Policing manhood: new theories about the social significance of homophobia

David Plummer offers new theories of homophobia which go beyond the definition of homophobia as simply fear or hatred of homosexuality.

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David Plummer is Associate Professor in the School of Health, University of New England.

Homophobia is not what it seems to be. While homophobia is typically defined as a 'fear or hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality' (Brown 1993: 1254), this paper examines data in support of a much broader social significance. In what probably reflects this lack of certainty, many writers have attempted to invent new names for homophobia or alternatively, to confine its use to its literal sense as a reference to genuine phobias (Churchill 1967, Hudson and Rickets 1980, Hansen 1982, Fyfe 1983, Haaga 1991, Marshall 1994). Others seem to have adopted different explanatory frameworks in an attempt to ‘nail down’ homophobia and engage with it, for example, by equating it with ‘heterosexism’, anti-homosexual bias or as a variant of misogyny (Haaga 1991, Neisen 1990). The evidence detailed in this paper, suggests that none of these approaches is entirely satisfactory. Moreover, data will be examined which offers alternative explanations for this pervasive and poorly understood phenomenon. In doing so, a case will be made that homophobia is much broader than what most explanations allow for, and that in countless insidious ways homophobia has major consequences for all men, gay or not.