Friday, May 20, 2011

The Impact of a Widespread Acceptance of Homosexuality on Men & Friendships

This is a fascinating article... once you get about four paragraphs in & understand where the author's going & what he's saying. Until then, the article feels a bit icky. But it's worth your perseverance.

The idea is that today's widespread acceptance of homosexuality has all but destroyed the ability of normal male friends to show casual, natural affection for one another. A homosexual man (not the author of the article in the link above) discovered this when he began collecting old, old photographs of male friends. At first he mistook the men in the photographs to be homosexuals.

But, no. What he came to realize was that in the days before "Jennifer has Two Daddies," this was common. Two male friends could show natural, completely non-sexual affection for one another... in ways that would just weird us out today.

Here's an excerpt:
"... Thus, in the earlier photographs, ''We're looking at men who didn't think in terms of 'gay' or 'straight' and who weren't worried about what people would think if they put their arms around their buddy, whether that was going to say something to the world that would be threatening,'' he says. But the Freudian male was worried. That's shown in the chapter in ''Picturing Men'' dealing with the evolution of sports' team photos -- one that Rotundo counts as among his favorites.

''What you see is in the late-19th century team photos, the team members are completely comfortable and draped all over each other. By the time you get to the 1930s, that's completely gone,'' Rotundo says. ''You see a precursor to the modern team photos where everyone is rigid and each guy has his hands on his own knees. They're separate, kind of like ice cubes in an ice cube tray. It shows the change in an intriguing and visually compelling way.''

Reminds me of when I was a seminary student in St. Louis. For some extra cash, I frequently volunteered to be in on those consumer focus group things where they would pay a dozen men (age 18-25) to sit in a room & evaluate commercials for this & for that (candy bars, batteries, etc.) to see which commercials "grabbed" us most.

None of us knew each other; they recruited men from all over the city. And the lobby area where we would always meet (before they took us back to the focus-group room) had about a dozen chairs around the walls.

I would usually arrive early, book in hand, ready to catch up on my reading before the meeting started. I'd sit down. Then as the next six or seven or so guys showed up, we sat there in silence, around the room, with a chair in between each of us.

No one's saying a word to each other.

Then, when the next guy shows up, he looks around the room... observes that if he takes a chair, he'll have to seat himself in between two guys... endures a moment of indecision... then decides to stand in the middle of the room in utter silence, staring at the wall. All the other guys in the room breathe a sigh of relief. Situation normal. Crisis resolved.

As the remaining guys show up, they all stood there in the middle, in utter silence. Six or more perfectly good chairs going unused. But that's the way we all liked it.

This article helps me understand our weirdness a bit better. It apparently wasn't always like that.

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