Father Tony

When it's a Man's World

Filed By Father Tony | April 23, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay bars, leather bars, public sex

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?


Dear NYCKnickers,

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.

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mondschein.us | April 23, 2009 11:06 AM

I'm one of the grumblers when the number of women present approaches 10% of the crowd at a gay bar (not to be confused with a lesbian bar). While I can appreciate the "relief" you mention felt by female guests, a gay bar's "mission" (as it were) is to provide a place for gay men to associate comfortably with like-minded men and without fear of retribution from those who disagree with our sexual orientation.

I think in larger metropolitan areas (NY, Chicago, etc.) this phenomenon has created an unmet need which I call a "Hag Bar(c)." I envision this type of establishment as one that is open weekdays from mid to late afternoon (Happy Hour) until 10 or 10:30PM, at which time it closes. The hosting gay man is then required to take/send his hag HOME. The gay man, having met his obligation to accommodate his hag with a predator-free evening, is now available to spend his time in the company of men.

"Hag bar?"
Oh Lord, save us from the enlightened minds of our allies.

And Fr Tony, you were only in these places to save souls, of course...
(my mother would believe that, by the way...)
::::blowing you a kiss across the bar:::

It excites me to see my name on the front page of TBP (haha), but, really, what do you think about the articles about some Chicago gay bars (I don't think they're leather bars or sex clubs) banning bachelorette parties until gays can get married? I really don't think they banned women, just bachelorette parties.

Dear Alex,
I think the banning is a valid form of protest. The spectrum of validity for marriage inequality protests is wide. At the far end of the spectrum is Perez Hilton locking horns with Miss California. The bachelorette thing is at the near end. Far more effective would be a protest by all gay hairstylists or make-up guys if they simply refused to do up women for their weddings. I am guessing they don't do this because of the financial hardship it was involve.

Would you really want brides-to-be to look like extras from "The Dukes of Hazard" on their wedding day, Tony?
Because that is what will happen if we have no gay hairdressers.....

Dear MH, the whole Daisy Duke thing is not such a bad look. I'd love to see Vera Wang's interpretation of that.

For me, it depends on how the ladies arrived and how they behave.

When a group of ten arrives together, just to dance away from straight men, and does something like forming a dancing circle, with purses on the floor in the middle...that's very bad. When a lady arrives with a gay man and proceeds to act as though her unique gender creates a spotlight on her, in which she must be as loud and obnoxious as possible...that's bad.

When the ladies arrive and are chill and respectful of the space in which they find themselves, that's great, and I'm glad for their company. I'd venture to say that lesbians would opine much the same about gay men in their bars...as long as one is thoughtful and respectful, we can all have a great time.

But Father Tony...Father Tony...one tiny pet peeve...all chaps are ass-less.

But Father Tony...Father Tony...one tiny pet peeve...all chaps are ass-less.

I learn something new every day.

Dear Christian, actually, you are only literally correct. The phrase "assless chaps" has become standard gay-speak referring to a style of dress in which men don't wear anything more than a jock under their chaps, leaving their butts breezy. And may I say that rare is the man whose butt can live up to the demands of this southern exposure.

i am a queer woman who enjoys the company of gay me, so i am not a man hater. i do recognize each group needs time with one another but i do enjoy and think it important to mingle together. It is bothersome when straight people are coming more and more into gay/lesbian bars/clubs, like in West Hollywood. Many a married couple looking for a 3 way often come a looking. i think gay bars tend to play better music and maybe that's why heteros come a dancing in our places. i have straight friends too and we like to hang together in bars. We take turns going to each others turf.

Many cities in other countries don't have just gay bars and are integrated and accepted in the culture. Maybe that will be more of the case here in the USA in the future.

Warm Regards,

I'm totally ok with women at mist gay bars-- like video bars or loungy type bars.

The only place I feel less comfortable with them is at a hard core leather bar

It's important to distinguish between types of gay bars -- "hang-out" bars and "pick-up" bars. Here in New York, a hang-out bar like Vlada is fine for bringing your hags to hang out. However, I think pick-up bars like The Ritz or The Web ought to be boys-only.

Here is where I draw the line: leather bars like Manhattan's Eagle or Fort Lauderdale's Ramrod are not a place for women

What about leather dykes -- femme, butch, or otherwise? Not even when the leather/motorcycle club they belong to is hosted by the bar?

In my opinion, leather bars are for queers interested/invested in leather and leather culture [yes, including the ritualized fetishazation of hyper-masculinity – something I don’t believe being male identified/bodied is a prerequisite for]. It's a category that each person should decide themselves whether they fit -- not one that should be policed by others.

And I’ll just say, as someone who fucks men, women, and everyone in between, I'd be happy to leave my local bar with a wider variety of tricks. Woof.

Great answer. I had a female friend who would come out to our bar and score each and every time. She had the best of luck hooking up with some straight guy who inevitably was at the bar for whatever reason i know not. lol. Having said that, i have felt glaring insinuations of invasion from anonymous lesbian women in their bar when i went with my gay aunt of all people at her request. I was always somewhat surprised at the possibility that these women might actually be thinking that i would have ever come there on my own. Mind you, all this occurred when i was much younger than i am now. I think it is understandable for men and women to have their own space if they so desire.

Wow, after reading this article and the comments, I really, really appreciate my local "Cheers" type gay bar, which caters to an assortment of regulars including (mostly) gay men, (many) lesbians, and more than a few straight friends and walk-ins. I am a regular and always have felt very welcome. I sure hope people are not resenting me quietly!

Fr. Tim of South Philly | April 28, 2009 8:20 AM

I grew up in the Wilds of Western Pennsylvania, where gay bars were scarcer than hen's teeth--although we did have a few. Those precious safe spaces werre filled with every imaginable kind of person: male and female, gay and straight, and everything in between. There was something wonderful about being able to mix with such a diverse crowd, even if the diversity were one of necessity rather than choice.

That said, I agree with you, Fr. Tony, that some gay male spaces should remain male. A lesbian friend once took me to a rather exclusive lesbian bar where I was the only man, and the other patrons made their discomfort known. They needed an all-female space, and I was invading that. Sometimes we need to be exclusively with our own kind, as it were.

Late to this string - but I must concur with Fr. Tony. The only thing worse than being one of three straight women in the NYC Eagle is being there because the host rugby club has chosen it as the "social" after-match venue for a tournament which has gay, straight, and multi-cultural rugby teams. Plus the food was beyond atrocious and one had to wonder what else happened on that pool table where it was being served. If memory serves (and this was in 2005) our team stayed long enough to be "polite" then most of us decamped to The Half King - where we had a magical night in their little courtyard. I've also made it through the softball lesbian mine field when you get to a restaurant (post-game) earlier than your friends/players. You're with your mother - their friend first - and the people who don't know you ask how long you've been dating. They really frosted up when they heard the truth of it.

I think if you mind your manners and tip well you should be welcome in any establishment. One should never overstay simply to make a point. See McSorley's case law for why this matters. ;->