Recently, there have been numerous essays going around social media about a very taboo topic. In fact, the subject is so sensitive that I was surprised to see the articles come floating around my Facebook feed. It’s a question that will undoubtedly create a lot of controversy, but despite its inflammatory nature, the time has finally come to ask it out loud: do most gay men secretly hate women? Is the Will and Grace-inspired social construct of gay male/straight, gay or bi female BFFs just a myth?
I started thinking about this topic about two years ago, when I complained to a family member that I had been to a drag show and that the male performer came around into the audience, snuck up behind me and, without my consent, squeezed my breast so hard it brought immediate tears to my eyes. “Well,” said my relative, who is himself a cross dresser and as such spends most of his time surrounded by gay men, “that’s because gay men secretly hate women.”
Shocked, I stared at my relative, blinked a couple of times and said “whaaaaaat?” He continued: “oh yeah. It’s a big secret that no one talks about. Gay men hate women and that whole thing they do with touching women is a way they can abuse women and work out their feelings of hatred. They get away with it because they’re gay, but really it’s a way for them to commit assault on women.”
“But that seems to run counter to how gay male/female relationships are perceived by society,” I said out loud; but it makes perfect sense with regard to how I’ve been treated over the years, I thought silently.
“Believe me,” my relative continued, “you should hear how they talk about women when only men are around. I’ve heard them so I know for a fact that they despise women and everything about females. Some of them can’t stand to be around other gay men who even act feminine.”
Stunned and confused, I said “but this can’t be true for all gay men. That’s a stereotype.” My relative replied, “no, they all hate women. All of them.”
While that particular statement is pretty damning and almost certainly impossible, the conversation set in motion wheels that haven’t stopped turning since. I began reflecting back on my own relationships with my gay male “best friends” over the years and reviewing how each relationship eventually collapsed. Comparing those relationships to ones I have and still have with my female friends, a drastic difference began to take shape.
I’d been “best friends” with at least four gay men, and casual friends with countless others. Of the four men with whom I had been “BFFs,” all of them made me cry so often with their insults, put-downs and general nastiness that I am now very relieved I have distanced myself from them for good. In contrast, the female friends I have still continue to be in my life in a deeply meaningful way, and I have never felt verbally abused or physically assaulted by any of them.
In an essay entitled The Myth of the Fag Hag and Dirty Secrets of the Gay Male Subculture author Rohin Guha asserts that gay male culture breeds misogyny partly because there are very few women around at the places where gay men congregate. Guha points out that the behaviors of assault and verbal abuse tend to flourish in gay male culture because it is reinforced by gay men who learn from each other that it is o.k., even desirable, to be misogynistic.
He says that “gay men had allowed themselves to fall into a lazy and inexcusable rut of objectifying, demeaning, and dismissing women.” That may be true, but certainly there are plenty of straight men who fall into that same rut; and while the idyllic Will and Grace BFF relationship might be more of a myth than what happens in reality most of the time, the same could be said of any TV relationship. How many people have a huge group of magical best friends that wants to hang out together all the time like on the show Friends? TV should never be looked at as a realistic model of how life works, and maybe some of the women who are disillusioned with their failed relationships with their gay male BBFs might have been basing their expectations of the relationship on something rather unrealistic. After all, we don’t live in a post-sexist society.
There is also the question of whether certain types of people are attracted to each other as friends, period. It seems that socially awkward, insecure, unhappy gay men were historically the kind that always gravitated toward me and wanted to be my BFF. Now that I’ve learned to keep those kinds of people–of all orientations–at arm’s length, I’m much happier and more at peace.
I have several gay male friends who are kind, loving, and who would bend over backward for their female and male friends alike, so my relative was very likely wrong in saying “all” gay men hate women. Do some gay men secretly hate women? Perhaps, but it’s doubtful that their misogyny occurs in any greater proportion than it does in the straight male population. Just as some straight women should examine why they always seem to pick women-hating misogynists as romantic partners, perhaps it’s time that all women who have suffered a failed friendship with a gay man start asking themselves why they always seem to pick socially inappropriate, misogynistic, miserable gay male friends as BFFS.
American society is still very misogynistic, and there are men in both straight and gay male culture who hate women. Gay men who hate women seem to take it out most often in verbal assault while straight men tend to take it out physically. Both are very hurtful and destructive. Thus, maybe the discussion should not be “do most gay men secretly hate women?” but “how can we continue to eradicate misogyny in our culture overall as well as select healthier people with whom to have close relationships?”
By: Rebecca Savastio