This blog has previously covered the “cotton ceiling” – the idea that having a preference for partners of a specific biological sex is bigoted and transphobic. The idea is particularly often used against lesbians. This piece on the website “Feministing” explains why women are wrong if they have a preference for only dating people with vaginas.
The author admits that some women do not want to date bepenised individuals because of traumatic experiences. Don’t worry though, your trauma isn’t reality-based! Sex also isn’t about bodies.
I get why a lot of female assigned folks exist in this frame for reasons that aren’t overtly about undermining trans identities.There’s a ton of gender based trauma out there, and I understand that folks associate this with cis men, and not with trans men. But that’s not a reality-based approach to gender. A lot of that trauma gets easily linked to genitals, but this isn’t about bodies, it’s about patriarchy.
The author then goes on to explain that it’s not okay to process trauma in a way that excludes people with penises:
My trans brothers deserve better than sex in a frame that undermines their identities. This doesn’t mean queer cis women and gender non-conforming female assigned folks can’t fuck trans men, but then they owe it to these guys to reframe their sexuality in a way that’s not undermining – to recognize that they sleep with men, and to question why they’re OK with sleeping with trans men and not cis men. I just don’t think it’s OK to process your sexual trauma in a delegitimizing way through the bodies of folks who’ve often faced tons of trauma at the intersection of gender and sexuality.
The author then goes on to blame female people (trans men) for the fact that male people (trans “sisters”) are being “pushed out”, that it, excluded from some people’s dating preferences.
I do put a little more responsibility on trans men for letting this frame push their trans sisters out. This approach to sexuality totally erases trans women by excluding us from the group of sexually existing queer women.
Finally, the author concludes, people disagree with having their sexual preferences questions because they are “puritanical”.
There’s a lot of resistance to thinking about the politics of sexuality in this way, which I totally get. Our sexualities are our own, they’re personal, and in such a puritanical world any critique of sexuality can seem messed up. But our desires are absolutely influenced by our cultural context. When you really look at the way patterns of desire map onto what bodies are privileged and what bodies are marginalized, it becomes obvious that our desires are political. I am absolutely not about critiquing the way one person falls for another. The problem is with a community trend. When we leave sexuality trends unexamined, sex becomes a space where privilege and oppression run amuck.
Some people not wanting to fuck some other people = oppression.
And it’s not just one person saying this. Here is a blog post by someone explaining at length why it’s not okay to have sexual preferences when those preferences do not include penises:
-A person should never experience a total loss of attraction to another person after learning their genital status. That’s a clear, and inarguable sign of transphobia at play. Simply knowing a person’s genital status is no excuse for such a monumental loss of attraction to a person.
-Being solely attracted to genitals is transphobic. Requiring engagement with specific kinds of genitals is fetishistic.
So, basically, being homosexual or heterosexual is fetishistic. It is not allowed to prefer people of one particular sex when looking for a sexual partner, according to this (and many other) transactivists.
Then there is the other side of the coin: some cis women might have an issue or feel uncertain about hooking up with a woman who has different genitalia than her own. First of all, you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do or that you’re even unsure about. If you aren’t comfortable or you just aren’t into it, say no.
That having been said, if genitalia is the one and only reason for not being into someone, I do think it is worth thinking through that.
Are you a women who does not want to be sexually involved with penises? You should think about this. You’re not allowed to simply say no, according to the (male) author. You have to really think about why.
While it is true that gender and sex are different things, and that gender is indeed a social construct, sex isn’t the Ultimate Biological Reality that transphobes make it out to be. There’s nothing intrinsically male about XY chromosomes, testosterone, body hair, muscle mass or penises. If an alien civilization found earth, they wouldn’t look at a person with a penis and say “Oh, that must be a male, sex based on genitalia is the One Universal Constant.” Sex, like gender, is indeed socially constructed and can be changed.
What is the consequence of this view? Well, being homosexual no longer has any meaning, for one, as seen by the screenshots below:
“I don’t have a dick, a cock. What I have is soft, delicate, and pretty, It’s as sensitive as a cis woman’s clit. It’s a girl’s dick. [I]f you are on teh fence, if you don’t know if you could, I can show you it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced,” this person writes.
Below are more examples of transactivists being enraged that some people have preferences that do not include them:
Comedian Avery Edison writes at length about how it is hurtful when lesbians don’t want penis inside them:
Look, it’s not like I require the women I date to be cool with having my dick inside them. In fact, I’m fine if that never happens. But being shut off from the very idea of it, not even considering that having my penis inside you is different from having a man’s penis inside you? That hurts. It’s such tiny slight that I wish I could get over it, and not let it fester into something I feel the need to write an essay about, but apparently I can’t.
The Cambridge University Students’ Union LGBT group has an ask.fm, an on it we find answers like this: (archive)
I’m going to take a not-too-far leap and assume you’re talking about being attracted, or not attracted, to certain genitalia. If so, examine your thought processes. When you see someone presenting feminine, does your mind immediately jump to what genitals they have before you consider whether or not you find them attractive? Or do you simply presume, based on other physical characteristics (what might be termed ‘secondary sex characteristics’)? If the latter, that’s a cissexist presumption. Sure, we all do it. But we need to make sure we think twice.
Also: I’m sure you personally aren’t violently transmisogynistic, but the same things that lead you to ask these questions are the things that lead to trans women’s deaths. This sexuality related disgust is shared by men who treat trans women (especially trans women of colour) as sex objects. This disgust is by far the most common cause of their brutal murders.
In this thread, a woman is agonizing because she doesn’t like penises, but at the same time she doesn’t want to be a bigot:
I often say things like “thank god I’m a lesbian, no unplanned babies for me” and I’m occasionally reminded that some girls are able to get other girls pregnant. I’m usually taken back and ashamed that I said what ever I did. That being said, I would never date a person with a penis, regardless of gender. I don’t think of trans women with penises as less of a woman, I just…. can’t.
This is one of the replies:
In another thread, the commenter below expresses the sentiment that “lezzies” are “fucked up”, presumably for not being in a relationship with him:
“The cotton ceiling” is a term used by transactivists to describe the difficulties transpeople have with getting people to be in sexual relationships with them.
a term porn actress Drew DeVaux and other queer trans women are using to challenge cis lesbians’ tendency to support trans causes generally but draw the line at sleeping with trans women or including trans lesbians in their sexual communities.
The term cotton ceiling is a reference to the “glass ceiling” that second wave feminist identified in the workforce, wherein women could only advance so high in the workforce but could not break through into positions of power and authority. The cotton represents underwear, signifying sex.
More examples of cotton ceiling can be found here: http://terfisaslur.com/cotton-ceiling/