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.


27 06 2013

I felt guilty today for looking at the guy’s phone next to me on the bus but I’ve been encouraged to listen in on people’s conversations because it serves as good stories. I couldn’t really see what he was texting but at one point he texted in all caps to a group conversation and then a word vertically,



like a youtube comment. I’ve never seen that before on a phone. People are so strange. I feel so old and old-fashioned.

“The Fear” — Lily Allen

6 10 2011

I’ve really been digging Lily Allen the past little while.  I think I just randomly started listening to “22” one day and suddenly realized how good it was. Isn’t it great when music can do that to you?

Anyway, here’s “The Fear” (I prefer the uncensored version, but oh well).

And “22”.

A Formula for Idiocy

5 01 2011

Something I conjured up in non-fiction class.  Does it make sense?  I was never good at math.

Formula for Idiocy

a = a person
b = ridiculous things people say

Formula:  a + a = b
if b takes place on a bus, b (ridiculousness) multiplies by 2:

so, a + a = 2b
What you do to one side, you must do to the other:

Formula: 2(a + a) = 2b

Exercise: if a = typical skateboarder, and there are two of them on a bus, find b.

Answer: 2(a + a) = 2b
b = talking about absurd television show involving a warden owning a jail, telling the inmates to wear rabbit costumes.

New formula:

x = stereotypical straight men’s behaviour
y = stereotypical gay men’s behaviour

if b ≠ x, ∴ b = y.

Exercise: Prove b = y.

Answer: ?

The Meaning of Life (part 12)

25 09 2010

“Love,” I said, “love is the meaning of life.  It doesn’t matter what kind of love it is, just as long as you find that special person who makes you happy.  That person understands everything about you and always does his or her best to cheer you up.  It doesn’t matter what kind of people are in love; there is no wrong kind of love.  At some point in everyone’s life, they feel love.  This may take 10 years, maybe 50 years.  Love is the one thing that brings people together.  It doesn’t matter what two people are in love, because it is just love.  Even in a million years, love will be the only thing that hasn’t died out, because in the end, love is love, even for gay people, like me.”

*           *           *           *

So that’s my story about love, but in case you were wondering how my class reacted, well, let’s just say everyone was shocked and Mr. Salice was angry.  I still miss Sean very much, but I’ve gotten over most of it.  I hope someone in the future has the chance of reading my story and learning from it.  Someday, people will realize that the country they are living in isn’t the utopia promised after the election of President Tree.  I’m not going to ever see Canada, I think.  There are just so many reasons why I can’t.  My mom would be upset with me, I would miss school but most importantly, police cars have just pulled up in front of my house.

The End!

The Meaning of Life (part 11)

23 09 2010

“Gay?”  I finished for him.  This time, Matt was the one being careful that no one heard us.  “So what if I am?  Is it so bad?”  Anger began to grow in me as I shouted the words at him.

“Anyways, I did what anyone in my position should,” he continued.  “I phoned the police and had him…” Again, Matt hung his head and I was horrified.

“They…killed him?”  I stuttered the words as tears flowed out of my eyes and down my cheeks, leaving a wet trail.  Matthew only nodded.  He tried to convince me that it was the best thing to do.

“If anyone found out, you would be killed too, Jeremy.  I saved your life.  You should be thanking me, not being mad.  You are gay, aren’t you?”  I was sick of hiding myself to everyone and I might as well admit it, even if it was to my best friend who got my first love murdered.

“Yes, Matt, I am gay!  There, is that what you want?  Do you want me to spell it out for you too?  G-A…”

“Shut up, Jeremy, before anyone hears us!  We could…”

“Be murdered like Sean?!”  More tears welled up in my eyes and I began to sob uncontrollably.  I buried my hands in my face so that no one could see.  A pair of arms wrapped themselves around me.  I wanted to push them away, but I was too caught up in crying.

“His parents moved back to Canada, but listen, Jeremy, there was also another reason why I did what I did,” he whispered in my ear.  I said nothing.

“It’s because, I…like you too.  I mean, I really like you; in the way Sean liked you.”  When I heard this, I stopped and looked at him through blurred vision.  He offered a weak smile but I glared at him in return.  He continued.

“I was jealous that he was able to be so open with you.  I envied the way he spoke so carelessly!  I wanted ask you if you wanted to come over to my house.  I wanted to be everything Sean was.  But, unlike Sean, I was smart enough to know that this love is wrong and a sin.  Being gay is a sin, Jeremy.  You should know that by now.  I want to be with you, but it’s not worth the risk.  Do you understand what I’m talking about?”

I nodded and asked to be left alone.  After Matt deserted me, I absorbed everything he said to me.  Matt killed Sean because he didn’t want me to die but also because he was jealous of us; yet he refused for us to have anything.  What a coward.

Back in the classroom, I put my head down.  I was sick of this world; well actually, I was sick of this country.  I hated it here.  Canada, on the other hand, seemed like the ideal place to go.  If only there was some way to get there…

“Jeremy, what is the meaning of life?”  Mr. Salice’s loud voice rang through the room.  I raised my head off the desk and looked at him through half-open eyes.  I thought for a minute and answered.

To be continued!

The Meaning of Life (part 10)

19 09 2010

“Nothing, Matt.  I just went over to his house, that’s all.”

“What do you mean that’s all?  Do you know how many people will start to think you’re gay?”

“You’re being ridiculous, Matt.”

“No, I’m not!  You are the one that’s being ridiculous!”  He realized he was shouting and paused.

“Look, Jeremy, I’m just trying to look out for you.  You know I’m your best friend and all so that’s what I should be doing.”

“No, Matt, what you’re doing is telling me how I should live my life.  I get enough of that from my mom.  I don’t need someone else to tell me that crap.”  I slammed the receiver down into the cradle and flopped on my back on the bed.  Why did Matt act like such a weirdo?  I was obviously old enough to take care of myself.  I decided not to think about this and just get to bed.

*           *           *           *

I woke early the next day to see Sean at school.  I ran all the way to school without stopping.  As I approached room 314, I already began to think about what to say to Sean.  How are you?  No, too formal.  How are you doing?  Sounds too much like he’s sick.  What’s up?  I’m not a gangster!  But I wouldn’t have to think much further, because when I came in the classroom, he wasn’t there.  Mr. Salice was there, though.  He looked up from the papers on his desk and said good morning to me.

“Good morning, sir,” I replied.  Maybe Sean would come later.  So I waited.

After the bell rang, I was getting concerned.  Still, it was sensible that he could come in late like he did yesterday.  It was not good to get ahead of myself and start thinking of irrational explanations.

During Mr. Salice’s lesson, I had totally zoned out.  Where was Sean?  I tried to refocus my attention to the material but it just wasn’t working.  Maybe he didn’t want to see me again.  But then how come he kissed me?  This was all confusing for me.  I wished I had someone to talk to.  I glanced at Matthew, who was staring at Mr. Salice.  If only he knew.

When recess came, I slowly walked to my hole.  I felt depressed and lonely.  Sean was the first person to ever understand what I felt.

“Hey, how are you doing?  You don’t look so well.”  It was Matthew.  He gave me a caring look, which I ignored.

“Do you know where Sean is?” I asked, and then wondered why I was even doing this after realizing it.

“Yeah, umm… Jeremy, I have to talk to you about him.”  His voice became low and scared.  What did he know about Sean?

Matthew took me outside to the water fountain.  He sighed and looked down at the ground.  “What is it Matt?  Do you know where Sean is or not?” The anxiousness in my words said it all.  I needed to know where he was.  Matthew breathed in and spoke.

“Yesterday, when Sean came in our class, I saw you constantly looking at him.  I wrote it in my notebook.  And then when you talked to him instead of me, I really had suspicions.  Finally, you went to his house, which is an obvious indication that you are…” The words hung in the air and I was left to fill it in.

To be continued!

The Meaning of Life (part 9)

18 09 2010

“So what if you made a new friend?  You don’t have to go to their house to stay friends!  Look at you and Matthew!  When did you ever go to his house?  Never!”  Her face began turning shades, from white to pink, and to red.  She took a breath and let it out slowly.  Now she seemed more calm and relaxed.

“Look, Jeremy, I just don’t want the neighbours to be suspicious of your behaviour.  Promise me you’ll never do this again, okay?”

At this point, I didn’t want to hear her start yelling from the top, so I agreed.

“Thank you, Jeremy.  You know, you really had me worried for a while there.  I was wondering if I’d see you again.”

“Don’t be silly, mom, I’ll be here.”  With that, I left the room and walked to my own.  The running had worn my legs out and the fight with my mom made me tired.  So I lay on my bed to take a short nap.

When I woke up, it was 8:27.  I rubbed my eyes and got out of bed and went out of my room.  My mom was watching TV.

“Mom, how were you raised?”  She glanced over at me from the screen with an inquiring look.

“Well, I was raised in Canada, so it’s different.  Why are you asking me this?”  When she mentioned Canada, I nearly jumped.  I exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me you were raised in Canada?  What was it like?  Why did we move?”

“Whoa, son, slow down.  First of all, I didn’t tell you because I knew you would act this way.  But seeing as how you’re asking, I might as well tell you now.”  She sat up straighter and I sat myself down next to her.

“Canada is basically the opposite of America.  They don’t have Boxes, they don’t have laws against religion, and they don’t kill the homeless.  The land is much more natural than it is here; it’s cleaner and the people are a lot nicer.”

“Okay, then why are we living here now?”  She sighed and told me to come closer, and I did.

“We moved because of your father.  One day, he told me that he was gay and that he had married me in the hopes of becoming straight.  Naturally, I was furious at him and I wanted to get away from his stupid queer face as much as possible.  So where was the best place?”

“America,” I finished slowly, like some four year old amazed at the word.

“Yes, and plus, you weren’t born yet so I figured that if you were raised in America, you wouldn’t grow up to be a fag like your father,” she snorted in disgust.  The words hurt me; she didn’t want me to be gay.  There was no way now I’d ever tell her.  But my dad was gay?

“Have you seen him since?” I asked.  She shook her head.

“No, fortunately.  It’s a good thing you won’t either,” she laughed.  I tried to smile, but I didn’t see a point in it.

Back in my room, I dialled Matthew’s number on the phone.  He picked up right away and started complaining.

“Jeremy!  What took you so long to call me?  What did you do with Sean?”

“Matt, I’m sorry but I took a nap and I was talking to my mom.”

“Okay, fine.  What did you do with Sean?” he repeated.

To be continued!

The Meaning of Life (part 8)

17 09 2010

“Mom, we’re going to be doing homework in my room.  We’ll be out for dinner soon,” said Sean.  Before she even had a chance to answer, he pulled me out of the kitchen and led me to his room.

The walls of his room were covered with posters of movies, basketball players, a giant map of the world and the Canadian flag on the ceiling.  There was a desk with a computer, a small dresser and a bed.  It looked as though they had just moved here and hadn’t really had an opportunity to unpack everything just yet.

I took my backpack off and put it beside his dresser.  He did the same.  I stepped over to his bed and sat down, still admiring his room.  Sean laughed when he saw me.

“Is my room really that interesting?”

“More than mine.  I don’t have a Canada flag in my room.”  He laughed again and sat next to me on the bed.  Slowly, I saw him reach out his hand and put it on mine.  As much as I hated to do it, I moved my hand away.

“I can’t do this, Sean; it’s wrong.  What if somebody finds out?”

“No one will find out.  And even if someone does, then I’ll protect you.”  His words were sweet and caring, something I had never heard before.  I looked into his eyes and became lost in the colours.  His hand returned to mine, and before I knew, it I felt his lips on mine.  I had kissed girls before but this was different; it felt different.  The kiss was passionate and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was really in love.   Even though I knew that it was bad, it really felt like love.  Finally, we drew back.  I had gotten the biggest rush of my life that day.  But I couldn’t…

“I should go, Sean.  I’ll see you.”  I got up and scooped up my backpack.  I heard him following me behind.  He grabbed my arm right when I was at the door.

“Please stay, Jeremy.  For me?”  He made a sad puppy-dog face and I giggled, but turned serious again.

“I can’t Sean. I’m sorry.  I have to go now; I don’t want to make my mom any angrier.”  I really didn’t want to leave him, especially after our kiss.  So I leaned forward and gave him another kiss, which was equally good as the first one.  After it, Sean reluctantly opened the door for me and I stepped outside into the sunshine.  I heard him yell goodbye to me and I yelled it back as I ran from his house.  When I looked back, I was still able to make out Sean, who was grinning.  Little did I know it would be the last time I ever saw him.

*           *           *           *

My thoughts were racing as I ran home.  How could our love survive?  How could we survive?  Was this how I really wanted to spend my life?  There were too many things in my head.  I decided to just get home and figure it out slowly.

I took my time opening the door, since my mom was still cross with me for going over to Sean’s house.  Luckily, she wasn’t standing at the stairs when I came in.  I needed to talk to her about this, but not directly.  I looked in her room and found her sitting down at her desk, looking at some old pictures.  I tapped on the door gently and waited.  Then she turned around and immediately, her face changed expressions.

“Where the hell have you been?  You know you can’t go over to people’s houses after school!  What’s wrong with you, Jeremy?” she screamed.

“Nothing mother, I just made a new friend today and…”

To be continued!

The Meaning of Life (part 7)

16 09 2010

After phoning my mom and getting yelled at on my cell phone, we started walking to Sean’s house.  Along the way, I kept thinking about Canada and how Sean had described it as being much freer than America.  It had made me want to go to Canada even more.

“So, Jeremy, you didn’t answer my question yet.  Are you…” Sean’s voice startled me yet again.  Oh yeah, that question.  I really didn’t know what to say to him.  I hated lying to myself; it only made me feel worse, but if I told him the truth, there would be no guarantee that he would keep it a secret, so…

“Well, are you going to answer me?”  He stared at me questioningly, seeing if the right response was written on my face.  I sighed and looked at him.  The same pair of strange eyes looked right back at me, which seemed to push me into telling him the truth.

“Am I what?” I asked.

“Gay!  Are you gay, Jeremy?  Is it that hard to understand?!”  The words came out harsh and bitterly.  I stopped walking and glared at him.  Why was he being so mean to me all of a sudden?  At once, he apologized.

“I’m sorry if I was too rough on you Jeremy, but in Canada…”

“Stop it!  Stop talking about Canada!  I don’t want to hear about it anymore!”  I couldn’t believe how annoying he was being.  Canada this, Canada that.  Why couldn’t you just shut up about Canada?!

This time, Sean looked as if he was the victim of the yelling war.

“I thought you liked Canada.”

“I do but every time you insinuate how much better Canada is than America, it makes me feel like I’m living in a dystopia of some kind.”

“Well, Jeremy, in some ways, this is kind of a dystopia.”  It’s one thing to shout at me but another to bad-mouth my country.  However, I knew he was right; Canada was all America wasn’t, which was a free nation.  I grumbled and kicked the ground, angry that Sean was correct.  Suddenly, I felt his arms around my shoulders.  My first reaction was to shove him away before anyone saw, but I was just so tired that I let him, all the while hearing him say, “I know, Jeremy; it’s okay, you’re safe with me.”

*           *           *           *

When we reached his house, it looked like any other house on the block.  There were bushes, shrubs, a few flowers and a pathway that led up to the door.  The house was painted a dark green, which matched the lime-coloured door.  My first impression of it was that it was so much better looking than mine.  It looked a bit bigger too.  Sean opened the door and let me in first.  The inside of the house was a lot like our house; staircase to the upstairs, separate doors to the downstairs rooms.  We headed up the stairs and into the kitchen.  His mom was there, preparing the dinner.  Sean went up to her and told her about me.

“Mom, this is Jeremy.  Jeremy, this is my mom.”  His mom was a little shorter than he was, with the same hair and eyes.  Bags under her eyes indicated that she hadn’t been getting much sleep lately.  She reached out and shook my hand firmly.

“Nice to meet you, Jeremy.   I’m glad Sean has somebody to talk to.”  Then, she winked at me.  I smiled at her.

“Would you like to stay for dinner, Jeremy?” she asked.  Without thinking, I blurted out, “Yes!  That would be great.” And she smiled back at me.

To be continued!