Girl On Girl: I Am Not For Male Consumption

A couple weeks ago, some guy tweeted at Janelle Monae telling her to be sexier and to not dress so androgynously. What resulted was one of the most perfect and succinct clapbacks: “Sit down,” Monae tweeted back. “I’m not for male consumption.” I feel this, we all feel this. If you are a woman anywhere, you have probably heard some straight man spout some vile shit at you or, you know, tell you to smile more. So, when Janelle Monae takes the opportunity to shut a dude like that down, it resonates.

I recently moved to New York from Los Angeles. I love it, even if I don’t know why I ever left perpetual summertime for the hell that is winter. I left a lot of things behind like good tacos (if you know of a place in NY that serves REAL tacos, get at me) and my car. At first, leaving the latter was awesome because public transportation is AMAZING and I never have to worry about DUIs or the price of gas, but I’m starting to realize that not having a car was a lot more meaningful than I originally thought. I don’t know how to date without a car. For starters, my car is a key part of my game. I drive the whole night, put on my “Sure Thing” playlist, take a girl to the Taco Bell Drive-Thru for some Dorito Tacos, and pretty much seal the deal. More seriously, my car is a safe place. It is the only place that I can make a move without having to worry about getting harassed by some guy that either doesn’t approve of two women kissing or wants to join in. There’s nothing comparable in NY. You drop a girl off at her apartment in Soho and before you even consider kissing, you’re getting ambushed by a man clinking a cup full of change singing “Stand By Me” (RIP Ben E. King). You take the same train home as your date and you can’t kiss goodbye at her stop in fear that you’re going to be stuck in a car with at least one drunk guy that REALLY doesn’t approve.

There’s a psychological phenomenon called the “spotlight effect” where people believe that they are noticed by others far more than they actually are. This concept gets tossed out the window the minute a girl kisses another girl. I have found out the hard way that no one will notice that stain on your shirt, but they’re always going to see you when you kiss someone of your gender – and they’ll let you know they see too. I don’t want to get too hung up on the concept of straight privilege, but it’s sad to have lived in some of the most gay-friendly cities and still feel like I can’t even look too long at a girl without some straight guy popping up trying to strike a conversation about what’s going on between the two of us. For the most part, I try to keep it hidden in public places. This is more for safety than shame. Being young and gay in a southern state (Florida) when I was growing up resulted in finding myself in a lot of terrible situations for daring to engage in a little gay PDA. Unfortunately, it’s not that sexy to interrupt a moment of sexual tension by gritting your teeth and saying “This might not be the best place for this…”, but the last time I gave in resulted in me ending a kiss by looking directly into the flash of someone’s phone. I ended that quick. I am not for male consumption.

A few years ago, I was actively trying to meet new people after a pretty drastic move and, having been used to a social circle full of straight dudes, naively found myself in a couple of weird situations:

  1. Every dude that I met and had a cool and completely platonic conversation with immediately dropped off the radar upon realizing that I was gay. This bummed me out because I was pretty young and not really used to the concept that women and men apparently can’t be friends. This was made even more awkward on the occasions where I just never bothered to tell people that I was gay because I just wanted to maintain friendships. This may have confused some people when I started introducing them to my girlfriends.
  2. I once went on an accidental date with a guy. Despite referencing my girlfriend (that I lived with) multiple times during the night, the guy refused to actually hear what the situation really was and tried to kiss me at the end of the night. He later wrote the night into a storyline for a television series that he sold to ABC. This might be one of the most LA things to ever happen to me.
  3. The absolute worst: guys I thought were friends, who knew that I was gay and knew my girlfriend was gay, still tried every manipulative method of trying to sleep with my girlfriend, and going as far as to refer to me as a cockblock to mutual friends. To be fair, monogamy is a very real cockblock, but what the fuck?

The concept of straight male entitlement is nothing new, but there’s something about seeing lesbians that makes that barrier to entry for being a douchebag so much lower. Our society fosters it. It’s hard to find a gay mainstream movie where the lesbian doesn’t end up with a dude. It’s completely acceptable for straight men to go to gay bars and patrol for girls right at last call. Hell, sometimes the employees are the ones drugging and taking advantage of queer girls at gay bars. I’ve been verbally attacked and physically assaulted by straight dudes reacting to my sexuality.

Despite experiencing all the backlash of coming out when I was 13, it took a long time for me to stop playing into the kinds of things that encourage this entitlement. I no longer feel obligated to entertain unwanted attention. Usually, this results in me trying to delicately convey my sexuality, but add a little alcohol and irritation, and sometimes it’s just me shoving my hand in someone’s face and saying “no.”  I also no longer feel like I’m being abrasive by telling someone that I’m gay right off the bat. More importantly, I definitely don’t feel any shame in telling people I’m gay which is something that definitely plagued me in my younger years. I am unabashed and aggressive about it and have definitely punched more than one guy in the face at The Abbey in LA for trying to grope me. But, it never feels that great because I hate having to expect the worst from people when I just want to go out and have fun.

One of the shittier things about straight male entitlement is when you see it in your friends. I have guy friends who have ended up a little drunk and very creepy. For a long time, I’d laugh it off or pretend it never happened. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I don’t need to be forgiving and that by acting like that behavior is acceptable, I’m just perpetuating it. I’ve become a lot more selective in the company that I keep. I do not need to play along with “friends” who ask me prying questions about my sex life, have an unhealthy interest in how many girls I’m dating, or have to make some kind of reference to my sexual orientation in every conversation. In short, I have too much self-respect to volunteer my love life as fodder for someone else’s spank bank. These conversations are all too commonplace and they come from men I’ve known for years to men I’ve met twice. I don’t know how we ended up in a modern society where this kind of behavior is okay. I don’t want to discount people based on their gender or sexuality the same way that I don’t want to be discounted based on mine. At the same time, I don’t want to fear my male friends when they get too drunk and start getting handsy. I also don’t want to wait with trepidation for them to start telling me or one of my girlfriends that they could “turn a girl straight”. That’s not friendship and I’m tired of pretending that it is. Again, I am not for male consumption.

When I first started writing this column, a friend messaged me asking me to expand on something I mentioned in a previous post about getting harassed at bars “by a straight man asking if we need a third.” I agreed that straight male harassment was definitely a worthwhile topic, but I honestly wasn’t interested in covering it. I didn’t want to become that lesbian. I felt like by writing about it, I was playing into that offensive stereotype of the “man-hating dyke.” And it’s just not true: some of my best friends are men. But I am starting to realize that I’ve reached my limit of tolerating creepy comments or wondering how to navigate an aggressive guy at a bar who can’t take a hint. I am too old to feel like I need to hide any aspect of myself and, living in New York, I don’t really have that much of a choice anymore.

Morgan Cohn is a recent LA transplant to NY, splitting her time between working in digital publishing, writing, and discovering what seasons are. Follow her on Twitter!