OTI Online
Spring 1996

Orgasm Politics
a gay male view

"Something Has Gone Terribly Wrong with Gay Male Liberation"

One might have hoped, given the amount of political effort expended by feminist women on behalf of gay men, before and after the onslaught of AIDS, that the gay male community might join in and participate in the feminist struggle for sex equality. Unfortunately, quite the opposite has occurred. Many gay men have severed ties with early and present feminist commitments to social justice and have instead embraced an ideology far removed.

Something has gone terribly wrong with gay male liberation: The gay male community is obsessed with physical and psychological hypermasculinity. The message conveyed by gay male pornography, now readily defended by gay male activists and academics alike as liberating and progressive, pervades all aspects of gay male culture. With titles like Fuck Me Like a Bitch, I Was a Substitute Vagina, Beat Me Till I Come, Muscle Beach, Slaves to the SS, and Stud Daddy, gay male pornography promotes a model of behavior concerned with self-gratification and the right to dominate and control.

What proponents of gay porn are really advocating is that we participate in a rather bizarre form of mutuality based on reciprocal abuse. We are expected to find strength in and be empowered by a model of "equality" that "liberates" by stressing that while I might be expected to assume the status of a weak, submissive, subservient "bottom" at the hands of a descriptively more masculine "top," any resulting disempowerment is rendered nonharmful because I also have the option of becoming that top if I so desire. Frankly, I desire neither. I neither want to control or be controlled. I neither want to dehumanize or be dehumanized. I neither want to overpower or be overpowered. What I want is real equality.

What is needed is a definition of gay male sexuality and identity that is radically subversive -- one in which erotic empowerment is linked to companionship, trust, and partnership. What is needed is an identity that rejects assimilation, masculine mimicry, and the notion that power over someone is sexy -- one that instead finds strength in compassion, self-respect, and respect for others.

-- Christopher Kendall

Excerpted from "Gay Male Pornography/Gay Male Community: Power Without Consent, Mimicry Without Subversion," copyright © 1995 by Christopher Kendall, to be published in an anthology about men and power edited by Joseph Kuypers forthcoming from Fernwood Publishing Co. (Halifax, Nova Scotia).

See also:

A Lesbian View

How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women's Movement

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