By Buddy Early, March 2020 Issue.
When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I suppose I was a bit of a barfly. You could’ve found me in any one of a half-dozen watering holes somewhere between two and five nights a week. I didn’t always drink a lot when I was out, but I enjoyed being in community spaces where I could be my authentic self, instead of at home watching Law & Order reruns … like I do now. So, there I was: at Wink’s, Roscoes, Padlock, or Charlie’s, spending money that might’ve gone toward repayment of a student loan or on a car that didn’t make a weird thud every time I made a right turn.
Some pretty inappropriate things went on in gay bars of yesteryear. I’m not too much of a prude to admit I once rendezvoused in the bathroom at Wink’s. Before Charlie’s expansion, you couldn’t walk from one side of the crowded bar to the other without having some part of your body groped at least twice. And – let’s be honest – none of us went to Padlock unless we wanted to do some stuff or see some stuff.
Damn me for saying this, but I miss it. Not the bar-flying and drinking, but the inappropriate behavior. I know I am at risk of being canceled by the culture for stating this, but I wish more people would grab my butt.
When I came out, I was impressed with a social scene that had few identifiable boundaries on sex, where people were blatant in their quest to simply get laid. This was refreshing. For a young man who had suppressed all sexual desire and activity for 25 years, I liked being viewed as a sex object and did not mind if someone only saw me as a piece of meat.
This may sound odd coming from me, especially if you remember my column last summer in which I divulged I had been celibate for five years. And if this reads like I am proposing we all go around grabbing people’s butts, nothing could be further from the truth.
But I wouldn’t mind if someone grabbed my butt.
Some years ago, a female friend was pumping gas at a north Phoenix gas station when a complete stranger walked past and slapped her on the rear end. This friend – close to my age – had very clearly had enough of this nonsense and decided to take a stand right then and there. She summoned the police, who arrived minutes later and arrested the man.
I applauded my friend then and I still do. It goes without saying that she has endured much more in life than me, at least as far as inappropriate sexual conduct is concerned. The circumstances of that butt slap and the stakes involved were much greater than anything I’ve faced. Her stand on that day was for all women who, for most of their lives, have had to put up with shit like randos slapping their butt, rubbing their back, placing a hand on their knee and stroking with one finger in that way that makes you want to shed your skin, and worse.
I guess that’s the conundrum we face in 2020. How do you know what someone’s threshold is? Can you predict whether someone likes to have their butt grabbed? You really can’t. which is precisely the point. It’s probably best to assume most people are not thirsty like me and are not OK with that kind of butt attention.
(Let me be clear: it was a nice butt. Perky and round. It was very grabbable. These days I have a “last call butt” at best and I’ve come to terms with that.)
Again, maintaining my current celibacy doesn’t make me a prude, and wanting my butt grabbed doesn’t make me a hypocrite. Rather, these things demonstrate how I am in control of my sexual desires and behavior, and I can say no (or yes!) to someone who might ask me for sex. (I do it all the time on a “dating” app called Scruff.) A person bold enough to, as we used to say, “put the moves on me,” does not require me to be triggered. A sexual advance does not necessarily equate to harassment and assault.
Sexual freedom is something so many of us and the generations before us have been fighting for. If we’re not careful we might go down the path of the puritanical society we’ve warned against: a country where merely expressing our sexual longings and intent is shameful, and where getting laid is immoral.
I’m not saying grab my butt when you see me out. But I probably won’t call the police on you, either.