This is a restored post from my WordPress. Originally posted on March 13, 2021. I still agree with everything I said here.
A little bit different from my usual topic, I want to talk about social interactions in spaces, centered around sex, and the rhetoric from these spaces leaking into non-sexual social life.
I will preface this by saying that I do not believe any paraphilia or more vague sexual preference is inherently unethical. People like all sorts of things for a myriad of reasons, and just a plain indication of preference tells you nothing about what this person finds in this or that thing. I am targeting specifically a set of stereotypes, surrounding sexual (and some nonsexual) roles and the worth people assign to these stereotypes.
People like opposites and dualities. Male and female, masculine and feminine, active and passive… Real life minds and behaviors don’t always present unambiguously, spectra and overlaps are much more common, but it is tempting to simplify and water down to one single label. To a degree these labels make life easier, because unloading our complete identity issues and questioning onto everyone is too energy-consuming and often unwanted. But sometimes different identity axes get conflated, and that’s where problems begin.
In this article I am talking about the following axes:
- Male-female. These are pretty simple, they are gender identities. Not all genders can fit into the male-female axis, because nonbinary genders aren’t necessarily in the middle between them, but people love simplifying nonbinary identities to “basically a girl/guy”, and this is a whole different problem I won’t be discussing in this post.
- Masculine-feminine. Also sometimes called butch-femme. These are gender presentations, sets of dressing styles and mannerisms typically associated in the society with men or women.
- Young-mature. Ages, without a clear definition. Sometimes these roles can be applied to age gap couples, even if the gap isn’t big, sometimes they can be applied to a general air of youthfulness or maturity a person has.
- Top-bottom. These are exclusively sexual roles, they typically refer to penetrating and penetrated sides in sex, often extended to giving and receiving roles in a more general sense.
- Dom-sub. These are relationship roles, they indicate the superior and the inferior in hierarchical role play.
- Shy-assertive. Behavior stereotypes, referring to how active and initiative the person is in life in general.
People heavily gravitate towards grouping everyone into “female, feminine, young, bottom, sub, shy” and the opposite, “male, masculine, mature, top, dom, assertive”. This affects even queer spaces, where on the surface people love reversing stereotypical sexual roles and making women masc and men femme, but in reality still drag along the rest of the chain and idealize assertive and dominant women and shy and submissive men. An unpleasant bonus comes in the shape of questioning gender of femme men and insisting they’re less male for their style.
There are two problems here. The first one is really obvious: this stereotyping affects the way you interact with real living humans, which is rude and inappropriate, because you basically end up forcing a complete stranger to fulfill a role. Calling a random person “submissive and breedable” just because they posted a selfie in thigh highs, insisting someone is incompetent and in need of being told what to do because they’re a bottom is not funny. This can classify as sexual harassment in certain cases. The fact that sexually inexperienced people who take their education from porn are under impression that vaguely expressed discomfort is flirting, and not everyone can express discomfort strongly, also does not help. This unhealthy atmosphere prevents self discovery and can push people into doing things they don’t actually enjoy.
The second problem is more layered. Femaleness, and by connection femininity, as well as young age, are features, subjected to oppression. Bottoming, due to homophobia, is also seen as being basically a woman, hence why clueless straight people are asking m/m and f/f couples who’s “the man” and who’s “the woman” of the relationship. So these two chains are piling up characteristics of oppressed groups and connecting them with being submissive and passive on one side, and characteristics of privileged groups with being dominant and assertive on the other.
Another curious aspect of this stereotyping is the one-sided nature of public humiliation. The inappropriate behavior I already mentioned is targeting almost solely people, associated with “inferior” stereotypes, and serves pushing them further into more “inferior” stereotypes. Consciously or subconsciously, people are interested in guarding and gate-keeping prized roles from someone they view as undeserving.
I believe this is a problem not only of public conduct, but also of secret (in some cases – internalized) bigotry. There’s nothing wrong with liking, say, young femme subs, but there’s no non-bigoted reason for assuming young femme people want/should want to sub. And people who make degrading comments at bottoms online are spiritual siblings of men who message random women with rudeness and unsolicited advice in hopes of coming off as “alphas” and getting laid.
I predict this post will gather some commentary a la “if you don’t want sexual attention, why say you’re a sub or a bottom”, so I end it with stating that people can disclose whatever they want about themselves on their own social media, and it does not equal consent to sexual advances.