Slate: Straight Men Are Right To Be Afraid Of Homosexuality
Despite increasing stigmatization of homophobia in modern American culture, it largely persists in heterosexual men. Is it because of the xenophobic nature of religion and the way young men are raised in the U.S.? In a way, writes Zach Howe at Slate. And straight men are right to be afraid of homosexuality, he claims.
Heterosexuality’s power lies in perception, not physical truth—as long as people think you’re exclusively attracted to the right gender, you’re golden. But perception is a precarious thing; a “zero-tolerance” policy has taught men that the way people think of them can change permanently with one slip, one little kiss or too-intimate friendship. And once lost, it can be nearly impossible to reclaim.
Put another way, the zero-tolerance rule means that if a man makes one “wrong” move—kisses another man in a moment of drunken fun, say—he is immediately assumed to be gay. Women have a certain amount of freedom to play with their sexuality (mostly because society has a hard time believing in lesbian sex at all). Male sexuality, on the other hand, is understood as unidirectional. Once young men realize they are gay, they become A Gay Person. We don’t hear about gay men discovering an interest in women later in life, and we rarely believe men when they say they are bisexual—the common, if erroneous, wisdom is that any man who says he is bi is really just gay and hasn’t admitted it yet.
The result of all this is that men are not allowed “complex” sexualities; once the presumption of straightness has been shattered, a dude is automatically gay. That narrative does not allow much freedom to explore even fleeting same-sex attractions without a permanent commitment. I knew a guy who, straight in high school, hooked up with dudes for the first semester of college. He was then in a monogamous relationship with a woman for the rest of college; in the weeks before graduation, I would still hear people express confusion about the existence of their relationship.
The zero-tolerance policy is legitimately scary, then, not just because it sticks you with a label, but also because it erases a lifetime of straightness. One semester of experimentation was worth more than every other hook-up and romance of this guy’s life—both before and afterward.
Indeed, such erasure is scary even if homosexuality itself isn’t a bad thing. Even if religion and Esquire didn’t teach men to be scared of each other’s bodies, they would still be afraid of the way a brush with gayness can so suddenly erase the rest of their sexuality. With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that men take up the job of policing this boundary themselves, lest it be policed by someone else, to their detriment.
(Ed note: An earlier version of the story included Slate's subhead: "Why straight men are right to be afraid of homosexuality." Now, the subhead can only be found in the URL.)
So, basically, because our culture doesn't afford straight men the same flexibility as we allow straight women, a bit of homophobia, which sometimes turns violent, is "right"?
What do you say, Instincters?