Op-ed: Stop Slut-Shaming Marc Jacobs, Gay Cruising

Op-ed: Stop Slut-Shaming Marc Jacobs, Gay Cruising

In case you haven’t heard, fashion designer Marc Jacobs accidentally published a (very cute) nude photo from his official Instagram account that was meant to be sent to one man via direct message. The photo of his hip/butt was aptly titled “It’s yours to try!” Now, though the photo was taken down soon after, the media was relentless in its concern over the tip slip.

Instead of ignoring them or trying to say it wasn’t him (which the ring on his finger and tattoo would easily prove false), he openly stated that as a gay man, it’s only natural to use online spaces to flirt. And he’s dead right.

The mainstream heteronormative consciousness has for far too long considered spaces such as Grindr, Jack’d, Scruff, and their like as sleazy or inappropriate, even morally bankrupt by some standards. These feelings, ironically, come from people who otherwise consider themselves supporters of queer and trans rights: neo-liberals. That crowd is likely to slut-shame gay men like Jacobs, proving to only be supportive of (generally white) heteronormative queer lifestyles (i.e. Will & Grace, Mitch and Cam on Modern Family). One comment on the New York Daily News post about Jacobs' nudes said, “Yup, nothing says classy like a middle aged man with his drawers around his knees taking pix of his privates. The narcissism is amazing.” What they fail to realize is the importance of cruising culture within queerness, and that these apps and websites are the contemporary manifestations of said culture.

For centuries, queerness in the West has existed in hiding. For many gay and bi men, their formation of a queer identity came from sexual experiences (often with much older men) in spaces known to be frequented by other gay men. These spaces represent early cruising culture, but cruising spaces have changed as technology has. From the backrooms in bars and saloons, certain alleyways and streets to movie theaters and parks to bathhouses and piers — for ages we had to shelve this performative aspect of our identity.

Today, in a society that is much more open and tolerant than that of our predecessors, queer men perform what has now become somewhat of a coming of age on mobile applications like Grindr, Jack’d, Scruff, and many (many) others as well as (but to a much lesser extent) on other, more common apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

This move by Jacobs presents an opportunity for opening the discourse. Why is sex positivity not promoted for queer and trans folk? Why are we constantly considered deviant? We’re “allowed” to marry now, so we’re only supported when we conform to your lifestyles? It is high time that it becomes publicly understood that queerness exists beyond the means and context of 2.5 kids and a white picket fence.

The history of sexually transmitted infections in our community is one that has painted us as hypersexual and also sexually loose. But what is forgotten is that for many, the oppression and suppression of this identity means that for our formative years, we often didn’t engage the sexual aspect of ourselves for fear of its repercussions.

This coming of age through sexual exploration is one that can bring a person to life after 18+ years of numbness. Whether it be hooking up with a stranger or sending a butt pic to some cute guy on Instagram, it is for many (though certainly not all) a major part of queer culture. To its critics I ask: How can you slut-shame someone for just trying to fully be who they are?

The mainstream never realizes the offspring of its oppression. Thus, I cannot expect the mainstream and neo-liberals to ever fully understand why we act the way we do. I cannot expect people to empathize with an identity they do not have. However, it is not hard to simply refrain from criticizing what you don’t understand. In short: Don’t hate from outside the club when you can’t even get in.

Keenan Smith 0
KEENAN SMITH is a student at Columbia University, majoring in history. He’s a campus activist, community organizer, and unprofessional photographer. He’s reachable via Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.

 

 

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