Just Don’t Call Me a ‘Fag’
And it is about money. Gay for pay performers in films note that they can make up to ten times more money for shooting a gay scene than a straight scene, since the focus in straight porn is on the woman. Likewise, straight bartenders in gay bars report making significantly larger tips than if they worked in straight bars.
Still, not every straight man who engages in gay activities does so for financial gain. For some, it is a matter of convenience, while others have loftier goals. The article in Qualitative Sociology distinguishes between those who are “gay for pay” and those who engage in “situational homosexuality”, which is best described as the propensity to engage in gay sex when no other options are available. Soldiers, prisoners, and students at all boy or girl’s schools would fall into this category.
To be considered situational homosexuality, the sex must be consensual. As one can imagine, homosexual rape is common in prisons, and has occurred in other one-gender settings. This is distinct from those individuals who willingly engage in same-sex activities, often for the duration of the situation that has excluded heterosexual interaction.
Usually, these individuals return to straight sex when that option becomes available, and some struggle to justify their previous gay behavior. Like their gay for pay counterparts, these men—and in some cases, women—create a mental script which rationalizes the same sex behavior.
In an article for the January 2008 edition of Sex Roles, Eric Anderson concludes that heterosexual men (in this case, athletes) use one of two scripts to explain their same sex activities. The first of these is the belief that the gay behavior is “sharing ‘conquests’ with ‘brothers’, mutually reassuring each other of their heterosexual desirability”.
Second is the idea that the gay sex is merely “sexual recreation” in which limits are in place as to what activities are involved; in other words, it’s not really “gay sex” if anal intercourse doesn’t occur. The stigmas associated with homosexuality exist in both cases, yet the homosexual acts are not viewed as indicative of a homosexual leaning, but as a male-bonding ritual that does not admit homosexuality and encourages “normal” heterosexual intercourse. (“‘Being Masculine is not About who you Sleep with…’ Heterosexual Athletes Contesting Masculinity and the One-time Rule of Homosexuality”)
A third category of men and women who play gay exists beyond those who do so for money or convenience. For them, pretending to be gay has other rewards, ala the film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which two men pretend to be lovers in order to collect domestic partner benefits. This duplicity goes beyond the situation of someone falsely “confessing” to homosexual feelings to get out of an undesirable heterosexual relationship. It requires that one make a public profession that he or she is gay and integrate him or herself into the gay community. As in the film, this may be done to acquire financial benefits, or it may be done to make an individual more appealing to potential gay customers or clients, to fit into the dominant culture (i.e., living in a city’s “gay mecca”), or to create a more sympathetic persona than the true heterosexual self may be.
In January of this year, Steven and Helen Mahoney were arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly encouraging new immigrants to “play gay”. The idea behind the scheme was that the straight immigrants would claim to be homosexual and in need of political asylum to avoid persecution in their home countries. Undoubtedly, the Mahoneys are not the only ones to think of this ploy, but there is no way to determine how many immigrants claiming to be gay actually are.
So what are all of us honest-to-goodness, queer-to-the-core homosexuals to make of these wannabes? Only those who fall into the last group truly gain an understanding of what it is like to be gay, as they must endure the social judgments and stigmas that accompany living as an out gay man or woman. Still, their scams and lies ultimately damage the fight for equality by the gay and lesbian community, as it casts fundamental rights as “special rights” worthy of lying and committing criminal offenses to obtain.
Those who dally in a gay lifestyle, either for professional gain or sexual relief, walk away and don’t endure the thousand plus discriminations built into law affecting LGBT individuals. A high percentage of gay and lesbian persons have heterosexual sexual experiences in their past, so adopting a “stay on your side of the fence” position seems hypocritical and unrealistic. One can only hope that the “gay experience” these men and women engage in will enlighten them, allowing them to be more empathetic towards the LGBT community.
Although some gays disapprove of “gay for pay” actors, escorts and bartenders, such trade is merely a reflection of the capitalistic principle of supply and demand. So long as bartenders are tipped on their appearance and not the quality of their service, we shouldn’t be surprised to find attractive straight people working in our clubs. Likewise, gay for pay porn stars find work because they have fans. It is all about creating illusion, and porn succeeds financially when it is able to create a fantasy that seems like reality.
The same is true with an actor in porn—be he straight or gay, his performance requires we ignore his true self to buy into the idea that he is a pizza delivery boy who gets laid at each stop (thus insuring that the last pizza to be delivered is cold and inedible—which helps explain why these studs never deliver my pizza. It’s probably difficult to keep your job when it takes you two hours to deliver three pizzas.).
I was surprised when a handsome jock in one of my classes identified himself as bisexual. Similarly, a student in another class was stunned when he made an anti-gay comment to another student, a huge bodybuilder who happened to be gay himself. The line between gay and straight is blurred, as gender roles change and stereotypes are shattered. So long as straight individuals aren’t working to impede our march towards full equality, does it really hurt anything if they come play in our sandbox?