lesbians are just a bunch of ugly, lazy, misguided women with low self-esteem who can’t get a husband because they’re fat and don’t wear make-up, and therefore they’re terrible people and don’t deserve to be taken seriously!'”

And here is where I get deeply uncomfortable with this. Because my sexual orientation is not a response to low self-esteem nor an inability to get a husband. Being fat doesn’t mean I have low self-esteem and it sure as fuck does not mean I can’t get a man. I get hit on by men with some frequency. Whether or not those are men I’d actually date even if I was dating men is another issue. But if I were really desperate for a man, I could get one. But I’m not. 1. I’m single and not desperate for a relationship period. I have no interest in being with someone just for the sake of not being single and proving to society that I found someone who found me attractive. 2. More on point here, I don’t want to date men. I am attracted to women. My attraction to women is not a back up, substitute for men. And my weight does not make that any less so.

The stereotype that “lesbians are just a bunch of ugly, lazy, misguided women with low self-esteem who can’t get a husband because they’re fat and don’t wear make-up” is a problematic one. It’s a problematic one for fat lesbians too. It’s still problematic even if 75% of lesbians are overweight or obese. Because fat lesbians are not lesbians because we are too fat to get a man. Being fat and a lesbian does not make this stereotype true. Just like lesbian women who don’t wear makeup don’t make this stereotype true. If 75% of lesbian don’t wear makeup this stereotype would still be a heaping pile of bullshit.

So given that fat lesbians are still not lesbians due to an inability to get a man, given many men find fat women attractive, and that the reasons fat women are lesbians are pretty much the same as the reasons thin women are lesbians- what would it matter if 75% of lesbians are fat?

And I leave you with: Extra Fat Lesbian in Rainbow Fishnets

And I leave you with: Extra Fat Lesbian in Rainbow Fishnets

So I was looking for new blogs to read related to what I blog about here- which is difficult at times. Search FA and get anti-FA too, search based on fitness interests, get blogs all about dieting and weight loss.

So I saw this anti-FA blog post that compares being fat to being a slut. For reals.

And I find myself thinking “well, I’m both of those, so… was I supposed to be offended by that?”

And yeah, I’ll call myself a slut. For pretty similar reasons to calling myself fat. I mean, I call myself fat because I am. But as a word that is hurled as an insult, it’s also about reclaiming it. About saying I’m fat, and I don’t see anything insulting about that fact about me.

Slut is a word a lot of people define very differently. Though… when I think about it, not to much different than fat. For the most part, it seems society typically deems any woman who dares enjoy sex a slut. Though, that’s not totally true- wear something too revealing, seem too vain, or flirt more than people think you should and you are also a slut, even if you’ve never had sex. So I take that back, I think slut seems to be a word we use for women who dare to not be deeply ashamed of their sexuality.

It’s also a word used to tear other women down. Some folks will tell me that I’m wrong, that slut really only refers to women who slept with 20, 30, 40+ people or some other thing. Just like other people will tell me that I’m not fat because if you workout you aren’t fat (even if you are), or if you are under 250, 300, 400+, you’re not really fat, or whatever other arbitrary definition someone comes up with.

But in both cases, the reality is that’s not how society defines those things, and in both cases they just shouldn’t be insults. Being a slut means being a woman who is arbitrary defined as being too ok with her sexuality just the same as fat is arbitrarily defined as having too much mass.

And neither of these are things that should bear any shame or stigma, in my opinion. Whether one gets called a slut just because they wear short skirts, or if it’s because she really did sleep with 40+ people, and whether one gets labelled fat at just slightly over the “normal” bmi range or at 400+ lbs, why should these be things to be ashamed of? Who cares? Why on earth would having too much sex or carrying too much reduce our worth as people? Well, they don’t!

And so, as a person whose mass is arbitrary defined by society as too much I will call myself fat, and I will feel no shame in doing so. And as a woman who is comfortable with my sexuality, I will all myself a slut, and I will feel no shame in doing so.

huh, so maybe being fat is sort of like being a slut? Still not ashamed of either.

Ok, if it’s not clear from the title, this post is about sex. If that make you uncomfortable *cough*family I shared this blog with*cough* just skip this post.

 

Ok, so with that out of the way, most of this is taken from a comment Ieft on another blog, but figured I’l make it a post here (sorry to anyone who already read this in that comment.)

I really hate the whole stereotype that women who have casual sex don’t have any self-respect. In fact, th way people talk about women having sex is generally pretty godawful. I wish I had some brain bleach to erase all the times I’ve heard men talk about “sloppy seconds” when they have sex with a woman that had sex with another man they know first. Here’s a radical idea- women are not objects! We don’t lose our value as people, or even sexual partners, by having sex (while on that topic, quick anatomy lesson- the vagina is composed of muscle. It is not a sock that gets worn away with frequent use. A quick google search brought up this article on the topic and I like the analogy the author uses of stretching the sides of your mouth open. So sick of hearing how women who have too much sex are less valuable partners because of being “loose”. Also annoyed with how people normalize the idea that virgin women are so tight that pain is inevitable- tightness in virgins is going to due largely to not being relax. And expecting pain just increases nerves the first time.)

Back to the self-respect thing though, we always feel the need as a society to tie up women’s worth with how little sex we have. And so, we reason, if sex devalues a woman, then for her to have lots of sex or any kind of casual sex, she obviously doesn’t respect herself.

Bullshit.

I like casual sex. And I respect myself plenty, thank you very much. In fact, I found that being able to enjoy casual sex came out of developing a strong sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and respect.

I respect myself enough to not place my value as a human being on how low the number of people I’ve had sex with is. I respect myself enough that if I want to have casual sex with someone who is only after sex with me, because I’m only after sex with them, I’m going to do it. I respect myself enough to know that I like sex, sex is fun, and I like casual sex. I respect myself enough to do something I like regardless of sexism. I respect myself enough to not let sexist notions about women’s worth dictate my life and happiness.

While this stereotype of casual sex being caused by lack of self respect applies to all women, it seems to be applied even more strongly to fat women. Because fat women are stereotyped as being desperate. The stereotype says that fat women are so used to be seen as undesirable that we become completely desperate for any and all attention, and so we will sleep with anyone just for the attention.

So much wrong with that. First off, there are plenty of folks who find fat women attractive, trust me- as a fat woman, being told we are attractive is not an unheard of thing. I’ve also had the awful experience too of men telling me I was attractive and then getting confused that I didn’t fall all over them. Seriously. I’ve had this happen numerous times where men seem to expect that if they pay me a simple compliment, I will fall all over them because I’ve been waiting my whole life for a man to tell me I’m beautiful. So no, not going to fall all over you for saying that. It’s nice and flattering to be told your beautiful, and don’t get me wrong, I like compliments, and I will thank you. But, don’t be surprised that it’s not the first time I’ve heard that. Don’t act surprised that I didn’t immediately drop to my knees and start sucking your dick because you complimented me. And while I’m sure it’s true there are some folks out there who will have casual sex they don’t want to be having just to feel like they are getting some positive attention (and that is bad because sex is something you should be having because you want to have sex), that is not the only reason to have casual sex. Some of us just like sex.

And being fat does not mean that me liking casual sex is because I don’t have confidence (actually I find that casual sex requires a fair deal of confidence), that I don’t respect myself, or that I think I’m undeserving of real love and real relationships. Of course I’m deserving of real love and commitment. Casual sex is not how I go about finding love. It’s how I go about having sex because sex is fun, when I meet someone and we mutually want to have sex with each other but also mutually are not interested in anything else with each other. Finding someone you fall in love with and who falls in love with you is awesome, and it’s also fairly rare. And in the meantime while I’m waiting on finding that special someone, I’m going to meet other not-as-special someone’s who I don’t want a relationship with, and who don’t want one with me, but we have some mutual attraction and mutual interest in sex, and so I will have sex with those people. Because sex is fun.

Spilt Milk has an amazing blog post on queer mothering in a straight world, very worth a read. As I was reading through the blog post I found myself crying. And I wasn’t really sure why; this shouldn’t, to me, evoke such a strong emotional response.

But when I think about it, it should be totally reasonable for this to be an emotional topic for me. Reading that post I started crying thinking about what my future children might experience. Ideally my future involves meeting a woman who I will fall in love with and want to start a family with, and if that happens then my future children will have two mommies. Reading that also made me wonder and worry if my future kids in this scenario will be taught that that they have only one real mother, and what if I’m relegated to the role of unreal?

I notice this as a theme with queer issues and myself. I often find myself surprised by how emotional I feel about them, but more than the surprise at it I find that I often feel like I’m not “allowed” to have these feelings.

Coming out was one example. I was afraid of coming out- every time I have. Because I’ve never been 100% sure how people would react, if people would see me differently. And yet, I felt I wasn’t really allowed to be afraid of it. I’m very lucky to have friends and family who are supportive, and I knew they were ok with lgbtq people before coming out. The first people I came out to were close friends. And while I knew those friends had other friends who were queer and were allies, I couldn’t help but wonder if me being queer would change things between us. Would they feel differently about common friendly touches, or expressions now? If I tell a girl friend that I love her, as I’ve done many times, will she start to think I mean something other than friendship with that?

I had similar fears coming out to family. Yes, they’ve always been supportive of queer friends and family. But I also know that how we feel about things can be different in theory, or when it’s distanced from us, than how we feel when we are forced to confront it up close and personal. And sometimes we do not react according to our ideals when things hit close to home. I also know that things can look different when you are on the outside rather than inside- the degree of acceptance can seem different from an outsider perspective than an inside one. Actually the above blog post has an example of this- from the outside, to a straight parent the school may seem very accepting of queer parents and different families by including Tango Makes Three, whereas from the perspective of the author as a queer parent who met with the school and saw them reject 3 other books that represent queer parents the level of acceptance would seem a bit lower. There are a lot of aspects of prejudice and discrimination that we don’t see unless we are on the receiving end.

Even though queer issues are deeply personal ones to me, and ones that it’s reasonable for people to feel emotional about, I still often feel that I personally am not entitled to feel that way. That I am appropriating these feelings. That because I have been lucky to have people in my life who are supportive and because I have certain levels of passing privilege I’m appropriating these feelings that belong to people who really have to struggle with these things- people who have to face friends and family who are homophobic, people who are currently in same-sex relationships (compared to me being single and able to pass with no relationship that would out me), and queer parents who actually have to deal with those struggles (compared to me whose relationship to queer parenting is all based on a hypothetical future right now).

And the rational part of me knows this makes no sense, that as a queer person being emotional about queer issues is not appropriating anything. And yet I still found myself surprised when these issues have such an emotional impact one me.

I’ve come across this idea many times that women who attracted to women should in some way or another follow the same “rules” or norms as straight men. I mean, afterall, we are both attracted to women, so shouldn’t matters related to that be the same?

Except, not really. Just because I’m also attracted to women doesn’t make me the same as a straight man, and trying to explain why is a little hard because it feels obvious- I’m not straight and I’m not a man. Obviously the two experiences will be different.

One example I’m reminded of is something that has come up a few times with some straight men friends of mine. I have a few small pinup images in my living room. I love old fashion pinups! Seems sort of natural to me to put some up in my home. Some straight men friends find this weird. And maybe it is. I don’t know, I’m often weird!

But I find their reasoning weird. The reasoning given is usually “even men don’t hang up pictures of naked women on their walls!” (Straight being implied there.) And all I can think is ‘… ok. I’m not a man.’ Well, that and the fact that most pinup images are not of naked women and the ones I have that are naked are not full frontal or anything.

This is an example of one I have where the woman is naked:

The way they say it though you’d think it was hardcore porn or something.

Now I’m not trying to imply that it’s normal for queer women to decorate their homes with pinup art. I’m just saying, I find it really weird the implication in these statements that as a queer woman I should be behaving like a straight man. As if it makes any kind of sense to tell me that men don’t do X in order to imply I should not do X, when I am not a man.

This is just one example, but I’ve come across this idea before. This idea that queer women are just like straight men or should behave just like straight men because we are all attracted to women.

But it just doesn’t work that way. And seems to be an extension of the idea of straight men as the default. Straight men are the default and so it’s the default way of acting if you are attracted to women, so anyone who attracted to women should act like straight men.

It reminds me too of something I read, though I can’t remember where, that made a comparison about how a club or event requiring kink wear might turn away a straight man in a business suit, but a lesbian in one could be considered “kinky” to get in. Because a straight man in a business suit is normal, whereas a woman in one is breaking gender norms.

It all kind of comes back to basics, as a queer woman, I am neither straight, nor a man.  And that means something! It means something to my experiences. My experiences with sexuality and relationships are not those of a straight person, they are of a queer person in a heteronormative society. Similarly, I’m not a man and my experiences in the world are not going to be those of a man, but of a woman in a sexist society.

And sometimes, the ways those things differentiate my experiences from those of straight men are obvious. I’ve spent a lot of time around straight men who talk in very degrading terms about women they’ve had sex with, want to have sex with, and don’t want to have sex with. I feel no comradery in this talk just because I also sleep with women. Because I’m a woman. That means I am subject to and always at risk of being subject to this type of degrading commentary. Because as a woman, sexism hurts me in a way it does not hurt straight men.

I’m also reminded of something I saw just today- starting with Jenny Trout’s awesome piece on wearing a bikini which then lead me to her blog post about her feelings and responses to that piece, all of which is awesome in many ways, but on topic here I am reminded of her pointing out a man who responded to the piece simply with “no thanks”. Not uncommon. Because straight men are taught to view women’s value based on whether or not they want to fuck us. It doesn’t really matter if we would want to fuck them, they are still taught in our society that it matters if they don’t deem us fuckable. Society does not teach queer women that our attraction is so almighty as to determine other people’s worth. In fact, queer attractions are usually not considered or represented at all. Further as a woman, queer or straight, I’m still subjected to the other side of men thinking my worth is based on their assessment of my sexual attractiveness.

So while straight men and queer women are both attracted to women, the experiences are vastly different.

Now, how exactly that translates over to my love for pinups, I’m not sure. I just know that it doesn’t make any sense to assume that the norms of straight men apply to me as a queer woman.

 

This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, though I’ve been struggling with how to phrase this.

Often these days when I am working out, trying to build muscle, and being thrilled when I see more muscle on me, I also feel a liberation in that in being queer.

This comes mainly from not giving a fuck if men find me attractive. Because as women, there is a pretty strong message that being muscular is not attractive. Not to mention that muscular gets conflated with looking like a man. Most weight lifting advice aimed at women that I’ve seen spends a good deal of time dealing with the issue of bulking and how women are physiologically incapable of building bulky muscle like that. Which isn’t actually true, relying on a very narrow view of sex and gender and failing to recognize that many folks fall out of the “norm” for their sex/gender in various ways- some they may not even be aware of. Including the fact that hormone levels, which most of this “women can’t get bulky” stuff relies on, vary vastly among cis gendered women, and you don’t even really know where you fall in the normative spectrum with that unless you’ve had those tested which most folks haven’t.

But I’m getting a little off track, my point is, even when advocating weight lifting, there is still this common fear for women of getting too bulky. Because building muscle and being strong does cause one to veer off traditional gender norms a bit for women. And we are often told that men find muscles on women gross and/or intimidating. Men are supposed to be stronger and protect women, and women fail if we are stronger and don’t make them feel needed- How I Met Your Mother addresses this once with Robin when Ted comments on how it’s nice to feel needed and Robin never made him feel that way because she could take care of things herself.

Now obviously these are generalities and stereotypes, and plenty of men do find women with muscle, who are strong and capable very attractive, it’s just not really the dominate message in our culture. So there is a sense of relief that I don’t have to think about or worry about that.

Because being queer, there is a lot more acceptance of breaking gender norms. Because queer sexualities are already viewed as somewhat gender deviant. And it seems much more normal among queer women than straight women to break other gender norms and social roles- androgynous looks are well accepted typically with many queer women choosing to wear men’s clothing.

For me, I’m pretty much on the femme side of things, yet still I feel that I can go a bit more masculine in small ways and still potentially be attractive to other women rather than feeling I have to be totally girly. In fact, with a slight issue of femme invisibility butching my look up a little I feel like I’m probably more inclined to be read as gay/queer and more likely then to attract attention from other queer women.

And I think building muscle goes into this.

Which is odd in a way because there is no guarantee of such things. When I was dating my ex I was not working out due to health issues and whenever I mentioned missing it and wanting to be well enough to work out, she would say things discouraging it. I didn’t need to workout. She worked out, and also wore almost exclusively men’s clothing, but she clearly was attracted to me being more girly and being “softer”- not hard and muscled.  So it’s very clear to me that queer women can find muscles a turn off just as much add straight men.

Which leave me just finding it very hard to explain why I feel this way. Because there is a contradiction there, yet I still feel like I have more freedom, in a way, to break gender norms as a queer woman than I did when I identified as straight, or even bi, when I still thought about being attractive to men.

So I’m going to go a little off topic from the fitness and body image stuff here. I saw this post “I have to come out as a lesbian everyday, and it’s exhausting” and wanted to share that as well as some of my own thoughts.

The constant coming out is one thing I think most straight folks just don’t get. As the author of that piece says, we think about and talk about coming out as one big event that happens and is done. And we tend to think that queer people are either in the closet, or out. It’s all or nothing. Of course it’s not that simple.

Even the big reveals aren’t always. I first came out to my friends as bi in early college. But between then and a little over a year ago I was not out to my family. Around the time I came out to my family I then “came out” to some friends as a lesbian.

Changing identities can make this all the more complicated! I currently prefer “queer” as an ID, though lesbian or gay are ok with me. My primary attraction is toward women but it’s not impossible that I could be attracted to a man.  Quantified I’d say I’m probably 90-95% gay.

I’ve had similar experiences to the author. Being femme (I like the term “hard femme” and feel it’s fairly accurate for me) I don’t typically set off people’s gaydar. Even within lgbtq spaces I’m used to being assumed to be a straight ally. I’ve also had friends I’ve had to come out to multiple times because it just never seemed to stick that i’m queer. “Well you’re straight…” NO! Not only have I told you, many times now, that I’m not- you hung out with me and my ex-girlfriend when we were together numerous times, how do you still think I’m straight!?!

And there is the constant coming out in daily life… and again not fitting neatly into one of the lgb boxes can make that more complicated though. I think of when I’ve met new people and they started talking about karaoke, I start to talk about how I used to go out to karaoke a lot when I was with my ex and I realize that in order to finish what I’m saying I have to either use the correct feminine pronouns and out myself to people I don’t know well enough yet to know how they will react (and while the vast majority of folks will not react to that violently, I still have to worry about the minority of folks who would, because I don’t know if someone I just met is in that minority) or I  just outright lie by using masculine pronouns, or I try to really awkwardly reword what I’m saying to avoid any pronoun usage, or names, or labels like “girlfriend”/”boyfriend”.

And while I’d say I’m semi-out at work (there are some people who know, most folks it’s never come up with), at every new job it becomes a question of if I should out myself there, and the risks if I do (particularly when employers can openly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation if they choose under current law).

The closeted/out dichotomy isn’t really a dichotomy at all because many queer folks are simultaneously both just in different situations. For some folks that means only being “out” to a small number of people, while for others it may mean being out but not wanting to bother correcting an assumption on the part of a stranger, and for many something else in between there.

But “coming out” isn’t so much one big event as it is a process that never really ends.