The White Issue: White Sex
May 18, 1993
“White sex,” I repeated, for the third time. Not “right” sex or “wide” sex or a new drug to do it to, which is what everyone imagined when I announced the subject — everyone being white, of course. So let me spell it out for you. White sex as in white people and how they fuck and is there anything to it.
White sex is commonly referred to as simply sex. Whenever we hear the results of a new survey about how many males over 45 watch porn videos, or the number of women under 30 who have performed fellatio, we can picture the people behind the statistics clearly enough — white men and women responding to each inquiry, scratching their heads and pressing down hard with their number-2 pencils.
Perhaps that is our first definition, that white sex is about white people being the erotic yardstick, the arbiters of public taste, the bearers of a terribly self-conscious, but largely unspoken, standard. White sex at its most transparent is the product of white Protestant or Catholic middle-/working-/no-class, absolutely assimilated, English-first Americans.
Okay, now that we’re alone, let’s let our hair down, even though as white people that’s exactly the thing we find so hard to do. The essence of white sex is the idea of sexual blandness and rigidity. Straight white male sexuality in particular is an endless source of folk humor as the bastion of anal retention. As an anonymous social critic put it so well in the ’60s: “You’re nothing but an uptight white asshole.”
But why would anyone be a tightass, especially a white American male? Perhaps, as we’ve seen in so many tales about unsatisfied rich (white) Americans, there is something about the work ethic and the American Dream that entails paying an erotic and intimate price for material success. “He who has the most toys wins,” reads a popular bumper sticker, but the winner may find he can’t get it up anymore. Or he comes too soon. In either case, the winner, the man in charge, cannot relax. And if you can’t relax, you can’t get fucked and enjoy it.
What makes white sexuality so dynamic is that, having been strung up as tight as a racket, white lovers are sensitive to the least little provocation. The high-water-mark of white sex is the white person who loses his or her head and becomes a bona-fide sex maniac. As the late cookbook author Ernest Matthew Mickler put it, “I can just hear Raenelle and Betty Sue at every Tupperware party in Rolling Fork saying, ‘Ernie went from white trash to WHITE TRASH overnight.’ ”
Yes, the path from repressed nerd to bohemian libertine is one bright white circle, and it can lead from the first persona to the second as quickly as a whirl of J. Edgar Hoover’s slip.
Let’s look at a gallery of some of our most stirring White Sex stereotypes:
YANKEE WHORE: The first time I visited Central America, I had a Spanish instructor who was eager to teach me card games and talk about sex. He told me his last americana student kept a pet boa constrictor that she used as a dildo. He’d heard this was common. He laughed at my protests, knowing I was the voice of reason but delighting more in the titillation of the rumor.
The white woman abroad is the symbol of feminine amorality. She’s like that little kid Mikey who’ll eat anything — except she’ll do anything. She has no shame, she’s sexually voracious, and kinky is her middle name.
GWM: Weak, effete, and elite: that’s the old-fashioned caricature of well-to-do whiteness as metaphor for male homosexuality. The recipe for being thin, rich, and lily-white seems to have a narcissistic button just waiting to be pushed. It’s the “white man gone wrong,” which he accomplishes by ditching his family’s expectations, though not necessarily his social privilege.
Unlike the straight white male version, who can’t seem to unclench his jaw or his butt, the out-of-the-closet GWM is pegged as too blatant, too promiscuous, and a blabbermouth besides. The closeted version is just plain scary. (See below: Scary White Man.)
“Fucking white faggot” is one of the most pervasive catcalls of the street, but it is also one of the most outdated. Gay fashion has been steadily imitating hyperbutchness, rather than yearning for it, ever since Stonewall. Genderfuck, and consequently gay life, is also getting very unwhite lately, with publicity to boot. Whether it’s Antoine and Blaine on In Living Color, or the heroes of Tongues Untied, the gay diva of the decade is a black snap queen, not a limp (white) wrist.
THE STEPFORD WIFE WHO STEPS OUT: If you read your A. A. Milne carefully, you remember that James James Morrison Morrison’s notorious mother declared that she was going down to the Edge of the Town for a couple of things — and never returned. In the old days she probably stopped at a dark lounge where a woman in white bucks offered her a drink. In the modern version, Ms. Morrison is so bored in the suburbs that she enrolls in a women’s studies class. In the third week, her teacher addresses the Case of the Married Lesbian. Now Jimmy’s mom is at the Dinah Shore golf tournament weekend in Palm Springs (does it get any whiter than this?) eating pussy and ecstasy. Her husband and children say they “will never understand what happened.”
ONCE YOU GO BLACK, YOU NEVER GO BACK: There are two classic ways for the white girl to lose her snowy facade: lesbianism and sleeping with black men. I remember in the 11th grade my friend Carol had been going steady with the same white teenage Marxist Leninist for six years, and she was in despair. She told me she would be happier with a woman, and confided her lesbian intentions, which was a popular pronouncement in Los Angeles circa 1975. But the next night she wound up in South Central with a black Marxist Leninist man, and she never mentioned the “L-word” again.
Of course the most pornographic notion about white women’s (and the white homosexual’s) attraction to black men is His Enormous Black Cock, the body part she worships like a totem, the one thing that could “fill her up” after years of lackluster intercourse.
But cock-worshiping by itself is no more significant to the nigger-loving white girl’s wantonness than her lesbian counterpart’s purported lust for muff-diving. Miss Anne wants off her pedestal because she can’t get off as long as she’s stuck there. She wants to be treated like a Real Woman (say this with a Sophia Loren accent); she wants to submit to “perverts” and “savages,” and, if it all goes according to cliché, she will earn the degrading yet elating title of White Bitch in Heat.
When a woman is called a nigger-lover, it means that she puts her sexual satisfaction before her racial unity. The crucial thing about this little notion is that white women aren’t supposed to put their sexual satisfaction before anything. Of course she isn’t going back…
TED BUNDY/JEFFREY DAHMER: The ultimate scary white men. They seethe, they plot, and they plan. They are said to find inspiration for their sadism from looking at dirty pictures, but more often than not they find their justification in the Bible.
Only white men seem to sodomize 14 children in the neighborhood, mutilate their bodies, and bury them in the backyard. They’ve got the Psychotic Geek market all wrapped up. In every nonwhite family, the cry is heard round the television set: “Our people don’t do that.” That’s not actually true: every race is capable of unspeakable atrocities. White men’s sex crimes capture the media eye, partly because their white victims get more attention (look how long Dahmer was ignored by the police because his victims were not white), and also because they are the ultimate example of repressed white sexuality gone berserk. Prudery, in these men’s hands, is a Texas chainsaw.
LET’S (WEAR ORANGE AND) GET IT ON: I used to live in an apartment below a Rajneesh commune, its members decked out in tangerine and magenta. Every day and night they practiced floor-pounding primal-scream gymnastics, which they called Chaotic Meditations. (I called the landlord.) Sex inevitably was part of the chaos and often spilled out into our backyard. Outside my bedroom window, I could see a lot of orange in the missionary position.
For commune members, sex was liberated from traditions of getting married and whitebreading it. The men studied massage and vied for Spiritual Leadership, while the women supported the commune through sex work. At one point, I recall, every woman working at the Mitchell Bros. burlesque theater was either a dyke or a Rajneesh.
“Eastern” eroticism and spiritual quests have been one of the great attempts of white baby boomers to get out from under the White Man’s Sexual Burden. Sexual guilt and shame were disparaged as ridiculous notions of Christianity and Western Civilization. They are, certainly, but the fact that none of the world’s religions is exactly an advertisement for sexual liberation was lost on the new cult followers.
What’s interesting about Oriental romanticism is that it allows white people to go wild with spiritual pretensions. The right Kama Sutra manual could send a devotee over the top of sexual bliss and into enlightenment. After all, queer and interracial liaisons can be bad for one’s reputation, but (at least in California) you can fuck your brains out under the guise of devout prayer and guidance.
White sex is clearly an object of derision both for being hopelessly uptight and completely debauched. The debauchery supposedly comes from outside the white world, but in fact it comes from white lovers yearning to undo themselves. When white people seek their erotic identities, they become the fallen angels, but when nonwhite people follow some of the same paths, they are criticized by the conservative members of their community for “acting white,” i.e., having no moral center. It’s an equal opportunity for all colors to bash sexual desire and imagination.
What is perhaps the cruelest point of the stereotypes is that they imply sexual freedom is a bad end, because one’s erotic yearnings can only be quenched at the price of losing one’s family ties, morality, and intellectual respectability. Privately, I like to be a White Bitch in Heat, but publicly it’s a total embarrassment. There’s the rub, the hypocrisy, the threat to my status as white lady.
I know I’m not alone in having had sex as a dyke or a nigger-lover. White sex will be eroticized by racism and anxieties about sexual deviance as long as inequality remains a cornerstone of our erotic taboos. White sex can’t easily squirm out from under the effects of institutional white power, or the WASP work ethic, or the white picket fence surrounding the nuclear family.
Lust is blind, but social appearances are deadly discriminating. White sex has not so much suffered from its stereotypes as it has from everyone pretending that they don’t exist. A touch of honesty is the only thing that works wonders. Surrender to the debauchery of white sex and watch the fur fly! The truth is, everyone deserves the chance to be a White Bitch in Heat, at least once in a lifetime. ■
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2019