Men and touching

Really enjoyed this short Slate piece on the absurd taboo against almost any touching among straight men in America.  It’s spot on:

But as Mark Greene recently observed over at The Good Men Project, trying that kind of thing in the U.S. could get you a black eye:

In America in particular, if a young man attempts gentle platonic contact with another young man, he faces a very real risk of homophobic backlash either by that person or by those who witness the contact. This is, in part, because we frame all contact by men as being intentionally sexual until proven otherwise. Couple this with the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture, and you get a recipe for increased touch isolation that damages the lives of the vast majority of men.

Greene, a straight man, justifies his support of gay marriage and general gay acceptance in part for this reason—as long as any kind of male affection automatically reads as sexual (and, given widespread cultural homophobia, threatening), men of all orientations are suffering and becoming emotionally stunted by a lack of homosocial intimacy. As he eloquently puts it:

As much as gay men have faced the brunt of homophobic violence, straight men have been banished to a desert of physical isolation by these same homophobic fanatics who police lesbians and gays in our society. The result has been a generation of American men who do not hug each other, do not hold hands and can not sit close together without the homophobic litmus test kicking in.

If you’ve never considered this painful lack in men’s lives, take a few minutes to read Greene’s piece

I grew up in a fairly affectionate family.  My mom was quite a good hugger and toucher and my dad was (and is) a definitely far more physically affectionate man than your average born in 1936 father.  I did not always appreciate how lucky I am in this regard.  One thing I remember distinctly about heading off to college and being away from my family was the amazing absence of any human physical contact in those first months.  Fortunately, I had a good friend who resisted such taboos and insisted on regular hugs with friends (ironically, I suppose, he’s a gay man but was well in the closet– perhaps even to himself– at the time).   Anyway, lots of reasons it was great to start dating Kim my sophomore year, but regular human physical contact (even just the innocent stuff 🙂 ) was a really nice benefit.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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