Why you should care
Because why is it acceptable for straight women to kiss other women, but not for straight men to kiss other men?
Jordan Fletcher had never thought about kissing a guy before. But there he was at just another high school kegger in San Diego, California, standing face-to-face with an equally intoxicated childhood buddy. Other partygoers egging him to pucker up. “Eh, fuck it,” he concluded, sealing the deal. “I know who I am sexually, so I didn’t care what others thought of me,” he says.
It turns out that the 23-year old Fletcher isn’t the only one expressing his bromance with some old-fashioned lip-locking. In the United Kingdom, a 2012 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that
89 percent of straight male college students had kissed a bro on the lips.
And 37 percent of them made out. Surprised? Professor Eric Anderson, the study’s lead author, certainly was. For one, no one had ever thought to poll whether straight men kissed men because, well, “that’d be gay,” Anderson, a sociologist at the University of Winchester, notes. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Kissing is just another sign of camaraderie to many young Brits, like a hearty ass-slap in American football, he says. “Today’s young men are freer to express love, fear and weakness to each other.”
While Anderson found that straight-men-kissing-men is widespread in the U.K., across the pond, bros are keeping their distance. In new, unpublished research, Anderson surveyed over 400 college students from across the U.S. and found that just under 10 percent had kissed a guy on the mouth — and 40 percent had pecked a cheek. That’s a whopping gap between the two seemingly similar cultures. But still, that would mean 800,000 college-aged heterosexual American men have kissed another man on the lips. “It was a big shocker; I expected nobody to be doing it,” says Anderson.
What’s the deal with the gap anyway? For one, a recent history of intense homophobia, particularly during the late-1980s AIDS crisis in the American gay community. And the fact that Americans have to wait longer to drink booze, which matters for obvious reasons, Anderson says. Of course, the study isn’t a completely accurate representation of the whole country — despite Anderson choosing participants from diverse backgrounds — but it’s a crucial, and unexamined, marker of cultural change in the States.
And guess who’s helping lead the social revolution among straight men? Jocks — whose aggression and physical prominence make them seen as more heterosexual among their peers. Once a superstar athlete like Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney smooches a teammate, it’s bound to be imitated by his fans. Americans are still hesitant: You don’t see Dallas Cowboy’s QB Tony Romo smack lips with tight end Jason Witten after scoring a touchdown. Maybe those damn helmets just won’t allow it, but in eight years as a football and baseball coach for the University of Tennessee, Brian Gearity “never saw it once.”
Anderson expects things to change in a hurry. In nine years, he suspects, the majority of straight American men will happily be smooching their friends. Maybe, but it’s more likely that the practice will split along cultural lines, meaning “in conservative parts of the country, kissing another guy is just too foreign,” to catch on, says Gearity. Now, if LeBron James happened to kiss Kevin Love …
Photography by Shutterstock.