During a recent comedy show in Nashville, Tracy Morgan launched into a vitriolic rant about queer people. He claimed that Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” was bullshit because of the line “God makes no mistakes,” that there was no way one woman could love another (because women are a gift from God reserved for real, deserving straight men, natch), and that if his son were gay and had a feminine gender presentation, Morgan would stab him to death. This isn’t the first time Morgan has made hateful remarks onstage—in 2009 he claimed that being gay was a choice to a crowd at Carnegie Hall—but the statements that he is alleged to have made in Tennessee make that performance seem rather tame.
Near the end of this tirade, Morgan included an old chestnut for the queers in the audience, something I’ve grown used to hearing from every “edgy” comedian who wants to get a few yucks doing material about sissy men or butch ladies or epicene androgynes or whoever is filling the straight male id with abject terror this week: “If you can take a dick, you can take a joke.” The implication being that anal sex is some sort of great feat, like the Iron Man Competition or a Triathlon, that straight men couldn’t possibly endure, because they’re so strong and manly? Obviously a person who has passed through such a terrible ordeal will be so hardened by the experience that they will lose all ability to be angry that they paid almost 90 dollars to be told their sexuality is a choice. The statement sometimes carries with it a note of begrudging respect, but that respect is in the context of the speaker acknowledging that “taking a dick” would be impossible for them. They use queer sexuality to have something to define themselves against in order to underscore and highlight their own bland heteronormativity, and expect to get a pass for vile shit they’ve said about queer lives? Fuck that.
This idea that is taken for granted, that anal sex is inherently painful or unpleasant or something to be endured, is extremely pervasive in the culture. It creates a problem when younger queers internalize this, which leads them to accept painful or unpleasant sex as an inevitability, something the passive partner must endure and the active partner can’t help but inflict. When they have their first sexual encounter they may know to insist on a condom, but might not know to insist that their own sexual pleasure be of equal importance to the sexual pleasure of their partner. They may believe that being a good receptive partner means enduring needlessly painful sex without complaint.
Morgan has since apologized for his remarks, but this stock phrase that comedians trot out whenever the queers in an audience are getting a little too empowered has got to go. It is a relic of an old, dangerous, defunct way of thinking of queer sexuality and it stopped being funny ages ago.