by CLAIRE WILLETT · April 21, 2008

1boilerroom.jpg [Image via NyMag]

While I was in Paris, one of my (and every other expat's) favorite haunts was Sylvia Beach's famous bookstore, Shakespeare&Co. Mostly, I liked it for the atmosphere -loads of ukele-toting rucksackers and elderly gentlemen in distinguished hats, but occasionally I'd actually buy a book, especially if it had anything to do with travel. And so I happened upon Edmund White's Le Flaneur, which, I presumed from its title, would be a story of strolling around Paris.

Not knowing who Edmund White was, I was rather startled to find multiple passages waxing rhapsodic over the glories not of strolling, but of cruising. Alongside descriptions of falafel lane in the Marais were tales of anonymous trysts along the quais and in the royal gardens. This was, of course, pre-AIDS, but even still it made me wonder why casual or anonymous sex is viewed so differently in the homosexual world than it is in the heterosexual one.

Saturday night I wound up at the Boiler Room because a friend was craving a er, release of sorts. He found one in about 30 seconds, leaving me to stare forlornly at men who stared right through me (well duh, you say). Watching my friend, who is younger than me, banter and then leave with two much older men, made me feel a little sketched out, but much less than it would have had he been a she.

I don't think that it's just because women are physically weaker either. Maybe it's because I grew up in and attend school at places where tolerance was and is the rule, and while I think this is absolutely how it should be, it can also create an unwillingness to question someone's activities purely because of their sexuality.

It's normal for gay men to wham-bamn-thank-you-sir, but it's slutty for straight girls and skeazy for straight men, especially when there's a large age difference involved. Or maybe it's not, I'm not sure, or qualified to say. What do you all think?