The Nomenclature of Gay and Female Bodies

17 11 2013

Most of us are familiar with the highly developed and sophisticated set of terms used to describe the female body. (Understanding that gender is a complex creature, here by female body I mean the traditional concept of the biological female body.) Many, if not most, of these terms compare women to animals. In my experience some women don’t care, some women find them empowering, and many find them demeaning. This is totally understandable. I guess it just depends on the individual.

I am quite certain most of these terms are available on Urban Dictionary in case you are unsure of their meaning, but here I have provided a few of the most famous ones. Unsurprisingly, the majority of them seem to treat women in terms of their sexual relation to men. A simple Google search for each term reveals its image in the popular imagination. Oh, I suppose this is the time to tell you that the below images are not safe for work. Also, *trigger warning* for potentially degrading images.

First, we have the bitch:

Female Nomenclature - Bitch

OK, so this term does not refer strictly to the body, but it still compares women to animals, which is a running theme here. The bitch is supposed to be an unpleasantly feisty woman. Funny. I would never call Helena Bonham Carter a bitch—I would just call her magnificently talented—but I guess you could make the argument that a bitch is a good thing.

Then there is the fox:

Samantha Fox - Leather

While the bitch is a ball-breaking ‘cock-blocker’ (not exactly the same thing as a cuckold), the fox is a pornographic delight for heterosexual men everywhere. Samantha Fox, who happens to have a female partner (to the chagrin of men who grew up in the ’80s), calls her fans ‘foxies’, so sometimes it might be a positive term.

The fox closely resembles the vixen (which happens to be a female fox):

Female Nomenclature - Vixen

Here I have used a picture of the character Vixen from the Disney film The Fox and the Hound because a Google search of vixen yielded nothing but images of ’80s hair bands and pornography models. The vixen, I think, is supposed to be more sweetly seductive than the fox.

Even more seductive is the sex-kitten:

Female Nomenclature - Sex Kitten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, the term does refer to her sexual relation to a man (or, I suppose, her sexual relation to a woman too.) The sex kitten puts the vixen to shame. She is ultra-cute and coy, and loves to toy with men’s desires. Personally, my idea of a sex kitten is Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman—a lady who will claw your balls off if you fuck with her:

Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman

In this case I must maintain that the sex kitten resembles something more akin to a powerful, self-asserting agent—like the Egyptian goddess Bastet—than a pleasantly-purring princess. Of course, this was from a film in which men themselves were compared with bats and penguins. Oh, there was also the Poodle Woman, but she was more creepy than sexy, which I kind of like.

And what of the majestic cougar?

Female Nomenclature - Cougar III

She is the sexually mature, over-forty mother of cats. There are many a pimpled teenage boy who fantasize about her. But why can’t older women be sexual and vibrant without kow-towing to silly puerile sex fantasies? Jessica Lange, Miranda Richardson, and Ellen Burstyn have already proved it is possible.

But the complimentary anthropomorphic archetypes end there, it seems, for we also have the dog:

Female Nomenclature - Dog

Does this look like a woman to you? It doesn’t to me. I am pretty confident in saying this is categorically cruel and demeaning.

Another case in which the woman is compared negatively with an animal is the cow:

Female Nomenclature - Cow

I guess this is supposed to refer to an overweight woman? So, what? It’s cruel and unnecessary. I take great delight in the thought of a cow daintily trampling the smug teenage boys (and sometimes older men) who mock women’s weight.

The nail in the coffin is the whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

The whale is actually a graceful and intelligent creature, but somehow this fact has escaped the minds of those who compare women’s bodyweight to that of a whale. Hopefully they get crushed by a calving cow while surfing the waves of southern California and, while pinned under her weight, have to watch her calf suckle from her teat, as the cow and her calf wash away. That would be sweet justice.

This trend in ascribing animal traits to women applies to lesbians too, particularly in the form of the bull-dyke:

Female Nomenclature - Bulldyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is just one image of the bull-dyke, and it suggests there is power in the term. There are other images which are decidedly less sympathetic. The bull-dyke is a large, strong, assertive gay woman. I guess this is another case of ‘pick or choose’ whether you like the term or not. By the way, is that Betty Friedan? At any rate, I think she rocks.

Another lesbian category is the lipstick lesbian:

Female Nomenclature - Lipstick Lesbian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In accord with the third-wave feminist movement, she needn’t be masculine in order to be a woman. I don’t see a problem with that. Women should be able to be whatever they want to be, whether masculine, feminine, or gender-queer. Again, I guess it’s your business whether or not you like the term ‘lipstick lesbian’.

Let us not forget the leatherdyke:

Female Nomenclature - Leatherdyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She wears leather and rides around on a motorcycle. She takes the dominant, butch role in sexual relations with other women, her preferred instrument of pleasure being either a fist or the strap-on dildo. Her leather gear symbolizes her tough exterior, which is supposed to be attractive to lipstick lesbians.

There is a very interesting intersection between women and gay men in terms of nomenclature: both groups have been categorised by body type, especially in terms of animals or sexual nature. The dynamic might be different with gay men in that there isn’t a heterosexual male presence influencing the categorisation, but there is an internal, sometimes self-defeating, pressure to do so. And sometimes women do view men in objectifying ways, although I think it’s safe to say this is less common  only because women know by experience what it feels like to have this done to them.

Some straight women will feel guilty about making some of these categorisations—and yet I almost want them to, because it would suggest that they acknowledge that they have sexual desires too. This doesn’t feel harmful to me, since I know men have traditionally been perceived as the sexual agents, and women, as the sexual patients. So read on, straight women and gay men.

Perhaps the most popular man is the twink:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Twink

He is called a twink because he is smooth and filled with cream, like a Twinkie. (Gay men are vile and disgusting in their metaphor.) He is the property of Hostess, which is now owned by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. Forget animals. He is a processed piece of junk-food from the local convenience store. How’s that for dehumanization?

But then there is the bear:

Gay Bears

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bears adopt a rough and gruff exterior, but are often surprisingly sensitive and articulate. They do co-habitate, but the bear-net is loose. Some bears tend toward chubs or otters. (We will get to these latter two below.) Sadly, some of them believe in the ‘straight-acting’ script, which states that a real man isn’t gay, because gay men are somehow unmanly (whatever ‘manly’ is supposed to be). Bears who like leather are called ‘leather bears’.

A young, small bear is called a cub. A cub is just a baby bear; he is younger. What he has in common with his older peer, though, is that he tends to be hirsute. Hair is the crowning glory of the cub and the bear, whether it be a beard, or—ahem—anything else.

Akin to the cub and bear is the otter.

Gay Male Nomenclature - Otter

The otter is basically the same thing as the cub or bear—he is hairy—but unlike the cub or bear the otter is always slighter in build. Also he tends to have a markedly playful nature.

Similar to bears, cubs, and otters is the satyr:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Satyr

The satyr is half otter, half ‘average’. That is, while he has an average amount of hair on the upper half of his body, he has an enormous amount of the stuff on the lower half. Admittedly, it is not the most common of body terms used in the gay community, but it exists. The satyr of Greek mythology has an enormous sexual appetite, but I am unsure how far this applies in the modern-day gay male usage of the term.

And then there is the chub. The chub is just a large man, like the female whale:

Female Nomenclature - Whale

Some people like the term chubs, some people don’t. Some people are attracted to chubs and seem to use it in a complimentary way, yet I can’t help but think that the term is flippant, if not slightly degrading. Again, decide for yourself.

Then there is the dolphin:

Olympics Day 8 - Swimming

Like the twink, the dolphin is slim and hairless (and usually white), but unlike the twink he usually shaves it off so he can swim faster through the water. I guess he would be like a slim, sexy whale (depending on your preferences, of course). And like satyr, the term dolphin isn’t very common, but it exists. He is the prototypical gay bar go-go dancer.

One of the stranger creatures is the leatherdaddy:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Leather Daddy

The leatherdaddy is much like the leatherdyke—he performs an assertive, dominant sexual role—and he is usually older than his twinkish partner. I don’t get the weird ‘daddy’ thing—it kind of creeps me out—but I think it’s just supposed to signify adoration of an older, powerful man. Also like the leatherdyke, the leatherdaddy is totally into BD/SM. Oh, and Tom of Finland’s caricature of the male form is obviously exaggerated (as caricatures are)—most men do not have such ridiculously broad shoulders and narrow hips. I guess it’s just a fantasy.

Finally, there is the pig:

Gay Male Nomenclature - Pig

By pig, I don’t mean ‘male chauvinist pig’, I just mean a hungry, nasty sex animal. That is the way it is used in the gay male community. The pig doesn’t necessarily dislike romance—he may love it—but he is noted for his love of rough, loud sex. He is into all sorts of things that I cannot possibly enumerate here, nor should I for the sake of decency.

So there you have it. Those are the chief terms used to describe the bodies of women and gay men. Sometimes the term does not refer specifically to the body, but it does refer to the personality and the way in which the individual relates to another, often sexually. I won’t even attempt here to dissect how the media influences concepts of physical beauty—that is an entirely separate blog entry—but I do want to draw your attention to the way people categorise women and gay men according to body and personality type. Some people like it, some don’t, and some just don’t care. My only caveat is this—never be mean-spirited.





Angelina Jolie’s Leg and Sexual Tension

8 03 2012

With this post, I descend deep into the dark vacuum of popular culture. I don’t do this unless it yields some sort of useful, insightful commentary, and when we look at how bodies are displayed and portrayed in public and in the media, it does. Consider the recent Academy Awards ceremony, in which Angelina Jolie slinked down the red carpet with a long, lean leg emerging profluently from a part in the side of a black velvet, custom-made Versace gown to seduce the cameras with its cold, alibaster glow. Brad Pitt wore the same tuxedo every other man wore. I won’t kid. Jolie looks truly ravishing, and we should appreciate her beauty, but something about the picture is a little bit more asymmetrical than her dress. It’s the perfect example of the schizophrenic attitude that women can’t expose as much of their bodies as men can, but should expose more of it than men should.

The tension between modesty and sexiness is greater for women than it is for men, at least in the West. If Brad had wanted, he could have gotten away with a wardrobe malfunction and exposed a nipple or two–hell, he could have exposed his whole chest for the world to see and the ladies (and some of the men) would have collapsed on the floor and swallowed up his sweat–but if Angelina had flashed her boobs or, heaven forbid, exited the limousine in a deliberately-designed topless gown (which would never happen), the police would have tackled her scrawny ass to the ground. Fashion critics would hold both Brad and Angelina culpable for being indecent if they exposed their nipples, but would hold Angelina more culpable. At the same time, though, they would hold Angelina more culpable if she exposed less skin than Brad. So, the woman can’t show as much as the man, but she should show more than he. It’s a finer line for her to tread.

This obviously isn’t fair. It’s a Catch-22 and a double standard. It’s a Catch-22 because it tells women that they should be modest and sexy, and it’s a double standard because it places this Catch-22 on women, but not on men. Women aren’t allowed to show their nipples in public (except maybe in British Columbia and Ontario), but they are expected to show more skin than men up to the nipple; meanwhile, men are allowed to show their nipples, but they are expected not to show as much skin as women. Now, you might say, “It’s the same difference. Women can’t show their nipples while men can, but men aren’t expected to show as much skin as women. So it all balances out”. But it doesn’t all balance out. The restrictions against men showing as much skin as women can doesn’t have legal consequences, but the restrictions against women showing as much skin as men can does. Men are socially criticised for showing as much skin as women are expected to show, but women are both socially criticised for showing less skin than men are expected to show and legally reprimanded (i.e. arrested) for showing as much skin as men can show. In short, women have to balance a finer line between appeasing social expectations of seductiveness on one hand, and meeting legal parameters of modesty on the other. That’s not right.

But the tension between the sexy and modest woman occurs on a global scale too. In some regions of Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, and Afghanistan, women are expected to wear veils such as the niqab, burqa (chadri), etc., and women are harassed by police for not donning these garments appropriately. In countries like Britain and the Netherlands, however, magazine racks and television shows are filled with bulging cleavages and glistening thighs, and in countries like France the authorities might actually penalise women for wearing a veil they might otherwise be required to wear in, say, Saudi Arabia. When we compare countries with one another, then, the teeter-totter of modest-versus-sexy woman takes on a global perspective. It infects the world. The world itself simultaneously imposes chastity and desirability on women.

This is absolutely stupid. If we believe in fairness and equality, we can’t penalise women for showing as many body parts as men can, but expect them to show more than men, without being total assholes. It isn’t fair. And it isn’t valid for Westerners to critique Muslim countries for covering their women in veils when Westerners rip women’s clothes off and paste the remaining bits on the covers of supermarket tabloids. It’s six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. What we should be doing is trying to strike a balance by telling women, “Hey, you can show your nipples if you want, but you don’t have to show more skin than men, either”, and telling men, “You can wear something sexier than grandpa shorts or 1930s women’s culottes to the beach. Start by wearing what every man in modern-day Europe wears. A bikini. You know. Like women.” I don’t expect to see Brad Pitt walking down the red carpet in a black velvet Versace gown any time soon–that kind of change takes centuries for men, apparently–but I do expect to see it happen sooner at home, at the beach, and even in the workplace. Surely Hollywood, being so progressive, will eventually follow.





A Young Feminist Decries the “Pink Stuff”

28 12 2011

A very serendipitous gift was bestowed on me on Christmas Day: a video of a little girl railing against gender stereotypes inside a toy store. I unwrapped a present, a book called Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs (given me by my wonderfully open and progressive mother), and showed everybody the book, announcing the title for all to hear and accepting family photographs of myself, of course, with the cherished tome in hand. Noting my interest in the topic of gender theory, my elder brother showed me the video, which featured a girl named Riley critiquing the use of colour-coded gender stereotypes in marketing. This girl must have an IQ of 140, or if she doesn’t, she will when she grows up. She is precocious:

I love her! She’s like Lisa Simpson, and Lisa Simpson is like me. Watch this clip of Lisa Simpson, when she was me in, like, 1985 when I was seven years old:

Riley is a real-life version of Lisa—and me! Just like me at her age, she doesn’t buy into the marketing bullshit, and she makes no effort to hide her disgust with the crass commercialization of sex roles. It’s like she’s saying, “this stupid pink shit is fucked up, and it makes me want to vomit!” But, of course, she is a five year-old girl, so she doesn’t say that. What struck me as amazing was her reasoning abilities. She was able to create this abstract symmetry between what girls like and what boys like: “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses; some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses”. This is pretty sophisticated thinking for a five-or-six year-old.

Most amazing of all, I think, was this little girl’s ability to cut like a laser through the smoke and mirrors of the marketing industry and exclaim that “the companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want”. So now little Riley has not only identified the unfairness of pressuring girls into buying princesses and pressuring boys into buying superheroes, but she has pinpointed the commercial mechanism which exploits these gender stereotypes to achieve a profit. I’m sorry, but that is a brilliant observation for a child so small.

It’s interesting to note the way in which the father relates to his daughter in this video. The father seems to insist that boys can have pink if they want, but the daughter seems to insist that, while this is technically so, girls are still pressured into wanting the pink princess crap while the boys are pressured into wanting the blue superhero crap. And, if we think about it, that’s true. Even if our children technically can buy cross-gender toys, they are very strongly admonished against doing so. There are social consequences to it, and little Riley is struggling in the midst of this gender fracas. At the same time, I commend Riley’s father for being a true father and taking the time to nurture his child by listening to her words, acknowledging her wisdom, and taking her to the toy store himself in the first place. Not many fathers would do even that much.

This reminds me of my childhood, which was raped away by the horrid spectre of a stepfather who hated women, black people, and gay people. Until 1986, when I turned 8, I was allowed to play with “girl stuff” as much as I wanted—both my parents were mild, good-natured, common-sensical people, if a bit religious and conservative—but once my mother divorced my father and married this odious troll from the American south, everything changed. She had to try to accommodate his stupid scruples, which included the immediate eviction of any gynaecoid play-thing. Suddenly, as boys, we weren’t allowed to play with anything that resembled women (or what women were thought to be). We were allowed to watch She-Ra: Princess of Power, but we were no longer allowed to play with the action figures themselves:

I thought that She-Ra was hot! And by hot I don’t mean sexually exploitable; I mean sexually confident. This woman was a sexual agent. She was in control, and for that reason she was admirable. But for some stupid reason, my stepfather hated the idea of his stepsons watching cartoons of women dodging lasers and throwing men over their shoulders. He hated the idea of boys liking “girl things”, and, on top of that, the idea that those “girl things” involved girls who wielded power. But every faggot loves that shit. It was all just too much of a mindfuck for his dessicated brain to handle. This is the type of gender-stupidity that I think little Riley is railing against in her father’s video.

Little Riley is an inspiration. She gives us a lesson. She is a tiny girl who helps us remember how both girls and boys can be hurt by rigid gender roles. Parents should not tell their daughters that they should like only princesses and pink stuff, and they should not tell their sons that they should like only superheroes and blue stuff. Because, even at an age as young as Riley’s, the stupidity and oppressiveness of these roles are apparent. And if you want to play the biological determinist card, I entreat you to read Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by Cordelia Fine (who exposes the very recent, very cultural origin of the pink/blue phenomenon in her book). Reading that might make you think twice about how you treat your children. It’s all about what actually works for us as people who have to adapt to the demands of a modern world. It’s always been about that. Nothing else.