Sunday, June 22, 2014

Oh! You Pretty Things

The title of this post is a (fantastic--but does that need saying as they're all fantastic?) David Bowie song. I am going to talk about David Bowie in this post, but first I want to talk about another artist. I GOT TICKETS TO SEE JANELLE MONAE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL TONIGHT! I am so excited, because I love her music, and they're cheap seats so I won't be able to see a damn thing, but I don't care, because I love her music, and she's going to sing, and she's going to dance, and did I mention that I'm excited? Now that I got all the gushing out of the way, I'm going back to David Bowie. Actually, Janelle Monae is related to the topic of this post, too. And she clearly appreciates David Bowie, as evidenced by her amazing cover of "Heroes." It all fits.

This post is not about music. It's about androgyny.

As most of you have probably guessed from my significantly-more-than-mild David Bowie obsession, I find androgyny and gender-bending attractive. I've been thinking about this a lot lately based on conversations I've had with some of my friends. For instance, Friday night Katie and I were talking about the appeal of androgyny before the burlesque show began, and she asked me if I'd ever been with a woman.

Nope. I don't have any real desire to, either--at least not at this point in my life.

What I mean when I say that I'm attracted to androgyny and gender-bending is that I enjoy the blending of male and female features. I find David Bowie attractive because he is clearly a man, but he wears makeup and stereotypically feminine clothing.

Pretty! Also, I would very much like to own this leotard.

I find Janelle Monae attractive because she is clearly a woman, but she knows how to rock a well-tailored suit. 
Dapper as fuck. And adorable!

I try to nod to this aesthetic in my own appearance as well, although I don't take it to any sort of extreme. I've got curves for days, which I love, but one of the many reasons I chopped off all my hair is that I like pairing my ultra-feminine body with a boyish haircut. I shared these pictures of myself on Instagram the other night because I felt the juxtaposition was working particularly well for me--in other words, I looked super hot.

The thing is, it's the blend itself that I find attractive. When a man looks so much like a woman that I have no idea it's a man, I'm not attracted to that person--though I am incredibly impressed by his drag skills. Let's examine this further in pictures, shall we?

The inestimable Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter: attractive
He sees us shiver with antici............................pation.

Recent RuPaul's Drag Race runner-up Courtney Act: gorgeous, but not attractive (to me)
Serving up fish on a platter.

One thing to acknowledge is the difference between aesthetic and sexual attraction. I almost always find androgyny aesthetically pleasing. Am I sexually attracted to androgynous people? Definitely. But mostly the men, because men don't have to be androgynous for me to be attracted to them, because I'm heterosexual. Although I wish more non-androgynous men would play around with gender-bending! What a pretty world that would be. 
Just learn to apply it a little better, Fassy!

Now, if a woman were to look so much like a man that I didn't know she was a woman, I might very well be sexually attracted to her--but only because I thought she was a man. And sometimes I am sexually attracted to androgynous women, even though I know they're women, because I like that they play up those male features. But there's an element of fantasy there. As I was discussing with Leta, most people fantasize about things that they wouldn't necessarily do when it came right down to it. Fantasies are fun. Plus, I'm a writer; I imagine scenarios virtually every minute of the day, most of which are not at all sexual in nature and usually have to do with conversations I wish I were having with people, some of whom are fictional and some of whom are not.

Yes, I am a total weirdo.

The point is, barring any unforeseen circumstances (and here we'd have to go into my wish to live in a world where people didn't have to sexually identify as anything at all, but that's another blog post for another time), I don't see myself having sex with a lady any time soon, even if she is attractive in her androgyny. What can I say? I'm boring.

Occasionally I feel uncomfortable with my attraction to androgynous women--not because I feel that it's wrong to be attracted to women, but precisely because I am primarily heterosexual and my attraction lies within the realm of fantasy. Have you heard of Woman Crush Wednesday? #WCW? It's a hashtag on Twitter, where people tweet about their favorite women, and many women tweet about how beautiful they think other women are, and so on. I have talked to lesbian women who object strongly to the use of the term "woman crush"--if you're a woman who is truly attracted to another woman, then you should just admit that you have a crush on them, and if you're not truly attracted to another woman then you shouldn't be using the term "crush" at all. They find the term "woman crush" to be offensive because it implies that you need a qualifier for women to have a crush on other women, that there's something unnatural about women having crushes on other women. Personally, I'm not so invested in the term "woman crush" either way; I don't think I've ever posted a #WCW tweet. But the idea of lesbians calling out the legitimacy of primarily heterosexual women's attractions to other women is exactly what makes me uncomfortable, because they may have a point. Am I a fraud because I probably wouldn't go through with it?

At this point in my conversation with Leta, when I was frantically babbling about my insecurities regarding this matter, she suggested that people really shouldn't be policing other people's attractions/fantasies anyway. This is why I love Leta: she always comes through with common sense. I think it's okay for me to be attracted to androgynous women in terms of fantasy, even though I identify as heterosexual. I don't intend to be disrespectful towards the LGBTQIA community in any way, which is why I don't identify as bisexual--I don't think my attractions to androgynous women are strong enough to justify the term.

My other fear regarding my attraction to androgyny and gender-bending is that I may not be attracted to it at all, but rather to confidence. It takes a lot of guts to say "fuck you" to social gender norms, and confidence is always sexy. But Leta also made a good point here: there are plenty of aesthetic choices people make to say "fuck you" to society, many of which I'm not attracted to even remotely. Like juggalos, for instance. Doesn't do it for me. At all. Ever. So it must be something more than confidence that attracts me to androgyny and gender-bending.

Anyway, I guess I wanted to write all this because it helps me to parse out and organize my own thoughts. I hope you don't find it too dull. As with most of my introspective posts (and most of my posts in general), I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject. Now you'll have to excuse me, as I need to figure out the most efficient way to get to the Hollywood Bowl.


  1. Great post! A good window into your thoughts and feelings!

    My mind usually drifts off to the origin of it all--evolutionary biology and classical conditioning. Or in other words, nature and nurture. And I don't see any point to a "nature VS nurture debate", both shape who we are. Sure, everyone starts out with a little shove in one direction or the other, but the human sexual response is almost infinitely malleable. It can be surprisingly easily conditioned to respond to just about anything with the proper pairing of stimuli.

    It's a gift! Strip away the reproductive purpose of sex and you've just got a very interesting, flexible and surprising source of pleasure. Short of infringing on anyones rights, do with it whatever you please!

    Of course I agree that androgyny is very appealing! From a "cosmic" point of view though you have to admit it's painfully arbitrary! Is there anything intrinsically attractive about androgyny, or were we conditioned to associate it with iconic figures like David Bowie? And the style itself only exist in a context of a species that associates fashions with specific genders.

    Follow this line of thought even further and it's mind-breakingly absurd to think that we considered it taboo for one version of our species (males) to wear clothing that reflects a specific wavelength of electromagnetic radiation (the sliver of which we happen to perceive as light) that we refer to as pink. Imagine elbowing an alien, going "Will you look at that sissy dressed in pink!?" I don't think you'd get any laughs!

    Aside: I have a personal rule that I would not have sex with anyone who would not have sex with David Bowie.

    1. Many good points. Also, that may be the best personal rule I've ever heard.

  2. Wow, the 99% Invisible this week applies beautifully to this topic! Even gets into men wearing high heals.

    1. Ooo I've never heard of 99% Invisible before. Good stuff.


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