Late last year Wayves Magazine, a wonderful publication serving gay and lesbian readers in Atlantic Canada, had to wage a fight against one of its most traditional allies.
The coordinator of a St John’s youth group was hacking Cruiseline advertisements out of the magazine before making it available to group members.
Cruiseline is the telephone hookup service operated by Pink Triangle Press (PTP), the organization that publishes Xtra. Most of you are familiar with Cruiseline ads. They include bonerific pictures of nearly naked men with come-fuck-me eyes. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of and it’s a perfect example of the kind of gay sexual expression that we celebrate during Pride season, uptight grannies be damned. It’s why we call it Pride.
The self-appointed censor was upset because, she said, the ads promote sexual exploitation. A letter writer to Wayves’ December 2007 issue unwittingly echoed her irrational homophobia in a single telling sentence: “The message in your advertising is not ‘Call, connect, build a healthy relationship.'”
Her implication is that solely sexual man-to-man relationships are inherently unhealthy. That’s just ridiculous. She might just as well have called us a bunch of dirty faggots.
There are thousands of sexy ads that appear in so-called respectable mainstream publications every single day. They hawk completely unsexy stuff like hair conditioner, cologne, beer and cars. There are only two things that could possibly lead anyone to interpret a Cruiseline ad as more provocative than any mainstream ad that uses sex to sell. The first is that instead of depicting young heterosexual couples the Cruiseline pictures are of men with men; the second is that instead of suggesting subliminally that whatever promoted product will help increase the chances that consumers will get laid by members of the opposite sex, Cruiseline ad copy alludes obviously but indirectly to man-on-man sex.
Either way, the only difference between Cruiseline ads and many mainstream ads is an overt allusion to gay sex.
This rarely acknowledged double standard is applied generally to gay images and publications. It is well illustrated in our story in which Proud FM sales director John Kenyon tells Xtra writer Scott Dagostino that Proud FM has an advantage over visual gay media because advertisers know that radio ads can’t ever appear near sexy man-to-man pictures.
The inference this time is that as long as gay sexual expression is hidden away from the fragile and impressionable eyes of heterosexist orthodoxy, the pockets of gay men may be mined for discretionary income.
The double standard is perpetuated also by the pusillanimous pandering to commercial interests of Toronto’s very own Pride celebration. The theme of this year’s effort might just as well be “Potentially Harmless,” “Homogenized,” or “Almost Respectable.” After you’ve slid your well- dog-eared copy of Xtra’s Ultimate Pride Guide into your back pocket, leaf briefly — very briefly — through Pride Toronto’s Official Pride Guide. By my count there is not one single, solitary picture of gay sexual expression in the whole of its 96 pages. There are three images in which men seem to be accidentally brushing up against each other. There’s one in which two people — I’m pretty sure they’re men, their backs are to the camera — are sweetly holding hands. There are two ads with deliciously shirtless men, but apparently only the Priape guy, who stands flaccidly all by himself, has a pelvis worth photographing.
Pride can be one of the most exciting times of the year for gay people. We should all enjoy it and applaud those who make it happen. Just please don’t lose sight of the reality that Pride is about celebrating your prerogative to take it up the bum, to like it a lot and to do it in spite of what anyone else might have to say about it.