June 18, 1993

Homosexual Panic

It is unnecessary to forbid things that no one wants to do.

Author unknown

A major factor in the opposition of soldiers, sailors and marines to allowing Gays in the military is homosexual panic. That is the term applied to the feeling that a heterosexual man has when he feels that he might be tempted to even think of engaging in a perverted act. This feeling is similar to the feelings that any person who is "moral" has when tempted to do something that is against those morals. Highly moral married people get panicky in the presence of someone who might tempt them to commit adultery.

A few people respond to temptation by yielding (or not yielding) to it and then expiating their inevitable guilt by either beating up or killing the person with whom they committed the sin. This is the basis for the assault or murder of prostitutes and homosexuals. Prostitutes and male homosexuals who solicit are well aware of the danger --or they should be. A relatively mild form of destroying the person who helps you to sin, is to destroy his or her reputation; a fairly common occurrence among adolescent males.

I don't remember the actual numbers, but when Kinsey studied the American male, he found that homosexual encounters in adolescents were very common; common enough to constitute the norm. Some cultures, such as the Japanese and Muslim, accept homosexuality in unmarried young men, and homosexual encounters are the rule in these cultures. When females become accessible, the vast majority of males abandon homosexual practices. Homosexuality is both common, and accepted, in prison populations. Here too, it is abandoned when the men leave prison.

A man who is not at all sexually attracted to other males probably doesn't care, one way or the other, whether he is in close proximity to a homosexual; it isn't going to bother him. The problem is that not only did a large number of males engage in homosexual activity when young, but they enjoyed it --guilt or no guilt. As a consequence, the availability of a homosexual partner can be very disturbing, especially when someone of the opposite sex is not available.

Sinning in your heart is considered fairly normal even by most fundamentalist clergy. However, homosexual feelings are considered so reprehensible, that people are unwilling to acknowledge them. Before I would say that a man "had a beautiful body", I would make sure to qualify it by pointing out that it was an esthetic, not a sexual, judgment. That qualification would be completely unnecessary when admiring a woman. No one would care whether the opinion was the same admiration that I would apply to a rose, or that it might imply a desire to have a sexual relationship with her.

Morals are what you have been taught is wrong as a child. They will always be with you even if your behavior goes in exactly the opposite direction. Ethics, on the other hand, can change with time. Every time that I do something that goes against my morals, like crossing in the middle of the street, I feel guilty, even though my ethics will permit it. In most cases, the guilt is minimal --as is the sin that provoked it.

During the recent congressional hearings on homosexuals in the military, most of what we heard was opposition by the people who would have to live with Gay men. Those who didn't care much either way, didn't express their opinions and weren't filmed by the news people. The people interviewed had the same reaction that you would expect if someone had proposed bunking a woman in with the men, but forbidding any physical contact under penalty of imprisonment or dishonorable discharge from the service. It would make living in close quarters unnecessarily difficult. Life would be a lot simpler if every one of your shipmates saw things the same way as you did.

In the case of the Navy, accepted male behavior is to stay horny when at sea and, when in port, to get drunk and lay women --and to frequently get sexually transmitted diseases. Many men don't behave this way, but they do accept that behavior in their shipmates. Similar behavior is accepted in the Army and Marines. It is also condoned in the officer ranks, as the Tailhook scandal illustrates.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that group sexual behavior is used as bonding rituals among males. That was what Tailhook was all about. That is what gang rape is mostly about, as is the Hells Angels' ritual of requiring a woman who wants to join, to have sex with all of the members of the group.

If anyone, at that congressional hearing on Gays in the military, had the temerity to suggest that the reason for opposing Gays in the military was related to a fear of being tempted, he would have been ostracized from the armed forces community. They would have "taken of his buttons off, and cut his stripes away."

Soldiers, sailors and marines really have no reason to worry about their maleness. Even violent criminals in prison have homosexual encounters, and they are about as macho as you can get. Besides, one of the things that distinguishes a man from a boy is a man's ability to resist temptation.

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