Having a "type" without being a jerk about it
December 13, 2018 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm a cis lady who is newly realizing she's queer and also really into butch women and nonbinary masculine-of-center people. I feel weird about this and don't want to act like or be a fetishist or objectify people. Would love to hear especially from queer people on this one.

Sorry I tried to keep this short and failed. tl;dr: thought I was straight, now I know I'm not, feeling super into women and non-binary people who are masculine-of-center, don't want to be a jerk about it.

I'm in my mid-30s and only just accepting that I'm really-for-real attracted to people who aren't men (for a long time, I called myself "straight-ish" and figured I'd be open to getting together with a woman if it happened, but didn't think it ever would because I'm not very confident when it comes to romance and sex). I'm not out yet to most people in my life but I'm working on it and giving myself time to feel comfortable and safe in terms of who I share with and when (my therapist's recommendation).

Anyway, the thing that led to this queer realization of mine is that for a while I was feeling really down about my romantic prospects, because I had no interest in dating (men) and it seemed like it had been FOREVER since I had even the inklings of a crush on anyone. And I was realizing that I've never been all that into the men I have dated, at least not in the way that most of the people I know seem to be into their partners, and starting to feel like I was just not cut out for relationships, etc.

But then one day I had this realization: I've actually had several crushes in the last few years - we're talking blushing when I see the person, heart in my throat, smiling goofily when I think about them - but not on men. All of these people have IDed as butch lesbians or masculine-of-center nonbinary folks. (And of course, it wasn't only their butch-ness I liked - they were all lovely, kind, smart people who I really enjoyed spending time with. But I also just really find that particular brand of masculine-but-queer energy so freaking attractive.)

I do find more femme women attractive sometimes as well, but it's a very different and honestly less compelling attraction. I am pretty femme myself and I think I'm attracted partly to the polarity (which I think is one of the reasons I had myself convinced I was straight for so long). But seriously, I'm at the point right now where I'm constantly finding my head turned in the street by dapper (or not-so-dapper!) butches, searching the "butchlesbians" tag on instagram, reading butch-femme erotica, etc.

This is fun and exciting but I'm also feeling kind of gross and I worry I'm fetishizing people. I've never really had a "type" when it came to men. I'm also kinky and subby and I think that's part of it, but obviously I know not all masculine-of-center people are kinky or tops! (Probably most aren't?) But that definitely contributes to the feeling I'm being kind of objectifying.

So I guess my question is - how do I avoid being a jerk about this? The obvious answer to me is that I should just go on dates and meet people and get to know them as individuals and try not to put to much of my own projections and expectations on them, right? But are there other things I should do as well? Part of me feels like I should go on dates with more femme women as well, so that I'm not overly limiting myself, and this is a time for exploring, etc.

I also realize that I'm probably a bit of a mess right now and I don't know if I'd date me - I'm normally a super even-keeled person but right now I'm feeling a bit like a teenager - thinking about sex all the time and full of emotions. So I'm feeling like I should probably just try keeping things casual, meet different people and see how things go, but again, I don't want to be an inadvertent jerk.
posted by the sockening to Human Relations (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I had a similar concern when I worried I was being racially selective about my dating. My girlfriend said something like “if there is one thing in your life you get to have a preference for, this is it. It’s who you’re attracted to. Not who you’re going to create the master race with. “

That helped me.
posted by mermaidcafe at 2:11 PM on December 13, 2018 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Ditto what mermaidcafe said. You get to like what you like! Single datum, but: I am a masculine non-binary person and it makes me feel great to see an explicit "I like masculine non-binary people" on dating profiles. So feel free to be true to that. Go on dates with femme women if you want, but don't do it because you feel an obligation -- that's not fair to the folks whose time you'd be taking up.
posted by zebra at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2018 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Cut yourself some slack! Sexual attraction isn't about equal opportunities. You like what you like- nothing immoral or icky about that at all. You're obviously a caring, sensitive, person and it seems unlikely to me that you're at risk of treating people as objects.

Butch-femme is a real thing. There will be butches out there THRILLED that you are into them. Enjoy it!

As for keeping yourself safe and sane, it sounds like kind, slow, gentle explorative dating is the path forward. Thankfully, queer women and GNC people tend to be good at that. Honestly, I'm excited for you! Congratulations on discovering this part of yourself! And remember be kind and forgiving to yourself as you navigate new terrain.
posted by mymbleth at 2:27 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly, I feel like pretty standard dating rules apply here? Date people you're attracted to and interested in; don't talk to/about them in a way that's objectifying or which makes them feel like you're seeing them primarily as a type rather than a person; and if you aren't feeling a connection with someone, don't keep seeing them out of guilt.

And personally, I don't see race as a good analog to this issue at all. People actively chose how to present themselves in terms of how they dress or how their hair is cut or how they are (or aren't) performing gender -- it's absolutely okay to use that presentation as part of your decision making process as to the kinds of people you're interested in dating!

(FTR, I'm a queer butch-presenting person)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:27 PM on December 13, 2018 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Eh, as a butch lesbian, the fact that some women prefer my type is not in any way a bad thing. How else am I going to get dates? As long as you don't also assume I am a top, into particular acts, into football, or whatever stereotype, then we're fine.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:31 PM on December 13, 2018 [36 favorites]

Best answer: You should go on dates with people to whom you are attracted, not people to whom you think you ought to be attracted.

1. Our attractions change over time. You could be really attracted to masc people now for various reasons and find that your patterns of attraction change in a few years.

2. I think it's really hard to parse out the factors that overdetermine one's attraction to masc people - on one hand, society overvalues everything masculine and in some queer communities masc of center people are overvalued (this differs tremendously from space to space; it has very much not been my experience, for instance); on the other hand, masculine women especially but also trans men are often depicted as risible in mainstream culture or just left out altogether, so there's also a lot of negative cultural messaging.

3. Just as with any situation where you are worried that you're attracted to people for politically dubious reasons, one thing you can do is intentionally and protractedly look at media which show other people in positive and affirming ways. Make sure that you're spending some media time on femme-centric sites, etc. This will help you to stay open to the possibility of attraction rather than reifying/crystallizing "your type", which is IMO where the real problem lies.

4. Maybe make sure that your expectations of masc people are in line with actual masc people? I observe sometimes that there's projection* - an assumption that masc people will take the lead, will be sexually aggressive and sophisticated, will be emotionally restrained, will be super competent at, like, fixing things, etc.

5. I think your first priority should be to go on some dates. Even if you're attracted to masculine spectrum people for the "wrong" reasons, the amount of actual harm you can do by going on a few dates during which you treat people as individuals and with courtesy is pretty small. I think that women and AFAB people generally are socialized to let fear of doing it wrong/for the wrong reasons/because we are WRONG and BAD inside hold us back from entirely reasonable and appropriate goals, and also I think we're socialized to assume that if we're not perfect we're just out there ruining everything. You're not going to hurt anything if you go on some dates.

*I run into this myself because I'm a transmasculine person who is frequently read as a butch lesbian, which I am not. I'm also not good with machinery, not confrontational, not the fantasy kind of dominant, etc, and people have a lot of expectations which are often rather sadly dashed.
posted by Frowner at 2:31 PM on December 13, 2018 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, are you me? It's OK to know what you like. There is no reason why you should go on dates with people you don't want to, out of some idea of leveling the playing field. I love me some masculine-of-center folks, too. It doesn't sound like you're being gross or fetishizing this -- literally everyone has dating preferences. I know what it's like to overthink this sort of thing. As long as you are being a decent person about it, go forth and date allllll the butches.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

(And of course, it wasn't only their butch-ness I liked - they were all lovely, kind, smart people who I really enjoyed spending time with. But I also just really find that particular brand of masculine-but-queer energy so freaking attractive.)

This is the important part. If you stop giving a shit about the rest of it, and only care about how they present, and that they tick off all your "type" boxes and ignore every part of them that isn't, well, that's when it gets gross.
posted by Jilder at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Hi from another just-realizing-they-are-not-straight person! It's been over a year now since I have been working through realizing I am gay and I don't think anything you're asking here is a problem in any way! Attraction absolutely involves looks and aesthetic for most people and that is absolutely okay.

Also, I've found my attractions changing a ton over the past year now that I've been openly exploring being into women, as well as wanting to explore/change my own aesthetic and presentation as a woman a little too (mostly in the direction of feeling more butchy or mixing butch/femme aesthetically). You're absolutely doing it right by going with what you feel, as long as you are treating the actual people you date as people and not a "type" (which you seem like you're doing great on by your framing of this question).

Also also, welcome! My question history includes me asking basically "um how do i gay????" last fall and I found the answers to be so supportive and helpful and reassuring, so I hope you get that from this question too. As someone in what sounds like a really similar situation in terms of the place we're at figuring this all out, i just want to extend an invitation to memail me if there's anything you want to talk over. But overall? You're doing awesome. Keep that up, you got this!
posted by augustimagination at 2:41 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm also kinky and subby and I think that's part of it, but obviously I know not all masculine-of-center people are kinky or tops!

I'm quite possibly going to express this badly, but I'll do my best.

I think that one of the difficulties of kinky sexuality (and possibly particularly for those of us who are interested in people who might be broadly defined as female tops, because of how standard gender roles are constructed and controlled) is that a desire to engage in kink (and, more importantly, a lot of information about the nuances and complexities of one's personality and sexuality that relate to that desire) is something that is quite difficult to convey in everyday "polite", and to a significant extent policed, conversation or presentation. And a lot of people aren't interested in conveying it, even if they feel it. So often, I think that a lot of our (essentially subconscious) consideration of who to be attracted to can be based on looking for cues that we can project our hopes and desires on to. Some of those cues will be idiosyncratic and based upon our personal experience, and some will probably be stereotypic products of our cultural experience. And, crucially, some of these cues will be superficial and some will be significant: some will actually indicate the qualities we're looking for, and some won't. And this will vary from person to person, and from year to year, etc.

Now, in reality, I suspect that this is pretty much how attraction works for everyone. We're on a conscious and subconscious hunt for information that we can build stable and worthwhile attraction around. But, because sharing information about any sexual preference except gender preference is still largely taboo, I think that kinky or otherwise differently sexual people have much less to go on when sorting out our cues; when we're trying to work out what is meaningful information and what is noise, we often don't have the information or context to make sense of things.

And I guess what I'm trying to say is that lack of information can lead us to place excessive weight on more visible cues that are often very superficial and uninformative. It's not really fetishization, precisely (I think), because it's still about the search for a person that one can be authentically and holistically attracted to, but the way that our cultures constrict the flow of certain kinds of information can lead to us relying too heavily on the obvious and superficial as guides to attraction. And I think that can look and feel a lot like fetishization, and I am fairly sure I think it can give rise to it, too. So I think a deal of self interrogation and caution is warranted. But that doesn't mean being guilty about being attracted to the people you are attracted to, just keeping an eye on how you're building that attraction and what data you're using.

I guess I'm saying that I agree with you that it is important to be aware of the risks and complexities, and also trying to verbalise my impression of what might be one aspect of the complexities you are sensing. I can't really tell if it will be useful to you, but I hope it is useful to you (or someone at least!).
posted by howfar at 3:07 PM on December 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

Best answer: a lot of queer dating and coupled people i know have at least some level of butch/femme dynamic in their relationships -- not everyone, by any means, but it's certainly not in any way abnormal or necessarily-objectifying or at all weird. you are likely to find many lovely butch or masc people who feel the same way, and tend to be attracted to femme types!

Part of me feels like I should go on dates with more femme women as well, so that I'm not overly limiting myself, and this is a time for exploring, etc.

definitely only do this with femme people you're actually in some way attracted to! if you click on an emotional/intellectual level, and they are also into you, go for it, but don't feel obligated to 'test things out,' because that's just a recipe for disappointing both of you.

bear in mind, too, that people's presentations can shift over time, and people can begin to feel more into being femme or more into being butch or feel like moving back and forth along that spectrum. heck, you may meet a nice mostly-femme-every-day lady who enjoys dressing dapperly every so often, either for her own aesthetic pleasure or as part of some mutually-fulfilling play for you both. and there are definitely dominant femmes out there, as well, who may have the 'energy' you're drawn to (just as there are masc/butch people who are subs). it will probably take you a little while to separate out the various factors of your attractions, and that is okay! (and, hell, even when you think you've figured it out, you might meet a person who totally flies in the face of all that but is nevertheless just perfect for you!)

I also realize that I'm probably a bit of a mess right now and I don't know if I'd date me - I'm normally a super even-keeled person but right now I'm feeling a bit like a teenager - thinking about sex all the time and full of emotions.

this is also totally normal! you may find it helps to be open about the fact that you've recently come out in any online dating profiles you're using, because that will help your prospective partners understand where you're coming from.
posted by halation at 3:35 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I spent the better part of a year going on dates with people that I wasn't initially attracted to, because I wanted to keep an open mind and hey, attraction can develop from a sense of connection! Those dates were a waste of everyone's time. I was starting to think that I just wasn't attracted to anyone anymore and then the first time I saw the person I am currently dating I realized how wrong I had been. Which is all just to say: date people that you want to make out with.

Re: being a bit of a mess: communication, as always, is key. Have fun!
posted by sugarbomb at 3:40 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Trust me, as someone who sometimes reads as your type, we are not offended when people find us sexually attractive. I’m not someone you need to earn the ability to sleep with. You don’t have to do femme dating penance. You can just date who you want. It’s fine.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:47 PM on December 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Wowwwwww I love metafilter. These comments are all so incredibly helpful. Special thank you to the butch/masc folx who chimed in - really really appreciate it.

I'm quite possibly going to express this badly, but I'll do my best ...

You expressed that fine! "Fortunately" it's just a fact of life for kinky people, so I am well aware of the phenomenon and dealt with it when dating cis men as well. But it's a good thing to have top of mind.
posted by the sockening at 7:23 PM on December 13, 2018

Just chiming in to nth, don't pressure yourself to date femmes just because you think you should. I'm also femme and attracted to folks who are more masculine-presenting and/or have a more masculine energy than me (for me, it's totally referential to myself, not to "centre", and it can be vibe or look or both). I've done the whole go on dates with femmes because I think I should thing, and it didn't feel good for me, or for the lovely people I have been on dates with but wound up not being into.
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:46 AM on December 14, 2018

Hey, welcome to the community! It's totally cool that you have a type, most people do. A ton of queer women love butches, and a ton of butches love femmes. Treat other people like the awesome individuals they are and you're good.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:16 AM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

For years I was fed the nonsense that "conventionally attractive" was tall, skinny, blonde. Imagine my relief when I realized that most of those qualities are anathema to what I find attractive. Seriously. Life got so much easier for me when I accepted my tastes.
Just because the majority is pushing art by Thomas Kinkade doesn't mean you're wrong for liking Piet Mondrian.
posted by plinth at 7:57 AM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ok, genderqueer and bi, and had relationships where I felt like the fetish object. Here's how I break down the difference:

* The fetishist was interested as long as her itch was getting scratched, wasn't all that supportive of the messy bits, and was kinda pushy about limits, boundaries, and safety in contexts where she was a participant.

* My supportive partners recognize that my gender weirdness and sexuality wasn't primarily about them. They're present for the messy bits, don't push boundaries, and are comfortable when I'm not interested in performing for their benefit.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, GenderNullPointerException, that is really helpful.
posted by the sockening at 6:44 PM on December 14, 2018

« Older Small lego kits?   |   Tell me everything about this style of calendar Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.