Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Simultaneously Homophobic and Homoerotic Nature of Male Group Bonding in the US

This may be the same everywhere, I am not sure, but I have never understood the dynamic of groups of male friends and how they interact. They often make jokes about one another being "gay", the worst offense a man could get, and yet they also insist on being surrounded only by other men the majority of the time and needing significant "man time". 

If you are a male and want to take your girlfriend out to eat on a Friday night, you are met by a chorus of "you're gay!!!" from your friends in your group text, when the alternative, the one they would consider to be less gay, is eschewing female companionship in favor of sitting in tight quarters surrounded by other men. Doesn't this seem backwards?

Male friendships today seem characterized by a constant barrage of insults and inside jokes, boys who have stayed friends longer than they have held lives and interests in common with nothing else really to say to one another. They use sports and discussing sports as a stand-in for real conversation the same way you talk about the weather with your neighbor in the elevator. No one really cares but it feels like bonding. And this is not male specific, I certainly use the "wow I love that nail polish color, is that Mint Candy Apple?" as a stand in to start conversation with other girls at a party or discuss the newest arrivals at Bloomingdales with friends when I have nothing else to say [Ed. note: I absolutely always know what your nail polish color is before I ask, I am just being polite]. But somehow this male version of small talk bonding has become a culture of its own and an institution in America. Was ESPN so profitable before the man-child advent brought on by the "frat pack" movies?  Would the incredible abundance of sports blogs have an audience with men of the 1980s?  

The idea of men needing to be stoic, emotionless Marlboro men is not a new one. In The Godfather, our hero, the man who gains all the power when he wasn't even the rightful heir, is the one who keeps his feelings to himself. The real heir to the throne, always wearing his emotions on his sleeve, dies as a result of the vulnerability that this gives an otherwise strong and fiery man. Emotions  in men today are still seen as a vulnerability, and the fear being compared to a gay man or, gasp, a woman is worth ignoring your own feelings about what would or could make you happy. I could be wrong here - maybe men really don't like hanging out with their girlfriends, but it seems the disparity between the grunting caveman men are with other men vs their baby-talking cuddly counterparts when they are with their girlfriends and wives says that there is definitely some persona adopting occurring here. 

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