BY BEVIN BRANLANDINGHAM
I know some folks whose dating histories are full of first timers on the road to Lesbianville. I have plenty to teach a queer newcomer but that just has not been my path, I’ve never been the first queer for a straight person. However, I am often the first Femme folks have ever gone on dates with or slept with. It’s kind of fun to introduce people to what Femme can be and shattering stereotypes. I find most folks who haven’t dated Femmes before me had a lot of really intense ideas about what Femme is or is not and what Femmes do or do not do.
This also has the bummer byproduct of hearing a lot of femmephobic things from folks who are otherwise attracted to me but who are somehow intimidated or otherwise put-off by my Femme characteristics. This has happened a few times and I’m always left wondering if folks really mean they don’t want to date Femmes or they just don’t want to date me. Frankly, I would be less offended if it was the latter because I think most of the time it speaks to unexamined misogyny and Femmephobia to declare that you don’t date Femmes or aren’t attracted to Femme characteristics. Further, just because you might not be into Bevin’s brand of Femme doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be into other brands of Femme.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I see Femme as a diaspora of femininity. There are a lot of definitions of what Femme means to folks, sometimes this is an identity that is static and sometimes it is fluid and only applies some of the time or to some elements of peoples’ identities. I think Femme is a really sparkly umbrella big enough to fit over all of us. Femme is a venn diagram of femininity and empowerment and the way it manifests on different bodies and sexualities is extremely varied. For some Femme is a gender. For me Femme is how I fit into my sexuality but my gender is something else entirely, much more Muppet.
If we’re coming from a place of acknowledging there are so many different ways to be Femme, why is it valid to make a blanket statement that people aren’t attracted to Femmes at all?
I also want to make it clear that this post is as much addressed to Femme-identified folks who don’t do Femme on Femme Action (FOFA) as much as non-Femme identified folks.
I’ve addressed this tired line before, focusing on debunking Femme as high maintenance. Now I want to focus on shifting desire and whether the idea that one can actually say they all the time never are attracted to Femmes.
Also, gender presentation is such a mystery. Sometimes it changes! And chemistry and desire are such mysteries, but I think desire is the kind of thing that can be cultivated.
I was talking about this with my pal Quito on a boat cruise on the East River a couple of months ago. Quito is someone who I said once their gender was Gonzo and they enjoyed that description. They were really sweet, openly sharing about being intimidated about dating Femmes. Quito said that the Femmes they know are really ferocious and embodied in their identity. Quito’s eyes got big when they said it and there was more and I wish I had taken more notes. But I understood that they were intimidated.
It’s an interesting statement because while there’s a lot of ferocity there is also a lot of tenderness. Most of the fiercest Femmes I know are pussycats on the inside. I also am reminded of the constant drone of hearing “You’re too much” as a reason to not want to date someone.
I think there’s also an element of inexperience that impedes folks from feeling like moving toward Femmes. Like, if you’ve always done it to the same kinds of folks maybe you don’t know what the experience of certain feminine elements you’re not familiar with is going to do or how it might be different from sex you’ve had before. Maybe you might be bad at it. Maybe it might not be something you like.
For example, one time I got to inaugurate the first time someone had done it with someone who was wearing fishnets. There was some fumbling but it was incredibly hot. I think that’s true for any kind of new sexual experience. I, personally, intend to continue having new and hot sexual experiences well into my golden years. With new and hot things I don’t understand in my present erotic consciousness and new and hot people.* It’s also really exciting and fun to tell the person you’re with that you’re new to something. Perhaps instead of being intimidated by Femme, you confess to your potential new lover “I’ve never done this before.” People love to be the Marco Polo of sex and turn you out. I always give out sexual first time/best time awards when they are earned. Honestly, if I found the right boy scout I’d actually create patches. [*Monogamies permitting, etc…]
Also doing something for the first time, while fumbly, might just tell you something is not your thing and that’s cool, too. So maybe that’s desire that comes out of trying something that’s not for you.
And maybe it’s the person who you don’t want to explore with. But if it’s the person just say “I’m not into you like that” or “I’m not feeling chemistry with you” or something along those lines.
But maybe before you say it’s the person interrogate your desire for a second. Are you balking because of them or because you’re feeling intimidated by a new desire? Or feeling some internalized shame for being attracted to femininity and you have some internalized misogyny to work out?
For every Femme who wears fishnets and heels there are just as many Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. And also! Also! Femmes who wear fishnets sometimes also are the Femmes who wear sneakers and jeans. For me I feel Femme all the time, no matter what I’m wearing and maybe sometimes people aren’t Femme identified in their sneakers and that’s cool for them. But I think that all permutations of Femme or not-Femme right this second all desireable and can be desireable.
So, can desires change? Can folks who have never really found Femme attractive or maybe find a Femme attractive in spite of never being attracted to Femmes before shift their desires or get over the shock enough to pursue it?
I was really compelled by this quote by the late Mark Aguhar.
is desire an unacceptable weapon because so many people refuse to believe desire can be controlled
What Mark said popped into my mind a bunch of times while I’ve been pondering this post the last couple of months. I think this can mean a lot of things but here I find it resonates that desire can be directed. Maybe your fear and intimidation by something new is hard to wrap your head around?
Cherry Poppins, a friend from the Bay Area, came to town not long ago and she told me that when faced with a dearth of tops in her town decided to abandon her bottoming only lifestyle and learn how to top in order to get laid. She said she shifted her desire in order to expand her dating pool and it worked. She believes very strongly that desires can change.
For me, when I examined my internalized fatphobia and began the journey to loving myself and loving fat bodies, I became very attracted to fat people. They were my primary interest for a long time, for a sense of personal safety and kinship. Now my desire is much more body diverse since I can look on a fat person and find them attractive because I am not plagued by my own internalized shame triggered by seeing another fat person.
And I think there’s a lot to plain old chemistry. As someone who has gotten a lot more selective about who I am attracted to (and how much bullshit I will put up with), chemistry can be really hard to find. I don’t want to squander opportunities for hotness with someone because they are triggering something in me that is bringing up shame. I want to work through that and get to a place of hotness.
There is an undeniable amount of masculine desirability privilege in queer communities. It’s far more socially acceptable in most circles to go after a masculine of center person or a genderqueer person than a Femme. My roommate Damien Luxe is quick to point out this is misogyny and femmephobia at work.
I wonder if we, as a community and as individuals, start to interrogate our desires and work to unlearn our ableisms/racisms/sizisms/homophobia/misogyny/femmephobia/ageism (etc…) if desire will change? I think it can.
I also think we can be more intentional and mindful with each other in the ways we express our chemistry and desire. I know it would sting a lot less and feel a lot better if folks said something that sounded like they gave a rejection more thought than the same old line of “I’m not interested in Femmes.” It just sounds like a punishment for an identity that is perceived as mutable but for many of us it is absolutely not.
Originally published on QueerFatFemme.com
Bevin Branlandingham is your femmecee at QueerFatFemme.com where she chronicles the relentless pursuit of her joy.