We live in a different era now. Gay marriage is more acceptable than before. It’s become a part of the global political spectrum. Gay guys are getting more accepted (although we’re still a long ways to go), and more celebrities are coming out of the closet.
The stigma of being gay is not the same. Now, it’s cool to be gay.
One Direction members has been perceived to be in the balance between gay and straight. And they don’t care! They absolutely love it.
But what distinguishes One Direction from their predecessors is that rather than trying to fight these stereotypes by gushing about women and being careful not to stand too closely together, they play up to them. They flirt. They roughhouse. They touch each other’s bottoms at concerts, and perform at gay nightclubs. They also have girlfriends. People may call them gay, but (most of the time, at least) they don’t give a toss. Because for the One Direction generation, being “gay” isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, amongst the demographic Harry, Liam, Louis, Zayn and Niall occupy, this kind of behaviour is common, says UK masculinities researcher, Eric Anderson. Anderson is the author of a 2010 study which found that 89 percent of 18- to 25-year-old self-identified heterosexual men had kissed another man on the lips – and in most cases, there was nothing sexual about it. “This is what young men of that age do in the UK,” Anderson says. “Touching, hugging, cuddling, and bum/testicle slapping are all ways you show your mates that you love them.”
It’s a shift that is deeply tied to a broader decline in – and increasing unacceptability of – homophobia, Anderson believes. In periods of high “homohysteria” he argues – places and points in history in which same-sex attraction is both widely recognised and reviled – men will keep their distance from each other in order to avoid being labelled as “gay.” At when homohysteria is lower, men are able to be more freely intimate: whether that means One Direction-style horseplay, friends holding hands in the Middle East, or rugby players posing with their arms draped around each other instead of standing with their arms solemnly folded.
I’m glad that we’re moving forward. Acceptance is a good thing.