Saturday, May 5, 2012

Submissive Men vs. Drag Queens


A quote from Andy Warhol:

"Drag queens are living testimony to the way women used to want to be, the way some people still want them to be, and the way some women still actually want to be.  Drags are ambulatory archives of ideal moviestar womanhood.  They perform a documentary service, usually consecrating their lives to keeping the glittering alternative alive and available for not-too-close inspection. ... I'm fascinated by boys who spend their lives trying to be complete girls, because they have to work so hard -- doubletime -- getting rid of all the tell-tale male signs and drawing in all the female signs.  I'm not saying it's the right thing to do, I'm not saying it's a good idea, I'm not saying it's not self-defeating and self-destructive, and I'm not saying it's not possibly the single most absurd thing a man can do with his life.  What I'm saying is, it is very hard work.  You can't take that away from them.  It's hard work to look like the complete opposite of what nature made you and then to be an imitation woman of what was only a fantasy woman in the first place.  When they took the movie stars and stuck them in the kitchen, they weren't stars any more -- they were just like you and me.  Drag queens are reminders that some stars still aren't just like you and me."   

Warhol was a condescending fucking asshole, but he had a point (not about the self-defeating, self-destructive part).  Drag queens were and are stewards of the female archetype.  As are Dominatrices, which is why submissive men are drawn to us.  Look at almost any Dominatrice's website:  the nurse, the schoolteacher, the femme fatale, the equestrian.  The list goes on.  Drag queens express femininity in much the same way.  Their focus is more on hollywood glamour for the most part, but the notion of playing a character remains.

Something really funny about straight men is that they get really uncomfortable around drag queens.  You might be thinking to yourself, "Not me! All my best friends are drag queens!"  To which I say, calm down, Princess.  I'm not trying to attack anyone.  It's just an interesting phenomenon-- which I was reminded of at a friend's brunch a few weeks ago.  We had RuPaul's Drag Race playing in the background, and were commenting and screeching at it like any normal people would do :), when one submissive man (who until then I had thought was very open-minded-- and trust me, he should be) was totally flummoxed.  He balked.  He couldn't believe that they were embarrassing themselves like this...  blah blah blah.  I tried to explain how important I think drag culture is, but discovered he could not understand.  Or didn't want to... Well, shit, man.  That's so fucking lame.  And so fucking banal.  Oh really?  You're a straight white dude who doesn't want to understand where a stigmatized group of people are coming from?  Really?  Surprise.  But it's especially disheartening to me coming from a submissive guy, because I expect them to be smarter and more enlightened than the average Joe.  By virtue of being stigmatized!!  I see this discomfort over and over again at every drag performance I attend.  The drag queens must see it too, or else they wouldn't take the men up on stage to perform simulated sex acts.  The men with their girlfriends immediately seem out of their element.  And I don't think it's just because they know they're going to get made fun of.  They're going to be prey.  Perhaps it's the first time they feel sexually vulnerable.  I think most women have the experience of being around large groups of men and know they are being evaluated for their potential sexual whathaveyou.  Men come to drag shows having never had this experience and their anxiety is palpable.  They don’t know how to handle it.  It's funny to see, actually.

But it also pisses me off.  I'm sure there are a shit ton of cisgender female Dommes who are weirded out by drag queens.  I don't mean to imply this is purely a sub or purely a guy thing.  However, I don't think we realize how much we resemble drag culture not only in terms of powerful feminine archetypes, but also in terms of stigmatization re: being seen as scary or fucked up, or essentially leper-like untouchables.  There is a cultural idea that there is something psychologically “gone wrong” with kinky people, which we all know is simply not true.  Or more precisely, it’s an oversimplification of a world where fear or the threat of fear plays a strong role.  Drag culture is no different in these ways.  Gender fucking is scary to people.  Even Warhol saw it as pathological.  (He was one to talk!)

So this fear or rejection of people who fuck with gender is similar to a fear many express toward those with alternative sexualities.  Or as I like to call us- sexuality fuckers.  Until I think of something with fewer syllables...  Fuck fuckers would be funny, but alas, a bit redundant.

Not familiar with drag culture?  Watch the definitive documentary for free, here (it’s a little over an hour, and incredibly fascinating):

Paris Is Burning


ThatGuy said...

So I'm going to guess I'm the guy in question.

Perhaps I should explain further:

Ok, You know what bothers me about the limited time I spent watching Drag Race? It's the same thing that bothers me about the Real Housewives of who-gives-a-fuck, or Jersey Shore, or just about any reality show.
You know what I say to myself when I see any of these? "Why would they embarass themselves like that?"
It's like the producers are going out of their way to put a bunch of people in the room who are guaranteed to be laughed at.
And I was in that room with you, people weren't laughing with the contestants, they were laughing at them. When the heavyset contestant was put on a spinning turntable while being sprayed with paint and eventually fell down the whole room was in tears with laughter. But I felt bad for her. The people in the room seemed to have no empathy for her and I was wondering why she'd put herself in that position to begin with. I would have said the same thing if it was a heavyset guy or ____ bodytype and ___ gender. It's embarassing.
Now I could make arguments about why others may be offended by drag culture but I'm in no position to be offended by it.
Also I love Drag Culture, I love that it's there and I love that it's getting more popular. Do I understand everything about Drag Culture? Nope but I don't understand most of my own culture so it works out.
Thankfully there are poeple like you out there who are willing to educate….Just please don't try and teach me using a reality show.

admin said...

I didn't know you read my blog, thanks!

Perhaps I took your reaction out of context to prove my point a little bit further, and I apologize if that hurt your feelings. It's pretty clear that we each experienced two completely different things in that room. I get that you were bewildered by the queens doing so-called embarrassing things. But I also don't think they were doing embarrassing things. I think they were doing drop dead fierce and amaaazingly campy things, which are funny. I think it is charming that you felt bad for them, but I don't think they felt bad or embarrassed. That is what's so great about the spirit of the whole thing. There can't be room for embarrassment, because part of the fun is being ridiculous. Not all of it, but some. I see it as being empowering and even groundbreaking. What other pageant-type show allows people who are "heavyset" to even step into the casting room? I can't speak for what other people were laughing at, but I have a hunch that it was not for the reasons you may have perceived.

I don't need to teach anyone a lesson, but I do find the similarities between drag culture and kink to be stronger than people may realize.

ThatGuy said...

Clearly my lack of exposure to that scene didn't prepare me for what I saw:)

You didn't hurt my feelings, You gave me and your readers lots to think about.

And of course I read this blog! I have nothing but the finest of blogs among my RSS feed.

admin said...

You are a sweet, sweet man. xoxo.

Poodlekin said...

Hey Mistress V!

Long time reader - first time poster!!! As a lifelong crossdresser who enjoys the freedom to be fluid and occasionally exercise that freedom in public, I have found much of what you said to be true - men will slot almost always in one of two categories; the freaked out or the curious / turned-on. While the aforementioned are perhaps victims of a lifetime of gender programming, I find the second category to also warrant further investigation. As you quite correctly noted in your intro paragraph, drag queens and cross dressers for the most part emphasize and embody an ultra-feminine visual archetype and with the wider choice of clothing options open to women these days (both stereotypically female and male - trousers, etc), this visual is perhaps only exercised by drag queens in 2012. I will admit that jeans and sneakers are a more comfortable option but let's be real - (straight) men are attracted to the female visage - perhaps there is a crossover in the balking / turned-on category? I would imagine so. Women hide your hetero men from the queens!

That said - I doubt there is any man who you might see in public en femme who hasn't gone through many stages of self-acceptance, tentative public exposure and revelry in their gender defiance. Drag queens therefore would be quite prepared with their reading glasses on to deal with the predictable lampooning some less enlightened onlookers might throw their way. As a fierce queen once said "It takes a real man to be a woman".


admin said...

Hey Poodlekins!

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments!

It is an interesting point you make about the "cross"over (heh) between balkers and the turned-on(ers). Whenever someone makes a scene by balking at anything, I always tend to think it is because they are titillated by the subject. "The lady doth protest too much", as they say. This would probably explain the hetero male fascination with jokes about taking a guy en femme home by mistake. They are a staple part of any comedy routine, and I can only think it's because it makes their little wee-wee's tingle.

I agree that a lot of drag queens probably are very aware of this balking/turned-on phenomenon, which is why I'm sure they target the straight men in the room at shows. They totally take advantage of the fact that the men will feel this peer pressure to perform for their peers, even if it's a simulation of a really nasty sex act. Lucky Cheng's is such an interesting phenomenon. Mostly bachelorette parties and straight people wanting to be embarrassed by lady boys. It would be charming if the reality wasn't so obnoxious.

Walking in heels, putting on makeup, making sure your hose don't run, looking sickening, and doing it all with poise is fucking hard work. I can barely do it for one hour, let alone 4 or 5. It certainly takes a certain kind of strength.