What are the psychological/socio-cultural roots of homophobia?

I know, it would be easy just to say “Religion [/thread]”; but I suspect that homophobia predated religion, and that what Leviticus et al helped to do was legitimise, codify, and (perhaps) exaggerate pre-existing sociocultural disapproval of homosexuality and homosexual acts.

Fear and loathing of homosexuality is a pretty common thing across many different cultures and historical periods - while it’s not everywhere, it’s never far away. So…why? One would think that, for men at least, the stance would be “Oh - you’re gay? Fantastic, more available fertile young ladies for me then!”. From an evolutionary perspective, heterosexual males should be over the moon about homosexual males - it’s less competition (and I suppose the same goes for females).

A few possibilities:

  1. Being gay means not breeding, which is bad for the tribe. While on an individual basis it might mean ‘less competition’, in the bigger picture it means ‘fewer people in our group in the long term’ - so homosexuality is/was ostracised as a way of keeping the population going. I’m not sure about that one.

  2. Because as far as the straight majority go, doing gay stuff is icky - homophobia is essentially a sociopolitical manifestation of people being grossed-out.

  3. Because it unsettles our notions of gender identity. If a big part of ‘being a man’ means ‘wanting sex with women’, then a man who doesn’t shakes up the whole foundation of what ‘being a man’ is all about. He is a fly in the ointment, a glitch in the matrix, or whatever.

All of the above, none of the above, anything else?

I think it’s as simple as this: gays are different. There’s a pretty large section of the human species for whom that alone (someone being different) is enough to “justify” anything, including murder.

I think it may be because it reverses the heterosexual male self-image. Straight men stereotypically regard themselves as the aggressor in a relationship and women as the passive partner. A gay man can reverse this role by acting as the aggressor; this in turns makes the straight man the passive partner. So straight men fear gay men because gay men regard them the way they regard women.

This explains why straight men aren’t bothered by lesbians the way they are bothered by gay men. Lesbians don’t threaten their self-image.

nm; Post was probably off-topic

Because I think it’s more often. “Oh - you’re gay? That must mean you want to have sex with me.”

I am not aware that this is the case at all. “Feared and loathed” is pretty strong, quite different from, say, “assigned secondary status,” or even “mocked.”

I don’t really buy this. After all, you can always say no. Back when I was young and pretty I was propositioned once or twice by gay men. I mumbled some excuse and left. It was a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing, but not frightening. Are you suggesting straight men livein fear of being raped by gays? That seems very implausible (outside of a context like prison), especially as the stereotype of a gay man (especially amongst “homophobes”) is generally of someone who is weaker and less aggressive (i.e., more effeminate) than the average straight man. Also, my impression is that (again, outside of the special context of prisons and the like), gay on straight male rape is vanishingly rare. I am a coward and a poor fighter, but I certainly don’t live in fear of it.

My vote is that it something like this. Certainly it ties in with broader anthropological accounts of what makes certain things taboo or “unclean”.

The one about it being icky simply begs the question (in both senses of that expression). The real question why should gay sex seem icky? (Note that gay sex does not necessarily mean anal sex. Indeed, in my imagination at least, the idea of me mouth-kissing a man is more icky than the thought of most of the possible actual sex acts that might arise.)

If we’re going to analyze this rationally, we must account for the fact that homophobia is not a universal or necessary trait of human societies. In fact, male domination of women (asan example of a theoretically unrelated phenomenon) seems to be far more common as a social characteristic.

This. There are two sub-factors to this:

a. Instinctively, sex with an invalid target disgusts us – the same gender, immediate family, the elderly etc. Most straight men find the prospect of sex with a man not just neutral but disturbing.

b. IME people have a tough time separating disgust from morality; this is because morally reprehensible things seem to trigger similar feelings of disgust.

So when we see, or are even aware of, someone doing something disgusting, some people start to believe things like: they are doing it deliberately to disgust us, or the action must be coupled with immoral actions, or, indeed, the action itself is immoral.

And, to throw in something else: sex is something every society has had a big interest in. I think this is largely because birth control and safe sex are modern phenomena: for most of our history sex was dangerous and had huge repercussions. Generally societies advocate only the kinds of sex they consider to be absolutely necessary.

Yeah, true - it’s not just “fear and loathing”. Negative reactions can range all the way from seeing it as vaguely ‘inferior’ or weird all the way to full on rage and aggression. While the exact way that/degree to which homophobia manifests itself may vary, it still seems to me that it is so relatively widespread that there has to be some ‘root cause’ thing going on…

Prison rapists generally aren’t homosexual:

ETA: This is part of why MSM (men who have sex with men) and gay are separate categories.

Some guys think that the homos want to fuck them in the butt. This scare them.

That may have been the case thousands of years ago, but not today. If anything, gay people should be thanked for keeping the population in check.

Heterosexuals do some pretty gross things too.

Then it’s a learning opportunity. To gay men, “being a man” does not mean “wanting sex with women.” We all had to learn that too. And if anything, a man who loves another man may be MORE masculine than you, since there’s no woman involved. Is that what you’re afraid of?

I once fell into that category of thinking ‘gay sex is disgusting’, but once I realized that I am only interested in the type of sex I’m having and certain porn starlets are having, that notion has never occurred to me again.

Gay sex doesn’t lead to procreation but historically there was no reason to assume that being gay would necessarily mean you wouldn’t procreate. The Spartans had both their wives and their boys.

Huh? Panache45, I think you are misinterpreting the ethos of the OP…

I think this is one of the reasons that homosexuality was outlawed in so many societies. A constant flow of babies was needed, to provide soldiers, to go off and kill foreigners. The same is why abortion was so often outlawed. (“To abort little Willy is silly; that’s what war is for.”)

In a horrible way, the reasoning is even close to rational!

This doesn’t explain the visceral hatred/fear/contempt/obsessive fascination. That goes deeper into psychosexual (Freudian?) elements of the human mind. But I think that these social reasons are a fair part of why the antipathy for gays is so often enshrined in law.

I think all of you vastly over thinking it.

Humans have an incredible capacity to loathe an outgroup, and it doesn’t really matter what that outgroup is. Being different, in any way, has historically been all it takes to end up an outcast. There doesn’t need to be a complex explanation, people will take up whatever difference is handy at the time.

In Rwanda, the Hutus killed the Tutsis, even though Hutus and Tutsis spoke the same language, married among each other, practiced the same religion, and in every measurable aspect displayed no meaningful differences that would categorize them as different ethnic groups. In Japan, people of Korean descent who have been in Japan for generations face incredible racism. Throughout history, we’ve shown we will gladly fight and kill those of a different religion, skin color, language, social class, and any other difference we can come up with. Heck, it’s not unusual for people to have been killed for just being a little weird. So I don’t think we need to delve into evolutionary biology or whatever to find why different sexual practices have sometimes been the out group.

I was addressing your point #3, not you personally.

I do think this is a part of it. It seems that some men have a fairly narrow view of what it means to be a man. That to be a man means to be aggressive, competitive, play and watch sports, watch action movies, and to constantly want to have sex with women. And you can’t be a man if you watch girly movies, go to the ballet, or don’t constantly want to have sex with women. So if someone violates any of these expectations, it throws things off.

And tied to that, I think that gender roles has a big part of it. Many conservatives have ideas about gender roles that can be fairly strict. The man is head of household, the provider for financial and physical security, and the disciplinarian for the kids. The woman is the support for the man, the nurturing one, and in charge of the household chores, whether or not she works outside of the home. When dating, the man is the active one- asking the woman out on dates, wanting more physical activity that the woman only gives into reluctantly to please the man.

People who believe in these gender roles don’t think of themselves as sexist or restrictive, they just generally think that these are what people are designed for, and that everyone will be happier and things will be better if people just follow their proper roles. So to see two men or two women together throws everything off. How can children be properly raised and cared for if two men are parents together? How can there be order and security if there are two women together in a household? How can any marriage work properly if there’s two equal partners, not one head of household and one supporting member?

This isn’t the sole reason for homophobia, but I do think it’s a part of it.