Brokeback Mountain may not have been a documentary, but it may have more truth in it than you previously believed.
Last year, NYU Press published a book called Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men by Jane Ward, a gender and sexuality professor at the University of California, Riverside. In her book, she explores various lifestyles and sexuality influences that seem to abound where two men — straight men — have sex.
This act — “straight homosexual sex” or the newly coined term “bud-sex” — is far more common than we may have thought, reaching many areas that seem unlikely, like suburban neighborhoods and even biker gangs alongside the groups that we might anticipate would have this kind of sex: fraternities and yes, even the military.
In the case of the military or even fraternities, it seems far more likely that men would have these encounters. After all, these groups allow for men to congregate with one another, often in places where they may not have access to a female spouse or partner.
However, in other instances, like suburban neighborhoods or biker gangs, this isn’t true. Men simply seek out these meetups, despite identifying as wholly straight.
According to Jane Ward, many of these men do not identify as gay or bisexual, and apart from their occasional homosexual encounters, have wives and families and live well within the “masculine norm.”
According to Tony Silva, a sociology and doctoral student, there is a relatively neglected group that wasn’t involved in these studies, and it’s far more Brokeback than you’d realize.
Silva, who wrote a paper in Gender & Society, believes that white straight men in rural areas make up a large portion of these instances of bud-sex. He recruited 19 men from “men for men casual encounters” on Craigslist boards and interviewed them about their sexual habits, lives, and their sense of identity. Each of these men were from rural areas in Missouri, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, or Idaho, which are all well known for their “social conservatism and predominantly white populations.”
Many of these men were older — in fact, 14 of the 19 were in their 50s or higher. These men, unsurprisingly, identified exclusively as straight or “mostly” straight, with only a few men admitting to being bisexual.
But the most interesting part of all? Many of the men involved in the documented bud-sex in Jane Ward’s study actually believed that their encounters strengthened their heterosexual identities. This was something that Silva also noted in his research, surprisingly enough.
What made these homosexual encounters strengthen their rural masculinity? It had a lot to do with who they picked as a partner, apparently.
“The is a key element of bud-sex,” says Silva. “Partnering with other men similarly privileged on several intersecting axes — gender, race, and sexual identity — allowed the participants to normalize and authenticate their sexual experiences as normatively masculine.”
So if you’re a straight white male living in the country, and you have sex with another straight white male also living in the country, it doesn’t challenge your idea of masculinity. It cements it as being more masculine since other men in your particular style of life are also participating in it. It encourages them to identify as straight, even while having gay sex.
While this phenomenon is a gold mine for sociologists who want to study different ways that humans compartmentalize sexuality, it could also explain why some men are challenged or even threatened by men who identify as gay. In these encounters, they are just straight men having sex with one another, not gay men.
The idea of "being gay" threatens their masculinity because they've given into these urges. They want to believe that they are straight, despite their homosexual desires and actions. So while these men participate in bud-sex, they don’t feel challenged at all by their own homosexual urges or desires.
It’s a wonder they don’t all shout “No homo!” after being with a man, so they can just go on pretending their actions are simply eradicated by their own beliefs about sexual identity.