Passivity – A Queer Manifesto

Joni Wright

Hilariously sardonic American literature student at UEA. Nymphomaniac, reviewer of sex toys, and shots girl at a gay bar. Also smells of bubblegum. @mermilf_

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As Angela Carter once wrote, “To be the object of desire is to be defined in the passive case. To exist in the passive case is to die in the passive case – that is, to be killed.” This is a mantra by which I live my life.

A friend once said “I can’t imagine you being passive for a moment, even with a penis up your butt.” However, in a culture where problematic gendered roles of power are assimilated to, especially in twink culture, the distinction between being sexually submissive and passive in life is not distinguished. I tell everybody, and myself, that you must love yourself, work it, and take an active role in life. This is not an issue of being shy, modest, or being the sub in a BDSM scenario – this is an issue of self-love and self-appreciation. Even as someone with clinical depression, something that often renders me inactive and resentful, one thing remains constant: I love myself, and only I am responsible for my getting better. The help of others is accepted and wanted, but not needed.

I am so glad that RuPaul’s Drag Race is growing in popularity, (despite the quiet hipster voice at the back of my head saying “but I loved it first”), because not a single episode goes by without Ru exclaiming “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” This comes at the intersection of what I argue. Loving yourself is forefronted in the sentence, because it is the most important lesson to learn.

Passivity is not a new thing, it goes back to fairy tales and fables, where the princess is in bondage, and must be saved. She is passive to all desire, and all of her saviour’s efforts, and eventually becomes passive to his title and fortune. But these tales are fallacies, and we know they are. We appreciate a Disney Classic with a pinch of salt. We live in the 21st century where we know that a knight in shining armour won’t just ride up and hoist us onto his horse. And, especially in an age where gender roles are fluid and romances are not just between Prince and Princess, the passivity in culture should have been weeded out. But the roots permeate the very foundations of all social interactions. As, for a man to love a man, or a woman to love a woman, is not enough on its own, the erroneous gendered narrative must be appropriated.

On Twitter, where every thought must first be condensed into 140 characters, it is the micro-elements of the composition that tells more about the person than a bio could ever manage. I regularly see young twinks, often bottoms or vers-bottoms, mistake being the recipient in sex with being the recipient all the time. Their appearance, even out of a sexual context, is a show to be admired by Prince Power-top. When it should be a masquerade. One should be able to don the mask of submissivity for sexual kinks, a perfectly acceptable thing to do (as the fetishisation of power roles is just that, an act), and then be able to take it off. In tweeting “I wish someone would take me to the pub,” you are passive to the active role, even if it is just a desire. You subjugate yourself. Why not take your damn self to the pub? Or if you’ll be lonely, why not you find someone. I believe in the power of word placement. Place yourself at the front of each sentence, and you empower yourself.

In the style of Twitter, I propose a manifesto of activity, each point in 140 characters or less, so you know that it is possible to be powerful with limited wiggle room.

– Always forefront yourself in the sentence, “I” before “him/her.” If you make yourself passive in your own wording, it invites subjugation.

– Even if you’re assuming a hyper-feminised, infantilised, or dehumanised role in sex, never apply that beyond the sexual context.

– In what you project to the world, never let yourself be defined by others. Don’t just be a sycophant, you are more than just a fan.

– Acting is okay. Play a role to the world if you so desire it, especially on the internet, but know you can take the mask off.

– If you too want it, don’t wait for them to put a ring on it. Put that Glob-damn ring on yourself.

– Own the selfie, and don’t let the camera fuck you. Fuck the camera, be the central aspect, because why shouldn’t you.

– It is not vanity to love yourself, and those who tell you as such seek to oppress you, whether consciously or not.

– It is more of a compliment to choose someone, of all the many options, and want them, than need them.

– Always be honest in yourself, and you’ll never drive someone away. That is their shit, their problem, if they can’t deal.

– No one can make you love yourself, only you are capable of that. They can crack open the floodgate, plant the seed, but that’s it.

You don’t need a photo taken of you to feel beautiful, you don’t need a man to fuck you to be sexy, you don’t need a large follower count to know you’re a valid human being. You don’t need to be defined as just a Little Monster or a One Directioner or a Katycat or whatever the fuck, just be you, your love and passions are merely a facet of that. Seize what you have, fucking own it, and make the world your bitch.