"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

If you are interested in gender, sexuality, and popular culture, this is the blog for you.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

I love you dude - no homo.

Gentlemen, lets be honest, we've all had the experience: you're walking aside one of your guy friends, and all of a sudden your hand accidentally touches his - even amidst your important and mentally engaging conversation, probably about long boarding, the PBR stain on your button down, or the game last night, a signal shoots through your consciousness, immediately compelling you to interrupt conversation to reassure your friend that your brief moment of potential handholding had not the slightest homosexual basis. Or take this more simplified (and perhaps slightly less exaggerated) example: your best bud gives you that mighty bro hug and utters the phrase, "no homo."

Although this phrase was apparently coined sometime ago, I hadn't heard it used until relatively recently. Prior to moving to Colorado, it was common for me to hang around lots of my younger brother's friends, which is where I first heard this remark of masculine genius. They would say it when giving each other hugs good-bye, when playing grab-ass with each other, and they would even (aware of my sexuality) sometimes tell me 'no homo,' to which I obviously would reply somewhere along the lines of, 'no, yea. I'm pretty gay.'

For those of you unfamiliar with the term and its function, wikipedia does an exemplary job of providing a formal definition which reads: "The phrase no homo is a slang-term. It parenthetically asserts the (male) speaker of such is not homosexual and is usually used after an utterance that may have given that impression (1)." In short, if a man does or says something that could be mistaken as homosexual, he simply must blurt out the phrase to retain his masculinity. Below I've included the link to a semi-crude, yet informational video in order to help you fully understand the magical 'no homo,' and its use in all contexts.

So the question now arises, why do we feel need to constantly remind our same-sex companions of our sexual intent (or lack thereof)?

In his article, 'Holy Fratrimony: Male Bonding and the New Homosociality,' Don Romesburg explains that information presented during twentieth century has conditioned society to equate love and sex, and as a result, strongly emotional or passionate relationships between members of the same sex are perceived to encompass some sexual dimension. This leaves male/male relationships to develop in two ways, either by placing sexuality at the core or by disclaiming sexual feelings (2) and therefore evading the possibility of being labeled with the stigma of homosexuality. I would say it is apparent that most male/male relationships depicted in movies, television programs, and popular culture, center on the disavowal of homosexuality. This most likely because of the fact that our society so greatly emphasizes that men participate in masculinities, with which comes homophobia. And I'm not talking about the 'I'm terrified of gay people' definition of homophobia; I'm talking about Michael Kimmel's definition of homophobia in his article, 'Masculinity as Homophobia,' whereas homophobia is defined not as a fear of gay men, but rather, a fear of being emasculated, (3) - and being perceived as a homosexuality in this society does exactly that. Thus, 'no homo' is just another tool in order to help reinforce masculinity in a hetero-normative society.

Although I would like to conclude with one more possible answer to the question of why male same-sex companions feel the need to constantly remind each other of their heterosexuality. There is the possibility that in some cases a 'no homo' could perhaps just be a method by which we repress sexual feelings towards one another. I mean consider items listed in Jennifer Baumgardner's article 'What is Bisexuality,' such as the theory of innate bisexuality proposed by Freud, or more compelling, Kinsey's study which found 50 percent of men to have had some bisexual encounter (4). Think about it, maybe a reasonable amount of people have homosexual feelings for their good friends, although the consequences of admitting such could be utterly intolerable. In any case, in order to test this hypothesis, on my next encounter with someone who drops a 'no homo' at me, I think I'm going to kiss them on the mouth and see where it goes from there - I mean, if it goes sour I can always say 'no homo' right?

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_homo
(2) 'Holy Fratrimony: Male Bonding and the New Homosociality' by Don Romesburg
(3) 'Masculinity as Homophobia' by Michael S Kimmel
(4) 'What is Bisexuality' by Jennifer Baumsgardener
Photo Cred: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/171631-no-homo#.Tpu8jXO1m_E


  1. I like this post a lot! I prescribe rather strongly to Kimmel's idea of 'Masculinity as Homophobia." When I see two guys hugging, then proceeding to confidently assure each other that "no homo" is involved, the first thing I think is, "wow, they're so afraid of not being seen as 'masculine' that they have to constantly utter this cliche." The sad and unfortunate truth in our society is that to some, homosexuality equals emasculation, which strongly counters the heterosexual, uber-masculine norm (this is weird to me, as some of the most "masculine" guys I know are gay). Every person who uses "no homo" is either intentionally or unintentionally reinforcing these stereotypes. I think one would find that the people who uses phrases such as this one the most are those who are repressing homosexual or bisexual feelings, just as Messner acted violently toward the guy he had a crush on in high school - deny, deny, deny.

  2. This is a really interesting topic, and I think it highlights the theory that gay men are seen as more threatening to society than lesbians; or in other words, it is much riskier to feminize oneself. I thought it was interesting and very telling that you did not mention women in your blog, and I think it's because women do not practice this "no homo" culture. Women can publicly display close and intimate relationships with other women without having their sexuality questioned. They do not have to quickly interject "no homo" after hugging each other or revealing serious emotions. Personally I find this fascinating, especially since we live in a world that is so obsessed with pointing the finger at those who challenge the norm. When we see women behaving in homosocial ways, why don't we question their sexualities? They are just as likely to be homosexual as two men displaying homosocial behavior, yet we unfairly assume that they are straight.

    Ultimately, I believe this comes from gender inequality that exists in our society. If women were viewed as equals and received all the privileges that males experience, I think we would see a "no homo" culture develop between women as well. But while we continue to alienate and criticize those people who challenge their masculinity in feminizing ways, we continue to expand the gender binaries that promote discrimination.

  3. Thank you both for being so responsive,

    @ amyw - I thought it was particularly interesting when you said that 'some of the most masculine guys I know are gay' - because this is exactly the notion I hold about homosexuality - I think its actually hyper-masculine. I think the one of the reasons we feminize homosexuality is because popular media generally depicts gays displaying a more feminine gay role....
    And I'm glad you brought up Messner's article about repressing sexual feelings because that's exactly the point I was trying to drive home in the second paragraph; I should have included that as support for my argument, but I only thought about its great relevance to what I was saying after I submitted my blog :-/

    @ Zack - As I began writing and developing this blog, I began to realize more and more that it did not have much relevancy to women/women relationships (as far as I know, anyway) - and I think you make a great point as to why it doesn't have much relevancy to women - because they don't have this standard of masculinity to live up to, and thus don't have to worry about being considered against the norm. Also - lesbians sometimes appeal to heterosexual men as well, in some way making them easier accepted into the norm?

  4. Very, very interesting topic for a blog. You really set up your topic well; I could easily relate to your introduction and it automatically hooked me in (no homo). I also agree with your conclusion-that the phrase is a method of sexual repression. I noticed in your comment to amyw that you say that you view homosexuality as hypermasculine, as was the viewpoint in ancient Greece. Do you think that this viewpoint is cyclical in society? In other words, do you think that future societies will view homosexuality as hyper masculine or put homosexuality on a pedestal? Or do you believe that this golden era in gay history is just history?

  5. I like you blog! It is interesting to write about the no homo saying becuase ive heard it so much and i think ive even used. It doesnt mean anything why should saying no homo make you less gay or homosocial then your being? I loved the you tube video you put up! It definantly reinforced what you were talking about!

  6. I love this blog it seriously made me think about every male-to-male encounter I observe in my everyday life. The sentence from you blog that stuck out most to me is when you said, “our society so greatly emphasizes that men participate in masculinities, with which comes homophobia.” I would even go farther to state that our society has this overbearing obsession with homosexuals and how they “knew they were gay” or “when they came out of the closet.” It was like in class when we did that satirical survey to make us aware of the fact that in many ways, homosexual’s sexuality is so exploited in our society. Straight people never have to “come out of the closet” and say “hey mom and dad, I have an announcement, I’m straight!”, so why should gay people?
    I’m going to move on the youtube video you posted. What actually made me laugh were the comments under the video. The two top comments were “well I guess all homosexuals should start saying "no hetero….” And “I love my kids no pedo.” These two comments were a humorous way to state how ridiculous the “no homo” phrase is. People don’t go around hugging each other and saying “no hetero” so why in the heck do people feel the need to say “no homo?!” Also, I loved that you chose this video for your blog because just as you connected your blog to Kimmel’s article on masculinity as a homophobia, so did the man in the video. At one point he stated, “There’s one thing that scares straight guys to death and it’s that they might come off as gay.” This mimics Kimmel’s theory on homophobia exactly where he states (and you quote), “homophobia is defined not as a fear of gay men, but rather, a fear of being emasculated.” I agree with you that “no homo” is just another way to reinforce our hetero-normative society, and I think it’s demeaning and rude.
    Yet, (and argue back with me if you disagree, this is just what I think) I disagree with you when you state that a possible reason behind the “no homo” is because it is just another method by which we repress our sexual feelings towards one another. While, I think that sure some of these men saying “no homo” may have homo/bi sexual tendencies, I think that majority of the “no homo” talk is just our hetero-normative society reinforcing Kimmel’s claim that straight men are so scared of being seen as gay or less masculine.

  7. In my opinion, saying "no homo", because it was derived from rap, which is considered by many to be the "street language" and therefore bad ass beyond all previous possibility, simply means that you are not a homosexual and what you just said only sounds awkward, but really has no sexual implications. However, by using "no homo" as a defensive phrase to retain homosexuality, the idea of homosexuality, or homosociality for that matter, is set back by this two word phrase that anyone can use at any time to reassure themselves and others about their sexuality as being perceived as the norm, and therefore reinforcing the notion that homosexuality as being a perverted same-sex pedo rapist. Upon googling the phrase, I found that the use of the term can be seen as a parody of being gay and using that term so other people do not end up ridiculing you for it, and the expectation that nobody is going to try arguing with that seemingly impenetrable statement. It just goes to show that when a person uses it and believes they are cooler because of it, that kid is probably just being dumb.

    Possible test: go on an instant messenger with someone outside the class who has not read this blog. After every sentence, type in "no homo" before sending it, and monitor the response.

  8. Typo from last comment: However, by using "no homo" as a defensive phrase to retain HETEROSEXUALITY, the idea of homosexuality, or homosociality for that matter, is set back blah blah blah.

  9. @ Nathan - Thanks for the comment (no homo). I can't answer the question regarding whether or not homosexuality will be viewed as hyper-masculine in future societies, its such a loaded question that I could probably type possible outcomes for hours. However, I will say this: speaking about this homosexuality and masculinity in this society, I generally disagree with the notion of masculinity, how we understand it and how we are conditioned to engage in it. But then again imagine if we stopped emphasizing masculinities and femininities all together, and everyone exhibits some kind of fluid androgynous behaviors - short and simple, I do not know if I would be attracted to that. Its almost paradoxical - as much as I cannot stand masculinity, 'masculine traits' is what appeals to me most in men and homosexuality in general. So in relation to your question, I would hope societies would begin to regard homosexuality as hyper-masculine, but more generally just regard us homos in such a way that is less oppressive and absolutely tolerant.

    @ Natalie Casey - Thanks for arguing, and I agree with you on some level. The last paragraph of my blog involving sexual repression was simply included as another possibility answering why one would feel the need to continue reinforcing masculinity and hetero-normativity. And, considering Kinsey's data and Kimmel's article (where he describes turning homosexual feelings into behaviors which reinforce masculinity) I would certainly say you cannot rule it out.
    You said "I think that majority of the “no homo” talk is just our hetero-normative society reinforcing Kimmel’s claim that straight men are so scared of being seen as gay or less masculine." But where does this fear come from? Many things perhaps although we cannot disregard hidden homosexual feelings; I mean, imagine walking through life as a man in America knowing at heart you would never live up to the standard of masculinity as prescribed by society - being overly self-conscious about your masculinity it would make sense to feel the need to justify it at every opportunity...
    I'm not saying the world is gay, I'm just sayinn' maybe. Maybe more than you think rather. :)

  10. Great blog! I loved the two possibilities you give for why males feel this need to say they are not gay with Kimmel's 'Masculinity as Homophobia' and Baumgardner's "What is Bisexuality". Is it the homophobia men have of being less than what a man should be and therefore they feel the need to reassure to everyone that their actions are not gay, or is it repressing sexual feelings. Either way its once again our heteronormative society that needs men to express that they are not gay. WIth the 'no homo' thing it is almost as though these boys are testing each other, to see how far they can go with these 'homosexual' behaviors before it does become homosexual. Maybe Baumgardner's right, that we are more bisexual than we think and just are conditioned to suppress it as much as we can.

  11. Great writing style! I could really connect with the article because of how well you included common occurrences in every day life. It's interesting also to think about how women say, "No homo," as well. Holy Fratimony definitely concurs and backs up how you're connecting the phrase to the idea of bromances. People can definitely be loving friends without the insertion of romanticism into the relationship. I never really realized how, "No homo," is such a daily phrase that almost all of us use at one point and how it's used to rule out any possible connection with homosexuality, almost like it's a bad thing.

  12. I really liked your blog! I don't think I have heard the phrase "no homo" but I have heard similar things. I have younger brother who plays football and they are always slapping each others butts on the field and during practice. It must be a sports thing because once they are off the field and something like that happens they immediately need to defend their sexuality by saying that they are not gay. I see guys doing things like that all the time and then making sure that everyone know they are not gay. This was a good blog. It is very thought provoking.

  13. I am SO glad you wrote about this! All of my guy friends are constantly using the phrase "no homo"and it drives me crazy! It is clearly used just as an excuse to say something a guy wants to say or express which embodies the fact that we live in a hetero-normative society. I believe that boys use "no homo" the way that girls add "just kidding" at the end of a snarky comment. (for example a girl might say to another "you're such a bitch... just kidding" and think that because she added just kidding, its believed that she never meant it. All of your references to our readings fit perfectly with this topic. And I totally support your experiment with testing your hypothesis!