Homophobia (or, Why Some Straight Men Really Hate Gays)

April 1st, 2010

Why is it some straight men violently hate gays.
The mere sight of one sends them into a craze.
Maybe they’re afraid that they’re gay too.
(I’m not latently homosexual, are you?)
Or maybe its that they just don’t like being hit on or thought about
In a way that casts their own sexuality in doubt.
But the good news for you homophobes out there:
Gay men aren’t interested in your fat redneck derriere.

Why is there homophobia, and why do some people seem to be much more homophobic than others, to the extent that they fly into a murderous homophobic rage, beating and even killing, at the slightest provocation? Even the mere presence of a gay man seems to set them off. (Lesbians, on the other hand, don’t bother them. Au contraire.)

One possible explanation (and one that I’ve referred to before) is that at least some (and maybe many) of the “straight” men that act this way are in fact latent homosexuals. They’ve repressed their own homosexual urges and have come to hate themselves after growing up in a homophobic culture. I don’t mean American culture as a whole, which I personally believe is relatively tolerant (and becoming moreso), but there are a number of subcultures in which homosexuals are demonized. So whenever these individuals come across gays (or even straight people they think are gay), they lash out, both to act out their own self-hatred and to demonstrate to their peers (and themselves) that they hate gays as much as anyone else, and therefore couldn’t themselves be gay.

Another possible explanation is one that I came up with myself: nobody likes to be hit on by someone they’re not even remotely interested in. This is something that happens to women all the time, which may be part of why women seem to be less stridently (and violently) homophobic. But we men aren’t as used to that. Why? Because (1) we’re usually the hitters rather than hittees, and (2) in the rare cases that women do hit on men, we don’t usually mind (even, as Billy Crystol famously said in When Harry Met Sally, when we’re not particularly attracted to the woman doing the hitting).

But it’s different when a straight man is hit on by gay men. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. It’s happened to me a few times (three to be exact, in my younger days as a student backpacking around Europe), and I remember how it felt. It’s awkward, especially at first when you’re not sure you’re being hit on, and then even more so when you realize that you are.

One of those three times, I was hitchhiking in Germany and a guy in a BMW picked me up.  We talked for a while, but after we’d stopped I fell asleep (it was a long drive, and I hadn’t slept much the night before). After I while, I was woken up by his hand brushing against my leg. Maybe it was just unintentional, and it just happened when he was shifting, or so I thought. But then a few minutes later, it happened again, and this time his hand lingered. I was just a kid and this kind of thing had never happened to me before (the other two times came later), so I didn’t know what to do. Should I loudly protest and demand that he stop the car and let me out? It was a long stretch of highway and I’d waited a long time for a ride in the first place, so that didn’t seem like a great option. So I just sat there, partially in shock, and pretended to still be asleep. If it had gone farther I would (and could, since I was a young guy and he was a middle aged man) have physically stopped him, but it didn’t, and I didn’t. After maybe 15 seconds (maybe more, maybe less, I’m not sure), he took his hand away and didn’t put it back. I “woke up,” we continued our conversation, and he eventually dropped me off at my destination.

Unseemly? Yes. Unmanly (on my part)? Maybe. But live and learn.

And what did I learn? Thankfully, not that gay men were out to get me, and I should therefore beat them up whenever I got the chance. I’m sure I could have beaten up that guy, but why bother? I was never in any physical danger or threat thereof, and he was a middle-aged wealthy gay (or maybe bi) businessman, probably with a wife and kids at home. He’d probably lived his whole life in the closet, and I felt sorry for him. Ironically, I think living that kind of life in a society that fears homosexuality actually increases the incidence of this kind of behavior (this was 30 years ago, and attitudes towards gays were less open then, especially in  predominantly Catholic Southern Germany). Maybe the hand graze was just his way of seeing if I was “interested,” and when I wasn’t, he gave up.

Also, I believe that this experience (and the other two) gave me a better understanding of what women go through on a much more regular basis (three times a month, three times a week, or three times a day instead of three times in a lifetime). Like I said before, we men can be real dogs. It’s a wonder they don’t lash out at us more often. (Lorena Bobbitt anyone?)

So could that be part of the reason why some men are so virulently and violently homophobic? Could they have had a similar experience in their youth (or maybe a worse one) and drawn a different lesson from it? Or, could they just fear that something like that might happen to them? Or, could these homophobic individuals be incensed by the mere thought that a gay man might be thinking sexual thoughts about them?

If so, let me see if I can help dispel that fear for the homophobes out there. Most of you are in little or no danger of ever being hit on by gay men, since for some reason homophobia seems to correlate closely (though not exclusively) with being a gun-toting, beer swilling, mullet-sporting redneck… not the type that most gay men are attracted to. And even if you’re one of that minority of homophobes who might actually be physically attractive to gay men (and you really are as straight as you claim), then just suck it up (no pun intended). If you don’t like the idea that somebody you’re not attracted to might be thinking fleeting sexual thoughts about you, just deal with it (I mean deal with it internally, in a non-violent way). Women have been forced to do so for millennia (do you think they don’t know that we’re thinking sexual thoughts about them almost constantly?), so straight guys should be able to also.

Times have changed. With less and less stigma attached to being gay (at least in the more evolved parts of the country) and many more people out of the closet, there’s no reason for gay men to hit on outwardly straight men in the hopes that they’re secretly gay or can be “converted.” But since there still are (large) pockets of social homophobia left, the best way for you homophobes out there to make sure that you’re never hit on or even thought about by a gay man is to do all you can to promote full acceptance of and equality for gays, including your full support for same-sex marriage. Because if all those gay men get married to each other, then they won’t be thinking about or bothering you, right?

God bless America.


Speaking of discussions in cars, here’s that Billy Crystol scene in When Harry Met Sally. “No, you pretty much want to nail them too.”

And here’s a Daily Show report from all the way back on 7/11/01, with then Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert interviewing the inventor of a then new “gaydar” device that would make sexual misunderstanding a thing of the past.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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4 Responses to “Homophobia (or, Why Some Straight Men Really Hate Gays)”

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