As a historian who has done most of his studies in the Southern United States, I have studied a great amount about race relations and the Civil Rights Movement. I think that the fight for GLBT equality has a few things it can learn from history of bigotry in America. Nearly a year ago, I wrote on this blog about my theories of the origins of homophobia. I still believe that the origins of homophobia boils down to at its base a need for a larger population. Yet, there is still more that can be added to the equation. Why do homophobes fear/hate us, when studies like the one I discussed yesterday state that homophobic behavior is associated with penis arousal to male on male sex? So if you look at that study about homophobic behavior, what does it have to do with racism? This is why I want to look at the origins of racism and bigotry.
In the South during Reconstruction and afterward, the greatest fear that white males had was that their women would be taken sexually or found sexually attractive by black men. They feared black male masculinity. A trait that slave owners had tried to breed into their slaves. Once the Transatlantic Slave Trade was discontinued, slave owners realized that they needed to breed their slaves in the same way they bred livestock in order to perpetuate production. The vast majority of slave holders, and by the laws of southern states, perceived slaves as property, just as they did livestock. (I’m getting to my point here, just bear with me.) How do you make sure that you have the best livestock? You breed the best of the species together. Many slave owners did the same thing with slaves, either using the women and breeding them with the slave owners themselves for stronger stock, or by forcing the strongest male slaves to breed with the strongest female slaves to get sturdier workers. How do you choose the best livestock to breed? When livestock is young, the size of the testicles are measured to see who is the most fertile, therefore it is not hard to deduce that slave holders would have also taken the most virile men (those with the largest private parts, those most fertile, and/or the strongest) to breed with women who had the widest hips and largest breasts. So in the end, slavery had produced strong, well-built, and handsome black men. (See the announcement for an 1855 slave auction in Kentucky to the left; pay attention to the descriptions of the slaves.)
The result of this is a terrifying prospect for the former southern slave holders. With already a belief in African-American inferiority taught to southerners, they feared that women might look to that African-American virility. Thus groups like the KKK and others were formed to “protect southern womanhood.” Not only were numerous atrocities carried out by these groups against recently freed slaves, but also they began a move toward African-American demasculation/emasculation to make them seem less virile. The same strategy was used by the North against former Confederates such as Jefferson Davis and was essentially a homophobic strategy. The need to take away masculinity has long been a political tool used since ancient times.
But what does all of this have to do with why the most homophobic men tend to be aroused more than non-homophobic heterosexual men by male on male sex? Homophobia and bigotry, in general, at its core is a fear of something that you most want to be or afraid to admit that we are. It is internalized hate. White men feared the masculinity and strength of African Americans (also in the North the same fear cause discrimination against blacks because of a fear that newly freed slaves could do jobs better than white men). Slave holders had feared that black men would take advantage of white women in the same way that slave owners had taken advantage of slave women. Slave holders also feared that white women might take advantage of black male virility just as white men had taken advantage of to black female sensuality. The same is true of homophobia. Homophobic men are afraid to admit their own attraction to other men. The penis can’t lie like their mouths can, and so when shown gay pornography blood rushed to their dicks while they tried with their internalized homophobia to block out that arousal with their minds.
Bigotry often derives from a fear of what we secretly want most. That fear breeds hatred which leads to internalized and externalized bigotry. This is by no means the only answer to this question, but it is a theory of mine based on other historical theories taken to a reasonable conclusion. I’m sure that I will get a lot of flack about this post, but know that it is only a theory and that I laid out some of the arguments presented by hate groups and those who have studied hate groups in order to explain my theory. I personally think that bigotry and hatred are plain stupid. We hate what we fear and don’t understand, whereas we should strive to learn more and get beyond the fear of the unknown and thus overcome hatred. Better education is one of the things that I see as a way to end hatred and create harmony and peace.