In a society where homosexuals have historically held little to no real influence, where marginalization, bigotry, and discrimination still permeate many levels of the social order, there is a temptation to grasp any vestige of power, to use what gifts we possess to assert ourselves, to feel empowered.
On Bravo's recent Great Things About Being Queer, number fourteen on the list named the ability to scare straight people as one of the great joys of our sexuality and position in society. There is a secret pleasure in knowing you can unleash the forces of your homosexuality on heterosexuals, perhaps make them feel as uncomfortable as they might have made you feel over the years, perform a little instant karmic vengeance in a petty but satisfying way.
Along this train of thought, some gay men are reveling in watching heterosexual males squirm at the prospect of two gay cowboys leaving the horses to the stables and riding each other instead. When Mickey Kaus stated he did not want to see this film because he is heterosexual, he noted:
If a gay man, say, goes to see "Wuthering Heights," there is at least one romantic lead of the sex he's interested in! In "Brokeback Mountain," neither of the two romantic leads is of a sex I'm interested in ... My wild hypothesis is that more people will go see a movie if it features an actor or actress they find attractive! If heterosexual men in heartland America don't flock to see "Brokeback Mountain" it's not because they're bigoted. It's because they're heterosexual.
Citizen Cain responded:
Got that? Kaus isn't interested in Brokeback Mountain only because he wants to see women when he goes to the movies. But it's not, NOT, because he's homophobic.
Cain goes on to poke holes in Kaus' argument with plenty of disingenuous strawmen, but that isn't what interests me here.
What is fascinating is how certain sections of the gay movement have decided the goalposts of tolerance and acceptance must be further moved to satisfy an insatiable need for validation. It is no longer acceptable that gays be tolerated and accepted in the abstract. Now heterosexual males are not allowed to be uncomfortable in graphic depictions of man on man action or else they're homophobic.
This is a dangerous and patently stupid attitude for gay men to take if they care at all for the near future of gay rights in this country.
While sexuality is malleable in the abstract, by the time many of us reach adulthood, certain sexual patterns, behaviors, and tolerances are concretely wired into our brains. No doubt a variety of influences play roles in our sexual development, from social conditioning, to genes, to hormones, to early experience, to various X factors unknown to modern researches. Sexually, we like what we like, and there is generally little accounting for it.
If the gay rights movement and the larger sexual liberation movement have brought anything to society, it is that we are each allowed to indulge our tastes as free, consenting adults. We, as gay people, want our sexuality and romantic attachments respected and tolerated in that tradition.
Tolerance, however, is not participation, and respect for sexual preference and practice is not personal approval.
I can safely say there are various elements of the BDSM culture to which I have a visceral, innate aversion. Piggy porn? Forget it. Should anyone sit me down and toss a film chock full of fisting and scat, I guarantee things will go very wrong if a bucket isn't handy, because my lunch will not remain sedentary for very long.
However, I fully support someone else's right to do these things in the privacy of their own homes. I simply don't want to hear about it, and I certainly don't want to see it, either graphically or implied. Does this make me intolerant? A piggy-phobe? Am I bigoted? Are the oppressive forces of a disdainful society at work in a brain washed to accept only the straight and narrow course?
Of course not. And yet, that is what people are implying in the wake of heterosexual male aversion to Brokeback Mountain. If heterosexual men do not want to see depictions of gay men bucking like broncos, well, something is terribly terribly wrong with them!
For beginners, theoretically accepting there's something wrong with this aversion, what exactly would the prescribed solution be? Wider exposure until their psycho-sexual preferences are softened towards greater acceptance of the concept? Ridicule? Disdain? Constant haranguing and implying they're merely latent homosexuals who don't want to admit it?
I'm sorry, but attempting to change someone's sexual preference (no matter how small an aspect) through peer and social force sounds suspiciously like reparative therapy. Reparative therapy is a bad thing, remember? Remember all those times we've argued we're gay, there's no changing it, we like what we like, so stop making us try to like sexual behavior we innately don't?
Funny how that evaporates in the face a film we want heterosexuals to like. Not only want them to like, but almost try to force them to through ridicule, derision, and accusations of homophobia. It's a strange form of politically correct sexual blackmail. Poor form. We gay folk don't like being subjected to that sort of thing. What makes us think it's ok for us to behave in the that manner towards heterosexuals?
There are plenty of arguments about why so many heterosexual men in American society have a physical aversion to seeing male on male action. There is certainly no shortage of Oprah-certified sexual psychologists in the gay community who theorize at eternal length on the cause. False sense of masculinity, latent homosexuality, artificial gender roles enforced by society, and on and on and on. Subscribe to whatever silly theory you choose. There are almost cultish devotees to every school of thought on these matter.
What isn't at argument is that there are heterosexual men who have an aversion to seeing gay sex in precisely the same vein as my personal aversion to BDSM and piggy play. As heterosexual male Ace of Spades put it in an excellent post on this issue:
Let's fess up: Straight guys are "uncomfortable with gay men expressing love." I know I am. Not in the abstract; I could give a fig if two guys are in love. More power to them. But yes, witnessing male-on-male intimacy is never really comfortable for most straight men. We're hard-wired to be averse to that.
t bothers me not one whit to know that a gay friend just hooked up. * (Except, of course, as regards the safety aspect of it.) But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be there when it all goes down, either.
No matter the cause, by the time adulthood rolls around, these things are wired pretty deeply into our psyche. If we as gay men want society to accept the fact our sexual preferences and aversions will not change, we must also accept straight mens' won't either. Ridiculing them, calling them homophobes, trying to wield PC sensibilities as a weapon to change these attitudes will do nothing to alter the current state of affairs.
This is what many gay men do not understand. They believe they can will a change in sexual tastes. They believe, if they are earnest and put enough effort in it, they can get heterosexuals to not only tolerate homosexuality in the abstract, but in visual, physical form. After all, we accept heterosexual affection and sexuality in film and life, why can't heterosexuals?
Simple. Sexuality is no doubt partly social conditioning. By the time homosexuals reach adulthood, we are inured to heterosexuality through the sheer abundance of it in our lives. We see it every single day. It is not and has never been a foreign concept to us.
Heterosexuals are not similarly inured to homosexuality. Tens of millions of straight men have gone through their lives perhaps hearing whispers and comments and jokes about homosexuality, but few had actually seen it in practice.
Gay visibility is a very modern sensibility. Polling the younger generations uncovers more tolerance, acceptance, and sheer indifference to depictions of homosexuality. They are growing up in a world where same-sex affection is merely another aspect of life, out there with everything else. Someday, when the older generations are gone and the youth of today are themselves in the houses of power, homosexuality will be a non-issue in America. It is an historical inevitability.
The question we're faced with at this point in time is how we treat those who did not grow up with the benefit of socialized acceptance. Their sexual tastes will not be changed. Not by us, not by anyone.
The Sullivans and Citizen Cains of this world would use ridicule and disdain, imply there is something wrong with these men, mock them, attack them, call them bigots and homophobes and latent homosexuals.
And therein lies the peril. The more gay activists push a heterosexual's sexual preferences, the more those heterosexuals will push back. When the religious right goes apoplectic about the gay agenda and "spreading" homosexuality, this is partly what they're discussing. Sure, they're insane, but there is a small grain of truth in what they're on about that more politically moderate heterosexual men have intuited in their own observations of gay activism.
It's not enough for the Sullivans of the world that we're tolerated, we must be accepted whole hog, up to and including shuffling those poor souls to watch Heath supply the pork to Jake's beans. Or else you're broken individuals who are oppressing us all!
Stop it. Honestly. You people who throw the term homophobia around with such ease are killing the rest of us who are trying to make inroads with centrist and conservative males. You're making it harder for us to convince people that we don't want celebration and graphic approval, but simply abstract tolerance and respect that will lead to equality in society and law.
Not everyone has to enjoy Jake lunging atop the Heath-pole for us to feel validated. We will never have that kind of validation in our current society. We have several decades to go yet before we reach the point when attitudes will finally meet sexuality.
Accept people are different and have their own sexual tastes and aversions, respect it, and stop screaming homophobe if they don't want to see cock on cock swordfights.
You're making life more difficult for the rest of us than it needs to be. If straight men not wishing to see Brokeback Mountain makes you feel less accepted and less validated, then you need to see a therapist, not run out and mock heterosexuals and call them names.
The only cause being advanced by that kind of behavior is your own insecurity.
(Done with all this now. Promise.)