How does homophobia affect the relationships of heterosexual males?
While it is hard, or even impossible, to know exactly how homophobia affects relationships between heterosexual males, it is possible for us to speculate. We cannot be certain of the impact because it is very hard to, for example, measure relative levels of homophobia in heterosexual men and then determine how much those levels affect relationships. It would be very hard to measure the homophobia and it would be even harder to determine how much of the variance in men’s friendships was due to levels in homophobia. However, we can speculate. I would argue that homophobia makes it harder for heterosexual men to have close emotional ties with one another.
In our society, many men worry about seeming too much like their view of homosexuals. To them homosexuals are soft and in some way feminine. Because heterosexual men feel some degree of homophobia, they want to avoid seeming “gay.” For this reason, they try not to seem soft. One of the main ways in which this manifests itself is that men try to avoid being emotionally open with one another. Feelings are seen as things for women and, by extension, for gay men to express. “Real men,” therefore, do not show their feelings. They make jokes with one another. They watch sports. They talk about women and sports and cars and hunting (at least in rural areas of the country like the one where I live). By doing these things, they avoid emotional intimacy with one another. This is in contrast to friendships between heterosexual females, in which emotional intimacy is seen as a perfectly acceptable thing.
Thus, we can argue that homophobia affects friendships between heterosexual males by making those relationships less close in an emotional sense. This can deprive men of the emotional support they might need in a variety of situations.
In understanding how homophobia affects the relationships of heterosexual males it is important to understand what homophobia really entails. According to theorist Haaga, it is “any negative attitude, belief, reaction, or action toward homosexuals…” (Jeffrey A. Bernat) It is Furthermore, it is normally viewed as “destructive to individuals, society and the planet and as long as anyone is oppressed, we will all remain oppressed” (Menstuff). In addition, according to prior reading, "there are four basic levels of Homophobia” (Menstuff):
1. The fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. Gay and lesbian people live in constant fear of assault and harassment. They are regularly attacked for no other reason than their assailants' homophobia. (96% of gay men have experienced verbal abuse because of their sexual preference, over 40% have experienced physical violence.)
2. The fear of being perceived as gay or lesbian. Gay people are forced to stay in the closet for fear of suffering the prejudices and further pain. Whether gay, bisexual or heterosexual, men are afraid to ask for and to express the physical caring and emotional intimacy we feel for one another for fear of being thought "gay". Men often place demands on women to provide the nurturance, touching and affection they can not seek from one another.
3. The fear of one's own sexual or physical attraction for same-sex individuals. It is natural to be attracted to and even turned on by same-sex people. We do not have to choose to act on these feelings; nor do we have to suppress them, run away from them, or hurt others to prove we're a "real" man.
4. The fear of being gay or lesbian. On average, one person in ten is gay. Amongst your family members, your friends, your co-workers, the public figures you admire, one in every ten is gay. While some have been embittered by society's prejudices, the vast majority of gay people lead diverse, well adjusted, satisfying lives. (Menstuff).
In addition, “homophobia affects all people - men and women; [not just heterosexual ales but,] gays, heterosexuals and bisexuals; children, adults, elders”. Furthermore, in keeping with the question of how homophobia affects the relationships of heterosexual males “homophobia has various effects on heterosexuals” (Bridget). In addition, “it means that heterosexuals do not internalise a stigmatised identity in relation to their sexual orientation - although they may belong to other stigmatised groups. This means that they have fewer obstacles to overcome during the developmental processes of adolescence i.e. achievement of identity, self-esteem, and social skills (Erikson, 1963, cited in Zera, 1992)” (Bridget).
This also means that, “heterosexuals develop a feeling of superiority towards homosexuals and that heterosexuals have a stronger self-identity and higher self-esteem” (Bridget).
Homophobia means that many people (heterosexuals and homosexuals) are obsessed with proving they are heterosexual. They do this through exaggerated stereotyped female/male role playing, i.e. being macho/femme; and an obsesssion with heterosexual sex which leads to rape, sexual abuse, phobias about sex, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancies, early marriages and high rates of divorce, etc. Sex is addictive (West,1983) and some people, because of poor self-esteem and weak identity, use sex as a coping method (i.e. to shore up their identity) (Bridget).