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The Cis-Heterosexual Community’s Obsession with Queer Sex Has a Name: Sexual Harassment

Before I was old enough to dress myself, I became a victim of sexual harassment. I have many assailants — my father, aunts, uncles, cousins, cis-heterosexual friends, strangers, and past employers. This list becomes longer every day.

I’m not alone. Queer people are sexually harassed on a daily basis. We are sexually harassed at family dinners, at work, at doctor visits, even in our own homes. However, we seldom acknowledge our victimhood — partly because it is ingrained in our day-to-day lives, mostly because no one has placed that label on our experiences.

Before Lin Farley coined the term “sexual harassment” in August 1975, it was a nameless disease that spread widely, disproportionately impacting women in professional and social environments. But names are essential to pharmaceutical scientists when discovering cures for many diseases.

Farley first used the phrase in public during a hearing on women in the workplace by the New York City Human Rights Commission, where she testified as a professor at Cornell University. In an op-ed for the New York Times, she reflected on how giving a name to sexual harassment helped millions of working women come forward with their own experiences and demand change. “The enthusiasm with which women embraced the idea of sexual harassment indicated an intense desire to change conditions for themselves at work; our new vocabulary would help,” she wrote.

“Sexual harassment” means different things to everyone who experiences it. Sexual harassment constitutes unsolicited sexual advances, physical or verbal remarks of a sexual nature, and sexual coercion. For queer people, sexual harassment is also obscene remarks or uncomfortable questions about our sexual identities.

At eight-years-old, one of my aunts accused me of being “butt raped” because I wasn’t “manly” enough. Each time she got around me, she would exaggerate the dangers of anal sex and ask me if I still had my “butthole virginity.” This is a form of sexual harassment.

At 14, my father became obsessed with my sexuality. He wanted me to have sex with a prostitute to prove my interest in women. When I declined, he asked me if I was gay. Too afraid to tell him about my queer identity, I lied; lying gave him the opportunity to try and coerce me into having sex with a woman while he watched. This is sexual harassment.

At 19, another one of my aunts helped me get a job at an after-school program as a tutor. After two weeks of working with her, she made up detailed rumors about catching me and my cis-heterosexual male co-worker having anal sex in front of six and seven-year-old children. These lies continued until my coworker and I were separated into different groups. This is sexual harassment.

Being forced to explain one’s sexual identity or how they engage in queer sex is sexual harassment. Refusing to place a label on this behavior from our cis-heterosexual counterparts enables the furtherance of this behavior.

In an interview for Vice, queer people weighed in on the most uncomfortable questions cis-heterosexual people have asked them. Tayte Hanson, a photographer and adult film star, said, “Most gay men are hypersensitive to superficial questions, like sexual preferences, or if I feel feminine when I’m bottoming. I don’t have a problem with those—porn has hardened me.” While Hanson makes light of this question, he failed to acknowledge that he is often sexually harassed by cis-heterosexual people and that he is used to it.

In the same interview, Sarah Meyer, a multidisciplinary artist, said, “My therapist once asked how women have sex with one another. Like: What? Where is your imagination? Why should I help you use it?” While Meyer made light of the question, she, too, failed to acknowledge that she was sexually harassed during a session of therapy that she paid for.

This is not uncommon; we don’t acknowledge questions like this as sexual harassment because we are conditioned to believe that our identities are too complex for cis-hetero comprehension. This is the same thing as the general public defending the false sense of entitlement a man has over a woman’s body.

Queer people must hold the cis-heterosexual community and one another accountable for their weird and dangerous obsession with our identities. To do that, we have to give their obsession a name. That name is sexual harassment. While we continue to call people out for sexual misconduct in our own community, we must do the same to the cis-heterosexual community.

Image via Getty


Arkee E.

Arkee E. is a writer based in the Bronx.

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