Toronto
3 min

She who holds the leash

Are gay men just pets for straight women?

OBEY FIDO. When I suggested that the gay man-straight woman power dynamic might be out of balance, my gal pals didn't appreciate it. Credit: RJ Martin

I have numerous MIS-tresses and I offended them. When I talk of mistresses I don’t mean boudoir-style heterosex. My mistresses are the Schnauser-loving ones that have in their purses leashes, chewy treats and inside-out Loblaws shopping bags for scooping up steamers. Lately they’ve been giving me raps on the snout because I dared to suggest that often the working relationship between straight girls and gay boys is sometimes like that of owner and pet.



Do straight women treat gay friends as pets? Is that cherished, warm, intimate and varied relationship that gay men and straight women enjoy sometimes a little unreal? I dreamt this thesis up after listening to a 30-year-old woman talk about how funny, warm and playful her gay friends are. How they can goof around with you night after night without any of that complex entanglement that comes with heterosexual male-female relations. We’re just so cute, cuddly and harmless.



There’s the problem. As long we remain “harmless” to them – we listen carefully to everything they say, support them in their life crises, never question the basis for our often-frivolous relationship and wag our waggily tails – we’re okay. But do a little questioning about the nature of our relationship with women, suggest that there might be room for some variation and oh my, you’re spending the night in the doghouse.



Don’t get me wrong. I love my gal pals. Like the blissfully drunk gal pal at the recent National Magazine Awards night at The Carlu who covered my face with sloppy, hot kisses and said in the brassiest voice possible: “Re-mebber the time you sh-sh-shed you were goin’ home from the office because you were too fat to edit any longer? God, we had good times!”



She asked me if I still kept her name in my address book under the letter B for bitch. I told her I was going to move her over to the letter C. She laughed like a steelworker, dragged me over to The Carlu’s Lalique fountain and tried to shove my head in the water.



But just try suggesting (as I have several times with gal pals) that it might be a good idea for gay men to at least try the occasional interspecies sex with straight women. Watch the rolled-up newspaper come down on your head. Bad dog! Very bad dog. Don’t you break the paradigm of the gay-straight relationship. If I want to listen to that I’ll get a straight guy.



And don’t suggest that monogamy may be irrelevant in a strong gay relationship. The straight woman may be young, uncertain of her boyfriend’s commitment to her and think you’re attacking her relationship. Bad dog! Did you just do that on the carpet? Did you? Very bad dog!



Underpinning our relationships with straight women is a lack of contentiousness between a (gay) man and a (straight) woman. There’s none of the adversarial noise and fracas that goes on ’til all hours between heterosexual lovers. After all, is it possible for a straight woman to hang out and yak all night with a straight guy and not end up in a sexual entanglement?



My best gal pal, Debbie, says it is possible but only after the utmost difficulty: months and even years of squabbling, uncertainty, touch-and-go negotiations and Byzantine rule-setting. Oh, boring. No wonder they prefer us.



A gay writer I know and admire, who is far more sensitive than I, suggested that it’s gay men who treat straight women as pets, relying on women to flatter us, laugh at our jokes, admire our physiques, thrill to our stories of late-night sexual freedom and even enable our addictions. His position made a lot of sense to me and I put his thesis before Debbie. By now she was hardly speaking to me. “That’s it!” she snapped. “That’s exactly what you’re like!”



Ultimately, for both gay men and straight women it’s a two-way street of convenience. They laugh at our jokes, they sympathize at our love flame-outs, we advise them on housewares and we sympathize with their love flame-outs. It’s perhaps a questioning of the basic cement of sexual roles that got me in so much trouble with my mistresses.



We are willing participants in a system that says there is only one way for a gay man to behave with a straight woman; don’t deviate from it. Do so and you may have to spend the night in the backyard without your chew toy.