ON-DEMAND

Queers For the Straight Eye

Calendar
Streamed
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What does it mean when so many of the queer characters we know and love have been created and acted by straight folks? What happens when queer identity is so scrubbed clean it becomes virtually straight? It's time to talk about being queer on screen.

Video transcript

Hey, everyone, Dawn Serra here. If you are joining me for Pop Culture Undressed, feel free to pop into the chat and say hello. I want to make sure, first of all, that you can hear and see me. And second of all, just to know you're here. So welcome. We are gonna be talking about the ways that queer folks are portrayed in mainstream pop culture. I just had a really interesting conversation with a pop culture analyst a few weeks ago that totally made me think about this, and so I wanted to bring it here and have us roll around in it a little bit. So yeah, welcome. It should be really fun. Hopefully you're eager to share ideas, thoughts, stories around queer representation that you've seen in your favorite television shows and movies. Because that's what we're gonna be discussing tonight. So the official stream name is Pop Culture Undressed, Queers For The Straight Eye. See what I did there? And we're gonna be talking about the ways that so often in mainstream media, queer characters are written by, created by, funded by, and acted by straight folks and non-queer folks and kind of what that does to our understanding of queer identity and who is being erased. So I think it'll be a really fun hour. I'm looking forward to it. So whether it's your first time here or you've been here a bajillion times before, feel free to say hello in the chat. It's the only way that I even know you're here. So let me know. I would love to know where in the world you're from. And we will get started in just a second. I'm going to sip my pomegranate soda. It's kind of my ritual whenever I do Pop Culture Undressed for O.School. I got my pomegranate soda with me. I don't know, something about it also just makes me feel fancy because it totally looks like wine, but it's not. And so I kind of like that too. Like it makes me feel fancy even though it's totally just bubbly pomegranate sugar. All right. Here we go. Oh, thank you. It is a color wash that I literally just shampoo in. And so I change it every time. I have pink, lavender, and silver. Although the lavender is mostly blue. So I just psh depending on what I want that day. Like three days ago it was pink. So that's fun. And it doesn't cost me an arm and a leg at the salon. I know it's not professional looking, but it's fun and that's all I'm going for. So yeah, hello. Welcome to Pop Culture Undressed. I love talking about and thinking about and examining all things pop culture and the ways that they influence our ideas of sex, love, bodies, how we relate to each other, because they have significant impacts on the world around us. So whether or not we consume pop culture ourselves, everyone around us is consuming it. And it informs the world. So I love analyzing it and thinking about it and being nostalgic and reflecting on it. So that's what we're gonna be doing here tonight. Oh, thank you, good. I'm glad I am visible and you can hear me. So that's good. So tonight on Pop Culture Undressed, we are going to be talking all about queer representation and how straightwashed it often is and who gets left out. And mostly the reason that I want us to be able to kind of talk about this and discuss it together, all my notes, is because it impacts the ways that we then see ourselves and the queer people in our lives. So whether we identify as queer ourselves or somewhere on the LGBTQIAA world, or we have people in our lives that we know who are somewhere under the queer umbrella, the ways that pop culture depicts queerness has a major influence on who gets access to resources, who feels lovable, who is desirable and gets access to sex and affection and all those things. So I think it'll be really fun. So I want to just start by introducing myself. My name is Dawn Serra. I am a sex educator, a sex podcaster. I have a weekly podcast called Sex Gets Real. And I also do one on one coaching with individuals and couples around relationship issues and sex and pleasure. I have been certified level one and two in the Gottman Method couples therapy and also in Terry Real's relational life therapy. And later this year, I'm getting certified in narrative therapy. So I love all kinds of stuff that has to do with relationships and communication, and I also run an online conference, which their last day is today, Explore More Summit. So if you want to check that out, please do. But I'm here on O.School talking about pop culture. And we have had some awesome streams so far. We have talked about Magic Mike and Twilight and John Hughes films and how men are literally forming our entire cultural understanding of romance. So tonight we're going to take a very similar look and talk about queer representation. So for those of you who are tuning in, if you have any favorite queer characters that you'd love to drop in the chat, I would love to hear from you. Whoo, whoo, oh, thank you. It basically means I'm always hungry to know more and I'm always looking for ways to spend my money. Because there's always more that I want to learn. So that's a good thing. It serves my clients in the end and all the people that I work with. So this idea of the straightwashing of queer identities has been percolating for me for a little while, because several weeks ago I spoke with a pop culture analyst who is also the managing editor for an online gay men's magazine. And his name is Fran Tirado. And I was talking to Fran about pop culture and queer representation. And one of the things that he mentioned was that so many of the queer characters that we see in mainstream media, television, movies, are actually very, very scrubbed clean versions of queer. They're usually played by straight actors. They're usually funded and managed by straight folks behind the camera. So producers, directors. Even if we've got a couple of queer writers creating the story, the people who actually cast it and fund it are often straight. And so a lot of the queerness that we see in film, both in TV and in movies, is a queer version that's meant to be palatable for straight audiences. And so I wanted us to kind of roll around in this a little bit, because it has a profound impact on the ways that we personally feel in our bodies and the people that we're relating to, the way that we do relationship. So let's talk about queer folks and queer characters in the media. So some of the queer characters that are really big right now are Call Me By Your Name, which of course got all kinds of Oscar nominations and Golden Globe nominations and Actors Guild awards. And one of the things I want to just name about Call Me By Your Name is it is kind of the antithesis of toxic masculinity. It is a rare film. I love this film. I think it demonstrates the power of masculine characters who are not invested in toxic masculinity narratives, so I just want to say up front, I am a massive fan of this movie. And it's part of a larger conversation around the ways that Hollywood thinks queer people need to be in order to be sellable and consumable by the masses. So usually very tall, white, cis, super binary, pretty much no major queer markers other than the fact that maybe they've got a crush on someone that's the same gender as they are. So Call Me By Your Name is a great example, even though it's technically a film about queer characters, it's not particularly a queer film. And Sense8, yes, we love Sense8. We love Nomi and oh my God, I can't remember her name. Amanita, is that it? Yeah, anyway, Nomi, we love, we love them. And even to a degree, thinking about that. Trans characters are usually only allowed to be on screen and seen as valuable if they are passing and highly subscribed to the gender binary. So they're either incredibly feminine and passing and have had surgeries and hormones or on the other end for the masculine, they're very masculine, thin, androgynous, for the most part. So Will and Grace is another great example. Back in the '90s, the show was cutting edge because it was one of the first times that we really saw a gay character being front and center as part of a mainstream television show or a movie. And of course, they're rebooting it. And representation just kind of isn't good enough anymore. We once again have a straight actor playing a white, cis, thin, affluent version of gay. Another example is Love Simon. I think it's so important for teenagers to have access to queer storylines and queer characters. And yet the books that Love Simon the movie is based on have loads of people of color and all kinds of different queer characters. But the movie itself was really just about this cis, white kid who's gay and terrified of being femme and pretty fatphobic and is really consumable and is pretty straight. There is nothing particularly queer about him. There's nothing edgy, there's nothing nuanced or uncomfortable. And I think what's important is for us to hold the and. It's so important for teenagers to have access to characters that are queer and who is once again being centered and what versions of queerness are being erased. Also The Triad, absolutely. Yes, very, very true. Which is so cute, I love the Triad. They're so cute. And offering us a look at ways that we can queer relationships, of course, and be in lots of different types of relationships with each other. Loving relationships that don't necessarily subscribe to the mainstream ideal of romance. So yes, very important. So I was talking to Fran about all of these different ways that queer characters are ultimately really written for straight audiences and they're straight versions of what queer looks like. Especially if we're talking about the mainstream movies and television shows. I think one of the exceptions is Orange is the New Black. We've got butch characters and fat bodied characters and trans characters. But of course, one of the tropes that always comes with queer identity is you're either the comedic relief and the sidekick, your entire storyline is around your identity, or it's all about tragedy and violence against queer bodies. And I think unfortunately, Orange is the New Black falls certainly into violence and trauma being one of the core narratives for the queer characters. And I want us to just kind of roll around in that a little bit. So who are some of the queer characters that you have loved or not loved or have seen over the years that you felt were either terrible representations of queerness or were great representations. Back in the day, of course, I loved L Word. And that was when I was still kind of trying to figure myself out. And so being able to see these women and these different types of queer folks. Of course, all thin bodied, all affluent, all in LA, all cis. Kind of play out their desires was really interesting to me. And then, of course, Queer As Folk. Same kind of narratives. White and able bodied and cis and thin and affluent. So we're kind of starting to notice some trends around this, right? Where so many of these queer characters are stripped of their sexuality. They're de-sexualized in a lot of ways. Unless that sexuality serves the male gaze in some way, the straight male gaze. So often lesbian storylines will have sex, but gay male storylines often will not because it doesn't serve the straight male gaze. Another thing that we see a lot is kind of the stereotypical tropes around hairdressers, interior designers. And so when we really kind of take a step back and we think, yes, Call Me By Your Name was so crucial around just loving relationships and emotional intelligence and toxic masculinity. But when we then put it alongside all of the other representations of queerness, what do we start noticing? Where are the people of color? Where are the intersex characters? Where are the gender nonconforming characters? Where are the trans characters who don't pass and maybe don't want to, who don't want to subscribe completely to the gender binary and be a version of hyper feminine or hyper masculine? Where are the action heroes that are queer? One of the things that Fran said that I loved so much, and it kind of just got my brain moving, was where is my queer femme trans sword wielding dragon fighter? Where is my black lesbian Mission Impossible action hero lead? Queer characters aren't allowed that kind of nuance. Because unfortunately, we're kind of stuck in the at least we've got representation place. And I think in 2018, we need so much more of that. Because so many more of us are identifying with the nuance of queerness and confronting monogamy and confronting our traumas and trying to find new identities and new words for the ways that we experience ourselves and each other. And unfortunately, a lot of the stories that we're getting in pop culture are just really heteronormative, super binary, super cis centric, and palatable for mainstream straight audiences. So we lose a lot of the edge. So who are some of your favorite queer characters? Yes, so tonight we are focusing on how queer characters are framed for cisgender viewing. So please do chat. Where do you feel that Willow and Tara fall? I mean, it's Buffy, so forever. I just have to, you know, take a moment, feel my feels, it's Willow and Tara. I think for the time that they were in, they were really important. I think that for when that was first airing, it was pretty incredible to have these characters, these queer characters, fall in love and have a sexual relationship and kissing. I think they wouldn't necessarily stand up to the test today. And needing to have more variety of characters. Because again, they're white and they're cis and they're thin and they're in college and it's... I think if they were one of many, they're awesome, but they still check so many of the boxes. And I think we need to be challenging our story makers to do more and to do better. And I think also just kind of looking back knowing that Joss Whedon is kind of problematic these days and can we hold that and? We had so many of these feelings come up when we were talking about John Hughes films. So can we still love those characters and the things that they meant to us back then while saying, eh, not so good? And so I think it's just so hard for me to criticize Willow and Tara. But I think for when they were around, it was groundbreaking and it was crucial and it was important and it had a massive impact on me. But I have to say, nowadays, I still would want more. I just, I think we need more. There's too many people being erased. I loved Sense8 because the queer male character was a buff, action male and once he finally came out he was able to love his mate and make out and they had some beautiful moments together. Spike and Angel slash, yes. Of course. I totally agree with you, Iona. Sense8 is pretty special in a lot of ways. I think that having different types of relationship structures, having a trans central character. I really wish the story was continuing, because I so wish that Nomi's storyline was so much more than just being vilified and harassed and hated on her family because she's trans. It's just another one of those tropes that if you're a queer character on screen, you're either the funny sidekick, the interior designer, or you're tortured and tragic. And I think there's so much about Nomi that is so brilliant and incredible and rich and delicious. And why does it also have to come back to this trope that we've seen 1,000 times of people not accepting her and making it so much about her identity. And I really believe that they would have gone there if they'd had more time. So I'm really looking forward to the finale. I also think that that strap on scene in season one between the two of them was awesome. We need more of that. More strap on sex, more queer sex that's actually real and kind of messy and delicious. I so want that. And I kind of want to believe that Sense8's mainstream. But I don't know if it's as mainstream as Will and Grace or Ellen or some of the Oscar nominated films. Why can't we do better? Because it has such a... Like where are the fat queer characters? There are virtually none. I don't think I've ever seen an intersex character ever. And intersex people make up, I don't know, 1% of the population or something. They're as common as redheads. Intersex individuals are as common as redheads. So that means every time you see a redhead, it's likely that someone in your vicinity is also intersex in some way. It's very likely, and yet where are the intersex characters? I have never seen one. Where are the queer characters who are kinky without it being about them being way over the top? And where are the queer characters who are not sure about themselves or who have these really nuanced storylines that have nothing to do with their identity? Why aren't we seeing trans characters played by trans actors? That's another thing. One of the ways I think Hollywood tries to make trans characters more palatable is to have straight actors, cis actors, sorry, cis actors playing trans characters. And that's super problematic because there's loads of trans actors out there and they're not getting cast, and I think it's because Hollywood is terrified of centering actual queerness. They just want a version of queerness. Sense8, one of the best sex scenes on TV ever. Do you think that the sex scene that was the best was the one with Nomi and the strap on or are you thinking the orgy? Because it has to be asked. So one of the other things that came up as I was thinking about this was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the reboot. And I would love to know if any of you watching have seen it and what your thoughts are. Because it is all anybody in my social media is talking about. And I would love for us to talk about it just a little bit. So have you seen the new Queer Eye and what are your thoughts about it? Drop that in the chat, because I am super curious. So one of the things that I just kind of want us to be sitting with, and we brought this up a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about romance films, the fact that nearly 100% of the romance films that have ever been made ever in the history of Hollywood have been written by, directed, and created for men by men. Which means men are single handedly creating all of our ideas around romance. And I think that it's important for us to also be able to sit in the fact that so many of the queer stories that we have on film are also written and or directed and or produced and cast by straight and cis folks behind the camera. Often then casting straight and cis actors in these roles. So how does that influence who we decide is sexy, who we decide is queer enough? Hold on. Sorry, my computer fell asleep. Who we decide is queer enough, who we decide gets to... I think it kind of also ties to the marriage equality thing. There are so many more issues that really need attention, there's so many more people who don't have access to basic resources like housing and love and acceptance. And by putting 100% of our resources into legalizing marriage, who got left behind? And so I think that's another one of those really big questions that certainly we're not gonna answer here, but what I want us to just sit in is when we start asking these questions, what kind of permission does it create? Who would we want to be like? How would we express our queerness? How would we express our identity? Who would we be attracted to? Who would we feel was worthy of attraction? Who would we want to be having sex with and what kind of sex would we want to be having? If we had much more nuanced and rich characters available to us, how many more young people would have a clearer sense of the possibilities if they didn't only have for the most part these very straight presenting, cis, ultra binary, thin versions of queer? The best sex scene is the orgy. I will not disagree with you. And I think one of the great things about that orgy is that, actually I think one of the most brilliant things about that orgy, is you have a collection of characters, some of whom are queer and trans and some of whom identify as straight and cis all interacting with each other in a very sexual, sensual way and it in no way demeans or kind of changes the ways that they see themselves. That's a pretty radical thing that we don't really ever see on television. So I hope we can hold that in our minds, in our hearts as we kind of just think about queer representation. So I would love to know if you were to just think big picture, what kinds of queer characters and queer stories would you love to see? Like Fran said, where's my black lesbian Mission Impossible action lead? Where's my queer femme trans sword wielding dragon fighter? If we were to think about shows like Game of Thrones and shows like, I don't know, what are some of the other biggest shows right now? Literally my brain just went blank. Like Grey's Anatomy and Scandal and Grace and Frankie. There's queerness in Grace and Frankie, but once again, a very cis centric version of queerness that's very sellable and smooth and not in any way jagged or uncomfortable. And the core of queerness is the fact that it's uncertain and edgy and scary and delicious and all of these rich, nuanced lived experiences of actual queerness is getting lost and it's not being represented by mainstream at all. I agree about the straights in the orgy. I love it that even the straight folks in the orgy enjoy their own gender and it doesn't mean that they're gay. Absolutely, that nuance, beautiful. I'm just thinking wouldn't it be amazing to have, I don't know, a Sense and Sensibility or a Pride and Prejudice where the Liz Bennet character was played by a trans woman and was highly desired and sought after and seen as beautiful and of course she was cast. Or like a cop drama where the two main characters are both queer, but it's not about their queerness. It's about what kind of cops they are. I mean, the sky is the limit. But usually queerness is relegated to these very specific kind of coming out storylines. Even with Transparent, where one, you have a cis actor who is playing a trans character, and who harassed trans staff members and had to quit their job. But the story is about this coming out process. And it would be so wonderful to just see trans characters and intersex characters and gay characters and bisexual characters. I mean, bi people are literally invisible as well in mainstream for the most part. Just not even there. But there's so much opportunity that's being missed. And I got this great statistic that I want to share, because I think it's really interesting. So 2016 GLAAD did a report on the state of film and media. And what they found was that 18% of the industry's top performing 125 films included a queer character. So they included a queer character. It wasn't necessarily the central character. But there was somewhere in there a queer character. But of the 18%, 83% of those were gay cis men who were almost always white. So even when we have films that have queer characters, the vast majority of the time, they are gay, cis, white men. So the percentages on trans characters, intersex characters, and characters of color who are queer are less than single digits. Very, very small. I think we've got a couple of really interesting things happening, like Moonlight was so beautiful. There's a lot of potential in having more films like that. It's so tender and wonderful. And it's just not enough. We need so much more. And it's not like there aren't queer people in Hollywood creating these stories and writing these scripts, it's just that they aren't getting funded because folks who are making the decisions don't feel like that's sellable. And so ultimately, everything that we consume is about consumption and what's gonna sell. So then we decide, we're influenced by who do we find hot, who do we want to date, who do we have crushes on. What does queerness look like? And doing the right kinds of queer based on all of these stories. And so I love being able to roll around in this. So if you're here and you want to comment down below, let me know what kinds of queer stories you would love to see. Can you imagine if Hunger Games was played... If Hunger Games was literally the exact same but Katniss was played by a young trans girl. Katniss is Katniss and nothing's changed and she's still trying to decide if it's Peeta or whatever the other guy's name. But it's actually played by a trans girl. That would be incredible. But that just wouldn't happen now. And I think that that's another huge test of we kind of keep saying, well, at least we're represented, at least we're there, at least there's corporate sponsors at Pride. But we've been saying at least about queer representation and companies supporting queer representation now for like 30 years. I mean, Ellen and Will and Grace were around in the '90s. And not a lot has changed since then. We've had some pockets of wins here and there, but not enough. And so I want us to be dreaming big. What do we want to see? Who do we want to see? What stories are we craving? Because then maybe we can actually start being the ones who create those stories. And if not us, then having the conversations about what we want to influence everyone else around us, around the art of the possible. Because that impacts the kind of sex that we have. If lots of characters on our favorite television shows and movies were engaging in strap on sex, it would be so much less taboo to then incorporate a strap on into our sex lives. If so many more characters were intersex and visible, then intersex people wouldn't feel so invisible, they wouldn't be forced to undergo surgeries. Thankfully they have changed the law in the US around that. But these types of conversations bleed into the ways that we experience our lives and our bodies. And I want so much more pleasure for us and I want so much more acceptance. And so being able to recognize where we're failing and not measuring up is a step in at least feeling like maybe I'm not broken, maybe I'm not doing this wrong. Maybe I'm not gonna lose my queer card if I do or I don't do this thing. Where are the guys rocking makeup and wearing nail polish and it's not about being goth, it's about a genuine expression of self? Where are the gay characters who are not afraid of embracing feminine aspects of themselves and wearing dresses and having long hair in a way that's really, really feminine? I would love to see bisexual women of color. Yes, I would love that. Bisexual women of color, thank you, Nina. Also I would love to see studs, masculine of center individuals, be more represented in a variety of ways, not just with femmes, not just lesbian. I love that, yes. I want that too. I think that would be amazing and long overdue, right? Because bisexual women of color and studs and masculine of center folks, they've literally existed forever. But why aren't they being represented in the media that we're consuming? Who's being erased? And who's making the decisions around erasing that? The more that we can just dream these things into existence and ask for them and talk about them and create around them and talk to people who do create things around them, I think the more that we can then have these really interesting conversations about the nuance and the possibility of queerness. And breaking down these rigid rules that we have around the types of sex we should be having and what goes in what holes and who gets to be datable. Moonlight really opened my eyes to the world. I never noticed as a cis woman that there were not queer roles on the big and little screen. And since I've been obsessed with any sort of highlight of the lives and love of queer trans identified people. Oh, I love that. That's wonderful. And that's one of the things that's so powerful about pop culture. I was also just recently talking with Evette Dionne, who's the culture editor at Bitch Magazine. And she was talking about that very thing. That pop culture is a powerful, powerful tool for influencing the ways that we experience ourselves and our lives. And it's also a way to engage in really empathetic exchanges with people who have different experiences than we do. And I think one of the things that just struck with me so much is when we had the romance thread a couple of weeks ago. The vast majority of romance films feature white women as the person who's being sought after. It's almost never a woman of color. And so what does that teach us about who gets to be loved and sought after and desired and who are we never having to feel empathy for? Who are we never having to put ourselves in the shoes of? And I think that the same thing happens around queerness. So I love that Moonlight did that for you and offered you that experience of wow, here's something that I don't have experience in and now I want to know more. Wouldn't it be amazing if we had fantasy shows and drama shows and comedy shows and romance and all the things in between. Reality shows that had these incredible queer characters and incredible queer actors playing the characters where it was about the nuance of their experiences and not kind of this dramatic boiled down version of what straight people think queer people are all about, which is their coming out story and their tragedy and the ways that they can entertain us and be our gay BFF. There's so much more. There's so much more out there. And the stereotypes have a very real impact on us. Happy you're all here. Yes, hello, happy you're all here. Dawn really lifts the veil of pop culture. So if you're loving what we are sharing, tap the gift jar. Yes, please do, feel free to tap that if you want to throw a couple bucks towards me an O.School. That'd be great. Because I love having these conversations. I think it's just so important. When we understand that certain types of people are actually creating the ways that we feel about how love is supposed to unfold in our lives, the ways that we do relationship with each other, the ways that we feel about our body and whether or not they're good enough, that's huge. Of course that's gonna impact how we masturbate. Of course that's gonna impact who we fall in love with and how we love and how much of ourselves we share. So this is a really, really, really big, awesome, yummy place to roll around in and get uncomfortable in and ask questions around. One of the things that I wrote down was this idea of straight imagination is creating these queer characters. So straight imagination. Straight people thinking about what queer people talk about, what queer people think about, queer people care about, how queer people exist in the world and experience love is coming from the straight imagination for so, so, so many of these. Not all, but for so many. And it's the same thing when we think about men creating all these romance films. What would shift if trans directors and trans writers and trans producers cast trans characters to then have movies about trans experiences? That would be wildly different than so many of the films and television shows that we've had to date featuring trans characters often played by straight folks. Same when I think about intersex bodies or bisexual women of color. Can you imagine the incredible shifts that we would have in the visibility of both bisexuality and the potential of centering women of color if bisexual women of color were given the opportunity to direct and to write and to cast and to act and portray and create these stories about what it's like to just be a bisexual woman of color and have it not be about tragedy or coming out or are you straight or are you gay and just kind of those really one on one type conversations. I want that richness. I want to see the architect who's creating. I want to see Inception type movies literally featuring queer characters and queer actors and trans actors and intersex actors. Because it would change everything about the ways that we exist in the world and the resources that we have access to and the kinds of sex that we all have. I had this really, oh yay, another comment. O.School is a wonderful, safe place where learning about pleasure and sexual orientation is our goal, so Dawn just taught me something, and I want to share with you guys. Intersex persons are who, wait. Intersex are persons whose bio sex is not 100% male or female. Exactly, you're right. Yeah, intersex people come in, have all kinds of wonderful experiences with their bodies. Some people have vulvas and testes. Some people have penises and ovaries. Some people have different sized clitorises and different kinds of hormone experiences in their bodies. Some have androgen blockers and some don't. Some have testosterone. So our bodies are so much more than just check these two boxes. We have all these wonderful ways that our genitals can be and that our hormones can be and the way that we exist in our bodies. And so what kind of permission would it grant, even to the straightest of the straight and the cisest of the cis, if we had these kinds of stories and bodies and experiences available to all of us. I mean, imagine the possibilities. If you were raised in a world where strap on sex was totally normal and something you saw lots of different types of people doing in your favorite television shows and movies. The amount of shame and confusion that you would have if you ever felt like maybe I should try a strap on or maybe I want to try a strap on or maybe my penis isn't getting hard and I'll just use this strap on. The shame around that would be tremendously different. And if we understood that genitals come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and configurations and all of it's normal, because hey, all of these television shows and movies that I'm watching feature trans and intersex and gender nonconforming characters. So maybe because my genitals look this way, it's okay and it's not something that I have to be ashamed of. That is real potential. That is beauty. That is incredible, incredible opportunity for all of us when we're centering people who have experiences that we don't usually have access to. I want more of that. We would probably feel a lot less shame around the sizes of our bodies and the changes our bodies go through. We'd probably have, oh, I remember what I was gonna say. I talked my way back to my point that I got so excited about after Iana shared about intersex individuals. So categories include chromosomes, hormones, external sexual organs, internal organs, and gonads. Exactly. And there's some incredible activists out there doing all kinds of awesome awareness about intersex bodies. But I was at this health conference a couple of months ago that's specifically around women's sexual health. And this is one of the reasons why I think queering queer representation in mainstream film and TV could heal so many things that so many other fields in the world just can't solve. So I was at this health conference. It's called ISSWSH. And it was full of doctors and researchers whose literally their only job in their labs are just studying women's sexual health. And in one of the sessions, they were talking about women who love women and the sexual health of queer women. And study after study after study after study, multiple studies, showed that women who are in relationships with other women have the highest rates of sexual satisfaction, the highest rates of orgasm, and the lowest rates of sexual pain and disfunction. So women who are lesbian, bisexual, queer in relationships with other women. Then in all the other sessions, they were talking about how straight women, women who identify themselves as straight, have the highest rates of sexual dissatisfaction, the highest rates of sexual pain, the highest rates of sexual disfunction. We could argue that in another stream. And the lowest rates of orgasm. So if queer women who are having sex with other women have the highest rates of sexual satisfaction and the highest rates of orgasm and the lowest rates of pain and straight women have the highest rates of pain and disfunction and the lowest rates of orgasm, perhaps, which not a single person in this conference said, not a single person, they were all just thinking about what kinds of pills can we give to the straight women, what kinds of mental health services do we need to give to the straight women to fix them. Nobody thought about, well what if we queer the sex they have? What if straight women were given access to resources around more types of hand sex and sex toys and strap on sex and skills and communication that are more similar to queer sex? Maybe then we'd see the numbers shift without having to put all this money and research into pills that don't even have that great of an impact. And if we had nuanced, rich, delicious queer representation in the television shows and the movies that we watched where the kinds of sex being had was the kind of delicious, nuanced kinds of sex that queer women have with each other, then we would probably have so much more permission to have these kinds of conversations. That maybe the straight women who are having pretty terrible sex would think, whoa, there's all these other kinds of ways that I can be engaging in sexual activity and experiencing sexual pleasure. Maybe it's not just about intercourse. Maybe it can be about these 5,000 other types of ways of having sex that I'm seeing normalized and offered in the films and the television shows that I watch. I'll bet that would have a pretty significant impact. But we don't see that, and that's the problem, and I want that for us. Oh god, I want that for us so much more. So yeah, anyway. Same comment I've already read. So I just wonder, for those of you who are here, if you had grown up in a world where queer sex was the kind of sex you were used to seeing characters have, whether they identified as straight or bi or gay or that they were cis or trans or intersex, no matter what identity and body they had, if you grew up in a world where there was all different kinds of queer sex represented in the romance films, in the drama films, and the television shows with the relationship storylines, what kind of permission would you experience? If you had all these different types of ways of having sex and intercourse was the tiniest percentage of what was being portrayed, what would that change for you? What kind of permission would you have? How different would you feel about your body and the ability of your genitals to do certain things? How much more permission would you have to ask for something different and to try something different? Because the people that you admire and the characters that you love do all these different types of sex with all these different kinds of bodies. I mean, what would that be like? I would love to hear from you. So if you have thoughts, even if it's I can't even imagine that, feel free to comment down below while I sip my pomegranate juice. Okay. So one of the other things that I just want to kind of note is as we're kind of just thinking generally about the ways that queer characters are usually imagined by straight people for consumption by other people and the impact that that has at a very real level for so many of us in the ways that we experience our lives. And I say this in a lot of my streams, because there's a lot of really problematic stuff out there. We can like the things that we like and we can also notice what's not good enough. What is... Sorry, I keep not moving my mouse because I'm just talking so much and paraphrasing. Can we hold that and of, I mean, I will say Shane from The L Word was in my spank bank for a long time. Oh my god, I was obsessed with Shane. And I loved Queer As Folk when it came out. It was so cutting edge at the time. And now I can step back and really see there was some really toxic crap that went on in those shows. And there was a lot of types of people and bodies that were not represented that I so wish had been. So how can we hold that and? So many queer characters are extremely fatphobic. That really sucks. And I can still enjoy a good movie like Call Me By Your Name or Love Simon and appreciate the things that it does bring while also saying not good enough. We can do better. And I'm just thinking back to the '90s when I used to watch all these independent lesbian films. Even those films when I really think back to, god, I wish I could remember any of their names. Kissing Jessica Stein was kind of at the tail end of those. But even so many of these lesbian films, almost all of them except for one that I'm thinking about were cis, white women. Having pretty straight looking sex. I want to see kinky sex. I want to see sex that doesn't even involve genitals. I want to see sex with sex toys. I want to see characters who are asexual and aromantic having amazing and incredible relationships who also happen to be trans or bisexual. I mean, asexuality and people who are aromantic are completely absent from mainstream television and movies as well. So again, we have this very singular narrative. And then that makes us feel like we're broken or maybe we're never gonna see ourselves represented. How much would it shift if young people got to see superheroes who were asexual and aromantic and in relationships with people who were bisexual, trans, people of color. Oh man, it makes my imagination just delight. I would have had so much more permission as a young person if I had seen fat queer characters on screen. I wouldn't have spent so much of my life feeling like I wasn't good enough and I had to stay in relationships that weren't good for me. Because I have this scarcity mentality of I don't see anyone like me in any of the places where I turn to to learn about love and sex. So maybe I just need to grasp at what I get even if it doesn't feel very good. I want better than that for all of us, especially for young people who receive so much of their sex education and their relationship education from pop culture. So I just want to invite all of us to if we can just ask the questions, even if we don't have the answer, maybe really interesting things will happen if we start engaging in these conversations. Because there's so much potential for more than what we've been given. As if you could ever get enough of Dawn. You can find me, yes, at dawnserra.com, exploremoresummit.com, and I am on Twitter and Instagram @dawn_serra. And of course, my podcast, Sex Gets Real. I answer listener questions all the time and have all kinds of rad experts, including a whole bunch of other O.School pleasure professionals, so totally check out my podcast. And Cavanaugh Quick, who's one of our O.School pleasure professionals, and Mia Little, who's one of our pleasure professionals, just spoke at Explore More Summit too, so check that out. So much freedom, Nina. Yes, I love that word permission. I grew up not having the permission to have sexual thoughts outside of marriage and deeply chastised for masturbating. Oh, I'm so sorry that happened to you. I would have loved to have seen those Sense8 scenes and and Callie from Grey's Anatomy. I know, right? Wouldn't that have been so effing amazing? If the majority of the movies and the television shows that we consumed had people with disabilities, visible and invisible, who had people in a variety of bodies who were queer and intersex and trans and bisexual and all of the things. And it was just part of who they were. It wasn't about being killed or harassed. Those things are very real and we need to name them. But we also need something that's a little bit more aspirational and nuanced. And we have not seen very much of that yet. So I so agree, the permission that would have been inherent in that to have, I don't know, a fat, black, trans teen who's the most popular kid in school and trying to decide which person they're gonna take to prom because they have multiple options. Or the CEO or the artist or the whoever that is intersex and aromatic and has really awesome solo sex but doesn't want to engage in partnered sex and has really awesome relationships with people. The potential in that is exquisite and extraordinary and would give so many of us so much more to want and to dream of than to feeling like we just have to kind of be on this very narrow path of what love and sex and marriage and all of the stuff that goes with that. God, we're missing the boat. And I don't even know how much my world would have changed if I saw trans, intersex, and nonbinary folks represented. Yeah, I mean, I want to imagine that it would have been really awesome, but maybe it would have been even more than that. God, I just wish for so many of us that we would have had and hopefully down the road that this will be true. Hopefully we're headed in that direction. But to know I don't even have to have this great big dramatic coming out where maybe I'm gonna be disowned and nobody's gonna talk to me or I'm gonna be bullied. Because all kinds of people have all kinds of different identities and I see that represented around me in all kinds of different ways. And to know also bi invisibility is so real. To know that just because I'm a relationship with someone who's the same gender as me doesn't necessarily mean that I have to declare myself lesbian or gay and to be in a relationship with someone who's a different gender than me doesn't mean that I'm straight or whatever people assume when they look at me. To know that bisexuality and pansexual are absolutely valid options. And if we had all these characters in the stories and the books and the TV shows and the movies that we consumed that showed us that, we'd probably be so much less likely to assume what someone's identity was, to assume what someone's gender was, and to instead be so curious. And then the skills that come with that curiosity are exactly the skills that we need to be great in relationship, to be great at experiencing pleasure and sexuality. I mean, god, it would just open up the world if all of us felt like masturbating and sex toys and not needing to have intercourse and having all different kinds of intimate, erotic experiences that don't even have to involve taking our clothes off. What? That would have totally shifted so many of the places where I felt pressure as a young person and even as an adult sometimes. The places where I still have feelings of guilt and inadequacy come up. Man, to be raised in a world like that. I want that for us. But we only get there by naming, hey, a lot of the queerness we're seeing on television really doesn't represent a lot of the queerness I've experienced or that probably exists out in the world. Who is not there? Because if we can name who's not there, then maybe we can start moving in the direction of who we want there. And I want that so much. Because that impacts us. We can have so much good sex. We can have so many people who have so much less pain and fear around the sex they are or they aren't having and that would just make the world a much better place a lot faster, I think. Now I feel so excited to think about this so much more because of you and your comments and being here with me. This is great. I'm gonna go have brain sex with myself for the rest of the day. Yeah, so thank you so much to all of you for being here. Some of my streams are super heady and theoretical and some of them are really playful and practical. Some of them are filled with information and statistics. So if you like pop culture and you like thinking about the ways that it impacts our lives, if you like rolling around in your favorite characters, then please join me for my next Pop Culture Undressed stream on O.School. God, there's so many places that I want to go. Because we've gone some awesome places so far. I mean, if you missed my Magic Mike XXL stream, I'm just gonna say you missed out, because it was fantastic. It was so much fun. So thank you for being here with me to talk about queer identity and the possibilities that are being missed and the potential for what it could be. This felt so nourishing. So thank you so much. And of course, I will see you on the next Pop Culture Undressed. I'm Dawn Serra. And yes, please, for me and for all of the other pleasure professionals, tip them, celebrate them, talk about them on social media. Everybody's so committed here to your pleasure and your learning and your growing. So thank you and I will see you on the next stream.

Queers For the Straight Eye

Date
Wed
May 2, 2018
|
1:00 pm
|
Calendar
Wednesday, May 2, 2018
|
1:00 pm

What does it mean when so many of the queer characters we know and love have been created and acted by straight folks? What happens when queer identity is so scrubbed clean it becomes virtually straight? It's time to talk about being queer on screen.