Before anything else, trust me: I’m a fan of tender, twee gay love stories. Full disclosure: I was rooting for Cardcaptor Sakura’s not-so-secret token teen gay couple Yukito and Touya (we used to wait for Touya to furtively stare at Yukito, electrified every time we’d catch it), and I thought Love Simon was vomit-butterflies-and-rainbows sweet. The Half of It gave me flashbacks of the awkwardness and uncertainty of young love.
Give me all the cuddly, saccharine delights of a nicely-written romantic show with two queer people: I’m here for it.
But after watching the latest season of “Sex Education” though, I am convinced: we should definitely have more queer sex too. Pure, raw, queer sex.
I demand that mainstream media give us more moments like the flamboyant Eric Effiong negotiating sexual positions with his boyfriend Adam Groff (spoiler alert: Adam apparently is a bottom, which he confesses to Eric to clear the confusion. Eric thought that the reason Adam doesn’t want to do penetrative sex was that he still was ambivalent and ashamed about being gay.)
Or maybe something like the series’ other gay student Anwar confiding his anxiety of dying from AIDS to a sexual health counselor, who promptly educates him that PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medication now exists to help prevent HIV infection, and that antiretrovirals these days actually guarantee a long life for PLHIVs.
I wish for more scenes like that of young lesbians Lily and Ola role-playing in bed, exploring each other’s fantasies, not to satisfy the male gaze, but to revel in all its messy, fun, female glory.
I think sex doesn’t necessarily have to be a destination one reaches within the relationship, but a journey pursued for the sheer pleasure of traveling.
Over dinner here in London a few months ago, my friend Ana shared to me and my partner how surprised she was when a local asked her out on a date with no strings attached:
“When they said they wanted to have coffee, they meant that—they really just wanted to have coffee.”
My partner mused, “That’s because people here have no hang-ups when it comes to sex. They could easily get it, so there’s no point lying about their intentions. A coffee date is a coffee date. Hookups are hookups.”
I’m not sure how true my partner’s observation is, since I haven’t really experienced dating here. (Not complaining.) But it made me think of how dating, as a young gay man in the Philippines, was awkward and riddled with shame.
Everyone on Grindr is faceless and discreet, and there’s a general discomfort talking about sex beyond alter Twitter and other queer online spaces (even discussing your sexual history with the STD counselor or doctor can make people squirm.)
But tales of queer romance? LGBT+ Filipinos are in love with that. BL series have become immensely popular during this pandemic: the popularity of Gameboys, Gaya sa Pelikula, and Hello Stranger reveal that there’s a hunger for queer love stories.
The light-heartedness of BL is a welcome change from fictional depictions of queer relationships often set within a milieu of fear and discrimination. Showing us as either self-destructive, repressed, or depressed (think Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Baka Bukas, Mamu; And a Mother Too) can romanticize tragedies too much, convincing us that it’s not real love unless it’s doomed.
What if we try focusing on how normal queer sex is, instead? Maybe that will allow us to have more honest, less cringy conversations around our bodies and our desires. We would no longer be like children in the playground giggling for saying “titi” or “pekpek”, as if uttering body parts out loud would deduct salvation brownie points.
When I was younger, my mother found out I was dating a boy, and she scolded me: “Anong gagawin nyo, mage-espadahan?” Up to now people still use that as a joke to shame gay people, as if it was something unnatural. Cis-het people are so absurd for policing queer sex, which frankly says a lot about their own sex lives.
It took me a lot of unlearning to accept that there’s nothing wrong with queer sex. My pleasure is not unnatural, and no one has the right to shame me.
As historian and professor Yuval Noah Harari argues:
“Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behavior, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition. No culture has ever bothered to forbid men to photosynthesize, women to run faster than the speed of light, or negatively charged electrons to be attracted to each other.
Mouths, for example, appeared because the earliest multicellular organisms needed a way to take nutrients into their bodies. We still use mouths for that purpose, but we also use them to kiss, speak, and we if are Rambo, to pull the pins out of hand grenades. Are any of these uses unnatural simply because our worm-like ancestors 600 million years ago didn’t do those things with their mouths?”
So yes, show me queer sex. Tell me stories of mutually-consenting queer people doing things with their bodies. I want it within and outside the confines of relationships, pursued for the sake of pleasure. I hope every queer and non-queer person can see that there’s no shame in enjoying our bodies safely and consensually.
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