Gay men share a lot of firsts with the women in our lives. Many of us look to our mothers and sisters for emotional support as we first begin peeking out of the closet. Later, we drag our female friends to our first gay bar or club since we're too nervous to go it alone. And when we first embark on fatherhood, women we know often step up to make it possible by volunteering to serve as egg donors, surrogates, and gestational carriers.
But thanks to a hashtag campaign that has flooded Twitter recently, it's become clear that some women share a far more disturbing first with gay men: unwanted physical attention.
Over the last several weeks -- as we've received yet more evidence that Donald Trump is at best a misogynistic man-child and at worst a dangerous sex criminal -- Kelly Oxford, a New York Times bestselling author, took to Twitter to remind us that sexual assault is not a problem that begins and ends with the Republican nominee for President:
Less than fourteen hours later, Oxford was receiving more than 50 tweets per minute of women the world over sharing experiences of sexual assault using the hashtag: #notokay. A couple days later, more than one million women had contributed their stories, helping provide some sobering context to this commonly cited statistic: one out of every six women survives sexual assault, whether attempted or completed, at some point in their lives.
As gay men, it might be tempting to climb up on our moral high horses and condemn the problem of sexual assault from a distance. We scroll past news of Trump's latest accuser, wondering in disbelief how our straight brethren are capable of committing such heinous acts towards women, before turning our attention back to more immediate matters, like how Katya was robbed of the crown on Season 2 of Drag Race All Stars.
But as some of the tweets shared with Oxford make disturbingly clear, it is not just straight men perpetrating these crimes:
It would be easy to dismiss these tweets as isolated incidences -- those specifically calling out gay men amount to a mere drop in the vast deluge directed at Oxford's account in recent weeks. And, to be sure, gay men are much more often survivors than perpetrators of sexual assault. But anyone who has spent much time in gay bars and clubs has seen that guy who, citing lack of sexual interest, feels he has permission to grope and fondle women on the dance floor like his own personal playthings.
Sure, that young drunk queen acting the fool in the club might not intend any harm. And yes, there's a legitimate debate happening about whether straight women (and the dreaded bachelorette party in particular) belong in gay spaces to begin with. But deeming a space "queer" does not give gay men license to treat women like life-sized versions of the Barbie Dolls we were chastised for playing with as kids. Being queer is not a stand-in for consent. It's still #NotOkay just because you're gay.