September 1, 2022

SEX ON THURSDAY | Am I Gay or Am I Just American

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I kissed a girl. And yes, I liked it. But I am not ready to become the covergirl of whatever company still needs a one-month-contracted gay spokesperson to top their float at pride. See, I am American and have grown up on a healthy diet of watching old, rich men walk down red carpets with young and beautiful women. Of watching deodorant ads where the company expresses the quality of the scent they sell with women becoming sex-crazed in its prescence. Of listening to music where the person rapping establishes his status only through describing the bodies of the woman around him and the ease with which he has sex with them. So of course I liked it — to not take pleasure in kissing a beautiful woman would just be unpatriotic. In fact, we love sexualizing women so much that the line between my own sexuality and my cultured desires appears incredibly thin. 

 I say “we” because regardless of your sexuality, gender identity or ethnic background, American culture revolves around desiring women. 10 minutes of cable T.V. ads or flipping through a magazine shows how this desire deeply influences how we spend our money and thus, how it shapes our society. This phenomena is colloquially known as the “male gaze,” and as an American woman, I have grown up hunting for a refuge from his unyielding stare where I might behold and evaluate myself without his judgment. And, honestly, I feel like I have done a decent job of developing an understanding of myself beyond how men may perceive me. 

But this relationship with myself does not immunize me from the barrage of beautiful women working to convince the consumer (targeted towards men with money but also includes me) that proximity to this most rare and sought after prize (the beautiful woman) makes one more powerful and valuable and worthy. So while I can look in the mirror and see my own eyes staring back at me, I fear that when I cast them upon the women in my surroundings, my view may become distorted by the axe-body-spray-smelling, ball-scratching, bikini-babe-loving American bro in me.

Now, when I say kissed a girl I mean we epicly made out in an abandoned alleyway. I touched her in the way men have always touched me. This is to say I let my hands run down her back and I grabbed her ass, which filled out her leather skirt quite nicely, and pressed her into me. She was the one throwing her head back in delight as I sucked her neck. My hands finally had somewhere to go. When I kiss men and their hands roam my body, outlining the curves of my waist and taking fistfulls of my breasts and my butt, I usually keep my hands in their hair or near their necks — always strictly above their chests. 

It felt good to know her body. The doubt that lingers around many of my other sexual encounters with men over how best to touch them and how to communicate what I want vanished. There was no break in the momentum like I have experienced with men when I have to finally tell them that their frantic, untargeted rubbing does not accomplish what they think it does. My concern over how to read their bodies and make my own legible to them was cast away by my confidence in my own pleasure and ability to translate that to her body. I was able to consume her in the way that men have consumed me, but this time her pleasure was linked to mine and our sexual gratification reciprical in a way that was new to me. 

This was a positive experience and I would like to do it again. I had never thought that I was gay because I figured that if I were gay I would just know. Maybe some kind of rainbow halo would appear when I locked eyes with a woman to indicate that yes, the feeling I am experiencing is attraction, and yes, it is the romantic kind. Surely, the fact that I liked kissing a woman must mean something, but I wonder how much of my attraction I derive from idolizing the people who possess beautiful women, and perhaps this indicates that I just want a piece of that power. It seems not so ridiculous that instead of seeing myself in the stunningly shallow female “lead” as my gender suggests I might, I instead have grown to align myself with the brave, cunning man whose heroism earns her all-too-precious affections. 

After so many of my own sexual experiences flatlining at the hands of unskilled yet overly confident men relentlessly smashing my clitoris as if they were 12year-olds smashing the like button on the most recent Jake Paul video, I relished the intimacy of being with someone who could navigate my body without my constant oversight. However, any consistent partner can achieve this knowledge of my body as long as I invest the time in teaching that person. So as I exist in this realm of questioning my attraction to women, I wonder what determines our attraction to other people in the first place. I am unsure of how I might even divorce my own sexualization of women from the media’s sexualization, much less recognize how I can accurately differentiate my romantic pleasure from the intimacy gained from familiarity and confidence. We often recognize college as a time for young people to experiment sexually, but now that I’ve done the experimenting I have no idea how I am supposed to draw any conclusions. Instead, I continue to struggle to move beyond this normalized American lens of sexualiation and objectification to understand what it means for me to behold and love women.

Mike Litoris is a student at Cornell University. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Meditations of a Masterbater runs during alternate Sex on Thursdays this semester.