Right before Christmas, Norwegian columnist Jens Kihl in Bergens Tidende created quite a stir with a chronicle on the gay scene and the #metoo campaign.
“In the past year, the #metoo campaign has shaken politics and other parts of Norwegian and foreign social life. But for us gays it has been rather quiet. Yes, we have seen stories like the one with Kevin Spacey, but what happens in Hollywood is not particularly transferable to my life. Why didn’t it ever come to any #metoo showdown in the gay community?” Kihl asks.
I have asked myself that question several times.
Stigma and shame are two very important reasons why we haven’t heard that many #metoo stories in gay settings. Both the person committing the #metoo actions, and the victim of those would need to be identified. And the same mechanisms that go into motion when a man gets raped also applies here; because it is a man that is being harassed, the threshold to tell or complain is higher. And if you add gay sexuality to the equation, it makes it even more difficult to alert someone about the situation.
The #metoo campaign has been attributed to a lot; everything from a weird flirt gone really bad on one side, to hideous crimes of rape on the other side. #Metoo is first and foremost a situation where someone in power over another person’s life or work misuse that power in order to obtain sexual services from someone unwilling. The person who experience the #metoo situation are in a position where it is hard, sometimes even impossible, to reject the sexual incident that many times can lead to worse things like sexual assault or rape.
I want to extend the gay #metoo definition to also include what happens when new – especially young – guys enter the gay scene, whether it be via a bar or an app. The situation is very much the same when someone totally new to the scene and the game enters and gets in contact with those more experienced and skilled. How are we treating each other?
I am not presenting any age difference care here. If someone older is into his twinks, and the twink is into his man, that is all totally fine; we should embrace the fact that there is diversity in tastes and likes. I am talking about when the unexperienced takes his first steps onto the scene – are we here helping or hunting the “new” gay?
From my own experience, and from the first time encounters I have heard about from men I have talked with since I came out; many parts of the gay community are like a factory for #metoo moments.
I remember when I came in from rural Norway and visited my first gay bar in Oslo. It was a quite big place and being fresh off the train, I found it safest to hang out at the bar closest to the door. It was also right by the doors to the bathrooms. I soon learned I was not the only newbie who was standing by this apparently safe spot in the bar. Later I learned that this particular part of the bar was known as the “meat rack” by the more experienced members of the clientèle; this was where you picked up the fresh meat.
I had come all the way from the countryside to meet a guy, so of course I was open to suggestions from the cool guys offering me a beer or two. Sadly, my story is the same as quite a few other stories told by guys entering the gay scene. My first time is far from a fond memory. I was told to shut up, this was the way it was supposed to be. And who was I to know better? He was an old man at 29, while I was barely 18. In retrospect, I have come to realize that the guy was not a monster. He was just repeating his own experience.
I think it’s very important that we all realize the power and the impact we have on other people. Not only if we are a boss, or in any other way possess positions of power or influence. But also when we are welcoming new members into the gay community.
I had hoped things had become a bit better since I came out; but then I logged onto dating apps, and I quickly realized we have not learned to be kinder to each other.
Maybe that should be the new year’s resolution that is actually possible to achieve; something that does not include lifting weights or starving yourself, only to realize you are not going to look like those guys on Instagram anyway. Maybe our resolution should be to build a kinder gay scene, both online and in the real world. Maybe then it will be a better gay scene for all of us.
Take care of yourself.