So I was at one of the many gay events where I seem to find myself more and more often these days when I asked a friend of mine, a straight woman, how her evening had been going. After some chatting I found out that there had been one thing that hadn't gone quite so well: a gay guy getting touchy-feely with her breasts.
I can already feel some gays rolling their eyes. We're not attracted to women! It's just playing around.
Unfortunately, that kind of dismissive approach was part of my own mindset that kept me from really seeing the problem. I recently caught a blog post by a gay man who had talked to women about how gay men take liberties with their bodies: grabbing, touching, offering unsolicited advice on their weight and fashion. I shared it out and quickly got both public and private responses from other women, some close friends, sharing their stories of grabby hands. So, yes, it happens a lot more than you think.
Just to be clear, I think the large majority of gay men aren't obsessed with fondling women in the name of fun and fashion. Given my rather lackadaisical attempts at youthful heterosexuality, I already know what everything feels like and I don't need to conduct an unsolicited refresher course. Plus, the idea that any woman outside of an Arkansas Walmart would consider fashion advice from me is ludicrous.
But there is an active subset of gays who do all of this, whether for fashion or fabulosity or just sheer lack of social skills. And you guys need to knock it off. Women in public aren't your Barbie dolls to practice your fantasy Project Runway skills. They're not demo models for you to prove what you get to do that straight men don't — although straight men do it too, which is why it's so creepy when gay men do.
Another friend protested to me in private that straight women have come to objectify gay men, particularly during the ever more numerous gay-bar bachelorette parties that unleash the terror of the bridesmaids on unwitting patrons. Fine: Hey, drunken bridesmaids celebrating your friend's impending matrimony by stroking and grabbing those stereotypically hard abs and glutes, hands off the merchandise!
Obviously, I find it harder to get worked up about that because as men we weren't raised to be constantly aware of the possibilities of assault and rape. For some insane reason we still live in a culture that tells many rape victims, ''Well, if you weren't such sluts then you wouldn't be getting raped so much, now would you?''
I know women who've been assaulted. You probably do too, even if you think you don't. I know that women have to be more alert when they go for jog, ride a bike or simply walk alone after sunset. I know that bizarre sexual acts pop up out of nowhere — while driving alone on the interstate my sister had some guy pace alongside her for miles until he made sure she caught sight of him jerking-off at the wheel.
Honestly, when you live every day with that kind of unnerving, creepy and sometimes potentially violent behavior, you earn the right to keep unwanted hands off your body. Even the gay ones.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @seanbugg.