Oh Reddit. Sometimes you make me so sad. Case in point: the 5,415 upvotes Redditors gave to this old dog of a story, a blatantly misogynist, and blatantly made-up, revenge-vasectomy tale from the “Best of Craigslist.” Mitigating factors: the fact that some commenters correctly labeled the story a hateful fake; the 4,582 downvotes the story got (resulting in “only” 833 net upvotes).
But sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. Even as I was contemplating the idiotic reaction to this idiotic vasectomy story, I ran across another headline: “Does homophobia affect straight males too?” Good question. Weirdly, the post was from the Men’s Rights subreddit. Hoping for the best but fearing the worst, I took a look. Lo and behold, the post had actually inspired a real, honest discussion of the issues.
The OP set the stage with a few specific questions:
Have you ever hesitated to become close to another male for fear that it might be misinterpreted by someone else? Was there ever a time you resisted getting close to another male emotionally because you were afraid it might be seen as sexual? Does the fear of being called gay or a faggot ever change the way you behave in front of other males?
Among the answers there were of course a few jokes, including one that was actually sort of funny:
dontputsaltinyoureye 9 points
it has had a tremendous effect on my life. i am unable to wear my avril lavigne [shirt] in public due to the fear. WHY CAN I NOT WEAR MY AVRIL LAVIGNE SHIRT?!
And there was the requisite reference to Glee:
AGenericGoon 44 points
I am heterosexual, and watch/enjoy glee.
I will take this secret to the grave.
But there were also a number of bracingly honest comments, comments that would not be out of place on a feminist or LGBT message board. Some commenters talked about being gay-bashed — even though they aren’t gay. Others talked about how hetero-normative gender roles force men to keep quiet about their feelings:
TheBananaKing 27 points
Absolutely. all -normative behaviours box people in.
Straight guy here. … there’s an awful lot of restriction and anxiety in inter-male behaviour. You can’t ever be sad or hurt – only angry. You can’t extend comfort or affection towards another guy, except via humorous taunting / rivalry / aggression (eg play-fighting), unless you’re very, very drunk. You have to do this kind of… reverse double-entendre the entire time, translating everything into John Wayne before you speak or act it, and back again to understand others. It’s a pain in the ass.
Others offered more personal takes on what it’s like to be a straight guy who’s frequently taken to be gay:
ecartes 9 points
I talk with a lisp and dress really well. I’m also heterosexual.
Almost everyone I initially meet believes, nay, KNOWS, that I’m, ACTUALLY homosexual. It’s weird, living with the thought that everyone I meet thinks I’m gay. Although I will never know fully the oppression that some gay people face, I feel like I’ve felt a lot of it just from being perceived as gay. …
And perhaps the most unexpected of all:
soylentcoleslaw 33 points
If I acted on my normal impulses, I’d be extremely effeminate. I love cute things and cute clothes, I have subconscious feminine mannerisms, and I’d love a strong partner who makes me feel safe and who would take charge. I’ve never had a gay fantasy in my life. The thought of being with another man just doesn’t do it for me, but given what I want and who I naturally am, I’m said on numerous occasions how much easier my love life would be if it did. As it is, if I want to attract someone new, I have to tamp all that down and put on my reasonably masculine face, and maybe if I’m lucky, I can reveal some of that side of myself gradually. But I can’t be totally myself. Never. … So I go on pretending to be manly sometimes and hopefully don’t screw up.
Oh, sure, there were some answers that were bluntly homophobic — redwood9 states plainly that “I just hate fags … I hate all cocksuckers and those who bend over and take it in the ass” — but they made up a tiny minority of the comments, and were generally downvoted.
So what’s going on here? Has the Men’s Rights Subreddit suddenly become a beacon of open-mindedness? Not exactly. Most of those commenting in the topic don’t appear to be Men’s Rights regulars, but Redditors who were drawn to the topic when it appeared on Reddit’s main page. Here’s what someone who is a MR regular had to say:
aetheralloy 0 points
“Bro’s” and “bromance” is the term often used to shame men … Women (feminists) in particular love to use it. …
The really interesting question here isn’t if it affects males, but why women are both extremely homophobic towards gay males while also willing to use them as emotional buddies.
Yeah, damn those feminist women and their hatred of gay men!
So, no group hug just yet. But it’s good to see an outburst of good sense in a discussion forum that’s often pretty backwards.
It’s just a pity that the moderator of Men’s Rights remains convinced “that there is an international, feminist, antimale conspiracy,” as he puts it in the sidebar, and that the subreddit’s slogan remains “Earning scorn from feminists since March 19, 2008.”
Because, you know what? If you’re a guy feeling boxed in by normative gender roles, some of the best people in the world to talk to about it are, you know, feminists.