The loudest purveyor of love this side of the Atlantic has a tendency to ruffle feathers in her attempts at finding people true romance. And, not to be lost on a heavy news day, Patti Stanger recently grabbed headlines for a few off-color remarks she made on gay dating during Bravo’s Watch What Happens! Live. Now, in her conquest to find love for all, Stanger has become an unabashed friend of gays, advocating gay marriage, and taking on gay dating on her shows regularly. But, whatever the impetus for her ever-so-prescriptive remarks on just how gays should be gay, there’s more than meets the eye.
For brevity’s sake, a quick synopsis: Stanger earned her first strike when a caller from Ohio asked how to be monogamous in a long-distance, open relationship; to which she quickly opined that monogamy doesn’t exist in the gay world. The above is pretty innocuous when you get to the end of the program, when Stanger’s introduced via Skype to a gay man living in Los Angeles. “You’re very handsome and I thought you were straight… So, that’s a compliment!” Stanger interjected.
A smug look on camera from host and fellow gay Andy Cohen served as a litmus test for the swiftly changing mood on set. “Why is being straight a compliment?” Cohen asked. Stanger’s unabashed, yet ill-planned answer isn’t too shocking and not out of line per se — “Because he’s not ‘queeny’,” she replied.
But, alas, in today’s hypermediated world of seeming equality and social egalitarianism, we painstakingly try to ignore those cultural and social anthropological phenomena to which our honky-dory contemporary lives of equality tend to contraindicate. One of these said phenomena — the flagrant need for masculinity in the gay world. Simply put: the more stereotypically gay, the less stereotypically desirable.
The phenomenon exists; and, Stanger appropriately just rehashed the innumerable observations she’s made in trying to facilitate gay love. But, what are the nuts and bolts that drive such an ironic and contradicting phenomenon?
Judith Butler in her seminal work Gender Troubles champions the separation of physiology and the essentialized definitions, categorizations and attributions upon which our physical traits gain meaning or importance. “…When the subject is said to be constituted, that means simply that the subject is a consequence of certain rule-governed discourses that govern the intelligible invocation of identity,” Butler purports. (Butler, Gender Trouble, P. 198)
This is the whole “man-versus-masculine, woman-versus-feminine” debate. In separating these socially essentialized couplings, we’re now allowed to answer a previously disallowed question: What prescribes men to manliness and women to the exact opposite? Society ostensibly creates this essentialized constructions; but, how could such a hegemonic construction of sex and sexuality take the reins of a bona fide anti-dominant sphere?
Arguments abound on the phenomenon. Some see it as gay men reappropriated a certain machismo to which they previously were denied access. Others simply see it as the pervasion of hegemonic social ideologies throughout an anti-dominant sphere. Whether it’s either of those verdicts, or a combination of both, the true misfortune of such a phenomenon lies in its disavowal of its opposite – “queens”, “divas”, “fags”, etc. What’s disparaged as affectation is impugned by what hegemony wants you to believe is natural and innate, yet equally constructed — the manly man.
So, “Who wants a queen?” sums up Stanger’s not-so-well-received remarks on gays in the dating world. And, while the question elicits responses academic and otherwise, the simple reiteration of masculine’s odd reign over gay men poses unique and complicated predicaments for the fast-evolving conception of the male and manliness on the heels of the departure of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the growing acceptance of gays in the mainstream.
Courtesies and Citations:
Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York; London: Routledge.
Photos: Patti Stanger (Left), Kohan/Mutchnick/NBC (Right)
Video: Bravo/NBCUniversal (via YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__yBb7Mv-Zk)