“In America in particular, if a young man attempts gentle platonic contact with another young man, he faces a very real risk of homophobic backlash either by that person or by those who witness the contact. This is, in part, because we frame all contact by men as being intentionally sexual until proven otherwise. Couple this with the homophobia that runs rampant in our culture, and you get a recipe for increased touch isolation that damages the lives of the vast majority of men.
And if you think men have always been hands-off with each other, have a look at an amazing collection of historic photos compiled by Brett and Kate McKay for an article they titled: Bosom Buddies: A Photo History of Male Affection. It’s a remarkable look at male camaraderie as expressed though physical touch in photos dating back to the earliest days of photography.”
Platonic touch is crucial to human development and happiness, and this article discusses the damage done to everyone when two men can’t casually touch without fear of backlash, and when the burden of physical affection is solely placed on women.
Men from other parts of the world and different cultural histories often have to be told, literally, “don’t do what you normally would with friends: people will think you’re gay.”
It’s also part of the bullshit that contributes to the sense many men have that being denied a (usually female) sexual partner is a massive attack and hardship: in our society the only relationship that allows adult men human touch is a sexual-romantic one.
That means we’re training our boys to truly believe the only way to get this thing is by having a girlfriend. (And even then, too much cuddling or whatever that’s NOT overtly sexual or seen to be the woman providing sexualized attention is seen as emasculating and unmanly.)
And that very easily becomes “this is what women are FOR.” And even when it doesn’t quite, the need for contact doesn’t go away, and can be psychologically corrosive in the extreme.
And we start teaching this VERY young. Young enough that when today at playgroup I saw a father with his five year old SON acting like he would with a daughter or like a mother would with a son that age, it was actually remarkable (and nice to see) because it so often doesn’t happen: about three or four is usually the cut-off for fathers (or grandfathers) cuddling and kissing sons.
Moms are allowed to do it much longer, but again, sons WANTING it rather than Putting Up With It is viewed as a sign of weakness, babyish, unacceptable.
It’s fucked up, and it costs not only these men, but every woman they cross paths with. Our entire culture is set up to tell them that they HAVE to have access to a woman to be emotionally well, and that woman has to have sex with them, and then they go out and live it and everyone pays.
(Note, of course: this code and behaviour is mostly reinforced by OTHER MEN. Just like almost all the others.)