The lovely Petuniacat gave me this link to an article in New York Magazine called Why Straight Men Have Sex With Each Other. This claim appears ridiculous at first glance, but the contents make a lot of sense.
“There’s a pretty clear gender divide in how Americans deal with straight people who dabble in gay activity. When heterosexual women make out with one another at a bar or party, it’s generally understood that they’re simply playing around for attention, or exploring the fluid space that is female sexuality. When heterosexual men hook up with each other, on the other hand, it’s seen either as an act born of desperation — think men who are locked up — or an indication that while they may claim to be straight, they really aren’t — think disgraced GOP members of Congress. When straight women hook up with other straight women, no real explanation is required; when straight men hook up with other straight men, it’s a different story.
This divide stems from a common understanding of human sexuality: The female variety of it is more malleable, more inherently open to experimentation and variety, than the male variety. In Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, out last month from NYU Press, Jane Ward, an associate professor of women’s studies at the University of California, Riverside, makes the case that this is a flawed understanding. In doing so, she shows that homosexual contact has been a regular feature of heterosexual life ever since the concepts of homo- and heterosexuality were first created — not just in prisons and frat houses and the military, but in biker gangs and even conservative suburban neighborhoods. Given how prevalent this behavior is in so many different sorts of settings, Ward suggest it’s time to stop explaining it away — and argues that society’s conception of male heterosexuality is an unrealistic, expedient one.”
The author of this post correctly identifies that same-sex sexual behavior is pretty common among both males and females, but lacks a thorough understanding of why that behavior is viewed differently depending on who’s engaging in it. To really understand this situation, you have to do a feminist analysis of gender roles and patriarchy.
Julie Bindel named the real reason for homophobia in her book Straight Expectations, which I reviewed here.
“Anti-gay bigotry is rooted in misogyny. Without one the other would not exist. If gay men were allowed to be non-macho and lesbians were not under pressure to uphold the feminine ideal that makes us distinct from men, neither lesbians nor gay men would be a threat. Women and girls are severely punished for rejecting men sexually, and men are isolated and rejected for denying their role of foot soldier in the war against female emancipation and liberation.” Julie Bindel, Straight Expectations, p30
“The anti-gay agenda is fuelled by the need to keep women in their place—in other words, within heterosexual relationships—to ensure that patriarchy survives and is effective.” Julie Bindel, Straight Expectations, p34
Although conservatives love to hate gay sex, it’s not really the sex act that pisses them off, it’s the non-conformity to the gender roles that uphold patriarchy.
If two feminine women kiss each other for men’s entertainment, their behavior will be almost universally approved of by men because they are, in fact, fulfilling their role as sex object for the male gaze. What the establishment really hates is unfeminine women who refuse their role in patriarchy by looking androgynous or masculine and opting not to become a wife and mother and not being sexually available or sexually appealing to men. In addition, same-sex behavior between women is viewed as less serious a problem that the same behaviors between men because there’s no penis involved, and there is no consensus that this can even be defined as sex, since the patriarchy defines sex as when a man puts his penis into a thing. Men absolutely love patriarchy-compliant women who have sex with other patriarchy-compliant women, as evidenced by men’s love for threesomes and “lesbian” porn. (And for an excellent critique of so-called “lesbian” porn, see this.) But if a lesbian wears comfortable clothes and wants to be treated as a full human being and sets boundaries that exclude men, then she’ll be punished severely.
The author of this article does mention the word “patriarchy” but only briefly, and attributes most of the differences to women’s supposedly more “fluid” sexuality.
So here’s an example of straight men having sex with each other:
“You take readers on sort of a 20th-century American tour of heterosexual dabbling in homosexual behavior, and there was never a lack of evidence that such dabbling took place. You write about homosexual activity within biker gangs, for example — one Hell’s Angel, enthusiastically describing having gay sex for cash, memorably told Hunter S. Thompson, “Shit, man, the day they call me queer is when I let one of these faggos suck on me for less than a tenner.” This stuff was sort of always going in all sorts of different situations and cultural contexts, right?”
Do you see how this man is engaging in homosexual behavior while making it clear he’s not a “faggot”? What he’s doing is asserting his masculinity and saying that because he is masculine, he’s not gay. Because it’s not sucking dicks that is the problem, the problem is men being insufficiently masculine.
The author talks about male-on-male sex in prisons and the military, and mentions the excuse men use that “there aren’t women around, they’re desperate.” But she also points something out that I think is true—that men are “manufacturing reasons to touch each other’s anuses.” Straight men are really in love with male anatomy. I used to read MRA sites and they regularly write long odes to their penises and sperm. They think that dicks are the most amazing things in the world. Give a straight man a writing utensil of any kind, and the first thing he’ll do is draw a dick and balls. Straight men definitely love dicks as much as gay men do. Women who have been gang-raped sometimes remark that it seemed as though the men were bonding with each other and appeared to want to actually fuck each other, but only used a woman in order to pretend it was a heterosexual act.
Then the author talks about ads on Craigslist where supposedly straight men are looking for other straight men to have “heterosexual” encounters with.
“Seeking a MASCULINE JACK OFF BUD to STR8 PORN — 29. Hot masculine white dude here … looking for another hot white dude to come by my place, and work out a hot load side by side. Straight Porn only. Prefer str8, surfer, etc. Not usually into gaydudes.”
This guy is looking for another man to jerk off with but he’s making it very clear that he’s MASCULINE and looking for another MASCULINE man. No gay dudes! See, it’s totally okay for men to do stuff together as long as they’re MASCULINE and not faggots. Because the sex act is fine, as long as you conform to your gender role.
A man who is masculine but jerks off with other masculine men and puts down feminine men is still fulfilling his role in patriarchy.
What you won’t ever see is straight men admitting that they love their male friends, that they love bonding with men in sometimes intimate ways, that they’re curious to try homosexual acts just to see what they’re like. You won’t see them bonding in caring and sensitive ways. They couldn’t do this because they’d lose their masculinity. Losing your masculinity is one of the scariest things men can think of. It means they will be severely punished by other men and they will lose their male privilege.