The Guest Spot

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.

No Femmes

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.

Inquiring minds need to know...

John R. Gordon's fourth novel, Faggamuffin, is out now.

6 comments:

Zee Jai said...

I'm reminded of the backlash against the characters in Noah's Arc, for being "fem" and "camp"...

Cup-o-Noodles said...

I'm an equal-opportunity slut. All boys are cute. Have dick, I will suck. :)

John G said...

There was an interesting bit of feedback at the end of season 2 of Noah's Arc: the finale featured a catwalk fashion show, & fans were looking forward to seeing two butch brothers, Wade & his then-beau Dre, modelling swimwear. However, when it came to it, the designers added carnival touches to both of them - some eye make-up & feathers on the shoulders (Merwin, who played Dre, liked his look so much I remember him wandering out to the nearby shops in just feathers, trunks & sandals). It looked great, but some viewers were angry that 'even' Wade & Dre had been 'feminised' in that way...

Michael Rochelle said...

Personally, I believe that everyone is entitled to like whatever they like and that many of us don't really have a whole lot of say as to what we are naturally attracted to. People typically can't be talked into liking someone who is feminine, or masculine, or overweight, or underweight, or older, or younger, etc., if that isn't the way they are natually inclined or they choose to try for whatever reason. And if it was that easy for a person to ignore his natural preferences for a man with a certain level of masculinity, why wouldn't he just adjust his prefernces so that he'd like women instead of feminine men? If we're really confused by what someone means when they say "no femmes," why aren't we questioning the person who listed this as a preference as opposed to walking away scratching our heads as if the word "feminine" is a term that's really hard to grasp?

If someone says they aren't interested in femmes and they classify me in that category, I'm going to accept that that person isn't the one for me and I'm not going to try to reason with them until they somehow find a way to like me. And I'm not going to act like I, myself, don't have my own prefernces. Hopefully, we do have preferences and everybody isn't eligible to get a shot at your heart or anything else you have to offer. Instead, I'm going to try to get to know people who are looking for what I have to offer, whatever that is. No disrespect to anyone, but if someone doesn't want you because of the way you carry yourself, or your weight, or your race, or your age, then you don't need them.

Zee Jai said...

Fair point, Michael, I don't think anyone would argue about preference (except maybe Jill Scott) - we like what we like.

But we surely we can ask ourselves - as gay men - why so many of us seem so ready condemn our fem brothers?

It's also worth considering that a lot of guys will publicly disparage fem boys, but secretly have a thing for them...

John G said...

I do feel that 'twink' seems to be a socially-acceptable version of 'femme' (within the frame of being very young). But my question was really about what people included in or excluded from a notion of femme-ness - eg waxed bodybuilding stripper in gold lame thong: at what point does the passive, decorative & adorned become the scorned 'femme'?

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