Are we accepted because we've been de-sexualised by the media?

scandalboy's picture

i was watching a doco last night about homosexuality and the music industry called "Sex'n'pop". this guy, ari gold i think his name was, said that gays have been accepted to a point in media/society at large because we are presesented as asexual beings. it's ok to have gay characters on a show, eg Will & Grace but only as long as they are never seen being intimate with other men. we have been turned into these court jesters who everyone loves, but only because we are funny stereotypes. if you can laugh at Jack on W&G, its because he is so flamboyant, that "gosh, those gays must all be as funny as him, they're alright". that's great, but have you every seen Jack in a sex scene on that show? Grace has been in the bedroom with many men on screen, but Jack and Will have never been shown with their boyfriends. Jack makes verbal references to his sex life, but nothing ever comes of it, as far as the audience sees.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is another example. carson is the strongest personality on the show, and again he is a funny person. he never is seen being intimate with any man on the show, except for groping the straight guys every once in a while for a cheap laugh.

so that means that gays are accepted, but not for our physical sexuality - WE ARE PRACTICALLY CASTRATING OURSELVES TO BE ACCEPTED! i don't want ot see more of these asexual stereotypes anymore. the only show that does have the physical sexuality is "Queer as Folk" but that caters for OUR community, not the WHOLE community. i don't mean that i want XXX man on man action on primetime, but would it be so bad for two guys to hold hands or kiss affectionactely on a sitcom like all the other sitcom couples do? i don't want us to be treated as a joke anymore when we are portrayed in media.

That is my opinon, and its pretty strong, but i don't want to take this bullshit anymore from a society that can only like us when we are making jokes for their own amusement. will we ever stand up and be counted?

Lol-taire's picture

Will and Grace is utterly

Will and Grace is utterly antiquicated already. Even now it makes me cringe, I've no doubt it in a few years it will seem to modern audiences the way 1950s sitcoms do today.

The film 'sissy' has been a staple of motion pictures for years, other than the malevolent amoral queer it's probably the most prevalent of characterisations. The sinester, malevolent homo has fallen out of favour (although the film adaptation of Notes on a Scandel says different). But instead the fabulous, asexual girl's best friend character is celebrated as a sign of diversity! (this article might be of interest

And when it comes to lesbians, they're either hypersexualised erotica (often played for laughs as well) and directed at a male veiwership or else they're Elen Degenres for heavens sake- who God bless her is just Doris Day in a beige trouser suit.

It's interesting also that one of the major gay sublots of a mainstream US soap, Andrew on Desperate Housewives, is unmittegated evil while he is having a sex life, but celibate in the current season (on UK TV- we're behind obviously) is rehabilitated.

It seems to me this is a problem in America film and television much more than it is in the UK. You mention Queer as Folk, the writer of the British series Russell T Davies is best known at the moment for writing and producing the relaunched Doctor Who. Doctor Who is the absolute epitome of family TV. It's the only program that everyone on my house watches. Doctor Who features a recurring character Captain Jack Harkness- this insane omisexual alien from the future. His sexuality features (albeit appropriately considering it is a family program) and he even kisses the Doctor. You have no idea, Doctor Who is like the abiding childhood memory of pretty much every single person my parents age in the country.

There's a spinoff series Torchwood where he's the main character (the best/ worst program ever!) where gay relationships occur pretty much a matter of course along side straight relationships.
Also on programs like the massively successful Shameless gay characters and relationships are treated in much the same way as straight ones and feature heavily. And there have been BBC adaptions of the Sarah Waters' novels Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith.

Teen dramas tend to have gay characters who aren't altogether obnoxious, even on Skins the tap-dancing Maxxie is at least allowed a geniunely touching storyline about religion and friendship. And Sugar Rush (although perhaps rather prurient and facile- doesn't stop me watching though) has allegedly attractive and cool lesbian characters as the leads.
On day time TV, reality TV/ presenter types there are the old school asexual, camp decorating types. But even there the stupid interior decorating duo Colin and Justin are an actual couple.

There are flambouyant gay comedians like Julian Clary and Grayham Norton, but equally there's the too cool for school Simon Amstell with his bemused posh boy amazingness sadly no longer on Popworld (which is now unwatchable) and irritating radio institution Sandi Toksvig.

There's some good British films too where homosexuality doesn't equal death or celibacy. Obviously there was My Beautiful Laundrette in the 80s which was more about economics, Thatcherism and race, than it was about sex and had an amazingly nuanced and natural relationship between the two male leads. And more recently My Summer of Love (which although it all ended in tears) was a gorgeous film that breathed life into well worn subject matter.

Obviously British media is far from perfect- although I think it's certainly not that bad. And American TV and film are already starting to catch up. US programs, especially comedies, are getting more subversive and inventive.

maianess's picture


WILLOW AND TARA!!! Ahem, sorry... but, yeah, they were awesome. Always really intimate, and towards the later seasons, they got to do a lot more onscreen. But then again, Joss ain't your average TV writer (which is why we love him); Willow's gayness was a part of her character, not something they played for laughs. (Much. "Hello, gay now?" <-- my life.)

But Imma go away now, because I don't do media.

Life is short: make fun of it.

Campfire's picture

I agree with Lol-taire. The

I agree with Lol-taire. The USA is one of the most unashamedly media controlled countries in the world. Here in the UK gay life and rights are way ahead, it's just about the only thing I am proud of about this country.

Nevertheless, I think there has been an element of desexualisation as the tentacles of the US media reach far and wide. Programs such as Skins and Shameless aren't seen by the vast majority of people, and yet Will & Grace is an internationally famous TV show that most people sort of get the gist of without actually watching it. And yes, Jack has become some gay pin up. He's the reason I bump into people and, because I'm camp with a promiscuous sense of humour, I get the old "omg I love gay people" line as if I'm a type of food. And people are always saying that they haven't got a problem with people being gay, but they don't want to "see it." I find this rather offensive, but all my straight friends and family have otherwise convinced themselves that this makes them accepting, liberal and oh so understanding. I however, find it rather ridiculous. I don't say, "I don't mind you being straight but I don't want to see you cuddle or kiss each other. Got it?"

It seems the term "being gay" has been disassociated with the fact that ultimately, the only difference between a gay person and a straight person, is the sexual link. You take sex out of the equation and you're just left with this word that means virtually nothing, which is why people don't have a problem with "it", until they have to see "it."

Nevertheless, I think this is all part of the progression of gay people's integration. Sure, 2007 this might be the take on things, but what about 2057? I think gay sexual practice will become more acceptable as time goes on, just like in 1957 all gayness was taboo, and now 50 years later the world is unrecognisable. For this to happen though, the US people have to stop voting for republicans and insane men like George Bush.

"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon."
- George Aiken

Y - GuRl's picture

I love shameless!

I love shameless!

raining men's picture

Kinda true

Oh yes we are presented like that. But I can kinda see a reason for that - a lot of straight people are disgusted by gay sex, regardless of what they think of gays themselves, so it would creep a lot of people out. Also if it helps our acceptance, I say who cares? Yes it would be better if we were accepted as sexual beings, but one step at a time people

And queer as folk does rock

"Sexual intercourse began in nineteen sixty-three (which was rather too late for me)"

Y - GuRl's picture

saw it

Hey I caught the end of that doco! I thought the european music video with the two guys and the two girls was pretty hot.. hehe. Well yeah I do find it really annoying when they make gay characters asexual, it's actually pretty degrading. Hopefully things turn around.. but this reminds me of the episode of Queer As Folk when Emmet gets his own segment on the news as 'ask the gay man' but eventually quits because he realises he is only seen as an asexual fashionista person and is forbidden to mention anything sexual due to the risk of making the viewers uncomfortable.

jeff's picture


Will and Jack were shown with boyfriends, and kissing, so it did occur infrequently.

As for Queer Eye, considering it is a reality show where they show up at someone's house and make them over, I'm not sure how in that setting Carson is supposed to have a boyfriend and get laid. Sounds like stacking the deck to make your case.

The rest? Seems like two arguments smashed together to make a fake conclusion. Gay acceptance is on the rise, and we are desexualized by the mass media, but it's a bit too easy to make them into one argument. My reaction is basically, who cares? Gay acceptance continues to rise as people come out, and once more people are out, the media will respond. They listen to money, so as soon as they make more with gay sexuality, they're cool with it.


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underdarkness's picture

I see what you mean but I

I see what you mean but I don't think it's a bad thing. It used to be that gays weren't in television at all, so I can deal with the de-sexualization by the media until the world becomes more accepting. Plus, even if television shows don't show gay sex, people are smart enough to know what it means to be gay, to a certain extent.

- One Nation, Under Darkness, with liberty and justice for white, heterosexual, rich, Christian men

Lol-taire's picture

Yeah but there have always

Yeah but there have always been representations of homosexuality (I use the word deliberately because many depictions predate anything that could be called a 'gay' indentity or subculture) in culture.
Even in the visual media, homosexual characters have always been present (even during the Code years) just in veiled, and more often than not negative, representations.

Just because the representation is well meaning (as in Will and Grace), doesn't make it any less harmful in the long term. If anything it makes is more harmful, because the effect is more insidious.

For many people whose lives are fairly cosseted and closed the portrayals of gay people in the mainstream media, especially television and film, are the only gay people they see. In my family's circle of friends for example, there are no gay people, not even as aquaintances. I don't think my mum know's any gay people except me and some of my friends. And although she is a very clever, educated and generally socially liberal person, her expectations of how some of my friends in particular are going to act or behave is rather squewed.

If the dominent media representation of gay people is the lisping, interior designer, with the poodle and the sissy fits, wearing tight trousers and making outrageous double entendres to cheer up the straight people, before returning to a beautifully furnished but empty flat, then that's what many people think it means to be gay .

I remember a few years back a group of us were talking in the common room at my old school and everyone was saying about how they wanted a gay best friend. My friend was like "I've got one". And everyone looked at me and was like "yeah, but that's not what we mean". Charming, but what they were talking about was having a well groomed, devoted male friend who would bitch with them, but never about them, talk about boys (but not steal their boyfriend) and want to go shopping.

You could say this is toleration or acceptance. But it isn't. Because it's acceptance of a media construct. It's like saying you're not a racist because you like blackface acts.

Visibility is not the only consideration, what's being depicted is more important. Maybe programs like Will and Grace had their cultural moment, but they have the potential to be as damaging as they are benificial.

kylec1's picture

"The rest? Seems like two

"The rest? Seems like two arguments smashed together to make a fake conclusion. Gay acceptance is on the rise, and we are desexualized by the mass media, but it's a bit too easy to make them into one argument. My reaction is basically, who cares? Gay acceptance continues to rise as people come out, and once more people are out, the media will respond. They listen to money, so as soon as they make more with gay sexuality, they're cool with it."

Yes, it seems like two different arguments, but would we be accepted as much if the media hadn't desexualized us? I don't know for sure, but I don't think so.

I have found in my town that the heterosexual, conservative group matches us one-to-one: every time we have another person join us in making Dayton gay-friendly, they match us with another conservative nut who is so homophobic that even heterosexuals who don't give a crap either way think that they're nutso.