Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Cultural Analysis of the Pseudo-Homophobic High Five Ritual

There is a relatively recent ritual in some parts of the United States of America to “high-five,” or slap palms with another person, after an activity to prove one’s heterosexuality. This ritual verifies your chosen sexual identity, or, “proves you’re not gay.” This is largely performed by males, though there are isolated reports of females engaging in the ritual. The ritual is necessitated (or at least, requested to be performed) immediately following an act that might bring one’s sexuality or gender into question, such as watching a cooking show on TV or putting on a pink t-shirt. It may be initiated by the offender, though normally a second party will intervene and offer, “It’s not gay if you high-five afterwards!” In many cases the activity has no logical connection to one’s sexuality or gender, such as a heterosexual male purchasing menstrual pads for his female lover. Indeed, data shows that during the lifespan of this “high five so you won’t be gay” ritual, it has become used less and less often on actual events relating to homosexuality. Connected (and most interesting to social scientists) is that while some segments of the male population exhibit some degree of serious homophobia, many (and perhaps the majority) of those who indulge in the ritual are not in any noticeable degree homophobic. It seems to channel both a latent homophobia and a humorous mockery of other people’s homophobia, suggesting homophilia, or at least disapproval for bigotry that is expressed in a quizzically supportive manner, as opposed to the cultural norm of expressing disapproval of such matters with negativity. Anthropologists have been dispatched throughout bars and sports stadiums across America to further examine the meanings of this ritual, though it almost seems like such people aren’t actually bashing gays. Clinically speaking.

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