Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Straight talk on homophobia ... on the Men's Rights subreddit??

Oh Reddit. Sometimes you make me so sad. Case in point: the 5,415 upvotes Redditors gave to this old dog of a story, a blatantly misogynist, and blatantly made-up, revenge-vasectomy tale from the "Best of Craigslist." Mitigating factors: the fact that some commenters correctly labeled the story a hateful fake; the 4,582 downvotes the story got (resulting in "only" 833 net upvotes).

But sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised. Even as I was contemplating the idiotic reaction to this idiotic vasectomy story, I ran across another headline: "Does homophobia affect straight males too?" Good question. Weirdly, the post was from the Men's Rights subreddit. Hoping for the best but fearing the worst, I took a look. Lo and behold, the post had actually inspired a real, honest discussion of the issues.

The OP set the stage with a few specific questions:

Have you ever hesitated to become close to another male for fear that it might be misinterpreted by someone else? Was there ever a time you resisted getting close to another male emotionally because you were afraid it might be seen as sexual? Does the fear of being called gay or a faggot ever change the way you behave in front of other males?

Among the answers there were of course a few jokes, including one that was actually sort of funny:

dontputsaltinyoureye 9 points

it has had a tremendous effect on my life. i am unable to wear my avril lavigne [shirt] in public due to the fear. WHY CAN I NOT WEAR MY AVRIL LAVIGNE SHIRT?!

And there was the requisite reference to Glee:

AGenericGoon 44 points

I am heterosexual, and watch/enjoy glee.

I will take this secret to the grave.

But there were also a number of bracingly honest comments, comments that would not be out of place on a feminist or LGBT message board. Some commenters talked about being gay-bashed -- even though they aren't gay. Others talked about how hetero-normative gender roles force men to keep quiet about their feelings:

TheBananaKing 27 points

Absolutely. all -normative behaviours box people in.

Straight guy here. ... there's an awful lot of restriction and anxiety in inter-male behaviour. You can't ever be sad or hurt - only angry. You can't extend comfort or affection towards another guy, except via humorous taunting / rivalry / aggression (eg play-fighting), unless you're very, very drunk. You have to do this kind of... reverse double-entendre the entire time, translating everything into John Wayne before you speak or act it, and back again to understand others. It's a pain in the ass.

Others offered more personal takes on what it's like to be a straight guy who's frequently taken to be gay:

ecartes 9 points

I talk with a lisp and dress really well. I'm also heterosexual.

Almost everyone I initially meet believes, nay, KNOWS, that I'm, ACTUALLY homosexual. It's weird, living with the thought that everyone I meet thinks I'm gay. Although I will never know fully the oppression that some gay people face, I feel like I've felt a lot of it just from being perceived as gay. ...

And perhaps the most unexpected of all:

soylentcoleslaw 33 points

If I acted on my normal impulses, I'd be extremely effeminate. I love cute things and cute clothes, I have subconscious feminine mannerisms, and I'd love a strong partner who makes me feel safe and who would take charge. I've never had a gay fantasy in my life. The thought of being with another man just doesn't do it for me, but given what I want and who I naturally am, I'm said on numerous occasions how much easier my love life would be if it did. As it is, if I want to attract someone new, I have to tamp all that down and put on my reasonably masculine face, and maybe if I'm lucky, I can reveal some of that side of myself gradually. But I can't be totally myself. Never. ... So I go on pretending to be manly sometimes and hopefully don't screw up.

Oh, sure, there were some answers that were bluntly homophobic -- redwood9 states plainly that "I just hate fags ... I hate all cocksuckers and those who bend over and take it in the ass" -- but they made up a tiny minority of the comments, and were generally downvoted.

So what's going on here? Has the Men's Rights Subreddit suddenly become a beacon of open-mindedness? Not exactly. Most of those commenting in the topic don't appear to be Men's Rights regulars, but Redditors who were drawn to the topic when it appeared on Reddit's main page. Here's what someone who is a MR regular had to say:

aetheralloy 0 points

"Bro's" and "bromance" is the term often used to shame men ... Women (feminists) in particular love to use it. ...

The really interesting question here isn't if it affects males, but why women are both extremely homophobic towards gay males while also willing to use them as emotional buddies.

Yeah, damn those feminist women and their hatred of gay men!

So, no group hug just yet. But it's good to see an outburst of good sense in a discussion forum that's often pretty backwards.

It's just a pity that the moderator of Men's Rights remains convinced "that there is an international, feminist, antimale conspiracy," as he puts it in the sidebar, and that the subreddit's slogan remains "Earning scorn from feminists since March 19, 2008."

Because, you know what? If you're a guy feeling boxed in by normative gender roles, some of the best people in the world to talk to about it are, you know, feminists.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The vasectomy story could easily be true, I get the impression that you don't have much experience in dealing with heterosexual relationships David, you seem quite removed and perhaps have a less complicated option.

    I like it in African and Mid East where its normal to walk hand in hand with or kiss a male friend. So I would say yes that straight men in most western countries miss out on having warmer friendships with their male friends, france too less restrictive in that respect.

  3. It is so great to see the a forum engaging in rational discussion of an issue that effects men without an overtone of evil feminism and/or women.

    I completely agree that men are culturally pushed away from emotional intimacy. In fact, a recent study showed that of men hiring escorts, a majority cited the need for emotional intimacy over sex.

    Homophobia contributes to this problem, as well as the societal expectation that men be stoic and independent.

    I speculate the problem contributes to the higher suicide rate for men.

  4. Yeah Sandy, it just a "rational" discussion with an undertone of evil mens rights people!

    You are right, men not making use of or feeling they dont have a support network contributes to the suicide rate.

  5. Yes, seriously. I cannot stand either "evil men" or "evil women" overtones. It seems to be a problem with every rights movement. There is hurt and frustration, and where there is hurt and frustration there is a scape goat.

    But I firmly believe it does not need to be this way. Every rights movement must go through a growing pains process where it separates itself from its scape-goating fringe, or else remain forever ineffective.

  6. In my experience, American men are drastically more homophobic than European men. In general, European coutnries are much more accepting of homosexuality, and due to that, hetero men and women don't have a social fear of being labeled as "gay" because that label has no power. In the states, it has TONS of power. You will never (or only very rarely) see a big, red neck guy holding hands with his friend. Why? Because some ass hat will walk up to him and say "Omg, you're fuckin gay". And that would be so shaming, because of the negative power we have given the label, that the behavior is just avoided.

    I don't hold hands with my girlfriends, but Im not a big hand holder anyway. I do touch them though; we hug or sit next to each other and lean in against each other or touch each others hair or whatever..there's no fear of being labeled as gay. I think non sexual physical intimacy is most often seen as a feminine activity or trait, and that obviously contributes to the fear as well.

    Maybe it's not a fear of being seen as gay, maybe it's a fear of being seen as unmasculine?

    Are those even separate in the minds of men? Or in women even?

  7. Well, America is a country of extremes. All y'all got every shade of crazy over there.

  8. Don't make me come over there and hold your hand. Oh I know! We could watch movies and do facials ;)

    Anyway, I think it's crap that men feel like they can't have close emotional bonds with other men, or if they can have the bonds, that they aren't 'allowed' to express them.

  9. You're always welcome at mine for a facial tasha.

  10. This is the first Manboobz coordinated hook up.

    David, please note this historic moment.

  11. @Eoghan:

    Yeah, I really miss back home. We would kiss, hug so friendly. I found it rather hard to make close relationship with my male friends after I came to Canada. You are used to a different culture and do not get satisfied with the new one.

    But it is interesting that here straight girls can easily do that. They can love each other, kiss, hold hands... What is the difference then? Both are heterosexual. Why men can't have such relationships. It is like if you touch your male friend you have to go all the way ;) even if you do not touch and you have been only seen lots with each other in public, they would think you are gay.

  12. Maybe straight men really don't want to touch, kiss, hug, pet, cry with each other. Maybe it has nothing to do with socialization. I personally can't stand hugging people, but get sucked into by societal expectation. The kissy kissy thing on the cheeks is getting annoying as well. I do it, so as not be an outcase. I don't like spooning either, because I always end up being the inside spoon. I know many - mostly gay people - believe that if we could just free men from societal constraints, they'd be sucking dick with the best of 'em, hanging out in steam rooms, and calling men for booty calls. Ain't gonna happen.

  13. Magdelyn, some straight men do want to kiss, hug, bet and cry with each other, but cannot because of immense social pressure not to. Of course some do not want to do so, just as some women do not want to do so.

  14. "Because, you know what? If you're a guy feeling boxed in by normative gender roles, some of the best people in the world to talk to about it are, you know, feminists."

    Now that's a good one. Who wants to be constantly walking on eggshells and asskissing when they're talking about difficult and troublesome emotional matters? Even if you do so, you'll be told "you're making it all about you", or derailing, or any of the other common silencing tactics.

  15. "Because, you know what? If you're a guy feeling boxed in by normative gender roles, some of the best people in the world to talk to about it are, you know, feminists."

    Yeah if you can find the right ones to talk. Good luck with that.

    magdelyn:"Maybe straight men really don't want to touch, kiss, hug, pet, cry with each other. Maybe it has nothing to do with socialization."
    For some I'm socialization has nothing to do with it but I'll be socialization has a much bigger hand in it than people care to admit.

  16. I think for the top, there is a vested interest in keeping men apart as men represent the largest threat to the ruling class. Modern social engineering divides men, women and family.

    The new gender roles seem to be isolated workhorse for men and affluent media programmed consumer unit for women.

  17. Eoghan is currently trying to figure out how many other men have really done... you know... with pieces of cervine.

    Pokemontaco has never gotten over the terrible pain of his mudkip's rejection.

  18. And Cerien should bother finding out people's sex/gender before making baseless comments about them /eyeroll


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