Dear Father Tony,
I was reading Alex Blaze's post about women in gay bars and I was wondering about where you stand on the issue given the amount of time you spend in them?
When it's a Man's World
Given the amount of time I spend in which? Women or gay bars? You might want to recast that question.
I am assuming this is the post to which you refer.
Truth be known, I am not much of a barfly. I hate the noise level, the lighting, the price of a drink, the stale air and the annoying fact that no one goes out before midnight. The camaraderie keeps me coming back, albeit less frequently.
Stepping into a bar is often a performance of sorts. (Really, no one goes to a bar because of thirst). A successful bar gains an identity. In this one, you dress up. In that one, you dress down. Those who do not fit into the character of a bar are interlopers. They are like tourists gawking at the locals who tolerate it but don't enjoy it.
When we lived in Montreal, there was a hard and fast rule about not allowing women into gay bars except on one annually designated night, usually before Christmas. Folks seemed well satisfied with this arrangement.
In Manhattan, it is not uncommon for gay men to bring their women friends into their favorite gay bars. Most of the other patrons do not mind this, but some dislike it, and I've heard some grumbling.
The male go-go dancers gyrating on the bar above the patrons' heads are catholic in their willing receipt of dollars into their g-strings from either men or women.
I have observed a certain comfort and happiness in the faces of young women who enter a gay bar in tow of a gay male friend. They seem relieved not to be sex objects. They can party without the anxiety of being judged by straight men. They know that someone will inevitably compliment their hair or their dress. And best of all, the line for the ladies room will be the shorter one.
Here is where I draw the line: leather bars like Manhattan's Eagle or Fort Lauderdale's Ramrod are not a place for women because the concoction is straight up testosterone. The essential idea of the leather bar is the ritualized fetishization of hyper-masculinity. Women should not personalize their exclusion because I would venture to say that most of the men in attendance enjoy the company of women, have women friends, and respect women. But when men are in that kind of bar, wearing their assless chaps and biker gear and watching each other piss out their beer...well, I'm just saying....
I once entered a leather bar accompanied by a woman friend who was disguised convincingly as a biker dude. We had a wonderful time of it, and she fooled around with several men who were never the wiser.
I know I'll catch some flack for this opinion, and I'd like to add that I personally have never felt the presence of women to be a dissuasion from my ordinary bar behavior. There is an infamous Manhattan bar called The Cock. Until recently, it was assumed that anyone who entered therein would possibly or probably have sex of some limited sort with adjacent patrons - on the spot.* It was always extremely crowded to the point where there was literally no space for movement. There were always women in the crowd, and on more than one occasion, I got frisky with someone with women either watching or joining in. It felt rather sophisticated in a silly and juvenile way, and I think that I subconsciously began to look forward to the possibility of that happening at The Cock. Call me jaded if you will, but I've almost nowhere left to push the envelope.
My short answer: yes, sometimes bars should be separated by gender.
*I should add that lately public sex is strongly discouraged in Manhattan bars. There are posted warnings. At The Eagle, a relentless monitor with a flashlight makes frequent rounds demanding the zip up and desist of anyone caught with his pants down. The Cock officially discourages sex on its premises. I do find it funny that these bars fill people with alcohol, show X-rated videos, provide semi-naked dancers and bartenders, and then expect the attendees to refrain from sex. Anyway, these two are bars where nobody knows your name, if you're lucky.