Saturday, October 30, 2010

stephen fry on straight cruising and slut-shaming

Breaking from fashion and goth music to address something that really, really pisses me off.

I'm a huge fan of Stephen Fry. He's absurdly intelligent and I probably quote...bits...from A Bit of Fry and Laurie every day. So seeing this interview with Stephen was quite disheartening, to say the least.

I think most straight men feel they disgust women. They find it difficult to believe that women are as interested in sex as they are. For good reason. If women liked sex as much as men there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want. They want a boyfriend and then they want commitment.

Of course a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh, no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?

This, very unfortunately, is not an isolated incident. He's made quite a few questionable comments before; many accused him of transphobia when, during the "Girls and Boys" episode of QI, he referred to trans women as "ladyboys." Which is indeed fucked up and COMPLETELY disrespectful--great way to delegitimize someone's gender identity. I haven't seen the episode, but I believe this was also the one that tried to justify why QI rarely has female panelists: "women don't think women are funny." I'm glad I haven't seen it (or any of the G series) because it sounds like a fuckload of misogynist, transphobic pseudo-science.

So back to the quote above. Aside from the fact that I don't want Stephen Fry telling me what I apparently think--and also, apparently in his world there are only gay men and straights, lesbians are too busy wearing combat boots or something--the notion that there should be "straight cruising" areas is ridiculous, bottom line. For one, there's a whole lot of slut-shaming going on that makes being a proud, sexual female a difficult thing to claim in public. For two, many straight men already seem to regard all public domain as a "straight cruising" area. It's not like going to a designated ~*seedy park*~ looking for a one-night stand; there's very little way to avoid it, and even the sidewalk becomes a place to try and pick up a woman. I can't wait for a bus in suburban Long Island, wearing generally ~*man repellent clothing*~ (TANGENT TIME the notion of personal style as a way to above all attract male attention is fucked up, but, y'know), without having at least three people in their cars hoot and holler at me. This too can quickly slide into dangerous territory about class, race, and socially mandated attitudes about how to approach women, although it's a good long discussion to have and, for the most part, it's not relevant to what the white, privileged Stephen Fry has to say here.

I'm not reinventing the wheel with what I have to say (and actually, my superstar friend Meg has an awesome post on similar things). But here's a disturbing anecdote: last night, after leaving the Ford Models party with Maheen (which was pretty much a sweaty, open arena for sexual harassment anyway), I get on the train to go home, leaving my wig and makeup on because I wanted to show people how awesome and unrecognizable I looked in said wig. Giving the train conductor my ticket, he looks me up and down and says, "Girl, I wish I could take your picture." Despite getting no response, when he comes to take my ticket the second time around, he persists. "Looks like you had fun tonight." He's more or less leering at me and I have to leave the train car to avoid him the rest of the ride. I'm guessing he simply assumed I was a drunken slut because I was one of few people in costume--because a reconstruction 20's dress screams I'M LOOKING FOR SOME, BOYS--but either way, not what one expects on the LIRR.

Getting dressed shouldn't be a fear. If I know I have to be somewhere late at night, I shouldn't want to make myself invisible by taking along the schlubbiest clothing I own. Unlike gay cruising areas in parks or whatnot, the sidewalk, the LIRR train, the pharmacy is not a fixed social space. While I can hold my own when catcalled, I don't want to mentally prepare myself for it any time I know I'll be in a crowded area. I don't want to keep my middle finger at full mast, because when I walk down the street or get chips from the deli, I'm not looking for sex or sexual conversation.

I'm not the most overtly sexual person. I like it fine and I'll get it when I want it, but when I was at Oberlin, I wasn't really keen on college hookup culture. There's a long list of reasons why I don't go for casual sex, but most are irrelevant. I may not be particularly promiscuous, but that doesn't mean other women are like me. We love sex, but we don't go on blathering about it or seeking it out publicly because we get vilified for it. After all, every bimbo in a miniskirt in heels is ASKING for it, isn't she? Stephen more or less says it in this interview:

"[Women don't] hang around in parks waiting for casual encounters with men. They just don't. The only ones who do it properly, they do it for money. Which proves another point--they have to be paid to do it!"

So every sexually active woman is a prostitute, and those who aren't only put up with sex out of desperation for a long-term relationship. What Stephen sees as sex aversion isn't a reflection of desire, but of the disparity of consequences between men and women. Social stigmatization, shame, a higher likelihood of violence, unwanted pregnancy, a world that already polices female sexuality and a woman's right to choose...

And here's an excerpt from his novel The Hippopotamus, the protagonist of which seems to be a far cruder version of Stephen:

Do gay men tarting themselves up for a night in a club whine about the vile sexism which insists they must be made attractive in order to be inspected like cattle? Do they hell.

Sometimes, in my dreams, I imagine a world in which women enjoy sex: a world of heterosexual cruising areas in parks and promenades, heterosexual bars, heterosexual back rooms, heterosexual cinemas, heterosexual quarters of the town where women roam, searching for chance erotic encounters with men. Such an image is only conceivable in one's fantasising bedroom, jerked into life by an angry fist and a few spastic grunts. If women needed sex as much as men did then - duck, Ted, duck, run for cover - then there wouldn't be so many rapists around the place.

The fact that such a misogynist message is being spread by a "NATIONAL FUCKING TREASURE" makes it even worse. Many people around the internets are thankfully outraged, but just as many are justifying it because "you guys, he's soooooo cool! He's so smart and funny and I will luff him forever."

No. Fuck that. I can't quite articulate all I want to say right now, but...Stephen, however clever a comedian you may be, you are hopelessly, ignorantly naive about gender, sexual chemistry (in the scientific sense), and societal standards for women. So piss off.


  1. I approve of this rant. What a disgusting comment. Heterophobia/transphobia and of course shit talking bisexuality all contribute to the same systems of oppression that homosexuality is working against. Makes me want to vomit, and slut-shaming, always wrong. If women had the sex drives of men? Please. I'm still shocked that there are intelligent people who do not understand the error in accessing gender as a concrete form of sexual analysis. Wrong wrong wrong.

  2. LOL @ the idea of homosexuality "working against" anything.

    Not sure when sexuality became card carrying in your social crusade. Or, for that matter, when reality became as malleable as words.

  3. dude, that "if women wanted sex as much as men did there wouldn't be rapists" comment is enough to send me off on an eight-year-long-rant about EVERYTHING WRONG WITH THE WORLD.

    i also don't even know where to begin with that crap about women's sexuality vs gay men's sexuality that he keeps beating at, that's some seriously weird shit going on there. like what is this weird parallel between women and gay men he's trying to get at and WHY? do not like. weird.
    also obviously the reason he doesn't address gay sex for the ladies is because it's not real sex DUH. my girlfriend and i don't have sex we are just interested in commitment and no longer have to put up with sex. also i still dress like a trampy ho because i want mens' attention JUST NO P33N PLZ.

    overall: seriously gross.

  4. this is especially confusing considering how open Stephen Fry is about being gay. I really have no idea what to make of this.