Anthony Esolen has a prescient essay in which he demonstrates that homosexuality undermines male friendships. He argues that the removal of the taboo and the openness of homosexual relations in the modern age cast a shadow over male friendships in general. He writes:
Imagine a world wherein the taboo has been broken and incest is loudly and defiantly celebrated. Your wife’s unmarried brother puts his hand on your daughter’s shoulder. That gesture, once innocent, must now mean something, or at least suggest something. If the uncle were wise and considerate, he would not make it in the first place. You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flits before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.
By now the reader must see the point. I might say that of all human actions there is nothing more powerfully public than what two consenting adults do with their bodies behind (we hope) closed doors. Open homosexuality, loudly and defiantly celebrated, changes the language for everyone. If a man throws his arm around another man’s waist, it is now a sign—whether he is on the political right or the left, whether he believes in biblical proscriptions of homosexuality or not.
If a man cradles the head of his weeping friend, the shadow of suspicion must cross your mind. If a teenage boy is found skinny-dipping with another boy—not five of them, but two—it is the first thing you will think, and you will think it despite the obvious fact that until swim trunks were invented this was exactly how two men or boys would go for a swim.
Because language is communal, the individual can choose to make a sign or not. He cannot determine what the sign is to mean, not to others, not to the one he signals, and not even to himself.
Esolen argues that the shadow of homosexual signaling reduces men to bonding through stereotypical boorishness:
The sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.
What is more, those who will suffer most from this movement are precisely those whom our society, stupidly considering them little more than pests or dolts, has ignored. I mean boys.
And then Esolen offers this most devastating observation:
The prominence of male homosexuality changes the language for teenage boys. It is absurd and cruel to say that the boy can ignore it. Even if he would, his classmates will not let him. All boys need to prove that they are not failures. They need to prove that they are on the way to becoming men—that they are not going to relapse into the need to be protected by, and therefore identified with, their mothers.
Societies used to provide them with clear and public ways to do this. The Plains Indians would insert hooks into the flesh of their thirteen-year-old braves and hang them in the sun by those hooks, for hours—a test of endurance and courage. At his bar-mitzvah the Jewish boy reads from the Holy Torah and announces, publicly, that on this day he has become a man.
In our carelessness we have taken such signs away from boys and left them to fend for themselves. Two choices remain: The boys must live without public recognition of their manhood and without their own certainty of it, or they must invent their own rituals and signs.
And here the sexual revolution comes to peddle its poison. The single incontrovertible sign that the boy can now seize on is that he has “done it” with a girl, and the earlier and more regularly and publicly he does it, the safer and surer he will feel. If sex is easy to find, and if (as mothers of good-looking teenage boys will testify) the girls themselves seek it out, then you must have a pressing and publicly recognized excuse for not having sex. To avoid scandal—think of it!—you must be protected by your being a linebacker on the football team, or by being too homely for any girl to be interested in you.
A boy who does not agree to a girl’s demand for sex will be tagged with homosexuality. She will slander him herself. Ask teenagers; they will tell you. But even a linebacker known as a rake will not dare to venture into the dangerous territory of too-close association with the wrong sort. He, too, will avoid the close male friendship. The popular and athletic boys will thus have their tickets punched, while the others live under suspicion, alienated from the other boys, from the girls, and from one another.
This must happen. In large part, it has already happened. But we must try to remember when it was not so, if we are going to gauge what we have lost.
Indeed we have lost much. Esolen wrote this about twelve years ago, and we have lost so much more in that interval. Sexual connotations seem to infuse even the most ordinary spaces—spaces where such connotations did not used to exist. Everything is sexualized, and thereby scandalized. It has been a great loss indeed.
Beware of casting off taboos. You will lose more than the taboo.
Esolen’s piece is a long read but worth your time. Read the rest here.