I was talking with my friend the other day about the idea that there's some important connection between sexism and homophobia. We agreed: there is.
Probably there are a lot of important connections, actually, including obvious ones about discrimination and so on. But I think there's a less obvious one too, having to do with sex, gender, and sexual agency.
Here's a constellation of ideas that I think forms a part of some sexist and homophobic men's view of the world. Men need sex, and women provide it. Women aren't rational, so it makes no sense to put them in charge of decisions about something so crucial to men's well-being. Women shouldn't really be treated as sexual agents, making decisions about what's best for them. It's more like, keep the pure and domestic ones for home and babies, and treat the female rabble however you want.
This may sound extreme. But how else to explain the otherwise extraordinary ways some men defend other men's assault on women's sexual agency?
Just as a single example, I recently learned about the Ada initiative to get more women involved in open technology and culture. The executive director and co-founder says the reason she got involved with starting the Ada initiative is because her friend went to an open source conference and was groped -- and that she herself had been groped twice at such conferences.
Worse, when the friend wrote about the experience on her blog, "hundreds of people made comments like, "Women should expect to get groped at conferences," and "It was her fault." The comments came from her colleagues in open source, presumably highly educated and pretty thoughtful people. If you're a reader of comments on the internet, you know this is not an isolated occasion.
So it's surprising the extent to which some men will defend the appropriateness of just touching women in inappropriate ways when they feel like it.
But such men don't want to be touched this way themselves. And they really don't want to be touched this way by other men.
You can see the groping-double-standard playing out in the recent upset about TSA groping. I mean, women get groped on the subway all the time, and I feel like the general cultural reaction is a kind of collective shrug: jeez, girl, you're out, you're on the subway, what did you expect? Get over it. But once the groping happens to men, and once it happens to women who are married moms, it's like OMG! Crisis! There's inappropriate touching! Call your congressman, right away.
I know it's not quite the same -- because the TSA gropes you with the long arm of the law -- but still, the estimation of harm is obviously very different.
You can see where I'm going with this. If you're a guy who thinks that it's OK to treat women as having no sexual agency, that treating women this way is an essential aspect of male sexuality, and that being treated this way in turn would be an outrage, you're going to have a big problem with gay men right off the bat. Because by turning that male sexual attention on you, gay men threaten the whole logic of your position.
So even the existence of gay men is a problem for your sexist world view.
The answer seems obvious to me: equality and respect for everyone, and when it comes to sex, if you're not sure, ask.
Why there's so much resistance to this basic set of human goods, I don't know.