Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How Not to be "That Guy"

How Not to be “That Guy”

A brief disclaimer before this post begins.  This post was not inspired by any one incident or any one person, but by the reoccurrence of many, many incidences.  If you think I’m talking about you, I may be, but you are probably in good company.  Also, I understand that this post only talks about one specific type of privilege, and I would love links to dealing with other types of privilege in the scene in the comments, including, but not limited to, racism, ableism, and classism left in the comment section.

I often find myself feeling uncomfortable around one specific group of people: heterosexual, cisgender men (if you have to look up cisgender, this post is definitely for you!)  This is especially unfortunate as a bisexual, tomboyish female because this is my largest group of potential play/sex partners, and feeling uncomfortable around them is not conducive to either one of those things happening.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t some amazing heterosexual, cisgender men out there (in fact, I played with a very awesome one last weekend at IML), and that you aren’t awesome if you accidently do any of these things.  But if you want to get in my pants, or at the very least, be my friend, it would help if you keep from being “that guy”: the hcm who does not understand or recognize his privilege and makes us females and queers uncomfortable.

The first step to not being that guy is to not question anyone’s identity.  As soon as my Daddy introduces me to someone as his boy, the first thing most hcm say is something along the lines of “She doesn’t look like a boy!”  Understand that this is the equivalent to me telling you, “You don’t look like a man.”  For non-gender conforming people, it has taken many, many years for most of us to come to terms with our identities not fitting nicely in the sex/gender matrix (same for those of differing sexual preferences).  Questioning this identity is not only annoying but insulting to all of those who don’t fit into the heteronormative matrix.  I also often see this with bisexual men and women, with many declaring that they are not *really* bisexual. 

Second, if you don’t understand something, ask (politely, of course).  There is nothing that makes me wetter than a hcm asking me which pronouns I prefer, even though my answer is always, “I don’t care.”  Some people really do care, so if you aren’t sure which pronouns to use ask.  If you would like to know more about why I identify as a boy, ask.  That being said, also understand that many people, including myself, don’t want to spend every party or event explaining their identity or being the token _____ person, so educate yourself on issues of gender and sexuality.  Reading is sexy.

Which leads me to three: recognize your privilege.  I saw the best quote the other day, which was something along the lines of “Privilege is starting on third base, but thinking you hit a triple.”  Privilege, by definition, has nothing to do with who you are as a person, good or bad, but instead, in this case, exists because you fit neatly in the privileged column of the sex/gender system.  With privilege comes power, and I hate to say this, but every time I meet a hcm, I recognize that there is always a potential for violence.  When you talk to someone who is not a hcm, there is a power differential.  This power difference can be hot, but like race play or disability play, it only is hot when both people recognize it and the underprivileged person knows that the privileged person understands what his privilege really encompasses.  This also means don’t be offended when I ask for your real name or to see your DL before I go home with you, or that I may hesitate bringing you into queer spaces. 

However, being proactive about your dismantling your privilege can be really great.  For example, I was slightly tipsy when propositioning Awesome Straight Guy at IML, and he asked me quite a few times if I was ok to play and if it was really something I wanted.  Although I was completely in control of my decision-making capabilities, I really appreciated his concern.  Being proactive about disassembling his privilege also protected him from what could have been, with another partner, a disastrous evening of unconsensual play. A heterosexual, cisgender male who recognizes that there is a power imbalance and works to dismantle that is amazing, and the reason why feminist men are so, so hot.

Four, unless you are my partner or I am actively trying to sleep/play with you, I don’t care about how attractive I am to you, and neither should you.  My worth as a human being should not be based on whether or not you want to have sex with me, yet we live in a world where women are judged by this standard all the time. (Also, this is very prevalent in gay culture, but that is the topic for another post.)  My job is not to look pretty for you, so I don’t want to hear about it either way unless you are actively flirting with me, and I seem open to it.  You don’t like that I am masculine-appearing?  Too bad, poor you.  Even if you are my partner or are trying to sleep with me, if you care so little for me as to be completely turned off by the fact that I rarely shave my legs or don’t wear heels, then I probably don’t want to be with you (see Hippyanguisette’s awesome post about pubic hair for more on this.  Also, this doesn’t mean that we don’t all have “types”, but if someone is not your “type,” that doesn’t make them not attractive, just not attractive to you.)  I do not want to be objectified unless we have entered into an arrangement where I want that to happen.  This arrangement may be something as subtle as pulling my shirt down a little bit so that you can better see my cleavage or as formal as negotiating a scene, but don’t assume that I want your opinion about how I look to you or that I am there solely for your viewing pleasure.

And last but definitely not least, learn when to STFU.  If a non-hcm tells you that what you are saying is sexist/homophoic/transphobic, rather than being defensive and trying to defend what you have said, listen to them and think about why they might have perceived what you said that way.  Also understand that there are certain topics you, by the mere fact that you are a hcm, you will never be an expert on, and that that is ok.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is to stop talking, listen, and question your assumptions.

Of course, these are only the most common actions taken by HCM’s that make me uncomfortable, not all or even most non-hcm will agree with this list, and I am privileged in many, many other ways.  However, if you are a HCM and want me to respect you, want to spend time with me, maybe even want to sleep with me, these are some great rules to follow. 

Also, for anyone who is interested in learning more about how to be an ally to an friend/partner/relative of an underprivileged group, Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones gave an excellent speech entitled “6 Rules for Allies,” which can be found here.