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Queer Dating, Sex, Love, and Everything in Between! - a SHAG Mini-Workshop

June 15, 2023

a ripped piece of paper that says "kiss whoever the fuck you want" with a rainbow painted over a line drawing of two female-presenting lips kissing
Hosted by Carolyn
Watch on IG @weloveshag
YouTube @weloveshag

Welcome to Queer Dating, Sex, Love, and Everything in Between. My name is Carolyn.

Carolyn, a white female presenting queer person with shoulder length dark hair wearing glasses, gray jeans, a belt, a black turtleneck, and a chambray open button-down shirt, leaning against the white brick wall of Shag in Brooklyn

This workshop is brought to you by the beautiful SHAG shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as well as our workshop sponsor, Exsens.


Exsens is an awesome brand, and we host and sell a lot of their products here:


This workshop is for anyone who is queer, curious, questioning, or simply interested in all things related to queer sex, love, dating, everything in between. We will address and validate the beauties and also challenges of queer dating: some of the common pain points and also pleasure points, as I like to call them. Together, we can identify some skills to develop along the way in your journey. Last, we will showcase some of the wonderful resources that we have – both here at SHAG and elsewhere – to help you feel confident and euphoric in your queerness, in and out of the bedroom.

I do have a couple of disclaimers before we get started: one of the major things we'll be talking about is that there is absolutely not one way to be queer. What we discuss today is definitely not all-encompassing. This workshop is intended to be a starting place of validation and exploration; by no means will we be able to reflect all kinds of lived experiences! I’d like to give you a little bit more information about me, your host. As I mentioned, my name is Carolyn. I am queer and also have two degrees in gender studies. This workshop is both coming from my lived experience as well as my subject matter expertise.

Let’s talk about common pain points and things people don't often tell you about queer dating or queer sex. This information can be useful to learn even if you do not identify as queer, or if you are maybe straight or questioning. This is helpful information if you have queer loved ones in your life or if you want to be an effective ally!

There is a rather common campaign slogan – it's decently corporate – that says, “Love is love.”

Love is Love billboard

love is love graffiti

That's something that has been very helpful in the public sphere to help folks empathize with the fact that queer people also experience love, and it's just that their love is for folks of genders that maybe are less normative, traditional, or heteronormative. While we are indeed all human and experience love – love is love, it’s true – there are so many differences and nuances between queer and straight or hetero ways of dating, living, and loving that I feel are incredibly important to recognize. Queerness, generally speaking, is very much revolutionary. It's a way of living and loving that involves constantly subverting norms. Therefore, one common experience among folks who are dating in a queer way, which can be both a pain and a pleasure point, is the fact that there's really no script for many queer dating experiences.

You may have heard the terms “sexual script” or “social script” before. What do these mean, exactly? If you think about all of the socialization and representation out there regarding heterosexual love, dating, and sex – everything we've seen in the movies, Disney, magazines, etc. – you might notice these representations are both highly gendered and highly prescribed. While this can be problematic for straight people, it does provide a starting reference point, something to go off of to know what to do! For a non-queer person, the abundance of media and story representation means that they can have something to see themself in, and then decide what to do from there: “I do want this type of love, romance, and marriage,” for example, or “Maybe I don't want that.”

shadows of hetero appearing couple holding each other in a sunset

Whereas for queer people, this is just not the case. Of course, there is so much more queer representation in media and culture now, in 2023, than there has ever been before. I do want to acknowledge that. And yet: when comparing queer representation to heteronormativity, there is no contest. Queer representation is super, super marginal. That is one reason we are a marginalized community.

In the context of queer dating, a clear social script doesn't really exist. I'm going to give you an example of how that can play out. Have you heard the term “lesbian sheep syndrome”? While this term is, of course, really funny, it is not just made up and was actually coined by scientists based, on their research. Basically, when scientists have analyzed sexual behavior in sheep, they have seen that two male sheep may engage in pleasurable sex together, but two female sheep often do not. What they do instead is basically stand side by side, enjoying the company of one another, and sort of wait for the other party to make a move.

Lesbian Sheep Syndrome cartoon

fabulous cartoon by Pistolewe 

Describing this as a syndrome can be problematic because, in a sense, it is insinuating that two people who identify as women are always going to be very passive. There is obviously more nuance there to explore. But the concept of this as a syndrome is hilarious, in my opinion, and does kind of comment upon this queer (not lesbian-specific) experience of not having a script to follow. This means queer people might not know what to do in a dating situation, or how to behave in a romantic or sexual moment. This also means that queer people have to be super creative and courageous in building those scripts themselves.

Why do moments of hesitation like the one described by “sheep syndrome” happen? From my own life as well as my studies, I have seen that this hesitation is actually one of the major anecdotal experiences that queer folks talk about when they're dating. It seems to be a very common queer experience to sometimes not know how to get things started, how to express interest in someone, or how to make a move, regardless of the genders of the people involved.

waiting neon sign
waiting, waiting, waiting...to make a move

One of the reasons this happens, which is especially true for gender minorities within the queer community, is that folks want to avoid hurting one another or perpetuating any normative harms they may have experienced in life. This kind of pain point is actually a beautiful thing in that it comes from a place of wanting to protect one another, but people describe that being extra careful, conscientious, and communicative at every step can actually make it hard to light the fire in the bedroom, or hard to make the first move in dating or sex. This is totally different than what heteronormative people experience. While heteronormative sexual scripts are problematic, they still exist and provide a common point of reference for people to follow or deviate from with unspoken cues. To a degree, as a queer person, you can kind of follow those same scripts, but then being extra careful and conscientious is a really, really good quality, to avoid the pitfalls of a problematic or harmful script. This same lovely quality, however, can be received in a way that, especially if you are newer to dating in a queer context, makes it harder to communicate or move forward. I want to validate that for anyone who's experienced that: it can feel really difficult! If you're just super confident from the get out, good for you! But that's definitely not everyone's experience.

One other pain point I wanted to mention is the concept of "trespassing" into queer spaces. Maybe you don't feel like you deserve to take up space. This is especially common for those who are newer in their journey into queerness or newer to queer identifying. It can be pretty overwhelming to dip a toe into queer dating because there is this kind of comparative contagion that is quite real. It can be hard not to feel a bit like an impostor if you feel like your life experiences do not match your identity, or if your identity is in flux. A person might find themself thinking, “I don't have much experience in this way, whether romantically or sexually, so I don't really know how to put myself out there,” or “I'm scared that people are going to see how new and fragile I am, so they're not going to be interested in me,” or even “I don't really want to take up much space. I don't even want to go to queer spaces.” These are very common pain points. I know that people newer to a queer identity describe encounters in which other people are not interested because they only want to date someone who has more experience, because they do not want to help the person gain experience and confidence, or because they don't want to “feel like the person’s experiment.” While people are entitled to set boundaries as they wish, those same boundaries can result in very difficult experiences for someone who is new to dating in this way. Being rejected for being newly queer can feel really crappy and negatively impact a person’s confidence. Everyone has a starting place on their journey, though, and I want to hammer home some of the ways to combat or get through those pain points.

Next up: part two of this workshop covers potential solutions to some of these difficulties!
a sign saying "to be continued"

 

**This text was transcribed from SHAG’s live Mini-Workshop on June 15, 2023 and edited for clarity. This opinion piece is not intended to constitute licensed expert advice; all content is for general informational purposes only.**

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