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Will Suck Dick for Socialism

The viral slogan has become a call-to-arms for young leftists fighting for a better life — leaving an older generation utterly confounded

Ruby Streek, a 21-year-old waitress and artist in London, recently got a taste of Twitter notoriety when she made a political T-shirt in the lead-up to the U.K. election. “I’m doing my BA in fine art and specialize in semantics and language. I’d also made T-shirts with my nudes on them before, so it was kind of just begging to be made,” she laughs. “The 2019 election had absolutely no sex appeal and I’d just finished writing my dissertation, so I thought it’d be funny to try and make slutty merch advocating for socialism.” 

The outcome? A white shirt emblazoned with “WILL SUCK DICK FOR SOCIALISM” in bouncing red font, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party

The real fracas began when Streek met journalist and political commentator Owen Jones in a bar, who then tweeted a photo of the two of them together in which he’s gesturing approvingly to the T-shirt’s slogan. While his tweet was well-received among young leftists, Jones was immediately castigated by a segment on Twitter who felt that he was being misogynistic. “Even if she’s cool with it, many women aren’t cool with being portrayed in this way,” one user replied. “Please don’t. We do not offer sex for payment of any kind, financial or political.” Another wrote, “Owen, love, your misogyny is showing. Women don’t exist to sexually service men.” 

As Jones himself pointed out, many of his critics had missed the crux of the joke, which is that Jones is a gay man who was joking about his willingness to suck dick for socialism, not hurr-hurring like a “bro” about Streek’s. “Just admit you didn’t know I was gay and was joking about performing fellatio for socialism and we can all move on,” he replied to one user. “[Y]ou’re erasing a woman’s agency, policing what she should wear, suggesting I appropriate her ideas and policing the queer humor of queer people.” 

This particular way of joking, which is popular among hyper-online, queer and femme young people on the political left, is confounding terrain for more earnest, often older observers, many of whom are abolitionist feminists. The latter tend to get flustered by “WILL SUCK DICK FOR SOCIALISM” T-shirts, #HotGirlsForBernie, getting their tits out and sending nudes to Bernie’s campaign donors and other forms of naked philanthropy, which they view as evidence of “misogyny on the left” and women “colluding with their oppressors.” The former, meanwhile, just roll their eyes at the olds who don’t get it. 

That is, until said olds swamp your Twitter mentions. “It was honestly insane: [Far-right English media personality] Katie Hopkins tweeted me the day after the election, which was mad, and then all the SWERFs and TERFs kind of followed suit,” Streek remembers. “It’s weird having so many women essentially implying you’re a dumb slut. But also, I’m Gen Z. I’ve felt like I was born to be Twitter famous, so it really is a wonderful ego boost.” 

Streek says that her Twitter following ballooned from 400 Twitter followers at the beginning of December to 11,500 just before the New Year. “Most of the objections came from women who think Owen Jones is misogynistic because he spoke up for trans rights, so you can’t really take their critique too seriously,” she continues. “But the girls and gays have been so supportive.” 

While its critics chose to interpret the slogan as being primarily about straight women offering transactional sex to straight men, the cohort it was intended to appeal to immediately read the joke as queer humor. “I reckon the ‘sucking dick for socialism’ shirt rules,” says Emmy, a 27-year-old Ph.D. candidate and lesbian trans woman based in New Zealand. “Socialist Germany was a trans-healthcare-funding, Nazi-executing, gay-rights haven. Gay communists have every right to be proud of being gay communists, and this shirt reflects that. Plus, it’s funny, which gay people and communists always are.” 

James, a 27-year-old teacher and gay man, agrees. “It’s a raw expression of a liberated sexual politics that’s partly self-deprecating, partly ironic and partly truthful,” he says. “It also plays on the idea that straight dudes are sexually repressed and will do anything to get their dicks sucked, including supporting socialism.” 

No one who likes the T-shirt seems to have taken it anywhere near as literally as its critics, who view it as a depraved offer of sexual favors in exchange for political advancement. “The phrase plays into those party T-shirts that say ‘WILL SUCK DICK FOR COKE’ and that tongue-in-cheek exchange, rather than actually being about sucking a literal penis,” Streek says, adding that the slogan is “gender-neutral.” For Emmy, “sucking dick for socialism means to vibrantly and passionately struggle for life,” she says. “It’s an invitation to recognize how class struggle is the terrain on which all sectional struggles are fought, and that we’re therefore always engaged on that terrain.” 

In fairness, it wasn’t only conservatives and abolitionist feminists who took the message too literally. “Going by the [straight] guys in my DMs, they think that if they proclaim that they’re left-wing, I’ll get down on my knees. But,” Streek deadpans, “that’s generally not the case.” 

She can imagine an extremely unlikely hypothetical scenario where she would literally suck a dick to remove one of the biggest roadblocks to socialism in her country, though. “I did say to Owen on the night that I met him that I’d make a martyr of myself and blow Boris [Johnson] if it meant he’d forfeit the election,” Streek continues. “He said that was too far, but I don’t know, I’d do that for this country.” 

James is similarly committed. “In all honesty, I absolutely would give a few gobbies for the revolution,” he says. “Like that dude from the Fyre festival who was told to suck a guy’s dick to save the festival, I would do that for socialism.” 

This kind of teasing by Streek is maddening to critics like Julie Bindel et al., who think these jokes suggest that women (and only women) should be expected to blow straight men in return for political advancement. But almost no young socialists are actually saying this, or believe it to be true. “WILL SUCK DICK FOR SOCIALISM” can be better understood as a yearning for a better world, an expression of solidarity with those who yearn similarly, and a humorous pledge to keep fighting until all of us have socialized health care, housing, welfare and education. 

After all, as several Twitter users pointed out, most of us have sucked dick for far less.