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Nov. 17, 2019

Signals

Signals

[CONTENT WARNING: Some thoughts on groping, consent and other things like that.]
Some thoughts on attraction, the signals we give out, and when it's ok to grope a stranger. (Spoiler: It's not. Ever.)


[CONTENT WARNING: Some thoughts on groping, consent and other things like that.]

Some thoughts on attraction, the signals we give out, and when it's ok to grope a stranger. (Spoiler: It's not. Ever.)

Morris dancing: Not as bad as assault. That's as far as I'm prepared to go on the matter.

The post I mention by Alice Fraser is here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/15269482 and she has some excellent standup available as podcasts - just search for her in your podcatcher.

Stories of queer life and even queer-er sex.

Always interesting, definitely amusing, Probably True - the repeatedly-award-winning, slightly filthy storytelling project tackling LGBTQ issues in a fun and engaging way.

Much like its creator, it is a smutty-but-charming collection of personal misadventures working to make the world a better place, one silly, sexy story at a time.

Patreon.com/ProbablyTrue // ProbablyTruePodcast.com \\ @unlikelylad

 


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Transcript

Hello! This week’s episode includes some discussion around unwanted touching and consent, and things like that. Please don’t listen unless you’re ok with those things. Or if you’re ok with not being ok about those things. 

This whole thing starts with a pretty shocking revelation: I went to a twink bar a few weeks ago. Not because I’m particularly twinky, but because I was with a friend who is, and I like the music there, and the drinks are cheap. Well, they’re mostly just sugar, so I’m not surprised they’re cheap, but a solid sugar buzz is perfect for dancing to pop and shit, so it worked out ok. Besides, the music is almost all 90s and 2000s pop, which is fine by me. There was even a moment when I was teaching about 10 20-year-olds how to do the Saturday Night dance. And now I come to say that out loud, it feels like something I shouldn’t be proud of. The funniest part was towards the end of the song shouting ‘double time!’ and watching all these poor fuckers try and keep up. It’s not even part of the dance, I just felt like fucking with some heads. That’ll teach them to be young, and thin, and attractive. 

Anyway. This bar.

I used to go there when I was younger. I wasn’t a twink then, either. I’ve never really fit well into any of those stereotype ‘tribe’ boxes. It took me a long time to be ok with that, actually. I just wanted to fit in, I think. To feel like I was doing being gay right. Whatever that meant. But I’ve never been skinny, or blonde, or had good teeth, or looked good in tight pants, or all those other things that the media in the 90s told us we had to be as gay men. If there’s a lesson here, it’s that you shouldn’t keep trying to shove something into a box that won’t fit. No matter how much you want it, or how hard you try, all that’s going to happen is frustration and lube everywhere… Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right, yeah. 

SO! I went to the twink bar. The one with the pop music, and the cheap drinks and the cute barmen. Well, they all have cute barmen. As I was going in, before I’d even done a circuit of the room to check out any potential hotties - and to let them all check me out too, of course. It’s important to remember that things are never a one-way street. That is to say, always give other people a chance to fancy you, too. Just because you don’t think you’re hot doesn’t mean everyone else will agree with you. But before I’d done any of that, I got felt up my some leery old queen. He was older than me, so must have been at least 500 years old.

I stood aside to let him past on the stairs, because manners. That’s right boys - I’m not just six feet and 8 inches (that’s two measurements) of solid sexual magnetism. I’ve got manners, too. Gentlemanly as fuck, me.

Anyway.

“Ooooh, handsome and polite!” he said, pressing himself up against me and grabbing my boob. Now, this is a pretty gross thing to happen to anyone. It’s invasive and not nice at all. I’m an old hand at this, though, I’ve been here enough times that it’s less traumatic for me by now because you just sort of go “Ugh… I’ve just arrived. Not even taken my coat off. Can you let me get a drink before you start feeling me up?” 

Eventually I managed to scrape him off. Which is just a turn of phrase, despite what he was shouting when they put him in the ambulance. He must have banged his head when he slipped on the stairs, poor thing. He’s fiiine.

Anyway. I went and got a drink and rolled my eyes at the whole debacle with my mate. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard with gay bars. Shouldn’t be, of course. 

I made a joke about how I wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d been hot, but that was just to lighten the mood and change the subject a bit. Even as I said it, I knew that wasn’t the point. It’s not about how hot he is, it’s about personal boundaries. No-one gets to touch you, especially not grab your boob or whatever, without your permission. I’m quite a tactile person, in the right circumstances, but these were not they.

What’s worse, though, is when you tell Mister Tickle to keep his hands to himself and you get accused of being ‘frigid’ and somehow you’re the one with the problem. Which is horrifically poisonous, because if the people around you start treating you like nothing more than a piece of meat who should be grateful for the attention, then that starts to be what you become, especially if this sort of behaviour is the norm from a young age. Which it normally is. Older, gropey gays going for the young, more vulnerable ones, as they can be more confident they won’t get a kick in the knackers for their troubles. And it’s self-perpetuating, too, because once you start to think of yourself as nothing more than the physical, you start to treat others in the same way, which is how, I imagine, the older men got to the point where they thought it was acceptable to be gropey in the first place. 

If you find yourself in a situation like this, the best adivce I can give is get out of it. Don’t just resign yourself to it to try and get through it, worried you might make a scene if you try to get away. Make a scene. Call the handsy one out on it, loudly and publicly. Make sure other people hear you. They’ll soon stop, and hopefully think twice about doing it again.

The whole situation reminded me of a blog post by Alice Fraser, who is an excellent comedian, and a pretty fantastic person all round. She talks about how it’s not the general hotness of the person, but how attractive they are to you. Which makes sense. Like one of the hot straight guys at my gym that I secretly perv on all the time. Well, I say secretly. I’m not exactly subtle. But even just a fistbump from him after a workout and suddenly I’m getting a semi in my sweaty gym shorts. 

It’s all about context, I think. Because being attracted to someone isn’t just about the physical. It wouldn’t matter how hot the stranger was if he came up and groped me - if there’s no chemistry, no connection, no ‘go’ signal between us, then it’s a violation, and should be avoided. 

Unlike the straight guy from the gym. It would be difficult for me to give him any stronger ‘go’ signals without offering to help him stretch after his workout. On my face. With his penis. I fancy him, is what I’m saying. Was that obvious?

Anyway. The main reason this all resonated with me, was because I remember when I was going through my weird phase, also known as ‘my 20s’, I would be quite a gropey, handsy type. I’d justify it as just a bit of cheeky fun, and anyway, if someone wanted me not to, they’d only have to tell me to stop…” Which, now, makes me go into a full-body cringe just at the thought of it. 

And the difference between those two things is subtle, but important - the lack of a ‘don’t do that’ signal isn’t the same as a ‘please go ahead’ signal. And they’re two very different things. Think about it - banks don’t need to have signs saying “Please don’t rob us” and you know you’re not supposed to do that. And if you go around to someone’s house, set it on fire and fuck the dog, when thwy, quite rightly, kick the shit out of you and take you to court, you can’t really say “Well, they didn’t tell me I couldn’t do it, yerhonour”. 

Of course, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a yes and a no signal. That’s one of the many confusing things about humans. That and morris dancing. Don’t get me started on that. Men with beards and serious faces, dancing around with sticks and hankies? Fucking terrifying. Anyway. Back to the point. With the signals thing, the key is: until there’s a clear YES, just assume it’s a no. It is, after all, quite difficult to traumatise someone by NOT groping them. And, because I know some people will be like “Oh, it’s just a bit of harmless fun!” remember that you don’t get to decide what’s harm and what’s not for other people. Much like Morris Dancing - just because you enjoy it, that doesn’t mean you’re not traumatising everyone else.

If you’re not sure whether it’s ok to touch someone, ask. And if you don’t want to ask in case they say no, then you already have your answer, sunshine. 

Conversely, never ask a morris dancer ANYTHING. Don’t engage. You’ll only encourage them, and best case scenario, a polite yet vague question can lead to a four hour talk about folk traditions and fertility rites all of that. Worst case, you’ll find yourself somehow covered in bells and dancing around a field with a group of weird old hippies, and there won’t even be any drugs involved. Worst holiday of my life.