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The reason why straight men are having sex with straight men

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A new book is asking us to examine the double standards for people who identify as straight experimenting with members of the same sex.

When women dabble in the Sapphic side of things, Dr Jane Ward says, society either (unkindly) sees it as an attention-grabbing move, or (more kindly) that they're exploring the fluidity of female sexuality.

But there's no such leniency for straight men - if a hetereosexual guy gets it on with another straight man then it must be because he's desperate, locked up on a submarine or in prison, or gay (but pretending not to be).

In 'Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men', Ward argues that homosexual contact is a normal part of male experience - but society has always felt the need to explain it away.

In an interview with Science of Us, Ward, who is an associate professor of women’s studies at the University of California, Riverside, said:

If you look at this belief that women's sexuality is more receptive - it’s more fluid, it’s triggered by external stimuli, that women have the capacity to be sort of aroused by anything and everything - it really just reinforces what we want to believe about women, which is that women are always sexually available people.

With men, on the other hand, the idea that they have this hardwired heterosexual impulse to spread their seed and that that's relatively inflexible, also kind of reinforces the party line about heteronormativity and also frankly, patriarchy.

And one look at hazing in fraternities, the military and prisons shows that we even kid ourselves into thinking gay activity is really proof of how straight men are:

By understanding their same-sex sexual practice as meaningless, accidental, or even necessary, straight white men can perform homosexual contact in heterosexual ways.

Ward also thinks race comes into the picture, too, which is why the book's title specifically mentions white men.

I would argue that because white men have been understood as the idealised, most normal, sort of exemplars of normal human sexuality, there's a lot of work and attention that goes into excusing anything they do or rationalising anything they do that might disrupt that view, and that's not the case for women or for men of colour.

Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, is available in paperback from NYU Press now.


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