The Many Fish: an informal and incomplete survey of today’s landscape of sexuality; or Gay Men Have It the Hardest

The other day I realized how lucky I am to be a heterosexual female in a world mired by sexual misconception and stigma. For me there really are many fish in the sea; there are a lot of hetero men in the world I could date. On top of that, generally men approach me. You can reduce my man-pool greatly when you take compatibility and attraction into consideration. But that’s not the point.

The point is, some people get stuck at step one – finding someone to date.

Heterosexual women: Convention dictates that in most cases straight men approach straight women, ask them out, pay for dates, and generally “take care” of women in myriad ways. Exceptions abound, but generally only when women choose to ask their crushes out, pay for half of the dates, or offer to help shovel the guys’ cars out of the snow. It’s not a perfect dating world for us, far from it. But ladies, let’s admit – we have it pretty good.

Heterosexual men: With his many “subway girlfriends” and 10 second dream encounters, the onus is on a hetero man to push through the fear of rejection and embarrassment to proposition women. And when that ordeal is over, if he’s successful, if she isn’t spoken for, if she’s attracted to him, then he spends his hard earned money taking her out. Often she expects to be taken to ritzy restaurants and pampered to high hell. Again – many exceptions to this!! But we’re on a tangent. While straight men have it harder than straight women (no pun intended!), for reasons of biology or social norm or whatever, they still have it alright. There are a decent number of women to choose from and many men get dates.

Homosexual women: Since hetero is the norm, it must be tough for any gay person to know another person’s sexuality. We don’t walk around with tattoos on our foreheads reading, “Straight, but open to experimentation!” Lesbians sometimes fall for straight women, and I imagine it sucks. In terms of the dating pool, lesbian women don’t have it easy – it’s confusing. But they have it slightly easier than gay men. There may be very few strictly lesbian (non-Bi) women, but that may actually be because of how the female brain is structured. (I’m not writing a proper book here, so forgive me if I don’t have many references. But here’s one …) In this 2005 article by Meredith L. Chivers, Chivers says that women are aroused by sexual stimuli that may or may not correspond perfectly with their stated sexual preferences (i.e. a straight woman can be turned on by lesbian porn) whereas men are generally aroused only by stimuli that correspond with their stated sexual preferences (i.e. straight men cannot be turned on by gay porn). Many people believe that this means women are on more of a sexual gradient, and men are on a toggle switch. There may be many more bisexual women than strictly straight or lesbian women. And men are much more likely to just be one or the other. This, and social pressures, makes scoping out the sexuality landscape much more complicated, because (obviously) what people state about their sexuality is not necessarily what they feel or are.

But the point is, lesbian women can date bisexual women, and there are probably a lot of bisexual women out there. So, the dating pool isn’t as limited as it might seem at first blush.

Homosexual men: I could be completely off-kilter, but all things considered I would guess that homosexual men have it the hardest, with the possible exception of transgender people. Gay men are often loud and proud – they have a right to be and they know it. With the smallest dating pool and the most social stigma, it’s hard out here for a gay man. I read on some forum once that women can get away with going out in pairs (on a date or just as friends) without attracting inordinate amounts of attention, while men usually can’t do the same. Two men laughing, being physically close, smiling at each other a lot … they’re considered “obviously” gay. People think this unhelpful social arrangement could contribute to keeping gay men closeted. Whatever the root causes, gay men have less potential daters to choose from and are more easily “outed” in public. So if you have a gay guy friend, help a brother out! Be sympathetic, try to connect him with people you know who are available and might be interested. Go out with him and be his wing-person. Don’t tell him to, “put himself out there.” Even if that’s just what he needs to do, saying that isn’t going to help him. And if that’s not the issue, you come off looking like a totally unsupportive and unthinking doofus of a friend.

I’m going to stop there. I don’t mean to leave anyone out. Of course, there are also bisexual men and women and transgender men and women, whom I talked a bit about. But there is a LOT to cover with those groups, and I couldn’t do the topic justice given the time and information I have right now.

I know people who, even in this day and age, are amazingly bigoted about the LGBTQ community. My advice to them (not that anyone asked, nor that it will be helpful and change someone’s mind): If you believe in something bigger than yourself, the vastness of the universe or God or love, then trust that you are one part of this mysterious, multifaceted existence and you do not know what or how anyone (other than yourself) is “supposed” to be. Sure it sounds trite, but we really shouldn’t live in fear and hate. Be yourself and have a heart.

Yours,

Aruna

Song: Something Beautiful by Alexi Murdoch

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