Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How To Get Over The Ewww! Ick! Response

Ben Browder surprises Michael Shanks with a kiss on the cheekIn a recent post on my friend Michael's blog Pop Culture Institute about Queen Latifah, he made reference to having had a boyfriend with whom he had sex. (gasp!) This, seemingly innocuous fact provoked a "too much information" comment from a regular reader.

It was clear to me that the reader in question didn't mean any harm. I've seen lots of good-natured, supportive comments from that individual on Michael's blog so rather than getting my manly boxers in a bunch, I decided to write a little about the subject of Ewww! Ick! I don't care if you're gay but for Gods sakes, don't talk about it!!! statements by otherwise friendly hetero folks.

First, the straight-forward analysis (pardon the pun)

When you talk about some part of your life, especially a very personal part, and someone else's reaction is visceral disgust, it hurts. It hurts a lot. It can make you feel ashamed of yourself, whether or not your intellect agrees that a shame reaction is reasonable. That's the kind of shame that Gay Pride was invented to heal. That's why we still need our parades. We need a vacation every once in a while from the fear that if we talk about our love lives, even in the most innocuous terms, that we'll get a shame-provoking Ewww! Ick! response.

Now, the shoe-on-the-other-foot analysis (this is where the help getting over it happens)

Gay people, by and large, are raised in hetero households by heteros. Most of us over 35 and a good portion of those younger were taught that gay people are gross, icky, other otherwise unwanted by society many years before we realized we are gay. When that realization did dawn, can you imagine the shock we felt at discovering that we were part of a socially unacceptable group?

Imagination is both the source of the Ewww! Ick! response and the secret to getting over it. Nature is like that: problem and solution tied up in one tidy package.

As we gay people move through our daily lives, we have to listen to, watch on TV, see in movies, ads and countless other sources graphic, explicit descriptions and images of heterosexual erotic activity. Believe me, we have the same Ewww! Ick! response when we see boys and girls rubbing their pink bits together.

What triggers that feeling? Imagination, of course. All people naturally identify to some degree with people they see in the media. That's how entertainment and advertising works; we imagine ourselves in the same situation. If they're doing something we think we would like, we have a positive response; if not, well, then Ewww! Ick!

When I was a young person, seeing hetero erotic activity produced a strong negative response in me. Over time, however, that response started to get weaker, and I could start to relate to the common human experience of love and desire without my imagination putting me into the role role of the guy on screen and getting grossed out.

So, what does it take to get yourself past the response? Exposure and time. With just a little effort, your subconscious will get tired of producing the negative response and learn that you aren't in any danger of being man-loved. At that point, like I did from my side, you'll be able to see two people kissing. Someday you might even be able to say Awww! and really mean it.

And no, I'm not saying that you should rent gay pornography and watch it over and over with a bucket under your chin. There are actually a fair number of decent gay-themed movies out there that you could occasionally choose (maybe one in ten times, just to be fair?) to rent and watch; Brokeback Mountain being the best, of course.

So, how do I know that choosing to not hide from tasteful expressions of same-gender affection will help you get past the Ewww! Ick! response? Partly my own experience, but party because that's what the social conservatives desperately, desperately don't want you to do! Their work to keep neutral or positive images of same-gender affection out of the public eye is calculated to keep the maximum number of otherwise reasonable people locked into the negative response cycle. Don't let them block your advancement as an enlightened human being!

I mentioned viewing gay-themed movies (not pornography - start breathing again). If you have trouble feeling comfortable browsing in the "gay and lesbian" section of your local video store, you can:

  • take your girl friend
  • subscribe to Netflix
  • Wear a Nixon mask
  • Ask a gay friend to go for you

So, there you have it. I know that "too much information" comments for simply putting in print the fact that gay people actually love members of their own gender aren't meant to hurt us, but they do. So stop it, OK?


Hippy Goodwife said...

Someone really said "ewwww. ick"? I would have popped them in nose right there. I'm subtle like that.

Seumas Gagne said...

Actually, what the man said was "too much information" which is what bothered me so much.

Adam said...

I don't care much for the phrase "too much information." Simply to acknowledge a relationship with someone of the same sex and say that one enjoys the physical intimacy going along with it should not be TMI anymore than a straight person in a hetero relationship doing the same.

Now, if anyone starts going on about specific details about how they rub their swimsuit parts together, heterosexual or homosexual, that WOULD be TMI for most people.