Is Harry Styles Queer-Baiting?

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Harry Styles Causes A Stir With Comments on Sexuality

Harry Styles hit headlines once again this week after commenting on his sexuality for Rolling Stones Magazine. The 28-year-old pop star covered the legendary magazine in his classic 70s-inspired gender-fluid fashion. The interview itself is probably Harry’s most honest interview, commenting on his relationship with Olivia Wilde, life, happiness and even the prospect of having children. But it was Harry’s comments on sexuality that caused a stir. 

Harry Styles Filming Mr Policeman
Harry filming Mr Policeman (Vanity Teen)

“I think everyone, including myself, has your own journey with figuring out sexuality and getting more comfortable with it,” says Harry to Rolling Stone. But sceptics were quick to label Harry as ‘queer baiting’ as the singer has never been seen in public dating a man. To which Harry said that he doesn’t think he’s “publicly been with anyone.” Regardless of wherever Harry has openly dated a man or not, it’s not for us to comment on someone’s own sexuality; it is a very personal and individual process. 

Harry is currently promoting a gay movie called My Policeman – due out in October. This fact has led people to be sceptical of the timing of the comments, due to the ongoing press circuit ahead of the release. For some, Harry’s comments are reminiscent of many celebrities who have teased their sexuality during promotional campaigns, such as Milk lead actor James Franco who said he’s gay “up to the point of intercourse.”

Harry Styles
Harry’s Rolling Stone Shoot (Rolling Stones)

The main quote that caused outrage referred to Harry’s take on gay sex, in which he said, ”So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it.” Harry then continued to elaborate on how he and the director, Michael Grandage wanted to show “tender and loving and sensitive scenes.” The problem with this comment is that it assumes that gay sex is one thing when of course, it isn’t. Gay sex can be tender, and affectionate, but it can also be rough. Gay sex doesn’t need to be on a bed of roses with Ed Sheeran playing in the background for it to be tender.

Others on Twitter also feel that there are plenty of examples of gay sex being portrayed in a tender way. “If he digested queer media he would know that that wasn’t true and I feel like he would’ve said something smarter,” said one account. “Anyone who engages with queer movie, fan fiction, [and] books knows that there’s a tonne of tenderness in a lot of gay male romances and I think he’s going to need to start doing better. I think he needs to do a little bit better,” said another. “We love you [Harry] but you gotta level up here. Watch some cool shit. read some fan-fiction.”

But, what’s the problem with queer baiting? Well, the LGBTQIA+ community has long suffered persecution. Being queer often meant hiding your identity from society, in fear of imprisonment, losing your job, being an outcast from your family and even being chemically castrated. For centuries, queer culture has existed underground and had to be hidden from society. But now, queer culture is in fashion. It’s now “cool” to be queer, and like many other minority communities, the culture is now being appropriated – often for commercial profit. Therefore, when a white, successful, handsome male comes along, like Harry Styles, scepticism is inevitable. 

Harry Styles for Rolling Stone
“The new King of Pop?” (Rolling Stone)

Having an opinion in 2022 is difficult. Whatever angle celebrities decide to discuss, it’s bound to antagonise someone. Harry is undoubtedly the world’s biggest pop star at the moment. His gender-fluid fashion and confidence in being open about his feelings are an inspiration to many. Harry, and any other person for that matter, should not be criticised for expressing their sexuality. It is not for us to assume whether someone is telling the truth or not. But, when it comes to making comments on behalf of a community that are one-sided, a backlash is needed to address the balance in discourse.