Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor in the scene from
Yesterday, the website Gawker asked "Why Are Straight Women So Obsessed With Gay Sex?" just as I was wondering why straight men are so obsessed with lesbian kisses. My question was easy to tackle: boners. Two straight unattainable female sex symbols making out --most recently Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in the trailer for their new movie--implies a threesome with the male viewer. There's a reason two lesbian characters kissing doesn't get the same buzz as two straight women engaged in a so-called 'lesbian kiss'. Whether it's Sandra and Scarlett locking lips at an awards show or Jennifer and Winona tongue fencing during an over-hyped episode of "Friends", it's never about them being gay or bisexual. It's just about them turning guys on. Done!
Now how about that first question? Get comfortable. We straight ladies are equally obsessed with opposite sex kissing but the reasons are less direct. That's always the case, isn't it? Most on-screen male gay kisses aren't as overtly designed to make straight women weak in the knees.
That's why 4 out of 5 Shine editors (science!) agree that two men kissing in TV or on film, isn't so much a physical turn-on but a mental one. There's an honest emotional quality rarely seen in male characters, especially when it comes to sex. The rushed, forceful on-screen sex takes a backseat to a slow, jittery moment of eye-contact. We like to see men look like how we feel, but more, well, manly about it. It also requires some good, subtle acting.
But unlike the female counterpart, there's no implied threesome. Onscreen male kisses are all about the two men. We can watch but they're not even going to notice. Ain't it the way. So maybe that's why it doesn't make our you know whats do you know what (I don't actually know what).
But wait. Sometimes it does. That one of the five polled editors (okay me, satisfied?) credits a long drawn out 2 hour kiss in the movie "Velvet Goldmine" for ushering her through puberty. The Todd Haynes movie, loosely based on David Bowie and Mick Jagger's love affair, was erotic for me in the way I imagine two Maxim girls kissing in a neon-lit hot-tub is for The Situation. Their man-love suggests they wouldn't exclude a member of the opposite sex, say Angie Bowie, even if they didn't really need one. Whether it was their open-door policy or their cockiness that was the draw, I don't know. But there's something about two guys who know what they want and it's not me.
So how come "Velvet Goldmine" doesn't get nearly as much cult status as the Neve Campbell/Denise Richards make-out movie "Wild Things"? "Goldmine" is better written, better acted and better screwed. But not nearly as much of a cult hit. And what about male kisses on TV? They can't guarantee another season for a tanking show like a girl kiss can. And don't expect Brad Pitt and George Clooney to combine their sex appeal, via tongue, at an awards show either. If they do, it'll be for an Oscar-- isn't that right Sean Penn? Straight men in our reserved culture don't just 'make out' as publicly as straight women do after a few lemon drops. So when they do, on TV at least, it's dealt with as a major issue, a complicated identity shift that challenges expectations. But then, maybe that emotional exploration is a turn on for women. Revelatory conversations and subtle romantic cues are what we report back on when we have a good date. While men are conventionally satisfied to get to the point, e.g., "how was the sex?"
Maybe male brains translate better to ADD entertainment models. A you tube clip of two famous women kissing is enough to generate buzz across the web. For straight women, we'd like to see the entire season of "True Blood" which is currently exploring a male gay relationship or the entire arc of the "Velvet Goldmine" hook-up: How did they meet? When did they first know? It also lends itself to plot lines about men getting hurt, which is something we women rarely get to see. It allows us to relate to men in a way we can't always do in real life. Ostracized? Awkward? The underdog? Yup, we been there too.
The man-kiss takes a long time to develop and then explain in film and TV shows. That may be why it's not as much of a ratings spike-machine, and subsequently not as much a go-to device.
Which brings me to the original question: why are straight women obsessed with gay sex?
Because we don't get to see it played out as much as straight men get to see female on-screen kisses. When we do, we don't take it for granted. Sometimes it stimulates our emotional side, on rarer occasions it stimulates something else. It all depends on the context of the on-screen kiss: is it about progress or pleasure? Both have their value. Here are a few greatest hits and their mental or physical effects.
Mental turn-on: Where were you when Jack McPhee kissed that cute guy on "Dawson's Creek"? I was in a dorm room with a gaggle of other women, frothing at the mouth. It was a breakthrough moment in teen dramas, but it also felt like a plot line we straight women could relate too--perhaps more than Joey and Dawson's pseudo-banter.
Physical and mental turn-on: Six Feet Under's David and Keith were looking to adopt and I was hoping they'd pick me. Their relationship was steady and dangerous, cruel and tender all at the same time. We saw them kiss and screw and fall in love. And it hit all of our straight lady chakras.
Physical turn on: Ed Westick's boy kiss on Gossip Girl was WB hot, but the real hot part came when he told his female love interest "You really think I've never kissed a boy before?" It was a breakthrough moment on teen TV. Hooray for being stigma-free and also for moving the conversation past the identity crisis and into the pure pleasure aspect of it.
Semi-physical turn-on: In a recent episode of True Blood two male characters have a pretty sexy negotiation in a parked car. But the kiss sounds and looks a bit like their chewing on each other's faces. Then again, it's a vampire show.
Physical turn-on: Lord have mercy. These two men don't care who's watching, but they know people are watching. Velvet Goldmines church of man-love was such a holy place to be. And unlike most religions, it was guilt free in this film. Maybe that's why it offered such a charge.
Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor in the scene from