Is There Always a ‘Man’ and a ‘Woman’ In Sexual Relationships? Even When It’s a Gay One?

Raise your hand if you’re a gay man or woman, in a relationship, who’s been asked by a friend, “Well, which one of you is the man?” This could refer to who is the more dominant person in the relationship, but depending on how intimate a conversation you’re having, it could also refer to who’s the dominant person in the bedroom. Now raise your hand if you’re wholly annoyed, and perturbed, by getting that question.

So too is Lauren Bornstein, a senior at the University of Kansas, who points out how heterosexist a question it is in a discussion about roles in sexuality.

I can’t count the times I’ve been asked this question when people want to know about my sexual life. Really, what they should be asking is, “Who takes control?” They’re confusing sex (our biological label) with sexual behavior because clearly, in a sexual relationship between two women, there is no man.

So, why, when interest is actually about who’s in control, do we ask “who’s the man”? Society associates dominance with men because we view penal penetration as a dominating act. Men are literally thrusting into something– the vagina. We use this to categorize all sexual acts, even though not every coupling is male-female. This demonstrates the male-dominant heterosexual-focus of our society. People forget that sexuality is not black and white. People aren’t just straight or gay. There isn’t always a “man and woman”.

True dat, sista. It also negates all the power bottoms out there, who may be the receptive partners, but are the ones actually controlling what’s going on. (Right, PBs?)

But most of us have grown up with the male-female sexuality construct, which means it’s the one we are most familiar with; or the one most people are familiar with. So is it such a bad thing that we attempt to put each other in boxes based on that understanding?

Why do sex roles matter when it comes to what we do in the bedroom? We have a hard time understanding gay sexuality because we are used to heterosexual imagery. All over the media, we see heterosexuality: Barbie has Ken. Meredith Grey has McDreamy. Burger King has Dairy Queen. You get my point; we are a heterosexual nation.

What’s odd is we are always talking about America the “melting pot”– this wonderfully, diverse nation– yet we seldom see minorities (especially gays) well-represented in any kind of media.

This lack of attention doesn’t help dispel people’s poor understanding of homosexuality and sex roles. By labeling sex roles as “the man” or “the woman”, we limit our sexual abilities and imaginations to our anatomy. Sex is not defined by penetration. It is not defined by our biology. Sex is not about what you have, it’s about what you do, and, believe me, you don’t need a penis to make a woman happy.

Truer words, right?