In Order to Form a More Perfect Hook Up
I am standing at a urinal stall in a bar bathroom. Well, not just standing there, peeing obviously. A guy walks in and steps up to the urinal wall leaving one stall between us, as is the appropriate courtesy. Before he unzips he stops and looks over at me. Curiosity and alarm force me to look back at him. This sexy-faced young man is looking me up and down while smiling.
Yes, you’re right, this is how a porn begins.
Smiling back, I say, “Hi.” He laughs and in a thick Spanish accent responds with, “Are you having fun?” “What’s better than good music, a drink and a little dancing?” I ask. “Yeah,” he says as he finally steps into his urinal. I lower my head back to task at hand and ponder a way to keep the potential alive, but before I can prompt him with some flirty repartee he cut me off at the pass with, “So, how big is it?”
I stare at him for moment.
I guess from my facial expression or lack of response he deduced, “You must get asked that a lot.”
“Too often,” I respond. If I had a lace front wig on this would have been punctuated with a fierce, yet frustrated Beyonce hair whip.
After an awkward moment of silence, I zip all of my dignity back in my pants, barely wash my hands and run to the bar for my first drink of the evening.
The first few sips of my Kettle One on the rocks (because I’m a classy dame) are clouded by my “feeling all of the feels,” as we millennials say. I’m impressed that he was confident enough to engage so brazenly. Angry from being reduced to a racial fetish. Turned on by his sexy-face. Annoyed with myself for still being attracted to him despite his unapologetic objectification. Flattered that he showered me with attention, albeit for all of three minutes. Interestingly enough, all of these feelings are swallowed by a sense of indifference, which is even more maddening.
There are few spaces where we gay people can be our authentic selves. A gay bar is a space where we have the freedom to think, feel and express a part of ourselves that we are too used to dumbing down in other arenas. In a gay bar I can check a guy out, flirt with him, dance with him and, if I’ve had enough to drink, even make out with him (yes, even classy dames make out in bars). We have a truncated amount of time to feel the comfort of being surrounded by our community. Given that the circumstances are so heightened, why shouldn’t sexy-face feel at liberty to objectify a little? It’s his safe space.
…Mmm, it’s complicated. Let me first say, if the size of my dick wasn’t a stereotype so attached to my being African-American, I might not have been taken so off guard by his inquiry. However, from Saarjtie Baartman, aka Venus Hottentot, whose full derriere was on display in European freak shows of the nineteenth century to the idea of Mandingo, the large sexual black beast, usual a slave, that would ravish white women with or without concent, black people’s bodies have been fetishized as much as they are feared since the European’s first began to pillage Africa.
I have a rule: if a guy who is not black says that he is “really into black guys” or “only dates black men” I always ask why. The usual response? “I don’t know. I’m just attracted to something different.”
I’m an asshole and often push them to say that which they might be too embarrassed to admit to my face, “The sex is good, right?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the only reason,” he’ll say.
“Oh, why else?” I force.
“I don’t know.”
He knows, but what he doesn’t understand why it’s wrong. He has bypassed me, the person, to make my black body an object of his sexual desire. Now, I can’t blame him for who he is attracted to any more than someone could blame either of us for being homosexuals. The issue is that his attraction to me, at least initially, is due to the stereotype of the sexual experience that it attached to my blackness. Who I am as individual is a byproduct. All of that said, and this is the source of that maddening indifference that engulfed my thoughts, I also understand the objectification. I mean, let’s be real, I’ve named the guy sexy-face! Many of us understand it because many of us do it. Though we may not voice it in such a blatant, reductive way.
I often wonder what a cute guy looks like with his clothes off and at a gay bar I am more likely to be interested in and/or talk to someone whom I find sexually attractive. I can’t resist it. It’s carnal curiosity. However the nonchalant ease with which sexy-face reduced me to his sexual object is not only his fault. A friend of my expressed the dilemma perfectly, in the age of hook up apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tinder and a culture of porn on-demand our sexual and romantic encounters have become transactional. We get to design our experience as opposed to live the experience.
We have the ability to research a guys height, weight, body type and see pictures of…well, everything and assess whether the object before us is worth our time. If we deem that the specifics aren’t good enough we reject and continue searching in order to create a more perfect experience. Of course this sexy-faced young man felt licensed to give voice to his sexual desire without acknowledging me as a person. He is coming of age in an era where human interactions are mere transactions.
Don’t believe me? Check out some of the greetings I receive on Grindr: (notice in one interaction a guy refers to me as “jig,” which is short of Jigaboo, a derogatory term used from black people akin to nigger or shine.