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In Praise Of Gay Sluts

The ‘downfall’ of gay culture isn’t because of Grindr and the ‘thirsty’ bros who use it…
Gay culture has changed drastically over the past few decades. Long gone are the days of covert cruising in parks and public bathrooms for a little action, a little joy. First came the cultural acceptance that allowed for gay bars to establish themselves and thrive—publicly. And now, thanks to social media, dating and ‘hook-up’ apps, gay bars are no longer the only place gay men can meet each other. Some even argue that these apps are the end of gay bars and gay villages. They long for the ‘golden age’ of gay bars filled with men only (and lambast the infiltration of ‘straights’ into their spaces). They blame the shift on technology. Sure, I get it. Log on to your Instagram these days and you may wonder if you’re also on Grindr. There are lots of shirtless hunks baring it all—‘thirsty’ men, I think they like to call them. Apparently this is the downfall of gay culture. But I would argue the exact opposite.
The ‘downfall’ of gay culture and gay villages isn’t the fault of the advancement of technology and the ‘thirsty’ men who use it. Rather, our fight for equality in terms of human rights and gay marriage (rightly or wrongly) has contributed to the space we are in today. A space where gay bars are closing and those who aren’t playing by the newly codified rules are labeled as outcasts or sluts or thirsty. You see, when you want acceptance into the mainstream, you have to give up something. If you want a place at the table, you need to put away your short shorts and put on that hetero-normative suit. Fighting for gay marriage and social acceptance did not change the concept of marriage—in fact, it simply forced gay men to fit into the narrow boxes already codified in law. But that doesn’t mean the fight was wrong. LGBTQ2 people should be given the same human rights as everyone else. I get it. We all want to be accepted for who we are. But what are we giving up?
There’s such a need to be accepted into a hetero-normative society that we’re adopting many of the same attitudes around sexuality and sex. We are becoming a gay culture that self-polices itself more than ever. We label them as ‘good gays’ and ‘bad gays’ or sluts. Research on power relations highlights that through disciplinary mechanism of power, everyone is pushed towards particular, normative modes of being. In relation to sexuality, the norm towards which everyone is pushed is that of heterosexuality—or rather, hetero-normativity.
We judge those in our community for their out-of-wedlock ings and uncommitted sex—it’s bad and, by association, unfulfilling. I hear it all the time: why get married if you have an open relationship? I counter, why does it matter to you what they do? How they redefine marriage? It shouldn’t. But it does, because too many people think it makes ‘us’ look bad. We aren’t fitting into the boxes we agreed to check off—single or married…
My point is that we, as a community, have spent so much time (and energy) doing all that we can to show the rest of society that we are just like them—that we are them. Moreover, that we all have the same values. And we do, mostly. We wanted to have the same rights and privileges as everyone else. We wanted to be able to make the same life choices as the rest of ‘them.’ And when we made those choices, we wanted to be able to do so without fear for our values. Or our lives. We did manage to find some sort of mainstream acceptance. We had television shows with gay lead characters—and everyone watched. From Will & Grace to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, we were finally being represented. Well, gay tropes were being represented. Did you ever notice that the actual act of sex was never even suggested on Will & Grace? Sure, we saw Grace in bed all the time with a man, but not Will. And Queer Eye was based on the concept of having a gay best friend to fix your ‘looks.’ And people ate it up. No one has a problem with the gay aesthetic—perfect hair, perfect house, and fashion-forward clothes. Oh ya, they love it when we help them pick out the perfect china, but let’s not talk sex.
Along with more acceptance came a push to distance ourselves from our history. Our shared history of flaunting sexualities, of seedy bars, of cruising and cottaging. We turned our back on our history of ‘sluts,’ a constructed history that was never truly who we are. Or ever have been, for that matter. And neither have they. The very notion of the slut is a social construct. And we have now adapted this history of sluts that is systematically dividing us because we do not show the true representation of ourselves in all its facets.
Sexuality and sexual identity is one of the key parts of us— what makes us who we are (and I mean everyone). And yet we spend so much time shaming others for expressing theirs. And in some ways it makes sense. We have always been illustrated in very poor lighting for flaunting our ‘deviant’ sexuality. So why talk about it? Why go back there? I would argue that now that we have a stronger platform to stand on, we cannot conform to their dominant morality. It shames and ignores so many in our community.
So next time you are commenting with friends on how ‘thirsty’ someone is on their Instagram or how ‘slutty’ someone is for sleeping around too frequently for your tastes, remember that you are doing exactly what hetero-normative culture wants you to do. You are self-policing members of your own community to fit within the mainstream. To make us palatable for everyone else’s taste. The very notion of slut shaming comes from a puritanical/religious understandings of the body as inherent sin. Shaming the slut is exactly how we have kept ‘gays’ (and women) in check. Further, it ensures that someone cannot control their own sexuality or their own bodies. History has taught us that truth is very subjective. So let’s choose our ‘truth.’ Choose to be authentic—to use our bodies and our sexuality however we want, while refusing to accept anything but equality. Don’t fall into their traps, for we have never been sluts.

CHRISTIAN DARE is a freelance writer who spends his time between Toronto and New Orleans. He writes for numerous publications and is known for his writings on pop culture, lifestyle and design. He occasionally appears on daytime TV when not hunting for a great pair of shoes or design piece.

  • damian March 20, 2018

    I wish slut shaming existed during the 1980’s – there would have been fewer guys that died from AIDS. As long as people know that increased sex partners brings more risks, then go for it.

  • Geo June 20, 2018

    Sure it is fine to enjoy sex, but that is different than thoughtless sex. For many thousands of years sexual urges were designed by nature to get us to procreate. Might it be possible that nature’s demands, rather than “heterosexual normativity,” has a important guiding principle to emulate? There is always worth in considering a guideline that there can be too much of a “good” thing.

  • Wade October 2, 2018

    The downfall of Gay culture is because Gay men are becoming ever more toxically standoffish and don’t seem to want Gay men as friends and they are also exclusionary towards each other (i.e., they body shame). With “friends” like these, who needs enemies? I am 41 and I have literally never been on a date because of these specific issues; and, what friends I have cannot understand it because they tell me I’m gorgeous! Gay men don’t even seem to want friends by the way they they keep other Gay men in their lives at a standoffish arm’s length! I believe this may be the result of internalized homophobia.


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