It’s a quandary.
You know how some people never seem to know their own mind? Those weak-willed people who don’t stand for anything? That doesn’t remotely describe me. I’m a hard-headed, opinionated Aries, not known for shilly-shallying. That’s not to say I’m especially dogmatic – I can roll with the punches, and permit other people a lot of leeway in their actions and beliefs. But I’m not often as emotionally conflicted as I have been since seeing the advertisement for an upcoming event.
While my husband and I have been together for over 22 years, and we are very happily married, ours is an open relationship. Since I moved to the Palm Springs area three months ago, and haven’t seen my husband in the flesh since then (although we talk on the phone every day), of necessity I have found other avenues to satisfy my sexual needs.
The primary venue, Cathedral City Boys Club (in all honesty, most who visit left “boyhood” behind many years ago), is a motel (offering day passes) that encompasses a large outdoor facility where gay and bisexual men can enjoy the sun – and one another – with relative abandon. I like CCBC very much, and since moving here, I have frequented it most Wednesdays (discount day). As a result of my patronage, I regularly receive e-mails from them advertising future events. Some would be to my liking; others, not so much. But no advertised event has disturbed me as much as one scheduled for April. And I still don’t quite know what to make of it.
Here’s the gist of the ad:
Total Action Audition Party Weekend
$100/person – RSVP
You must send your picture, stats, city and name or bring to event.
Door Policy: Masculine Athletic Slim Men
36” waist and below
We reserve the right to refuse entry to those who are not masculine, slim or fit.
My initial reflexive response was disgust, followed by irritation. Who wants to discriminate against gay men in this manner? (Other gay men? And, if so, why?) Is this a way of intimating that men whose waistline exceeds 36” are somehow insufficiently attractive? Who decided 36” is the cutoff, and why? (If this event has a 36” waist policy, what’s to say the next event won’t be 34”? 32”? What might men do to their bodies to fit in?) Gay and bisexual men already have significantly more body image issues (such as anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder) than straight men – won’t this sort of policy only add to that? Was I particularly irritated because I would not qualify to attend? Why do two “extra” inches around my waist make me ineligible to participate? What kind of unevolved gay men would choose to participate in this type of event?
Even more challenging, who gets to decide who is sufficiently “Masculine”? “Athletic”? “Slim”? “Fit”? How would he/they make such determinations? Hell, I’m masculine (well, in the way I think the powers-that-be would define it – doesn’t every gay man question his masculinity, to some degree?). I’m certainly athletic (I’ve played competitive tennis for over 35 years, and I’ve been working out regularly three days a week for the past three months). I may not be “slim,” but I think I’m “fit.” And if I met their criteria, would I even want to attend this event? (I don’t have $100 burning a hole in my pocket for a weekend event that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy fully, since I work weekends.) On its face, the Total Action Weekend at CCBC is clearly prejudicial and discriminatory. Maybe I should protest, either by complaining to management, picketing the event, or taking my business elsewhere. I feel so morally superior on top of my high horse!
Then the reflective side of me says, let’s not be rash here –breathe, pause, reflect. Is there another side? After all, this is only one weekend out of an entire year’s events. (The weekend before the Total Action Weekend, CCBC will host an event titled “Chubfest,” so it’s not as if all men are regularly precluded from using the facilities based on their size. I haven’t seen any other CCBC events that specifically exclude a subclass of men.) And don’t like-minded people have the right to assemble peaceably as they choose? Can’t these “masculine athletic slim” men elect to be with their own kind for one weekend? Is the door policy exclusionary, or is it inclusionary for those who meet the criteria? Perhaps the Total Action Weekend promoters are auditioning for adult models (that would be my guess) – don’t they have the right to advertise for a certain “type”? The Total Action Weekend isn’t specifically restricted by age (a smart thing, given the aging population of the Coachella Valley) or race – how discriminatory can it be? Is CCBC itself “discriminatory” because it allows only men? Am I blowing this seemingly isolated event out of proportion? And I don’t want to take my business elsewhere – remember, I like the place. I haven’t heard anyone else complain – perhaps, ardent liberal and feminist that I am, I’m just being overly sensitive.
In the process of writing this article, I have reached a few conclusions:
But there’s still a lot of gray area in my mind regarding this situation. Why do I feel there’s no shortage of options for the relatively small class of “masculine athletic slim” same-sex loving men of means (what events are they told they can’t attend?), and not enough for the rest of us? Doesn’t this have the potential to exacerbate an already uncomfortable divide (what is commonly called “looksism”) within the gay and bisexual men’s community? What does it mean that most of the gay male activists I have known over an almost 30-year “career” wouldn’t qualify to participate in this event? Yet I understand the desire for people to be able to choose their space and their alliances, at least on occasion. (I’ve never complained about women-only facilities, but have been strongly opposed to golf courses that did not accept African-American members. Why one, and not the other?)
What action, if any, do you think I should take? And is your opinion colored (consciously or unconsciously) by the fact that you would or would not be able to attend the event?
By Paul D. Cain
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