AI: Safe Spaces
Yesterday, I went to a rock festival with a bunch of friends (and still haven’t slept properly). It was overall a wonderful time, with all the sweaty strangers jumping together to the sound of awesome local rock bands, but almost at the end of it, a friend texted me she wasn’t feeling well and asked me to meet her at the restroom. There were a lot of restrooms in that place. And while I was trying to find out which was the one she was in, I saw a lot of stuff I’d rather not have seen.
Later, when we were all heading back, I mentioned the ridiculous amount of girls getting it on over there and heard something that was, to the very least, intriguing:
“It’s just that gay people are too repressed. They can’t hug or hold hands or kiss everywhere, so when they find somewhere they can, they take it too far.”
I didn't quite know how to react to that, so I thought I'd extend the question to you guys:
What role do you think queer-friendly environments play on public displays of affection? How important is the existence of safe spaces for the queer community? How to explain and defend that existence? Should we defend it even when brings with it some inappropriateness (which exists in mostly heterosexual environments as well)?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.
PDAs that go beyond holding hands/hug/kiss on the cheek make be very uncomfortable, regardless of the orientation of the people involved. There is something apelike about it–a public display of sexual possession meant to signal a certain kind of dominance–that really puts me off. I will say that this vibe is strongest with hetero couples, as straight guys’ body language is usually more overtly dominant/possessive, but I’d really rather not watch anyone go at it in a public setting.
Unfortunately this discomfort and the reluctance it causes me to feel with regard to engaging in PDAs myself has been misinterpreted as internalised homophobia or (worse) shame in being with my partner, and for this reason I usually feel socially pressured to engage in them despite my discomfort, lest it cause an incident. Actually voicing the discomfort and giving my reasoning is generally more trouble than it’s worth, and it’s very unlikely to convince anyone who wants to believe otherwise.
As far as repression leading to “overdoing it,” I can’t speak from much experience, as where I live PDAs are commonly seen between all kinds of couples. I’d wager though, that overdoing it in semi-public areas is more a factor of not having private space than fear of public spaces. People’s living situations, for example, may not allow sufficient privacy or may involve people who would otherwise judge them based on orientation/perceived promiscuity. This is at least partially why teenagers are famous for this kind of thing. I also think that if there were a real perceived danger or stigma, you’d see less activity in semi-public areas and more in secluded or private ones.
This is mostly how I feel, too. I don't have a huge problem with witnessing it (though I'd truly rather not watch it), I'm just really uncomfortable doing it. But either way, I'm aware that people do it, all people, so what really bothered me was that the guy assumed that straight people don't do it. They actually do it more often, because they have a lot more spaces where it is safe for them to do it than queer people do.
Which is kind of where I wanted to lead the conversation (with the guy that said it), explaining how yes we should do whatever we wanted wherever, not only in a few secluded spaces, but I seriously don't know how to phrase that so as it makes sense.
I personally don’t have an issue with public sex acts (although some things I’ve seen strike me as just unsanitary) but if the organizers of an event have reason to believe some kind of objectionable behaviour is going to happen they should either say “yeah, this happens, you can expect it at our event” or they should provide their patrons with a way to deal with it, say, a number to security or something.
Yeah, I think we all already expected to see it anyway. The only reason I mentioned was because it was the first time I ever saw more lesbian couples than any other kind of couples, which was peculiar.
(he thought I was saying it because I was shocked lesbian couples did it, ha)
But yeah, I'm thinking letting people know it happens should help it. Then they can choose whether or not they'll subject themselves to it (and stop complaining we're taking over their places with our promiscuity).
Some of you might think me a little radical, but I think gay people shouldn't have a place for them to kiss and hold hands and flirt. I think that as people, we should use the same place that heterosexual people use for it. Before we are gay, we are people and citizens, so we should use the same place. Cause we have the same rights. And I say more… If we create those places, we are making us a somewhat "overprotected" group of the society. So my point is: if we have the same rights that straight people have, we should use the same places as well…
Unfortunately, we do not have that right. In many places showing the same affection to my boyfriend in public that I do to my girlfriend (handholding, a peck on the cheek, a hug hello or goodbye) will put us both at risk of harassment, confrontation, or violence.
I think there are two things at issue with PDAs. There are things that are normal/acceptable in context (at many rock concerts, I would argue that making out is in fact normal for the environment) and those that push it too far. I think hand holding is a pretty standard PDA acceptable in most places – for hetero couples. For queer folks we run real risks when participating in socially acceptable PDAs in most places, so it make sense that some of us would have a little more trouble figuring out what the social norms are, or should be, for that local.
Additionally, if this was happening in MULTIPLE bathrooms at this place, it does sound like it is the culture of the environment you were in.