Lately there have been more and more discussions on femme-activism and dismantling of patriarchy within queerfeminist-spaces. However, there is still a long way to go. Masculinity is still deemed as more attractive – in female-bodies and perhaps even more in male-bodies (and let’s not even get to how the situation is in the gay male world). When femmes are considered attractive it often results in objectification and I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been sexually harrased – also in queerfeminist-spaces. And in Berlin I find that as a femme I’m way too often eroticized in an exoticized way because I’m the only male-bodied femme in the building.
As a femme people have a hard time seeing me as both smart and attractive – it’s usually either or. And I am certain that my emotional intensity is punished much more because I am femme. As a femme, especially as a femme who takes up a lot of space with their presence, I feel like a lot of guys wrap me up in a fantasy, but as soon as they see that I am emotionally and intellectually evolved and complex, their sexual attraction to me dies down. I’m not their fantasy anymore, I’m an emotionally complex person who isn’t happy all the time and this wasn’t what they bargained for or the fun, wild and crazy no-inhibitions/limits person they fantasized about. I doubt this whole thing is only about femmeness, it probably has a lot to do with my openness about the sexual trauma I’ve been through – a lot of guys have a hard time touching the subject. But the fact that they have trouble dealing with that and the emotions surrounding that also has a lot to do with patriarchy...
The last few years I have mainly been attracted to other femmes, but have noticed that even in queer spaces we still have a binarial norm that femmes should be more attracted to masculinity and vice versa. Butch-femme attraction is most definitely not a problem in itself – but the norm, the structure is a problem and the norm must be questioned and deconstructed.
In my early teens I was most definitely more attracted to masculine guys – the bulging muscles and everything. In my late teens-early 20's I started being attracted mostly to guys who looked "bohemian" and like they didn’t care that much about their appearance/looks, but than I realized 1. Most of them fucking DO care about appearance/looks and others appearances/looks. 2. I was just giving masculinity another free-ride – calling out femmes as being preoccupied with their appearances while believing that more masculine bohemian guys, who were considered more attractive than femmes anyways, were free from lookism.
One of the reasons I am so attracted to femmes today is because I seek people who can be my equals and I often equate masculinity, especially in cismale’s, both with power and patriarchy and with being a bit boring, stupid, foolish, clumsy and not so emotionally rich. This is most definitely a problematic generalization – just because someone seems masculine in attitudes and attributes doesn’t mean they are patriarchal assholes, but when it comes to counteracting oppression, opening up to priviledged masculine guys is not my number one priority, especially since part of my aversion towards masculinity has to do with the sexual assault and harassment I’ve met from more masculine guys. Instead I want to work more against how femininity is downplayed and viewed as less attractive than masculinity in male-bodies – more or less across the board, from straight to gay. I want to counteract this both in how I present myself and in how my desire is expressed. I like being near people who can understand and relate to my experiences which a masculine gay cis-guy seldom can, because he usually experiences loads of both cis and straight privilege in ways that I don’t. In general we have to discuss more how different forms of gender expression affect the type of oppression we meet – it’s not like everybody in the queer-movement meets the same type of oppression… And the amount of sexual harassment one meets as a male-bodied femme is definitely not discussed enough - I've totally lost track of how many times guys have groped me.
There are many questions relating to femininty and masculinity that we have to ask ourselves: Why are there so many more transmen than transwomen in queer-communities and why do queer-communities often see transmen as sexy while transwomen rarely are seen as sexy? What is ok for a woman or transguy to say or do to a woman or femme of any gender that would be called out as sexism if it was a cis-guy doing it to a cis-woman? When does butch or transmale-masculinity reproduce cismale-masculine patriarchy? Or for that matter when can femmes get away with a patriarchal masculine-behaviour just because they/we have feminine attributes? In general I believe that feminism has to be more about how we want people in general to behave and treat each other and less about how men should behave and how women should behave.
I quite honestly have a problem with masculine behaviour no matter which body it is coming from (at the end of the day it’s about attitudes not attributes and at the same time at the end of the day things aren’t black and white as in everything masculine=bad, everything feminine=good) – the physically aggressive responses that instill fear. And the emotional abuse of trying to reach somebody emotionally who meets you with a stone face is unfathomable. Unfourtantely this is an incredibly common story within relationships in queer communities, especially in relationships involving an emotional femme and a less emotional more masculine person. We’re all so free and poly and can have sex with who we want – but too many are using this as an excuse to not communicate, shut off emotionally and punish people who are emotional, punish people who experience precarity. Once again those who are emotional and intense are told that our way of reacting is wrong, while those who are emotionally distant get away with most everything all in the name of ”radicalism”. The emotionally distant are ”cool” and "radically correct", the emotionally intense are ”too much” - once again "rational masculinity" wins out against "emotional femininity".
Anger is a much more accepted and revered emotion in radical spaces than sadness. This also has to do with patriarchal and capitalist norms around masculinity and femininity, as well as productivity and what privileged experiences and positions make it easier to be ”strong”. And where does our categorization and hierarchization of ”strength” and ”weakness” come from? – More on these issues in Part 5 ;-)
This text is part 4 in a 5 part series on my thoughts on how sex positive-queerfeminist spaces can become broader and deeper in their politics on sex/sexuality. Part 5 will be coming soon. Here is a list of the five parts:2. Sex positive spaces not being inclusive for survivors of sexual assault.
3. Criticism of power dynamics within sexuality (click the links to read part 1, 2 and 3)
4. Masculinities and femininities and patriarchy
5. Many different ways of interacting with our bodies and our emotions.