It’s all about the bumsex

I’ve been thinking about homophobia a bit recently, and have been chewing over a theory I’ve heard* that explains the particular objection to homosexual men to some degree. It’s all about the bumsex. Let me explain why this might do a lot of the work of explaining homophobia.

To set a baseline, I’m going to try and draw up a list of the sort of features a particularly close friendship could or should have. With about three minutes thought, I have come up with:

  • Loyalty to that person
  • Trust in that person
  • Willingness to sacrifice for the other
  • Understanding beyond verbal communication
  • Ability to challenge each other
  • Comfort in the company of the other
  • Comfortableness in the company of the other
  • Emotional investment in their wellbeing

All of these and more are likely to be present in the strongest friendships, and are positively encouraged in some circumstances traditionally associated with homophobia – the armed forces and sports teams in particular require very strong relationships. I can see a hardline priest exalting all of these things. It seems to me that it is largely these features that people are referring to when they say ‘they were like brothers’.

Thinking about all of the features of a gay male relationship, I struggle to find many features that differ significantly from the friendship described above. Except for one thing – bumsex.

I know that there are other sexual practices of course, and that not all gay men go in for anal sex. In this instance I think it is really the image that sticks with people, and I am talking more about the emotional reaction others have to gay men than what they actually do.

Without wanting to get into an evolutionary psychology speculation as to why, there is a very strong emotive reaction for a lot of straight men to the idea of a penis being pointed at them. It feels threatening. The image of homosexual anal makes me wince, and the idea of performing homosexual oral makes me gag. Gay couples holding hands or kissing generates much less response in me, and can be anything from heart-warming to unsightly in exactly the same way an amorous straight couple can be. I would not be at all surprised to hear many straight men admitting to the same thing, however they feel about homosexuality otherwise.

And let me make it clear – I have absolutely no objection to homosexuality, and I am not a homophobe. There is no caveat to that statement. That slight discomfort at the idea of getting bummed myself does not influence the way I think about or treat people who enjoy it. I am trying to explain an uncontrolled reaction that I have to certain images that I suspect may explain a significant amount of the homophobia we have suffered culturally.

In fact, if there is something in this suggestion that somewhere near the root of homophobia is the instinctive reaction to certain imagery associated with it, rather than any reasoned arguments, perhaps we would do well to realise that. It allows the discussion to be framed differently, as anyone pushing for equal marriage rights, gay adoption or acceptance into religious organisations can work from the knowledge that they are not up against reasoned arguments against their lifestyle, but people who have built a childish ‘yuck’ reaction into a belief system and wish to subject others to the same reaction.


*Credit where it’s due on request

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