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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. 

Howe explains:

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?

Comments

What I don't understand is that "fear" is generally seen as a weakness in masculinity. Why is homosexuality any different? If the straight male is seen as "fearless"- sports heroes, superheroes, etc, should masculinity be fragile? It seems to be an oxymoron. Sexuality should be no different- the masculine male should be fearless, including of his own sexuality and believing that it could be "taken" or "diminished" from him.

If a straight man is afraid of homosexuality, then he lacks self confidence and he is also secretly attracted to other males. Being incorrectly labeled a homosexual isn't a problem if a guy is truly straight, because the truth will eventually come out. It's not the end of a man's career if someone makes a mistake and calls someone a homosexual. If a guy really has a problem with the gay label, then he knows deep inside he is gay and wants to keep it a secret. Also, some people really do not have sexual desires. They are usually labeled 'gay' because they are never seen with a woman, never mind that he is never seen with a man, either. It is cruel to label these people when all they want is to live their lives without sex.

John that was the most ridiculous, stupid, idiotic waste of time I have ever read. If you're queer, then don't try to act as if you know the dynamics of straight male relationships. FURTHERMORE, all that you described in the character of gay males is that you all think you have something to prove, in order to be accepted. Gay men are a bunch of alcoholic, drug addicted, flamboyant drama queens, screaming for attention.

Not all homosexual men are addicts, flamboyant and queeny.

wah. straight men have it sooooo tough. bite me.

It’s actually more strait forward than this. Men exist in a state of pack mentality in their heterosexual male relationships. One man is always top dog and the others tend to crowd around him and bask in his reflected sex appeal (of whatever it is about him that they respect). The top dog is able to harass and cajole all his subordinates at leisure with little chance of ever having to explain himself or apologise in any meaningful way. The top dog is always the most loud and boisterous of the group and will tend to lead events. His control over the others is their respect (man love) for him. Now if you through a gay man into this mix you quickly find that he disrupts the social order. Gay men tend to be loud and like to be the centre of attention. We also do not base our relationships on respect but more a sense of fun. We tend not to care too much about what other people think and will get right up in their faces if they push us. And when we are drunk then you can multiply all this by about 10. Obviously these are generalisations but you can see my evidence in the difference between heterosexual and the gay community.
My point is that top dog men dislike gay men because they are an aberration of their whole control structure. They are men but they do not behave like men. They will only respect you if you are nice to them not if you take the piss all the time. Gay guys will flirt with you for fun but top dogs consider flirting to be something only done to females, who are “physically inferior” and so therefore find it demeaning. Gay men will not fall in line because they do not recognise the authority of the top dog. And most importantly, the top dog is being observed by his subordinates to see how he deals with the gay who is effectively embarrassing the top dog by virtue of his actions and indeed his inaction (where applicable). Put simply, men follow other men who seem to have things that they respect. Some men lead because they have big egos and others follow because they do not. If you put two egos in a room together (gay or straight) with their respective subordinates you will invariably get friction. It’s the same for gays. If you put gay men near to strait men friction and issues are bound to erupt. The only way to tackle this issue to for top dogs to come to understand that they have nothing to fear from gay guys but an awful lot to learn about being happy and free.

Who gives a fuck what they think of what we do! I dont really think or care about they do in the privacy of their home! Why must we constantly be concerned about making them comfortable with our lifestyle to be accepted! I don't see them extending the same courtesy or concern for us!!

This is one of the most simple minded, idiotic justifications for homophobia I've ever read...

His analysis only works if he prefaces with "It is a social deficit to be Gay-identified..."

The writer is forgetting one thing. 

People need to stop giving a rats ass what others think. 

Do what makes u happy. 

So what if people question the relationship his friend had with a women. 

Mad lon. As she didn't question it fuck it 

straight American men are taught yes to be manly and don't let some fag or girl make u be any less. 

Thats the issues 

stop teaching our guys they have to be so manly and can't hug their guy friend

take examples from UK 

We are a gay male couple who raised a boy into a young man.  He likes woman and that is that.  I remember once I told him, I wouldn't care if he was gay, bi or straight, he was very adamant that he is straight and has no curiosity to wonder in the realm of the gay world.  We have taken him to a gay bar which he is comfortable in if we are with him, we play pool and have a few beers / drinks. 

He is straight, has been in the army reserves and has a live in girl friend... 

If a straight man is curious, who cares.. so they've heard we have have skills that get their curiosity flowing and a lot of gay men are into that and some just despise it.  Diversity is what makes us different and intelligent (sometimes).  Live and let live, be happy and let others be happy... If it were only so easy.....

Sounds like a bunch of psychobabble. It sounds like a personal problem... and I'm still not exactly sure what he's trying to say. What IS his point? Aside from secretly wanting to suck a dick.

It IS a personal problem. The only guys who get upset at being thought of as 'gay' are the closet cases trying to keep a secret. Their anger reflects their frustration at the secret coming out despite all their efforts.

You are an example of what's wrong with our society. Ignorance, coupled with high school mentality. Wake up. The world is not black and white, gay and straight. The sooner you realize this, the better off you'll be. Or to express this in terms you'll not doubt understand, free your mind, your ass will follow.

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