I am particularly susceptible to this effect for three reasons. I don’t know of any reliable, classy (sorry Steel Blue) queer women hangouts in the RTP area. I’m excited to check out CC's hip-hop nights. Since I have a girlfriend it would be for observatory purposes only. I’m interested in male dominated fields like computer science and business. And I’m the kind of femme who finds masculine energy more important than gender.
Picture this: I am surrounded by men. It’s probable that one out of the thousands of straight men I encounter at a computer hacker’s conference will think I’m attractive. It’s probable that I will find at least one man without a floppy Mohawk, giant Goth pants, and a beer gut. In fact, he will have a winning smile, an adorable Oklahoma accent, broad shoulders and the ability to hack SCADA systems. I can safely assume this man is straight. My nonchalance is an asset. For once I am not the embarrassing, over-aggressive chaser.
Of course there are one or two women that catch my eye. But, save for subtle body language (which I don’t understand) and asking a woman upfront, I’m not going to know her sexuality. Butches/studs are easy to spot, but I’m afraid they want more femmeness than I can provide. I have never seen a nerdy, Rachel Maddow type butch in the wild. And I’m not exactly attracted to women who wear sensible shoes, so the L Word gaydar checklist does not apply.
Finally, I avoid casual sex with women because protection is so confusing. Men get condoms. Women get dental dams. I have never used a dental dam! Yes, I am a public health hypocrite. So as to not destroy my public health credibility I simply don’t have casual sex with women. I don’t feel confident in initiating the use of such an awkward device. And since I have a girlfriend my lack of dental dam aptitude is a less urgent concern.
Do I feel good about my conquests? Not really. But it’s something. I want to taste that privilege many straight people have of getting lucky at a generic college party. Making out on the dance floor. You know how it goes. It’s like eating coffee flavored ice cream. I don’t like the coffee flavor, but it’s still ice cream.
I know many people won’t understand my susceptibility to the prison effect. They think if I call myself a lesbian instead of a queer woman I should treat interested men like wild hyenas. I think calling myself queer would be a cop-out. To me there is a gulf between romantic and physical attraction. I call myself a lesbian because my romantic attraction lies squarely with women. My physical attraction is nebulous. I bet (I just came back from Vegas after all) if you walked a mile in my shoes you would also hook up with some computer hackers, entrepreneurs, math nerds and Catholic school boys along the way.