I Didn’t Realize I Internalized the Male Gaze – Until I Was Sexualizing Women

One person holding another's head down, condescendingly

Source: iStock

Originally published on Role Reboot and republished here with their permission. 

My douchebag flag was flying high the first time I tried to meet women out in the wilds of LA.

The maiden voyage to a WeHo gay club was probably the happiest and, conversely, the most frightening moment of my then 22 years.

I recall walking around the lady-infested venue in a doe-eyed stupor like Tobey Maguire when he finally sees color in gray scale Pleasantville. The colors were vivid and really, really ridiculously good-looking. I went into sensory overload. My salivary glands were working overtime. My eyes bore holes in the heads of every woman who slightly resembled Beiber.

I became an overwrought pubescent boy at a middle school dance, praying that “Hot in Herre” would segue into “Get Low” so I could find another body to grind. I hastily abandoned the date that I’d brought to hit on the green-eyed Aussie who was beckoning me from across the room.

Women became bodies, and bodies became a total fixation.

The female douchebag is not an urban legend or fabled archetype created by past scorned lovers. They do exist. I know this because I have been one.

I, a woman and a resolute feminist, have knowingly and willingly participated in the gross objectification of other women and, thus, turned into a person I can only describe as a total and complete douchebag.

A “douchebag” is any person that stereotypically prescribes to a patriarchal sense of the world, who has a tendency to be old school, and mostly has no fucking clue.

A “douchebag” also has the solitary duty to get as many women as they feasibly can into bed (a pursuit that I was much too keen on during the second coming of my newfound lesbian adolescence).

I began having sex with women full-time (or had my “Oh my God, I’m a lesbian” moment) when I was a junior in undergrad. I fell in love with a woman, and then she proceeded to break my heart and wake me up to my true sexuality. Afterward, I was reluctant to come out to myself. I was scared and excited – and scared.

I had no idea how to ask a woman out, how to talk to or flirt with a woman, and most importantly, I just didn’t feel gay enough. Experience is a great teacher, and I was completely without. Rather, I had had the Midwestern, sheltered, gender binary/heteronormative kind.

I grew up indoctrinated with the reductive party line, “men are men and women are women,” and it didn’t sit right with me for obvious reasons. Slovenly, I revolted against this outdated script.

I was obsessed with adopting masculinity. My default setting became discoursing like a stereotypical red-blooded American male in order to attract, woo, and thus, date a lady.

I became one of the boys – and not shockingly, a very poor one.

In an effort to appear gayer or at least communicate to men who were interested in me to back off, I had adopted the male gaze. I felt as if I needed to prove my own lesbianism outwardly. What started off as simply throwing away every flouncy or ruffled piece of clothing I owned, quickly turned into careful micromanagement of my own female physicality.

I began trying to walk in a straight line, swinging my child-bearing hips less when I walked, I hunched over like a gargoyle to bring less attention to my breasts, would speak nearly an octave lower whenever I’d talk to a girl I was trying to take home, and I caught myself leering at women on the street when I’d take my daily commute.

I prided myself on how many new numbers I’d added to my phone weekly and began showing off the women I was sleeping with like trophies to anyone who’d listen. It was quite a performance.

My unsavory behavior toward women was ultimately a projection of my own deeply rooted insecurities about being gay, initially not wanting to be gay, and not knowing what being gay meant in the context of my life.

I panicked and deferred to “the douchebag code.”

I fell into this sick mentality mostly because it felt slightly better than just winging it and also because I’d only dated men at this point. It was familiar.

“My God, I am a fucking traitor.” That’s what I remember thinking that night.

The pinnacle of my douchebagdom came when I was chilling with two of my male friends (who will remain nameless). I took a barbarian’s gulp of my second beer and interrogated, “So who’s the ugliest girl you’ve ever fucked?”

I was behind enemy lines. The three of us went round robin on what constitutes acceptable breasts – small pink areolas, at least a sizable handful (but more is always better), and please God when she takes her bra off, they better not have the egg in a tube sock drop.

This popular debate continued well into the next round of shitty IPA consumption. We competed for the best worst lay story – laughing and congratulating ourselves on being masters of the universe. Then, choking mid-swallow, I remembered something: I was a woman. And I felt like I needed to take a shower immediately.

This was the definitive moment when I clearly rejected being female. It was more than just an awkward waltz into my sexuality. I traded in, withdrew my feminist doggedness, and turned on my own sex.

I was drunk on the patriarchal punch. I wanted to have more currency in the world – and mistook masculinity as the primary means to acquiring status.

I made what I thought was a power play in the male dominated landscape. Instead of redefining what it meant to be female for myself I borrowed preexisting, and severely antiquated masculinity. The gender binary had me thinking that I only had two choices.

There remains a thick layer of ickiness that clings to my skin. I am still ashamed. I forcibly perpetuated an undying breed of degrading narrative in the first 100 Gay Days. I was, quite honestly, talking out of my ass. About other women’s asses.

There is no right way to be male or female or queer, gay or straight or bi or poly or questioning. Hopefully, the conversation on women’s bodies continues to evolve – away from the sad clutches of the gender binary to the happy fields of ambiguity and self-taught gender and sexual identity.

And today, if you see me in a gay club (highly unlikely), leaning over to whisper in my comrade’s ear (I’m more of a yeller), this is the issue that I’m probably talking about now. Not about your ass. (I promise.)

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K.M. Sims is an LA based freelance writer. Say hi via Twitter @thekatiesims and on Instagram @herlove_electric.