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Roseanne Has Failed Queer People

Roseanne Queer lgbtq trump

An actress and her show that once celebrated queer lifestyle have derailed due to support of Donald Trump’s administration.

For many LGBTQIA people in their twenties and thirties, Roseanne was an integral piece of television viewership. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the sitcom was a top-5 show, witnessed as weekly as church to people all over the nation. The show—which was inspired by Roseanne Barr’s onstage persona in which she preached to be a “domestic goddess” rather than a housewife in stand-up routines—was the first of its kind to portray a middle-class American family struggling to pay their bills, find work, and deal with lifestyle and societal issues, such as racism, domestic violence, and natal complications. But what queer people, if not most people, may find more memorable about the show is the way Roseanne incorporated gay and lesbian characters into its construct. From the inclusion of  Sandra Bernhard and Martin Mull as Roseanne Conner’s lesbian and gay friends Nancy and Leon, to the outing of Roseanne’s mother, Beverly, at Thanksgiving dinner, to being one of the first network television shows to air a same-sex kiss, the Conners were at no shortage of LGBTQIA-inclusion in their lives.

But all of these points only make Roseanne Barr’s political positions and their inclusion into the revival of Roseanne all the more perplexing. Last year, ABC officially announced that it would be rebooting Roseanne for an eight-episode season, which was later extended to nine episodes by the network. But before that, Roseanne Barr announced via her Twitter on numerous occasions—including some in which she sparred with fans, critics, former colleagues, and other notable celebrities—that she vehemently supported Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Such tweets even included nasty insults targeted not just at other candidates such as Hillary Clinton, but people who dared to challenge her. 

But what appears to be most disturbing about Barr’s inane Twitter-rants is the fact that she seems to not only buy into what she’s saying about Donald Trump—which is often false, or at least unfounded—but that she seems to be oblivious to how his actions and those of his administration have negatively impacted, and continue to potentially negatively impact, the LGBTQIA community. After all, this is the man whose running mate once endorsed federal funding for conversion therapy and who has actively spoken out about how “societal collapse” has always followed the redefining of marriage to include same-sex couples. Pence has also supported laws that promoted discrimination against the LGBTQIA community, such as a bill in Indiana during his time as governor that would have allowed privately-owned businesses to refuse service in the name of religion v. sexual orientation/gender identity. Trump’s other stances on LGBTQIA politics have also included, but are not limited to, his self-proclaimed “ban” on transgender people serving in the military, endorsements of anti-gay politicians, blatant ignorance of National Pride Month, rescinding an Obama-era motion protecting trans children in public schools (primary and secondary), permitting trans discrimination to be tolerated, and so much more.

So, this begs the question: what does Roseanne see in this guy? What happened to the progressive, feminist, advocate for the community and mother of four we grew up with for nine years? If you thought that Barr seemed liberal in her heyday, think again. At least, think again before bringing that her attention. She has in recent days denounced ever being a liberal (arguing she is instead now, and always has been, a “radical” who, in her own words, wishes to “shake up the establishment [and] staid the status quo.” If that were true, and we were to take Barr at her word, it would still be difficult to comprehend given her unwavering support of this particular administration.

This Roseanne Barr is a stark contrast to the Roseanne Conner many of us—specifically queer millennials—grew up knowing. Sure, one could argue that Barr’s onscreen persona was just that—a caricature of a real person that didn’t entirely parallel her real-world values, ideals, and morals. However, there’s a great deal of flaw to that logic, especially considering the reported toxicity on the set of the ABC hit during its freshman and sophomore years. 

Not long after the show’s premiere, reports of Roseanne’s disputes with the show’s creative staff surfaced and were widely publicized. These included changing the show’s original title (Life & Stuff, denominated by series creator Matt Williams) to simply her Roseanne, her real-life and television forename. Barr also reportedly had an all-out screaming match with producers and a then 13-year-old Sara Gilbert, in which she insisted the child star be fired and replaced over an issue Gilbert was alleged to be having with learning her lines. It’s reported that Gilbert involved herself, shouting back to Barr, “You can’t fire me. You’re not a producer. You’re just the star.” There was also her boycott of the show after yet another creative disputer that landed her in her trailer for an entire day of shooting, which she had attached a memo to the simply read, “Sandy Duncan,” over her own name plate. The statement on the door referred to Valerie Harper having been fired from her own television show (entitled Valerie) and replaced by actress Sandy Duncan in the show’s second season when Harper insisted on having more creative control of the show. Other instances include (but are not limited to) the hiring of Tom Arnold (whom she would later wed and divorce), allegedly calling staff writers by numbers rather than by name, a complete firing of nearly her entire production staff to satisfy a vision for which Arnold took some credit (see video below), and an ultimate to show producers that if the aforementioned show creator, Williams, was not fired, she would leave the show just thirteen episodes into her 26-episode contract (Williams was subsequently let go following the ultimatum).  And in many of these instances, Barr would have been right to stand up for the creative perspective she envisioned for a show that bore her given name in its title.

But all that this really proves is just how much creative control Roseanne eventually did have over the sitcom as a whole. And as the years progressed, that became increasingly apparent, often for the better (save for season nine). The tone became less soft; the issues became more real; Roseanne’s parents went from being simply annoying to downright vile; Jackie became quirkier; Becky threw away her potential for a high school dropout on a motorcycle; Roseanne became oddly spiritual; and, of course, the Conners won the lottery. Then, of course, there was the big one:

The inclusion of gay characters.

These characters, however, weren’t presented the way we’d seen gay characters on TV before—for the few that we had seen. They weren’t over-the-top gay men parading around flamboyantly and coming to the rescue with a one-off, sassy remark (though Leon did provide his fair share of zingers at Roseanne’s expense). And Nancy was never presented to be too butch or too lipstick—her character was a quirky individual who was more so defined by her eccentricities than by her lesbianism (and sometimes bisexuality).They stood in line amongst the other ranks of the cast. Leon was a successful businessman who eventually became Roseanne’s business partner; and Nancy was a free-spirited flake. Neither of their relationships were ever censored (at least not for a show that included gay core characters in the ‘90s). They weren’t put on display (though they were sometimes used as tools from which Dan and Roseanne could learn valuable lessons). Roseanne took these characters and showed them to audiences in a way that normalized homosexuality, arguably even paving the way for shows such as Will & Grace to feature leading gay characters in the later ‘90s.

Now, just two months shy of the revival, we know little about what to expect. But what we do know is both hopeful and unsettling. The hopeful: Roseanne and Dan Conner have a grandson who dons dresses (though producer Sara Gilbert has explicitly stated he does not identify as trans and that he’s too young to know that he’s gay). LGBTQIA people such as Wanda Sykes and Sara Gilbert herself are writing for and producing the show.

The unsettling: the Conner heads-of-household have elected Trump.

Barr, along with executive producers Whitney Cummings and Gilbert, have expressed that this is a natural progression, as the Conners were always trying to find work, and Trump promised more jobs to America. She laments that it’s about realizing that even with opposing political views, this family can still come together and share their love for each other.

And that much may be true. But it does that mean that somewhere in the span of time that we’ve been absent from the lives of the Conners, Roseanne had to have this uncomfortable conversation with her lesbian mother, Leon, and Nancy. Does it mean that she’s turned her back on the women she once stood up for in the factory where its predominantly female employees were being tread upon by a misogynistic, piece of shit boss? Does it mean that the Roseanne Conner—and often the Roseanne Barr—that we all thought we knew, that we all wanted to be our mother and friend and sister, has had time to change in the last twenty years since leaving television?

Yes. The answer is yes. And that means that Roseanne Barr, and effectively Roseanne Conner, as well, is failing the LGBTQIA community. Someone who normalized our community is now in the pocket of a president whose empathy extends as long as his hands. True, Barr has stated that Trump has a bad habit of running his mouth and that she doesn’t agree with all he says and doesn’t, but she is using her show as a way to perpetuate the idiosyncrasies and the wrongdoings of a man in office who has done nothing to prove to the LGBTQIA community that he should be trusted with their lives and safety. Regardless of how Barr claims to feel about his stance on LGBTQIA rights (and it doesn’t seem that she’s had much to say so far about that particular end of it), befriending a villain because he did a good deed in your eyes is still befriending a villain.

Many of us will watch the show when it premieres—whether that be because we simply aren’t that shaken by her politics or because we’re just curious to see how the show actually handles these issues. Either way, one thing is for sure: Roseanne Barr—in spite of her many championships of LGBTQ culture throughout the years—has sided with the enemy, leaving many of us who looked up to her as a mother, a friend, a daughter, a comedian, a worker, or a woman in a great pit of disappointment.

Like Thelma & Louise

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 6

(for “Stephen”)

platonic love

noun, often capitalized P

1: love conceived by Plato as ascending from passion for the individual to contemplation of the universal and ideal

2: a close relationship between two persons in which sexual desire is nonexistent or has been suppressed or sublimated 


Of all the stereotypes that exist and are for the most part unfounded and untrue about the culture of gay men, there is one that has stood the test of time because of its extreme accuracy. That is that amongst gay men, platonic love is nearly nonexistent. Maybe it has something to do with the hormones of a person who is biologically male, or maybe it’s just simply due to the fact that sex has never been more accessible than it is today. After all, people—whether gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or otherwise—are complicated machines. To presumptuously agree that all gay men have had sex with most of their gay male friends would be to generalize, and therefore further perpetuate the stereotype. Still, it’s kind of true. Furthermore, Plato’s actual theory of Platonism delves much deeper into philosophy than just human emotion—extending into ideas, numerical values, and much more. With that in mind, it only makes sense that even one facet of his theory—that which regards love and lust—would be difficult to reason.

But it is that complication—and that of all great philosophers and their ideas—that makes life interesting. It’s the whys and the hows and—more often than not—the what-the-fucks. It’s these little idiosyncrasies that keep us, as humans, on our toes and allow us to experience emotion, whether that be love, hate, elation, and often just downright anxiety.

Still, as much as I hate to say it and to therefore presume a generalization, there’s little deniability regarding the fact that gay men don’t often have meaningful—or even unmeaningful—relationships that don’t, at some point, involve sex. I say ‘little,’ of course, because a gay man will often meet another gay man that they are in no way sexually attracted to and for whom they retain no romantic feelings. And every now and then, once in a blue moon—if the men in question have not written off one another due to the aforementioned fact—those two gay men will begin to converse and find that they do have ideas and ambitions and personality traits in common that will bring them together again. They may be forced to do this by work, or brought together by a mutual friend. But if that seemingly mythical rarity holds true, the two might go for coffee at Siphon or a $10 bottle of wine at Barnaby’s. And there, they might spark a kinship and see one another again, and then again after that. All the while, and as sparsely as the occasion may arise, those two gay men might become friends and maintain that Platonism throughout their friendship over a long period of time.

I have had this experience once or twice, but most significantly with my best friend, Stephen. I call Stephen my best friend, not entirely sure whether or not he realizes we kind of are best friends at this point. Although, even the story of our friendship rests just on the border of this theory as a whole, considering that when Stephen and I met, I was attracted to him. He was cute and smart and hardworking, a chairman for Pride Houston. For a while, Alice and I even exclusively referred to him as ‘Hot Stephen.’ My affinity for him, after meeting him all of two times, led me to join the nonprofit as a chairman, as well. Although, it was our time there together that quashed that affection for him. He never became less attractive or any dumber—quite the contrary, he actually only got better looking and his intelligence revealed itself more as we spent time together.

Yet somehow, my romantic interest in Stephen extinguished naturally (and quite quickly at that), and the two of us grew close as friends over the course of nearly two years. And after a while, I had settled into the resolve that Stephen had become my best friend—my best friend for whose boyfriend I also came to care dearly; my best friend I shared secrets with that I was often scared to admit to myself; my best friend with whom I discussed our sex lives and our families; my best friend who became a part of not just my personal life, but my work life, as well.

Stephen was my best friend—or at least, my best gay male friend—regardless of whether or not I was his. And just as quickly as I’d romanticized him after only meeting those fateful two times, any feelings of sexual ardor I ever had for him—no matter how short a time they may have existed—evaporated from me.

That is until the day that Stephen had to go and fuck that up for the both of us.


I was making the short trip down to Galveston to meet with some advertisers for the magazine and to have a Sunday Funday, as we gays love to do. With me was an entourage of friends, which included, but was not limited to, Ezra, Alice, my friend Derek and his partner (also named Derrick), and a few others. The day had not gone by without event, nor without sobriety after a fair share of drinks for all of us. What started out as a handful of quick meetings at the gay bar Rumors on the Seawall turned into several handfuls of alcohol, another meeting at Lafitte’s, margaritas at Salsas, more meetings and drinks back at Rumors, and one final meeting (and more drinks) at 23rd Street Station.

Yes, we’d hit all the gay bars, attended about eight meetings with drag show directors, bar owners, Pride celebration leadership, Galveston socialites, and many others like them. And due to the fact that I’d popped a few prescription pills that morning, had a handful of tequila shots, drank my weight in vodka, and paid for virtually none of it, I was drunk before we’d even made it to our second location.

My buzz had lightened some by the time we’d made our way to 23rd, but the last two meetings proved difficult for me to get through, as retention and communication were not two of my strong suits at that particular moment in time. Still, I flew through them just before 9 PM, and checked my phone to see when we’d need to start heading back to Houston.

Upon doing so, I discovered the inevitable text from Stephen, who had also gone out that night back in Houston. Originally planning to come with us for Sunday Funday with his boyfriend, Leo, Stephen had at the last minute decided he’d stay in Houston to do some work, as he was doing his best not to drink for a full month. The text, however, was a clear indicator to me that he’d slipped through the cracks of his four week plan and had been drinking. That’s sort of the beauty of having a platonic friend, you’re so undistracted by lust and desire that you pay more attention to their mannerisms and personality quirks.

Screenshot_20180123-004731-300x247 Like Thelma & Louise

 

And I knew that if Stephen was asking my location, it meant he either was or needed to be drinking.

No sooner than I’d hit the ‘SEND’ button on the text, Stephen was calling to drunkenly lament about a fight he’d had with one of his few other platonic, gay friends. It was a nasty debacle, one that I knew—even in my own drunkenness and without hyperbole—could be potentially damaging to their friendship.

“I just feel like I really need to be around my real friends right now, and around people who don’t treat me this way and that care about me and appreciate me and that I care about and appreciate.” Stephen was the king of run-on sentences when he was drunk. Meanwhile, I’d stepped up to a urinal to pee while he went on about the situation.

“All right. We’ll be there in 30 minutes,” I told him, zipping my scrotum by mistake into my jeans. “Ouch! Fuck!”

“No! No, don’t let me take you away from your day in Galveston. Stay there. I’ll be fine.”

“No, it’s okay. I just got out of my last meeting. We were about to leave anyway.”

That part was no lie. We’d been drinking since noon, and everyone had all but hit their walls. I, on the other hand, didn’t mind going to Stephen, due simply to my own social anxiety that was nearly symptomatic of being around so many people for such a long period of time. It would be a nice change of pace and a good way to decompress before going home—or so I thought.

Screenshot_20180123-004802-250x300 Like Thelma & Louise

I rounded the herds and we left the island. I explained to Ezra, Alice, and Jared (another friend who’d come along with us, and the magazine’s photographer) the situation and the urgency to return home. So, we made our way back to the city hastily, and I returned Jared and Ezra to their cars before Alice and I made our way to Rich’s.

Upon entering, I was faced with the reminder that Bunnies on the Bayou was having their annual Snow Bunnies event that night, which led to me having to pay a cover charge despite the fact that it was only just 9 o’clock on a Sunday. “Fuckers,” I mumbled under my breath as I handed over $10 for both Alice and I to the Bunny who also happened to be my former co-chair at Pride. I wasn’t his biggest fan.

We found Stephen on the patio. I approached him from behind and grabbed him by both sides of his waist, which resulted in him jumping off the ground and nearly knocking over another person’s drink.

“So, I see that your month without alcohol has come to a crashing halt,” I teased.

“Girl, you started this. You gave me Prosecco yesterday.” That much was true. But it was less than a full glass and it was lunchtime, after all.

“Thank you for coming,” he told me with eyes that were not only glassy from being drunk, but red and puffy from having, at the very least, fought back tears. Stephen ordered the two of us a drink, and Alice sat tiredly on a bench against the back wall while he went back into his spiel about the argument between he and his friend. I could see almost the entire thing playing out in my head. His friend, Mike, had probably been taken aback as a drunk, hurt Stephen launched into a diatribe about how Mike had been a shitty friend. Sad as it may be, the argument was almost the perfect centerpiece to any night out amongst the gays.

All I did was listen to Stephen. It didn’t feel like he really wanted my advice; and in being friends for the short time we had been, I’d learned when he was looking for advice and when he wasn’t. This was one of those opportunities I was meant to learn from in the art of listening and empathy—not two of my strong suits. Once he’d calmed down some, Stephen and I discussed Pride and our lives and things that let his mind wander away from the showdown with Mike. Truthfully, Stephen probably wasn’t much drunker than I was. In fact, I’d seen him far more drunk at many times during our friendship. Something about him, however, was different than anything I’d ever seen in Stephen before.

Certainly, I’d seen Stephen disappointed and angry and upset. But as I watched him talk and tried my best to keep up, I could sense something about him to which I hadn’t before bore witness.

He was wounded. There he was, after two weeks of not drinking (and that’s just wine; he hadn’t had liquor in nearly three months), alone in a busy club where he’d just taken an emblematic blow to the head and to the heart. The only friend he’d come there with had abandoned him for the very people they’d been fighting about in the first place, and he had no one else.

I was glad to be there for him. I was glad to be his friend when there weren’t any others within reach—or maybe even when there weren’t any others willing to extend their capacities to his emotional needs. Stephen was not a reactionary, nor was he terribly emotional. He was one of those grown-up, gay men who dealt with his issues by taking a reasonable, pragmatic approach to them. This Stephen—the one who had obviously cried a bit and had been left to feel the humiliation and exile of feeling as though no one wants you around—was new to me. And though I wasn’t glad to see him melancholy, I did accept and appreciate the fact that I was the friend he’d called to his side.

Soon enough, Leo arrived, and Alice and I prepared to leave the couple at Rich’s to enjoy themselves. As we parted ways, Stephen leaned in to hug me, planting a soft and sisterly kiss on the cheek, then turned to Alice, who—devoid of all social skills—awkwardly offered her hand to him for a nice, sturdy shake. I then hugged Leo, after which Stephen intercepted yet another hug from me.

Only this time, as I pulled away at the close, Stephen clasped his hands around my what-should-be biceps, and firmly gripped me in a momentary pause. The world seemed to slow down then, and I found a genuine confusion invading my mind as to what he was doing. Although, before I could generate any logic or reason, Stephen leaned forward and kissed me right on the mouth, right in front of God, Alice, his boyfriend, and half the Houston gay community standing around.

And for a moment, there was a flutter inside my chest. It was the kind that comes when those butterflies inside of you take flight, and their wings tickle your insides as they bounce from wall-to-wall looking for a way out. It was exactly as I’d have imagined it to be back when I was interested in Stephen. Scruffy from his beard. Soft from his lips. And somehow tranquil, in spite of the anxiety that was building at a lightning-quick speed inside of me. I mean, this was Stephen, my now-best friend, but someone we’d also formerly and affectionately referred to as Hot Stephen when Alice and I first met him. But there was another part of me that was much louder and much less unprecedented. It was a voice in my head and my heart that screamed, “No! We’re sisters! Sisters don’t do this! Sis, stop! Sis! Sissy!”

Then, although it seemed to last a lifetime, it was over. Stephen relinquished me and without another word, Alice and I silently trudged back through Rich’s toward the door, my freshly-kissed mouth agape the entire time. Both Alice and I decided against speaking of it on the ride home, but we both knew what had just happened.

Anthony Ramirez had been kissed on the mouth by Hot Stephen. If you’d told him this about two years prior, he would have called you a liar, but also jumped for joy. Now? Not so much. 

But Anthony Ramirez—me, that is—wasn’t jumping for joy. Instead, I just stood around confused as to why that had happened. Sure, I could chalk it up to the fact that Stephen was very, very drunk. But it didn’t account for all the times I’d seen him much drunker and how he’d not ever put his lips on me then. I could also argue that we’d just shared an intimate moment where Stephen was feeling a great deal of pain, and I was the only person who’d arrived to help—making it not a kiss of romance, but one of gratitude and kinship. It was the type of kiss Thelma and Louise shared before they took their fateful dive off the cliff at the end of the film. And truthfully, wasn’t that what we were? Thelma and Louise? Ride-or-dies? Laverne and Shirley? Tia and Tamera? 

And maybe that’s all that it was. After all, the American culture is one of the very few that equates all lip-to-lip kissing to a signifier of romance. Around the world, a kiss is nothing more than a symbol of many kinds of affection. Certainly it was nothing more than a one-off thing executed only after the culmination of many drinks and many more feelings of sorrow and closeness.

Still, it begged the question in my mind for days after: was that all it was?

I mean, while very different people, there were many medians in which Stephen and I met due to similar interests, likes, dislikes, and opinions. We were both educated gay men who were informed and cultured and enjoyed the arts and talking about sex and boys and drinking wine at virtually no cost to either of us. Was it possible that if Stephen and I had met at another time in our lives—had he not been involved and had I been a couple of years older—that the Platonism Plato so convolutedly posited may not have existed?

To be clear, I knew then and know now that Stephen isn’t attracted to me. But at the height of emotions, whether it be sadness or gratitude or lust or fear or joy, our perceptions as humans tend to change. And, as discussed before, humans are not simple creatures. We’re ruled by those emotions—even the most unemotional of us, like Stephen. Could it be that under different circumstances, though circumstances that would have still started our relationship as just friends, our friendship might have forged another path on the road?

Possibly, though not probably. Our entire lives would have required revision, from time of birth to college applications to the cars we drove to how much we drank on any particular Sunday night.

One thing is for certain, though Stephen and I haven’t discussed this since it occurred, as he probably doesn’t remember doing it:

I got closer to my friend that night. Nothing came of that silly kiss, as I knew it wouldn’t because neither of us wanted anything more from one another than a friend who could be at Rich’s when the other heartbroken and drunk by 9 PM to tell you they love you and that you’re worth more. And that’s the beauty of what Stephen and I continue to have.

Even in the moments of gentle brushes of hands against thighs, or of fingers locking together in a moment of intensity, or even those times rarer still than platonic love between gay men when you kiss on the mouth, true friendship supersedes and remains palpable and pure and true. Even when the Platonism is called into question and Plato momentarily begins to turn over in his grave, the reality sets back in and you remember exactly what your place is in that person’s life, and theirs in yours … even if you find yourself questioning it from time-to-time.

But that’s the beauty of real platonic loves. They’re insightful, and introspective, and rare like fossils. And just like fossils, just like Thelma and Louise, just like Plato, those loves teach us things we absolutely have to learn.

And if we’re lucky enough to have even one of those sorts of relationships in our entire lives, that’s magic.

Screenshot_20180123-004843-231x300 Like Thelma & Louise

In Defense of Sex Work

prostitution sex work legalization decriminalizing

Decriminalizing prostitution and sex work is about more than just sex.

In a country where we dictate what a woman can and can’t do with her own body, as well as one in which homosexuality is compared to beastiality and Donald Trump is president, we shouldn’t be surprised that prostitution is still illegal. It’s a debate that has continued for decades and caused major controversy throughout the world. Prostitution is known as the “world’s oldest profession,” and whether it should be criminalized—or not—is one of the oldest debates among social reformers. Today, a growing consensus around the world claims the sex trade perpetuates male violence against women, and so customers should be held as criminals. On the contrary, it’s decriminalizing prostitution that could make women—in and outside the sex industry—safer.

This modern debate has roots in Victorian England, which branded prostitutes as wicked, depraved and a public nuisance. Yet a shift in social thought throughout the era introduced the prostitute as a victim, often lured or forced into sexual slavery by immoral men. Today, we’re seeing a global shift in prostitution attitudes that looks startlingly like the one in Victorian England. Many areas have adopted or are considering what’s known as the “Swedish” or “Nordic Model,” which criminalizes the buying, rather than the selling, of sexual services (because, as the logic goes, purchasing sex is a form of male violence against women, thus only customers should be held accountable). In this nouveau-Victorian view, “sexual slavery” has become “sex trafficking,” and it’s common to see media referring to brothel owners, pimps, and madams as “sex traffickers” even when those working for them do so willingly. From a practical standpoint, criminalizing clients is just the flip side of the same old coin. It still focuses law enforcement efforts and siphons tax dollars toward fighting the sex trade. It still means arresting, fining and jailing people over consensual sex. If we really want to try something new—and something that has a real chance at decreasing violence against women—we should decriminalize prostitution altogether.

How would this work, exactly? “Decriminalizing” may sound like a less radical step than “legalization,” but it’s actually quite the opposite. Decriminalization means the removal of all statutory penalties for prostitution and things related to its facilitation, such as advertising. It does not mean there are no municipal codes about how a sex-work business can be run or that general codes about public behavior do not apply, explains Mistress Matisse, a dominatrix, writer and prominent sex-worker rights advocate. Legalization, on the other hand, is a stricter regime, wherein the state doesn’t prosecute prostitution per se, but takes a heavy-handed approach to its regulation. “This is how it works in Nevada, for example, where legal brothels exist, but one may not just be an independent sex worker,” says Matisse. Under both schemes, forcing someone into prostitution (aka sex trafficking) and being involved in the sale or purchase of sex from a minor would obviously remain a crime.

But other crimes supposedly associated with the sex trade could be reduced if prostitution were decriminalized. Research has shown incidences of rape to decrease with the availability of prostitution. One recent study of data from Rhode Island—where a loophole allowed legal indoor prostitution in 2003-2009—found the state’s rape rate declined significantly over this period, especially in urban areas . (Tthe gonorrhea rate also went down.) “Decriminalization could have potentially large social benefits for the population at large—not just sex market participants,” wrote economists Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah in a working paper about their research.

In New Zealand, street prostitution, escort services, pimping and brothels were decriminalized in 2003, and so far sex workers and the New Zealand government have raved about the arrangement. A government review in 2008 found the overall number of sex workers had not gone up since prostitution became legal, nor had instances of illegal sex-trafficking. The most significant change was sex workers enjoying safer and better working conditions. Researchers also found high levels of condom use and a very low rate of HIV among New Zealand sex workers.

The bottom line on decriminalization is that it is a means of harm reduction.

Keeping prostitution illegal is done in the name of women, yet it only perpetuates violence against them while expanding the reach of the carceral state. Decriminalization would end the punitive system wherein sex workers—a disproportionately female, minority and transgender group—are being separated from their families, thrown in jail, and saddled with court costs and criminal records over blow-jobs. It would also allow them to take more measures of precaution (like organizing in brothels) and give them access to the legal protections available other workers (like being able to go to the police when they’ve been wronged). Yet for Swedish Model advocates, only the total eradication of the sex trade will “save” women from the violence and exploitation associated with it.

Certainly some in the sex trade – like minors, for example – are exploited, abused and forced into prostitution, while others aren’t literally trafficked but feel trapped in the industry by economic necessity. These are the people who should receive attention and resources, from social reformers. And there would be a lot more resources to devote if we left consenting adults to exchange money for sex in peace.

… and the The Hungry Butthole

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 5

It was one of those fairy tale moments; a guy I’d been swooning over for a year or so and I had asked me for a date once he returned home from the holidays abroad. In my fairy tale, I was the princess (or maybe just the gay prince) who met another gay prince at the ball, fell for him, and was asked to dance with him before his entire court and all of his constituents. They watched in awe, knowing how wonderful a couple the two princes were, happy to see their separate kingdoms (his Cypress and mind Washington Heights) may someday become one. Only, in my fairy tale, I was also sleeping with another prince who hailed from the Kingdom of the Woodlands, but we weren’t exclusive, so it didn’t make me slutty.

But just like in every fairy tale, there arose a slight … complication.

Let us say that one of my many loyal subjects—in this case, my ex-boyfriend, Kevin—ran into me (still a prince in this scenario) at a local peasant pub, where I’d gone incognito to enjoy a drink with my lessers. There, Kevin stated he’d heard of my impending courtship and was happy I’d found someone new. He had but one question:

“What are y’all going to do about the sex?”

“Huh?” I asked Kevin, my kingdom suddenly under attack.

“Well … you’re both tops,” he explained, as though this were off-hand information I should have known. And just like that, my fairy tale was over. The dragon couldn’t be slayed. The land had been plagued by famine and locusts. Evil had triumphed over good; and, apparently, evil was a top.


Just like any athlete preparing for a big game, it felt necessary that I practice bottoming before the big night with Tyler, the aforementioned prince, which was still a week out. I figured that seven days was plenty of time to prepare myself not only physically, but also mentally for the pounding I was about to take.

I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what I was looking for when I entered the sex shop and was greeted by a wall of cocks in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and girths. The saleswoman was helpful, if not a bit intrusive, about what I was looking for and what I was hoping to do. I let her know immediately that I wasn’t there shopping for a new Bible. She responded to my cattiness the way most straight women react to gay men—with amory.

Soon, we’d settled on the Billy P-spot vibrator by Lelo, as it came in a lovely Bordeaux color in which I briefly considered painting an accent wall in my kitchen. I soon decided against it, unsure of how I’d sneak my new vibrator into Lowe’s to compare the color to paint swatches.

Next came the more technical and often confusing side of the shopping: lube, toy cleaning products, a little weed, and—for better or for worse—an enema. I knew before I’d even locked myself in my bedroom that this process was going to take time. I canceled plans; I poured myself a glass of wine; I lit enough candles to warm the inside of a frozen Hot Pocket;  I put my phone on airplane mode; I smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves, and then a bowl to actually calm my nerves. I was absolutely certain that I could not screw this up, but was almost just as certain that I was going to end up doing so anyway.

You have to keep in mind that my entire adult, gay life, I’ve only ever topped. Maybe it would have happened differently if I’d ever been in a situation where I wasn’t the only top. But in the years I’d been slutting it up from The Woodlands down to Galveston (not to mention a few times in DC, Indianpolis, Denver, San Diego, Orlando, and a few other major metropolitan areas), I’d always had the good fortune of falling into bed with bottoms. This was a new experience to me, yet not one to which I was vehemently opposed. In fact, I’d always told myself that I would someday do it if I were to fall for a guy that I liked enough to try.

But that was just the thing: it had to be the right guy. And in spite of how I’d opined over Prince Tyler for so very long, I wasn’t certain that he was anything more than just a frog in this fucked up fairy tale. Although, it was lucky that I now had Billy the Vibrating Wonder to use as a magic wand to find out.

So, stoned out of my mind, I laid down in bed after cleaning things out … you know … downtown. I sipped my wine through a straw, pulled off my clothing, and began to lube up.

There’s something bottoms don’t tell you about lube … it’s fucking messy. I briefly considered watching porn during this journey into my entertainment center, but it only took a few seconds before the lube was already getting everywhere, and I decided a laptop may not be the best thing to have nearby while that was the case. Instead, I let my mind wander, turning on the vibrator to its lowest setting and pressing it against my body. Obviously I didn’t go straight for home base. I worked my way around, actually enjoying the vibration against my neck, my chest, my penis, and my perineum (that’s science for “taint”).

And the truth of the matter was that I was really turned on. I mean, if my penis were a teapot, it would’ve been whistling like a lesbian gym teacher during volleyball season. And after a while—and I do mean a while, as I was still pretty freaked out at this point—I began inserting Billy into my end zone.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in way over my head … or at least … my legs were.

“It was awful,” I said after gulping down a glass of cabernet.

I was joined at Barnaby’s on Fairview by my friends Elaine (straight, married, ginger), Jackie (straight, married, not a ginger), and (oddly enough) Ezra.

“It’s not for everyone,” Ezra told me, a sore reminder that if he could have just fallen in love with me when he had the chance, I could have bypassed this entire situation for the rest of my life.

“I’ve always wondered, how do two men decide how this is going to go?” Jackie asked. “Do you have a discussion before hand? Is there like a sign?”

“A lot of times,” Ezra answered before I could, “when people meet on apps, it’s in their biography. Top, bottom, versatile. Or, yeah, there’s a discussion.”

“But if there’s not?” Jackie asked.

I looked around, trying to keep my volume down as not to disturb everyone that still had an appetite inside the restaurant. “It’s kind of like when you and I go to Olive Garden,” I told her. “You know, because we’re human garbage. But what happens when the waiter puts the breadsticks on the table? We shove them into our gaping mouths. And why? Because we’re—”

“Fat,” Jackie interrupted.

“Okay, well, I was going to say hungry, but that’s fair.”

“So … what you’re saying,” Elaine picked up, “is that there’s …”

“A hungry butthole,” I said. “It’s okay to say it. There are signs. They’re not the signs of real hunger, like your stomach growling or light headedness. They’re signs like a guy wrapping his legs around you when you get into bed to have sex. Or sometimes something a bit like …” I struggled with my verbiage, “… presenting.”

“As in a guy just flashes his anus to another guy like a mating chimp?” Elaine asked.

“As in his body language isn’t as phallocentric as a top’s might be. He dances and shows off his ass. He moves your hands down there when you have your arms around him. He sits on your lap. Those sorts of things.”

“I don’t know that there’s any fact in what you’re saying,” Ezra laughed.

“There is. It’s not like there’s a study on this somewhere. It’s just observation. You wouldn’t know because … well … you’re a bottom.”

“I’m glad you bring this up,” Elaine chimed in. “Because there are times when my husband gets a little fiesty and thinks that we’re going to go down there for that particular activity. And I’m not about it. For women, there isn’t any pleasure. We don’t have a prostate to stimulate. It’s just a lot of soreness and feeling like you’re shitting yourself the entire time.”

Everyone laughed as the other patrons of the restaurant darted glares at us.

I poured more wine. “The soreness is the worst. You’re lucky I could even come here tonight. I feel like a Mormon after a very long bike ride.”

Ezra nodded toward my wine glass, “Just drink your medicine. It’ll get better.”

“Listen, there’s not much I say no to in bed,” Elaine went on. “But I told Charlie,” (Elaine’s husband), “that it’s not that I don’t love him. But he’s very well endowed; and if he wants to do anal more often, he’s going to have to let me shove something up his ass and see how he likes it.”

“He might just,” Ezra pointed out.

“Yeah, straight people are apparently doing that now,” I said. “Pegging, they call it. All our lives straight people have wanted to point out all the things that are wrong with being gay, and yet they want us to decorate their houses like ours, and be their best friends like we are with each other, and help them pick out clothes like we do. And now they’re wanting to have sex like we do!” I knocked back the rest of my wine. “It’s appropriation, and it’s insulting.”


Screen-Shot-2018-01-09-at-3.25.21-PM ... and the The Hungry ButtholeA few nights later, once my not-so-hungry butthole had stopped aching, I received a text message from the other man I was sleeping with on the regular—the Prince of The Woodlands and, in spite of the fact that our relationship was mostly sexual and not exclusive, the man I had saved in my phone as this while drunk one night:

 

Most of our conversations started out that way. We’d hooked up a few weeks ago after chatting on Grindr, and he had turned out to be one of the sweetest and hottest guys I’d ever had sex with in my life. A part of me sort of felt I might be catching feelings, but I tried to scrub these away as often as I could. His name I hadn’t learned until well after our first sexual encounter, but turned out to be Dylan.

I grabbed a bottle of wine from Spec’s and headed from my house to the Woodlands—no short drive when you live in Downtown Houston. Still, I was horny and Dylan was hotter than a ghost pepper in the heat of a Texas July. I was still struggling with this aspect of our sexual relationship. Dylan was certainly way out of my league and I struggled to meander my mind away from my own self-deprecation to just appreciate his hotness when we were fucking around. Still, he kept coming back.

While having sex that night, I noticed that something was different about Dylan. He was not presenting as he had the last few times we’d hooked up. In fact, Dylan had taken on a much stronger dominance in the bedroom than he ever had before. Every time I reached my hand down for his ass, he’d push me down on my back and crawl on top of me to kiss me.

The sex was incredible, don’t get me wrong. In fact, his newfound assertive attitude was a great turn-on; and somewhere there in throes of passion, I found Dylan spreading my legs apart and crawling between them.

A part of me panicked, as I knew exactly was about to happen. Dylan was going to try to stick his dick inside of me and I was going to have to be that person who shut down a good thing because it took a turn I wasn’t there for. After all, Dylan’s penis was huge for a white dude four inches shorter than me, and I certainly didn’t want something even larger than Billy the Vibrating Nightmare inside of me after the other night.

But Dylan did something I wasn’t expecting, in spite of its commonplace nature for him. He took his hands and placed them on mine, palm-to-palm and fingers intertwined. Then he kissed me, and he whispered to me, and he nibbled on my neck and traced lines up and down my body with his tongue. And all the while that he performed these magical sex acts, my legs crawled and curled around his body like ivy up a trellis.

I was in an unexpected euphoria and an unwavering state of ecstasy. I was sweaty and writhing and my hair was likely knotted in the back from moving around so much on my back like an upside-down crab. But suddenly I found my legs not only wrapping around Dylan, but pulling him in closer to me, pushing his pelvis into me and wanting him more and more. It was in that moment that I realized it was me! I was the one who had the hungry butthole! I was suddenly back to my fairy tale in which my sage keepers—fairies or dwarves normally, but in this case, Billy the Vibrator—found me at my journey’s end to tell me that what I’d been looking for was inside of me all along.

Or at least … now it was.

The orgasm was insane. It was not like any other I’d had before. I screamed at one point, which is dangerous when you’re fucking against a wall against which neighbors sleep on the other side. I was clutching at Dylan’s skin like a cliff I had to take hold of as not to fall to my death. But when it was over, I didn’t hang around to chat like I normally would have. I didn’t drink any more wine and I barely kissed Dylan goodbye. I bolted. Right out the door, right down the stairs, right into my car, and right to the bar.

At some point when the endorphins had subsided, it had occurred to me as I lay there, soaked in sweat and semen, that my rule had always been that I would bottom if I ever met a guy that I liked enough to go through with it for.

And as I arrived at the bar, taking a shot and downing a drink, I couldn’t help but ask myself the same question over-and-over again: Was Dylan the right guy? Or, conversely, was it possible that every now and then, under the right circumstances and with a man who knows exactly what he’s doing, every gay man is capable of possessing a hungry butthole?