John R. Gordon writes exclusively for kaos about effemiphobia. Gordon wrote the screenplay for "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom" (as well as episodes of the TV series), and the short film "Souljah". His novels include the award-winning "Skin Deep", and "Faggamuffin", and together with Rikki Beadle-Blair he founded Team Angelica Publishing.
LOOKING OVER the parade of cute, mostly younger guys on a recent kaos posting flaunting their physiques in poses and ways that seem to me flamboyantly femme (pouting, sometimes wearing make-up, hyper-extending the back to blazon the booty, wearing skimpy underthings), and yet athletically masculine and certainly hella sexy, I found myself reflecting on that most common of disbarrings on gay dating and hook-up sites: "No femmes". I'm always curious as to what people mean – or think they mean – by that phrase: what they think constitutes effeminacy. And contrariwise, what they mean by "straight-acting".
My own personal (though non-exclusive) preference is for guys who are both flamboyant and athletic. For me such men have the physical appeal of masculinity (by which I mean – for me personally – leanness and muscularity); yet they are untrammelled by conforming to "straight" notions of manliness, and its often-banal constrictions. To me such men don't seem "femme" even though they are certainly not conventionally "manly" – what with shaved bodies ("masculine" or not?), skimpy and/or fetish-fabric costuming and maybe overt make-up and shaped eyebrows.
To what extent is, say, a muscular stripper in a gold lamé thong masculine? - or if he's wearing thigh-high boots that intentionally echo women's suspenders-stockings look: a macho drag. Is he "straight-acting"? If so, in what sense? If not, is he therefore "femme" and not desirable? For that matter, is David Beckham straight-acting? Many – perhaps even most - real-life straight men are not particularly macho, are not particularly muscular (never mind body-built), and even verge (especially when younger) on the fey. Is hyper-macho drag-loving Dennis Rodman straight-acting?
"Straight-acting" isn't usually understood to contain the add-on "like Justin Bieber" or "like Russell Brand". It seems to mean a particular gay performance of a redacted notion of heterosexual maleness, inevitably involving very short hair. Yet I suspect it still has to be a visibly gay performance: for instance, gym body-built, but with a waxed chest, threaded eyebrows, and maybe botox: what I would call (in a friendly way) "butch queen". Is that "straight-acting" in the dating sense? Which here would mean simply, "markedly muscular yet evidently gay". Or do those seeking the straight-acting mean simply "one who passes" rather than a particular erotic form? – i.e. the social convenience (and to be fair, safety) of not being seen as gay on the streets.
Of course there are less pleasing aspects to effeminacy: prissiness, shrillness, an asexual cancelling-out of masculine energies; but the banner dismissal "no femmes" seems rather wider than that, pointing towards dull conservatism, self-dislike, even a sort of timidity. I wonder what its content really is – just as I wonder what that nullity "straight-acting" actually amounts to in the heads of those seeking it.