A new book explores the ways in which some men are being sexual with each other without identifying as gay or bisexual.
The book Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men by Jane Ward is making waves for its honest look at “straight guy-on-guy action.”
“A straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay?” Ward asks in publicity for the book.
Published by New York University Press, Not Gay, cites examples such as fraternity and military hazing rituals; online personal ads in which straight men seek other straight men to masturbate with; and men meeting up in public bathrooms for sex.
Ward, an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of California, argues that these social spaces where straight white men have sex with other straight white men actually “reaffirms rather than challenges their gender and racial identity.”
She explains that by viewing these encounters as “meaningless, accidental, or even necessary” these men “leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality…”
Ward believes, however, that ultimately, they “reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterises all human sexual desire.”
She told Science of Us that one of the reasons she wrote the book was to question the belief that women’s sexuality is fluid while men’s is hardwired or inflexible.
Ward said that describing situations in which straight men have sex as being “forced” out of necessity, such as in prisons, “keeps their heterosexual identity intact.”
“…they provide an opportunity for straight men to show, I am so straight that I can do this without it actually having any consequence whatsoever for my daily sexual orientation, which is straight,” she added.
Ward explained that she focused on white men in particular because there has been much interest on sexual fluidity among black and Latino communities, but “no one ever asks what’s going on in white culture or what it is about white masculinity that is making this kind of sex practice possible.”
Not everyone agrees with Ward’s views, with Gawker’s Rich Juzwiak suggesting that she has over-complicated the issue and fails to understand the more simple biology of male sexuality and desire.
He believes that much of her argument relies on how people define themselves, which may often not be accurate or truthful. Juzwiak argues that our acts reveal as much about ourselves as our self-reported identity.
“People attempt to distance themselves from themselves all the time, and it’s because they feel bad; they’re delusional, or stupid, or they think you’re stupid enough to buy into their delusions. Self-awareness is a rare commodity. You are what you think you are and what you do,” he writes.
Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men can be purchased online.