Benjamin riley_newI’ve begun to find large groups of heterosexual men in public places disgusting. It’s something about the way they dominate a space, how they fill it up with often homoerotic displays of extreme masculinity that feels to me like a tangible manifestation of why it’s a bad thing straight men run the world.

Think about young men in suits on lunch from their swish new banking job talking about all the hot chicks they’ve banged recently, or about drunk bogans in a pub talking about all the fights they got into on the weekend. Sure, these examples are extreme (albeit common), but an experience on the tram the other day made me realise that even if there isn’t any misogyny, racism, homophobia or violence involved, I seem to have reached a point where the abstract idea of a group of heterosexual men socialising is enough for me to dislike them.

On my way home from work, I found myself eavesdropping on a nearby group of friends. There were about five guys, all probably in their early 20s and, from what I could gather, probably living at one of the University of Melbourne residential colleges. One in particular was clearly holding court, a tall guy with long hair and a shirt unbuttoned to his navel.

From his clothes and his posh accent I’d guess he was a private school kid who, upon arriving at university, had blossomed in the role of his group’s ‘alternative guy’. He spent much of the tram ride explaining why his friends should be listening to Edith Piaf, singing excerpts in French.

Although irritating and pretentious, the whole thing was pretty innocuous, so it took me a little while to pinpoint why I felt so repulsed, then I understood. When inhabiting public spaces, as a gay man I am often aware of my own self-conception as an outsider in a space made for other people. This is reinforced by specific things in those spaces – hetero-targeted advertising, hetero couples doing couple-y stuff, hearing people say ‘that’s so gay’ – but it has also become largely internalised.

Groups of heterosexual men don’t have to assert their status, we live in a society that does it for them. Seeing Piaf guy on the tram reminded me that any assertion of authority (in this case, an assertion of cultural credibility) by such a group is grotesque because it is so unnecessary.

This example highlights that it needn’t be a group of drunk footy fans, these assertions are just as present in the everyday. This may seem unfair, but in the face of the queer struggle for any kind of social legitimacy, I can’t see them as anything other than public masturbation.

Follow Ben Riley on Twitter: @bencriley

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