Trevin Wax can’t show platonic affection because gay people ruined it

Steven here…

The newest argument against homosexuality has arrived. It turns out it prevents straight dudes from being friends. Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition explains:

“But there is no such thing as absolute freedom when it comes to sexuality. The moment we celebrate or endorse certain behaviors, we curtail freedom in other areas. This is the nature of freedom.”

Wax then lists a few examples of platonic affection between straight men which have fallen out of vogue, such as lovingly written letters, holding hands and sharing a bed.

Wax attributes this lack of affection between men as the result of gay people being accepted into society. Because if there are gays, you don’t want to risk being mistaken for one of those people. He then goes on to talk about how a hypothetical pro-incest movement would damage his ability to be affectionate with his daughter. His thesis is that this is about a larger over-sexualization of society and I think he’s really stretching to get to this point. The problem is that even if there were a politically significant pro-incest movement, that wouldn’t tell us anything about gay rights. Both movements would have to be judged on the merits of their arguments, and not on the fictional relationship between the two that opponents have constructed. It’s also rather insulting to imply that a relationship between two consenting adults is in any way similar to someone abusing kids. This post isn’t really about this problem in that article, but there was no way I could let that off the hook.

Where I do agree with Wax is that I think it does suck that hetero men feel they can’t be affectionate with one another. And a good chunk of the reason for that is people fear being seen as gay.

That’s where we stop agreeing, because society moving toward acceptance of gay people won’t hinder hetero same-sex affection. It will bolster it. The less of a big deal being gay becomes, the less people will care if people mistake them for gay.

I’m bisexual. And when I was dealing with feeling attracted to men in high school, the biggest thing keeping me tight-lipped and feeling bad about it was that I knew how horrible my life would be if people knew. It wasn’t a hypothetical, I saw my openly gay and suspectedly gay classmates harassed by their peers. I had close non-sexual friends, but I was worried about the social repercussions of being affectionate toward them. If I hadn’t been, I would have hugged them as frequently as I hugged my female friends.

After I grew up and became something approximating an adult, I grew less timid about affection. Both sexual and non. I’m a big hugger, and if it didn’t weird people out, I’d probably be down for lots of hand holding and other cuddly things with my platonic friends. I’ve even gone to Lovetribe events such as cuddle parties. While these can cause you to overdose on hippies, it also is a great way to explore that kind of affection. For me a big part of this growth was getting over how homophobes would feel. And it was liberating to do so! I see nothing wrong with any of Wax’s examples of hetero manlove, and that’s all because I just stopped caring if I alienated hateful people.

I am very lucky that my immediate family is extremely supportive and awesome. I’ve never had to worry about being disowned by my mom. And to my sister, the worst thing I’ve done is move away from my hometown. She might not ever forgive me for that, but she doesn’t get bothered by the thought of me having a caring relationship with a man.

Things are still pretty awful for gay people, especially gay teens. But it is improving. And as things get better for gay people, they’ll improve for heterosexual people like Mr. Wax too. They’ll get better even faster though if Christians like him start advocating for equality and chastise their fellow churchgoers when they treat people poorly based on who they love–platonically and otherwise.

I write a lot of jokes. Some of them are in this book.
I also host the podcast of the Skepchick events team, Some Assembly Required, and cohost the WWJTD Podcast.
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  • Jay

    I bet Wax is one of those people who claim that men and women can’t share platonic love either. It would fit right into the sexism his kind of people espouse.

    • Anthony

      Your understanding is extremely bad. Like a false prophet, you are putting thisgs in there that were clearly not said.

  • Nate Frein

    The problem isn’t the “oversexualization” of society so much as it is the overfixation on the sexual habits of strangers.

    And the increasing acceptance of homosexuality has nothing to do with that can of worms.

  • iknklast

    I agree that men feel they can’t show that kind of affection, but I don’t think that was because of the gay movement, I think it’s because of the macho movement. Everyone has to be Clint Eastwood (talked to any chairs lately?) or Chuck Norris; no one wants to be seen as Woody Allen or PeeWee Herman. I was listening to students in my class insulting each other, and they insult their friends by calling them girls more often than by calling them gay. Because the only way to be a man is to be macho, carry big guns, drive pickups, and eat meat. Oh, and never, ever, ever be see showing affection for another man (and, in some cases, for a woman – in manycircles, your relationship with a woman should be that of a brute claiming his property, and not a tender lover holding hands).

    It isn’t the fault of the gays; it’s the fault of the macho.

    • http://www.beerlyhillslexus.com Anthony

      There have always been wars, fights and other ways of being what you are calling macho, so if there was ever a time when men showed affection to one another, being macho has nothing to do with it’s demise. He has a very valid point that I have been making on my own for years. The popularization of homosexuality has at the very least made a contribution to the demise of male to male hetero affection beacause (just like all early age sexual exsposer) it has taken away what was once innocent between boys, and has introduced a perverse distortion of it.
      Oh, by the way…you can add incest, and public masturbation to the list of reasons why a real man does not wish to identify with the likes of Woody Allen or Peewee Herman!

  • Baal

    I visited India a few years back and they pretend that gays don’t exist (3rd sex not withstanding, that group has to dress a certain way). There (and among some Pakistanis I knew in college) M2M PDA were normal and showed allegiance. Allies could be friends or not (usually were) but you could expect allies to defend allies to any degree including lying and implied threat. The PDAs include standing within personal space, hand holding and touching generally (hand on the shoulder and such).

    And thank you Steven for being openly Bi. I usually consider myself ‘very flexible.’

  • Elizabeth

    Gay people didn’t ruin platonic relationships. FEAR of gay people did.

    In the past, people have frequently mistaken me for being a lesbian (when I didn’t have many male friends) or, later, incorrectly assume I was dating a male friend who I used to spend a lot of time with. I suppose by Wax’s logic, because my relationships may be misunderstood, I shouldn’t express closeness to any friends at all!

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com Aoife

    This reminded me of this article that came out a few years ago on the emerging acceptability of platonic affection among straight men in UK unis. Here’s the PDF of the full article- it’s one of the loveliest studies you’ll read. It’s called “I kiss them because I love them”: the emergence of heterosexual men kissing in British institutes of education.
    Turns out that with less homophobia, even straight men feel happier hugging and kissing each other and being open about loving platonic relationships.

    • Ibis3

      Thanks for this link. Loved reading about young straight men unabashedly showing each other affection. Leaves one optimistic about the future.

  • UsingReason

    “Things are still pretty awful for gay people, especially gay teens.”

    I agree they are still bad but improving. When my daughter was in High School (just a couple years ago, I’m not old damit) she was very active in the local gay-straight alliance. She was making one of her patented 7 layer cakes with all the colors of the flag and my parents happened to be visiting. My mother noticed all the work and the layers and the colors and asked daughter what it was for. As soon as she mentioned the gay-straight alliance you could see grandma just sort of freeze up; but it was good, she loves her grandchild and if she is involved in a group it can’t be bad right? At the very least it made her think a bit. In her four years of high school the membership and the acceptance of kids in the gay straight alliance grew hugely, it was encouraging.

    • iknklast

      Your comment indicates the sort of gradual improvement. Your daughter’s grandmother froze up, but it sounds like that is all. The relationship still exists. My grandmother would have kicked me out the door, down the street, and out of town for daring to suggest I was involved in such a thing. Your mother may be one-two generations younger than my grandmother; the changes have been happening for a long time, but they’ve been slow. I think we’re hitting a period where we may have critical mass on tolerance to drive it still further.

      After all, my grandmother wouldn’t have thrown stones at them (at least, not herself ;-) )

  • smrnda

    Wax’s comment is just loaded with homophobia; at all costs, he must make sure that there is never, ever a time when anyone might possibly suspect he might be anything but straight. I’m thinking he also won’t wear pastel colors, pink or purple, makes sure to avoid activities like gardening and places like art museums and the theater, and has to watch monster truck competitions while swilling beer, and it’s all the fault of homosexuals that he has to be this caricature of heterosex masculinity.

  • Otrame

    Don’t be silly, Elizabeth. Wax doesn’t care about women showing PDAs with other woman. Wax doesn’t care about how women are perceived. I mean who cares, yeah? That doesn’t matter. It’s the perception of men that matters.

    Besides, two chicks kissing is hawt.

    /sarcasm

  • Loqi

    That’s odd. I guess I can’t have been showing platonic affection to my women friends, then. I didn’t even realize that I’ve been trying to get into their pants all this time. With the amount of hugging I do, I’m apparently a pretty lecherous guy and a terrible friend :(

  • eric

    IIRC, a few years ago two hispanic men were attacked and beaten because they were holding hands.
    If bigots want to be able to hold hands in public, the obvious first step is to stop beating men who do it.

  • Ichigo69

    hmm…. Silly me… I thought the Bible said that you would know that they were Christians by their LOVE. Welp, there goes that.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com Matt E

    I love religious logic! “I’m a fearful bigot and now I can’t do certain things because fearful bigots like me will think that I am one of the people we are bigoted against and afraid of! It is all their fault!”

  • RuQu

    “It’s also rather insulting to imply that a relationship between two consenting adults is in any way similar to someone abusing kids. This post isn’t really about this problem in that article, but there was no way I could let that off the hook.”

    Incest does not, necessarily, require pedophilia.

    What of two siblings, who decide to engage in incest after age 18?

    What about 1st cousins, which some consider incest?

    It is certainly possible to engage in incest after everyone is of age to make that decision willingly and consensually, and after any power imbalances are gone (ie a daughter choosing to have sex with her father after moving out and being financially independent vs while relying on him for food and shelter).

    That doesn’t make it less weird or disturbing. Incest is considered “the great taboo” and is nearly universal for obvious biological reasons.

    It just seems that, in attacking the weakness of his argument and decrying falsely equating homosexuality and other sexual behaviors (incest, molestation), you shouldn’t make the exact same error.

    • Azkyroth

      Point the first: Weren’t you the one who was arguing a couple days ago that the popular view of STDs as shameful is a useful tool to discourage people from getting them?
      Point the second: While this is true, it is at best marginally relevant to the discussion as people are likely to pounce on it and tie themselves in knots trying to reconcile it with their emotional revulsion. Try not to do that.

      • RuQu

        1) Yes, although my larger point was that social stigmas can be useful and are not inherently evil. Is this relevant, or do you simply want to make sure I know you were the same person who preferred being an asshole and passive-aggressive insults that I was talking with before?

        2) It is not relevant that he criticizes comparing one act to an unrelated and heavily stigmatized act (homosexuality and incest) and then immediately does the exact same thing (incest and pedophilia / child molestation)? That seems pretty relevant.

        As for the rest of your comment, I actually have no idea what you are trying to say. What are people pouncing on? What are they revolted by? Who is trying to do what? If you were attempting to communicate, it was not successful. If your goal was simply to remind me that you disagreed with me in another thread, I am well aware.

        • Azkyroth

          1. You did not argue that social stigmas could be useful and were not inherently evil, you argued that they were useful and acceptable in that particular case in the face of strong arguments that they were actively harmful and counterproductive in that case from people who’ve actually been there. If you meant to discuss something different, you should have done so. And yes, I find your comments patronizing and your arrogance-of-naivete grating in a fairly personal way (partly because it reminds me of habits I outgrew). I make no apologies for this.

          2. We are not discussing incest aside from that one side reference. However, people have a very strong emotional reaction to the topic and fixating on it for pedantry’s sake risks derailing the discussion with the elaborate rationalizations people will come up with to “justify” that reaction.

          • RuQu

            To quote myself from the other thread: “Stigmas work. They can also cause harm. I’m not saying that they are all good, but they are a natural part of society and there is nothing inherently evil about them.” So you know, kudos on the reading comprehension.

            The only argument that approached being “strong” was that a stigma might cause people to avoid getting tested. My response to this was, to quote myself again, “I do see your point about how stigmas can cause some people to avoid getting tested, and that can cause harm. I don’t think that offsets that eliminating the stigma would decrease use of protective measures to avoid getting them in the first place. This is not a black/white issue. There is social harm both ways. ”

            So not only did I acknowledge that there were valid arguments on the other side, I also highlighted that complex issues are not simple. Yet I am the naive one? My comments that society can reasonably condemn some behaviors is patronizing, but you saying I sound like a 17 year old who reads to many self help books is not? You are not only a hypocrite, you are an asshole who projects your own faults onto others to justify your behavior.

            To switch back to your weak argument against commenting on the weakness of this incest argument, are you really saying we should make weak arguments and hypocritically engage in the exact same behaviors we are criticizing because someone might respond irrationally? Sorry, but that is, plainly, idiotic.

          • Azkyroth

            To quote myself from the other thread: “Stigmas work. They can also cause harm. I’m not saying that they are all good, but they are a natural part of society and there is nothing inherently evil about them.” So you know, kudos on the reading comprehension.

            Let me rephrase slightly: the discussion that was being had in that thread was not whether stigmas are a bad thing in a general sense, it was the effects of this specific stigma on people’s lives. By presenting your statements as a rebuttal rather than as a topic derailment, you implicitly claimed to be arguing that point, and then failed to do anything of the sort. This is a point I will return to in a moment, because I’m noticing a pattern here.

            The only argument that approached being “strong” was that a stigma might cause people to avoid getting tested. My response to this was, to quote myself again, “I do see your point about how stigmas can cause some people to avoid getting tested, and that can cause harm. I don’t think that offsets that eliminating the stigma would decrease use of protective measures to avoid getting them in the first place. This is not a black/white issue. There is social harm both ways. ”

            I find your willingness to discount the effect of stigma on the psychological well-being of individuals affected disturbing. Additionally, humans do not work that way, or else the Bible Belt’s teen pregnancy rate would be negligible.

            So not only did I acknowledge that there were valid arguments on the other side, I also highlighted that complex issues are not simple. Yet I am the naive one?

            “Naive” is imprecise. “Blinkered” would be better. Take, for instance, your apparently unshakable conviction that what YOU want to talk about is what’s actually important and what the conversation should focus on.

            My comments that society can reasonably condemn some behaviors is patronizing, but you saying I sound like a 17 year old who reads to many self help books is not?

            Actually, the “patronizing” is a combination of your pedantic tone and your comments on “not having secrets” and “protecting yourself” and so in the thread about JT’s friend who betrayed him – and your endless condesplaining about how OF COURSE you’re not blaming the victim by doing so. Actually, it the condesplaining in general, really…

            You are not only a hypocrite, you are an asshole who projects your own faults onto others to justify your behavior.

            I assume this is a twisting of my observation that I recognize some of my past mistakes in your present behavior. Thank you for so eloquently refuting both the accusation of being patronizing and your naive assertion that “not having secrets” is feasible – self-disclosure invites certain kinds of people to use your admissions against you.

            To switch back to your weak argument against commenting on the weakness of this incest argument, are you really saying we should make weak arguments and hypocritically engage in the exact same behaviors we are criticizing because someone might respond irrationally? Sorry, but that is, plainly, idiotic.

            Of course it’s idiotic. That’s why it’s not my argument. Refer to the previous comments about derailing and what YOU want to talk about.

            Speaking of derailing, I’ll cease doing so.

        • baal

          RuQu – I find you somewhat more conservative than I am but welcome your comments. They flesh out a position I don’t hold and are generally within the normal range of expression.

          From the last year of reading Azkyroth’s comments, it’s clear that Azkyroth doesn’t hold non-violence or proportionality as virtues. As condescending as it is for me to say it publicly, I still read Azkyroth (do you have preferred pronouns?) but discount the emotion 2 steps. My mental empathy circuits otherwise can’t handle the current.

          • RuQu

            I’m actually extremely, extremely liberal. I’m from CA and I’m the farthest left leaning person in my social circle. I actually support most any liberal agenda item you could list. I just tend to prefer a more practical approach than some people. I also disapprove of some of the behaviors that crop up in certain circles, and sometimes disagreeing with the proponents of a cause can be misinterpreted as disagreeing with the cause itself. I guess some combination of the above can come across as conservative.

            As for the rest, yes, I am starting to see that some people are best ignored and I’ll try and heed that advice.

          • Azkyroth

            ….you suggest that I’m violent based on snarky internet comments, and then complain about MY not valuing proportionality?

          • baal

            Since I can’t reply to Azkyroth below, I’m replying to myself. It should be close.

            In short form:
            1. Saying you don’t value non-violence is not the same as calling you violent. The two words are exactly antonyms. ‘Non-violence’ is a way of intentional action that accepts you will be harmed as you oppose problems. You do not ‘fight back.’ Ghandi and MLK championed this approach. More recently, the Arab spring in Egypt and Occupy were intentionally non-violent. Other Arab spring revolts were violent and then usually called ‘civil war’. I see no sign that you accept personal harm and that you always choose the fight back approach.

            2. “snarky internet comments” are harmful. They harm the target – you intend the target to feel bad. You clearly want RuQu to feel bad for his position on social stigmas. That is a harm. Bill Donohue is the subject of a number of blog postings here and at other atheist blogs. Does Bill actually ever do anything? Not really. He’s called out for the content and meaning of his hateful words. Words do something. It’s not the same something as a physical matter or say changing someone’s status (to unemployed for example) but words do matter.
            Your snarky internet comments matter. JT’s blog doesn’t have the reach of Bill D. but it’s not a trivial number either.

            Lastly, yes you are not proportional. The emotive content of your posts is way up there. I know this from the empathy circuits in my brain. When I read, I’m running your ideas and expressions in my head and I have a little monitor in there that tells me what emotional state I’d need to be in to make your post. It’s not pretty in your case. I would even go so far as to suggest you’re in a mental rut and that sticking to ‘snark’ as a mode of expression is corrosive to your mind.
            I was in love with being sarcastic in my early twenties. It didn’t go over well and once I noticed that I tried to stop. It took several months for me to quit being sarcastic about everything to everyone all of the time. The folks near me noticed the change and were friendlier to me for it. So I’m asking you to consider the same. Your words matter and snarky is a bad place to dwell.

          • RuQu

            Well said.

  • John Horstman

    Where I do agree with Wax is that I think it does suck that hetero men feel they can’t be affectionate with one another. And a good chunk of the reason for that is people fear being seen as gay.

    That’s where we stop agreeing, because society moving toward acceptance of gay people won’t hinder hetero same-sex affection. It will bolster it. The less of a big deal being gay becomes, the less people will care if people mistake them for gay.

    Homophobic hetero men feel they can’t be affectionate with one another; all that affection, the loss of which Wax is lamenting, hasn’t actually been lost. I practice many of those demonstrations of affection with close male friends.

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  • Brad1990

    I’m straight; I’ve shared a bed with ale friends and I hug my male friends when I see them. This is because I am secure in myself and have a modicum of self-esteem, and I do not see gay people as icky and therefore don’t really care if people think I’m gay. I’ll correct them (I’m also 22 and single so it wouldn’t do to have any eligible young ladies think I’m not interested), but I’m not offended.
    So, for Wax and co., let’s simplify: secure in your own sexuality + not thinking gay people are icky = not caring if anyone thinks you’re gay [] able to hug your friends. Simples!

    • Brad1990

      *male


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