Sexual Inadequacy: The Exposure Myth

Howdy!

I am Garland Grey and this is the first post for my new guest blog, Sexual Inadequacy! For about a year I've been exploring issues of gender and sexuality at Tiger Beatdown and I'm hoping to expand upon that work in this new project. I just recently moved to Austin, Texas and I'm looking forward to a summer filled with vegan soft serve and radical queer couch potato criticism and maybe a bike ride or two, some light kite flying. But first I'd like to talk about Glee.

In March the basic television musical Glee, site of so much critical dissection, had a show about sex and sex education called "Sexy." It was a bold move for Fox to give airtime to an untried commodity like sex. The question on everyone's mind was, of course, would it sell? In one scene the Glee Club director Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison) is talking with Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow) about teaching the students about sex and its consequences, and he remarks "These kids are already exposed to so much." I was doing something else while the episode played on my laptop, but I took a moment to suck my teeth at the screen. The state or district a queer student lives in determines how much access they have to sound, safe advice about sex. There is nothing else that can take its place. Pornography and erotica are terrible sex education tools and do not stress safety and hygiene if it does not suit them. So partly, this is about looking at what awful preparation queers are given for sexual maturity and the identities they form in spite of this lack of information or guidance.

Sexual Inadequacy refers to the poor representation of queer sexuality in the larger culture and in the media. Sexual Inadequacy is about the story straight writers and producers tell queer people about their own lives. Sexual Inadequacy is a comment on the amount of information queer students are given about their bodies and their sexuality, especially when these students are told absolutely nothing. Like in Tennessee, where a bill barring local municipalities from drafting their own non-discrimination ordinances was recently passed with massive support from the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (backed by Nissan, Alcoa, Fed Ex, AT&T and a host of other companies—Pam's House Blend has the complete list here) and SB 49, the so-called "Don't Say Gay" Bill, recently passed the Senate. If signed into law SB 49 would bar any discussion of non-heterosexual sexualities in schools in the state of Tennessee. Which is genius, if you think about it. How do you stop people from talking about something, especially juveniles? You tell them it's off-limits! Yes, of course, that solves everything. (To read more about the situation in Tennessee, click here.) Except, of course, for all of the queer students in Tennessee, who are being deprived of information and having their health and safety sacrificed to garner voter approval and to make conservatives more "comfortable."

I'd like to discuss how we depict queer relationships and queer sexuality in the media, how that representation is changing as society becomes more "comfortable" with the idea of queer sexuality, and how these shifts have mirrored the course of the queer civil right movement at large. While the number of depictions of queer characters in pop culture has risen in the last few years, queer characters are often slighted, disrespected, forgotten about, or used for a specific function and then discarded. Audiences are used to queer relationships being neutered and inoffensive, used to seeing queer couples who keep it to themselves, at least on camera. Which reinforces the idea that heterosexual sex represents an infinitely more palatable form of sexuality, since it's so pervasive and well-represented. You don't see the nice queer couple do anything but help each other with groceries or take their kids to little league because if you saw what went on after, in their bedroom, you'd probably feel all icky about the whole thing and buy less popcorn.

Sexual Inadequacy is about all of these things and so much more, and I'm looking forward to it! If you have any suggestions, tips, requests, or questions leave them in the comments!

Comments

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Laughed out loud (literally) several times

It was a bold move for Fox to give airtime to an untried commodity like sex. The question on everyone’s mind was, of course, would it sell?

How do you stop people from talking about something, especially juveniles? You tell them it’s off-limits! Yes, of course, that solves everything.

Heh. Welcome, Garland! I'm a major Tiger Beatdown fan, and queers in pop culture is a favorite topic of mine. Way excited about this series.

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Awesome! Glad to have you

Awesome! Glad to have you writing here, Garland. I'm looking forward to reading more as well!

As a queer kid just starting

As a queer kid just starting to explore interpersonal sexuality, I am constantly struck by just how much I don't know and how many misconceptions I have as a result of being sex-educated in two primary ways: the assumption that hetero sex is directly analogous to homo sex and field observations in porn/erotica.

I look forward to reading the rest of this series!

PS Yayayay! Moar Garland!

wtf Tennessee?!

I don't know how the hell I missed this "anti-gay bill" news, but as a life long resident of Nashville, TN, I'm left shaking my head at our current governor, Bill Haslam. I'm even more appalled to find out Nashville actually made strides in a previous bill to REVERSE the homophobic trends that will occur in this very law. Oh, and that ad by Stephen McManus*? I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the insane troll logic employed in that video (not even the defamatory Proposition 8 ads went that far). Wow, man. Wow.

And while i doubt any of you would do this, please don't bash the entirety of TN because of this law. There are plenty of Nashvillians who already don't like Haslam, and this bill's the icing on the cake. Maybe we should focus on things that are a little more important. Like, oh I don't know, improve our state's schools (which, despite some great magnet schools, are ranked #48 in the nation)?

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7o2YGH8bacE

Hey Garland. Excited for

Hey Garland.

Excited for this series! Are you going to write anything about Queer As Folk or The L Word?

Keep them coming :)

Keep them coming :)

Yay! Tiger Beatdown

Yay! Tiger Beatdown crossover! I love your posts over there, and I'm excited to read more of them over here.

I think obviously the invisibility of gay, lesbian and transgender narratives are some of the most glaring errors and important topics you'll cover, but do you also plan to deal with the bisexual sex-education experience at all? In my own life, I've found that it's not so much the lack of safety-related information that strikes me -- half of bisexuality's safety concerns are covered under straight sex-ed, and the other half are mostly taken care of under the usual criticisms of invisible gayness -- but during high school, I found that there was no one to talk to and no books to read about the actual physical experience of being bisexual, and what that meant for me sex-wise and life-wise. I've personally wondered how other bisexual people feel about the undercurrent of sexual (neither positive nor negative, simply sexual) charge in EVERY interaction with another person, the fact that bi people have no "natural" safe zone (for instance, the relationship that straight women often seek with gay men or with other women, or that straight men seek with one another, etc., one with no sexual charge, a "pure" friendship). It feels more like a white girl problem than the total invisibility of gay narratives, but it's still not something I've seen explored anywhere before. There's also the fact that it's pretty tough to figure out you're bisexual when you have all of the urges that fall into the normal category but a lot of extra ones to go along with them... I didn't admit to myself that I liked women until I was 15, because it was really easy to figure out I wasn't a lesbian, and comfortable to stop thinking after that. (Sometimes I feel like bisexual problems are the White Girl Problems of sexual discourse, but I'm still bi, so I'm still interested.)

I'd also be interested to hear what you have to say about education that deals with orientation or psychology rather than basic safety -- I have a friend, Adam, a cis straight man, who is specifically attracted to transwomen with cocks. Most sex ed has to do with how not to get STDs or surprise babies, but I think a seriously undervalued aspect of sex education is the supremely personal self-education straight people find it easier to do than Adam did. How do you even figure out you like transwomen when you have ZERO exposure to them? Even for straight people, who are already served, couldn't a potentially valuable part of sex education be an exploration of desire, not just a crash course in safety? How do you even figure out what to safeguard against if you don't know what you like? There are holes a spermicidal condom shouldn't go in, but no one tells you that in school.

Totally random thoughts, and i'm looking forward to the I'm sure much more serious commentary you'll have for us in the next few weeks.

bigger than the queer issue

I'm extremely excited to read Sexual Inadequacy, especially after this explanation:

Sexual Inadequacy is about the story straight writers and producers tell queer people about their own lives.

I'd like to throw in there "straight rich, white writers and producers." It sickens me to me to see the LGBTQ movement hijacked by the rich, powerful and well-connected.

Glee

I just sort of wish you had written more about the actual episode. It was interesting in a few different ways and I would have liked to see you explore that. Like Kurt for instance. He has been portrayed as someone who is very sure of his sexuality and who he is but when is comes to sex he is totally terrified. He is playing the role of the fun gay, like the kind you see in movies or on TV being best friends with the female lead. Someone who likes shopping and musicals and is in absolutely no way associated with sex. Ever. Because you only see them with women and obviously there is no sexual tension there. Those are his role models and that is how he sees himself. When suddenly asked to be sexy he doesn't know what to do. There was never any role models for that.
Also hoping you'll talk Torchwood at some point. It's a fantastic show in lots of ways.