Michael B. Jordan Ryan Coogler Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the recent orgy of idiocy and overreaction that was the response to a recent picture Vanity Fair published of Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler.

Instead of focusing on what the story was actually about – Jordan and Coogler being “style disruptors” – many folks opted instead to fixate on what they felt was an image of two men too close for comfort. Like I anything else I view through the lens of social media, I find that it only magnifies what is already there. In this instance, what is already there is an unfortunate obsession with hyper-masculinity which makes so many poor unfortunate souls believe that their manhood is so fragile that two Black men cannot show any display of affection without it being dismissed as something “gay” or “effeminate.” Moreover, it highlights a very infantile understanding of human sexuality.

So often on social media I have seen the simplest acts be categorized as gay. You cannot be a man and hug another man without it being gay. You cannot be a man and wear certain pieces of clothing or shoes without it being gay. You cannot be a man who enjoys butt play performed by a woman without it being considered gay. I’m surprised I’ve yet to see someone claiming if you are a man who washes his ass too long, he’s probably gay, too. Then again, I’ve done a good job of filtering out Left Behind Twitter and I Should Have Left You In Middle School Facebook from my feeds.

For the millionth time, here’s how homosexuality with men works: a man puts his penis inside of another man or vice versa. Most other things are highly debatable.

I’ve looked at shrill declarations that no one should be allowed to touch anyone else’s head besides their wife or husband. This is from both men and women alike who have been suckered into believing that an emotionally inept, far too inhibited Black man is the only way a straight Black man can be. This is so frustrating because it’s 2016 and one wonders how so many have free reign to be so asinine?

Not to mention, how afraid are some of these people of their bodies and human contact? Why must everything be sexualized? Can two people touch each other and have it be totally platonic? It seems to happen all the time for Black women, but let another Black man do it and – gasp – he must secretly be the muse behind a certain Frank Ocean song.

To be fair, I used to be guilty of this. While I was comfortable in my sexuality, I used to hesitate about embracing other straight Black men – mostly due to fear of them being unjustly considered gay simply because I touched them. (It’s not contagious, though.) Also, more often than not, a hug is just a hug. A dab is just a dab. Me touching a close friend’s head does not in any way equate a sexual act.

We need to stop fixating so much on “the emasculation of the Black men” and learn to let Black men of every persuasion be whole. That means be allowed the space to be emotionally vulnerable without ridicule; to be able to enjoy the pleasure of platonic friendships without unfounded accusations; to know that strength is varied and nuanced; that even if one is feminine, it does not make them any less of a man. Black men deserve the space to just be. We also need to stop treating masculinity as if he it will shatter at any second.

If we cannot view an image of Black solidarity and Black brotherhood without it being sexualized, we are lost. Many of us need to grow up. The sooner those that need to do, the better off we all will be.

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick



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