Sunday, September 12, 2004
Psst. Women like to watch.
Specifically, they like to watch "Queer as Folk." Even more specifically, they like to watch the men in "Queer as Folk." At least 50 percent of the show's U.S. audience is female, according to Showtime. This makes sense to me. It perplexes others. In a recent FabMagazine.com article, critic Romy Shiller dissects the identity politics of straight chicks and gay guys. Why, her headline juicily ponders, is "Queer as Folk" a turn-on for women?
It isn't news -- at least in the circles I travel in -- that men aren't the only ones who enjoy the visual aspects of the mating game. What intrigues Shiller is the gender-bending identification that leads straight women to bond with the love lives of overtly gay male characters (some of whom are played by straight men, which adds yet another layer to the conundrum). She concedes that "hot male bodies in action are a big part of the draw," but maintains there's more to this "female gaze" than meets the eye. "Juggling the object-of-desire's ambiguous sexuality is part of the straight fan's own gender performance," she writes. "The object she desires says something about her own sexual play and sexual orientation."
The topic of a straight woman "queering" herself -- or "Othering" herself -- by exhibiting desire outside mainstream gender codes is worth exploring, and Shiller's exegesis is a good one. At the same time, I wonder why it fascinates us so. Maybe I'm playing Pollyanna here, but why should female voyeurs who enjoy watching gay men demand more examination than men who like watching lesbians? Is it any less a horny spectator sport? All kinks have their back stories, but not all back stories are worth exploring.
That said, I will make one observation: Whatever its other attractions, boy-on-boy (or girl-on-girl) romance lets straight women tourist in relationships largely free of the sexism that infiltrates hetero-based sitcoms. Yeah, these guys will play dominant/submissive or butch/femme or adopt stereotypical male/female roles. But the dynamic is different when participants share a sexual and cultural history.
So it goes for the U.S. version of "Queer as Folk" (which I will always think of as "Queer as F -- "). On a lighter note, there's this: beautiful men, hot sex, romantic entanglements, pedestrian scripts. What's not to like? As "QaF" fan Morgaine Swann writes on The-Goddess.com, " 'Queer as Folk' may be about gay characters, but those characters are played by some of the most beautiful actors and actresses, both gay and straight, that you've ever seen." "QaF," she concludes, is "full-frontal 'Friends' with better-looking, more talented actors." There you have it. Sex needn't always be heavy or profound.
Which returns me to my quandary. Why is it so easy for society to wink at a straight man's taste for sapphic action, yet find the notion of a woman following her boiz down the yellow brick road bizarre? Pourquoi, s'il vous plait?
I'll let a female member of TiltedForumProject.org have the last word. In a recent "QaF" debate that found men wrinkling their noses at gay-boy- watching girls, she snarked: "I LOVE how straight men can't even handle the idea of gay sex, whereas all straight women are supposed to embrace the idea that lesbian sex (usually in the context of letting some guy watch) is hot hot hot."
Bend those gender codes, sister woman. Bend 'em like Beckham.
Michael, you're the boy with all the leather hips
Sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky lips.
Ah, Franz Ferdinand nailed it. The Athens Olympics were a cornucopia of delights for girls who like watching boys, particularly boys in Lycra swimsuits. Like Michael Phelps. Like Ian Thorpe, the day he "thorpedoed" Phelps in the 200-meter freestyle. Like that manly embrace between Thorpe and Pieter van den Hoogenband. Good times. Now the Olympics are gone, but the cult lives on. Wax nostalgic on the Olympic Lycra thread at Famous Males Forum (www.fmforums.co.uk).
Weekly World News item of the week: In an article titled "How to Tell If Your Prostitute is an Extraterrestrial," our favorite tabloid (online at www.weeklyworldnews.com) warns would-be johns to be wary of "out-of-date lingo." Why? Because: "Alien prostitutes try to fit in by using streetwalker slang -- but often use outdated terms. A hooker who sees a police car and whispers, 'Cheese it, the fuzz!' likely hails from deep space." Ph34r!
Voters. Young voters. Young voters having sex. Such is the focus of the participatory pledge over at Votergasm.org. It's simple, really. To qualify as a Citizen, you must pledge to withhold sex from nonvoters for a week after the election. To qualify as a Patriot, you must do the same and also pledge to have sex with a voter the night of the election. To attain the exalted title of American Hero, you must not only have sex with a voter but swear off sex with nonvoters for four ... more ... years. This is American ingenuity at its best. Go to Votergasm.org and pledge yourself. Michael Phelps would want you to. The cast of "QaF" would want you to. I would want you to. Dooo iiitt!!!