Gay Equality Will Require More Imagination, Less Talk of Buttsex

POLITICS OF DISGUST: looks at From Disgust to Humanity, in which Martha C. Nussbaum, a prominent Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Chicago, systematically destroys arguments against gay rights and explains how such policies succeed due to the “politics of disgust.” We’ve seen this a lot lately, from Mr. Tam’s random assertion during the prop 8 trial that gays are 12 times more likely than strais to molest children to New Hampshire state Rep. Nancy Elliott’s description at a judiciary committee hearing of gay marriage as a vehicle for excrement-related anal sex activities.

[Nussbaum] explains that much of the political rhetoric around denying equal rights to gay Americans is rooted in the language of disgust. Their activities are depicted as “vile and revolting,” threatening to “contaminate and defile” the rest of us. Looked at starkly, she argues, much of the anti-gay argument is bound up in feces and saliva, germs, contagion and blood.

Nussbaum suggests that moving forward on gay rights will require a re-orientation to “the politics of humanity”:

Nussbaum calls for “imagination” and “empathy,” for respect and the willingness to listen to new narratives. In effect, this is a moral call to walk in the other guy’s moccasins before we call him revolting. She observes that this “capacity for generous and flexible engagement with the sufferings and hopes of other people” was described by Adam Smith (of all people) back in the 18th century, even though it is derided as unmoored, mushy-headed, and even dangerous today. In Nussbaum’s formulation, imagination and empathy are essential to overcoming the childish biases that allow us to use our legal machinery to turn others into subhumans.

This reminded me of something I was reading last night — I’ve been plowing through this Seal Studies book series on Feminism and I just finished a section on the role of “Loving” (yeah, LOVE, like the kind you feel for ice cream and your BFFE) in breaking down barriers between women of color and white women within the feminist movement. See chicklets, back in the day during first and second wave feminism, women of color & lesbians of all races felt shafted by the dominant feminist white heterosexual paradigm ’cause um, the pain of being a Stepford Wife was not exactly near-and-dear/relevant. Though progress has been made since then, it’s still a problem.

So how do we fix this? LOVE OBVS! Empathy! We begin with LOVING EACH OTHER ’cause the root of all evil is being judgey and seeking to affirm/deny stereotypes when meeting people rather than being a Good Loving Woman with an Open  Mind and a Blank Slate and “seeing everyone, absolutely everyone,” as philosopher Maria Lugones suggests, as “potential allies, potential colleagues, potential friends.

Mariana Ortega‘s advice is similarly relevant — “white feminists must reconsider what gaining knowledge about other women means.  Traveling to someone’s world should include ‘learning her language, living in her environment, and trying to understand issues from her perspective (as hard as this may be) and imagining what it means to be in their world.'”

And w/r/t gay people, as long as that world is dominated by derogatory words related to forced buttsex, no one is going to want to travel to it. Although really, there is nothing wrong with buttsex. It just makes people feel weird I guess.

I feel this is a good reminder of why it’s super duper critical in our fight for equality to be as out as possible, whenever and wherever possible, and especially to those who are close to us. People are a hell of a lot more likely to be supportive, non-assholes if they know a Real Live Gay Person! Also, they already view you as a whole person, so there won’t be such a focus on your buttsex / scissoring. See?:

Among poll respondents with a gay friend or family member, 81 percent are now in favor of allowing them to serve [in the military].

This is what the WORLD OF LOVING looks like FYI:

Bringing it back to Nussbaum’s case for how to change gay rights:

…we must replace one set of fantasies—about homosexuals as aggressive outsiders who seek to defile us—with the reality that they are just like us, people with aspirations and dreams and desires.

There you go.

Also, I think Willy Wonka made some good points on this issue:

Andddd in related news, Gay Asians in Yorkshire say racism is alive and well within their gay community: “Gay people always say they’re more sensitive to other peoples’ needs, so it’s ironic that I get more racism from gay men than any other community.” Nice, way to go guys! (@bbc)

March 8th was International Women’s Day, a day globally devoted to “celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.” The day was indeed celebrated, from Gaza to Tunisia, Paris to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Check out a great gallery from images all over the world.  (@jezebel)

Feministing also has some ruminations on the day and reflects on Yoko Ono’s “Woman Power.” (@feministing)

Corey Haim died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of 38. Salon has a video look back on his life and troubled adulthood. (@salon)

Watching The Little Mermaid while trans: “I identified with her instantly. Her problems made so much sense. Her whole world was wrong – she knew where she belonged, but no one could understand. And she didn’t care, she went for it anyway, became the person she knew she should be in the world where she knew she belonged.” (@feministing)

Florida’s Rep. Stephen Precourt is attempting to pass a bill that would prevent films or TV productions with homosexual content from receiving the tax breaks that are normally provided for others shooting in the sunshine state. “The bill would prohibit productions with ‘nontraditional family values’ from receiving a so-called family-friendly tax credit. But it doesn’t define what ‘nontraditional family values’ are, something the bill’s sponsor had a hard time doing, too.” (@palmbeachpost)

Last night was a triumphant hour of television on Comedy Central. Here, Colbert spars with the maker of “The Story of Stuff,” which made us feel very affirmed about our decision to jump off the cycle and pursue our dreams!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Annie Leonard
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Skate Expectations

Also last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart argued with Marc Thiessen. Jon Stewart obviously won, and then Marc spent the two minutes at the end of the interview whining about how Jon steamrolled him, when he could’ve been talking nonstop. YOU MUST WATCH. The full unedited video can be seen here (@huffpo, @salon)

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3227 articles for us.


  1. I go to U of C, and I’d like everyone to know that Martha Nussbaum is FYYYNE. Silver Fox all the wayyyy.

    • really! omg, that makes me lover her even more than I already did after reading that article. Which is a lot.

  2. everytime i try and comment on the serious and thoughtful parts of this post all that comes into my brain is

  3. I don’t know why the same men that cry “Gay sex is disgusting!” are some of the same men who would give their right arm if their gf let them do her that way. Double standard to the max.

    My friend wanted to make homemade invitations for a party and send them out to friends for Nat’l Women’s Day. Ahhhh, gender roles.

    (I do love crafts, though)

    “Ive got gadgets and gizmos a’plenty
    Ive got whos-its and whats-its galore
    You want thingamabobs, ive got 20…”

    finish it off,ladies!

    • I know that drives me crazy! LISTEN UP LESBIANS, 95% of dudes would like to stick it in their girlfriend’s butt! It’s true! But somehow when men do it to each other, it’s disgusting? Gawd, world. Wtf.

      • I got into a similar fight. I watch Spartacus blood and sand and there was a gay couple. And a lot of men had there tits in a twist because it showed them having sex. And I said sex is sex. This person laughed at me and told me that I was wrong. I was like honey homosexuals do the same type of actions that heterosexuals do. They haven’t invent anything new there are no special body parts. And if its gross on one account then it is gross on all accounts.
        One a good note there were quite a few heterosexual men who were like if you can;t watch them for 3 minutes without complaining then you other unrealized issues.

    • OMG yes. leah, yes. i just have … so much i’d like to say about this but feel i shouldn’t.

      just, yes. buttsex. straight dudes. buttsex.

      • “just, yes. buttsex. straight dudes. buttsex.”

        Um, I think I just found my new motto. :P

    • totally agree re: straight buttsex, and also i think that a big part of that disgust/double standard comes from a place of sexism. i think, at the very least in most straight porn, anal sex is depicted as this degrading form of domination, like a big part of the appeal is the power and debasement involved, and naturally in a misogynist culture this debasement should be the exclusive province of women. a man being anally penetrated is taking on the woman’s basest role, which is disgusting.

      not that all anal sex is bad and debases women or that women don’t/can’t like it; i just think that homophobia and sexism are often in bed together. (having buttsex probably)

    • There is something about being a straight working class white male that makes me feel i have a kick me sign on my back.

      • ziggy, i bet you’re not the kind of jerk who begs for buttsex from his gf and later squirms and makes rude comments about gay buttsex, right? i bet you’re really nice about buttsex!

        i don’t want to kick you, ftr. i enjoy you! also, i’m more of a puncher.

        • I was commenting more on kinda heritary and collective responsability for the fell deeds of today and yesteryear. Kinda adam and cain thing. Not that i felt attacked because i needed to plead with women to satisfy my carnal desires.

          • no! not ‘good’ like, ‘i agree and i’m glad you feel bad about _____, ‘good’ like, ‘i’m glad you don’t feel attacked.’

            but obvs BAD that you feel bad about anything! ohhhhh ziggy. you know i can’t write sentences that make sense.

            anyway, buttsex!

    • Word. I always suspect that this disgust is less than genuine or that people work hard to maintain it, but I may be projecting how I felt in my teens.
      In other news, Martha Nussbaum <3

  4. um, i knowwww that we’re all over publicly mourning celebrities and everything, but: Corey Haim, i am so sad. LUCAS, you guys. LUCAS THE LOCUST. MAGPIE.

    i think the reason i get so sad when celebrities die is b/c i never got to tell them that i <3ed them. is that stupid? don’t answer that.


    i’d like to have a cup of tea and a real conversation with this Annie Leonard b/c i think there’d be a lot of ‘mmmhm’ and ‘yes i totally agree.’
    and, “All of this stuff has a life before us and a life after us,” reminded me of, “All you own you owe to someone that you don’t know,” from a song by the one and only merrill garbus whom i don’t personally know but feel that i probably should.

  5. I love “The Story of Stuff”! I saw it for the first time two years in an Anthropology course.

    From Disgust to Humanity sounds great! I’ll add it to my list of reads.

  6. Every year my brother remembers to come and give me a hug and say happy international womens day and I’m always like, “international what?”. He would make a better woman than me, probably.

    I hadn’t heard of “The Story of Stuff” before but now I really want to watch it! It sounds like it will encourage my decision to pursue a career in poverty. I really like what she says about the person who mines the metal etc. b/c I always feel weird for thinking about my ipod that way.

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