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Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




Dildos, cowboy fetish, toe fetish, up for anything, and
spit fetish. I think.
I apologize to you, ladies, gentlemen, variations thereof, and none of the above. My articles have been a bit light on levity, and while queer history is important and all, it just seems like we could all use a light-hearted, unsubstantial, slightly racy post today. Well, okay, we'll get into a bit of queer history. But I want to talk about a subject near and dear to many queer folks' hearts: fabric, colors, and sex. Specifically, I want to talk to you about a little something called "flagging" and how even femmes are getting in on the color fun. This is not your daddy's flagging, so hang tight.

Flagging, as many of you already know, is the practice of wearing different colors to indicate sexual interests to potential partners. It's an ancient gay practice. Even the hets know about it, although they really only know about the oldest form: the hanky code used by gay men. The hanky code got its start in the misty days of the prehistoric past, by which I mean the 1850s. According to Wikipedia, famously macho professions like miners, cowboys, and railroad engineers would wear hankies around their necks. I admit that this is not my area of expertise, but my research indicates that many people attracted to men find the hairy, sweaty, bronzed, muscular air of miners, cowboys, and railroad engineers to be sexually attractive.

Not seeing it, but hey, whatever floats your boat.
Anyway, when many such miners flocked to San Francisco, they found that several problems made life less than ideal, including sub-par dental care, a distinct lack of gold, and an even more severe lack of women. Now, this being San Francisco, this lack of the fairer sex was generally only felt during square dances. So our esteemed forefathers in gay started using colored handkerchiefs to assign parts during the dance. Those who wore blue hankies would dance as males, and those wearing red hankies would dance as women. Generally the hanky code stayed with the dances, but we all know that for many, the hankies probably assigned roles for the after-dance festivities as well, if you know what I mean.
The lack of women persists in certain
areas of San Francisco to this day.
As the West Coast frolicked like rabbits in the forgiving California sunshine, the East Coast gays were having it a bit harder. Life in 1970 was hard for the LGBT community of the city, and the "anti-loitering" laws were often simply used to intimidate cruising gays. At the time, gays looking to get some wore their keys on different pockets to indicate a preference for topping or bottoming. Then, a wisecracking writer for The Village Voice flippantly suggested that a more comprehensive cruising code could be formulated with differently colored hankies. And thus a trend was born.

The short, basic list given in The Leatherman's Handbook lists about 10 colors corresponding to common fetishes. For the most part, the color matching is intuitive.
     Dark blueAnal sex
     Light blueOral sex
     OrangeAnything, anywhere, anytime (but not necessarily anyone)
     PurpleInto piercing
As underground counterculture sexual signals go, this list is considered very authoritative and the basic template from which all the other codes grow out of. The position of the hanky is also important, left indicating dominance and right implying submission. Other lists on the internet are far more extensive, but meanings can vary from region. Not to mention that the difference between purple (piercing), lavender (drag), and puce (bruising) can be rather subjective. Although, come to think of it, if anyone is going to be able to tell the difference...
HOLY HELL DUDE. I admire this man's unfettered hedonism.
Lists including over 30 colors and exotic materials like mosquito netting (outdoor sex), velvet (voyeurism), and even gold lamè (groupies) abound on the internet. Some of these fetishes are things I've never in my life heard of and would very much never like to try, but again, whatever floats your boat.

Now this is interesting and everything, but I'm an egotistical person, so wouldn't bother writing about this unless all this could somehow apply to me. And the hanky code is a historically gay male invention. What's a femme to do?

It's tragic when you think about it. I mean, butch lesbians generally get pegged as gay instantly, but we femme lesbians constantly slip under the public's gaydar. That's great sometimes. I mean, think about what happened the last time all gay people were forced to wear identifying information at all times.

Pictured: Interesting idea, poor execution
However, the inherent subtlety of femininity gets in the way of a very important life goal of mine and other femme lesbians: getting laid. It was a matter of time before someone figured out a comparable code. The problem is codifying and disseminating it. For any cultural touchstone to be successful there needs to be a large enough platform of people who are aware of that meme and willing to expound on it, like 1850s San Francisco. Thanks to the  Internet, the ladyqueer equivalent of San Francisco (the Tumblr community), a femme version of the hanky code has been invented. I give you...finger flagging!

From bossyfemme.com
Pictured is a bit older version of finger flagging, where one painted nail is obviously differently than the others. So far, the more evolved versions involve either painting the pointer and middle fingernails or the middle and ring fingers a different color or pattern than the other (generally solid colored) nails. Why the pointer and middle fingernails, or the middle and ring fingernails? Let me answer your question with a nuanced, highly scientific, and very appropriate graphic:

Yep. Subtle isn't it? So far, the tumblr community is playing fast and loose with the set colors and fingers, but already a new trend has emerged: painting the flagging fingers (the two painted differently than the others) in a glitter nail polish to signal "femmes for femmes" or femme lesbians who seek sex/relationships with other femmes. I'm so totally getting in on this, if only so I can brag to the baby-dykes of the future that I was a part of this new part of gay culture. If you have ideas for flagging or have pictures, I suggest you share!
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