Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex

Posted by – November 27, 2005

Betty and I spent Thanskgiving Day at my sister and her husband’s house – a place we frequent on a regular basis. I like to joke that our standard of living is brought up significantly by dinners at her place: good food, plentiful wine, deep sofas & a fireplace. It’s lovely.

She had a ridiculous amount of people over for Thanksgiving Day itself: a couple in from SF, CA with their two small children; a couple from DC with their dog; a friend from Tucson and three of his friends; us; them; her acupuncturist & old friend, and another old friend with his friend. I think it was 16, or 18, all told. Which is lovely: being from a big family it just feels right to me to sit at a very long dinner table. My sister’s husband, who’d taken the foot of the table, actually called my sister at the head of it twice during dinner as she otherwise couldn’t hear what he was asking. Amusing.

At some point when people had had a bit to drink, one of the friends of friends kind of plopped herself next to me and Betty on the couch. I knew what was coming. We’d met her before, at a previous party, and she had asked a lot of questions, then, too. I think I even wrote about that incident, when I just got tired of it & kind of ‘ran away’ on some trumped-up excuse.

“So, when you two make love…” she started. She did add the “if you don’t want to answer that’s okay” caveat, but still: not fun. And I realized tonight what’s not-fun about it to me – and that’s the assumption that 1) because we ‘look different’ from others we have some kind of outlandish sex life, 2) that because we look different people actually have the right to ask us about our sex life, and 3) that it was quite possible that any other couple at the dinner had a far kinkier sex life than we do.

At some point, I just returned her “So when you two have sex…” question with “Well how do you two have sex?” The thing is, these questions never get asked in a kind of ‘I’m curious’ way but in a “I’m so normal and you’re so not” kind of way. The funny thing about it was that her husband and she did not strike me as totally normally gendered: she came off as kind of aggressive, bulldog-ish, and he seemed kind of sweet and passive.

I always find it kind of funny that people are so willing to present themselves – to me, of all people – as somehow “normally gendered.” Because if anyone’s going to see anything genderqueer about anyone, I’m a safe bet. I’ll find the residue of an inkling, if it’s there. I’m thinking sometimes I should come with some kind of warning label: Abandon gender certainty, all ye who converse here.

4 Comments on Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex

  1. jadecath says:

    Interesting… I can’t help but wonder what exactly drives such curiosity. Some sort of grass-is-greener envy seems like the obvious guess. “UGH I am so BORED with our sex. HEY… now there’s someone who must not be bored…”

    I didn’t realize that you and Betty “look different” at a family gathering. Was she there as Betty? Or does Betty look that androgynous in guy-form? I get “ma’am” almost as much as “sir”, yet once people have gotten past that, they look at us as a standard straight couple. (Or is it simply that she’d read your book?)

    Anyway, mine and I never get this – but we’re so openly demonstrative of affection in front of our friends that asking for *more* information about our sex life is absolutely the last thing any of them would want to do. :)

  2. helenboyd says:

    betty is betty at my family’s gathering, not hers. to answer your question.

    i swear sometimes it’s that weird lipstick lesbian thing that gets them going. because we continue to be affectionate in public, especially at a private gathering where folks know us. i mean, it was my sister’s place, after all.

  3. jadecath says:

    I see. Kudos to you and your family for courage all around! (Come to think of it, my in-laws will spend time with me as a woman, while my original family won’t. I wonder if that’s always the pattern.)

    You’re probably right. For every pair of femme lesbians, there are a dozen straight people wandering around wishing they could watch a pair of femme lesbians.

    Now that I think about it, I’ve seen “standard” gay people make similar complaints. Straight people often seem to think that there’s something inherently erotically charged about anything that’s both sexual and unusual. I mean, the euphemism “exotic dancers” works so well because “exotic” -is- “erotic” in most minds.

    Of course, the real question is not whether your sex life is sexy, but whether it’s available for public consumption. “Our eroticism is for OUR enjoyment… NOT YOURS.”

    And all this probably fuels the reaction among so many TGs to strenuously deny virtually any sexuality… the mainstream mind constantly tries to image us with dollar bills tucked into our cleavage, we react by putting on Blessed Virgin Mary halos…

  4. belledame222 says:

    So how did she react when you turned the question back on her?

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