Four Fun Queer Quotes for Pride Month

Hey everyone, happy June! And more importantly, happy Pride Month! I wondered what I wanted to write about for the beginning of June. I considered delving into The Discourse about kink at Pride, or writing something about rainbow capitalism and corporate sponsorship and arms dealers pinkwashing their murder-corporations, but all those things have been said many times and much better than I could.

So instead I thought I’d bring you a little queer joy in the form of four of my favourite TV and movie quotes about being LGBTQ+ and tell you a bit about what they mean to me.

This post may contain plot spoilers, so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen any of these things yet.

“Any queer space is your space” – Oliver Grayson, The Bold Type

Oliver Grayson and Kat Edison at a queer party in The Bold Type

Kat Edison on Freeform’s The Bold Type is one of my favourite bisexual characters (and YES they actually say the word on the show!) Her ex-girlfriend, Adena, asks her not to attend a queer event because “some lesbians take issue when other people infiltrate their space.”

Adena eventually realises why this was shitty, biphobic behaviour and apologises. But in the meantime, Kat seeks advice from her gay colleague and friend Oliver, and this is what he tells her.

It’s a truly heartwarming moment of queer POC solidarity and it’s something I think all bi+ folks need to hear. We’re often erased from queer spaces, even by our own communities, and told we don’t belong because we’re “not queer enough” or can “pretend to be straight.”

This is for all my bi, pan, omni, ace, aro, trans, non-binary, and other pals who have ever been told Pride isn’t for you: any queer space is your space. Everyone’s favourite Gay Fashion Dad said so.

“Terrific. Let’s bring down the government.” – Steph Chambers, Pride

Steph in the movie Pride

Pride (2014) is one of my all-time favourite movies. It gives me hope and makes me cry all at the same time. It reminds me of all the things our queer elders fought for, struggled for, died for – and why it is so vital that we keep fighting.

Steph says this line in her typical sardonic, bordering-on-deadpan fashion just after the Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners group has been formed, and to me it sums up the spirit of the whole film. Pride is about two disenfranchised groups, queer people and striking miners in a poor village, joining forces to support one another and fight back against oppression. And in a world of more hate and division than ever, this is a message and an ethos we need to remember.

Pride is a protest. Pride has always been a protest. It isn’t about assimilating into respectable white middle-class cishet land. Pride is about being who we are unapologetically and without backing down, no matter what the government has to say about it.

“It’s not a phase, I’m not confused! Not indecisive, I don’t have the “gotta choose” blues!” – Darryl Whitefeather, Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Darryl Whitefeather "Gettin Bi" from Crazy Ex Girlfriend. For a post about queer quotes.

I know it’s got some problematic elements but CXG broke a lot of new ground. It handled a lot of difficult issues with the mix of humour and sensitivity that is so, so hard to get right.

And one of the things it did amazingly well? Representing not just bisexuality, but coming-out-later-in-life male bisexuality. Gettin’ Bi is Darryl’s coming out song, and it’s the “middle aged man dancing and singing to celebrate his sexuality” anthem I never knew I needed.

The song dispels many myths about bisexuality, including that we are inherently promiscuous (some of us are, some aren’t) or that we’re going through a phase and will eventually “pick a side.” It’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s charmingly awkward (this scene takes place in a workplace meeting) and it’s just delightful.

“Sexuality is fluid. Whether you’re gay or you’re straight or you’re bisexual, you just go with the flow.” – Shane McCutcheon, The L Word

Shane from The L Word, sexuality is fluid queer quote for Pride Month

A lot of things about The L Word have not aged well, sadly. Its treatment of trans character Max was deeply problematic, as was its erasure of bisexuality (and occasional outright biphobia) after season 1. I hear the new Generation Q has fixed many of these issues, but I haven’t watched it yet because I promised to watch it with my bestie and we haven’t seen each other in a year and a half because *gestures at the pandemic.*

But before The L Word went sideways into biphobia and occasional complete batshittery, it gave us some great moments including this wonderful quote from Shane.

I was 17 and just starting to peek out of the closet when I first saw this show. I didn’t really know if I was straight with a little idle curiosity, or gay while having inexplicably fallen for a man, or (*gasp*) actually bisexual. This line felt like permission to accept that my sexuality might change over time, and that it was okay and normal if it did.

What are your favourite queer joy quotes for Pride Month, loves?

Yes, I Have a Problem with Fifty Shades… But It’s Not What You Think

It’s actually more accurate to say I have several problems with Fifty Shades of Grey, the infamous erotic trilogy (plus rewrites-with-the-pronouns-flipped) about the kinky-ish love between naive college student Anastasia Steele and young handsome billionaire  Christian Grey.

Yes, I’ve read the first book, and enough of the second and third to get the gist. I’ve also read Cliff Pervocracy and Jenny Trout’s recaps (which are hilarious, by the way). Make no mistake: these books are horribly written and I did not find them erotic in the slightest. The sex depicted in them is either boringly vanilla, dubiously consensual (or straight up rapey), or both. The main characters are both awful people and the dialogue is about as sexy as a root canal. As a kinkster, I hate that people think this is what we’re about. As a writer, I think it’s a travesty that Ms James has made more money than anyone ever needs in a lifetime, while genuinely talented artists are underpaid and undervalued every day.

So yes. I have issues with this book. But they’re not that it’s an unrealistic kinky romance between a virginal college student and a vampire billionaire.

“But it’s fantasy!” fans cry.

And yes. It is. Look, I’ll be the last person to tell you that you can’t have your fantasies, even your problematic ones. Fantasy is not reality and fantasy exists to enable us to escape from the real world for a while. And nowhere is that more true than in sexual fantasy.

A huge part of the reason that erotica and porn should only be accessed by adults is that adults, typically, understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Jaime Mortimer wrote a really good post on this recently.

I’m not going to infantilise everyone who reads Fifty Shades or any other problematic book and tell you that it’s going to turn you into a rapist or make you leave your husband for an emotionally stunted billionare (or a vampire in a Volvo). I read plenty of erotic fiction and plenty of it has themes that would be super problematic if they were real – doctor/patient scenarios, professor/student scenarios, consensual-non-consent roleplay, voyeurism and exhibitionism, public sex and more are just some of the themes I’ve enjoyed in my sexy fiction.

Guess what? Fantasy. And again: adults, overall, have the capability to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

So enjoy Fifty Shades, if it’s your thing, as a fantasy about a naive young woman being seduced by an dude with more money than God and pants that hang from his hips (yes, this is an actual line in the book). Enjoy the light BDSM, the sexy  helicopter rides, the grumpy, brooding, damaged male lead if you want to. I’ll be the last person to judge you for enjoying some silly escapism or some improbable erotica if that’s what gets you off.

My problem with Fifty Shades is actually in the social and cultural narrative surrounding Fifty Shades.

Because this is not a great love story. This is not something to which young women should aspire! And the problem is that it’s being sold that way.

There is tonnes of erotica (and straight romantic fiction) out there that relies on problematic tropes and scenarios that are hot in fiction but would be a terrible idea in reality. That’s fine. Again: fantasy is cool, y’all!

But none of that has the marketing power behind it that Fifty Shades does. Ms James and her publishing team have made their collective fortunes not on selling Fifty Shades as fluffy erotic fantasy, but on selling Fifty Shades as a style of relationship to which we should all aspire.

And that is what is dangerous about this book. Not the fantasy it depicts, but the marketing power that sells that fantasy as genuinely aspirational. Because make no mistake, the relationship between Christian and Ana is very often abusive.

How many young women do you think have watched this movie, and decided that if this is romance, my boyfriend obviously only super jealous and controlling because he loves me? Or, Ana loves Christian out of abusing her, so if only I behaved better my husband would stop hitting me? Maybe not in quite so literal terms, but make no mistake – these messages are out there, and victims of abuse are listening and absorbing.

You might think this is hyperbole, but it’s not. This is the kind of power that massive marketing budgets, ingrained cultural narratives about love, and a total lack of sensible sex-and-relationships education has.

I don’t blame Fifty Shades for my own experience in an abusive D/s relationship, of course. But I do partly blame growing up surrounded by the idea that if a man hurt me, my job was to heal him so he could love me properly in the end.

Fifty Shades is far from the only story to suffer from this phenomenon

We have always built collective cultural narratives around these deeply problematic stories. I am reasonably confident in saying I doubt that Shakespeare intended Romeo & Juliet to be considered the greatest love story of all time. If you read it as a love story and analyse it for more than three seconds, it’s a ridiculous play. If you reread it as a satire about “love at first sight” and teenage stupidity, though, it becomes utterly brilliant. (While we’re at it, Wuthering Heights isn’t a great love story either. And Christian Grey bears a passing resemblence to Heathcliff in a variety of ways.)

Despite being for children, even Disney movies sell us some pretty horrible messages about relationships. Think about it: marriage is the ultimate goal for any girl. Once a man chooses you, you’ll live happily ever after.  Cinderella tells us to be good and subservient and pretty until a man rescues us; The Little Mermaid tells us that what we have to say is the least valuable thing about us; Sleeping Beauty suggests that kissing a sleeping stranger is totes a sensible and romantic thing to do… and so it goes on. We’re drip-fed these messages from earliest childhood, so is it really any wonder that so many of us grow up with totally screwed up ideas about what relationships are actually supposed to look like?

Don’t ban – educate

In closing: I don’t support the banning of Fifty Shades or other problematic stories. Fantasy is important and something we should all be able to have access to. Instead, we need a greater cultural understanding and greater education around separating fantasy from reality, and understanding what healthy relationships actually are.

I’d be much happier with the thousands and thousands of twenty-something women enjoying Fifty Shades as sexy, escapist fantasy if they weren’t already surrounded by a culture that teaches them if he hits you, it’s your job to be better so he can heal from his fucked up past.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a coffee.

A Very Brief Look at Sex Toys in Popular Culture

[Update: DivaInner, the company who sponsored this post on sex toys in popular culture, appears to have closed down. I’ve removed dead links but am leaving the post up for reference.]

Despite its problematic elements (and OH GODS there are a lot, TW for biphobia, transphobia and racism in that link,) Sex & the City was groundbreaking for its time. In 1998, when the episode “The Turtle and the Hare” aired featuring the women discovering the Rabbit sex toy, a frank discussion of vibrators on a prime-time, hugely popular TV show was a big deal.

A few years later came The L Word – queer women’s answer to Sex & the City, which I devoured when I was in my late teens, low-key ridiculous though it undoubtedly is. Alice asks her girlfriend Dana to penetrate her with a strap-on. Sex toys then feature as a recurring theme throughout their relationship.

But let’s face it, the portrayal of sex toys in popular culture hasn’t been hugely positive.

In the fairly recent past, sex toys in movies and TV were treated as the butt of a joke. 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, for example, famously opens with Janey getting caught masturbating by her entire family (and for some reason a few random children and a priest.) The idea of a woman masturbating – especially a geeky, not-classically-beautiful young woman – is supposed to be hilarious in itself. The “Rabbit” episode of SATC depicts Miranda’s friends shaming her for using a vibrator instead of having sex with a man. (“You can’t take it home to meet your parents!”) Later they stage an intervention to stop Charlotte using hers, treating her like an addict.

In The L Word, Dana’s shame around using toys is an ongoing theme in the depiction of her relationship with Alice – including a cringe-inducing scene where they go through airport security. (“Yup. Nipple clamps.”) Later, a jilted Alice dumps out a box of toys in front of Dana and her new girlfriend, who recoil in disgust. It’s a dildo, guys! It’s not going to hurt you!

Thankfully, things are starting to improve.

The wonderful Sense8 features a beautiful scene of two women having sex using a strap-on dildo (and one of the women is trans!) Netflix’s Grace and Frankie feature the two main characters trying to design sex toys for women over 60 – and older women’s sexuality is not treated as gross or as a joke. And, of course, Broad City’s pegging scene became such an instant classic that there is now a line of sex toys themed around the show.

This is all a great start. I’d really like to see more positive portrayals of sex toy usage in popular culture going forward. Give us joyful depictions of female masturbation, divorced from shame or guilt or narratives about being addicted, a nymphomaniac, or unable to find a man. Give us sex scenes in which partners reach for toys and no-one thinks it’s weird, gross or offensive. I’d even like to see vibrators casually sitting on female characters’ night stands without it being a big deal.

Popular culture has begun to catch up, but still has a way to go in the sex positivity realm.

Luckily, sex toys themselves have (s0metimes) improved tremendously in the last twenty years. The infamous 1998 SATC “Rabbit” is made of some kind of translucent jelly material, which is certainly not body-safe. Jelly toys are softened with phthalates, plasticiser chemicals which are now banned in children’s toys in many countries as they are known carcinogens. They’re also horrible for the environment! Unfortunately, the adult product industry remains largely unregulated, allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to keep making cheap, dangerous sex toys. There have been documented cases of people getting chemical burns in their genital area from unsafe toys!

Fortunately, there are reputable adult brands out there dedicated to offering body-safe and eco-friendly toys. DivaInner is one of them, creating intimate products out of exclusively premium, body-safe materials such as non-porous, phthalate-free silicone! Despite the silly stereotypes, it’s impossible to get addicted to a sex toy – so you can let go of your inhibitions and have as much fun as you want.

This post was sponsored by DivaInner. As always, all opinions, as ever, are my own. Header image is a screenshot from Sex & The City and used for illustrative purposes only.

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