How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards
As gay society continues to be accepted into the mainstream, its sexual identity is thinning out.
Gone are the days where a gay man could experience an establishment full of other gay men. Instead, the gay man is losing the place he so greatly needed. Spaces of self-expression where attraction and inclusion were guaranteed.
Now, our gay bars have become mainstream. The place to be. Now, a gay man will enter “the straight man’s gay bar” where female friends will feel comfortable and safe, and straight male friends will complain about having their butts groped.
Of course, some spaces do still exist. The occasional sex shop with a backroom used for unspoken exploration, the remaining bathhouses that pale in comparison to the social hotspots of the past century, and the leather bound clubs stationed in plain sight but covered with a “need to know” front. But these spaces don’t speak for all queer men.
Then there are, of course, gay apps. Apps like Grindr, Blued, and Scruff have become the calling card of gay men. They are the digital spaces where men can converse and, more likely, hunt for their next sexual adventure.
But the distance from our screns has created distance in our hearts. We have devolved into dehumanizing each other in preference of jockstraps and headless torsos. While gay men have always been overtly sexual, this digital age has made us less empathetic than ever before.
And worse of all, even these digital gay spaces are under attack of the mainstream eye. Social media apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook are under attack from censorship.
Grindr is fighting a court battle with a man named Matthew Herrick. Herrick’s ex created several fake accounts of him. These accounts then pointed strangers to the man’s home address and place of work. But instead of suing his ex, the man is suing Grindr. He claims the app and company are negligent in monitoring its users.
If found guilty, Grindr’s case could change the face of the tech industry and apps in general. Companies will then increase their monitoring of users in fear of also being sued. While this result might, at first, seem appealing, it ultimately will lead to stricter rules and more oversight on apps.
We’re already seeing how that can be a bad thing with Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook.
Last month, Scruff released an update to its policy on profile pictures. Users are no longer allowed to post pictures of themselves in jockstraps, underwear, or bikini styled swimsuits.
While some may celebrate this change as an effort to humanize and de-sexualize users/the app, the real effort was made to fit in with family friendly standards. Scruff made the change after its app was taken off the Apple app store. They want to appeal to the mainstream program’s regulations and are thus changing this gay space to do it.
Then there’s Tumblr with a very similar story. Tumblr got taken down from the Apple app store because child pornography had slipped through its censors (never mind the fact that the site was riddled with porn bots for years).
To fix this, Tumblr banned all adult content. Their very sloppy way of enforcing this is by flagging any pictures, videos, and gifs that can seemingly appear sexual in nature. If a post or picture includes too many flesh colored pixels, it’s flagged down.
In the process of this NSFW visual crackdown, LGBTQ users have found their accounts and posts flagged for deletion. Some with reason, but many without.
And then there’s Facebook. Ever since the site was used as a tool for influencing US voters, it has been changing its algorithms and policies left and right. Then late last year, the site updated it’s Community Standards Policy.
Now, gay users on the social media app have been flagged and outright banned for sharing LGBTQ content. In this case, even the inclusion of certain words and terms can incite a ban.
It’s not just everyday citizens who are getting banned or flagged for sharing gay content. Gay publications and sites are also feeling the pressure. Perhaps even more.
Due to Facebook’s constant tweaking of its algorithm, posts from gay sites get flagged and are shared less. Facebook will make it so fans and page-likers won’t see posts about gay content. This is partially because they are gay in nature, and partially because Facebook wants to avoid the spread of fake news.
In a business where clicks equal pay, the inability to reach your audience is a punch to the stomach.
But speaking of advertisers, there’s another problem here. Advertisers are pushing for more “family friendly” content from gay sites. That means tweaking the way that gay stories are told and presented.
On top of that, mainstream sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have dedicated separate staff and sections for LGBTQ stories. Some believe that gay sites like Instinct, Queerty, and more will soon disappear. Then, queer citizens will have to go to these mainstream sites to find their news.
Clearly, there’s a change in the air. As gay men become more accepted by the mainstream, we are being forced to work under their restrictions. Our spaces, real and digital, are fading into theirs. Meanwhile, our self-expression and sexual exploration are being pressed down or outright banned in order to fit a global standard.
But here’s the thing, is all of this bad news? Not every gay man finds comfort in the gay sex scene. Once idolizing the gay club and sex scene through shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Not Another Gay Movie, I too have found the gay sex scene to be tiring. As I wrote last year, the hyper sexualized spaces no longer excite me but discomfort me.
It appears that specifically for gay men, this mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture is focused on watering down the heightened sexuality that we’ve indulged in for decades and centuries.
And as much as it’s a shame to lose the clubs and the sexual history, we gay men have evolved beyond it. Even further, we are not beholden to sex.
Gay men can be gold medal winning athletes, business men, singers, actors, politicians, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, drivers, and more. Sex is only one factor of what it means to be a gay man.
It’s a difficult issue, because gay men should fight to maintain our existence, our safe spaces, and our right to sexual expression. But, are we still only defined by our love of sex in dark and secluded spaces?
We are under attack by censorship, and we certainly should fight back. But, our pursuit of happiness is not determined by merely our right to sex but by our right to sex, love, and life.
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