Why Do Gay Men Keep Touching My Boobs

 

Ali

aliYes, my brother dresses me. He works at a company that sells jeans and insists I don’t know how to dress my body. Yes, he brings up how I should shave my body hair at the dinner table. When I told him that if body hair was so gross then he should shave his, my dad cracked up laughing. I don’t know how much of this is gay men’s misogyny and how much it’s that siblings are constitutionally obligated to give each other a hard time using whatever they can scrounge up. And besides, this isn’t how most gay men in my life treat me. So I don’t want to focus on that experience.

Instead, I want to talk about M. I changed his name because I haven’t asked him if I could write this, and since he’s always respected my body and work I will respect his.

M. was one of my roommates in college. We lived in a house of seven. Half of us were gay, and he wasn’t the only gay man that lived with me. But we were very close. Still are. One night, he was high and I was stone cold sober. When I had been sick with the swine flu, I had written a poem in my journal about how everyone has a different colour aura (because I was a big hippie and also hopped up on cold medicine) and I made him read it. This night, weeks later, he asked what color I thought his aura was.

“I can’t tell you that. But I’d say probably a deep shade of magenta.”

“Magenta,” he said the word good and slow. It sounded like he was tasting it.

We decided that his aura was probably magenta. The poem had already established that mine was “midnight blue and full of stars” (I’m a shitty poet.)

“Hey Ali?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we swap pieces of aura please?”

(I want to remind you that I am stone cold sober.)

I got really excited about it, because then we’d be connected forever if a bit of his aura were in mine, and my aura were in his. “Sure!” I said, and I grabbed his hand.

We both closed our eyes and independently envisioned siphoning a piece of our aura into each other’s bodies. I am still convinced I have a piece of his magenta aura in my blue one. I am almost positive he thinks about this night also, and my little piece of blue in him.

M. has given me voice lessons. I have given him acting lessons. We have gone to parties together. He has been the receptical for information about my gynocological appointments. We got obsessed with Hair (the musical) at the same time. We decided together that he has a figurative vagina just so he could participate in the Vagina Monologues question, “if your vagina could wear clothes, what would it wear?” He has given me solicited advice about girlfriends. He held me together when my heart was broken. He visited me when I lived in Paris. I drove him to the hospital when he got penumonia. And not once has he grabbed my boobs, given me fashion ultimiatums or disrespected by body in any way.

Actually, the only person in my life who has is my brother. And I’m pretty sure that’s just because brothers do that. My brother could be the butchest straight man in the world (and he is very much not any of those things) and still find SOMETHING to torture me about. But M. and the other gay men in my life? We’re just people with auras of varrying shades ready to swap bits of our spiritual selves in return for unconditional love and friendship.


 

Kate

kateIt was only a few weeks ago that my gay male friend and I had an argument about privilege, and it was just as exhausting and frustrating as every other time I try to have this conversation. In fact, it feels like I keep having the same talk over and over again, with each reiteration bringing an increase in eyerolls and missed points. He believed that because he was gay, he automatically did not have male privilege, or much privilege at all, despite being a cis white male. In his version of oppression, his gayness erased the other categories that allow him to navigate the world much more comfortably than most. I think this is a ridiculous idea, he does not. Thus our argument began.

I hate playing the Oppression Olympics, and I’m frustrated by the fact that speaking to cis dudes often leaves me in a position where I have to call out shit. It’s exhausting to blatantly avoid bringing up certain topics with cis dudes because I know I’m going to find something problematic in the conversation, and while I have mellowed out a bit in my quarter-life crisis, I’m too concerned with making the world a not-sucky place for people like me that I can’t let poorly thought-out mentions fly. I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that I am a man-hating lesbian (except the patriarchy can suck my giant dildo, for realsies) and that gay men and gay women get along like cats and dogs (which apparently is really badly, despite the fact that my dog loves cats). I don’t want to play into the idea that I bristle at the dudes, but sometimes the mansplaining and the ignorance of privilege is just too fucking much, am I right? The notion that one’s sexuality alone can erase all privileges is the same as me saying that my being a giant flaming queer totally erases my whiteness. Nope, that’s not how these things work, and mercy me, believing that kind of bologna is what makes the world way suckier for people who DO experience actual oppression. I tried to stay calm while talking about this, and at first I think we appreciated each other’s input, but it got dicey when we started talking about the gaze.

The gaze, specifically the “male gaze” that you and every other art history professor has screamed about for hours on end, is an incredibly complicated thing. My friend talked about how he experienced the male gaze when other men checked him out, and that meant he was a subjected party. And he said that my checking out women means I am participating in the male gaze. Okay, fair game. I wrestle with this idea constantly, and it’s something that a lot of other people have wrestled with via academic papers and roundtables and a bunch of theory students getting drunk together. Is there a queer gaze? I genuinely think so. I think I am capable of certain privileges as a result of desiring women, but I’m also denied a hefty serving of privilege as a result of those same desires. And the fact of the matter is that my body is still a woman’s body, even if it’s not always a woman’s body, and the history of the world versus the bodies of women means all kinds of things for privilege.

“I think I am capable of certain privileges as a result of desiring women, but I’m also denied a hefty serving of privilege as a result of those same desires.”

I want to have productive conversations about this, I really do. I have more awesome conversations with my gay friends than I do shitty conversations that make me want to print out social justice texts and tack them to their fridges. I think that the queer community has an incredible potential for dialogues that are productive, that induce incredible and necessary change, and I want to pursue that in all my interactions. But sometimes it’s all I can do not to post a reality show gif and tag it as #basicbitches #stopnow.


Lizz

lizz-rubinWhile nothing in Akili’s article strikes me as surprising, I can’t remember ever experiencing outrage towards any of my gay male friends (or strangers) for touching my body. After thinking about it, though, I realized this isn’t because it hasn’t occurred  it’s just because it doesn’t phase me anymore. People– straight, gay, men, women– have been groping me my entire life. You see, I have for most of my life carried around enormous breast. 32F post-breast reduction breasts, and unfortunately our culture has decided that big breasts are public property to be poked, lifted, pushed together or flattened down. In fact, straight women are often the worst perpetrators. I can’t tell you how many times another woman has double handed me while telling me I had nice breast. Once, a sales clerk physically showed me, unsolicited, the right way to put my breasts into a bra. So I may not get upset if a friend, regardless of their gender/sexuality gropes me a little. For better or worse I’m fairly desensitized to being touched and I just don’t get that mad anymore.

Though I recognize that my personal boundaries (or lack thereof) don’t reflect the feelings of most women, I can heavily relate to the kind of objectification that kind of groping represents. I think because I’m queer, men often believe that I hold the same beliefs about women that they do. Sometimes this is okay. I’m happy to participate in a joking round of Girls Are Crazy with my close friends. However, I often can’t believe the shit men will say to me about women’s bodies. And yes, as the “official experts on women’s bodies” gay men are sometimes the worst perpetrators.  I once watched, jaw dropped, as one gay male med student asked another gay male med student, “Does the OB clinic just smell like fish all the time?” The other responded, “I’ve probably had three positive fish whiffs.” Though neither of them were touching me, I felt like my body was being personally and intimately violated.


 

Hansen

hansenUntil I read this article, I don’t think I ever realized how much this affects me and upsets me. I think the first time I took notice of the way gay men treat women’s bodies was in high school when the one openly gay boy credit-carded me. Maybe this is only a thing that happened in my high school or it’s called something else in other places, but it’s when you slide your hand between someone’s legs from behind — a surprise feel-up, if you will. I was really upset about it happening to me, and when I told our mutual friends about it, everyone rolled their eyes, saying, “But he’s gay.” I don’t care. Your lack of sexual interest in me doesn’t permit you to touch me inappropriately. But still, I couldn’t even look this guy in the eye and tell him not to do it anymore, because I was afraid of being judged as a homophobe. Oh, the irony.

Since then, I’ve had a few other experiences like this, including a gay hair stylist telling me a short haircut would make me look like “a fat butch, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?” Uhhh, really? I’ve just never thought that other people were uncomfortable with this form of male privilege, because somehow the “gay” cancels out the harassment. This is what our society teaches us. This is why my friends says things like, “I wish I had a gay friend. No, not like you. Like a gay male friend. Like a Stanford.” We need gay males to tell us what to wear or who to date, because they’re safe and we revolve around this false notion that a gay man knows more than us. This is an interesting conversation — what happens when they are no longer “safe” and can be held accountable for their actions? I also like that this conversation was started by an awesome pro-feminist queer man, and I am interested to see where his project goes from here. Maybe that’s the best route for changing these false notions.


 

Now it’s your turn.

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Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," 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. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2697 articles for us.

135 Comments

  1. I love this so much! I was just talking to a friend of mine about my poor posture during singing lessons and I walk with my shoulders rolled forward and I slouch because I want to draw attention away from my chest because they’ve been grabbed numerous times in jest by gay men and now I am just constantly ashamed of them. Once I wore the wrong bra and a gay friend of a a gay friend said “Oh I like when they look natural” and grabbed one. I guess hearing it happens to other people is reassuring, but it is also kind of sad. I think our gay brothers have an opportunity to encourage and build self esteem, I just sort of feel like male privilege isn’t limited to straight men and they do what they want and we put up with it.

  2. I was just talking about this boob touching with one of my friends a few nights ago. None of my friends have ever done this, but I’ve had the experience of meeting a gay guy one night who’s a friend of somebody else and who inexplicably thinks that it’s fun or okay to touch my boobs or make vagina jokes. And I’ve swatted the hand away and it has come back, and I’m like “why are you touching my boobs? I choose who touches them and it’s not you”. They normally don’t see the big deal so I’ve asked them how they’d feel if random girls they have just met went and tried to grab his penis for no reason more than their own amusement. ‘Cause every time it happened to me, the guys seemed mostly amused and like they expected me to laugh along with them. When I reject their touching or took offense when they insist they get surprised, which I really don’t understand.

    My closest friends’ circle consists of mostly gay/bi males, and they’ve always been a very good, non-judgmental support system. They’ve never criticized my personal appearance, If anything, they hype me and the other females in our group up quite a lot, and we do the same. They have always respected me and for that I’m grateful.

  3. I have had some wonderful gay male friends. However, I cannot think of a time where I was not critiqued or manhandled by them. Every one of them. I have rather large breasts that a friend of mine gropes on almost every occasion we are together. I have put my foot down but his repeated lack of respect has made our visits much more rare.

    I also once was working at a bistro where the best server there was a sassy gay man. He found out I was a lesbian (I was also the hostess, so I had to direct the waiters a lot) and got so terribly mean. He commented that I was frumpy and old looking (I was 22) and once threw a fork at me across the floor because he “was trying to get the dykes attention” Once he called me over to the waiters station all nice and such, telling me he got me something because he knew I was missing my long distance girlfriend. When I got close he pulled the towel away to reveal a freshly severed fish head, which he then threw at me.

    I am surprised at this article, because I could never truly articulate my thoughts on this, but every instance where a man, regardless of sexuality has put a hand on me uninvited I have felt complete violation, and it makes me feel just so sad.

    -R

  4. Ahhh, I love this.

    As someone who is tactically skittish and thus hyper-aware of people touching me (see: bumping elbows on public transit, touching fingertips when holding a door open for someone), I have noticed they way that gay men enter my personal bubble uninvited. My hair is usually the primary target.

    While I do have a lot of gay friends who do not cross boundaries, I’ve noticed that their perceptions of me change as my gender presentation waxes and wanes. I typically receive far more compliments from gay men when I am embodying traditional femininity, and the precise opposite when I wear menswear. I’ve yet to figure out if those little deviations make them feel threatened, and if so, in what ways? What exactly is at stake; what do they stand to lose? What exactly is being internalized here? From day one, people born with a Y chromosome are told to “man up.” Sure, a lot of this has to do with men being taught that this sort of intrusion is acceptable, but I feel like so much of it has to do with repressed desires.

    • “I typically receive far more compliments from gay men when I am embodying traditional femininity, and the precise opposite when I wear menswear”

      I can relate to this. I am genuinely baffled at where it comes from. Why do men who aren’t embodying traditional (hetero)masculinity expect that I embody a stereotype of femininity?

  5. Gay men normally do not like me. I’ve asked my best friend (who is a gay man) why that is and he said that because I am so feminine on the outside they see me as a ‘competition’ and since I am so masculine on the inside I threaten their manhood.

    Haha. Bless their souls. The last time I went to a gay bar a man came up to me and grabbed my tits. No reason. My knee jerk reaction was to clap his ears and that didn’t go over so well. Maybe that is why they hate me. I respond violently to their lack of boundaries with MY body.

    • My natural reaction to anyone touching me when I don’t want them to is to slap them away, so I feel like I wouldn’t be very popular, either XD
      Luckily I don’t have enough male friends (read: 0) for this to be a problem.
      I think maybe gay men are seen as embodying feminine traits, so i order to feel more masculine, they feel that they have to deride women to distance themselves are far as possible from the feminine.

      Or something.

  6. I had a preventative double mastectomy four months ago, due to a serious hereditary risk of breast cancer. Since then, I’ve had saline expanders and just got my final silicone gel implants a month ago. Prior to that, I’d never had much in the way of the chest department. Since August, probably about 60% of the friends i regularly see have squeezed my (fake) boobs to see what they feel like – gay men, straight men, straight women, bi & gay women. All 100% with my consent. (Actually, more frequently with “dude they’re so weird feel them!”). I have zero tissue left and they have the consistency of jello. It’s interesting.

    Anyways, my closest gay male friend made a specific point that “no, I really don’t want to be one of those gay guys who’s just always touching boobs.” It’d be great if that weren’t something that existed for him to feel the need to speak out about, but I thought that was super cool of him. He’s going to make a really great doctor.

  7. Personally, I have never had my breasts or hips touched by my gay male friends (I also have very small breasts and it appears that this issue of boundaries happens more often with women who have large breasts), but like Fonseca, my hair is usually a target of attention. I can count plenty of instances of dancing and then I feel a stranger’s hands running through my hair. Compliments are flowing and that’s all well and good, but who gave you permission to touch me? I certainly don’t remembering saying so.

    I’m already someone who doesn’t care for too much touching (outside of romantic relationships), so I find that I’m always thrown when someone just reaches out and touches me. Straight men, for the most part, know better but gay men, in my experience, do hide behind their sexuality when they’re being inappropriate. I really do not care who you are — Unless I’ve given permission to touch me, you keep your hands to yourself like your kindergarten teacher told you to way back when. Basic respect shouldn’t be ignored because you aren’t sexually attracted to my gender.

  8. My gay guy friends used to always try to feel me up until one night I drunkenly flipped out at them and they haven’t since then.

    Honestly, people are more likely to touch my hair. Has anyone else noticed this? Ever since I cut it all off all my gay male friends have decided they can run their fingers through it all the time, tell me how short it is (um, I know it’s short. I intentionally did that), mess it up, etc. STOP TOUCHING MY HAIR. Even though it’s short it still tangles easily and I don’t want to restyle it!

  9. Ok, this is one thing I completely don’t understand, as a lesbian.
    I have lots of guy friends, straight and gay. And yes, there’s a lot we get away with in terms of physical touch and jokes because there isn’t that awkward sexual tension. But, I don’t really want to think about their private parts.
    So I don’t really understand why gay guys would want to think about (and then touch) mine. And actually, I haven’t really experienced a lot of touching. What I HAVE is experienced is a lot of hateful comments about my body and other women’s bodies. Comments about weight or hair style or clothing choices or whatever, the disgust over vaginas, etc, especially directed to lesbians.
    I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of penises. I’m just not, for a variety of reasons. But do I make comments about it? No, I honestly don’t even like thinking about them, so I don’t spend a lot of time talking about them. Do I like thinking about hetero or gay male sex? No. Therefore, I don’t spend a lot of time bashing either of them.
    So why would gay men?
    It just leaves me all befuddled.

    • Yep, this.

      I can’t recall ever being groped by my gay male friends, but the ‘vadges are slimy and gross!’ infantile jokes are SO ridiculously frequent. I almost think its a kind of gay bravado? Like, if they have to be this thing that makes them so different, then dammit, they’re going to be the gayest gay in the village. Maybe I’m projecting, but that kind of act has always reminded me of the year in high school I wore nothing but doc martens and corduroy jeans and cracked a lot of jokes about straight girls being insane before I realised that I can still be femme (and a nice person) and queer.

      I’m definitely lucky though, on the whole the gay men I’m friends with definitely lean ‘aura-sharing’ for the most part.

      • ‘the year in high school I wore nothing but doc martens and corduroy jeans’

        I did this too, but with birkenstocks. Cringe.

        Anyway, I wanted to say I’ve also heard plenty of comments like that from gay men. I’ve chalked it up to a need to legitimise their own sexual desires by thinking of women’s bodies and sexuality as ‘inherently’ disgusting.

        I’ve also heard and read creepy remarks about attractive straight men. At their most harmless these comments imply that straight men just haven’t seen the light and at their most extreme they verge on rape threats. But underneath it all is this idea that straight male sexuality isn’t as a real or true or something – because after all who could *really* desire women?? This is probably also where comments about how all lesbians are man haters or have daddy issues come from. Marginalising women’s sexualness.

        Mind you, I have also been in a car full of gay men while they discussed the subject “penises are weird”. Takeaway quote: “they look like SPACE ALIENS!!!”

        • I don’t know that you’ll actually see this at this point, but I felt compelled to tell you that you’re one of my favorite AS commenters. Legitimizing it was exactly what I was trying to say, you have this habit of summing up what I’m thinking far more coherently than I’m able to.

          • Whoah thank you!! That is heaps nice of you to say! I sometimes wonder if people think I butt in too much with my opinions, so it’s really nice to know somebody out there likes it :p

  10. I’ve always been a big fan of the personal bubble (pretty sure I radiate a don’t touch me vibe), I don’t even touch my friends that often. So, if any guy were to violate that personal bubble and try to grope me, there’s a good chance I would deck them.

  11. Thank you so much for this article and All The Feelings. I reported a gay male friend, who was an RA, for sexually harassing some of our mutual friends when I was a sophomores in high school. He woudl grab there boobs and straddle them and pin them down and use being gay as an excuse and it was so NOT okay. I finally got fed up when one of my friends said, “I don’t like it, but I feel like it can’t be a big deal because he’s my friend.” So I went to the residence hall director, and she basically said “That can’t be true. They’re good friends.” There was an investigation, supposedly, and several other female coworkers and friends of his admitted he had touched them, but they thought it was ok because he was gay, so nothing else happened. I was frustrated. Years later, reading this article and your responses, I feel again like I did the right thing.

  12. I loved this so much, it helped me put together some feelings in my own head that I hadn’t really realized I was feeling.

    My best friend is a gay male and is fantastic and respectful in every way. He has never felt me up or put me down. He is always there for me and sometimes he even lets me borrow from his amazing button up flannel collection. However, his boyfriend, who I don’t know very well, has groped my breasts on numerous occasions using the “it’s okay because I’m not attracted to them” bit. I could feel that it made me uncomfortable, but was always invalidating all of my own thoughts because it never felt malicious and I didn’t know how to say no, or if I even should. He also on one occasion found it appropriate to plant a quick smooch on my mouth on a night when I was recovering from a breakup saying I didn’t have to be sad because I had my boys. Gay man kisses do not equal lady kisses or help ease break up pains in case anyone was curious. Even in that case I still didn’t say anything because this unprecedented invasion of my personal space was being disguised as a kind and compassionate gesture. I would like to note that aside from the instances I just mentioned he very nice person, but at least now I have all of this to keep in my back pocket so if it happens again I can start an educated discussion about it, as always thank you autostraddle.

  13. I seem to keep coming across this topic over and over, and have finally decided to contribute my story to the discussion.

    two gay male friends of mine raped me and violated me in various ways for three years during high school. they were both openly and flamboyantly gay, and part time drag queens. they were also both being physically and verbally abused by their parents, which was common knowledge among students and teachers because one used to come in with bruises from time to time. the best i can figure as to why no teacher ever did their duty of mandated reporting is because the boy in question said he didn’t want the abuse reported because he’d had to have transferred schools. i guess the teachers would have explained their inaction as trying to respect his wishes.

    teachers and administrators at our school were aware of both the abuse that was being done to the two gay boys as well as the abuse being perpetrated on me. one of the hardest things to cope with in the years since this has gone down is the fact that the two boys groped me and joked about their abuse openly, in front of teachers. i tried to go to administrators, vice principals, and others, but the situation was beyond their grasp, i guess they assumed that the gayness of the two guys cancelled out the ability to violate me. but the two guys were both aware that they would never be stopped and used that knowledge to terrify me for years. it didn’t stop until i moved hours away for college, and honestly one of them still calls me in drunken rages telling me I belong to him and he’ll find me.

    So I guess that all I want to point out is that these things compound in some grotesque ways. It’s hard to have anger towards these two boys, now men, because of the extent that they were abused. But they not only physically violated me, but told me I couldn’t be a lesbian because I *wasn’t* getting beaten by my parents. My parents, coincidentally, were also paralyzed by this intersection of queerness and told me to ignore them so they’d stop rather than treating my situation like the abuse it was. To this day I can’t believe how many people were able to ignore my literal cries for help in a crowded hallway while a boy held me against a locker and forcibly took off my bra because “he wanted to wear it”.

    As I reread this comment, I’m still kind of in disbelief that this was able to happen so publicly. Not only did no one stop the open abuse against these two young boys, no one stopped their public violation of my body. I’ve been in therapy for more than a year trying to learn to process all this, suffice to say it has made it very difficult to reconcile my queer identity and consider being part of the larger gay community. It also set the stage for instances of abuse that would follow later in my life, as many abuse survivors can also report.

    I wish that there wasn’t homophobia and I wish that this would stop 🙁

  14. Thank you for this. I have a very strained relationship with the gay male community for very similar reasons.

    My experience is that 90-something percent of gay men are awesome and respectful. But there’s a small percentage that have no concept of boundaries. My specific traits (male-assigned, femme) tend to have me read as a gay man, and a lot of unsafe situations. Honestly, I shudder when I think of what actual gay guys must be subjected to.

    And yea, some of the worst offenders have been straight women. And I feel weird for saying it, because I don’t understand it. Guys’ll just straight up bully me, or ask if I’m working. But if I’m getting catcalled or groped while walking down the street (literally, I’m walking one way, they’re walking the other), it’s more than likely a straight, white girl. It’s a big part of the reason I don’t go downtown anymore.

    I don’t know, I think I’m throwing this out to see if anyone might want to shed light on it. I don’t have large breasts or anything. Maybe it has to do with not passing (ie: being perceived male, regardless). But it’s a stumper. Anyway, super thanks for this. And the opportunity to share.

    • I think the girls-on-girls issue is a completely different issue than gay-guys-on-girls. Like, entirely different. I was raped (with a dildo) by two girls at my group home as a teenager, and constantly sexually harassed by them. It’s just completely different and the reasoning isn’t about ownership or misogyny—I think it’s more of a individual thing than a institutionalized situation. It’s not a privilege thing like gay-guys-on-girls is.
      I find it really interesting that you have those experiences. I face street harassment every single time i leave my house, but exclusively by guys. I have big boobs (and a boob tattoo partially hidden that makes guys come up and ask me about it, sometimes trying to move my shirt to read the rest of it), a big ass, and child-bearing hips. Guys like to street harass that shit. And gay guys llloooovveee to comment on it.

      • Yea, I didn’t mean to equate the two, obviously (although I’d argue that misogyny is the idea that women’s bodies are up for grabs, which is still the case when done by women). I think I brought it up here because Lizz had brought up something similar in her story, and, yea, I guess I was kindof fishing for any potential insights. I’m not sure if it’s a trans thing or male-assigned thing or a gender policing thing or what.

      • I’d say if it’s cisgendered straight women doing it, it IS a privilege thing. That shit is complicated. And weirdly related to some of the other stories being told here…MOST people, having experienced being catcalled and harassed or abused, would not turn and do it to someone else. But some people do. That’s one way that stuff gets perpetuated.

        There is ALSO what Mz. X said, that it’s misogyny regardless of who is doing it. I think it’s definitely gender-policing as well.

  15. THANK YOU. Thank you and Yolo for actually starting this conversation.

    The first or second time I was at a gay bar, the only person who was doing anything remotely close to hitting on me was this gay dude being really creepy and trying to feel me up. I inched away and he was all “don’t worry! i’m not into girls!”. You’re still creepy.

    I once had a really long argument online with a prominent event organiser back in Brisbane who was convinced that “the most oppressed people in Australia are gay men”. He is a white cis gay man. He being so well-known and the Brisbane scene really so small made trying to make my way through (as a performer and other creative type) really awkward at best.

    Some people have noticed that gay white men (in particular) seem to think their gayness means they can’t possibly be committing oppressive acts. That they are always in the minority, they don’t have privilege. I’ve seen that too and it’s bloody frustrating.

  16. None of my close gay male friends have ever gotten handsy or been condescending about wardrobe etc. with me. However, I can’t remember a single instance when I’ve gone out to the gayborhood and *haven’t* been groped/manhandled/had my personal space invaded by some gay man I’d never met before. The revulsion some of these bros display for vaginas (their presumed odor and cunnilingus, in particular) is also something I’ve encountered frequently, and I find it quite obnoxious. While I’m not personally attracted to cis men or their bits, when interacting with gay boys, I don’t shriek or say things like “OMG penises are like the most disgusting things ever! Don’t you have a hard time putting your face near balls, they’re like old troll faces (??)” You do you, boo. Just keep your hands and comments to yourself and we’ll have a gay old time.

    • I have totally witnessed the vagina hate firsthand! I’d say it’s childish, but I’m not sure that fully captures it. I’m surprised this phenomenon isn’t better documented. Maybe you and I just run into the same guys or something.

      • I know this is late to the game but I have an idea about where the vagina hate comes from…. I am a bisexual (mostly gay) ftm and I certainly don’t know if this is true for everyone or not (surely it’s not) but it was true for me: when I started taking testosterone, my awareness of vag increased approximately 900000000 times. It’s got to be some kind of hormonal/pheremones thing. It’s totally inexplicable but I feel like I can smell peoples’ sex smells MUCH MUCH more acutely and I think about other peoples’ vaginas a lot more than I used to.

        The weird thing is, I am not more attracted to women than I used to be in terms of who I want to date or fuck or whatever. I am 90% attracted to boys and occasionally attracted to women. So there’s like this weird disconnect where I feel hyperaware of female bodies just walkin’ around and confused by the fact that I am physically aroused by them but not mentally or emotionally attracted to women most of the time. I sometimes wonder if this is true for cis men, and cis gay men in particular.

        This guy I know is a total dick about women’s bodies. Like really really bad. He also has a brain injury, though, which makes it a little complex to call him out (he really just doesn’t see what you’re saying or else he can’t internalize the feedback in a useful way). In any case, he is OBSESSED with commenting on women’s bodies in weird, derisive ways. We’ve talked fairly openly from time to time about how my perception has changed since taking testosterone and he has agreed that he is physically attracted to women’s bodies but mentally, and emotionally, it’s a total no go. He does not consider himself bisexual and I suspect a lot of his misogyny is related to trying to cover up this weird physical desire that’s outside of his control. He also certainly sees women as competition and tries to shut them down in that way.

        Anyway, I wonder sometimes if the physical aspect isn’t at play for more gay men than will admit it – it’s certainly a reality for me. And if you’re going through life trying to justify your sexuality to other people while getting confusing, unacknowledged messages from your own body – that might impact behaviour.

        I don’t mean any of this to excuse gay men groping women or behaving like misogynist jerks. I just wanted to give some insight to an experience that other people here may or may not have known about.

        • “I wonder sometimes if the physical aspect isn’t at play for more gay men than will admit it…if you’re going through life trying to justify your sexuality to other people while getting confusing, unacknowledged messages from your own body – that might impact behavior…I don’t mean any of this to excuse gay men groping women or behaving like misogynist jerks. I just wanted to give some insight…”

          As a pansexual woman, I am attracted to all sorts of people and I also go through life being asked to justify my sexuality. However, I am not verbally harassing anyone or touching without consent.

          The fact that you joined this conversation about gay men grabbing at women solely to tell us about some gay men’s difficult relationships to their own sexualities and to vaginas sounds an awful lot like you’re trying to *suggest* excuses, while not coming right out and saying as much. Being confused by one’s own arousal has no bearing on the conversation about unwanted comments/touches because UNWANTED COMMENTS/TOUCHES ARE NEVER OKAY, REGARDLESS OF WHO IS PERPETRATING THEM.

          • You’re absolutely correct in your last statement, I think I said the same thing several times in my post though in different words, or I certainly tried to. Sorry if it didn’t come through.

            As a trans person, I know what it’s like to be the victim of misogyny and unwanted touching from men, gay and straight. I am not verbally harassing anyone or touching them without their consent either. I just recall the surprise I felt at being more physically aware of another person’s genitalia as a result of changing hormones and thought perhaps it might explain the question people have posed over and over again here: why would a gay man who does not want a sexual relationship with a woman be obsessed with a woman’s body?

            I’m not offering excuses for touching or behaving inappropriately. It’s always wrong to touch someone without their consent, did I say anything to suggest I believed otherwise?

            I do, however, think that discussing DIFFERENCES between how men and women perceive physical bodies is particularly relevant to this discussion since it seems to be at the crux of why this behaviour from gay men is so baffling. When you can discuss something and break down the reasons for why it happens, you can fix it. If gay men can acknowledge that a physical interest in women’s bodies is not wholly uncommon AND that it doesn’t make them less gay than they want to be AND that touching people without consent doesn’t get a free pass no matter who you are, then maybe this shit can stop.

  17. Lizz’s story raises a point: most of the nonconsensual touching of woman probably comes from other woman. However, touching another woman’s breasts without consent is STILL an expression of male privilege:

    Male privilege does not mean that only (gay) men feel privileged to touch women without consent; male privilege means that only men have the privilege of not BEING touched without consent.

    Like many authors have said, male privilege has everything to do with woman being denied ownership of their own bodies.

  18. I’ve known lovely, respectful gay men and I’ve also known of far too many instances in which others are responsible for TERRORIZING women (mostly femme women, though not exclusively) I care for, so I’m very glad this is being discussed in a broader sense. My wife and our friend – both butch – just broke up with their mutual (gay boy) barber because he said the most offensive, fucked up bullshit to our friend. It’s just really too bad this is still happening all over so much!

    • (This is completely off topic, apologies everyone)

      Hey! I am the worst penpal EVER, the last little while has been completely insane. I posted you something today though!

    • When I told my ex-friend (a gay guy who taught me how to do makeup when I first transitioned) that I was attracted to female-identified people, he was really confused. The subject came back up a few weeks later when he asked me, “You’re not going to wind up with some fucking butch dyke, are you?” When I said maybe I would, he thought it was hilarious. His other friend was there (also a gay guy), and he laughed when I answered the ridiculous question.

      TL; DR: There are some gay guys who say really nasty shit about butch women, too. Just thought I would add to your “not exclusively femme women” point with a personal anecdote.

  19. I just had an issue with this last week when I went to a gay bar. A gay guy (or I guess he could have been bi) grabbed my boobs and then ran his hands all the way down my body…and then a few minutes later he did it again. I didn’t say anything or tell him to stop because it just happened so fast, and I didn’t know what to say anyways. And then my gay guy friend that I went to the bar with hooked up with him, which for some reason felt like a betrayal to me.
    I was pretty upset about it, and cried about it for a long time when I got home. I felt like I was being really irrational about the whole thing, since he didn’t hurt me or anything, and I couldn’t really articulate what was *wrong.* So it’s good to know that this is actually a thing, and not just me being oversensitive. I am very sorry that others have gone through the same thing and much worse though. *hugs*

  20. Like many people have said, I have gay friends where this has never been an issue, but i have also experienced unsolicited touching and commentary on my body and sexuality by gay men.
    For me its been more perpetrated by men in clubs or friends of friends, than by men that I actually have an established friendship with. Maybe I just choose to be friends with the sensitive sweet ones?

    What caught my eye in this, more than the touching was the people that wrote about how gay men found it okay to say horrible things about female genitalia.
    I was in a workplace earlier in 2012 where in a team of 5 there were 3 gay guys, one straight girl and myself. We had a plumbing issue in out kitchenette resulting in a bad smell. This became known as the ‘vagina smell’. It was an awkward position to be in, as I felt like I had no right to feel like I was being marginalized as there were a majority of queers in the office, yet as the only one who appreciated women in a sexual or romantic way I was very much a minority. The irony was, that the straight girl was the worst of them, it was like she felt she had to denigrate women to be ‘cool’ and respected by the gay men. Day after day she would refer to the ‘dirty vagina smell’ among other comments that made my woman-loving feminist self feel sick… but the boys found it hilarious.
    I’m not normally softspoken, but I found it really hard to call her out on it as she was a woman.
    Luckily not in that work situation anymore…

    • yes, THIS – I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard straight women say that they “don’t like vaginas” or even that they think they’re “disgusting”, which is so messed up – do they not have one??

    • So even in my medical degree lecture on female genitals this morning the lecturer described a (drawn, medical) diagram as “a scary thing to see first thing” and photos of cervixes (which she’d got from some site of women taking self-(but I mean unsexual)-photos of just their cervix) as “pretty disturbing”.

      I mean she’s a gynecologist. She’s getting some acerbic stuff on her feedback form from me. ..

  21. also, in a more serious vein, i feel like (although there are a lot of complicating factors here having to do with intersecting identities) this is sort of a subsection of a larger theme when men of any sexual orientation sexually harass women, which is that the real measure of the incident should always lie in their experience. gay men saying “it’s ok, because i’m not actually turned on by your boobs” isn’t that different from straight men’s “but i meant it as a compliment” or “i wasn’t TRYING to offend you, GOSH.” naw, i don’t think so. ultimately, the disconnect is that men don’t get to be the arbiters of what makes women feel violated, women do. your intentions are great for you, but thinking that they’re more important than someone else’s feelings is privilege at its most explicit.

    • This also makes me wonder, since with the gay guys the main excuse seems to be it’s okay because they’re not turned on, if they would be okay with lesbians grabbing their penis or balls, after all it under their reasoning it should be okay since we’re not turned on by their genitalia.

      • One particular time this guy couldn’t stop trying to touch me, playfully he said, even though it was obvious I was getting annoyed, I went and did the motion of going to grab his penis. He squealed and jumped away from me and never tried to touch me again.

  22. A closely related phenomenon, which always seems to accompany the weird gay man breast grope: “OHMYGOSH you’re like the lesbian of my DREAMS you’re so pretty are you really a LESBIAN? But you’re so pretty!”

    Which is how it’s related to the “but I meant it as a compliment!” straight guy excuse, because saying that weird shit/grabbing your ass/tits/asstits is supposed to be a weird compliment right? because you’re so pretty and you have such perky boobs? are you really a lesbian?

    wanna grab my ass and call my identity into question? yeah that’s my favorite game how’d you know?

  23. I feel like this situation goes beyond breast touching for kicks to an unwanted intamacy problem. I have had this problem with the past couple of years, not just with gay men but people of all genders and sexualities. This random body frisking is also accompanied by my friends wanting to cuddle or sleep (just sleep) with me. When I say no, that that kind of physical closeness seems out of place for just friends, they get offended. Time after time, even repeat offenders seem surprised that I have boundaries. The excuse is that we are so close, so why not. My defense, that it makes me uncomfortable, is always made of fun or discounted; until the next time. The intamacy also infiltrates my personal life. People want to know about my sex life or past sexual histories, even what I was doing at the doctors office. Why people want to know all of these intimate details about me, I don’t know. Then there are the jokes. People make fun of women’s bodies all of the time. The way they look or smell. You’re too curvy , now you’re not curvy enough, why are your feet so big, and the list goes on and on.

    People feel so entitled to their friends lives, to know everything about them, right down to how they feel to how they have sex, and I don’t approve of it in most cases.

    • Yes this!!!

      People (mainly coworkers) always assume I have something to hide when I express I don’t want to talk about EVERYTHING and the same people don’t fully understand my desire for personal space.

  24. Also a thing I’ve noticed gay men thinking it’s totally ok to do is “jokingly” catcall/street harass/otherwise make women uncomfortable in public, with the punch line being LOL LOOK SILLY GIRL! IT’S ME, AN UNTHREATENING GAY, NOT A SCARY STRAIGHT MAN! which does absolutely zero to erase the discomfort, fear and anxiety that their “joke” already caused.

    Example: I was in Walgreens looking at makeup when I heard a low whistle. Determined to ignore it, I kept my eyes on the lipstain I was looking at, as the whistle came closer and closer. My heart was beating, my mind was racing, and I was ready to punch whatever dude this was in the face, when I finally turned and saw my gay friend Adam two feet away from me. He laughed, “didn’t you hear me? I was wondering how long it would take you to turn around!” I can’t even remember how I reacted, I think I just muttered something about not generally turning for whistles.

    Then about a week later another gay guy friend was telling me about how he had followed one of the girls on our dance team late at night on their way to practice, trying to make sure his shadow was in her field of vision. He laughed and told me that when she finally turned around, she had said that she was so scared! LOL SHE WAS SO SCARED FOR HER LIFE ISN’T THAT FUNNY I MADE HER THINK SHE WAS GONNA BE RAPED AND MURDERED ON THE STREET. I said something like “yeah, she probably was scared- girls are trained to be scared of people following them at night she probably thought you were gonna hurt her.” He was genuinely surprised. “You’re right, I hadn’t thought of that!”

    It’s really weird, because I get that gay guys don’t understand how inherently terrifying it is to be in public as a woman, but at the same time they understand that the fear exists well enough to make a joke out of it. HEY GAY BOYS- REALITY CHECK THAT SHIT IS RUDE.

    I do want to second Gabby’s point, though, about how dancing with gay guys has absolutely been a defining part of my life, not to mention my friendships with them. Just check your privilege please.

  25. I was reading through this, thinking, “wow, this sucks, but it’s never happened to me,” until I got about halfway through the comments. And then I remembered the (only, never formally “out,” but universally recognized as) gay boy in my grade.

    My freshman year of high school, I was really young, new to boarding school, and still presenting as a straight girl. He was in my photo class, and almost every time I saw him, he would ask me if I were a lesbian. It would come from nowhere, too; we’d pass in the hallway and he’d ask if a girl we knew was my type. It, combined with the other stresses of freshman year, got so bad that I began taking advil before and after every photo class. I couldn’t stand to be in a room with him for the next two years, even though we were always perfectly civil.

    Last year (my junior year) I came out as queer; now I wear boys’ dress code and present as genderqueer/boi. This year, we’re perfectly friendly, discussing politics and fawning over suits in Esquire together. I no longer feel the need to stab him in the face and leave the room when I see him. So, I guess it really is about the interaction of masculinity and femininity and the expectation to fit the molds of both. (Some) gay men will insist on treating women the way society expects men to objectify women, but their abuse is perpetrated without the filter that potential sexual attraction can create.

  26. one of my very best friends is a gay guy (also, incidentally, one of my few gay guy friends… dunno why i have so few…), and while 99% of the time hes awesome, every so often (especially when drunk) he touches me in ways that are inappropriate. not so much the boobs cause i wear a sports bra and theyre pretty flat, but i do remember a time we were dancing together at a club and he got WAY too into it. it was weird. it was one of the few times ive felt uncomfortable by someone being inappropriate with me. i think it has more to do with him being drunk and sloppy then misogyny or male privilege – hes very respectful almost always (although he makes vag jokes, but then again i make dick jokes so were even).

    i must be one of the lucky ones though, for it is incredibly rare that i get cat called by random people (although it has happened), and i cant remember a time where a complete stranger groped me inappropriately… ever. or maybe i just have really awful memory. i wish everyone could of had my luck at this though :/

    • i forgot to mention that both me and my gay guy friend both started out as straight and were dating the opposite sex when we first became friends… then years later did we break up with our significant others and come out of the closet. i think that might be why hes so respectful – because he used to be a “straight” man and knows as a “straight” man that its disrespectful or worse to touch a woman inappropriately.

  27. I’ve had only one close gay male friends. He could be seriously hands-on without consent and is basically the worst kind of guy ever for what you’ve all talked about above. But despite the fact he’d touch you almost anywhere he wanted, and would make comments about how you looked often, he loved telling me (a lesbian, as he knew) all about how gross he personally found vaginas to be. It always pissed me off that he felt he could comment on my body and then call it disgusting at the same time. He was also, I might add, the kind of gay man that didn’t like lesbians at all, and often said so behind my back. We are not friends now (haven’t been for a long time, but thats a very complicated story) and both his touching and his ‘ewwww gross’ approach to female bodies bothered me equally. Like, who da fuck does he think he is, passing judgement?

  28. A few years ago in high school, when I was about fourteen, a gay guy walked past me as I was reaching into my locker and grabbed my ass. When I turned around, he was walking away, smirking. He was in what Tina Fey calls ‘the half closet’, meaning he wasn’t out but no one thought he was straight, but he still felt like he could grab my ass and it was okay. What got to me was that he was just walking down the corridor, saw my ass, and thought he’d grab it, then walked away and probably forgot about it, the same way I’d see a dollar on the ground and just shove it into my pocket. It was just a thing he could do when walking down a corridor. I didn’t do anything (again, I was fourteen) but there’s a lot of things I wish I’d done. I wish I’d screamed at him, I wish I’d started ignoring him earlier (he later turned out to be a douchebag in other ways) , I wish I’d warned him what would happen if he’d touched me again (he didn’t). But mostly I wish I’d slapped him. I shouldn’t, but I do. While it’s not as bad as some of the other stuff people have been commenting about, it definitely got to me, and I think it’s (one of) the reasons why I’ve always been wary around gay men – because I’m scared they’ll treat me like this article described.

  29. Also there’s a lot of awesome comments here and I want to reply and like a lot of them, but Autostraddle is being incredibly slow on my computer (I don’t know why, every other website is fine) and I don’t have the patience, but I just wanted to thank the team for starting this roundtable and all the other readers for your thoughts and contributions, because clearly this is something that needs to be discussed.

  30. I don’t want to detract from what is a very serious issue: women’s bodies perceived as not their own. But my, we do like our generalisations here, don’t we? I am a gay man, and I do not at all recognize the behaviour described in the post. I don’t touch women’s bodies, period, unless for a peck on the cheek in parting, but *only* if initiated by the other person. But then, I’m not the fashion-conscious, body-fascist, fabulous best gay friend stereotype this post seems to be about (and I hate shopping) so maybe I shouldn’t worry?

  31. I’ve had the same gay man cutting my hair since I was 18. I’d rather not say how many years it’s been, but he and I have been close friends the entire time. He’s touched my hair, my ass, my boobs and my abs. When I pay him, I always tuck the money into his far too tight jeans pockets. We joke that it’s the closest either of us will come to ever “touching” the opposite sex. I sent him the link to this article and asked his thoughts. His reply was pretty simple: “Number one, gay men are assholes. Proudly. Number two, we all secretly want what you have. Not all the time, but as an option on occasion. And we think we could do it/wear it/keep it better than any and all of you. Number three, see Number one!”

  32. Hmm, I’m kinda guilty of the opposite of this. I have a great group of gay guy friends, but there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve gotten way to drunk and gotten too into dancing with them when we go out. They’ve made light of it (“no girl is going to think your gay when you’re dancing up on me like that”) but I could tell they were a little uncomfortable. I felt a little bit of shame and regret at the time, but I never thought that much about it. I feel really ashamed.

  33. Such an interesting round table! I agree with pretty much everything Kate said, along with many others. As for my own experience, I’ve never had a gay dude grab my boobs (there’s not a ton there), but if one did I would probably slap him upside the head.

    I have three super close gay male friends from different times in my life (college, work, roommate) and they are all some of the sweetest and most respectful friends I have. Interestingly enough, they each usually “pass” as straight until they come out, and are not at all into giving unsolicited advice about my body or how I look. The only occasion I can think of is when J and I were shopping for menswear together and he jokingly teased me about the awkward crotch space in boxer briefs and pants that I can’t fill. None of them are particularly into fashion or women’s bodies, so maybe that’s why they “wouldn’t touch boobs with a ten foot pole” as one told me once. Perhaps because I don’t hang out with more “flamboyant” or fashion-focused gay men, I am surprised that gay men grabbing boobs is a thing? It’s disgusting, violating, and offensive regardless of your gender/orientation unless it is clearly consensual.

  34. This discussion was very important to see. I would say just about 99% of the gay men I have met (at least with me, I do not know how they were with other women) have never touched me without my consent, but I will get the occasional body comment from various amongst those. Then there was my first gay male friend. I had gone to boarding school, and there were actually lots of gay guys there, but only one who managed to harass me. He would grab my breasts and slide his hand in between my legs, all while saying how it was ‘Okay because I’m gay!’ when I would voice any sense of discomfort. We sat next to each other in a few classes, and he would also do these things in class. I think finally I snapped after about a month and a half, maybe two months, and I turned to him and said that I would file a sexual harassment complaint with the school if he continued to touch my boobs or inner thighs. He never touched me again, but he did say that I was over-sensitive and a ‘lesbian’, as if not being a willing participant in my own violation was somehow a trait reserved for homosexual women. I really don’t know why I was so adamant, when I knew that a lot of other girls at the school let him touch them without complaint, but it was wrong, and I’m glad that I did. Clearly this kind of thing needs to be in the public dialogue surrounding assault and harassment.

  35. On the flip side, I sometimes feel the need to “makeover” my male friends – teach them how to wear a suit and mix patterns correctly and buy a good pair of shoes – and the one time I’ve said anything about it, I got RIPPED a new one by a straight dude. So in a general sense, I’d like to say I’m sick of living in a world where we criticize women nonstop and yet women can never ever turn the tables without fear of retribution.

  36. I’ve always had way more gay male friends than lesbian friends, probably partly because I’m a music major (stereotypes, there’s a grain of truth in them) and partly because I didn’t come out as bi until my junior year of college and thus wasn’t specifically looking for queer female friends yet. Anyway, it’s interesting because even though I hung around them all the time and went to gay clubs with them, and I have big boobs, this was never an issue for me. I was actually surprised to find out this was a thing, because most of the gay guys I knew didn’t seem that interested in boobs in general.

    (In fact, my first boyfriend was gay (his coming-out was why our relationship ended), and it was apparently his lack of interest in boobs that first set him on the course to realizing he wasn’t attracted to women.)

    I have seen cases though where gay guys ignored other boundaries with women based on the excuse of “I’m not into girls!” – like ones in college who’d hang out in the women’s bathroom in the dorms and when girls were freaked out, would say “It’s okay, I’m not interested in vag!” (If that’s the standard for which bathroom we use, what do I do as a bisexual? Restrict myself to single bathrooms?)

  37. The one gay friend I have had (not a big sample, so I am aware of him not representing the entire community) was extremely manipulative. He always felt the need to critique women’s bodies and fashion sense. I brought him along to a party a bunch of my class mates were having and kept trying to make out with me. I hadn’t made out with a boy since my last boyfriend, and to be honest I wanted my ex to be last boy I ever made out with. But he was being very persistent and I got more drunk and finally we had a big make out session. I am sure that most of the people in my (university) class saw me and immediately disqualified me as a lesbian. (He also made out with one of my best friends that night, but at least she was straight and kisses boys on the regular, I just ended up feeling used and ashamed)

  38. I can’t recall a time when anyone, gay or otherwise, has grabbed my boobs without my consent. I do, however, have a full-back tattoo, and when I’m wearing a tank-top…dear sweet god. I’ve lost track of the number of random hands trailing up my spine (it’s a tattoo, not braille, you creepy fuck). And no, it’s not just dudes. Old ladies in Bob Evans just fucking love to touch my back.

    And you know what’s creepier? A camera flash going off behind you and the horrified look that spreads across your friend’s face as they realize that some random has just taken a picture of your back tattoo. PLURAL TIMES. AS IN MORE THAN ONCE, WHICH IS ALSO TOO MANY.

    • I am SO glad I’m not alone in that!
      Only, I have a boob tattoo, curving around my boob and it’s a sentence, partially covered by my shirt most days. I have literally had people come up to me and MOVE my shirt a little to read the rest of the tattoo.
      Not okay, dudes. Not okay.

  39. I agree with this.
    I’ve been in gay bars where men are hanging out and using the female toilet (their pee smells and their toilet has shorter queues)and when ive looked alarmed at seeing them in there they say “don’t worry, I’m gay!” and just thought, i don’t care i don’t like you being in here.
    i also have a male gay friend who is crude to everyone but he tells me i should “shave my fanny” (UK meaning) and left gross messages on my facebook wall about minge-eating and me getting all wet over something or another. when i deleted it he’d post an even more crude message and to this day i don’t have a facebook wall anymore (something that really annoys friends!)

  40. This is an interesting article. For a while there I thought maybe I was the only one… It is incredible to know that apparently the gay-man-grabbing-breast issue is actually a full on issue and not something against me personally. I had considered that maybe I had done something wrong that encouraged or sent some kind of message to gay men that it was okay to grab my breasts. It’s not. I’ve had it done on more than one occasion with gay men I don’t even know the first names of. It’s a shame because I spend far less time around gay men now because of this. I am a gay woman and I would never grab a man’s penis and say “it’s okay because I’m not attracted to you.”

  41. Next time a guy (gay or not) grabs your boobs just give them a swift kick/punch in the crotch and then smile and be say “Oops reflex!” I’m pretty sure they will think twice about grabbing a woman again.

  42. I’ve never had a gay man (or anyone) touch my boobs without permission.
    On the other hand, I had a job at a dinner theater in high school, and one of the (gay, male) singers had a bad habit of grabbing my ass. What bothers my about this now is not only that my body and personal space were being violated, but also that I was only 17 at the time.
    But then again, as one of my aunts puts it now, “there’s no sexual harassment in food service,” meaning there is…but no one does anything about it, or ever seems to care.

  43. I’m so glad for this article. I felt tremendously guilty for years about not wanting a former friend to touch or make comments about my clothes, my weight, my curves. The difference is he wasn’t gay; he is trans and vehemently straight. When I finally called him on his boundary crossing, rudeness, and what essentially amounted to abuse, he accused me of being uptight and to overreacting. He made me feel so small. Thank goodness we’re no longer in touch.

    • I posted this comment before becoming a member. I wanted to add this former friend, who was very uncomfortably (viewed as a) lesbian before transitioning, really couldn’t understand how the way he related to my body and boundaries was as offensive to me as others relating to him as a female was to him; that my body was no more public and open to discussion than his was. I don’t know. Sometimes I’m reminded of him and I hurt still.

  44. I’m close to a gay guy I’ve known since the 6th grade, never had an issue with him. But when I went backstage to help him after his drag show, one of his gay male friends in drag came in. He wanted to make out with me (he likes making out with lesbians for some reason) and wouldn’t let go of me after he hugged me. He kept telling me how gorgeous I was and how in awe he was of me. It’s like he was trying to coerce me into agreeing to it. He also mentioned the “it’s ok, I’m gay” excuse. I said no thanks, but he wasn’t hearing it. Thankfully my friend was there, pulled him off, and said I wasn’t interested. That was when I first realized gay guys are perfectly capable of being just as creepy as some straight guys.

  45. Can’t say I’ve ever had my boobs grabbed since I don’t yet have anything of note up there, but I can say that pretty much every gay man I’ve ever met has had some amount of misogyny there – this both whilst still presenting as/trying to be a straight male, and after coming out as trans.

  46. i think the (SOME! A FEW!) gay men shaming dykey and/or masculine presenting female-assigned people is definitely a thing. i remember once in college i was talking to this guy who was gay and said something to him about how it seemed like people who i hadn’t talked to thought i wasn’t nice or friendly (which i was!) and he said “well it’s because you seem like this angry butch dyke!” which was hurtful to me at the time for the obvious reasons but also because i was sort of presenting as more masculine than i was really comfortable with, had a super-short haircut that i regretted, and was just generally uncomfortable with and figuring out how i wanted to be queer. but anyway i still remember that tiny interaction because it just really stung and it seemed like he thought that because we were both queer it was ok to say.

    THAT SAID, i think there is also obviously this gay male “script” of being sassy and bitchy and whatever (see queer eye, will and grace, glee etc.) which includes this inappropriate assumed intimacy with women. and maybe, especially among younger or more newly-out/realized queers there are unfortunately not a lot of other cultural scripts to draw from. kind of like how it was a thing when i was in high school for the queer girls to shave their heads and listen to ani, only with violations of other people’s bodies! and the scripts and more and less true for different people and some are able to do them and stay real or kind and others aren’t. because . . . it’s hard figuring out how to be queer when you aren’t expected to be by the larger world.

  47. Very recently, a gay guy who sat behind me in math class scolded me for eating a donut in the morning. He said don’t you know what that will do to you? You’ll get fat thighs, etc. I stood up for myself for once saying Of course I know what it will do to me, I’ve been told all my life my body is not ok as it is. I had an eating disorder but I’ve been recovering and I’m proud to eat a donut. Of course I fucking know what it will do to me and I don’t care! He just continued and my galfriend told him to stop. He never talked to us again! It sucked. Later my friend was really upset at his reaction and I simply told her, you know, he thinks that just because he’s gay, he can get away with saying shit like that. How would you have reacted [with your history of an eating disorder as well] if a straight man told you that? Or a straight woman? That threw her for a loop.

    I have an strange relationship to gay men. In the ballet world in which I grew up, they are more often than not gay and almost everyone loves it. Conversely for a woman it’s unheard of. When I was 16 I remember classmates ostracizing an upperclasswoman of being bisexual saying they wouldn’t want to stand near her in class in a leotard because she’d check out their butt… yet gay guys are excused by default. In fact, for the straight guys who are encouraged to stay in ballet (how un-masculine) because of all the hot girls.

    That being said, personally, coming out as gay most of my gay guy friends suddenly didn’t want to be around me anymore. I felt as though any femininity that previously connected us had disappeared according to them.

  48. I brought up this roundtable at a party I was having last night (where several gay men were present). All of them were disgusted and going ‘gross’ at the thought of boobs.

    A half hour later one of them was trying to unhook my bra without me noticing, just to see if he could. But it was “okay, because it was only my back, not my boobs”.

    ugh.

  49. i really don’t want to take away from this important conversation, but i want to add something i feel has been missing from the conversation thus far: gay and bi men are not immune to misogyny. as many of you have rightly pointed out in other threads and articles on this site, it is possible to hold both privilege and oppression simultaneously. someone mentioned something about gay/bi men not experiencing the same kind of pressures or gaze as women, but i think that’s shortsighted. we all of us experience misogyny on the daily. it may not look exactly the same, but it affects all of us, regardless of our genders or orientations. misogyny and femmephobia play out within the gay/bi men’s communities as well, and often result in violence, criticism and shaming of femme-of-centre folks in general. there is tremendous pressure within MSM communities (here in the west, at least) to be masculine and “straight-acting” – not to mention white, cisgendered, able-bodied, class privileged, educated, employed, etc. soooo while i think this is a hugely valid conversation to be having, to talk about the physical and emotional violence done to women and trans* people by gay men, i think it’s important that we make sure to include in our perspective that (as my brilliant friend kim katrin crosby says) “hurt people… hurt people.”

    that said, i’m so glad this article and the original one that inspired it exist. this conversation needs to happen. i feel the implication that gay men should “know better” because they’re gay is unfair. i think it’s the same perspective that invalidates abuse within queer women’s communities, and it’s a very slippery slope. the reality is that all of us are capable of abuse, and all of us are capable of being abused. as both a survivor and perpetrator of violence, it’s important for me to remind myself of this over and over again, so that i can continue to heal and continue to resist.

  50. I too am glad this is being discussed. I have a very small chest (and I oftentimes bind), so I have never been groped their by gay men, which is a good thing, because not even my girlfriend is allowed to touch my chest – hell, *I* don’t even touch my chest unless I have to. As others have said, yes, I have had gay male friends who never touched me, but I’ve also had gay male friends make clothing suggestions, housing decoration suggestions, and perpetuate the idea that lesbians are all fat, ugly, and have no sense of style.
    The thing I want to bring up though is something that happened to me this past year… My gf and I had thrown a birthday party for a gay lady friend of ours. She invited her best friend who happened to be a gay man who I will refer to as C. Of course, we all drank that night, and all the ladies there as well as C. ended making out with everyone. Now, I have made out with gay men before when drunk – it can be amusing, harmless fun – but C. became basically an aggressive kisser. He was more of a very drunk, stubbly, suction cup really. It was funny at first, and then became annoying- for everyone. As the night was coming to a close, I was alone in the kitchen putting the remaining cupcakes away when he came up behind me. Okay, one, I was busy and not make-out drunk anymore, and two, he came up behind me and started suctioning his face to my neck. Then he pushed me up against the wall and started trying to rub my clit (which was absurd since I had on baggy cargo shorts – Luckily, he wasn’t able to touch me much because of this). Never had a gay man ever tried that on me before. Making out while drunk is quite different from that. I was shocked. So shocked in fact, that I panicked and had no idea what to do. I kind of just went with the flow for a minute, then pulled away, and awkwardly asked him if he had enjoyed the party while I went back to putting cupcakes away. For the next few days, I really struggled with this. That was definitely sexual assault, and it made me so icky and uncomfortable, just as it had when straight guys used to try such things with me. I was also so angry with myself for not saying something, for not really doing anything. I finally just came to the conclusion that one, I will try my best to force myself to speak up about such things in the future, and two, I will never ever ever play the drunk make-out game with drunk gay men anymore. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

  51. So, many years ago I took my then-underage (20) year old gay male friend to a gay bar here in NYC (The Cock actually – the only one that didn’t card him) which was pretty much a big ole orgy. But there was some dancing going on and I got up on the very limited dance floor for a moment. I was wearing a tank top and next thing I know, some gay guy has just randomly pulled down my tank top to expose my breasts and gave me a haha look. I was not cool with that. Yeah, I get it, there were blow jobs galore going on, but I didn’t consent to that.

    Another time I was out at The Roxy (er, I think with this same gay male friend) when I was going through my straight phase, and I ended up in between two gay male cousins dancing and having a grand ole time. Figured they were gay, no harm, no foul. Except one of them grabbed my hand and put it on his cock and the other was fondling my breasts.

    I’ve often joked I get felt up more by gay men than straight men, but it’s really true!

    I have to check myself though, because I realize I was at a lesbian bar just the other night and smacked a gay man’s ass just because it was there (and he was in my way). He then pushed it out for a couple more joking pats. So, I’m going to ask a hard question – how many of us have done that to gay men ourselves? I’ll obviously raise my hand here. I wonder how much of it is just playing around (which was my intent) and how much of it is so much more.

  52. Last night was my first real experience of this but I’m not sure whether to write it down to my being weird about touching anyone I’m not in a relationship with. I spent the entire night with my gay guy friend (who is always pretty raunchy with everyone)doing weird lapdanc-y things with me and what if either of us were straight would have been pretty intense hitting on me.
    I’m not certain though, is that what friends do? Am I just being weird? I just ended up feeling really anxious and upset by the end of it and I actually really like this guy and I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm.
    If nothing else these things make me really certain I’m gay. I’ll take a backrub off anyone whose giving one but boys touching me makes my skin crawl.

  53. These men don’t sound gay at all. They may be bi, but a man who is truly gay would have no desire to even touch a girls breasts/crotch/ass let alone make out with her. It seems society forces bisexuals to “pick a side” so when these men identify as “gay”, they continue to act out their desires towards both women and men. I’ve met so many bisexual men who know there is more discrimination against bisexuals even within the gay community so they claim to be gay. Not only does this give them more credibility, but it becomes an excuse to touch women’s bodies without their permission. If you feel that you are being harassed, you should say something. The excuse “it’s ok cauz I’m gay!” isn’t going to hold up in a court of law. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment whether it’s from a man, woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

    • Historically, that argument HAS held up in the court of law. There was a recent case in the UK and the dude was acquitted. Otherwise, this basically never proceeds to the courts. Ever.

  54. As a gay man, I can honestly say that I do not touch other people’s bodies without mutual consent. I do acknowledge the culture that surrounds this though, and that these things happen.

    What I don’t appreciate is how every gay man is portrayed as a giver of fashion advice and beauty tips. It’s a stereotype that is just plain wrong.

  55. OMG. I find this article so enlightening and confusing. I am a gay man and so many woman have taken my hands and put them on their breast. I love it and I never felt there was anything sexual about this. I do love to look at boobs in clothes or not. My coworker started taking my hands on her boobs all the time and I would do it on my own too. And then one day she told me I didn’t have that privilege anymore. How Confusing. Then I would get the privilege again. WTF… Another coworker would put my head in between her boobs and shake them around… So much fun. I think it’s called motor boat or that could be something else. I’m a hairstylist and so many girls think it’s totally fine with me. Some let me know it was not OK. Others like to make me do it in front of straight man.

  56. Pingback: He Didn’t Just Objectify Me, Did He? – Gay Men and Misogyny « Adventures through Heteronormativity

  57. Thank you *so much* for writing this and thanks to everyone who shared responses in the comments. As someone who works in theatre (where the “gay man who is women’s automatic best friend and therefore has license to say whatever he wants” archetype abounds), I deal with gay men’s misogyny all the time, yet rarely get to talk about it with people who understand what I’m experiencing, much less view it as a problem. Thanks for this conversation and for calling shit out.

    My zillions of thoughts about this article ended up spilling over into my own blog post: http://adventuresthroughheteronormativity.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/he-didnt-just-objectify-me-did-he-gay-men-and-misogyny/ (Automatically linked above, apparently)

  58. Pingback: How NOT to Write about Inequality

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