Queerdopes, Gay Culture and the Cellblock

Woo hoo!

Yes, as matt said I am planning on attending QueerDope, and I doubt I’ll feel alienated. I’m not planning on attending the orgy, but neither is andy (and I guess racinchikki isn’t either!)

It’s still going to be a gathering of dopers. Maybe the activities are going to be more focused on gay culture, but hey, that’s cool. I learnt more about gay culture last dopefest (need I bring it up again?) than I knew before, mostly 'cause I don’t have friends with which to go to places like L’Entrepeau.

I’m excited. It’ll be fun and I’ll get to experience part of my city which I don’t usually.

Ohhhh, no. No orgy for me. See above about sexual tension. And that’s even if I was wanted by the group of sweaty sexin’ man-lovin’ menfolk! I’ll just drink tea and bring cookies. :wink:


I agree with all of this. For a fun night of just flat-out dancing your ass off, with no sexual innuendo to deal with, there is nothing better for a straight girl than a gay dance club.


Well, JAR’s experience seems to contradict this. It’s not like the gay scene in Chicago is not sufficiently afloat to survive some onslaught of straight people. And do you seriously think doms worry that straight people are going to overrun the leather bar? I doubt it. Most non-S&M straight people wouldn’t be caught dead in a leather bar, because it’s so not their scene. Ironically, the only straight people probably being excluded are the interested ones, like JAR, who would be non-judgmental (probably even approving) and do their bet to fit in. (So to speak.)

I have no problem with fetish nights being open only to people interested in the fetish. I have a problem with people being excluded based on sexual orientation, regardless of legitimate interest.

As I said, there are strands that have been twisted up. By and large, straight people are welcome at events, like pride parades, that celebrate queerness. It might not be the kind of world you’re used to, but you’re welcome to enjoy yourselves.

Safe-space events are a totally different issue. I guess I’d respond by arguing that the world is already, in this sense, a safe space for straight or non-kink people.


Again, I’m not sure how this jibes with JAR’s experience, though I understand you wouldn’t be okay with her being turned away from a regular ol’ gay bar. So we agree on that.

As far as the “world” being a “safe space for straight people,” this merely begs the question of what part of being gay is “unsafe” in the world, and why, even if anything was, any gay person would think was a better idea to retreat to a “safe” subset rather than demanding that the whole world be made safe for people of all sexual orientations. So I think you are actually twisting the threads back together here, and to that extent I can’t agree with you.

As far as the safe space for kinky people is concerned, I do understand the need for that and support it – to the extent that everyone legitimately interested in the kinkiness du jour is accepted and the exclusion isn’t based solely on sexual orientation – which, again, appears to be what JAR has encountered, unfortunately.

Frankly, if John or Jane Doe wants to ride his/her boyfriend like Seattle Slew, harness and tack and all, it’s none of my business because it’s not my bag. But if it were, I don’t see why I’d be in less need of a safe space just because I’m straight.

I really can’t speak learnedly about the gay leather subculture, which is why I’m couching this all in terms like “it could be argued.” So it could be argued that ‘gay leather’ is a scene, and one whose participants currently feel the need to have an exclusive space.

Here’s a datum. A friend of mine who’s into kink used to go to this series of parties that featured kink. Nominally, the party was open to people of all sexual orientations. However, straight people came to form such a preponderance that it became numerically impossible to explore gay kink therein. He eventually had to go find another party. I suppose this is what they’re trying to avoid.

I agree with you, to an extent. However, there’s a big difference between being Québécois and being gay: most gay folks grew up in straight culture, and “learned” gay culture as adults. It is, therefore, something that adults can learn more easily than they can learn, for example, Québécois culture (assuming in both cases that they’re outsiders).

Imagine a man who left his family last year because he realizes he’s gay. Imagine a fag hag who’s been hanging out around gay guys for half a dozen years. The FH is straight (more or less); the man is gay. Isn’t the woman more familiar with gay subculture?

I have trouble coming up with an analogous situation for Canadians. (“I’m leaving you, Jennifer: I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m Canadian. I always have been, and I always will be” vs. “Yeah, I’m from the US, but I spend all my summers up here in Montreal because I like Alanis Morrisette and shit.”)

Still, though, I think there’s a piece of this puzzle that I’m missing, something to do with the shared self-identification that members of the subculture have; in a way, the FH is gonna be less a part of the subculture, despite her superior fluency, than the gay man, since she doesn’t share the subculture’s self-identification. Does that sound accurate?


Well, the day is long, and one can participate in a variety of different levels of the community and a variety of different event structures over the course of it. I’m coming to believe that the idea of safe-space is more in the notion of making certain of not having to deal with anything extraneous to the scene in question.

As I posted, rather than thinking of it in terms of ‘fetish,’ it could be thought of in terms of ‘scene’, which ‘gay leather’ could constitute one of.

I’m trying as hard as you are to get into this headspace, so I may not be the best person to explain it. But think of it this way. Think of yourself having sex. Now think of yourself having sex where some stranger you don’t know could walk in, and you don’t know what they’ll think of it. Now generalize the notion of “having sex” to include “being sexual with other people who are gathered with the express purpose of being in the same scene”.

Out from that, I guess you could substitute any emotionally charged/difficult/embarrassing endeavour for sex and come up with the notion of safe space. I think it’s sort of trying to form a semi-permeable membrane - you want to include people you don’t know, but you want the maximum guarantee that they’ll be germane to the task at hand. The question with each such space is whether the activity in progress warrants that safety.

As I say, this is probably not too coherent, and I make no guarantees as to its congruence with the points of view of anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

It’s totally coherent. It just doesn’t pesuade me that the line should not be drawn to exclude the judgmental and otherwise not-like-minded, as opposed to drawing it to exclude people based solely on their sexual orientation, regardless of how much they’d like to be a part of it.

This all just begs the question because at bottom, your argument seems to be that there is something inherent in the "gay’ scene (whatever gay scene we’re talking about) that makes it okay to exclude all straight people. But what is that inherent “gay” ingredient justifying exclusion on that basis alone? I think that was JAR’s initial inquiry, and mine as well.

I mean, if you could point out something inherent in straight people that makes them “unsafe” on the basis of sexual orientation alone, then I would say, yes, exclude them from safe space activities. Not because they’re straight but because they’ve proven themselve unsafe (ie, proven that they destroy the atmosphere of safety). But, again, I don’t know what that inherent “something unsafe” could possibly be.

Why is this okay for gay leathermen but not okay for middle-aged white men who want to tell racist jokes in their exclusive little clubs?

Definitely. In fact, I wish I had had such a FH. Gay culture isn’t genetically encoded - that’s why I said “outsider”. The FH is no longer an outsider to gay culture, but the gay man who’s just come out is as yet.

However, there’s another part - shared experience. The FH probably has never had to come out, so it will be more difficult (though not impossible) for her to grasp elements of GC based on that.

Jodi is it ok for battered womens shelters to exclude men?

Personally I don’t have a problem with exclusive places as long as they aren’t exclusive public places. I don’t mind the middle aged white men telling racist jokes in their exclusive clubs.

Perhaps it’s that everyone at a gay sex event is a potential participant. A woman or straight man at such an event isn’t.

Hm. Do the actions of those clubs have harmful repercussions to those outside them, e.g. are these white men wielding the reins of power in some field or area?

(BTW, I appreciate the credit you’re giving me as I try to muddle through this.)

If some swingers wanted to have an orgy at their swinger club and exclude any homosexuals from the club for the evening, would anyone object?

I kinda think that when an event centers specifically around sex, the organizers get to invite or exclude anyone they want. I don’t have any problem with a fetish night only inviting people involved in the fetish, for just this reason.


Knowing in advance that the chances would be approximately nil that I’d get laid there, I doubt they’d have to exclude me.

When I was 17, my best friend and I hung out at the gay clubs in DC (our favorites being Lost & Found and Trax). We weren’t gay, but we loved the atmosphere, the music and the people. Nobody minded us being there (we actually became regulars at L&F where even the bartenders knew us). I had some of the best times of my life back in those days. We didn’t worry about sleazy guys hitting on us, we just danced the night away with the guys and each other and had an absolute blast.

Not really adding anything of help here, just wanted to let you know I understand what you mean. :slight_smile:


Good MORNIN’! This is the MOST interesting Pit thread I’ve ever read and I really am glad I started it. And frankly, I’m glad to see that even the gay community is a little muddy on the issue, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t an idiot… Just a couple of details here:

  1. The Manhole is a…for lack of a better word…a VERY gay club. As opposed to say, Roscoes or Spin, which are sort of borderline gay/straight, just ‘fabulous’ clubs that everyone enjoys. Men are required to take their shirts off upon entry, and perhaps that ‘dress code’ is what keeps me from entering, but still, if I’m making the effort to go down to Halsted street {known as BOYSTOWN} can’t you assume I’m accepting of your culture. It’s not like a bunch of baptists are going to stumble upon the Manhole.

  2. The Cellblock is a leatherbar separated into three Sections; The bar, the holding cell and the yard. I know damn well that there are parts of that bar that I am not and frankly should not be allowed in. But the bar? I just want to have a drink and look at the beautiful boys in leather. Straight boys don’t wear armbands enough.

  3. Thanks for all of your thoughts, and thanks mostly to Jodi who put all of my questions in a much more coherent style.


Hey, thought I’d throw my pennies in here.

While I’ve never personally been to a gayclub (though I’m gay), I’ve long thought the biggest reason for gay male clubs not allowing gals in is simply because they don’t want to make any of the other patrons, or staff, uncomfortable.

I don’t remember why I ever bothered to think this through, but I’ve been of that mind for years. If you take a moment to consider, maybe a gay male dancer would “freeze-up” at seeing a woman in the audience, or just the thought of her eyes on him while he’s performing because it’s not his thing (enjoying gals watching him dance). If his performance was affected by something like that, then the rest of the crowd isn’t going to enjoy the show either.

And then there are the patrons. While the large bulk of my gay brothers that I know wouldn’t really care if a straight gal was hanging out with them watching the show, or just enjoying the scene, some of them might. And then they might not come back to that club again, and the management really isn’t going to like that because their target audience is in fact gay men, not straight gals.

So Jarbabyj, please take heart in that it might not be a seperation for seperation’s sake issue, it could likely be a comfort issue.

Thanks. :slight_smile:

Yeah, but Point I think that that may be the idea behind it, but it’s a case of not thinking things through to the end.

Sure, having people there might make some people uncomfortable, but they have a right to be there. If the folks that want to be there aren’t uncomfortable or causing trouble, then they should have the right to go wherever they like.

And if I ever find myself in a gay strip club and the male dancer falls off stage because he sees me in the audience… Well, he’s not getting a tip from me! :slight_smile:


Sure, but that’s different. There we’re talking about literal safety, not (for lack of a better term) social safety – i.e., the opportunity to explore some social activity (sexual or not) in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. I would have no objection to a battered men’s shelter excluding women, either, if the men felt unsafe around women. But that is worlds removed from an open-to-the-public business (like a bar) excluding certain patrons based solely on sexual orientation.

Well, you might not, but I will submit that some gay people do object, and rightly so. Because those sorts of clubs underline the “otherness” of the excluded and reinforce the right to exclude them. The mentality that it is okay to leave certain people out of certain aspects of society (especially places open to the public) based solely on sexual orientation is not a mentality that, in the long run, will do the gay community (or black community or women) much good.

Why would the inability of an interested party to participate justify barring them from the event. If it was a gay man who for medical reasons was incapable of being a sexual participant, would you exclude him as well?

And I’m not talking about orgies, by the way, or even the darkened “bull pens” in the back. I’m talking about wanting to attend an event at a public drinking establishment, or wanting to just have a drink at the bar, and not being allowed to based on sexual orientation. IMO, if we’re talking about a true sex club, where people are expected to participate, then, sure, you can exclude nonparticipants. But not when it’s basically a bar and maybe someone will end up getting a blow job in the back, or finding someone else to take home, but lots of other people will not, and if they want to just drink and dance, they can. Why exclude straight people from that? IMO, if we’re honest, it’s because they want it to be a gay event and they just don’t want straight people to be there. And that is not IMO a good enough reason for exclusion.

Sure. But why does that matter? Are you saying that the disempowered can be exclusive but those in power cannot? Why? The wealthy and powerful do not have fewer rights (both constitutional and social) to associate with whom they please than others do, and I can think of no rationale to attempt to try to say they have fewer. I’m not talking about law. If we as a society say “it’s not okay as a social matter to exclude people based solely on their sexual orientation,” then we can’t undermine that statement by qualifying it: “Unless you’re disempowered. Then it’s okay.” The only rationale I can think of that would support such an idea is a fear that your subculture is in danger of being subsumed into the homogeneous societal whole – an argument often made by Deaf culture, for example. But in this case that just takes us back to the beginning by begging the question of what constitutes gay culture and why it’s in need of protection.

Right back atcha. I’m trying to think it out myself. I think it’s a very interesting question. And thanks for the compliment JARBABY. :slight_smile:


Well, I think we can all agree it probably is a comfort issue, at least at some level. The question is whether that’s a good enough reason to exclude certain patrons based on sexual orientation alone. Because “straight bars” would just as willingly exclude gay people on the basis that gay people “make the straight patrons uncomfortable and attract a gay crowd, which we don’t want.” So would it be okay for a bar to have “straight night” – no gay people allowed? Again, IMO, saying such divisions are okay (and such a rationale is legitimate) seems to me to obviously harm gay people in the long run, by giving the rest of society a reason to exclude them. So MATT has been giving some thought to what rationale besides mere comfort might justify such exclusion, which led to the discussion of “safe spaces,” an idea I don’t reject in other contexts but am not sure I’m convinced by in this one.