A slinky pack of Ivy League homos tricked me into a gay bar one early morning in the city. Instead of a name this establishment had a neon rooster above the door. By way of an explanation, one might call that rooster a ‘cock.’

Inside it was so dark that the darkness seemed active, like it would reach into any cavities you opened to it. It was cattle-car unventilated, hot like throw-up, hotter than a subway station. It was Superdome crowded, crowded like the building might break.

It was bodies on bodies without that moment of organic sensuality when you realize that you’ve stopped trying to maintain the integrity of your personal structure and you sort of give over to the crowd – when you let yourself lean on that stranger, ribs up against ribs. It was all bad touch, like the kind you try to teach primary school children to differentiate from hugs and high-fives.

I felt a sharp disappointment when I realized that the dumbass mainstream media had gotten a stereotype so right. Something about the place made you want to use the word “den” – something mysterious and a little sinister, like opium. You wouldn’t want your son going there, and you wouldn’t want your daughter going to its hetero analog. But ay! There’s the rub (and not like crotch on crotch, either): the hetero analog doesn’t really exist. Say what you will about senior prom, about kegs at frat parties, nothing I have ever seen or smelled has been so uncompromisedly, unadulteratedly about sex. I asked a companion how these sexual transactions all around us were being accorded, and he said it’s a matter of a single glance. Not like across-the-room, one-enchanted-evening serial flirtation: a single occasion of eye contact. And then fucking. Imagine living in this world…

It all makes me want to say something obvious and simplistic about male nature, you know, something vaguely feminist and dismissive and stupid. And then I wonder, have females really been taught, by way of a generation-upon-generation, Judeo-Christian, socio-cultural, cradle-to-grave dancing school, to put the brakes on? I refuse to believe that it’s innately biological, that female libido is somehow less intense than that of men. Is this cock club the reality of human sexuality without the interference of women? Without the courting – and chastity – obsessions that always seem to accompany them? And if there is no fundamental biological difference between a woman’s sex drive and that of a man, then are we living a collective cultural relic? Is this oppression – or civility?

I’ve been the only white person in the room before. It’s not like that. Maybe if I was the only white person in a room where people of color went expressly for the purpose of being people of color…? Those rooms don’t exist; the idea doesn’t even make sense, since there is no act of being brown in which someone can engage. It’s like this: I was the only girl in a large room full of gay men who went there very specifically to engage in the specific work of being gay: fucking other men.

This is utterly debasing: being a lithe, fertile twenty-year-old female and having it not matter at all. I ceased to be anything desired. If I had been walking around handing out lit cigarettes, I still wouldn’t have been wanted. No one really looked at me like that, or at all, really. This sounds obnoxious, I know, but if you have a notch between your legs and you’ve been out in public in the last five years then think for just a second and you’ll know that there is something in everyone’s basic regard for you that acknowledges that you are, at some level, a valuable sexual commodity. That it is somehow taken into account, and for any number of reasons: the pop gravitas of being seen with a pretty girl; the universal standard of beauty that has taken the female form; the woman’s ability to dispense orgasms, or to dispense children.

This is debasing, being useless even with free cigarettes. It’s almost dizzying, the moment that you notice: a condition fundamental to every maneuver you’ve ever ventured has changed. You’re reminded that the accumulated assumed truths you walk around with every day are indeed a product of your environment. It’s easy to remember when it’s a song, when you know your parents have played it since ere you were here, harder to remember when it’s the notion of gender, or of property…things that have trickled down, but not just from your parents, from everyone’s parents, and their parents, too.

Before I got lost in my needlessness, I was shaking my head at the notable accuracy of mainstream-y impressions of humpy gay bars. The “meat market” designator is apropos. The place, the whole concept, really, is reminiscent of a marketplace, by some enthusiastic capitalist definition. Transactions are transacted, and the marketplace evolves toward efficiency – that’s the most remarkable quality, maybe, the staggering efficiency – bodies are moving, expectations are exchanged. To dance, even, is a waste of resources – like the market has evolved past it, the vendors don’t bother. It’s a sellers’ market, and the sellers are the self-same buyers…I seem to have lost myself in my extended economic metaphor, but the point is this: you’re going to get fucked anyway.

In the spirit of economic sophistication, the drug dealer outside was offering free samples of Ecstasy. In writing this I was looking for a point; I think that was it – free samples of ecstasy, a room full.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.