Pop Theory 15: Is the "Cotton Ceiling" Theory All Fluff?
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Late Friday night [a few months ago] I got a one-line text message from a very dear friend of mine:
“What are your thoughts on the ‘cotton ceiling’ theory?,” she asked.
Although I assumed it was a riff off “glass ceiling,” I replied “I’ve never heard of it,” while simultaneously googling “cotton ceiling” on my laptop. One of the first hits was to a piece on femonade explicitly about the “cotton ceiling” theory:
The cotton ceiling is a theory proposed by trans porn star and activist Drew DeVeaux to explain the experiences queer trans women have with simultaneous social inclusion and sexual exclusion within the broader queer women’s communities. Basically, it means that cis queer women will be friends with us and talk day and night about trans rights and ending transmisogyny, but will still not consider us viable sexual partners.
The term cotton ceiling is a reference to the glass ceiling that second wave feminist identified in the workforce, wherein women could only advance so high in the workforce but could not break through into positions of power and authority. The cotton represents underwear, signifying sex.
The theory of the cotton ceiling is useful in identifying the dynamic trans women are experiencing, and is meant to open up conversation around desirability’s intersections with transmisogyny and transphobia.
While the allusion to “cotton” baffles me, and, therefore, while I don’t feel the metaphor to be apt, I do comprehend what the author is saying: how inclusive are queer women of transwomen if said queer women refuse to have sex with them?
The concern as it is articulated comes across as petulant and, ironically, a tad misogynistic. This individual believes that lesbians won’t sleep with her because she’s trans, but how can she make that judgement? Her feeling smacks of the “all homos are sex maniacs” argument. But just because I’m a homo it doesn’t mean that I want to hump everything with a vagina, “born” or “made.” To be honest, I don’t want to sleep with 99.9% of the women out there. Why? Because my standards are such that it takes more than simply having a vajayjay — although a vajayjay is required — to get into my knickers, and, to