Has homophobia ruined straight male/male bonding?

Before I say anything, watch this video:



Wow, this video is vintage in so many ways. Who on earth would expect to see that kind of performance on mainstream television today? None of us, I’m sure.

So what do you think is going on here? Are Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis making fun of homosexuals? In my opinion, I would say “no”.

(BTW, homophobia in cinema and television is another topic altogether, which I don’t want to address here.)

I’m not positive what year this was, but I am guessing perhaps late 40s or early 50s. In order to understand this clip, I really think we’d have to interpret it through the eyes of people of that time, which of course, we cannot really do (unless you are old enough to have been alive during that period). I surely can’t. However, I can guesstimate what I think is going on here.

It is a safe assumption that both Martin and Lewis were straight, and both knew what a homosexual was, and probably worked with quite a few of them. But did the mainstream audience know what a homosexual was? I’m not so sure. I’ve know the people my parent’s and grandparent’s ages that claim they had no ideas about homosexuality or alternate forms of sexual expression, such as oral sex, when they were younger.

But if that is the case, why was this so funny to the audience? Probably because it was perceived as not normal; simply out of character because it was so unexpected. Men don’t act like that, so it is funny when they do. In a way it has always been funny for a man to act as a woman (and by extension a fem homosexual, as applicable), dress as a woman, or do unmanly things (such as screaming in a high-pitched voice when scared). I get that. I’ve laughed at men dressed as nuns or drag queens in movies, and it does not offend me if it is not meant in a mean-spirited way. (Think Laurel & Hardy, Bugs Bunny, and Bosom Buddies.) But I certainly don’t think that this particular performance was a slight to gays.

This next video shows that this kind of behavior was not uncommon for this comedic duo (and not censored by the producers, either):



But why, in a modern world that is so much more accepting of gay men, has this kind of humor/behavior become verboten? When was the last time anyone has seen these kinds of antics in television or film? If we are so progressive, inclusive, and tolerant of differences in people, then why do producers and actors shy away from male/male displays of affection, even comedic ones?

I cannot be certain of this, of course, but I believe it is quite possibly because prior to the gay liberation movement, general audiences weren’t gay savvy, so antics such as this were not a real threat to men’s personal masculinity or identities as men (and let’s face it, frequently the male perception of a homosexuals is that they are not “real men”), and nothing untoward was implied.

Now take a look at these random, vintage photos I found online:








Would anyone who viewed these photos at the time they were taken have assumed from the get go that these men where homosexual simply because they were expressing affection for one another? Not likely. Sure, some might see it that way, particularly if they were homosexual themselves. And though some of the men in these photos might have been gay, I am convinced that the viewer’s assumption would not have been that these men were romantically or sexually involved. Rather, it would have been seen as just guys doing what guys do. Nobody would have thought twice about it.

But not any more! For the most part, men just don’t act that way in this day and age. Maybe that is not 100% true, but generally speaking, I think it is. Men act as though they must keep an arm’s length between them. Compare these photos to the ones above:




So has an increased awareness and visibility of gay men, and by extension, an increase in homophobia, created in straight men a kind of self-policing behavior meant to constantly reassure others that they are not a fag? In other words, have straight men lost the ability (or will) to express affection for one another out of a fear of being perceived as a homosexual?

If so, why? Are straight men even aware of this kind of self-policing behavior? And whose fault is it, gay men’s or straight men’s? In fact, is it anyone’s fault, and what can be done about it either way? Should anything be done about it?

Can men learn to express affection for one another once again, in an innocent, friendly, and sincere way? If they do, would society at large accept or reject that behavior?

If straight men could learn to be at ease with expressing affection for one another, I strongly feel that it would no only benefit them, but improve the world’s perception of gay men and male camaraderie. It seems to me that rampant homophobia is not only a disservice to gay men, but to straight men as well. It’s time our culture came to accept that non-sexual affection between men should not be frowned upon, and in fact, it should be encouraged.

Tags: camaraderie, friendship, gay, heterosexual, homophobia, homosexual, machismo, male, male bonding, men, More…public display of affection, sexuality, straigh

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Dallas et al,

This is a compelling topic. It brings to mind a number of tangents, none of which are 'facts'. Also, personal experiences and issues of age, generation, culture, and gender.

Why is it so compelling? I think that for me, part of it relates to the physicality. I grew up in a midwestern town populated largely by Germans, Anglo-Saxons, and a handful of others. In that town, time, & place, people just didn't touch one another. My family still doesn't. My Dad is my lifelong best friend. My only memories of us touching are handshakes that became increasingly awkward as his hand deformed into a contracture; and the pat on the back that I gave him a few weeks ago as I left him in his hospice room, not knowing if I will see him alive again. Any more would violate that dynamic. We did bond in fishing, hunting, building stuff, hiking, mushroom hunting. I miss all of that, even though I became vegetarian. But we did not touch.

In high school, as the religious & studious geek, I did not have significant male or female friends.

In the army, we slept close, ate close, used the latrines together, got scared together, and played together. Military life is its own world. Maybe that's why so many of those photos are of military guys. Age is an issue then, too - being younger may also mean being more expressive. Plus drugs and alcohol to let down inhibitions. No games of "beartrap" but I was Army. As soldiers, we always said the sailors did stuff like that. :-)

I think that lack of male bonding is also lack of human bonding. One of the few people here, who I am emotionally close to, is my assistant at work. She is Filipina, much more physically expressive than I am, and when she brings over her family members and friends, so are they. I love that, and it always makes me feel very good. There is a different sense of physical personal space and expressiveness. Southern European and Latin cultures appear to have more expressiveness as well. I don't know how that translates into relationships and 'bonding', but I'm guessing it means "more".

Is homophobia "the cause" for a lack of close male friendships? I suspect not. I think it comes to a variety of issues, culture, income, how people make a living, family dynamics, diversity, sports and military history, long workdays, commuting, television, internet, air conditioning, and other features of modern life. Homophobia might be "a cause", but I don't think more so that what gets between non sexual male/female relationships. I could be totally off base here. We need an anthropologist.

I do like the virtual friendships that are growing on this website, regardless of whether I meet anyone in person. You guys are great. OK, guys, big virtual hug now!

My parent's didn't touch me much either, and paid very little attention to me. No more than they had to.

I think that lack of male bonding is also lack of human bonding.

Agreed. I think our cultural expectations of people are too much influenced by consumerism and fictionalized media. This leads to a lack of connection between people.

Is homophobia "the cause" for a lack of close male friendships? I suspect not. I think it comes to a variety of issues, culture, income, how people make a living, family dynamics, diversity, sports and military history, long workdays, commuting, television, internet, air conditioning, and other features of modern life. Homophobia might be "a cause", but I don't think more so that what gets between non sexual male/female relationships. I could be totally off base here. We need an anthropologist.

I agree that it could be A cause but not necessarily THE cause.

Can't watch video until after 5, when surf control kicks off.
I heard something, or read it, somewhere, somewhen, in the mists of years ago, about male-male affection in the Islam-filled parts of the world. Basically, it was the same as those things from the pre-gay-savvy days--only moreso, with men holding hands and shit in the streets out of friendship affection. I thought of referencing that material (though I cannot find it) before I read O.P. and watched the vids, though I now see the connection that I made just up there a little ways.

Yes. Homophobia has stifled male-male affection. Binaries are too attractive to the current populace for it to not. Gay or not gay. Hanging all over your gay lover and loving anal sex and AIDS or standing at arm's length from the nearest man, free of emotion altogether. We all know intuitively and from observations that binaries yield less-accurate results than scales with more intermediary states. (Significant figures demonstrate this well, as, for example, rounding 7546 to two sigfigs gives 7500, which is off by 46, whereas rounding 7546's binary equivalent (1110101111010) to two sigfigs (1.0*10^1101 (in base-two, so that's *2^13)) is 8192 when converted back to base-ten, which is off by 646--fourteen times the error in base-ten. In base-seven-thousand-five-hundred-and-fourty-six, or higher however, the error would be zero.) Moving beyond the many details of how it is a fallacy of the highest order to propagate binaries, I, myself, have felt the touch of Guy Love (think Scrubs) and been stifled in my ability and desire to express it.

Furthermore, male-female affection of the friendship order is stifled as well because of the idea that others will interpret it as a sexual matter where it is not, while I see hot girl-on-girl friendship-related hugging action all the damn time. Combining in context the stifling from many sources of male-anything affection (we won't even be able to show affection for our pets if there's an epidemic of male animal pet-rapists or a scare like we had with pedophiles years ago), the occasional feminazis bitching about how men suck, and the cloud of "I'd better not piss off that feminazi; she's such a bitch that I really don't want to deal with her." that fogs up a lot of others' rear-view mirrors, and the culture in which I currently stew is one in which men are implicitly deemed unclean in the way someone with O.C.D. finds any thing that they deem unclean and which, after touching, they must wash their hands ritualistically.

More... accurate-in-the-moment, I'd say that we're thought of as Nazis basically, but that's inaccurate. It's just that Nazis are the thing-of-the-time to be thought of as all-contaminatingly evil in that way. These days, calling someone Hitler is more effective than calling them The Devil ever was, it seems. The "evil" of men, though, is sexualizing--restraining both male-male and male-female displays of affection to the polarized binaries of nothing or everything.
Combining in context the stifling from many sources of male-anything affection (we won't even be able to show affection for our pets if there's an epidemic of male animal pet-rapists.......in which men are implicitly deemed unclean in the way someone with O.C.D. finds any thing that they deem unclean and which, after touching, they must wash their hands ritualistically.

Culturally, we have an annoying habit of always criticizing others, expressing cynicism about their motivations, always finding fault with human needs and frailties, and on and on and on...
In ANGLO culture and many traditional Asian cultures? Some social mores seem to be cyclical.


My Irish family is touchy feely.There's a lot of hugging ,between both sexes. It CAN get out of hand at a craic,when hugs can become punches.

Many other cultures are much more demonstrative. EG French,Italian, Hispanic and Greek.The distance of personal space also differs.Italians for example like to be closer than is comfortable for the English.I also found it strange seeing adolescent Malay boys holding hands in public. I was quickly assured there is nothing at sexual in the practice.It's the same with females in many Asian cultures.

Australia is very homophobic but I think less puritanical overall than the US. Puritanism and homophobia can be extreme in parts of the US.(and here) I suspect those US extremes may be due at least in part to the quite terrifying and disproportionate influence of the lunar religious right.

Here? Oh,I think we may have a LOT of repressed gays :0)


Here a male is allowed to express anger,but not fear or sadness.A woman is allowed to express sadness or fear,but not anger.

We spend a lot [even most] most of our time expressing what are called "racket emotions" in transactional analysis. It has been argued that most of the time few people are capable of accurately identifying what they are feeling at any given moment.

Disclaimer: I'm interested in TA and have studied it a bit and had TA therapy.. I think it's an interesting approach,with some validity. However,there are dozens of therapeutic approaches. I'm familiar with about half a dozen or so. There is no one model of which I'm aware which works for everyone. I've found TA useful.


From Wikipedia



Rackets

A racket is the dual strategy of getting "permitted feelings," while covering up feelings which we truly feel, but which we regard as being "not allowed". More technically, a racket feeling is "a familiar set of emotions, learned and enhanced during childhood, experienced in many different stress situations, and maladaptive as an adult means of problem solving".

A racket is then a set of behaviours which originate from the childhood script rather than in here-and-now full Adult thinking, which (1) are employed as a way to manipulate the environment to match the script rather than to actually solve the problem, and (2) whose covert goal is not so much to solve the problem, as to experience these racket feelings and feel internally justified in experiencing them.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis#Rackets

Examples of racket and racket feelings: "Why do I meet good guys who turn out to be so hurtful", or "He always takes advantage of my goodwill". The racket is then a set of behaviours and chosen strategies learned and practised in childhood which in fact help to cause these feelings to be experienced. Typically this happens despite their own surface protestations and hurt feelings, out of awareness and in a way that is perceived as someone else's fault. One covert pay-off for this racket and its feelings, might be to gain in a guilt free way, continued evidence and reinforcement for a childhood script belief that "People will always let you down".

In other words, rackets and games are devices used by a person to create a circumstance where they can legitimately feel the racket feelings, thus abiding by and reinforcing their Childhood script. They are always a substitute for a more genuine and full adult emotion and response which would be a more appropriate response to the here-and-now situation.
What is a craic?

Australia is very homophobic...

I've heard that, but on the other hand, there seems to be a lot of inclusiveness. Isn't the gay pride parade in Sydney televised? And is it homophobia, or is it the worship of machismo?

So, in racket feelings, what you're saying is that we put ourselves into situations where our expectations of disappointment are likely to be realized?
I think that you raise a really important question. I had very good male friends when I was in middle and high school, but as an adult it has become increasingly difficult to find male friends. A number of men seem to develop porcupine quills as they enter adulthood--"don't get too close, I'm warning you." About the only thing I miss about childhood is the close male friendships I had.
I had very good male friends when I was in middle and high school...

And I had almost none. We moved a lot, so I was in and out of schools all the time, and never learned how to build lasting relationships. As an adult that is not a prob for me, but I see it as a prob for other people. Example: When I was in the hospital for surgery, and was out for two weeks, not one of my friends called to check on me. The result: I never spoke to any of them again. Thanks for nothing, people.
That's awful that no one visited you in the hospital. So many people in this society seem not to concern themselves with anyone beyond their immediate families.
That's very sad. People can be terribly disappointing. There are plenty of good people out there, of course--but finding them can be hard.
Well, I wasn't in the hospital for 2 weeks, but I was off work, and at home, but no one called. These were mostly single gay men who lived here in Dallas, and weren't close to their families. They had no excuse! It did piss me off, too, especially since I try to be a good friend to people.
I think a lot of us, in some ways, long to relive certain aspects of our youth.

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