The word gay has gotten so ambiguous it's downright misleading. The real distinction that matters is not sexuality but masculine- vs feminine-identified men. Masculine men want to be with masculine men and don't want to be with feminine men. They generally want buddies who are tough guys like themselves, who share their interest in playing (not just watching) sports, fighting, swearing, competitiveness, making something with one's own hands, etc. There are a variety of evolutionary reasons for this but it basically comes down to testosterone, and wanting to be an effective warrior who can watch your brother's back. Masculine men may have the hots for women and may even be lucky enough to have a wife who's also their best friend, but a woman is no substitute for male buddies, she's a different thing. Men can enjoy the differences in women, but can fully identify with only somebody whose brain is wired like theirs; i.e., another man. Feminine guys either reject all this macho stuff and prefer the company of other feminine guys and women, or they long to be (or be with) a masculine guy but don't think they can. This topic has become taboo to discuss in our society, which has instead made artificial distinctions based on sexuality, feminist propaganda, etc. This has so many ramifications it's hard to condense into a short article, but I'll try.
The word "gay" has two different meanings -- or three if you count "happy and cheerful". One meaning is an interest in the same sex. The other is being weak, effeminate, a good decorator, into anal sex, into hierarchical (top + bottom) relationships, fetishy, exploitative, etc. These two meanings are falsely linked together not only by homophobic society but also by the gay community itself; e.g., the joke that guys who aren't into anal or camp or drag queens are "not gay enough". This leaves many men feeling excluded, angry, and embarrassed by the gay community which purports to speak in their name. The number of these dissenters is probably larger than the gay community itself. This comes from the fact that 90% of men have some level of attraction to both sexes -- which is why male bonding, warrior buddies, aggressive sports, taverns, and stag parties have existed throughout history. One feels differently about men vs women, but most guys enjoy the presence of both. Whether some of these feelings are "sexual" or not is perhaps splitting hairs: testosterone produces both sexual thoughts and fighting/competition thoughts, as well as a lot of other things.
Throughout history until the 1950s, men had wives but spent most of their social time with the guys. Men did their thing, women did their thing, and each was happier that way, especially when they were talking about each other. ("Can't live with 'em; can't live without 'em.") Sports were originally military training, and in ancient Greece and Rome men did a lot of that together. If some guys got a stiffy from it and got off with each other afterwards, so what? Almost everybody did at least once in their lives. As long as they produced offspring and took care of their wives and family, that was the important point.
The change in attitude that led to the current situation ultimately stems from Christianity: one cannot find any other cause for it. Judaism introduced the concept of nudity being shameful. Christianity over 2000 years developed a heterosexist doctrine. Sex was only for procreation, and any other use was sinful and disgusting. Put another way, our desires are evil and our bodies are shameful, especially in the ways that distinguish men from women. Curiously, Jesus said many things clearly and repeatedly, but sexuality was not one of them. The Bible mentions homosexuality four times in passing, passages that are hotly debated today. If it were really the #1 issue as Reverend Phelps and Mark Driscoll seem to believe, wouldn't there be a big paragraph in the middle of the gospels about it? And for non-Christians, who says sex's only legitimate purpose is procreation? Tell that to the childless couples, or the male elephants and monkeys that horse around. There also seems to be a difference between Protestants vs Catholic attitudes. Protestants opposed to homosexuality seem to have a "God says it, so I must follow" attitude, an externally-imposed intellectual inhibition. Catholics/Orthodox seem to have a more visceral revulsion that is passed down in families. What's odd is there's no part of the Bible or church doctrine that advocates this. "Hate the sin but love the sinner" is the teaching; the revulsion comes from Christian culture rather than official Christian doctrine.
Now let's look at the 1940s and 1950s. During WWII, soldiers and sailors formed close brotherhood bonds and did all sorts of messing around that would raise eyebrows today. Real men took their shirts off, showed off their strength and physical ability, swam naked to show they weren't ashamed to be a man, leaned against each other for comfort, and you know what happens in foxholes far away at the front, where death is a much bigger reality than meddlesome Washington regulations. Evan Bachner documents this in At Ease: Navy Men of World War II (2004) and Men of WW II: Fighting Men at Ease (2007). Bachner publishes his father's candid photos from the war, along with others he found through research. "These photos are not the combat photography we’re so accustomed to seeing; here are disarmingly winsome and playful pictures of sailors and soldiers at leisure, displaying an innocent affection for each other that is practically unthinkable today. This was a time when men had no reservations about showing their devotion to their comrades through physical contact, and the included photographs are truly snapshots of a lost era." [publisher's description] Nowadays we'd call it male bonding. The key was that everything was masculine. It didn't matter whether you were into guys or chicks, what mattered is that you were a capable soldier. So guys valued and respected the qualities that made capable soldiers. And when you're isolated with your unit for months you learn everything about each other, both favorable and not. WWII was an international emergency, and people had no time for secondary issues. I've heard the Establishment even encouraged women to raise their hemlines as part of the war effort, to encourage the boys in battle.
All this changed in the 1950s from a totally unexpected place: McCarthyism. Homosexuality was somehow equated with Communism, something un-American and subversive that would destroy the United States. Guys couldn't hug their buddies anymore or spend too much time together rather than chasing women, or they'd be suspected as "homosexuals". The wife became the presumed center of a man's interest, the one he'd naturally spend all his recreational time with and take all his vacations with. Male bonding became taboo, though football parties and fishing expeditions were tolerated to an extent.
In the 1960s another movement changed things again: feminism. Many feminists opposed male aggression entirely and wanted to bring men under their control and turn them into quasi-women. Thanks to the feminist who said, "Poor men! How must it feel to be obsolete now that there are no more bears to kill." As women reached positions of power in academia, business, government, and the media, many (though certainly not all) changed the culture more to their liking. No more male-only classes or social activities, that's discriminatory (according to feminists) or gay (according to homophobes). Title IX, the federal regulation that ostensibly promotes male-female equality, led to the disappearance of traditional men's sports like wrestling and boxing in colleges. In the early 1960s, every university and community college had a wrestling team. By 2007, virtually no universities do except in the Midwest. That's not because fans stopped watching the matches. It's because female sports directors cut it because they disapproved of it ("too much like fighting"), and other schools cut it to avoid lawsuits ("too many men participating in sports and not enough women"). Many girls enroll in soccer and tennis but few in wrestling, even with full scholarships. So cutting male-interest sports is an easy way to get your male-female percentages even. Football was sacred because it's the moneymaker, so minor sports got hit especially hard. In the Midwest wrestling is the moneymaker and many families have three generations of wrestlers so it survived there, but not on the coasts.
Up through the 1950s, men and boys settled disputes with their fists. If somebody bullied you, you didn't get the principal to expel him or send him to jail, you taught him a lesson yourself. Parents and older brothers encouraged kids to stand up for themselves, and gave weaker ones some coaching. The guys around enforced limits by stepping in if somebody got out of hand. Men are self-regulating: they know how destructive their power can be, and they'll keep it under control if left to do it their own way. Of course there are exceptions and excesses, but these do not negate the fact that most uninhibited men are rough but good-hearted. They may not like pussies but they really don't like bullies. And it's not uncommon for guys to have a fight and be friends the next day.
The disappearence of sex-segregated social, recreational, and educational spaces occurred with little notice or recognition of what was being lost. Obviously women should have all career opportunities open to them. That doesn't mean men shouldn't have their own social or educational spaces if they do better in that environment. Women now earn over 50% of college degrees so any past discrimination has long been corrected. But men think differently than women and respond to different educational approaches. It's now boys who are dropping out of school at alarming rates and not getting college degrees. In part that's because "one size fits all" education has tended to cater to female interests and values and left boys alienated. Christina Hoff Sommers details this in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men. She shows how England, which doesn't shy from focusing on boys' educational needs and interests and didn't suppress single-sex classes, has better educational outcomes.
The other problem with having everything co-ed all the time is the "heterosexual competition" effect. In an all-male environment men can be themselves, uninhibited, and actually freer to share their emotions and pursue nontraditional interests. With females in the room it becomes a competition: who's attracting her attention, I'd better look heterosexual, better not cry in front of my mates. This is what causes a lot of male misbehavior in co-ed classes and social venues. Again, the right thing to do is to let women do what they want, men do what they want, let them mix when they want to, but don't force mixing into every sphere of life.
Things started to pull back to normal in the 1990s. Male bonding became acceptable again, to the point that every Hollywood adventure movie has at least one bonding scene (even bad boy Vin Diesel). UFC and other mixed martial arts matches made aggression acceptable again. Wrestling was displaced from colleges but reappeared in martial arts schools. Guys who could not find what they wanted on broadcast TV or in schools found it on Spike TV and the Internet. Men who have been suppresed and told that their testosterone-fueled tendencies are evil and they should be soft and quiet like women, are going around the system and re-establishing themselves and their social communities. Educators are starting to ask how schools can meet boys' needs better. Society is starting to remember the value of the military and of martially-trained men.
The last piece to this puzzle is the gay community. After Stonewall in 1969 it emerged from underground. Here's where the two meanings of gay come into play. Gay activists told us that gay means homosexual, and they were a community for all people with same-sex attraction. But in fact the gay community embraces feminine men and is hostile to masculine men. temporary New movement
Sluggo is Mike Orr, a helluva friendly guy in Seattle. Email me if you have feedback.