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11 August 2016

Same-sex marriage might be legal, but gay couples are still considered too “rude”

Delta Airlines removing all the kisses from Carol is just the latest example of the arbitrary censorship lesbians have always been subject to.

By Eleanor Margolis

Who decides what’s rude? On one of those “searingly hot for the UK” days the other week, a man with bigger tits than me toplesssly alighted a train, bearing his resplendent bosom to me and the rest of the nearby world. To be clear, I’m not body shaming this guy. Seriously – good for him and his boobs. He seemed happy. I would’ve been happy too if – on an aggressively warm train – I could’ve taken my top off and just sat there listening to This American Life on my phone, without outraging public decency.

It was one of those “why are my nipples rude?” moments that women have. Usually on hot days. Likewise, I often wonder why my dates are ruder than my straight friends’ dates. As a lesbian (all good sentences start this way) I have rude nipples and I kiss rudely. According, that is, to this esoteric Committee for Rudeness that, I’m guessing, decided that not all nipples or kisses were made equal.

Speaking of rude, this week Delta Airlines has had to ground hundreds of flights because of a system outage. Selectively perhaps, I initially read this as “system outrage”. I like the idea of a system outrage. Like, maybe their system was outraged by the lesbian kissing in Todd Haynes’ Carol, a censored version of which is being shown on Delta flights. The ones that are still… flying, at least. The edited, kiss-free, version of Carol, it appears, meets Delta’s rudeness guidelines. Although same-sex kissing, per se, doesn’t necessarily go against these guidelines. According to a statement by Delta, it’s the nudity in Carol that they object to and their preferred, fully clothed, version of the film just happens to be particularly puritanical, omitting both sex and kissing. Although comedian and recent Delta passenger, Cameron Esposito, tweeted that someone sitting next to her was watching a film with BDSM in it.

The point is though, even if the idea of same-sex marriage is no longer rude (legally speaking, at least) LGBT people are still being told to keep it in the bedroom. “It” includes hand holding, according to this couple who scandalised a Sainsbury’s security guard. Step outside the context of millennia of persecution for a second and this begins to feel utterly arbitrary. Like the Committee for Rudeness is very real, and is a sort of selectively prudish Illuminati which has dictated that my boobs will rarely get to see the light of day.

Whoever decided that rude things are 70 per cent ruder if women do them, and 90 per cent ruder if gay women do them would, in all fairness, have a nervous breakdown if they watched Carol. Gay women do so many rude things in that film. Rudely so. Sure, it’s a mesmerising performance by two wonderfully talented women, but Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara kissing is quite clearly upsetting in-flight viewing. The mere thought of lesbianism at altitude is probably enough to send someone out there over the edge. At least the Committee for Rudeness seem to think so.

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Even so, I’d be interested to see how the removal of physical intimacy from Carol would alter the overall impact of the film. Perhaps it would transform it into something quite interestingly and accidentally tantalising. More likely though, it goes from “tale of forbidden love” to “some fifties women hang out for two hours”. Which is why it would be sensible of Delta not to show Carol at all, rather than opt for a mildly nonsensical edited version that perpetuates the idea – accidentally or otherwise – that anything lesbian is intrinsically pornographic.