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Homophobes can’t handle being “the woman” July 16, 2009

Posted by laïcité in Feminism v Patriarchy, Rants, Society.
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After a few exchanges I’ve had with homophobes, I’ve found that they share one thing in common: they have an immense fear of being approached by an interested gay man, and believe that this fear is enough to justify discrimination against gays and the criminalization of homosexuality.

 

What I find so perplexing is how traumatized these men are by the mere thought of receiving unwanted male attention. You see, as a woman, receiving unwanted male attention is an annoyance so mundane that I wouldn’t even waste my breath complaining about it. Being approached by a man that you’re not interested in is a banal experience shared by almost every woman, and I have yet to meet any one who felt so offended by it to even suggest that legislation or violence against these men should be necessary. Regardless of how we feel about it – insulted, annoyed, flattered or even disgusted, we embrace the fact that these men have every right to approach us with interest, just as we have every right to politely decline.

 

Unfortunately, homophobic men do not seem to share this view. It is all too common for them to justify violence and discrimination against gays based on the fear of receiving unwanted male attention. From a feminist perspective, the reactions of these homophobes are quite troubling. Their reactions are not just reflections of homophobia, it also says a lot about how uncomfortable they are about straying from strictly enforced traditional gender roles. In it is the inherent implication that there is something undesirable about being pursued “like a woman”.

 

Traditional gender roles usually prescribe the active role of the pursuer to the man, and the passive, receiver role to the woman. In this way, being the recipient of male attention implies femininity. In the mind of a misogynistic male (and probably in a misogynistic patriarchal society), femininity is equated with weakness, and is thus undesirable. In other words, the fear that homophobes have against unwanted male attention is a socially conditioned fear that they have of being associated with submissiveness, vulnerability, weakness and other undesirable feminine traits.

 

By introducing a gay man into the equation, the misogynistic male is suddenly stripped of his sexually dominant role; that is, he is now the object of pursuit, just like a woman. It is this perceived threat to masculinity that causes the homophobe to be so offended by unwanted male attention, and fuels his attempt to reinstate his “manliness” through homophobic insults or physical attacks. Add to that the fact that men are much more socially stigmatized for gender role reversals than women are, and we can (sort of) understand why some men are so violently opposed to appearing feminine.

 

It is because of this that I am particularly wary of homophobic men. How a man views homosexuals reveals exactly what he feels about women and gender roles in sexual interactions. At the very least, a homophobe who is “traumatized” by unwanted male attention simply lacks the empathy and understanding that it is precisely the same unwanted sexual attention that we women receive and accept as an everyday occurrence. But perhaps most worrying is the intrinsic allusion that connotations of femininity are undesirable becaue they suggest inferiority. As such, homophobes and homophobia speak volumes about the individual’s (and society’s) acceptance of patriarchy and the perpetuated recognition of women being lower on the totem pole of social hierarchy.

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Comments»

1. Lee Chee Wai - July 16, 2009

Hey, interesting take on the issue!

I’ve not been approached by interested homosexual males (a friend has, at a gay bar – so totally understandable, and politely told the gay guy that he was not himself gay). I have, however, been approached by a interested (but drunk) female (she was cute though) and had to politely turn her away without hurting her feelings (whatever’s left of it in her drunken state, heh).

However, I’m not sure if the adverse reactions to gay men by homophobes are due to the possible perception that they are being treated as “female” (do you have any links to research where homophobes feel this way when approached by a gay guy?). Afterall, I am sure the number of homophobes who have NOT been approached by gay men far outnumber the ones who have. I do not think the reactions of the former to the LGBT community are any less mild than the reactions of the latter.

As a straight person, I do exhibit some psychological level of personal discomfort with open displays of male-to-male love. Walking along the sidewalk one day, I saw a gay couple drive up to the curb, stopped and exchanged a quick kiss before they parted ways. I felt an initial moment of awkwardness and then after I overcame that, I smiled and felt heartfelt joy because this little exchange of affection was so common amongst heterosexual couples. That gave me more cause to support homosexual relationships as normal but I can definitely see homophobes go “apeshit” if they encountered the same …

2. laïcité - July 17, 2009

Hi Chee Wai

I have to admit that I wrote this post based on the personal exchanges that I have had with men that I consider homophobes, i.e those who defended s377a and other forms of discrimination and even violence against gays. I found it interesting that all of them resorted to “emotive” arguments such as “What if a homo tried to ask your boyfriend out? Don’t you care that your boyfriend will be traumatized?” or even “You don’t understand how disgusting it feels like to be leered at by perverted men.” – which was ironic because I’m pretty sure that women get leered at a lot more than men do.

Whether or not thse men have actually received homosexual attention is not of my concern. What troubles me more is that they are unable or unwilling to empathize with women who face this sort of unwanted sexual attention, as if it is somehow more acceptable for woman to endure it, but godforbid a MAN should have to tolerate it.

3. Lee Chee Wai - July 18, 2009

I hear ya. Lack of empathy is, imho, what makes these people deep-homophobes.

I used to be what I’d term a “mild” homophobe. Thankfully, interactions with openly gay or lesbian folk here in the US helped to dispel stereotypes and pre-conceived notions about the LGBT community. They really are very normal people.

I believe the statement “Don’t you care that your boyfriend will be traumatized?” stems from one of those stereotypes that members of the LGBT community are simply out to sexually harass heterosexual members of the same sex … that was what made me mildly homophobic when I was younger. The other stereotype is the perception that gay men simply must be effeminate (ie. “ah gua”). Now, I don’t even think being effeminate is a bad thing though the extreme “ah gua” behavior still sends shivers up my spine (I mean, come on … if you wanna feel like a woman, feel like a woman … don’t become Lin QinXia as Dong Fang Bu Bai … *sigh*)

4. laïcité - July 18, 2009

I agree. I don’t think it’s particularly homophobic to be put off by the stereotypical “flaming homosexual”. It’s just an extreme form of behavior that some people find a little disturbing. The problem comes when people assume that all gay men have that sort of personality. I think most homophobes are guilty of that sort of stereotyping and overgeneralization.

5. Jolene - July 23, 2009

I agree with a lot of this piece! I wrote about this here too:

http://www.glass-castle.org/issue4editorial.html

– Jolene

6. laïcité - July 23, 2009

Hi Jolene, I wholeheartedly agree with your article too. I find it interesting that you mentioned the act of penetration. I have long wondered if the whole “disgust” about gay sex was due to associating the act of being penetrated with being sexually submissive. And if being sexually submissive was so undesirable that some men would have such a violent reaction against it, what does that say about how they view the women they have sex with? That women’s role during sex is so inferior so much so that a man who is willing to show sexual submissiveness and be penetrated, is less of a man and worthy of bashing?

7. The straightest dude on the planet; who is a recovering homophobe. - December 14, 2009

I find all this intellectual diarrhea pretty boring, over-analytical, and from what I have seen, not entirely accurate. As a straight guy, I say that most homophobia stems from “male insecurity” more than anything. A straight guy who is confidant and good with other people socially, never gets approached by gay men. A straight guy who is “insecure” is a target for gay guys; and in most cases, when an insecure straight guy has the tendency to be a loner, because of his social dysfunction caused by his insecurity, he is often “misdiagnosed” as gay; by others. And mostly everyone is a culprit. Society in general is the culprit. Women see the guy often alone, and so assume he’s gay. Guys see a guy alone, and so also often assume he’s gay. Insecure guys are prey to other insecure guys; who feel the need to make the statement to everyone else that they are not like “that guy”. And, gay guys who notice “loners” and insecure guys, often approach those guys; assuming that they are gay. And all this can turn the most timid, gentle “insecure straight” guy into a raging homophobe; who can respond with violence, when approached or stared at by gay guys. Sometimes, gay guys approach “insecure straight guys”, thinking that because they are so insecure, they don’t know what they really want; so the gay guys think that they can manipulate those insecure straight guys into doing the disgusting things gays like to do. I don’t think that a straight guy’s reacting adversely to being approached by gay guys has anything to do with feeling “emasculated”; it’s traumatizing, because it feels so weird and unnatural. When an insecure straight guy gets approached by a gay guy, he reacts so strongly because he’s so angry that the gay guy would assume that “he” is gay; and/or almost feeling “raped” without ever being touched. And God forbid that a gay guy puts his touchy-feely hands on the insecure straight guy; because after that line has been crossed, and that boundary has be breached, the insecure straight guy can react with incredible rage, and want to kill the gay guy. Even confidant straight guys don’t let gay guys put their hands on them; they would have to be the most secure guys on the planet, and I’ve seen some confidant straight guys give gay guys a hug. But these guys make up maybe 2% of all confidant straight guys at the most. Women see this differently; obviously. But being a “former” insecure straight guy, who is now full of security and confidence, I would have no problem giving a gay guy a hug; but even now, if a gay guy would approach me, to “proposition” me, and/or put his hands on me, I would “still” get angry and in his face, because he “disrespected” me. And because he violated my boundaries as a straight man. But I would no longer feel traumatized.


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