This is a quick post in response to something that has been doing the rounds on social media this week. Link-bait items from Gay Star News regularly show up in my news feed. I call them link bait and perhaps that is a bit unfair – some of the material is very informative and the reports on the politics, health issues and laws affecting queer people are an important resource for many. I call them link-bait because of the aesthetic that the news platform uses. You know the kind – that sub-buzzfeed, short-paragraph style of writing, with a grabby ‘x does x and it is hilarious’ type of headline.
Anyway, the article in question that I wanted to comment on can be found here.
It isn’t a great article – indeed, it pretty much repeats what is written in the original Yelp review – but nevertheless the horror this guy experiences, and the juxtaposition of a straight guy (from San Antonio, USA) ending up in one of Berlin’s most notorious gay sex clubs has helped it gain some traction on social media.
To save you reading the article, the yelp review goes something like this. “Kyle W” met two British guys in a hotel bar in Berlin. They discussed their respective plans for Friday night and Kyle ended up tagging along with them to Berghain, a well-known club in Berlin. Surprise surprise, both the club and his new Friday-night buddies were gay. Kyle then spends the rest of his review expressing the shock, horror and anger he felt as he witnessed “aggressive/disturbing kissing”, “guys dancing all crazy with erections”, drug use, anal sex, fisting, dildo play, mutual masturbation and a variety of other activities. Kyle finishes his review stating that “I can handle a lot of stuff but this place was WAY over the top”
Obviously the joke is that Kyle, this Texan tourist, has ignorantly and naively wandered into this sexual ‘Alex in Wonderland’ and his review betrays his heteronormative prudishness and inability to relax and take it all in – in all senses of the phrase. I do get the joke. I just don’t think it is that funny – and here’s why. Warning #killjoy on the warpath!
Kyle’s Yelp review – a review that is publicly accessible – is littered with violent homophobia. He begins by being offended by two guys kissing – after all, this wasn’t “a little kiss or a peck”, this was “full-on open mouth tongue kissing”. He then considers ‘beating the shit’ out of a ‘Nazi-looking guy’ who offers him drugs, referring to him as a ‘vampire dude’ later on. In fact, when this guy starts masturbating during the ‘slip and slide’ Kyle throws a beer bottle at him. Kyle assures us that he is ‘a pretty nice guy’ and that he innocently offered help when asked by a guy – only to find out that the problem is that this guy has a rubber fist stuck up his ass. Kyle runs out of the club hurling abuse at the doorman – “you sick bastard” – before jumping in a cab and going home.
As has probably being obvious by now, my issue is with the language, the aggression and, yes, the violence, that Kyle exhibits as he encounters various non-normative sexual practices. As someone who isn’t into some of the practices described here, I would also find Berghain’s Friday nights a little outside of my comfort zone. Countless other people would feel the same way. I haven’t got a problem with Kyle struggling to deal with what he sees on his night out. I have a problem with his violence – with the way in which he reports (quite joyfully in my opinion) the aggression he targets at these guys.
And not once does he really question his own position in all of this. Not once does he overcome his heterosexual masculine privelege and think “fuck, I think I’m encroaching on these guys space”. He realises he is in the wrong space – but he conceptualises that space as being wrong – because in fact he could never be wrong. That is why he ends his review by decrying the claim that Berghain is “the world’s coolest club” – because in his world, such things are just plain wrong.
I sound like a killjoy. I am sure that many many people (some of whom I respect a lot) found this article very funny. It *is* funny to think of this juxtaposition. But Kyle’s review (republished on a gay platform with no comment on the virulent homophobia expressed in it) further demonstrates the ongoing hatred and homophobia that pervades Western society.
And, judging by some the comments left underneath the Gay Star article, at least some gay men think it is the fault of these ‘bad queers’:
“The place is actually kinda a Slut who’re house and not clean aids is all over however if your just drinking its not bad”
“I hope this is not true, but alas I am inclined to think it might as well be, I am gay and proud but this kind of degrading behavior is way beyond me, I refuse to judge but can only come to the conclusion that this is why some hateful straight people decry our community, because of the rampant depravity some engage, definitely not for me and to those who are and think like me, make sure to date throughly before entering in relationships….we really don’t know where some of our peers have been and have done, you don’t want that in your lives.”.
“Wow… Just wow. I must be doing gay wrong, because this place sounds like a nightmare. Not even animals behave this way. I hope this isn’t true and more than anything, I hope people don’t consider this behaviour intrinsically homosexual.”
I have been intentionally selective in my reporting of the comments featured. Many commentators point to the fact that this kind of sexual practice is just as legitimate as more ‘vanilla’ forms of sex. Others identify the fact that this is (probably) a fake Yelp report. But the very fact that this review can exist, that it gets picked up on social media – without comment about its homophobia – and that some gay men are quite happy to condemn the men at Berghain for not being ‘good gays’ – makes the veracity of this review irrelevant. What are we really laughing at here? Arguably it is hetero-patriarchal culture’s violent disgust towards queer people.