Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Gay Misogynist?

I was nervous about going into one of the gay bars on Castro’s main street. It looked crowded and was pumping, raw and raucous. I could hardly see inside. Homophobic ghouls whispered fearsome scenarios in my ears.

Starbucks had no free seats, so before long I swallowed my fear and propped myself up at the red, brightly lit bar. The male staff’s attire conformed to the rippling, muscle-hugging stereotype I had expected to find.

I looked round and noticed the customers were young and predominantly, but not exclusively, male. Were the ladies lesbians, I wondered? This might fit the location. Or were they straight and keen to escape the otherwise inescapable gaze of desirous male eyes (such as my own, unluckily for them)? Or, less drastically, were they here because gay men are ‘nice’ and like to, or at least can, talk about shopping and makeup and men? Or maybe, if straight, the bar was just nearby, or they were visiting friends. In any case, unlike the men, they were not kissing each other – if that means anything.

A couple of young women, pretty indeed, sat next to me. On my account? - I wondered, in a wild moment. But they made no efforts to engage me, nor I them, as the intensity of their mutual involvement fenced me out - as it did not the barman, whom they would regularly embrace and call ‘darling’. A part of my brain had wondered if women in a gay bar might be more forthcoming than normally at initiating conversations with men...or with me at least.

I sat there drinking four pints of beer, remembering I was not in Kuwait, staring at people in an innocently vacant way, feeling pretty good about things, wondering occasionally if I should read my book.

A bar three doors up the road was very different. The crowd was older - middle aged- and exclusively male. Again I sat at the bar, this time next to an elderly, moustachioed gentleman, primed in the sixties I should think. Like Tiresias from the café, he lamented the passage of time and the decline of The Castro. I remarked that it was bizarre (for me) to be in a bar packed only with men, gay pornography aflame on overhead TVs. You should have seen it in the early days, in the 70s, he replied. Large screen performances of harder stuff than that, the audience sucking and fucking festively beneath; not timidly reconciled, as now, to the respectability and acceptability that the victory of gay rights has wrought.

Clearly, there is no pleasing some people.

He explained that the other bar I’d been in was for a younger, mixed crowd, that a generational gap within the gay community explained the differences in atmosphere. Whereas the men next door were younger, camper, more ‘feminine’ – closer it might be said to the stereotypical gay boy; here, men were still ‘men’ in everything other than their sexual preferences, being unashamedly masculine, if not butch.

This was confirmed by a man standing to my left. Though he added another observation I found very interesting.

Nowadays, San Francisco is ‘run by women’. These women, because of their newfound self-confidence and power, are in a position to demand from men certain characteristics and attributes. These, on the whole, are feminine, and the heterosexual male majority, keen as ever to do what it takes to seduce women, agree to do and be what it takes. In consequence, many straights are now more feminised even than the camp gays next door! Only amongst the men of this bar, he suggested, could true masculinity be found. Only amongst those who don’t have to, because they don’t need to, mould themselves to the designs of the new woman.

An interesting perspective. And where could I find a lesbian bar, I asked?

They are around, he answered. I would be welcome but I won’t find any men there, gay or straight. As for the gays, they don’t mix much with the lesbians. They work together on questions of rights and social issues, of course, but that’s about it.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious, another great and unexpected post...your curiosity and old-fashionedness make for an interesting perspective.

May said...

I personally like Jonathan.

Anonymous said...

Wow what a sexist ass that guy was.I say there could honestly be few things more manly than for one to go to such lengths to earn the affections of another.If men are supposed to be things of fire and passion then that is very passionate. Furthermore has this numbskull not looked to the animal kingdom? The males if human would definitely seem more effeminate to us and yet they are considered very male in their own context. What defines manhood is something more difficult to grasp, something more ethereal. True maleness lies in following your own path whether it is seen by others as less than male or not.

Anonymous said...

If this guy is sick of people insulting his own masculinity he shouldn't insult those of others. Seriously where the hell does that random dude from that bar get off?Furthermore he needs a serious update for his brain.That sort of hateful attitude toward women is the stuff of degenerate right wing scum and he should know better.