The ironic part of
homophobia is that one factor that helps create it is
due to one unintended consequence. It's a consequence
of a very famous and essential ethical and moral idea.
That idea, expressed somewhat hypothetically, is
called the Golden Rule:
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto
The problem comes with the idea implied in that
one. It is the unspoken iron rule of
"If someone does unto you, you must do it unto
It is the basis for the ancient lex talonis: an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Damage my eye
and I damage yours. Tit for tat. Unlike the Golden
Rule, this is in a negative form and is not a bit
We see the Golden Rule's corollary expressed in
all forms of gift-giving that implies gift exchange.
The strength of the idea of exchange can be seen in
the fact that children accept holiday and birthday
gifts with no obligation to reciprocate--up to a that
undefined age when they are expected to begin giving
gifts. Another exception proves the rule: the
traditional one-sidedness of gifts given by men to
women during courtship.
This reciprocal obligation based on the Golden
Rule's corollary includes the buying of drinks in a
bar. If I accept a drink from you, I come under an
obligation to buy at least one drink for you. I avoid
that obligation by not accepting gift drinks. On the
other hand, by not accepting, I may cause other
problems if declining is interpreted as a refusal and,
in fact, a personal insult.
So, it's fair to assume that an important factor
in violent homophobia is the belief, somewhat
unconscious and rarely expressed, even to oneself,
that if he offers, I should offer. If he gives me
pleasure I should give him pleasure. Or, if he desires
me sexually, I should desire him.
The iron rule of reciprocal action says in each
case: Yes, you must. If he does to you, you must do to
him. Pleasure for pleasure.
It's interesting that the choice of declining a
homosexual offer, by itself, is not set up societally
to be interpretable as a personal insult to the person
In fact, the reverse is true. To a heterosexual,
a man offering oral sex is insulting but declining the
offer is not to be taken that way. Why?
One good reason is that it is interpreted to be
an issue of deepest identity, in the way the offer of
a drink cannot be, with one exception: if you offer a
recovering alcoholic a drink knowing the person is a
The issue of deep identity mixes with the iron
law of reciprocality in this way. If we both know of
the rule of reciprocality, then you are offering me
oral sex with the firm expectation that I will
reciprocate. In other words, the person who offers
appears to be sending the message: I am homosexual and
so are you. If the second person is homosexual, no
problem. But if he is not, then being 'called'
homosexual (at least by implication) is an