Homophobia and Masculinity

Chloë Epstein



Homophobia and Masculinity

In the United States, it is acceptable and common for a woman to be very intimate around her friends. She feels comfortable enough to hug, sit close, and talk about her feelings and emotions with them. But what about men? Do men feel the same way about their male friends, or even family members? Many experts say no, because of the combination of hyper masculinity and homophobia that men learn starting at a very young age. Men’s fear of homosexuality results in an obsession with masculinity and avoidance of any type of physical or emotional behavior with other men.  

Professor and sociologist Michael S. Kimmel stated, “The great secret American manhood is: We are afraid of other men.” What he means by this statement is that men tend to be afraid of being judged by other men, specifically when it comes to their masculinity. Men will do anything to avoid being seen as feminine whether they want to be or not. A significant way men distance themselves from femininity is through homophobia. Gay men are stereotypically seen as feminine, and therefore more submissive. Therefore, straight men need to prove they are not feminine by distancing themselves from their feelings/ emotions, and even making fun of men who are more emotional. For example, a man will call another man a “sissy” when he acts in feminine ways; they will also use the word “faggot” in the same way. Another example is the phrase “no homo,” which is used after one man says or does something emotional to another man. A man can’t even express his own emotions, or he might be labeled as gay. If a man expresses his emotions, he is seen as feminine, and if he is feminine then he must be gay.

On June 28, 2000, James Dale lost his fight in the Supreme Court against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), who had fired Dale from being a Boy Scout leader because they found out he was a homosexual. It took nearly 15 years for the Boy Scouts to change their policies on Gay Boy scout leaders. Within the Girl Scouts, a homosexual leader, or scout’s experience would be much different. The Girls Scout of the USA allow homosexual scouts, leaders, and now even transgender people can be a part of their organization. One reason that the Girl Scouts is more accepting of homosexuality is that Girl Scouts, Inc. owns the organization, while the Boy Scouts is funded by nonprofit organizations such as churches and Christian groups. Another reason why the BSA is less tolerant is that the organization is afraid its scouts will be exposed to homosexuality, which will is assumed to lower their masculinity. One reason why the Girl Scouts is much more progressive is that it’s more acceptable for girls to express themselves, including when it comes to their sexuality or others’ sexuality. According to the BSA, by having a gay leader or mentor boys are taught to be more feminine, which eventually leads to the scouts “turning” gay.

Male friends have always been known to be less intimate than females. Once a boy becomes a teenager, holding hands or hugging another man becomes taboo. Even at a young age, boys start to feel ashamed or uncomfortable for platonically touching another boy. Part of the reason for this shame is how boys are raised. Many boys are raised to be “tough” or to have little emotion. This approach leads to many boys feeling that they can’t express themselves. According to Mark Greene, editor of The Good Men Project, “By the time they are approaching puberty, many boys have learned to touch only in aggressive ways through rough housing or team sports.” For example, in sports such as football and wrestling, boys can show physical contact but only through violence instead of care. Parents teach their sons that they have to express themselves through violence or they aren’t real men. That is why being compared to a gay man is seen so negatively; gay men aren’t seen as real men.

Besides being afraid of each other, men also don’t trust each other. U.S. culture has taught men that they don’t know how to control themselves, specifically when it comes their sexual urges. Although it’s women who usually experience this behavior from men, what’s to say that a man couldn’t control his urges around another man too? A new study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who are homophobic tend to also have some attraction to the same sex. Men will act reserved and homophobic to prove to themselves and others that they aren’t homosexual themselves. "Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses," said professor Richard Ryan, author of this experiment. Men don’t trust themselves or other men to engage in physical and emotional contact because it could result in them being sexually attracted to other men. Masculinity is so fragile that men are scared of their own sexuality, whether they are gay, or not.

Growing up, boys are taught that masculinity is their most important attribute and they use this masculinity to prove that they are worthy of being called a man. Although women are expected to be somewhat feminine, their respect doesn’t rely on it. Homosexuality is a threat to a man’s masculinity, which it why so many men in the U.S. grow up homophobic.

Work cited:

  1. Kimmel, Michael. "Masculinity as Homophobia." Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://faculty.ucc.edu/psysoc-stokes/masculinity.pdf>.

  2. Bixby, Scott. "There's One Huge Lesson the Boy Scouts Need to Learn From the Girl Scouts." Mic. 23 July 2015. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://mic.com/articles/122704/the-one-huge-lesson-the-girl-scouts-can-teach-the-boy-scoutsn>.

  3. Greene, Mark. "Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch -." The Good Men Project. 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/megasahd-touch-isolation-how-homophobia-has-robbed-men-of-touch/>.

  4. Greene, Mark. "The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men's Lives Is a Killer -." The Good Men Project. 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/megasahd-the-lack-of-gentle-platonic-touch-in-mens-lives-is-a-killer/>.

Freeman, David. "Homophobes Gay? Study Ties Anti-Gay Outlook To Homosexuality, Authoritarian Parenting." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/homophobia-homosexuality-gay_n_1412846.html>.

Comments (1)

Ebony Ream (Student 2017)
Ebony Ream

Although it was hard to determine what your statistics or facts were at some points, you provided a lot of quality and interesting facts that I did not know about. Some including that Boys Scouts are being funded by churches and other Christian groups. I think adding little details like this could really open a reader's perspective more. You also seemed to have stay on task with what your topic and it made me understand exactly what your point was. The thesis was clear and your statistics around it helped to argue your point.