Why does homosexuality elicit a violent reaction from some people?

This is not a thread about whether homosexuality is a “sin” or “unnatural.” Rather, it is about the extreme reaction to it, well out of proportion with other things generally thought of as “sinful.”

It wasn’t so long ago that homosexuality was illegal throughout most of the West, and a few generations before that, it was punishable by death. Traditionally, homosexuality has been the only “unmentionable vice” or “the sin that cannot be named” – while murder, cannibalism, and genocide all can be mentioned. That implies, in some sense, that homosexuality was considered worse than those.

Even today, remnants of this attitude still exist in the West. For instance, courtrooms still occasionally accept the “gay panic” defence, thus reducing the sentences of male murderers whose male victims expressed sexual interest in them. The Triangle Foundation’s study of police records in the US found 29 murders believed or known to be at least partially motivated by antigay hate in 1999.

The usual explanation is that traditional Christianity and/or the Bible are to blame, yet these fall far short as explanations. Usury has also been seen as a Christian sin, and yet there are no banker-bashings. Adultery is prohibited by the Ten Commandments, and punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10), and yet there are no teenagers and 20-somethings, stalking outside singles bars, hunting down unfaithful, married men and women. And yet, such gays and lesbians have to worry about being gaybashed.

One occasionally hears about rapists being killed by their victims, or murderers being killed by the family of their victims, but as far as I know, no complete stranger goes out to hunt down a murderer or a rapist. However, antigay murders are often commited by strangers.

So here’s the debate: Why homosexuality, specifically? What is it about a set of perfectly harmless acts between consenting adults that inspires so much hatred?

I think that homosexual desire is itself disturbing to some straight men, and the thought by that a homosexual might find them attractive scares them. There’s also a popular belief, I think, that homosexuality is all about anal sex…that’s that’s what gay men do to each other. So, the thought process becomes, “Some gay guy will see me, and be attracted to me, because hey, I’m an attractive guy, and he’ll want to stick his dick in my ass. But I don’t want that. He might even do it anyway…he might want to rape me.”

Note: this is just speculation.

Maybe, just maybe, some of those “gay haters” are actually gay themselves. Closet homosexuals, who are so unable to deal with their own homosexuality that they turn against anyone who they think to be gay. Why? Perhaps because other gay people might recognize the “closeted gay hater” as being gay, perhaps simply though hate of self. I doubt there is any one reason.

Lawrence of Arabia was captured and raped by Turks. He escaped, and shortly thereafter led an attack on those same Turks and slaughtered them to the last.

Could be for the same reason we have militant ‘pro-lifers’. I would think that aversion to both homosexuality and abortion would be successful traits in a species requiring hetero sex and long gestation for survival. Just as homosexuality is arguably a biological anomoly, so can be the appearance of a violent disgust for it.

Captain Amazing, it’s an interesting point, but it raises a series of new questions. Why does anal sex specifically, then, inspire so much fear, as opposed to any other kind of homosexual activity? And why don’t we hear about lesbians hunting down and killing straight men from a fear of rape? Or of straight women killing lesbians from a fear of forced sexual contact?

ffabris, I considered that, but I hit a chicken-and-the-egg problem.
[ol][li]Being closeted and hating themselves both imply that being gay is something you need to hide. [/li][li]You would need to hide it because you will be hated, and possibly the victim of violence. [/li][li]So if that closeted gay man is reacting to hatred and violence, where does that hatred and violence come from? Presumably from other closeted gay men. [/li][li]Back to step one, and repeat[/ol][/li]So the question becomes, where did that vicious circle start?

Interestingly, I am currently reading his book, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The introduction, by Angus Calder, includes the following:

Celibacy is also an “unnatural” and anti-reproductive (hence arguably biologically counter-survival trait), yet you don’t seem to have “monk-bashers” hanging around monasteries. In fact, celibacy seems to be widely admired.

I did say some. :slight_smile: I don’t for a moment believe that all gay haters are themselves gay - just a fraction of them. Nor will I even try to guess what proportion they may be.

So you’re arguing that homophobia would be genetic?

I can understand heterosexuality as genetic – it encourages the reproduction of the species. But an instinct to hurt or kill homosexuals makes no sense.

If homosexuality is inborn – a “biological anomaly” as you put it – then it’s not likely to spread. Killing those who do not pursue reproduction doesn’t encourage reproduction. It simply depopulates the tribe or clan. If the goal is to increase the size of the tribe, this seems to accomplish the opposite.

Even worse from a Darwinian perspective, it kills off members of the tribe who are not burdened with children and who are not likely to compete by passing on their genes.

Good point. Can’t always explain those wacky mutations, but if we only got as far as ‘sticking it in a warm hole feels good’, we might not be inclined to stick it somewhere constructive. For those who actually have sex, it’s probably a good thing for the species that the tendency is toward heterosexual sex, while the idea of going ‘homo’ just for the heck of it is repulsive to many. It’s unfortunate that this takes a violent turn with some people, but from an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense to me.

I know :slight_smile:

The reason I started this thread is that I can’t think of a single reason why homosexuality would be so despised and yet doesn’t inspire equal hatred for other behaviours. As MEBuckner pointed out above, there are no monk-bashers.

On the contrary, if you are trying to spread your genes around, having people around you who are not trying to compete, but instead help raise your children is a major boon.

Bottom line, the answer to the OP is the inability to MYOB, and the desire among all human beings, myself included, to attempt to push everybody else into what seems to oneself to be the “right” point of view and way of doing things.

The un-thought-through attitude, on homosexuality as on a lot of other things, is, “Since I don’t have any interest in doing that (and since I am the center of the universe, by which all things deserve to be judged), anyone who does is somehow sick and wrong.” Look at any dozen random Pit threads, and you’ll find the same general theme in nine of the twelve: “Why are these idiots doing these stupid things that I don’t think are interesting or worthwhile to do?”

That “gay bashers are gays in denial” thing does seem to have a little truth behind it: people are generally not threatened by what they feel no temptation to do. They may feel that it is wrong (see the previous paragraph) but are not actively threatened by it.

Also, there’s the God-as-fear-inspiring-Judge gimmick: If (as evangelical theology teaches) we are all deserving of eternal punishment and God is merciful enough to write in an escape clause, then He’s going to get pissed off if we don’t actively combat those who are doing stuff He considers immoral. While that’s not at all my personal view of God, there’s plenty of evidence that it is the view of a lot of people, religious or not – almost every thread attempting to denounce Christianity starts with the basic assumptions of hellfire-and-brimstone preaching and tries to prove them wrong.

Not out of context, but humans already have the instinct to hurt and kill, and they have the instinct to be disgusted with homosexuality. My guess is that the survival of a species is dependent on a combination of traits that guarantee reproduction, sometimes at the expense of civility. If the tendency towards senseless violence proves unsuccessful, maybe we’ll see less of it in future generations.

Telemark just touched on a competing theory.

In highly social species, there are occasionally non-reproductive members who are not burdened with children of their own. These can help raise children, or perform other tasks. The most obvious examples are in the insect world, where non-reproductive drones do most of the work. But you still find it in higher species, too. Among wolves, only the “alpha pair” mates.

The theory goes that homosexuals exist to help the tribe out, without producing competing offspring.

Hmm. Well, what inspires the fear, in my theory, is anal rape, because its penetrative, it’s non consentual, involves a lack of control, and is seen as feminizing. I think one of the main ideas in our culture is that men are supposed to be sexually dominant and penetrative. You know, the guy sticks it in, the woman lays back and takes it. Homosexuality threatens that. As for not hearing about lesbians hunting down and killing straight men from a fear of rape, women are taught from an early age that men will come on to them, will make sexual comments, and will want to sleep with them. So, according to my theory, a lesbian being hit on by a straight man doesn’t feel as much of a threat to her sense of self. Also, and this goes for the straight women killing lesbian thing, lesbianism is more ignored in society than male homosexuality.

Herein lies one part of the problem, I think. People do not “go homo just for the heck of it”.

I am sure that much of gay hating can be compared to things like racism: the fear and/or hatred of difference. Racial violence is well documented throughout history, and I think that violence against homosexuals is a related phenomenon. At least in many instances.

(I still also believe that some proportion of gay bashers are closet gays, as I mentioned before.)


That was a very insightful post. I would like to expand further on your thoughts regarding the point-of-view theory, but I don’t want to hijack the thread. Suffice it to say that some believe that it is psychological, but I believe that it is epistemic. We tend to view our way as the right way. Whenever someone else’s way contradicts our way, there is an epistemological catastrophe. No one wants to acknowledge any value to a world that he considers to be impossible.

It might be helpful to consider other differentness that inspires the same kind of hatred, intolerance, and violence.

Like, say, race.

There are few really open societies in the world. People (at least en masse, as societies) tend to like people who are like them and to dislike people who are unlike them. Sometimes that differentness if obvious, like skin color, other times more internal, like sexual preference.

There’s nothing more different than homosexuality, in that it shows that the homosexual is able to violate one of the more stringent taboos. (Chicken and egg problem there, though.) If they can do THAT, then maybe they can also refuse to acknowledge the supremacy of Odin, or what have you.

So, you ask, why do cultures despise differentness?

Beats me. I think people (as individuals and also as societies) just fear change. Differentness raises the specter of change, and therefore must be bad.