Picture source: Aljazeera America
I’ll start off by proposing this question, have we in the gay male community allowed for heterosexual abnormalities to become our normalized behaviors? Now this may be an unpopular opinion coming from a man, let alone a gay man, but it is one I feel that is necessary to be discussed. Society in the past has labeled gay men as promiscuous, which makes me question if a lot of gay men displaying certain behaviors are perpetuating the roles of the stereotypes. What I’m talking about is the concept of someone labeling you as one thing and your actions directly reflecting the same belief, which in turn causes internal conflict and misunderstanding oneself and directly effecting the lack of awareness of ones own abnormal behaviors.
From my perception of things, sexual assault in the gay community has become a form of normalized communication. I have witnessed gay men allow for other men to feel on their bodies in passing without even the utterance of a word. Then that same man that just got his butt rubbed on or testicles grabbed, will run to his friends in excitement or turn and share a look of flirtation with the man that just walked up to him and subjected him to unwarranted touch. Why is that a thing in our community? We often hear that representation matters, but a lot of us grew up and were molded to fit heteronormative ideologies due to lack of representation of the gay male role. I wonder if we as gay men are portraying ideas we have somehow misleadingly developed to believe are normal. You know, seeing a heterosexual man touch a woman in a movie, or in person, and the woman reinforcing his behavior with flirtation and presenting him with her number. I too have to wonder is it the fact that we are men and men are rarely educated on what sexual assault may look like from the male perspective. What I can’t wrap my head around is the psychology to why a lot of gay men get off on someone inappropriately touching them.
I too, in the past, have allowed men to grab on me and welcomed it as if it were okay. From my own experiences, I’ve had guys try to force me into bathrooms. I’ve been groped on and had men stick their hands in my underwear. I’ve also had male coworkers inappropriately touch me while on the job. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been out in gay spaces and have had men touch and feel on me without my permission. To me it seemed so normal and easy to brush off and just keep moving. Looking back on it now, I become frustrated with myself, wondering how I ever allowed for someone to do that to me. Why did I just sit there and allow some random man to grab my butt or rub my thighs? Why did I stand around and allow someone in my presence have a man touch on them inappropriately and not say something in response to it. I was raised by a mother that drilled in me the concept of “no means no.” I was taught all the right things, but in my mind I associated that phrase to only reflect sexual objectification of women. Has society as a whole conditioned us to believe that adult men are immune to sexual assault? Is it that daunting concept lingering in our brains reinforced by shame that men should be able to protect themselves, or is it that we as gay men feel like we have to remove the mask of dominance and replace it with submissiveness to be seen? I wonder if these concepts have negatively contributed to gay men not being able to recognize when they are in fact being sexually assaulted and have the ability to say “no.”
I recently engaged in a conversation about this topic, questioning if this is something that happens on the women’s side of gay culture, or is it only the men? We see all the time the subject of sexual assault being highlighted in the heterosexual world but often not addressed or even thought of in gay culture. Is it because we’re all men that we feel this is acceptable and normal? Are the guys out there that inappropriately touch other men blindly following ideas that this behavior is acceptable due to them overcompensating for their own insecurities and struggling with toxic masculinity? Do they feel touching on someone is a display of dominance in attempt to suppress ideas of them not being “manly” enough. There are so many questions this topic brings up for me that I just don’t have the answers to. Though I am only one man and can only speak from my experiences and the experiences of those close to me, I do think it is time to start generating conversations about this topic and working towards creating safer spaces for us all and increasing knowledge of what sexual assault looks like from the male perspective. Now, I do understand that some gay men don’t mind being groped on, but that only raises my concern more of the normalization of sexual assault in our community. We wouldn’t want for someone to touch on our female relatives and friends like that, so why do we allow for it to happen so often to ourselves and other men around us? I believe there is a lot to be explored with this subject. It will take open minds to begin to unpack the repeated sexually ingrained practices that have somehow become normalized, that we often allow ourselves to be subjected to.