A lot of older, more personally conservative men of acquaintance seem to be really sicked out by gay marriage. It’s not so much moral outrage as just plain old ewwwwww. If I talk to them a little bit more, I inevitably discover that it’s not gay marriage that concerns them nearly so much as gay sex. If I press on conversationally–which I almost never have the stomach to do but sometimes do anyway– it inevitably comes out that the thing they really hate is the idea of gay men wanting to have sex with them.

At this point I become tempted to mention that chubby middle aged white men wearing high white socks and white New Balance sneakers are, generally speaking, no more prized as objects of sexual desire among gay men than they are among straight women. That does not seem helpful, though, so I do not.

I have a certain kind of very limited sympathy for this disgust. My mother has always pointed out when men are looking at me in public. I don’t know what she wants me to do about it: wear a burlap sack? mace them? give them my phone number? I would give one hundred dollars for her to stop this horrible habit. When I was younger, I would’ve given much more. I remember being thirteen or fourteen or fifteen and aware of my sexual self and simultaneously aware of everyone else. I remember being genuinely unnerved that people I didn’t know or people I did were thinking about my boobs. I remember worrying that this boy named Caleb, who seemed a bit of a chronic masturbator to even my naive teenage self and sat next to me in social studies, thought about having sex with me because I would never in one million years think about having sex with him. I remember being a little bit scared by uninvited male attention and being even more disgusted.

I’ve since realized that guys–and people generally–don’t pay nearly as much attention to me as it felt like they did then. Adolescents have a charming habit of fancying themselves the center of everything. And, on the occasions it actually happens, being objectified bothers me rather less than it used to. Sometimes it’s funny.

I run a lot. I run mostly on trails these days, but I used to run on streets almost everyday. People scream dumb shit out car windows at runners. I’m tempted here, despite my deeply-held belief that women’s dress ought not affect the measure of respect afforded them, to mention I am not a jog bra and shorts wearer. I’m more of a capris and a tank girl. Anyway.

People scream stuff as they drive past. Sometimes it’s “run Forrest run.” And sometimes it’s gross. And sometimes they slow their cars waaaaaay down and try to strike up a conversation about the efficacy of sports bras or something similarly welcome as a conversational topic. You’re out there, and there are people around. You’re pretty sure you could run someplace safer than the corner of Main and Campbell before they could make it out of their car or you could jam your keys into their eye socket and really enjoy it before they could grab your arm. And you’re also pretty sure that these people are simply assholes and not the sort to drag you into their car in broad daylight and rape you. You’re calm and prepared, and you’re not even really properly afraid. But there’s still this small animal part of you that’s panting a little and shaking in preparation for a Worst Case Scenario. I fucking hate that shit.

So as these middle aged white dudes hem and haw around their fears of being objectified by gay men, I sort of feel where they’re coming from. I get their concern. I get that it’s icky to think about people you don’t like doing things to your body that you like even less. I get feeling afraid. Because objectification can totally suck.

And then I get so impatient I could just punch something.

These are the feelings that you should use for empathy and not as an excuse to deprive other people of basic civil rights. Try defending rape victims when other middle aged white guys say they were asking for it by wearing that skirt or walking down that street. Try telling your buddies to shut up when they say lewd things to waitresses. Try treating people respectfully regardless of what their appearance seems to suggest.

So. There we go. Gay marriage. Let’s do it. Objectifying people of either gender? Let’s not.

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