No Means No, Even Between Two Black Gay Men

Unwanted sexual contact has become way too common in the gay community.

On a Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C., I decided to hang out with the crew at our usual gay club hangout. I was having a great time drinking and doing a little two step, when nature called. I left my friends and went to the bathroom alone, as I have done since the tender age of 5. While washing my hands outside the bathroom, I was approached by a man who I would consider an associate.

As I gave the official “what’s up” head nod, he responded the same while also sticking his hand between my legs from behind and squeezing. Although I was startled, I played it cool and moved his arm away and asked him not to do that. I guess my rejection of his advances was the first time in history this ever happened because his response was “What? You don’t like that?” as he did it again.

I was pissed.

As my blood pressure started to rise, I slapped his hand away and yelled, “Chill on all of that!”

As I did that, he became irate and started yelling at me. By the grace of God, a mutual friend happened to be standing there watching the entire confrontation. He grabbed his friend by the arm and screamed several times, “Let’s go!”

Finally, he calmed down and exited.

I was left standing there confused with my hands shaking. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I had no control over a situation dealing with my personal space. Thoughts were running through my head as I tried to rationalize what happened.

I asked myself a few questions:

Were my clothes too tight? No, clothes don’t dictate consent. Did I give consent that I wasn’t aware of? No, I was simply washing my hands and said hello. Did I actually allow the normalcy of grabbing and touching that goes on in these settings devalue my body to the point that I lost ownership of it? Umm. No? Yes? Maybe.

As a person who has been to many gay clubs, the violation of sexual contact has become way too common. Most often, it occurs in passing or while standing at the bar. You feel the slight brush of your backside by people “claiming” they are trying to pass by. Hands wrapping around your waist as people try to order a drink from behind you. This occurs so frequently, that I fully allowed it as an acceptable act. It has become so regular in our culture that people act without fear of repercussion and dismiss anyone who rejects the unwanted advances based on a culture of rape and perceived promiscuity in the gay community.

This stigma is further advanced with the portrayal of gay male characters on primetime television. Although I appreciate the advancement being taken with gay male characters having roles on major networks in shows like “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder,” I am saddened that these characters have been maligned as being sexually deviant and lacking any depth. Both shows depict gay men using their bodies rather than their intellect to get what they want by using sex as a manipulative tool against one another. These scenes portray us as people who are willing to perform sexual favors in an office, courthouse bathroom, or with an escort, and further the agenda that we don’t value our bodies or sexual spaces.

Consent is the premise of my problem. My body is mine, and you must have permission to cross that space. Granted, there are gay men who enjoy the gratification of their sexual space visited often, but even with that there is consent. To the alternative men who are guarded and protective of their sexuality should be respected if they choose not to engage in touching and grabbing. Many of the latter are forced to simply deal with this because of the false belief that sexual promiscuity is the norm rather than the exception.

Consent isn’t just for the bedroom, it must also be applied to sexual contact. The assumption that a grab or grope is harmless is dangerous. The same rules of consent that apply in a male-to-female exchange must also apply in male-to-male and female-to-female exchanges. Grabbing me cannot be used as a “compliment.” I should not have to be subjected to unwanted touching as a way of you showing your attraction toward me.

No means no. The same rules that govern the heterosexual community when it comes to sexual assault and contact need to be applied in the homosexual community. I can only hope that going forward, we, as a community, learn that society and cultural trends do not determine the value an individual places on his body. I would rather you say hello to my face before your hands say hello to my waist.

George Johnson is an advocate for social change in the realms of gender, higher education, sexual orientation, and race.  He has been published in Role Reboot, Ebony, Huff Post College, Diverse Education and TheEdAdvocate. He blogs at Follow him on twitter @iamgmjohnson.

This originally appeared on MUSED Magazine Online. Republished here with permission.

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