I attend the “All Bodies Have Voices” panel discussion and was presently surprised by the experience I had there. The panelists each brought their own topic of discussion, views, and opinions which help to add depth to the conversation. Wanda Burton the peer education programs coordinator for the women’s resource center talked a great deal about the legal aspects of consent as well as gave us all a better understand on how and when we should ask for consent. Mrs. Burton and another panelist Cory Harrison have caused be a rethink how information about sexual assault is delivered. They brought to my attention the way we have a culture that is victim center in the way we always talk about how to avoid getting rape, when in reality to should be educating people on how not to rape people as a way to prevent the act of happening in the first place. The highlight of the discussion was the analogy given by Amelia Brock a member of the students that put the project together. She related talking about sex and consent to cake, in the way that you always get birthday cake on your birthday and you will keep getting the same cake whether you like it or not if you don’t voice your opinion about it, or that you can’t assume that some likes the cake today just because they liked it once before. This analogy just help to reinforce the fact that consent is not a onetime thing , but rather a fixture of a healthy relationship as it serves as a way to make sure all parties feel safe and cared for in the relationship.
For this activity I decided I wanted to tell my best friend that I was queer. I hadn’t seen her all semester and we were getting together to catch up, so I figured she was the best person I could tell since we hadn’t really talked about what this class and a person can change a lot in a semester. We spent most of the afternoon together but I was waiting for just the right time to spring it on her. We decided to go to dinner and I thought that would be a god time. We had just gotten our table and were talking about plans for the summer when I told her I was queer. She stopped in the middle of her sentence, asking me how and if my boyfriend knew about it. When I asked her if she understood what queer was, she told me that she thought queer meant gay. That’s when I explained to her that queer did not mean gay any more, the gay community took the word back and turned it into something positive. It actually meant that I didn’t want to be placed into a box regarding my sexuality. That today I might be heterosexual but in the future I might bisexual or a lesbian but I want the chance to choose freely and without judgment. When I finished explaining it to her, she thought about it and stating that she liked the idea professed that she was queer too. I never did mention that my being queer was for a class assignment and I don’t think I’m going to.
I did this activity with both of my parents, each separately because I know they would each have a very different reaction. I decided to do this on my dad first because he is usually very close-minded when it comes to these things. I called my dad after he got off work and told him that I was queer. My dad was quiet for about two minutes before he asked “Are you gay or just weird?” I responded back with “I’m weird” and then proceeded to tell him about the activity. We discussed how when people hear the word “queer” they automatically think someone is gay. As you can see, this didn’t go exactly how I thought it was going to, but I was shocked at how my dad responded. I thought for sure he was going start freaking out and not going to let me talk, but in the end we had a interesting discussion on how people react.
I then decided to do the exact same thing on my mom, who is more open-minded when it comes to these things. I told my dad not to mention anything to my mom so she would not have any prior knowledge. I waited to do this in person rather then on the phone so I could see my mom’s physical reaction. She arrived in Alabama this past Wednesday for A- Day. When we got back to my apartment I told her to sit down because I had something very important to tell her. My mom’s usually happy air about her soon disappeared as soon as I said “I’m queer.” It went completely silent and it was extremely awkward… for the both us I imagine! After about four or five minutes my mom finally spoke up. She asked what exactly did I mean. I explained to her that queer just meant I was weird/strange, not gay like what most people think. My mom found this to be interesting and it lead to us talking about how some people just assume things.
At first I was scared to do this activity, but I actually found it to be fun and it sparked an interesting conversation between both my parents and I. I think overall we both learned something from this activity.
I chose to perform the queer experiment on my best friend and a male friend that I use to date. Out of the two, best friend had the most interesting response. Initially she began to act confused and shocked, and asked what I meant by statement. I avoided giving off any allusions to the word’s meaning, and simply told her that I sincerely meant that I was queer. Her response after this was to ask me if I knew her middle name. At first I was confused, and responded to her with her middle name. She told that she needed to know if I knew this information to make sure that my phone had not been hacked, and then asked me if I was making a confession about my sexuality. When I told my male friend that I was queer, he asked me to elaborate, and then immediately asked me if I was gay. Both friends believed that by stating that I was queer meant that I was a homosexual.
Over Spring Break a close friend of mine invited me to attend a male friend’s birthday festivities with her. I had never met the friend and did not know anyone that would be in attendance besides her. However, I was intrigued when she mentioned that the festivities would end at a famous gentlemen’s club in Atlanta called Follies. I had been to gentlemen’s clubs with female friends, but never a group of males. Attending one with mostly men allowed me to focus in on the “ritual” of attending a gentlemen’s club. The ritual began with drinks, of course, at a sports bar. All the guest in attendance, especially the males guest, would casually mention the club in conversation, and make reference to the types of women that worked at the club and what they expected the women to do. One of the interesting things about Follies gentlemen’s club is that it is known to be multi-racial, unlike other gentlemen’s clubs in Atlanta that feature either solely African American or Caucasian women. When we arrived at the club, the line outside was a mixed crowd of age, race and gender. The patrons immediately in front of us were from Africa. At this point, the second part of the ritual of the gentlemen’s club visit begin to take place; the anticipation. The men that I was with, and the men that were surrounding our group, struck up conversations about what type of women they wanted to see inside the club. I found it peculiar that men seemed to be attracted to women that were opposite of the type of woman that they would normally date or associate with. Many of the black men noted that they wanted to view the clubs Caucasian, Hispanic and Asian women. While I overheard white men discussing a particular dancer, who’s description eluded to her race as being African American. I drew the conclusion that Follies was a place for men to live out sexual fantasies based on defying cultural taboos, such as dating or having sexual relations outside of one’s own race.
Once inside the club, we all gathered around the stage and watched as each woman stepped up to perform as her name was called. The women were dressed in attire similar to swimsuits that were flashy and drew attention to their female body parts. While performing, the women would do moves or dances they believed would entice their patrons. Many of the moves were sexual in nature, as most of the caressed their breast and rubbed their genitals. Others danced seductively; doing a particular style of dance referred to as “twerking” in urban culture, which involved the shaking and gyrating of the buttocks. As the women danced, they removed the minimal clothing that they had on; most ending up completely naked before the audience. These dance movement particularly excited the men, while the women in the club seemed to be more excited by the dancers’ use of pole tricks. The women performed acrobatic tricks such as spinning, climbing down and sliding on the pole. The danger in the tricks that they performed combined with their overt sexuality created a very entertaining show. The more pole tricks and dancing that they did, the more money that patrons threw on the stage for them to collect at the end of the performance.
If they were not performing, many of the dancers would attempt to persuade patrons into purchasing personal dances from them that took place in a private room. Of course, the birthday boy felt that it was only right that he received one of these personal dances, and as a joke, purchased one for my friend and I. The dancer grabbed our hands and led us back to a dimly lit dark room where we sat as she proceeded to give her private performance. As a heterosexual woman, it was strange to have another woman perform such sexual moves on me. Many of the dance moves used in the private dances were ones that would arouse men. They were particularly focused on grinding against the genital reason and close body contact. Although we were not attracted to the dancer, my female friend and I could not help but be intrigued by her and extremely aware of her sexual energy. The male friend expressed that he was aroused after the dance and that he would like to take his relationship with the dancer further than the dark private room. It soon registered to me that he would never fulfill is fantasy with the dancer, and this was how they earned money in the gentlemen’s club, by selling the fantasy of overt sexuality, intercourse and desire. As we left the club, the men discussed the things that they had seen inside and what particular women had done that they found pleasing. My friend and I even joined in on the conversation as well, our post-experience recap thus ending the gentlemen’s club ritual. I could not help but think that male sexual desire was so domineering that it would allow them to pay to be teased.
My first encounter was with a friend that I’m going to refer to as “Mark,” it was a normal weekend and we had gone out drinking at the Downtown Pub. I sat down across the booth from him and started the conversation off with a comment along the lines of women being the Bain of all men. From there the conversation became about the freedom to do whatever you want with whomever you want. Then I told him that I had “decided to give this queer thing a try,” and from that point on things went downhill. Not only did he not believe me, he even started asking me to prove it in ways that extra credit doesn’t cover. In the end I finally told him the truth, although he never believed it, we did have a rather spirited conversation about human sexuality.
The second encounter was with a friend I have known for a very long time now, for this description his name is going to be “Paul.” Once again we went to the Downtown Pub; once again we found an empty booth. This time I just came on out with it and told him I had something important to confide in him. Once I told him I was “queer” his first response was “does Kara know?!” (Kara is my girlfriend of five years) Paul then followed that statement up with a “oh. Well that’s cool” in an attempt to act normal, but I could tell that he was very uncomfortable due to the fact that he “sipped” on his drink for the next ten minutes, instead of drinking it like a normal person. Eventually he asked if it was anyone in particular who had “turned” me, at this point it was all I could do not to laugh, but with a straight face I told him that “Brad Pit is a very sexy man!” At the end of the night Paul tried to say that he had always had a suspicion, but it was at that point that I had to tell him the truth, even though he was very respectful when he thought I was a “queer.”
This past weekend I told my mom I was queer and the reaction was somewhat surprising, but not much. First, she asked me what the term “queer” even meant, noting that she had heard of it, but never really got a logical understanding of it. I gave her a few examples of what people associate queer with, including odd, weird, and added in gay. The word gay was all it took. She went into a little frenzy, asking me if I was really gay. I go on to tell her that I never said that I was gay, but that was what other people tend to associate the term with. She then goes on to state “Well, I know you’re not telling me you are weird, so what else do you want me to think? What made you turn gay?” I go on to tell her that she did exactly what most people do in situations like that and assume gay from the jump. I also tell her at the same time that it’s nothing wrong with being queer, especially if you are using the term in it’s correct meaning, which is not being gay, that’s only what it has evolved to. Finally after about talking for 20 minutes, I tell her that I’m not gay and It was for class. She says “Thank God because I didn’t know how to tell your dad.”
I told my grandma that I was queer. The reaction I got was not what I expected at all. However in hindsight I understand her reaction. When I told her I was queer she merely laughed and said that she already know that about me. So went on to say that all of her grandchildren were at least a little bit queer , and that she herself had queer things about her. She said that the world is full of queer people and that is what helps to make the world around us so interesting. That there really is no such thing as normal and that we should all imbrace our queerness. While all this is going on I realized that the cultural differences on how the word queer is used today verses when my grandmother was growing up give if very different meanings. So she didn’t think I was coming out, but rather coming to terms with the fact that I am a little bit weird. Since we were not suppose to say “but I am not gay” after telling the person we picked. My grandmother and I continued to have a conversation about just how “queer” the world around us is.
For this activity, I told my boyfriend that I was queer.
He gave me a compliment about my body; I gave him one too, and then he said jokingly: Him: “Yours is better”
Me: “I don’t think so”
Him: “Of course! You’re not a lesbian”
When he said that, I remembered about the activity and thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it.
Me: “I’m queer”
Awkward moment of silence
Him: “What?….I don’t believe that”
Me: “Why not?”
Him: “Because then you wouldn’t say no when I ask you if you want to have a threesome”
We were talking about this for a while, I told him that being queer does not necessarily mean that I am homosexual, that for me being queer is being anywhere in between of completely heterosexual and completely homosexual.
Saying I was queer definitely created conversation. When I said it, he immediately wanted me to explain what I meant, even though he thought that queer was the same as homosexual.
Doing the t-shirt activity was very interesting because before going in I was unsure of what to expect. First I thought the t-shirts would smell awful, but in reality they were not that bad. While I was in the lab smelling them I felt that same consciences from the other girls in the room that the shirts didn’t smell that bad. Also I thought the survey was interesting in the way that it asked questions about where we were in our menstrual cycle as well as what if any form of birth control we used. I didn’t see these questions as being important at the time of the survey, however after the activity was over and the data was presented I found it very interesting. I was able to see that where in your cycle you were played somewhat of a role in how you rated the smell of the t-shirts. I didn’t think it would I thought the type of birth control you are on would be more important because the different hormones being released could cause your body to have a different response. After doing this activity I differently find it something that is very interesting that I would like to look more into and gain more knowledge about.