The dust-up over a certain reality TV personality’s recent comments about sexual mores reminded me of something that has irritated me for some time about the Celebrate Diversity crowd, and a minor revelation I once had while watching a Will and Grace re-run.
But first, a minor detour. Back in 2002, not too long after college, I was living in the DC area working in what I would consider my first “real” job — something that didn’t involve bussing restaurant tables or making inordinate amounts of photocopies. Rather suddenly, I found myself in need of a new place to live. I ended up finding an ad for a cheap, metro-accessible place. The ad said “gay friendly”. Hmmm, not my ideal choice. But I needed new digs pronto, and it was cheap! As it turns out, it was three gay dudes living in a house, and I was the odd straight guy. Little wonder that I ended up watching a re-run of Will and Grace.
I forget what the episode was about, and even the precise dialog of the scene that so impressed me, but here’s the gist. Some reference was made to straight sex, or maybe just straight PDA, but I think it was sex. Jack, the more flamboyant, supporting male character, reacted with an “ew” of disgust. Yeah, it was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but not completely.
And there something clicked for me. Jack’s reaction was visceral. The core of his being thought that straight sex was icky. Of course he did! How else was he going to react?
Likewise, when Phil Robertson says, “It seems like, to me, a vagina – as a man – would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me.” — that’s a completely natural reaction for any straight guy to have.
Religious, cultural, and political dimensions aside, the “ick” factor is an inherent part of human nature. It probably accounts for the persistence and difficulty of the problems that gay folks have faced over the course of human history. It’s what makes it so hard to “celebrate diversity” of a sexual nature.
I have never understood straight folks who say of their gay acquaintances, “They make such a cute couple!” Thankfully I have never had to respond to this inanity, but my thought process upon hearing it is, “Well, I’m having a difficult time seeing it, but whatever.” My hypothesis is that this expression is used as a badge of one’s own political correctness more than as a genuine assertion of appreciation of the couple-hood in question.
The experience of living with three gay housemates was an illuminating one. The full spectrum of human nature was on display. One housemate was pleasantly polite. One was quite helpful and friendly — probably would have helped me move had I asked him. We watched a lot of Star Trek: Voyager re-runs, as well as Will and Grace. And the third housemate was one of the worst human beings you should ever hope to meet — a pathological liar who didn’t clean up after himself or his cats. These certainly weren’t the first gay folks this county boy had encountered, but seeing all of this in an intimate environment will quickly add depth to one’s two-dimensional preconceptions. However, this does not make the idea of gay sex any less icky to the straight mind, particularly in a house with thin walls and inconveniently located air ducts.
So there — I think gay sex is icky, and nobody should be the least bit ashamed to feel that way. It is natural for straight folks to think of gay sex as icky, just as Jack in Will and Grace thought straight sex was icky. I get along quite well with the gay folks who pass through my life, and I wish my gay friends nothing but happiness and success. But nothing will change the ick-factor. So don’t ask me if Matt and Steve make a cute couple, because I really don’t know how to answer that. I just hope they’re happy.