Reading Whipping Girl (which is excellent) got me thinking more about what made me uncomfortable about that coffee the last week. One of the specific topics that was discussed was another male participant's recent interactions with an apparently quite conventionally attractive female, and the fact that he didn't end up with the outcome that we're supposed to think is desirable (and that he probably did think was desirable!), namely having sex with her. (There was also some amount of friendly teasing of that participant for various other reasons, and some of that teasing was gender-linked.)
I am male. I do not, however, consider being male as an area of expertise. And so: I'm not particularly good at acting conventionally masculine (though I'm worse at acting conventionally feminine, and years ago discarded the two skirts that used to be in my closet). And I'm also not particularly good at expressing traditional masculine sexuality, so while I'm noticeably more attracted to women than to men, I'm not particularly attracted to women who are strongly marked as feminine. (In general, the latter is an active turn off for me; it is not a coincidence that Liesl hasn't shaved her legs in years and doesn't spend much time shopping for clothes, or for that matter that she gave me one of the aforementioned skirts.) And so, in retrospect, being in a context where somebody else was being teased for failings along those lines was probably at least as much a source of my discomfort as other aspects of the coffee were. (There certainly were other sources of discomfort: my introversion, and less-gender-linked ways in which the interactions marked me as unusual.)
Don't get me wrong: the other people involved are all people I like, and in fact (as I hope is obvious to them, but it always bears repeating) like quite a bit. And whom I had a pleasant dinner with tonight; I'm writing this post in part to try to understand why I actively enjoyed tonight's dinner instead of actively disliking it. And I take an active role in friendly teasing somewhat often myself; also, there's nothing at all wrong with most of the interactions in question. (Being reminded of the existence of differences is something that I in general view as morally neutral, even if I don't always enjoy it.) It's just a reminder of how this world encourages us to actively reinforce gender norms.