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Oct 27 2012

Hey, The Young Turks: Men having sex with trans women is NOT “non-straight sex”

The Young Turks recently covered a Foreign Policy article about trans women sex workers in the Middle East and the systemic abuse they face from authorities. Throughout the clip, Cenk Uygur is seemingly astonished that, whoa, men would interested in having sex with women? Steel yourself:

Highlights of the clip include:

- Uygur saying: “All these Arab Gulf countries, Persian Gulf countries, very conservative, being gay is totally and utterly wrong, unless I mean it’s like a really cute girl that happens to have a penis, in which case maybe we can make an exception”. (Of course, police do anything but make an exception when they arrest trans women for “homosexuality”.)

- Uygur saying: “But then, here comes the awesome part – now, it’s got a terrible dark side, but it’s got awesome hypocrisy – so, a lot of times they get arrested, and when they do, what’s the first thing that police do? Police arrest them because they are being immoral, and then immediately have sex with them.” (Hypocrisy or not, I don’t think police sexually abusing women in custody is particularly “awesome”.)

- Uygur saying: “And it’s not just the hypocrisy, right – it also shows you, by the way, the reality of sexual orientation in the world, right? It’s not binary, and I can guarantee you that if you ask those guys, at the very least nine out of ten of them would tell you, ‘Oh no, I’m totally straight.’ Right? But when push comes to shove, they pay a lot of money to have non-straight sex.

Hoo boy. I can see – vaguely, distantly – how he might have been trying to be supportive or inclusive by pointing out that human bodies are not limited to men with penises and women with vaginas, and that people’s sexual behavior reveals that this widespread binary notion of gender – not sexual orientation – is simply inapplicable in practice. That’s the most charitable way I can plausibly interpret this.

But when a man has sex with a woman who’s trans, that is not “non-straight sex”. When a man and a woman are having sex, there is no conceivable way that any sexual act could be described as something other than straight. Calling this “non-straight” means claiming that there is some element of homosexual desire or tendency involved, simply because the woman is trans or has a penis. But this idea is not reflective of reality, either – it is inapplicable in practice. Why do men who display attraction toward trans women largely identify as straight? Because trans women are women, and because these men are straight. They are attracted to trans women because they are women.

This is not contrary to their heterosexual orientation – it is because of their heterosexual orientation. Men who are attracted to trans women typically display heterosexual patterns of attraction, not homosexual patterns of attraction. These men do not otherwise identify as gay, and do not exhibit attraction toward men or engage in sexual conduct with men. They engage in sexual conduct with women, including trans women.

If being attracted to trans women made these men “non-straight” or something less than heterosexual, we would not expect to observe this. We would expect to see them having sex with men. This largely does not happen, and this is why describing sex between men and trans women as “non-straight” is misleading.

It is not in any way inconsistent for men to be attracted to trans women while identifying as “totally straight” – there is no “but” there. If anything, these patterns of attraction reveal the hypocrisy of regarding trans women as anything less than women, and of prosecuting them under laws against homosexuality – not the supposed “hypocrisy” of being straight and also attracted to trans women. No matter how much anyone protests or moralizes, reality itself gives lie to the assumption that we aren’t women and that sleeping with us counts against a man’s heterosexuality. These aren’t the gays you’re looking for.

90 comments

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  1. 1
    Stacy

    Hypocrisy or not, I don’t think police sexually abusing women in custody is particularly “awesome”

    It’s the hypocrisy that’s awesome: an awe-inspiring level of hypocrisy.

    (Though not, of course, an unusual example of such.)

    1. 1.1
      Jared

      Also, “awesome” and “awe” have a long, long history of being applied to both good and bad things. The following sentence sounds perfectly good to me: “He knew that he would experience the dictator’s awesome cruelty if he were caught.” (or “awesome wrath”, etc.). Maybe the modern slang use has an exclusively positive connotation, but I don’t think it’s really generally fair to treat people’s use of “awesome” as having an automatic positive connotation. The guy looks to be in his 40′s.

  2. 2
    JS

    What exactly can one expect from a show named after the perpetrators of one of the largest genocides of the 20th century?

    1. 2.1
      Corvus illustris

      At the very least, tone-deafness. “Young Turks” might draw a pass because the genocide is attributed (in the US, at least) more to Turks per se than to any political movement, but setting up some sort of taxonomy of sexual relations was purely offensive.

    2. 2.2
      =8)-DX

      Wow, so I guess for anything with “German” in the name, we should expect straight arm salutes and “final solutions”? Odd to see that a discussion about trans issues brings out the casual racist bigot in some.

  3. 3
    Ze Madmax

    JS @ #2:

    Based on their general stance on political issues, I would have expected much better (hint: The Young Turks’ staff are rather progressive-leaning, AFAIK). Although I can’t say I’m entirely surprised, given that most people seem to have issues understanding trans* issues in general.

  4. 4
    Rachel

    While all of the points you make in this article are completely true, I don’t think that Cenk was trying to say that a man and a transwoman having sex isn’t “straight sex.” He validates/acknowledges the gender of the woman he is speaking about by using female pronouns, so he obviously doesn’t reject her identity and consider her to be a man. I interpreted his statement about “non straight sex” to mean that some people are attracted to others regardless of their genitalia, which is obviously true. By “non straight sex,” I think he is refering to a cis straight man being attracted to a woman who has male genitalia, thus, outside of the black and white norm of a cis woman and a cis man. He’s trying to make a point that supports what you argue in your article, but, not being active and educated in gender issues, he misspeaks.

    1. 4.1
      Zinnia Jones

      I don’t think that Cenk was trying to say that a man and a transwoman having sex isn’t “straight sex.”

      I am trying, but failing, to see what else the phrase “non-straight sex” could possibly mean.

      I interpreted his statement about “non straight sex” to mean that some people are attracted to others regardless of their genitalia, which is obviously true.

      This still doesn’t make it “non-straight” under any meaningful understanding of “straight”.

      By “non straight sex,” I think he is refering to a cis straight man being attracted to a woman who has male genitalia, thus, outside of the black and white norm of a cis woman and a cis man.

      I realize some people consider anything that falls outside of heteronormative, cisnormative sexual and gender norms to be “gay” or “queer”, as little sense as that makes. But he gave no indication that he was referring to anything like this.

      1. Rachel

        What he said was definitely factually incorrect. But I honestly think he just misspoke, given the point that he was trying to make.

  5. 5
    brenda

    “But when a man has sex with a woman who’s trans, that is not “non-straight sex”.”

    Yeah it is. Having sex with any pre-op trans person is not “straight” sex. It isn’t “gay” either. The larger society has norms. People who fall outside of those norms are sometimes judged negatively but that is a separate matter from the reality that such relationships fall outside of social norms.

    “Calling this “non-straight” means claiming that there is some element of homosexual desire or tendency involved, simply because the woman is trans or has a penis.”

    Ah I see, there’s your error. Fallacy of the false dichotomy. No it does not follow that sex which is not straight must therefore be gay sex. It doesn’t even follow that is what Cenk intended. How do you know that he thinks non straight sex *must be* homosexual sex?

    Of course being attracted to a trans woman or man who passes does not mean the putatively straight partner is homosexual. But if he is having sex with a pre-op trans woman, no, that isn’t “straight” by any definition.

    Cenk’s heart is in the right place. Cut him some slack.

    1. 5.1
      Zinnia Jones

      Having sex with any pre-op trans person is not “straight” sex. It isn’t “gay” either.

      Which makes it… what? Anything? And if it’s equally “non-gay” as well, I find it suspect to only designate it as “non-straight”. That sends a message that’s nothing like what you’re saying here.

      No it does not follow that sex which is not straight must therefore be gay sex.

      Yes, sex can be something other than “straight” or “gay”. The point is that in this case, there is no sound reason to designate this as anything other than straight sex.

      But if he is having sex with a pre-op trans woman, no, that isn’t “straight” by any definition.

      Except the one that describes people’s gendered sexual proclivities. You know, the big one.

      1. brenda

        Zinnia said:
        “Which makes it… what? Anything?”

        It makes it sex that is outside of social norms. Describing something isn’t the same as passing judgment on it and isn’t “sending a message”. I guess it would trans sex just like sex between people into bdsm is kinky sex and not really “straight” even when between a male and female.

        1. Zinnia Jones

          Yeah, if that’s how you choose to define “straight”. But really, who does that? People know what straight means.

        2. Dalillama, Schmott Guy

          I’ve done some pretty kinky BDSM type things with women(I’m male), and at no time was there any suggestion that it was not straight sex. I think the word that you’re looking for may be ‘vanilla’, which specifically means ‘not kinky,’ and applies regardless of the genders of the people involved.

          1. brenda

            The fact that you did a little sex play doesn’t mean a lot. People in the bdsm community do not, for the most part, consider what they do to be “straight”. It is not a norm for a partner to get sexually aroused from inflicting pain, *real* pain, not your playtime pretend bdsm.

    2. 5.2
      kevinkirkpatrick

      But if he is having sex with a pre-op trans woman, no, that isn’t “straight” by any definition.

      Please humor me, brenda. Define what constitutes straight sex, if not “sex between a man and a woman”. I’d be curious to know if the thing my wife and I did last night was “straight sex” or not.

      1. liokae

        Correctly or incorrectly, the ‘conventional’ understanding of straight sex (to the best of my knowledge) is sex between someone of the female sex and someone of the male sex. That’s certainly how I would have viewed it when I was first learning about folks gettin’ busy, at least. The fact that that definition isn’t really workable for reality is just one more of the pile of reasons that normative structures are massive failures.

        1. Megan from NZ

          You might be surprised to learn that genitals aren’t the sole determiners of sex and neither are chromosomes. Sex is a socially constructed idea that arbitrarily picks one of two options based on a large range of physical characteristics.

          1. brenda

            Megan from NZ said:
            “Sex is a socially constructed idea”

            No it isn’t. Gender *might* be, one’s sex certainly is not. What makes one male or female is objective reality and not culture. Culture possibly has some say in if one is a man or woman but whether one is male or female is objectively determined by one’s genetic makeup.

    3. 5.3
      CD

      But if he is having sex with a pre-op trans woman, no, that isn’t “straight” by any definition.

      Is “straight” only defined by genitals, then? If you have two gay trans men get married and one has had bottom surgery and the other has not, are they actually a straight couple?

      Hey, if a woman is born without a vagina but has two X chromosomes, can she still have straight sex with cis man? What if you have someone who has two X chromosomes, identifies as female and was born with a penis? When is that person having straight sex? If a cis man’s genitals are lost in an accident, is he having lesbian sex when he uses a strap on with his wife? Is it lesbian when a cis man goes down on a cis woman? Is it gay if a cis woman uses a strap on to anally penetrate a cis male partner?

      Gender identity is actually a far more straightforward way of judging what is and is not “straight sex”. Judging it based purely on how a penis comes into play is dehumanizing and ignores all the complexity of people and their interactions.

      1. brenda

        CD said:
        “Is “straight” only defined by genitals, then?”

        No, a male and female into bdsm are having kinky not straight sex.

        “What if you have someone who has…” [several examples follow]

        You’re over thinking it. Norms are statistical so the extremely rare congenital traits you list only serve to emphasize that the norm is in fact a norm.

        I don’t see the problem. Variation exists, so do norms. Normative sex exists for a pretty good reason. Without it humans don’t exist. Non normative sex also exists and for equally good reasons. Why not acknowledge both ends of the stick?

        All sticks have two ends. There is no other way it could be.

    4. 5.4
      Sassafras

      whether one is male or female is objectively determined by one’s genetic makeup.

      No it isn’t. As Megan from NZ said, “genitals aren’t the sole determiners of sex and neither are chromosomes.” Few people get genetic screens, and almost never for the purpose of determining what sex they are. Genes are just appealed to when someone wants to make a case that trans people are “really” their birth sex even after surgical reassignment. You should read this post by Natalie Reed for a thorough examination of the issue.

      1. brenda

        Sassafras saidL
        “No it isn’t.”

        Yes it is so neener neener.

        From your link: “The truth is chromosomes don’t really play all that much of a role in human sexual differentiation. That work is done by hormones.”

        And hormone levels and expression are determined by one’s DNA. We live in a causally determined world. Everything you and I are, have been or ever will be has a cause. The diagram that Natalie Reed links to Diagram of Sex and Gender supports what I’ve been saying. That people are mostly on one end of the stick or the other. (And frankly I found her argument unconvincing.) Yes there are variations, no we should not judge people for their biology, but yes we should acknowledge the fundamental reality that who and what we are is determined by our biology.

        1. Sassafras

          I’m sorry, but I don’t find your argument particularly convincing either. You say the Sex & Gender diagram supports what you’re saying, but even it lists more than just chromosomes as the characteristics of physical sex. Chromosomes have a part in determining our developmental hormones, but they are not the be-all-end-all. Our brains, and the hormones that we choose to put there ourselves, are just as biological and more “who and what we are” than the single sexed chromosome we’re born with.

          no we should not judge people for their biology

          Except that’s exactly how you’re using it, to say that if a man has sex with a trans woman that’s non-straight sex just because of her Y chromosome. And “straight” and “non-straight” are not objective biological classifications, they’re cultural, social. Further, they’re social concepts with consequences for the people involved, such as straight men being so freaked out by being attracted to a trans woman that they become violent.

          1. No Light

            I find it helps to remember the following:

            “Brenda” is to “logic”, as
            “Camembert” is to “A neon purple sockmonkey masturbating into a wheelbarrow full of glazed hams”.

            No point trying to convey the multifaceted nature of chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, external genital, internal genital, and brain-based sex differentiation to her, never mind the difference between “vanilla” and “kinky”.

            Trying to point out to her that there’s more to human sexuality than “cisstraight man + cisstraight woman in the missionary position, and everything else is skeery and queird” is as fruitless as trying to point out to her that all women have bodily autonomy, and that trans women do indeed have every right to define their own bodies and sexuality.

            Just got to wait for her to start howling about how “tribal” and “irrational” we are now.

            Any minute…

          2. brenda

            “Our brains, and the hormones that we choose to put there ourselves, are just as biological”

            And that choice was causally determined by your biology. You chose to take those hormones because your dna made you trans. There is a direct unbroken causal chain between your biology and the actions you take. You don’t make choices.

        2. brianpansky

          “And hormone levels and expression are determined by one’s DNA.”
          ["are determined" is wrong here. perhaps you meant "often determined"]

          And DNA activation and expression can be determined by hormones.
          …so?

          Are surgery and other medical effects not “causal” enough for you?

          1. brenda

            Your “choice” to undergo surgery was causally determined from birth. You were born trans. You didn’t choose to be. Given that fact and the availability of surgery it was never going to be any other way.

          2. No Light

            Brenda -

            Your “choice” to undergo surgery was causally determined from birth. You were born trans. You didn’t choose to be. Given that fact and the availability of surgery it was never going to be any other way.

            1) That makes no sense at all* That’s without touching the whole essentialist mess of “genes are destiny”.

            2) We’re not talking about surgery. We’re talking about your incredibly limited grasp of the science of sex differentiation, including your apparent belief that people AMAB are all XY, and those who were AFAB are all XX.

            3) People who go by the name “Brian” online, typically aren’t trans women.

            I know you think every poster here is part of some “tribe” of trans people, but the majority are just people who’ve reached the minimum standard of human decency.

            I read Sikivu’s blog and I’m not black, Greta’s blog and I’m not a bisexual cat owner, and I’m not under any fatwas yet, despite enjoying Taslima’s blog.

            * Trans =/= transsexual. It’s a spectrum.

            Some people never need surgery or hormones in order to live as their true gender. They’re still trans.

            Some people don’t want surgery. They’re still trans.

            Some people have health issues that preclude surgery. They’re still trans.

            Some people would put themselves in immediate danger if they had surgery. They’re still trans.

            Some people live in places where surgery isn’t an option. They’re still trans.

            Some people can’t afford 40,000^ dollars/euro/pounds for surgery. They’re still trans.

            Also – not every congenital issue gets surgically corrected. I have two that should have been done in childhood, but life sometimes gets in the way. I’ll lay the blame on “luck”.

            So, do you want to get back to telling us how sex is differentiated, and how super-dupity easy it is to determine someone’s sex?

            ^ rough estimate at the low end, that excludes travel, costs of jumping through WPATH hoops, aftercare etc.

          3. brenda

            1) That makes no sense at all* That’s without touching the whole essentialist mess of “genes are destiny”.

            The essence of water is H2O. The essence of who I am is my dna. Did you know that one’s dna acts in the world in order to create an environment favorable to it expressing certain genes? I know it isn’t a simple straightforward translation but the causal chain is still there.

            “including your apparent belief that people AMAB are all XY, and those who were AFAB are all XX.”

            Perhaps you should actually read what I say and not insert your own beliefs. I am fully aware that people exist on a spectrum of gender as well as phenotypes. I just accept as a given that society has norms and those norms are arbitrary. Society also has norms about what constitutes being black or not even though those are also arbitrary.

            In my ideal world people wouldn’t care about what race or gender one is. But even so people would still separate into different preferences and even then those putatively straight men would likely prefer cis women over trans women. I would accept that as just being part of the natural order of things.

            ” People who go by the name “Brian” online, typically aren’t trans women.”

            Oh, sorry, I pay attention to what you say. As far as I know we are all just highly intelligent dogs here. ;)

            “I know you think every poster here is part of some “tribe” of trans people,”

            No, not really. I think virtually everyone on the internet has self selected into various tribes and that it is responsible for the extreme polarization we are seeing in politics today. Which I believe is highly dangerous, possibly even fatal, to society as a whole.

            “Trans =/= transsexual. It’s a spectrum.”

            Yes, and yet, discrete colors in the EM spectrum have a real objective existence. It seems to me that you are trying to say the color red does not exist because there is no clear line separating it from yellow. That is true and it is also true that red exists in objective reality. Perception is not reality, even if you really want it to be.

            I think that is the core objection to my position.

            “Some people don’t want surgery. They’re still trans.”

            I never said they weren’t. Why do put words in my mouth?

            “So, do you want to get back to telling us how sex is differentiated, and how super-dupity easy it is to determine someone’s sex?”

            I never said anything like that. I said that social norms exist not that they are scientifically valid. It was everyone else who jumped to that conclusion.

          4. No Light

            Brenda@1:25

            Nice word salad. None of it makes any sense. If you don’t know what something means, asking for clarification doesn’t make you seem stupid.

            What does, is thinking “Hmm. I know what the word ‘spectrum’ means, so I’ll slip in something about colour, and hope I look profound”

            There’s no point in discussing anything with you, because you make shit up as you go along. Only in your world could vanilla hetero sex, or BDSM activity between a man and a woman, be classed as “not straight”.

            Only in your world does any position on the trans* spectrum (even noho and non-op) mean a total lack of free will, and surgery whether it’s wanted or not.

            Only in your world are gender-essentialism and overt cisstraight privilege displays considered appropriate on the blog of a trans woman talking about trans issues.

            Only in your world can gender be compared to race.

            I don’t like your world, or anyone that comes from it. Learn how we discuss things on earth, or bugger off to reddit or yahoo!answers.

            If Brenda is a Turing test, and her programmer is reading this, can you at least give it access to wiki, please?

          5. brianpansky

            “The essence of water is H2O. The essence of who I am is my
            dna.”

            stop, stop everything. I’m not even sure what “essence” or “who I am” is supposed to mean, given how you are using it.

            Go google “not you mom’s trans 101″ or something.

            Or basic “All A are B, D and F” logic stuff.

            What I’d like to say is that “man” and “woman” are words previously used to categorize people into a binary. But it was not just a body structure binary, these categories included vast amounts of things (including genitals, mysterious identity attributes, and behavior patterns).

            And now we humans have discovered that we have better words for a lot of those items that the categories used to imply. Now, when we want to state our chromosomes, we can state our chromosomes. When we want to describe our genitalia, we can describe our genitalia.

            We look at the categories and we can see that they don’t actually work as categories for any of these things. The items are not exclusive to one category or the other. The categories are broken. Broken up into tiny pieces, each of which we have a new name for, a better more accurate name.

            The only use the words have left is the mysterious identity stuff. Why? Because these identity things have not yet been broken up into pieces we can describe in better detail (which may not be exclusive to “man” or “woman”).

            Perhaps in the future, science will reveal the components of this identity stuff, and we will no longer be able to categorize the vast array of identity components as “man” or woman” if the categories are not exclusive.

          6. No Light

            Brian, lovely patient Brian!

            WRT this:

            stop, stop everything. I’m not even sure what “essence” or “who I am” is supposed to mean, given how you are using it.

            I doubt if she even knows what she means. Her modus operandi is to go into a topic where her level of understanding doesn’t even reach the ’1′ in ’101′, then she starts ‘splaining as if she were a world expert.

            If someone says something she disapproves of, even if it is an actual fact, she threatens the blog owner by saying “I’m going to email your employer/educational institute and ask what they think of your hate site”

            All she has is incoherent word salad, bluster, lies, and threats. She’s warbling about “essence” and the “line between red and yellow”, because she truly has no idea what she’s talking about, but can’t admit it.

            I’d direct her to some of my favourite blogs, but honestly? I value the bloggers and commenters too much. She has the capacity to do too much harm with her ignorance and cissplaining.

          7. brenda

            NoLight and others said a bunch of stuff like:
            “There’s no point in discussing anything with you”

            I take these and similar complaints as an admission of defeat and an attempt to save face.

            “Only in your world could vanilla hetero sex, or BDSM activity between a man and a woman, be classed as “not straight”.”

            I never classified vanilla sex as non straight. I was arguing for the exact opposite. Instead of rushing in to slay the imaginary demon you believe I am you should try to read for comprehension a little.

            “Only in your world does any position on the trans* spectrum (even noho and non-op) mean a total lack of free will”

            More reading for comprehension would be a great help here. To support my claim that who we are is determined largely by our genes I appealed to hard determinism. As much as I would like to I cannot find a good reason to believe we posses free will.

            ——————-
            brianpansky said:
            ” I’m not even sure what “essence” or “who I am” is supposed to mean”

            The essence of water is H2O because H2O is what constitutes something being water. If it isn’t composed of mostly H2O it isn’t water. DNA is essentially who I am because it is what identifies me as a separate individual human being from other human beings. If you want to know if I was at the scene of the crime DNA evidence will uniquely identify any biological matter left behind as belonging to me. I am my body. My body was created by and is uniquely identified by the DNA that gave rise to me. There is nothing else which is me other than my body. Therefore DNA is the essence of what it is to be me.

            “The items are not exclusive to one category or the other.”

            My DNA + the causal chain of events leading to this moment are exclusive to me and uniquely identify me from every other object in the universe. Including clones.

            There is no such thing as identity stuff. The chair in my room is identical to the chair I saw there yesterday *only* if there exists a causal chain of events that connect this chair with yesterday’s chair. Maybe gremlins came and took the other one away and left an exact duplicate. That duplicate is NOT identical to the previous chair.

  6. 6
    Xalazi

    I have to side with Cenk on this one. You can maybe fault him for not being as clear as possible in his terminology, but at the end of the day I think everyone can see that he meant sex with between a biological male and a biological female when he said “straight sex”, and he is right. Sex between a biological male and a biological female is not exactly the same as sex between a biological male and a male that has a female figure and a penis. If it was the same the males in the news story would not be paying extra for it. The bottom line is that the mechanics are different. Not better or worse in any way, just different.

    To his overall point, he is also right. I bet that most of the men in the news stories would admit to having sex with biological females only, even though that is clearly not the case.

    1. 6.1
      Zinnia Jones

      Sex between a biological male and a biological female is not exactly the same as sex between a biological male and a male that has a female figure and a penis.

      It’s not about whether it’s different. Lots of things are different. It’s about whether the difference is relevant in this particular domain, that is, whether their sexual activity can be considered “straight” or not. As I explained, there’s ultimately no valid reason to consider it anything other than straight sex.

      If it was the same the males in the news story would not be paying extra for it.

      There are a lot of things that clients of sex workers will pay extra for, but that doesn’t mean it has any bearing on sexual orientation.

      1. Xalazi

        For clarity sake you have to be able to classify the sexual activities discussed in the article into categories. So, yes the difference matters in this domain.

        From a sex(the physical act between two or more people) point of view, Is a trans woman exactly the same in every way as a biological woman? Of course not. They might be equal, but they are not exactly the same. So, is a man that prefers to have sex exclusably with biological women the same sexual orientation as a man that likes to have sex with a trans woman? No because they do not prefer the exact same thing. There is a clear difference in their sexuality. After all, sexual orientation, at least in part, is a label that describes someone’s sexual preference.

        And that’s really all the term “straight sex” is in this case. It’s a label for sexual preference. I guess that you could say that it’s a crude label, but that’s what Cenk came up with at the moment. And to me it’s close enough.

        1. CD

          So, is a man that prefers to have sex exclusably with biological women the same sexual orientation as a man that likes to have sex with a trans woman? No because they do not prefer the exact same thing.

          So is a man who enjoys performing cunnilingus of a different sexual orientation than a man who doesn’t? Is a man who enjoys being pegged by his cis female partner of a different orientation than a man who doesn’t? Is a man who prefers blowjobs over vaginal intercourse of a different orientation than a man who doesn’t? Are men who like to be dominated and whipped by women not straight? If you only count “straight sex” as penis meeting vagina, there are a lot of people who are going to be shocked to find out they’re queer.

        2. Zinnia Jones

          So, is a man that prefers to have sex exclusably with biological women the same sexual orientation as a man that likes to have sex with a trans woman? No because they do not prefer the exact same thing.

          Then tell us how you would describe what you consider to be two separate sexual orientations, if not “straight”.

          1. Xalazi

            I don’t know. How about “straight” and “Trans”. Or “Straight” and “other” in the same way that I would use “Trans” and “other”. There is almost an infinate number of possibilities for the number of sexual orientations that are possible. What you use depends on what you are describing and how it’s different from something(or everything) else.

            Again, categories are a necessary part of language sometimes. They aren’t this evil thing that should be demonized at all cost. Just because I seperate a certain group from the rest doesn’t instantly mean that I want to discriminate against or for that group.

          2. Zinnia Jones

            I don’t know. How about “straight” and “Trans”. Or “Straight” and “other” in the same way that I would use “Trans” and “other”.

            What makes men having sex with women anything other than “straight”? Why is it “straight” only when men are having sex with cis women? Why is *that* the only thing here that’s called “straight”?

            I know what categories are and I know the purpose they serve. This is obvious. It should also be obvious that the problem here is that categories are being intentionally confused in a way that fails to represent reality, because some people are mystifyingly intent on regarding trans women as some kind of sexual wildcard that erases any possibility of heterosexuality. See here for more details. “Here, the flaws in traditional definitions of gender can compromise our understanding of sexual orientation as well – but updating our concept of gender provides clarity.”

        3. aleph squared

          After all, sexual orientation, at least in part, is a label that describes someone’s sexual preference.

          No, it’s a label that describes someone’s sexual preference with respect to gender. There can be a myriad of other ways in which we classify ourselves sexually with respect to various preferences/fetishes or behaviors; orientation is specifically in reference to gender.

          A man who is attracted to women only is straight regardless of whether or not he has further preferences regarding physique, personality, or medical history.

          Is a trans woman exactly the same in every way as a biological woman?

          Is any woman exactly the same in every as any other woman?

          The question you are asking is founded upon the false assumption that the distinction between trans women and cis women is more fundamental somehow, and more relevant respecting sexual orientation, than any other physical difference between women. But I don’t see any reason why, and you’ve certainly failed to provide one.

          1. Xalazi

            “The question you are asking is founded upon the false assumption that the distinction between trans women and cis women is more fundamental somehow, and more relevant respecting sexual orientation, than any other physical difference between women. But I don’t see any reason why, and you’ve certainly failed to provide one.”
            No. My assumption is not based on one being more “fundamental”, or better, or worse, or natural, or unnatural. It’s based on it being mechanically different. IMO, all sexual orientations are equal. That doesn’t mean that they all work exactly the same. Sometimes it’s necessary to classify things inorder to make a point.

        4. Sassafras

          Could you please stop saying “biological woman” to refer to non-trans women? Trans women are biological, too. The term you want is “cis woman”.

  7. 7
    Pitchguest

    Read it again, Zinnia.

    - Uygur saying: “And it’s not just the hypocrisy, right – it also shows you, by the way, the reality of sexual orientation in the world, right? It’s not binary, and I can guarantee you that if you ask those guys, at the very least nine out of ten of them would tell you, ‘Oh no, I’m totally straight.’ Right? But when push comes to shove, they pay a lot of money to have non-straight sex.”

    The “non-straight sex” comes from this line here,

    … and I can guarantee you that if you ask those guys, at the very least nine out of ten of them would tell you, ‘Oh no, I’m totally straight.’

    So it’s a reference. It’s poorly stated, but you’re reading far too much into it. Throughout the report, Cenk made it clear he was being facetious, supportive of the transgendered women and condemning the hypocrisy by the police. He’s on your side. I don’t think he meant it the way you’re construing it and he would most likely apologise if that’s how he came across.


    JS says:

    What exactly can one expect from a show named after the perpetrators of one of the largest genocides of the 20th century?

    Wow. Freethoughtblogs never ceases to amaze.

    1. 7.1
      Stacy

      Please don’t judge FtB by that stupid comment.

      1. Pitchguest

        I guess I can give it the benefit of the doubt.

        (wink wink)

    2. 7.2
      HolyStupidBatman

      Wow. Freethoughtblogs never ceases to amaze.

      The truth is that both JS and you have a (short) history of making stupid comments on blogs that happen to be part of FTB. So if you want FTB to stop amazing you, you should convince JS and yourself to stop posting.

    3. 7.3
      brenda

      Pitchguest said:
      “Throughout the report, Cenk made it clear he was being facetious, supportive of the transgendered women and condemning the hypocrisy by the police. He’s on your side. I don’t think he meant it the way you’re construing it and he would most likely apologise if that’s how he came across.”

      Yes that is my take also. Life is too short to invent enemies.

      “JS says:

      What exactly can one expect from a show named after the perpetrators of one of the largest genocides of the 20th century?

      Wow. Freethoughtblogs never ceases to amaze.”

      Collective guilt is an ugly thing.

      1. Pitchguest

        Yes, agreed. A lapse of judgment and I apologise.

        Though the later benefit of the doubt comment was meant more tongue-in-cheek. (See: several conversations about benefit of the doubt on FTB and how it’s mark of privilege, etc)

  8. 8
    gworroll

    I love TYT, but Cenk does have a habit of showing some lack of understanding of anything that is either non-straight or non-cis. Like not realizing those two concepts are different things.

    He doesn’t have a problem with either, he’d treat them with respect and push for them to have equal rights as strongly as anyone… but he doesn’t understand the concepts anywhere near as well as he thinks he does. Pretty classic case of being blinded by privilege, but at least he can look past his privilege enough to see the importance of equality, compassion, and respect.

    1. 8.1
      Pitchguest

      Don’t you ever get tired of the ‘blinded by privilege’ argument?

      What does that even mean in this case? It’s got nothing to do with privilege. Admittedly he was poorly stating his case, but don’t you think it’s rather absurd to say he’s ‘blinded by privilege’? With obvious foreign features, on a show called the Young Turks with a name like Cenk Uygur. Maybe you ought to reconsider.

      1. CD

        Pitchguest, maybe you should understand what privilege in this context means before you start spouting off about it. Lack of privilege in one area (race/ethnicity/nationality) has no effect on privilege in other areas (sex/gender). Cis men of eastern European background are absolutely capable of holding privilege over trans women and to suggest otherwise is absurd.

        Additionally, when discussing American citizens there is no such thing as “obvious foreign features”, unless you’re talking about everyone who doesn’t look 100% Indian. He may be targeted for not looking western European, but to suggest his features are “foreign” implies that there are no Turkish American citizens. Cenk Uygur is a naturalized US citizen and has lived here since he was a child.

      2. pripripriprivilege

        With obvious foreign features, on a show called the Young Turks with a name like Cenk Uygur

        I think you missed the poster’s point: he’s still a straight male. Also, I wouldn’t reject the notion of white privilege applying to Turkish-Americans in 2012 USA that easily.

        “Obvious foreign features”, really now?

        1. Pitchguest

          CD & pripripriprivilege:

          Oh, I see, his being straight and male is the privilege in this case. I’m not sure if I agree with that statement, as both traits are inherent with you at birth, but let’s go with that. At least I know where you’re coming from. By the way, the privilege argument arose due to Cenk’s choice of words so I’m curious how that’s parallel to holding privilege over another.

          And by ‘obvious foreign features’ I mean he’s not ‘white’. He’s a naturalised citizen, but he’s Turkish American and that’s exactly my point, precisely as there exists Asian American and African American citizenry. It was the implication that Cenk was ‘blinded by privilege’ that got my goat, but you clarified that to me meaning it was because of his straight maleness and not his ethnicity as such.

          1. Laura M

            Being white is also inherent at birth, but I sincerely hope you would not dismiss white privilege.
            Also African Americans and Asian americans are both not foreign at all, do I really don’t see how that defends your point.

  9. 9
    Stacy

    If being attracted to trans women made these men “non-straight” or something less than heterosexual, we would not expect to observe this.

    I know you didn’t mean to say that anyone who isn’t heterosexual is “less than” heterosexual. I know that, because I know where you’re coming from.

    I think the Young Turks also deserve a generous interpretation.

    1. 9.1
      aleph squared

      You also know that because the [fully] was quite clearly implied, by a context in which gradations of straight-ness were being discussed.

    2. 9.2
      Sassafras

      I think the Young Turks also deserve a generous interpretation.

      I disagree; they have a history of throwing the term “tranny” around, and treating any story even slightly related to trans people as a hilarious freakshow. They have long since used up any interpretative generosity they deserved on this issue.

  10. 10
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    I had a vaguely related discussion with a friend years ago when The Crying Game hit the theatres. He was very troubled by how he responded to Jaye Davidson in the movie. I explained to him that no, he probably wasn’t “suddenly gay” and that he was attracted to Davidson’s feminine qualities. Then I explained to him that I thought Davidson was drop dead gorgeous, and Davidson’s ownership of a penis did nothing to affect my thinking, despite me being straight.

    Which sort of leads me to recent events. Jenna Talackova (the transgendered Miss Universe contestant) was all over the news. Holy moly is she ever beautiful. The same friend asked me what I thought about the whole thing and we had a frank discussion. He concluded with, “I would date her, if I had the opportunity.”

    I’d like to take that as a positive move. He went from being “afraid of becoming suddenly gay” 20 years ago to accepting that it’s perfectly okay to be attracted to trans people. I have to say I learned a lot too, in the last couple of decades.

  11. 11
    Francisco Bacopa

    I think the main thing Cenk got wrong was not calling the post arrest sexual activity “rape”.

    Seems he almost got it right near the end by saying sexual orientation isn’t really a strict dichotomy, but then went back to the whole “non-straight” terminology.

    I really think sexual orientation isn’t even a continuum, as Kinsey did, though I think he was on the right track. It’s more of a diverse cloud. I don’t think you can say cisgendered male to cisgendered female attraction is “straight” and cisgendered male to cisgendered male is “gay” and that all other cis-male attractions fall on a line between them.

    I think this video could have been done with a little more care and it might have been good if they had done a little research into how trans people think about themselves.

    BTW, is Ana also of Turkish ancestry? Her last name sounds Armenian, Azeri, or perhaps Iranian to me. But maybe those ethnic groups also live in Turkey. I have been acquainted with many Caucasians (as in from that mountain range between the Black and Caspian Seas) and Iranians than I have been with Turks. I might be biased here.

    1. 11.1
      Pitchguest

      The term “Young Turks” come from a dissident group from the Ottoman Empire that forced underground because of their unpopular opinions, composed mainly of students and military cadets. Using it nowadays doesn’t have to mean you’re of Turkish descent. The term can also mean “[to] signify any groups or individuals inside an organization who seek prominence and power” but I imagine that’s not what they were going for.

    2. 11.2
      mimi

      She’s Armenian.

  12. 12
    Winterwind

    I don’t watch the Young Turks but about a year ago I saw a clip in which they were discussing Matt Damon’s comment that James Bond was a misogynistic character. They could have debated that and had an interesting discussion, but Cenk Uygur just said something like, “Matt, James Bond is fiction. He’s a made up fantasy character. So let guys have this.”

    I hate the “it’s fictional so who cares” excuse. Stories are important, they create and reflect our reality and show us how we define ourselves. Imagine if the main character from a popular franchise kept making racist or homophobic comments. Would anyone shrug and say, “it’s just a fictional character.” (Actually, a lot of people probably would). I thought it was lazy and a missed opportunity.

    1. 12.1
      Lou Doench

      I can still enjoy Bond whilst understanding its shortcomings.

  13. 13
    Adam

    Ah, the days when men were men … and so were the women. Chick with dicks, whatever, who cares. I prefer if we stopped making sexual distinction between consenting adults. It only seems applicable when you’re trying to convey what you want, “Dudes, but without dicks. Eh, whatever it’s called these days.” Rambling in summary: sex is sex. No need for extra labels.

  14. 14
    Ace of Sevens

    This is hardly Cenk’s only problem on gender issues. Watch any story about a women who isn’t a crime victim and Cenk will devote a good chunk of the show to whether he would her. The answer is invariably yes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUq02M8h3BA

    Here’s good, though old, example.

  15. 15
    Riptide

    Cenk seems good-hearted but thick-headed on many social justice issues. The OP is a particularly egregious example–I agree with a few commenters that we can read ‘straight sex’ as Cenk meant it to mean ‘intercourse involving a vagina and a penis that is not considered deviant.’ That doesn’t make him any less wrong, of course, and he needs to recognize that he’s being a horrible spokesperson for the issues he clearly cares about.

    Another example of him being bone-headed was his two exchanges with the leader of GOProud, wherein Cenk could only articulate how wrong the other guy was in the terms ‘But [the Republicans] don’t *like* you! You shouldn’t support them because they don’t *like* you!’

    There’s no analysis to TYT, in other words. Just a kind of knee-jerk response to a given issue…and even if that knee-jerk is generally in favor of extending rights and promoting equality (though it isn’t always exclusively so), it still leaves something to be desired.

    1. 15.1
      brenda

      “There’s no analysis to TYT, in other words. Just a kind of knee-jerk response to a given issue”

      Yes, a knee jerk leftist response. Which is just as tiresome as knee jerk rightist responses. Which is why I am a liberal and NOT a progressive.

      1. Dalillama, Schmott Guy

        Because you favor reasonably sane economic policy, but want to be able to keep being a bigot an not feel bad about yourself, in other words? That’s really the only meaningful difference between ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ in current American political discourse.

      2. Winterwind

        Just as thoughtless, maybe. Just as tiresome? Personally I’d prefer an unexamined knee-jerk response in favour of minority rights and promoting inclusion than one in favour of bigotry. I’m sure most members of minority groups would agree. In an ideal world everyone’s positions would be carefully examined and argued, but if we have to live in a world with stupid knee-jerk opinions, let them be stupid knee-jerk opinions in favour of equality, because in the meantime some of us would like to survive and be treated like human beings.

  16. 16
    David Parnell

    “If anything, these patterns of attraction reveal the hypocrisy of regarding trans women as anything less than women, and of prosecuting them under laws against homosexuality”

    Why does it matter who gets prosecuted under these laws they are evil either way? Who cares if someone is prosecuted unfairly under an unfair law?

    1. 16.1
      Sassafras

      The laws are vile and unjust towards gays, and additionally reveal hypocrisy in their use against trans women.

  17. 17
    mimi

    I think he means non straight through the eyes of a conservatively educated Muslim. I’m assuming the women that have been arrested still have penises, otherwise how would the cops know? Were not talking NYC or San Fran here. We are talking about entire countries who think there is one way to be. Born man owning a born woman. That’s it.

    As for the odious “Young Turks” name, the young lady Anna who is the coanchor is Armenian. I hardly think this is a racist thing.

    The Young Turks is a phenomenal programme, and to dismiss them on a minor gaffe seems a bit odd to say the least.

  18. 18
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    What I don’t understand is this… thing where sex is divided into categories beyond “consensual” and “non-consensual”. As far as I’m concerned, as long as it involves consenting adults, it’s good.

  19. 19
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Oh wait, you’re serious. Let me laugh even harder.

    1. 19.1
      Dalillama, Schmott Guy

      Sorry, that comment was meant t be in response to Brenda’s

      The fact that you did a little sex play doesn’t mean a lot. People in the bdsm community do not, for the most part, consider what they do to be “straight”. It is not a norm for a partner to get sexually aroused from inflicting pain, *real* pain, not your playtime pretend bdsm.

      1. No Light

        I think “Brenda is a Turing test, actually.

        “She” can’t tell the difference betwem individual commenters, despite the whole name+avatar thing. She thinks Brian is a woman, and that I’m Brian.

        Her responses never make sense, they seem to be random chunks of copypasta based around one or two key phrases in the preceding comment.

        She has no internal consistency, no knowledge of the terms she’s using, outside of their dictionary definitions, and no apparent grasp of human nature or biology other than “Man has (circumcised) penis, woman has vagina. Neither has bodily autonomy”.

        It scares me to think she might be a person, so I’m going with “annoyance bot”.

        1. brenda

          NoLight said:
          “She has no internal consistency, no knowledge of the terms she’s using,”

          You need to, you know, actually show that. So far you are unable to keep up. At which point, like most do when out of their depth, you resort to smears and name calling.

          Perhaps you should consider a career in sales?

          1. Anthony K

            You need to, you know, actually show that.

            Simply done. In this context, straight means heterosexual, not “outside the norm”.

            You’ve used it incorrectly several times here.

          2. Anthony K

            Link goes to here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosexuality

          3. noen

            That was quite unhelpful as it did not relate to anything I have said. Pointing isn’t arguing. It’s just pointing.

  20. 20
    kosk11348

    Because trans women are women, and because these men are straight. They are attracted to trans women because they are women.

    I am slightly confused and seek clarification. What percentage of men who identify as straight are attracted to trans women? Does it make a difference if it’s a low number? If most straight men are not attracted to trans women, how can being attracted to trans women be considered a normative expression of straight sexuality? Or can it be considered non-normative and still straight? Thanks in advance to anyone who answers. I’m only trying to learn.

    1. 20.1
      Sassafras

      What percentage of men who identify as straight are attracted to trans women?

      I don’t know that there’s ever been a study, but straight men are the ones that primarily consume porn with trans women, and the ones that hire trans woman prostitutes.

      If most straight men are not attracted to trans women, how can being attracted to trans women be considered a normative expression of straight sexuality?

      Because being straight doesn’t mean you’re attracted to every single person of the opposite gender (same for every other orientation). If statistically most straight men preferred blondes, it wouldn’t make a man having sex with a brunette be “non-straight”.

    2. 20.2
      brenda

      “What percentage of men who identify as straight are attracted to trans women?”

      There are men attracted to trans women *because* they are trans and those men are different than men attracted to trans women when they can perceive no difference from cis women. They are referred to as “trans fans” and seek out and prefer trans women over cis women.

      It’s a really bad idea not to tell your partner. Not just for reasons of personal safety but because it is immoral to lie about something so important to the relationship. I knew someone who had not told her husband yet. Very very bad idea there.

      1. Sassafras

        And of course, as with all discussions of trans women’s sexuality, the scary deceiver derail has to wedge itself in.

    3. 20.3
      Ace of Sevens

      So guys who like fat chicks aren’t straight?

      1. kosk11348

        Point made.

  21. 21
    Binxies

    They aren’t women ,they’re ladyboys, and they actually identify as ladyboys, ie, ‘boys’(men) that look like ladies.

    And quite rightly , someone with a penis is a man, your whole ‘gender is a condition of the mind’ has no evidence behind it.

  22. 22
    Binxies

    The truth is moreso that, ‘straight’ men are attracted to trans ‘women’ that have penises because there is in reality, no such thing as ‘straight’ and most people will make an exception for someone they’re not normally ‘supposed’ to be attracted to considering they identify as gay or straight, most ‘straight’ men are attracted more to feminine figure and mannerisms than they are to women.

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