Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
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.