In Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Introduction for Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, she defines homosocial as “a word occasionally used in history and social sciences, where it describes social bonds between persons of the same sex; its neologism, obviously formed by analogy with ‘homosexual’ and just as obviously meant to be distinguished from ‘homosexual’” (2466). In short, homosocial describes same-sex relationships that are not sexual or romantic. Sedgwick elaborates that homosocial categories are “applied to such activities as ‘male bonding,’ which may, as in our society, be characterized by intense homophobia, fear and hatred of homosexuality” (2466). Although homosocial relationships are strictly platonic, it nevertheless causes anxieties related to homosexual behavior. Upon reading this, I had the following flashbacks of high school:
Guy A eating ice cream
Guy B: You let me lick some of that, no homo.
Guy A: I can’t even front, you look mad good today. No homo.
Guy B: Thanks bro, no homo.
Guy A: Where were you in class, I missed you. No Homo.
Guy B: I was sick, no homo.
The idiotic phrase “no homo” was coined to assert that the speaker does not have any homosexual intent and it is usually uttered if their comment gives off such an impression. However, as my unfortunate trip done memory lane has proven, the phrase spiraled out of control and began to be used even more unnecessarily as it was uttered after comments that would possess no relation to homosexual activities. Following Sedgwick’s theory (and attempting to make sense of my wonderful peers), the phrase was created to make sure that homosocial interactions would not be mistaken for homosexual encounters. This is
due to society’s “intense homophobia, fear and hatred of homosexuality” (2466). In an excellent response to the “no homo” wave, the phrase “no hetero” was created to demonstrate the absurdity of “no homo,” as well as mock its over usage. The logic behind “no hetero” involves the speaker making a statement that may be interpreted as a heterosexual remark. Rather than referring to platonic same-sex relationships as homosocial, as Sedgwick has done, “no homo” has unfortunately become the new “homosocial.”
Sedgwick has a bone to pick with the term “homophobia.” In her footnotes, she claims that “The notion of ‘homophobia’ is itself fraught with difficulties. To begin with, the word is etymologically nonsensical. A more serious problem is that, the linking of fear and hatred in the ‘-phobia’ suffix, does tend to prejudge and the question of the cause of homosexual oppression: it is attributed to fear, as opposed to (for example) a desire for power, privilege, or material goods” (2466). The term “homophobia” evokes (and rightfully does due to its suffix) a sense of fear. Yet, homophobia is not the same as other phobias that actually frighten and scare people – homophobia entails people who are uncomfortable with people engaging in homosexual activity. When my pillows are not fluffed, I am uncomfortable, not fearful. However, I do have fear because I exist in a world where the term “homophobia” exists.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofksy. “Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Lietch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. 2466-2470. Print.