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4Women - Opinions

Letters and opinions from concerned South African women on current affairs and issues affecting us all

On the issue of gay men's sexism towards lesbians

My Boobs Are My Own

By Kirsten Steward

The more I hung out with boys in the process of coming out, the more often I saw the female friends being subjected to what was essentially sexual harassment. But it’s gay guys so it’s all ok. No it isn’t!

Throughout my teenage and adult life, I have primarily been friends with people of the male persuasion. A large proportion of these men are gay. So I wonder how surprising it is that, although I didn’t have my first official kiss until I was in Transition Year, being groped became a regular occurrence from the age of fourteen onwards.

What started as casual comments on the higher than average size of my mammary glands, soon became boob brushes, squeezing, and under the bra action. The more I hung out with boys in the process of coming out, the more often I saw the female friends being subjected to what was essentially sexual harassment. If a straight guy pulled this, most girls would nip it in the bud, so why is the story different when it comes to the gay best friend?

Hands off!

I think I was around seventeen when I decided that this shit was not okay. Maybe I wanted to have a cup of tea with my bra undisturbed or walk to math class without an attack on my poor innocent breasts. What probably pushed me over the edge was when my (male) best friend (assumed gay but 100% heterosexual) was regularly harassing me in school and I realised. Nobody respected me, including myself.

I made it stop. It took yelling and ranting and sometimes physically swatting hands away from me. I screamed, I caused fights, and I didn’t care. Because I own my body and I dictate what happens to it. If I, as a queer woman, was casually sliding my hand down some lad’s boxers and making throwaway comments about size, appearance, and sexual prowess, I’d be put on a list, and all manner of questions about my lady loving would be thrown around. Historically, there has always been the patriarchal ownership of women’s bodies but why is the issue of gay men’s sexism only being addressed now?

“I’m gay, I don’t want to have sex with her” is not the redeeming excuse that some people appear to think. I am the one who is being touched. I am the one whose right to consent about my own body is being taken away. I don’t give a damn if that guy has no intention of trying to bang me or if he feels like he is causing no harm. Women are not toys that you can play with at will.

Then there are the comments. About a year ago, one of the guys I’m friendly with was trying to entertain us with his cruel sense of humour. Various “jokes” included calling effeminate men faggots, commenting on the bodies of the girls around the bar, and even suggesting bulimia as a diet plan for me. I had never been more shocked in my life and held back the tears out of sheer spite. This is an extreme example, but it is indicative of the credibility women as a whole give to gay men on how they should feel about their own bodies.

It’s easy to forget that the LGBTQ community isn’t all rainbows and unicorns and equality and acceptance all the time. There are those who will fight their own fight and then forget about the women, the bisexual and trans* folk, and the various other facets of the queer community that society can overlook. We don’t need to just enlighten uneducated homophobes; sometimes we need to focus on our own circle of friends.

I am not a teenager anymore. I haven’t had to cause a scene to be heard in a long time. But there are still moments when a situation requires you to say “My boobs are not your property. Stop.” When these situations occur, you are the one in charge. You dictate who you allow into your personal space. And gay or not, your body is your body, and everyone should respect that.


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