Aaron Ho | 24 Nov 2011
“Muscles looking for muscles.”
“White men only.”
“Into bears only.”
For a long time, the LGBT community seeks to be inclusive because there is unity in strength, because tolerance is a virtue and because if you want to be accepted, you have to accept others first. But with increasing tolerance and acceptance from the public, the inclusiveness within the community dissipates. Preferring someone above others based on physical traits is ranking who is better. When a person “prefers” to have sex with or date someone of a certain race, age, social behavior and body type, what is the line drawn between prejudice and preference? I want to suggest there is no such line; there is no such thing as preference; there is only prejudice.
The premise that there is no such thing as preference is that preference is always a learned behavior. You don’t emerge out of the womb, preferring the color blue or pink. If you’re a girl, you’ll be wrapped in a pink blanket; a boy, blue. We are socialized and ideologized into orthodox ways of thinking from a very young age.
Take for instance, the “ideal” body type. In the 50s and 60s, plumpness was considered attractive (examples: Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum, and Marilyn Monroe.) In the 70s, skinny boys were all the rage but from the 80s with the discovery of HIV/AIDS, slimness carries the connotation of being sickly and thus enter the Muscle Marys. The fact that the “ideal” body type can change over time means that there is no such thing as “ideal”! If a thing is “ideal,” it never changes and if it’s not ideal, it means that the preference for a certain body type during a certain era is a learned behavior.
The reasons why so many gay men like muscles in Singapore and why there are more muscular men in Singapore than in any Southeast Asian countries are: firstly, Singapore is a particularly media-savvy country, ranking among top ten countries for moviegoers. The media have been depicting countless of images of muscles, telling us that a muscular physique is the “ideal.” We are brainwashed completely by these images to like muscles and aspire to be like them. Is it a wonder Abercrombie and Fitch’s first Asian shop is in Singapore? Secondly, the Singapore government tells us so. Remember TAF or Trim and Fit club? From young, we are told we must be fit. Athletes in schools are valorized. Fit soldiers in National Service are rewarded. The fatties and “weak” are teased and bullied. In other words, “preferring” a body type over others is because ideas have been planted in our heads since young.
There are reasons why other people “prefer” slim or chubs and it boils down to the same rationale: ideas are fed to us. But I want to move on to race. Racial “preference” just doesn’t make sense because an Indian penis can fuck just as well as a White penis. All penises have the same function. Sex is sex no matter who fucks you and whom you’re fucking; you still gain pleasure. Racial “preference” only makes sense in light of racism. In Singapore, many Chinese prefer “Chinese only” because we are brought up by the government to think that Chinese masculinity is superior; Singapore is run on the precepts of Confucianism according to Lee Hsien Loong. The Malays and Indians are completely sidelined. Preferring a race to another is no longer just a “preference”; it’s deep-rooted racism, so entrenched in us that we are not aware of it. It is privileging one race over another, or in other words, one race is superior to others – just as the Nazis advocated the supremacy of Aryan race (blond hair, blue eyes) and murdered 6 millions Jews.
Related to how Singaporeans are brought up with the Chinese masculinity ideology is how some gay men “prefer straight-acting” men. The term “straight-acting” is a form of internalized homophobia because the person assumes that “straight” behavior is better than “homosexual” behavior, whatever the behaviors may be. Why do people assume “gay-acting” is inferior? This goes back to the blue-blanket-pink-blanket ideology. We are brought up into thinking that men have to be masculine and women, feminine – which isn’t true. Cooking is seen as a feminine role yet many top chefs are men. What the example shows is that cooking is neither a feminine or masculine behavior; the society dictates it so. Sitting close-legged isn’t a feminine behavior but society tells us it is.
In short, when people are attracted to only a certain body type or race or behavior, when people give the excuse that it is merely their “preferences,” it is anything but merely. “Preference” is a learned, unthinking behavior, acquired from brainwashing from mainstream society; it is harmful, hurtful and excludes minority groups of people. It prevents us from seeing other people as equal human beings.
To solve this problem, there are two ways:
1. If you have a “preference,” interrogate your desires. The unexamined life is not worth living. Ask yourself honestly why you desire a certain race, body type or social behavior about others.
2. Always call out the person who is making racist, internalized homophobic, or body fascist remarks and don’t go home with these people tonight. You shouldn’t tolerate people with “preferences” because sooner or later you will be the un-preferred one and there will be no one left to speak for you. Make a stand against discrimination.
Preference and Prejudice
Create on: 26 Feb 2012 at 02:02 AM