Male bonding never ceases to fascinate. Apparently “bro-jobs” – sexual experiences between (specifically white) men who identify as straight – are way more common than you’d think. Or, so says Dr. Jane Ward, whose written a book called Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men.
Ward specifically points to examples like fraternity hazing rituals that involve sexual (or maybe “sexualized?”) acts, or Craigslist ads for straight men seeking straight men to masturbate with – but not just that. She explained to The Science of Us that while it was assumed that men in male-only spaces (like prisons or the military) might resort to homosexuality it puzzled her that no one could account for other hetero dabbling in gay acts:
“No one who was looking at prisons or the military was also looking at what was happening in bathrooms or bars or living rooms or in biker gangs or all of the other contexts where, frankly, those constraints aren’t in place. And yet despite lacking any pressing reason to do so, men are still manufacturing reasons to touch each other’s anuses. So that was one of the guiding questions through the book: What happens when we pull all of this evidence together? What might we glean about straight men’s sexuality?”
Ward says that by performing homosexual acts, straight white men are looking “to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of sex with men.” In other words, straight white men do gay-seeming things with each other to reassure themselves that they’re not gay.
It actually makes sense. If a guy can take the opportunity to watch another man masturbate, or touch another man’s penis, then he can gauge how turned on he is by it. And if straight men can count those experiences as unimportant to their self-identification, then there’s no reason to get hung up about doing it.
Male bonding has historically been pretty touch-based – The Art of Manliness did a fantastic photo essay several years ago about male affection and how it’s changed over the last few hundred years. It wasn’t until after World War II that paranoia about gayness as a threat to masculinity started creeping into our culture. Before that, male friends were public about their physical affection in a way that seems uncanny and off-putting today. Ergo, the homoerotic undertones in so many long-standing male-dominated sports that are just accepted as part of the sport. If football were invented in the today’s popular culture, I’d bet anything it’d look very, very different.
But as we start to open up and loosen up about gender and sexuality, it seems viable that we could say that heterosexuality isn’t necessarily canceled out by homosexual experiences, and that, for that matter, male heterosexuality can include appreciation of masculine beauty just as much as female heterosexuality can include appreciation of feminine beauty. As Ward puts it, these things “reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterizes all human sexual desire.”
[Image via Shutterstock]
Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink