“I Don’t Want to Make Them Uncomfortable”: A Micro-Scale Examination of Emotional and Physical Boundaries Within Male Friendship
In recent years, masculinity scholars have theoretically linked heightened levels of emotional and physical intimacy within friendships among young straight men to a perceived decline in cultural homophobia. However, other researchers have questioned the degree to which an increase in transgressions of physical boundaries that were once more strictly coded as homosexual–such as cuddling, holding hands, and kissing–constitutes a tangible decline in homophobia. In response to some of these theoretical and empirical concerns, we elected to investigate the impact of these “changing” dynamics among straight men on the lived experiences of gay men. Using a qualitative approach, we conducted, transcribed, and analyzed semi-structured interviews with five gay male and five straight male undergraduate students. The interviews focused on participants’ friendships with other men and how their friendships with straight men and gay men differed. Upon completing our analyses of the interviews, we found that most of the gay men in our study sensed a prevailing degree of apprehension about their sexuality from their straight male friends, a barrier that the straight men we interviewed did not claim to detect.