Sapphic Salon: The Adam Lambert Double Standard

Natalie Stein
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Last night, Adam Lambert kissed another guy on live television — network television. He also pushed a dancer's face into his crotch, which makes this is his most daring performance ever. Having only come out as gay post-American Idol, he has maintained a fairly straight-acting demeanor until now, including a sexualized photospread co-starring a woman in Details and Out magazine taking him to task for only appearing on the cover of the Out 100 issue if he didn't look "too gay" and a straight woman was also on the cover.


On The View this morning, Elizabeth Hasselbeck predictably said she thought it was over-the-line and was glad ABC censored Adam's performance for West Coast viewers, who weren't able to watch the late night performance live. Barbara Walters said she was disappointment in the network for making the decision, but recanted after she heard about the face-in-the-crotch.

Understandably, Adam Lambert is upset that he was censored in the later broadcast. Today he told Rolling Stone:

Female performers have been doing this for years — pushing the envelope about sexuality — and the minute a man does it, everybody freaks out. We're in 2009; it's time to take risks, be a little more brave, time to open people's eyes and if it offends them, then maybe I'm not for them.

Of course, he is right. Exhibit A:


Going back to The View, Joy Behar noted: "Everybody loves a lesbian kiss."

It all goes back to titillation: Two straight women kissing is acceptable. Two men kissing (straight or gay) is revolting, or worth complaining about. (ABC claims to have received 1500 complaints about Adam's performance so far.) Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera's threeway kiss was front page news the next day, but referred to as hot and surprising, rather than infuriating and disgusting. And yet, none of the three women have come forward to say they identify as anything other than straight. Their kiss was purely for "our" entertainment. (I use "our" loosely.)

So what does this Adam Lambert hoopla mean for gay women? It means that if Lady Gaga, an out bisexual, made out with a woman as part of her performance, it would be seen as great showmanship. If Melissa Etheridge had made out with a woman on stage, it would have likely been closer to the post-Adam reaction. It's just too real for America. Isn't that sad?

But will that deter female performers from embracing one another in the name of entertainment? Probably not. Will it stop Adam Lambert and other gay musicians? I hope not. It's ironic that one of the first things most straight people think about, when they find out someone is gay, is about how it works in the bedroom. These are the same people who ask that we not "flaunt our lifestyle," aka show affection or attraction to one another in their presence.


People are sexual. Music is sexual. It's natural that there will be an intersection, and to leave anyone queer or otherwise out of the club is asking a lot. Too much, in fact. And since I believe in equality, I'll support Madonna kissing anyone she wants, as long as she remains the fierce LGBT advocate she's always been.

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15 Comments Have Been Posted


"Two straight women kissing is acceptable. Two men kissing (straight or gay) is revolting, or worth complaining about."

Only in the mainstream, that is. Lots of subcultures have straight girls who get off, big time, on images of two males kissing. This is particularly ardent in the emo and anime subcultures—I know a girl whose tote bag is literally covered in "I Love Yaoi" buttons saying how hot it is to watch two guys going at it. In fact, in the past I was on a message board that was so full of these girls that I knew about this phenomenon before the mainstream "lesbians are hot" phenomenon! So it's always baffled me why the mainstream media is blind to the fact that it cuts both ways.

As for a straight girl, I'm not sure what to think about it. If I ever decided to sexually kiss a woman, it would be as an emotional statement to represent any expanding horizons that might occur in my sexuality, not to "experiment" Katy Perry-style and certainly NOT to please any onlooking males. Likewise, I do find it at least endearing and at most sexy when I see two men whom I find attractive kissing and caressing, but I would never exploit them with voyeurism or egg them on, just "admire from afar," so to speak. It's a sticky issue, definitely.

for me kissing lessbians are

for me kissing lessbians are even sexy! but i cant stand kissing guys dunno why

It was censored?

Wait a sec, I'm on the West Coast and I saw the face-in-the-crotch move AND the kiss with the male dancer, and I'm on the west coast. So maybe they didn't censor it to all viewers? that's really weird. (And to top it off, I live in a more conservative area). And, I'm angry that it was censored, that's just stupid.

"It's ironic that one of the first things most straight people think about, when they find out someone is gay, is about how it works in the bedroom."

I've noticed that, too. I'm straight and I've had many gay friends (lesbian and gay) and I never asked "how it worked" in the bedroom, even to my close friends. I just thought it was too inappropriate and personal, and if they wanted to share, fine. I just never understood why so many straight people would ask things (to a lesbian couple) like "So who's the man?" or to a gay couple "So who's the chick?" It's very frustrating to me, because it's just insulting, because they just can't comprehend two men being two men in a relationship (or vice-versa) and thus one HAS to be the opposite gender in the relationship.

And, you really nailed women kissing women vs men kissing men. It's simply more acceptable and considered "hot" and when a man kisses another man, it's "gross." Personally, I think it's incredibly hot to see two men I find good-looking kissing. but then again, I always say if I were born a man, I'd be gay so there you go.

A couple thoughts: -The

A couple thoughts:
-The Madonna/Britney kiss was on MTV, a cable network. So they are generally just less likely to censor things, and I highly doubt they would censor a gay male kiss. But I agree there is totally a double standard between gay male and lesbian kisses in mainstream entertainment.
-While I agree that Lady Gaga probably would get treated as a great entertainer for kissing a woman, I don't think it's fair to say that she wouldn't crap because she's an out bisexual. I mean, Gaga may have stated that she wants to have sex with women and men, but it's not like she's out there visibly dating women. If she was making out with butch women in performance, I think there'd be a pretty negative reaction to that, too. Any leeway she gets, I think, would have more to do with the fact that she is high femme in her gender presentation, rather than being bisexual.

I was first made aware of

I was first made aware of this when a music site I follow posted it as news under the title "Adam Lambert Skullfucks on National Television." Obviously curious about what made them use the term "skullfuck", I watched the clip. Then I realized, Oh, you mean he simulated a blow job because, ya know, he's gay and that's something he enjoys? It irritated me that a gay man being erotic during a musical performance gets labeled as skullfucking when any straight woman making out with another straight woman would just be daring. Double standards are the worst.

In the Bedroom

When a straight person asks, "How does it work in the bedroom?" I find the best response to be, "You don't really *get* anatomy, do you?"

Two conversations

I seem to be having two different conversations about this performance. Depending whom I'm talking to.

Conversation #1. People are making such a huge deal about this because hes gay. It is not more offensive because hes gay. Performers pull this kind of thing all the time, they're just usually strait or female.


Conversation #2. I didn't like his hypersexualized performance. I don't like it when strait people do this. Him being gay doesn't make it any less creepy to me. If a strait man did this with women there would be a feminist outcry.

Is anyone else in the same place?

I saw nothing edgy or

I saw nothing edgy or controversial in Adam Lambert's performance, to be honest. I saw a man reinforcing heteropatriarchal norms (men or male-presenting people as the dominant, sexual aggressor). Shoving his crotch into someone's face is nothing no man hasn't done before. It was boring at best.

I have to agree with this. I

I have to agree with this. I was defensive of Adam's performance <i>before I saw it</i>. (Because people were upset at the man-on-man stuff.) But watching the performance, what struck me most were the disturbing lyrics:

"I’m a hurt ya real good, baby . . .
I told ya I’ma hold ya down until you’re amazed
Give it to you ’til you're screaming my name
No escaping when I start, once I’m in I own your heart
There’s no way you’ll ring the alarm, so hold on until it’s over."

Does this sound a little too, uh, forceful to anyone else? And yes, I know I'm invoking the wrath of the fans by even mentioning this. Oh well.

(I got the lyrics from a lyrics site, so there is a margin or error here. Feel free to correct if something isn't right.)

Paired with the performance

Paired with the performance and the costumes, I'd say it's pretty S&M. Whether or not it's bad (nonconsensual) S&M is another question, one I don't know if it can be answered.

I mean, people were surprised at how sexual the performance was, without bothering to mention how sexual the lyrics are. (I mean, hello! "I'm here for your entertainment" and the lyrics you listed). Hands down, though, the man oozes sex to begin with. So I think it would be a little difficult for him to *not* be sexual considering that's just his stage presence.

Who is really complaining?

First of all, I am 56, a suburban mom on the west coast and we saw the entire performance here. I agree with the comment above that the sexuality of the performance didn't bother me, but the appearance of forced sex did bother me. Just as I didn't care about seeing Janet Jackson's breast, but I objected to Justin Timerlake ripiing her top off, and was surprized that there wasn't more said about that.

I like Adam Lambert and hope his performance on the show was mean to to be provocative and not an ongoing theme of his career.


I'm so sick of the it's b/c he's gay argument. Ummm hello do we not remember nipplegate and how much flack Janet Jackson got b/c she showed a her nipple which was covered by a pasty anyway. And the lame JT left to and took no responsibility for his role in nipplegate. Some networks got time delays and she was on hiatus for a bit. So....spare me with the argument that he's being censored b/c of his sexuality PLEASE!!!!. His performace was over the top! I don't even care that he kissed his bandmate kissing on awards shows is overdone, Adrian Brody & Halle, Halle & Jamie Foxx, Britney & Madonna, Lame Lame Lame.

Music is no longer edifying so I assume artists are hoping that us consumers don't notice how crappy their music is by distracting us w/ their gimmicks. I don't care about him groping himself please Beyonce, Janet, Britney, MJ and many other artist do this so it's nothing new or provocative. I did however find the the suggested fellatio offensive. I would find is just as offensive if it was a heterosexual artist. If I wanted to watch that shit I would rent a f.ckn porno.

Stop playing the gay card it's f.ckn tired and lame. Have you seen the show brothers & Sisters. There are plenty of man on man action/makeout sessions me so spare me that argument. So I think people are not being as close minded as they used to be. There is still a long way to go but not everyone is a tight ass about the LGBT community. And yes sex is natural, it is beautiful but I don't fucking watch award shows for that sh.t. I watchi it to see what the ppl are wearing and hear ppl sing.

Before people get their panties in a bunch why all this attention on Adam it's unwarranted. People need to pay more attention to the fact that your current president just deployed 30, 000 troop to freakin' Afghanistan so while your wasting energy on this sh.t more money is being spent on a senseless war. More young live are gonna be sacrificed. Wake the up. And realize that the media has been used for years to distract the sleeping masses for the things they need to be focusing their energy on. WAKE THE F.CK UP PEOPLE!!!!!

Adam Lambert to Chris Brown

And now Adam has been bumped from Good Morning America and replaced with the abusive Chris Brown!

The network's priorities don't get much clearer than that.

I know, really? That just

I know, really?

That just leaves me with such a disgusted taste in my mouth. He did a horrible, horrible thing, and I think that every TV station and news outlet should just ignore him (because apparently any publicity is still good publicity, even if you abuse your girlfriend). If he gets attention and more media spotlight, it just makes it worse. It sends the wrong message to other abusers, that even if you do something like that, you're still gonna get attention and money.

Adam Lambert may have offended people, but he didn't hurt anyone. Chris Brown did.

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