By Pat Clawson
Oct. 8, 1971, Oberlin Review
Junior Pat Clawson is active in the Gay Liberation movement on campus. – Ed.
I would like to discuss the reaction of Oberlin people towards gays, as we gays perceive these reactions (since I am a male, I will be writing primarily about the reactions of males—I hope that my comments are useful to women in understanding their reactions to gay women).
We in Gay Lib think that many members of the Oberlin community are very uptight about gay people. We think that the reason they are uptight lies in their own sexual problems. I would like to discuss some hang-ups lots of people have in dealing with gays. Hopefully, someday Obies will be together enough that they will feel free to go to bed with people of their own sex when they want to.
The primary reaction of Oberlinians to gayness is deep fear. Some of these fears that are drilled into us by society are:
Queer for life
1. The fear of being labeled “queer” for the rest of one’s life. Men have been taught that they should be full of macho and aggressiveness instead of being effeminate (read: deficient) fags. While many Oberlin men verbally ridicule the macho ethic, it is still deep inside them, controlling their reaction to gayness (and to women). Also, men are deathly afraid of failing—and being a fairy is the ultimate failure of one’s manhood.
It is also commonly assumed that once you have slept with a man, you are doomed for life. Even if you manage to sleep with a woman, you will be drawn back to the dark, perverted world of homosexuality. Kinsey, I might point out, found that 28% of all males ages 16 to 55 have had at least as much homosexual sex as heterosexual for at least 3 years. Only 4% of all males ages 16 to 55 have been exclusively homosexual for all of their lives.
Sex in toilets
2. The fear that being gay means having to spend a lifetime of seeking sex primarily in toilets. It seems hard for people to realize that gays don’t spend all their time cruising—gays are not trying to make you, to challenge your virility, every time they talk to you.
Gays can and do form lasting relationships. Society does its best to rip apart two people of the same sex who are in love with each other (harassing them legally, preaching to them about their perversion, forcing them to hide their love for fear of losing jobs and friends). At the same time, society tried to force men and women together—how many couples are held together solely by convenience, fear of being alone, pressure of parents, peers, and church? It is therefore natural that there are few gay couples apparent to the casual observer. Society tries to tell us that all homosexual sex is in brief encounters—which is about like saying that most heterosexual sex is between men and whores.
The touch taboo
3. The fear of physical sex. American men have a deep taboo against touching one another—they are so afraid that physical contact will lead to that horrible evil lurking in each of us, homosexuality. Ever tried just touching a guy—not reaching orgasm with him, but just holding him close for the physical pleasure of it?
Oberlin males are also scared shitless of how they are going to do it in bed. Mr. Competitive Top-Performer in every other field is scared of being awkward or showing inexperience. Physical sex can be really beautiful, but not if you are worrying about how hip your partner thinks you are.
Repression at Oberlin
What are some of the problems we face because of our prejudice against gayness? (Note that I didn’t say “what are some of the problems gay people face,” because our sexism is a problem for us all). For one thing, people refuse to recognize the sexual element in many of their relationships with people of their own sex. Straight men just don’t let their relationships with other men develop any kind of sexual tones. Many men might feel attracted to only males in their lives, but they can’t even enjoy this relationship, which could be beautiful and meaningful if they let it be. Because Oberlin men are so repulsed by physical contact between men, gays can start a physical relationship with a man only by propositioning him. It is a simple fact that men find it easier to be blown by another man than to be touched or kissed by one.
Come to the dance
What can we do to overcome our sexism? Loosen up. Gay people are not a threat to you. Just try to be open to the possibility that you might enjoy physical sex, be it holding hands or orgasm, with someone of your own sex. Try to realize that gay people aren’t circus freaks, and they don’t like being stared at when they are expressing affection in public. If you really want to help develop a less hung up, fear-ridden sexual scene here at Oberlin, you could come to the dance sponsored by Gay Lib this Saturday in Rec Hall (Wilder). The dance isn’t just for gay people—it is for everyone who realizes that there is nothing wrong with being attracted to people of your own sex.