It ain’t what you do…

Suddenly it seems everyone has an opinion on anal play, after Amber Rose used a liking for it to attempt to embarrass Kayne West. Karen Pollock explores the idea that sexuality is defined by sex acts.


As a therapist who works with members of the gender and sexually diverse communities I have heard a number of variations on the “Does X mean that I am Y”. Sometimes from clients, sometimes sadly from other therapists and professionals. The pathologization of GSD identities, and within that of LGBTQ+ identities, means that some kind of causal link is often hunted for. A perverse form of Sir Gawain rides out seeking to find the holy grail which pins someone’s  gender, sexuality, or both on one specific thing. Its part of our narrative around mining the childhoods of LGBTQ+ people, seeking for poor parenting, an over protective mother, a distant father, so we can shout; “Aha! X happened and this is why you are who you are.”

A good example of the kind of pathologization I mean is found in an event being hosted for therapists, linked to here. Whilst sadism and masochism do have specific Freudian meanings, to attempt to treat them (in consensual BDSM play) as aberrations pointing at some deep seated issues which need resolving comes from the dark ages of talking therapies. Saying that an individual exploring S&M is enacting “perversions” which are expressions of anxiety is reducing the complexity of human sexuality to “Does X make me Y?”

A perverse form of Sir Gawain rides out seeking to find the holy grail which pins someone’s  gender, sexuality, or both on, one specific act or event. Its part of our narrative around mining the childhoods of LGBTQ+ people, seeking for poor parenting, an over protective mother, a distant father, so we can shout; “Aha! X happened and this is why you are who you are.”

A far wider example of the search for causal correlations exploded onto my twitter timeline last night,with this tweet.

There is a history here, one I will openly confess I am not familiar with. As with many couples who have split up it seems there has been a social media war going on. This is not a battlefield limited to celebrities. Posting pictures of how wonderful the new partner is, knowing the ex will see them, curating your social media so everyone knows just how fabulous your life now is, these are the weapons of choice as many relationships break down. Revealing the sexual history, or preferences of a previous partner might be compared to Defcon 1 of this battle. Whether it be the kind of intimate detail Amber Rose tweeted, or the use of filmed intimate material (often called revenge porn) to humiliate and embarrass its a sign that no topic will be considered off limits.

The reaction to the tweet was perhaps predictable. As Lee Willscroft -Ferris discussed here there is still a strong current of disgust and shaming around certain sex acts, particularly those associated with men who have sex with men. As far as I know, Kayne is not a gay man, but the the world still indulged in an orgy of “X means Y” as a quick glance at the responses to the original tweet will show.

For anyone who is confused, liking anal play, rimming, pegging, or anal sex does not make someone gay. Someone is not gay because they enjoy a finger up their arse. It seems incredible to me that this needs to be said in the twenty first century. Perhaps however it needs to be said because the LGBTQ+ community so often reverts to if X then Y. For example I have seen many cases of people insisting that men who identify as straight, who have sex with other men, must therefore be gay or bisexual.

It doesn’t work like that, and as a community we need to be better here.

For anyone who is confused, liking anal play, rimming, pegging, or anal sex does not make someone gay. Someone is not gay because they enjoy a finger up their arse.

Who you have sex with, or sexual contact with, does not indicate your sexuality, except in the way you want it to indicate your sexuality. Any other construction means we deny an identity to bisexual people, asexual people, sex workers, and a whole host of other people. I know gay men (not clients) who like giving oral to women, I know asexual people (not clients) who define as lesbians, I know bisexual men (not clients) who have never had anal sex. Sex acts do not a sexuality make!

I wonder if the shock horror its a penis/vulva videos discussed here are a part of the idea that it is sex acts which have primacy. So many LGBTQ+ people who demonstrate against home office rules forcing refugees to “prove” their sexuality, then go on to share videos where people prove their sexuality by being disgusted by a vulva or penis. I am gay because I hate a set of genitals may be one persons experience, it is not a way to define a groups sexuality.

I have no idea why Amber Rose tweeted what she did. It did seem designed to feed homophobic tropes and emasculate West. In the exceptionally unlikely event that a pair of multi millionaires decided to contract with me for couple counselling (£50 a session, can you ask the paparazzi to stay off the snowdrops) my first suggestion would be that they both stay off social media for at least a month. I do not need to know the history, or the motivations of Amber Rose to look at how the tweet was received. Yes, many responses were homophobic, but whilst so many LGBTQ+ people perpetuate the idea that sexuality is bound up with performed acts, is it any surprise that is how society as a whole responds?

You can follow Karen Pollock on Twitter @CounsellingKaz

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