This morning, I read a piece by another author and it sat really strangely with me for a while. With her consent to link and respond, I wanted to talk a bit about what it brought up for me and my own thoughts on it. Before I begin, please let me say: I do not intend this response as an attack on her view or her perspective. This is simply just a reflection of my thoughts and experiences, not a renunciation of hers.
(Also, please note, these are rough-cut thoughts that may well lack in coherency. Any jumps in logic I can do my best to clarify and/or flesh out.)
I’m actually going to start with an analogy that is off LGBT stuff for a minute, because it’s one of the things I’ve struggled with and feels relatable to the situation.
I’m not a little. I don’t identify as a little, have never really found that to be something within me. I interact with ageplay- one of my partners is a little, and I have an amazing time interacting with him in that space. But littling itself isn’t really for me. YKINMK and all that jazz.
Anyway, I remember the first time I was at a big event, and I was carrying around my teddy bear for support and comfort. I realized that other people were interacting with me in a way that was unfamiliar- and quickly realized that they were interacting with me as though I was a little.
There are a lot of problematic things about this, like (a) don’t assume someone’s headspace or dynamic and (b) even if they tell you that’s the space they are in, practice active, good consent in how you engage with that. Just because someone is in little headspace (or submissive headspace, or fill-in-the-blank headspace), doesn’t give you permission to interact with them like that.
Anyway. It was a good couple of years before I was willing to walk around a public playspace with my teddy bear again. It’s not that I thought there was anything wrong with being a little; I just didn’t want other people to see me that way because I wasn’t- and I recognized that I do a couple things that are usually characteristics of someone in little space. I couldn’t fault people for making assumptions based on my actions, and I was uncomfortable with the assumptions that got made, so I shifted my actions to something less fulfilling to me in order to avoid being misrepresented.
It took me a good deal of time to understand that doing this was actually kind of problematic in a lot of ways. What I was, in essence, saying was, “There’s nothing wrong with that; I’m just not like that.” Which is true. I’m not. But why did I care if other people thought I was? If the issue was how they were interacting with me, that’s something I could handle with a simple conversation (or by simply walking away). But if the issue is what they thought of me, that is a whole ‘nother thing. Because the implication therein is that they were thinking of me in some capacity that is less than what I thought of myself, which means that I, in some way, thought of littling as less-than.
There is something to be examined, I think, in the ways we distance ourselves from the identities that are sometimes associated with our actions. It’s important that identity be respected. Abso-fucking-lutely. We should be able to identify ourselves in the ways that feel authentic and real for each of us, and those identities shouldn’t necessarily be assumed.
The reality is, many, many people have to have conversations about identity and action all the time. People often assume that I’m not interested in people who have biococks or are cismen, and I want to shake them and be like, “BUT I REALLY JUST WANT TO SUCK YOUR COCK THOUGH.” (True story) Both queer cismale and cisfemale friends of mine are assumed to be straight (more about femme erasure here). Switches seen engaging in one capacity are often only viewed in that capacity. And so forth.
For me, I think the reasons behind why we sometimes distance ourselves from identities as they relate to actions lies somewhere on a spectrum, with one end being the nebulous space between our actions and other’s people’s definitions of words associated with those actions, and the other end being respectability politics.
For example: on one end, we might have a conversation that goes like this:
“My play isn’t sexual except with my primary partner.”
“…but you just got kicked in the cunt for 30 minutes; what do you mean, your play isn’t sexual?”
There, it’s just a breakdown of what constitutes “sexual,” which is different for each person.
On the other end, however, we get into respectability politics, and things that create an us-vs-them mentality: “I do (the thing) but I’m not (identity)” wherein “identity” is supported by a whole bunch of other stereotypes and preconceived ideas. For example, “We’re the gays next door. I’m a lawyer and my husband is a doctor and we are just like you.” (implication: “and not like those gays that go out clubbing every night and are promiscuous and irresponsible like you see on TV.”)
Respectability politics basically takes a marginalized group, finds the people that are most relatable to mainstream society, and uses those people to make the group seem less threatening by further pushing out those who don’t/can’t/refuse to assimilate.
I’m not a cis het guy, and there are parts of that socialization I don’t understand. But I’ve been in queer and LGBT spaces enough to know that there is a social difference between men who are seen as gay and men who are not. And in mainstream culture, there is a ton of fucking stigma around men being seeing as gay. This is where “no homo” and “brojobs” come from- the desire to have physical affection in some form with other men without wanting the stigma of being seen as a fag. I absolutely, totally get that that’s a thing.
And also… I got some feels about it. It feels like saying, “I want the ability to do the thing without having to deal with the stigma against people who do the thing.” Well, fuck, so do I. I’d love to be able to do the things I like to do and not get shit for it. I’d love to be able to fuck the people I want to fuck and not have people make assumptions about what’s in my pants (or what’s in my partners’ pants) or what that means about my gender or orientation or all kinds of things.
I think it’s important that we affirm and recognize our friend’s identities. I think it’s important that we help them been seen in the ways that they want to be seen. And also… I think it’s important that we challenge them.
Someone called me out on why I didn’t want to be seen as a little. I said, “Because I’m not a little.” And they said, effectively, “Yes, but when you distance yourself in the ways that you are, that implies that you don’t want to be associated with that group of people, even tangentially. And by saying you don’t want to be associated, you’re imply that, on some level, there is something wrong with that group of people, simply because you’re not willing to engage with the world’s perception of what it means to be that.”
And fuck. They were right.
If I had truly thought there was nothing wrong with being seen as a little-even though it didn’t jive with my actual identity- then I wouldn’t have cared if people made that assumption. I’d correct it when it was necessary to do so. The actual issue, though, was that I wasn’t willing to carry the stigma of that, or was scared I would lose opportunities for play partners because of it.
I guess I feel like there is a nuanced difference between saying, “Hey, my friend identifies as a straight man, and likes receiving blowjobs from whoever is willing to give them.” and “Just because you receive blowjobs from other men doesn’t make you gay.” It doesn’t, absolutely, but the first is speaking in allyship with a friend, and the latter feels like it’s saying, “You can do the thing without dealing with the stigma.” I do strongly feel that the OP was coming from a place of the former, but some of the language struck me as reminiscent of the latter, and those pieces, I think, need to be talked about more.
You can absolutely get your dick sucked by a guy and not be gay. But you might not be entirely straight either, and that’s ok too. But if you feel the need to distance yourself from the possibility that people think you’re gay- even though you’re doing something that is pretty hallmark of the gay community- maybe that’s something that needs to be checked. There are absolutely ways to affirm your own identity without buying into the ideas that denigrate someone else’s.