Sexual racism exhausts me

13 11 2013

Spent the day asking friends about their views on racism in the gay community and many of them don’t see “NO ASIANS” as a problem. In fact, they think it’s acceptable, which was incredibly infuriating and frustrating. Tried not to get overwhelmed and upset and tried to diffuse the conversations with questions (“Why do you think that?” “How might you feel if someone said, ‘Not into white guys’?”) but then that just lead to more angering words. It’s the end of the day and I’m just exhausted .

Who would’ve thought arguing with people could be so draining. All in a day’s work, I suppose.


The Sexualization of the Desexualized Same-Sex Couple

7 10 2013

Here’s my (hopefully) A+ short paper I wrote for my Critical Studies in Sexuality class. Also, please don’t plagiarize me. I don’t expect it to happen, but hey, students are known to be desperate sometimes.

The Sexualisation of the Desexualized Same-Sex Couple

The article “A New Entity in the History of Sexuality: The Respectable Same-Sex Couple”, written by Mariana Valverde, examines the notion of a new phenomenon known as “the respectable same-sex couple”, or “RSSC” (362). Valverde outlines how a common image of gay couples has emerged in the last decade that frequently depicts them as “middle-class, middle-aged, and white” (363). In addition, these depictions of same-sex couples often desexualize them.

All of this calls into question the idea of sexuality and how this relates to one’s overall identity. By pointing out the desexualized images of the RSSC, Valverde seems to imply that sexuality is an integral part of one’s identity especially for gay couples, whose sexuality is one of the major differences from heterosexual couples. Yet, Valverde does not address a more basic question: why do same-sex couples need to constantly express their sexuality? Is it for themselves, or is it for an audience? For this paper, I will use the example of Josh Kilmer-Purcell and husband Brent Ridge, winners of the reality television show The Amazing Race (TAR). Josh and Brent, as they are known on the race, are both middle-class, middle-aged, and white, fitting Valverde’s description of the RSSC. Like other gay couples in previous seasons of the show, Josh and Brent were desexualized, never shown doing anything more than give supportive hugs after finishing a leg, while their straight competitors openly and comfortably kissed each other. I think it’s safe to say that most straight people watching TAR know that gay people have sex with other gay people, so sexualizing Josh and Brent would not serve as an educational tool; rather, it seems that sexualized images of the RSSC, in this case, Josh and Brent, would serve as reminders to viewers that not only are they a gay couple, but as a gay couple, they have sex with each other. If this is the case, does this sexualisation function as a reinforcement of the classic queer motto, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”? And is the message to other gay and queer audiences the same?

As Josh and Brent are only the second gay couple to ever win the race, perhaps their sexualisation would serve as a reminder that gay couples (and gay/queer people) are in fact able to compete with and beat their straight counterparts – and are also able to win a reality show. Thus, sexualizing them effectively functions as both a milestone in history and as visibility in a heteronormative world. In this regard, sexualisation of the RSSC results in a feel-good, subtle message that can apply to both straight and gay audiences: it reminds everyone of gay people’s existence, but can also serve as a kind of encouragement for those who are queer.

However, there are other questions to consider. If the sexualisation of Josh and Brent is important to queer people’s identities as well as their history and future, then how do we go about the process of sexualising these images? What might their sexualisation even constitute? How much is enough, and how much is too much? And who can judge/monitor all this? These are all questions Valverde does not answer (nor pose). Does the sexualisation of the RSSC include doing things that are outside the norm for a straight couple? For example, if Josh and Brent are shown kissing, is that sexual enough? Or is it not queer enough, relative to, say, showing them having anal sex, or talking about anal sex? (which isn’t really queer, since straight couples can have anal sex as well, but is more commonly associated with gay people) Moreover, if the depictions of RSSCs partly serve to pacify and calm the straight population and convince them that gay folks are just as wealthy, unsexual, and white as the typical straight couple, what might the response be if RSSCs became sexualized? Would people – both straight and gay – complain if Josh and Brent kissed once? Or every week? Or did more than kiss? After all, straight people have complained and blamed their queer counterparts for being too sexual (the many complaints around pride parades and public displays of affection, for instance). Is it not a bit of a double-edged sword, then, that on one hand, people complain (or note, like Valverde) that Josh and Brent aren’t sexualized enough, but if/when they are sexualized, that others may complain that Josh and Brent are too sexualized? In effect, some may complain that their sexuality is being left out, while others rebut that same-sex couples are too sexualized. Is there a way to reconcile these two opinions? Will it ever be possible for everyone to simply accept the image of same-sex couples, sexualized or not, the way we have about opposite-sex couples? And perhaps most importantly, what about the wants of the RSSC? What if Josh and Brent don’t wish to be sexualized? What if hugging is as sexual as they get in their daily lives? What then?

Valverde’s article is important in that it points out homogenous and unrealistic depictions of same-sex couples; it does leave a lot of questions unanswered, however. Since TAR is a television show that is heavily edited, the image of Josh and Brent as an RSSC is ultimately left in the hands of a network. Sexualised images are important, yes, but going about the production and maintenance of these images is more complicated than it seems.

Work Cited

Valverde, Mariana. “A New Entity in the History of Sexuality: The Respectable Same-Sex

Couple.” Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies. Ed. Maureen Fitzgerald and Scott Rayter. Toronto: Canadian Scholars/Women’s, 2012. 361-366. Print.

More queer films!

16 08 2010

Today’s been a long day — 3 films!  I better get writing before it all fades from my memory (just like my childhood… sigh).

Off World

Synopsis:  A Filipino-Canadian man journeys back to “Smokey Mountain”, a slum in the Philippines and does… things.

Super awesome stuff:  I thought I was desensitized by poverty but this film proved me wrong.  The crane shot in the beginning, showing just how large and full of garbage Smokey Mountain is was eye-opening, to say the least.  And as Lucky, our protagonist, explains how methane in the garbage is released into the atomosphere, thus explanining the slum’s nickname, children no more than 7 years old play around in the filth, some even working.  It’s these shots that really get to viewers.  Mathieu Guez, the writer and director of this co-produced film (from Canada and the Philippines) seems to have had some sort of budget to use a crane, which I wanted to ask him about after the film since he was in the audience, but unfortunately I had to leave for the next movie.  He also has a natural feel for camera angles and movement of the camera, and we get to feel and experience things as Lucky goes on his quest.

Not so super awesome things:  Because of the absence of any real plot (Lucky seemingly just does things for a while), the film doesn’t seem to be headed for any sort of direction.  In fact, I was wondering while watching the movie, if it would be better if Guez had made a documentary instead of a narrative feature.  There’s nothing about Lucky that I personally connected to, as well as any of the other characters.  Before the film began, Guez stated that it was a very personal film for him, and it definitely seems so.  Scenes like Lucky high on… something and him dancing wildly for a few minutes or him walking around disillusioned by the poverty come across as personal experiences.  However, making a film about personal experiences has its downfalls, like having no plot or lack of an antagonist.  Maybe VFS has drilled the concept of story too hard in my brain but I want to see a good story and unfortunately, I didn’t see one in this film.  Also, strangely enough, I felt very void of emotion while watching this.  I think it has to do with not being able to connect to the characters, and if I don’t connect with them, I don’t care if good or bad things happen to them.

Good for watching:  if you feel like looking at some pretty images (yet ugly, because of the slums) of the Philippines but don’t care about characters.  Or if you love fade ins and outs.

Overall: Maybe a documentary next time?

Grade:  C-

There was a Q&A after with filmmaker Mathieu Guez after the film and I would’ve loved to stay at least for a few minutes to hear him talk about his experience in making the film, but I had to run off to the next film at the Granville 7 to see…


Synopsis:  A former child star all grown up goes to college in the hopes of having a normal life and meets a hot professor.

Super awesome good things:  First and foremost, I was absolutely impressed by Sarah Stouffer, who plays the main character, Jackie.  She looks like a younger Haley Bennet, but acts miles better!  Her natural beauty, charm, and innocence really got through and considering this is her first acting gig, she seems like a born actress and I really hope she goes far.  It’s a simple story about an affair between a college student and a teacher except in this case it’s two women instead of the typical male fantasy.  The story moves along well, and the character interactions are wonderful to enjoy.  Bloomington is wonderfully acted and very well-made and I particularly liked how it ended.

Not so super awesome things: While I like the taboo of the teacher/student love affair, it all happens a little too quickly and easily for me.  During their second encounter, Jackie and Catherine (the teacher) go to bed?  Already?  We’ve heard from other students that everyone stays away from Ms. Stark but Jackie doesn’t seem to care about that.  I wanted more conflict!  Should Jackie do it or not?  What if they get caught?  What’ll happen to both of them?  I also noted that no one in the film talks about sexual orientation (ie. Are you lesbian?  Have you always known?  the usual questions like that), which is refreshing, but at the same time, it makes me wonder if this is just a fling for Jackie.  The fact that Stouffer looked around 17 bothered me a tiny bit, since she was supposed to be 22, which is a minor thing.  I also would’ve liked to see more of the dynamic between Jackie and her uptight mother; the scenes between them were full of tension and interesting to see how it would all play out.

Good for watching:  for remembering the good old days when you fantasized about sleeping with a teacher.

Overall:  An impressive debut from Fernanda Cardoso featuring a standout performance by Stouffer.  Great job!

Grade:  B+

There was also a Q&A after the film with Cardoso (the writer/director) and Stouffer, which I was able to sit for a few minutes for.  There was funny banter, Cardoso talking about how she had saved up several years’ worth of money to produce and make this film, and the moderator asking Stouffer if she had any similar experience that helped with the film, where the audience giggled with delight and Stouffer wittily answered, “If you’re referring to if I was homeschooled, yes, I was.”

I wish I could’ve stayed for more but I had to run off yet again, back to Tinseltown to watch the final film of the night…

The Butch Factor

Synopsis: A documentary examining what it means to be masculine in the gay world.

Super awesome good things:  Well, the entire subject matter is interesting to me since, as the film points out, there is this neverending conflict amongst the gay community to prove that they’re “men”, which I have issues with.  I like how the film has interviews with seemingly macho men and most of them define being a man as more than just appearance.  It was particularly interesting how director Christopher Hines gets almost everyone on the gay spectrum — from a police officer, to bears, to a stereotypical gay youth, to drag queens — all voicing their opinions on masculinity.

Not so super awesome things:  the narrator’s voice bugged me for some reason.  It made the film seem like a tv special for 20/20 or something.  Furthermore, his narration serves to primarily introduce new interviewees but then altogether disappears halfway through the film, leaving interviews such as one with a transgendered man, without an introduction.  The style of the film also changes midway, focusing less on personal interviews and more on groups in the gay community and how they represent masculinity.  At first I minded this because it was a strange transition and also I was wondering about the interviewees I first watched in the beginning and if they’d be coming up again, but it didn’t bother me too much because I found it absorbing, especially the parts about the history of masculinity.  I also became very aware of the editing (ie. if someone was talking about a certain image or person or something, it would show up briefly on-screen, then back to the interview) which I guess isn’t a good sign. I was also aware they mainly interviewed older, white men (with the exception of one black man).  What about everyone else?

Good for watching:  for those newly coming out or are closeted, who are afraid of labels and whether or not their “masculine” enough.

Overall:  Pretty good.

Grade: B