What Is Queer Sex?

We’re all so confused by different sexual terms for a pretty good reason.  Talking about sex in a direct way, without euphemisms, being specific and concrete, makes most of us uncomfortable.  This is one of the reasons why we all laugh about sex (another is that sex is, admittedly, hilarious).  It’s easier to laugh and pretend like we all know what we’re talking about and that we’re all talking about the same thing, than to get a little serious and start asking questions like:

  • What do you mean by sex exactly?
  • When you say it makes you feel tingly, what is it that does that?  And where do you feel tingly?
  • When you fantasize about sex, what, and who, are you thinking about?

These are questions some of us love answering, but most of us don’t.  And so it is that a word like queer started to be used in a very specific and strategic way in the 80s.  Then it makes it’s way into the alphabet soup of LGBTQs, and before you know it people are using the word to describe other people without really knowing what it means.

If you want to know what queer sex is, you have to start by knowing what queer means.

Of course there’s no one definition everyone agrees on for a word like queer (one of the things that distinguishes it from words like gay or lesbian which more or less have definitions that most people understand and agree on).

But you have to start somewhere.  So keeping in mind your own idea of what queer means let’s break down two ways of talking about queer sex.


Queer People Make Sex Queer
If someone identifies as queer, then when they have sex, are they having queer sex?  This might sound like a question with an obvious answer, but it isn’t.  After all, gay men do sometimes have sex with women, and lesbians sometimes have sex with men.  If a gay man has sex with a woman is the sex gay?  Is it straight?  What about someone who identifies as bisexual.  One of the reasons bisexuals are always being disbelieved and interrogated is the idea that they can’t really be that thing if they do these other things.

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One way to skip over all these complicated questions that highlight the fuzziness of actual sexual identities, is to just say that the only people who have queer sex are people who are queer.  So if you call yourself queer and you have sex, that’s queer sex.  I don’t think it ever works so neatly, but certainly some people do.

The bigger question here is:  does the identify the person uses automatically determine the sex they are having?


Anyone Can Have Queer Sex
Another way to think about it is that what makes sex queer is not the people having it but the kind of sex it is.  So if part of being queer means not being interested in traditional gender roles and orientation categories, does something like pegging, a sexual activity that inverts traditional gender roles of who is penetrating who, count as queer sex?

The bigger question here is: is queer more of a verb than a noun?  Is queer what we do and not who we are?

Queer Is Both/And, Not Either/Or
For as many queer people as you could find you would have a significant group who would say that it’s queer people who have queer sex and a significant group who would say that queer sex is something you do, not something you are.  But most of them would probably agree that being queer is about acknowledging and embracing the fact that gender and sexuality will always be more than how we define them.  That words and identity labels can never fully capture how we feel, who we desire, and who we are.So queer sex is probably both of these things, not only one of them.

So What Is Queer Sex?
The goal here is not to leave you more confused than when you arrived, so let me try to be a bit more concrete.

If someone identifies themselves as queer they may very well think of a the sex they have as queer.  And I’m not sure why anyone should have the right to tell someone else what kind of sex they are having.  At the same time if these identity categories have any use they should be different from one another.  So the question for the queer person might be, how is the sex you are having different from straight sex, or gay sex, or bi sex?  Not that anyone should be called on to defend themselves, but in the interests of understanding what the term means for the individual, that’s how I might start a conversation.

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But given that queer isn’t just about an identity, but about actively challenging and resisting gender and sexual norms and rules, it seems fair to say that there are some kinds of sex that are just queer. Sex that breaks the rules of what heteronormative and gender normative sex is supposed to look like and feel like.  That might be sex that doesn’t focus on the genitals. It might be sex that doesn’t involve intercourse or penetration of any kind.  It might be sex that isn’t between one man and one woman.

There isn’t one way of being queer and so there can’t be one way of having queer sex, but given that queer means in part breaking down the idea that each of us has one sexual orientation and one gender identity and it stays the same for our whole lives, it seems fair to say that queer sex cannot be itself an activity that only a limited number of people can do.

One final thought: identity categories (like queer or gay or straight) are a way to describe not just our behavior but how we feel, how we think, and who we are.  Sexual activities are much more narrow.  They are something we do.  Just as we know that having anal sex doesn’t make you gay, and lot of people who identify as straight still have sex with people of the same gender, it seems to follow that not only queer people have queer sex and not all the sex queer people have would be queer.

This article was originally published by – About Relationships


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