Notes on Pride

Brojobs and Bromances: Jane Ward's Not Gay

June 23rd, 2021

"Homosexuality is often an invisible, but nonetheless vital ingredient-a constitutive element-of heterosexual masculinity. Taking sexual contact between straight white men as my point of departure, my aim is to offer a new way to think about heterosexual subjectivity-not as the opposite or absence of homosexuality, but as its own unique mode of engaging homosexual sex, a ode characterized by pretense, misidentification, and heteronormative investments. In particular, I am going to argue that when straight white men approach homosexual sex in the ‘right’ way-when they make a show of enduring it, imposing it, and repudiating it-doing so functions to bolster not only their heterosexuality, but also their masculinity and whiteness.” (Ward, 2015, p.5)
In this book I conceptualize straightness and queerness primarily as cultural domains. I recognize that people have real bodies and real sexual responses to other bodies, but I also contend that bodies do not respond only to the “raw facts” of other people’s genitals or other sexed body parts. Instead, our bodies desire other bodies and particular sex acts in their social context; we desire what those body parts represent. We desire particular bodies and particular sex acts and particular erotic scenes and cultural spheres in large part because they have significant cultural and erotically charged meanings (Ward, 2015, p.34)

From words like bromance, to the early 2000s metrosexual, to sex acts like “brojobs” the lines between heterosexuality and homosexuality have always already been more porous than we might imagine. In Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, Jane Ward moves through frat houses, the military, and even biker gangs like the Hells Angels to demonstrate that sex between men has always already been critical to the project of straight, white masculinity. By bringing whiteness into the picture, Ward reminds us of the ways that same-sex behavior/desire have always had space to flourish in cis-white male spaces. Ward reveals to us, not so much the “tolerance” or “acceptance” of gay sex or queer desire among straight, white, men. Rather she demonstrates that the particular confluence of whiteness, straightness, and cis-maleness allow straight white, men to remain categorically intact even in the throws of fucking one another. It’s just fun, it’s not serious, it’s just a bromance. The force of Ward’s argument is not that she uncovers closeted worlds. Rather, it is a lesson in the power of the phrase “boys will be boys,” which does so much undue, undeserved, and additional labor for straight, white, men than for anyone else.