“Asian little boy gets destroyed by two white men.”
Surprisingly, this was not the title of a porn video. Rather, this was the caption of yet another video of a straight man masquerading as a queer man that appeared on my “For You” TikTok page. The creator of this video used somewhat sexual music while he flipped the camera a couple of times to show his face and his friends. In combination, these elements would normally suggest a sexual relationship between the men and perhaps a joke about the ridiculousness of porn titles. However, as I mentioned before, these men are straight, which creates some complications and draws into question the motivation behind their “jokes.”
To provide some context, the “For You” page is a feed of content on TikTok tailored to each individual’s interests based on an algorithm. Typically, when I see men on my page, they are queer and make jokes and social commentary about their lives. However, on TikTok, because the algorithm can’t clearly distinguish between queer people and straight people making the same jokes, straight men deceptively making queer jokes and assuming queer identities sometimes slip into my feed.
I was particularly aggravated with the previously mentioned creator as he seemed to have a permanent place on my feed, and so I decided to view his other TikTok videos — only to find that his use of queerness as comedy was much worse than I had previously believed. Much to my disappointment, ridicule of queer men isn’t uncommon on his page, but his particular mockery is more subliminal and subtle. Acts such as pretending to be sexually interested in his friends and purchasing queer books are portrayed as comical and appear to go uncriticized by his followers.
Straight men, even when they don’t consider themselves homophobic, use homophobic jokes and identities to emphasize their masculinity and heterosexuality. The implications are that queerness and femininity are negative traits to be criticized and diminished and that masculinity and heterosexuality are positive traits to be upheld. While perhaps not homophobes, straight men feel an inclination to portray queer men in a sexual or feminine context as a joke in order to distance themselves from queerness.
While I expect this behavior from straight men because I have seen it in locker rooms and football fields, a large portion of his comment section doesn’t seem to condemn this mockery of queer men. Instead, they embrace the content and join the laughter, expressing their approval for the sometimes blatant homophobia. This is especially true if the creator is attractive in any way, thus providing them with a shield from criticism — but pretty privilege is a topic for another day.
Jokes and derisive behavior while performing in a sort of queer cosplay are seen as acceptable because they are normalized and difficult to detect in some cases. While some straight men are blatantly homophobic and willingly bash queer men, they are at least transparent and aware of their bigotry. However, many straight men who participate in deriding queer men do it unknowingly. They recognize that they are performing queerness, but they fail to recognize that their actions are homophobic. Some, such as the content creator I previously mentioned, even proclaim to accept and support the LGBTQ+ community, a stance that runs contradictory to their behavior.
Additionally, with this straight man as well as others, it is difficult for their viewers to discern any blatant homophobia, so they willfully accept his jokes and excuse any sort of bigoted behavior that isn’t obvious on the surface level. To them, not explicitly mentioning queer men is enough, and any sort of critique fails to reach the creator or the rest of the comments. With this particular creator, his followers also defend him when people have called him a “closeted twink,” mentioning that he is uncomfortable with the label. But the assumption of his queerness isn’t something I care about.
While assuming someone’s identity is not something I typically consider acceptable behavior, this creator has already assumed a mask of queerness to complement his return to masculinity and heterosexuality. Queer men become the targets both from the jokes and from some zealous commenters blatantly bashing them as opposed to criticizing the homophobia of their beloved content creator. In this situation, queer men, who should be considered the victims, transform into the aggressors, apparently overreacting in the eyes of the comment section.
While it is necessary to address the problematic issues such as femmephobia and internalized homophobia in making queer jokes, those are things to be addressed within the community. Additionally, when many queer men make similar jokes as straight men, they don’t return to heterosexuality or deny their identities as queer individuals. Thus, those same jokes when made by straight men will always be homophobic, as the contrast made between the two groups will always place masculine heterosexuality above queer femininity.
It’s important that we address the homophobia that underlies these jokes by holding straight men accountable to prevent the demonization of queer men. While I don’t expect these content creators to disappear from my “For You” page anytime soon, I encourage their followers and supporters to condemn this behavior.
Perhaps then, my eyes won’t have to be harassed by two straight men pretending to have sex with each other as a form of comedy.