Friday, January 13, 2006

The Politics Of "Taking It Up The Ass"

So I've a gay fried who gets really upset when people use the phrase "take it up the ass" (and variants thereof) to indicate being subjected to something unpleasant. I'm relatively certain that he feels its demeaning to gay people; I don't recall him having an issue with the phrase prior to coming out. While trying to figure out if my friend was being reasonable I was impressed by the difficulty of actually evaluating the claim. There seem to be multiple good arguments both for and against, so how does one go about determining which one is right? Let's start by considering the common usage of the phrase. "Taking it up the ass", it would seem, is generally used to indicate that someone is being metaphorically violated, coerced, or forced to engage in something unpleasant. As commonly used this phrase really doesn't refer directly to gay people; reference seems to be indirect by association with sodomy. However, sodomy is practiced across orientations; arguing that the phrase "taking it up the ass" refers specifically to homosexual behavior denies this fact. It also runs afoul of progressive though for two reasons: 1) Homosexual practice is not limited to anal sex. Equating homosexuality with sodomy reinforces the stereotype of homosexuals as "buggerers". 2) Homosexuals do more than just have sex. Equating homosexuality with sodomy reinforces the stereotype that homosexuals are one-dimensional individuals interested only in sex. Both of the above seem to be strong "con" arguments. But the "pro" arguments seem to be strong as well. Sodomy has been used as a tool to humiliate and disempower individuals, especially men, from historic times up to the present. The central idea undergirding this usage seems to be that to be penetrated is to be feminized. So using the phrase "take it up the ass" to indicate coercion, violation, etc. reinforces the idea that men penetrate and women are penetrated. By extension this endorses the idea that gay men are effeminate. So there's the central dilemma then. Taking offense at the phrase helps combat the image of gay men as feminized. But at the same time it perpetuates a narrow view of gay men as being solely concerned with anal sex. So which is better, and which is worse?

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