“No, Not THAT Phallus!”
November 28th, 2011
When I reviewed David Reubens’ vile, best-selling character assassination of gay people recently, I did find myself laughing at one choice bit:
The homosexual must constantly search for the one man, the one penis, the one experience, that will satisfy him. Tragically there is no possibility of satisfaction because the formula is wrong. One penis plus one penis equals nothing. There is no substitute for heterosex—penis and vagina. Disappointed, stubborn, discouraged, defiant, the homosexual keeps trying. He is the sexual Diogenes, always looking for the penis that pleases.
That is the reason he must change partners endlessly. He tries each phallus in succession, then turns away remorsefully. “No, that’s not the one!” He is in a difficult position—condemned eternally to search after what does not exist—after what never existed.
I wanted to parody this, but I could never invent anything more ludicrous than the image of a man who “tries each phallus in succession, then turns away remorsefully. ‘No, that’s not the one!’”
(And even if I did, I’d still fall far, far short of the anti-gay commenter on a conservative blog who wrote that gays have lots of sex because gay sex so unsatisfying, while straight sex is so great that heteros go months without wanting it.)
Truthfully, I think Reubens is on to something, just not what he intended. His passage actually made me think of aspiring ex-gays, who manage to slog through their empty lives by telling themselves they simply haven’t met the right vagina yet, turning away remorsefully after each attempt: “No, that’s not the one!”
But that’s not fair either. I’m no adept ex-gay, nor even an apprentice, so I can’t presume to read their minds. I just know if I were trying to convince myself I were straight by looking at vaginas, I’d say “No, that’s not the one!” every single time.
And then it occurred to me. Some of our opposition comes from a botched attempt at empathy.
Humans, of course, understand each other by imaging what people are thinking and feeling. Evolutionary biologists make a good case that we’re hard-wired this way, that it confers a survival advantage when dealing with friend or foe. Then, as individuals, our parents and teachers develop this capacity in us. How? With a constant repetition of How would you feel if someone…
I can make better sense of David Reubens’ unintentional hilarity now. He’s simply imagining how he would feel if someone thrust a penis in his face. In fact, No, that’s not the one! would if anything be a rank understatement.
Maybe that’s why some of our opponents (the men, anyway) are so convinced homosexuality is a willful, perverse choice. For some of them, it would be. Just as attempting a sustained life of hetero sex would be an unnatural, unsuccessful choice and a willful perversion for me.
Maybe we can use this to improve our messaging. If we say, Gay sex is perfectly natural, we’ll get nowhere if straights hear it as, You should want gay sex! And I think, sometimes, that’s exactly what they do hear. Better, perhaps, to say, Gay sex is as natural to me and my partner as straight sex is to you and yours.
That’s the empathy we need to go for.