If you need more proof that Western culture is still dominated by straight men and the enshrinement of their heterosexuality, then just read the article “Everyone Is Gay on TikTok” that Alex Hawgood recently wrote for The New York Times. He’s reporting on the so-called #homiesexual trend, in which young straight men tease their massive followings by posting homoerotic content. Maybe they kiss each other on the cheek. Maybe they grind against each other on a wall. Maybe they quickly peck on the lips without punching each other afterward. It’s all done to prove how cool and open-minded they are.
“Girls are attracted to two attractive guy TikTokers with massive followings showing a sexual side with each other,” says one British teenager quoted in the piece. He adds that it’s cool with him if dudes get turned on, too. “If watching my videos makes you happy and stuff, that’s cool,” he says, generous to a fault.
Hawgood quotes many people who swear this behavior proves that homophobia is finally ending with Generation Z. Take the mother of an Atlanta high school student who posts videos of himself telling his “bros” that he loves them. “If you are just straight-up straight now, it’s not very interesting to these kids,” mom declares. “If you are straight, you want to throw something out there that makes people go, ‘But, he is, right?’ It’s more individual and captures your attention.”
Meanwhile, a “social media forecaster” declares these videos represent a “paradigm shift of some sort for an evolving form of masculinity that is no longer ashamed to show affection.”
The paradigm may indeed be shifting in certain parts of the country, where it may be getting easier for straight and gay men to address each other with sincere emotion. The movie Superbad understood this back in 2007, when it allowed its straight male characters to declare their nonsexual love for each other without turning it into a joke. That’s great, and I sincerely hope men the world over are getting better at being emotionally forthright.
But if that’s happening, the homisexuals don’t deserve credit. Every aspect of this trend, at least as reported in the Times story, reeks of straight male power trying to protect itself.
First of all, there’s the fact that this entire “movement” exists to boost a TikTok user’s popularity. That British kid mentioned that boys with “massive followings” are the ones who benefit the most. That mom from Atlanta explicitly frames her son’s behavior in terms of marketing, and a few paragraphs later, so does he. Consider this excerpt:
Showing emotions with another guy, especially when expressed as a joke, brings a smile to someone’s face or makes them laugh,” said Mr. Van Lear, who took his cue from hugely popular TikTok creators, like the guys at the Sway House. Plus, he added, it “increases the chances of higher audience engagement.
In other words, this group of boys is the latest to discover that appropriating gay culture can make them popular. That’s no more “queer positive” than Budweiser realizing it’s fiscally sensible to slap rainbow flags on its ads. It’s just another case of a majority culture co-opting the increased visibility of a minority culture. It’s another example of a powerful group getting intimidated when an outsider group gains influence, then deciding it has to control that group in order to survive.
The head of “influencer management” at a social marketing agency only proves that point when he says, “Straight guys have always been attracted to girls being flirtatious with each other, [so] girls are just taking the same idea and switching it around.” So again, their performed sexuality is something to be consumed—and therefore controlled—by the straight majority
That last quote also points to another aspect of this gay-ish performance: It’s mostly being done for girls. What that head of influencer marketing doesn’t mention is that it’s long been noxious for straight girls to kiss other girls in order to make boys horny. That just reinforces the idea that lesbianism is a naughty taboo. When Katy Perry kisses a girl and likes it, she’s reinforcing the power of her own straightness by showing it’s sturdy enough to let her break the rules for a second.
And that’s what’s happening here. Boys flirting with other boys for the benefit of girls just exoticizes the notion of gay male sex. Like white people heading uptown to the Cotton Club during the Harlem Renaissance, these straight people are reasserting their own dominance by proving they can cross a boundary and them come back. They know their heterosexuality will always be waiting for them with the warm embrace of its supposed normalcy.
It’s telling that in writing his story, Hawgood keeps referring to the boys being “in on the joke” or “jokingly” touching each other or “playfully” kissing. Because what if these boys were actually sincere with each other in a way that didn’t ask for anyone else’s fawning attention? That kind of display might actually mean the walls of heteronormativity were crashing down.
That might also mean it was possible for actual queer people to live their lives. Just this summer, The Trevor Project reported that 40 percent of queer youth considered suicide in the last 12 months, while 68 percent reported generalized anxiety disorder, 55 percent reported depression, and 48 percent reported actively harming themselves in some way. In an NBC News report on the study, an adolescent psychiatrist said these results “highlight that our society has a long way to go to create a safer and more affirming environment for LGBTQ youth.”
The homiesexuals aren’t creating that environment. No matter how cute these dudes think they are, and no matter how many people watch their cynical appropriation of gay life in the service of their personal brands, their ironic performance of an actual sexuality will never help those disturbing percentages go down.
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