WTB: Straight Sexuality

The problem with the above video (beyond the response to the name) is the name itself. The player advertised himself as gay. In almost any online space, this can be a headache. One does not have to display their sexuality in their handle in order to receive this treatment though.

When I last took up World of Warcraft, I recall an instance when I was playing my Blood Elf Paladin. Unfortunately, at certain points while grinding through the levels, one comes across some armor for the legs that act as short shorts, which look less than ‘masculine’ on a Blood Elf (who already isn’t winning many points on traditional masculinity).

On the goblin blimp from Undercity to Orgrimmar I had another male Blood Elf toon accost me, starting to call me a faggot and less kind terms. Sighing in real life, I pointed out the logic that his toon was no more masculine seeming than mine.

Appealing to such logic with these people rarely works, however.

When playing an MMO I do not advertise my sexuality. Frankly, it doesn’t concern anyone playing the game. Yet, invariably it comes up in some manner or other, either in an overt discussion or subtle hints that I do not drop.

Yesterday I had one of those ‘Oh, duh’ moments while reading David Coad’s The Metrosexual: Gender, Sexuality, and Sport (due to its cover, I’m very self conscious while reading this in public–though largely because his nipple seems so obscene and photoshopped). I picked it up from the feminist book store up the street from my apartment because I thought I would see if: I could find any parallels to either game characters we see and how we sexualize them and/or explanations for how males react to the competitive aspects of gaming. I have yet to read past the first chapter (I cracked its spine yesterday), but within his introduction Coad makes a statement that is very simple and has always been at the back of my mind, yet which I never vocalized.

One of the reasons I out myself when I play in an online space is because I do not assert my heterosexuality. There are no comments about a girlfriend or which females I may find sexually desirable. There are no cues in which I assert that yes, I am a straight male not associated with homosexuality at all. Coad’s particular argument is on the sexualization of our athletes and how to not have a girlfriend, wife, female lover or not to brag about one’s prowess in some manner is to open up the problem of a homosocial environment–here there be queers.

It’s quite a leap to assume that a homosocial bond will always produce homosexual acts. However, hardcore gaming (including the realm of MMOs) is still considered a ‘man’s’ sport. Despite the fact that I probably know more females playing the big MMOs than I do males (personal anecdotes do not a statistic make), perception is one of those things that can be difficult to change.

The other way in which I out myself in online spaces is a refusal to ‘correct the insult’ that I am queer. Yes, it would save me a lot of headache. Yes, I am asking for further idiotic comments when I defend myself. No, I do not see compromising for the sake of it.

I do enjoy my mother’s response to the ‘that’s so gay’ comments she comes across in MMOs (yet another way in which I happen to illustrate my not-so-straight tendencies), “My son is gay and I would appreciate if you didn’t make such idiotic statements.”


About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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8 Responses to WTB: Straight Sexuality

  1. I’m a heterosexual gamer but I’ve been on the receiving end of homophobic comments in games. Nothing as bad as in the video, fortunately. I tend to just ignore them but its interesting reading you post as in a way I’ve potentially been “outing” myself because I generally don’t engage in the typical talk about girlfriends or which famous women I’d like to sleep with, and I don’t jump to pronounce my straightness when branded as “a faggot”. Though this is likely a combination of being single and some natural English reserve.Something that did concern me though was that despite, this I’m still somewhat conditioned to consider gaming as a traditionally masculine pastime. To the extent that I was actually surprised to find an openly gay video game blogger.My reaction seemed strange and worrying. I’ve had long conversations with a gay co-worker about classic films and it never once struck me as strange that he was both gay and a film enthusiast; yet a gay gamer did seem somehow unusual.

  2. Denis Farr says:

    Justin, the question then becomes whether or not outing one’s self as a ‘gaymer’ denigrates one’s masculinity in any way. When I tried Age of Conan, I tried joining a gay guild (something I plan on posting about next), and many of my guild mates were much more masculine than the straight male friends I have in real life. While some of it, I’m sure, was merely posturing, it does probably speak to the other problem you had.If a ‘gaymer’ doesn’t out himself as such, does it even cause a concern? Otherwise he is just a gamer, like anyone else. Unfortunately, in presenting myself as a queer gamer, I’m doing something I would try not to do in other online gaming spheres (willingly). I would probably also point out that it is socially acceptable to be a classic film enthusiast and gay in our culture, if not expected to some degree.However, entire communities, such as found over at gaygamer.net, show that there is a strong presence of queer folk in the gaming communities. Much like in real life, however, the question becomes whether it would be worth the possible ostracizing and ridicule that present themselves in some environments.

  3. I’d never really equated a lack of masculinity with homosexuality. I think maybe it’s because I’ve never really considered myself particularly masculine.Yet obviously I’ve somehow been culturally conditioned to consider gaming to be a “straight white male” pursuit and I don’t think I ever realised how much so until recently.Sexual orientation is usually of no concern to me, yet it was in this instance which I found unusually and frankly unpleasant. It was as if I’d discovered some latently homophobia restricted solely to the field of gaming. It got me thinking, if I don’t equate myself with being particularly masculine but still consider myself a gamer, why does there seem to be something about gaming and gaming culture that leads me to perceive it as the domain of heterosexual males? When clearly that’s not the case, and likely never has been.Could it be because, regardless of how I see myself, games generally require me to portray certain traditionally masculine tendencies, aggression, detachment, ambition?

  4. Denis Farr says:

    Coad’s actually also covers this relatively early, though using sports as the example.Somehow, homosexuality can often be seen as passivity. Or, in the case of straight males who may be ‘metrosexuals’ or ‘dandies,’ there is a fear that there is an enjoyment in being watched, or becoming an object–which falls into the role of non-heterosexual. This is in line with Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” in which she explains the traditional role of the female in a film is as a passive object to be consumed by the male gaze–therefore to become an object would be to adopt feminine qualities (or lack of aggressiveness and ambition, as you illustrated).If a male gazes at another male who enjoys being an object in some fashion, he thereby gains a passive, feminine label, something not particularly desirable in gaming. The connection being that unconsciously, it is often assumed that gay males fall into the metrosexual role, and without having the visual cues to distinguish this in an online space, stereotypes or preconceived notions could easily come to mind.Therefore, traits such as aggressiveness, competition, and such are still considered largely ‘straight’ male tendencies.The other aspect is the social one, I would guess. I know that I myself grew quite close with my gaming group in college (quite straight with one other exception), and there was definitely a homosocial atmosphere present (all male college). Much like in any such atmosphere, it can be difficult to perceive of a new presence in that, whether or not it has any direct bearing in interaction with said person.I suppose a question I would have for you is what you found unpleasant? I’m not exactly sure where to place your discomfort.

  5. I’d always felt that sexual orientation was of no concern to me. I like to think I honestly don’t care about somebody’s race, religion or sexuality. So to find out there was an area in which I actually felt being gay was unusual or shocking was disconcerting. Especially as it was with regards to an area I care passionately about, gaming.I’d suddenly discovered I was prejudice and hadn’t realised before. Not a pleasant experience really.That got me thinking about what it was about gaming in particular that had caused me to find the idea of a “gaymer” so strange.

  6. Denis Farr says:

    It is encouraging that you are willing to see and think about it, however.

  7. Corvus says:

    Justin, be aware that we all have a great many social messages echoing about in our heads. These are looking glass reflections of prevalent themes in our culture, such as stereotyping people and past times based on gender, race, and socioeconomic class.So if you register surprise when meeting a gay gamer for the first time, it is not necessarily a negative reflection of yourself. As long as you do not act upon that societal echo in a harmful and exclusionary manner, you’re doing all right I feel. You appear to be a thoughtful person, which is awesome.I have also been the target of a great many hostile accusations regarding my sexuality. I do not present myself in a typically masculine fashion and I’m utterly unconcerned with people’s impressions or suspicions in regards to my orientation. I am disarmingly willing to recognize, and respectfully comment on, an attractive man as I am an attractive woman–which is to say, not very likely at all. My impressions of someone’s physical appearance aren’t terribly relevant to anyone but me.I am flattered when someone, of either gender, finds me attractive or flirts with me–unless they feel I somehow owe them something for being attracted. Believe it or not, I have been on the receiving end of both men and women’s affections who believe I am somehow responsible for them.Having lived in central Texas, I have been personally exposed to more ugly hatred and homophobia than I have ever experienced in an MMO. I still find it shocking when it happens, digitally or in reality.This comment is mostly just a grab bag of impressions and thoughts I had in response to your post, so I don’t have any sort of coherent closing statement.Guess I’ll just stop typing.

  8. Denis Farr says:

    It is curious, but I feel that expectation from being complimented also filters into the gaming space, which is extremely odd to me. I somehow do not attribute peoples’ avatars to their personal self.Ah well.

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