Boys Kissing Boys: What’s the Problem?

Boys Kissing Boys: What’s the Problem?

Brent Almond wonders why our society stigmatizes boys for showing affection to each other and worries that his young son is already feeling the pressure to conform.

We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And, after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. JJ can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.

Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me—his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad—makes it all manageable.

After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, JJ approached his friend—six years old to JJ’s four-and-a-half—to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs—both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.

The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” JJ just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.

My heart broke for this six-year old friend—normally quite sensitive—whose parents are progressive and gay-friendly and all the other stuff that is supposed to equip a boy to be okay with hugging and smooching his male friends. My heart broke as I saw perhaps the first seed being planted in my son’s head—that kissing your friends isn’t cool; a seed I fear will grow and spread and cause him to withhold kisses from his dear, old dad in the not too distant future.

Somehow these notions are sneaking in unnoticed. You’re supposed to hate pink because it’s for girls. Boys can’t be pretty or beautiful. Don’t choose the cup or the sleeping bag or the shirt with flowers or bunnies or ladybugs on it. And, under no circumstances, boys never kiss boys. Does it come via parents of the other kids at school? Are there subliminal messages hidden in episodes of Spider-Man or The Aquabats or Super Why? Do they hide it in the syrup my son pours on everything he eats?

Papa and I have never communicated messages like these, and I doubt the friend’s parents have either. In actuality, JJ has corrected me on 3 of the 4; to which I always offer counter arguments. He’s yet to enact a boy-kissing ban, but I know it’s coming.

My head (and own experience) starts to tell me, “We all go through stages where we don’t want to kiss our dads or show any kind of affection to our friends.” But must it be that way? It’s not that way in Italy, where everyone—male, female, young, old, friend, relative—greets one another with a kiss on each cheek. It’s not that way in Japan, where pairs of young men walk down the streets arm-in-arm. In neither case is it about sex or sexuality. It’s part of the culture, a way to greet and to connect and have community. Perhaps our country—with far more gun-related killings than any other developed country (the vast majority carried out by men)—could do well with an increase of platonic male affection

In case you’re wondering if being affectionate toward men comes naturally to me because I’m gay… the opposite is actually true. I spent the first 26 years of my life afraid to interact physically with my male friends for fear of my sexuality being discovered. Even after coming out, it took several more years to learn how to express myself in a healthy, confident way with other men, whether they were gay or straight, friend or boyfriend. I had all the typical American male stereotypes to unlearn, plus nearly three decades of shame to overcome.

It’s surprising how deeply affected I am by this. Yet I shouldn’t be surprised. One of my favorite things in the world occurs when I pick JJ up early from preschool. While he may overwhelm his classmates at times, I’m always so proud to see him run back through the circle of 3- and 4-year olds listening to a story, and give his buddy a big hug and kiss goodbye. Especially when he doesn’t knock the other kid down.

And my absolute favorite thing in the world is to kiss my son. I’ve kissed plenty of people in my life—family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, my dog. (Papa’s on his own special list.) Nothing in my life prepared me for how much peace and strength and joy I experience from kissing my son. On his fingers and toes as an infant, on his ever-increasing number of boo-boos, on his lips every morning as I send him and Papa off into the day, on his sleeping cheek every night before I head to bed. And then there are the spur-of-the-moment times he crawls in my lap, or puts his hand on my leg while watching TV, or gives an unsolicited “thank you” or “I love you”—which of course, all require an accompanying smooch.

I’m struggling with a point to all this, a nugget of wisdom to show what I’ve learned and that I’m moving on. But I have none. I don’t want my boy to stop being the loving, hugging, kissing free spirit he’s been up till now. I guess I just want the world to know it, and to stop telling him it’s not okay.

♦◊♦

Originally appeared on DesignerDaddy.com; Image courtesy of the author

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About Brent Almond

Brent Almond is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator, owner/creative director of Design Nut. He's also a non-award-winning father of a toddler, which he writes about (along with stuff about same-sex parent families, adoption, cool kids' products, and lots of cute pics of his son) on his blog Designer Daddy. Brent tweets about daddy stuff @Designer Daddy and about design stuff @The DesignNut. You can also find him on Facebook

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi mr Almond,
    I think there’s a lesson here, but coming from a northern European culture where most any kind of bodily contact often is awkward at best, I’m not quite ready to agree with your assumption on what that lesson is.

    Personal boundaries are just personal, and need to be respected regardless of gender/sex/biology.
    I do hope that your son will continue to hug and kiss you, Papa, and his best friend at daycare, for as long as you’re all comfortable with it. But that he will learn (with a seed planted from this incident) that not all people are okay with that, and the further he moves away from the closest “nucleus” of family and closest friends, the more he needs to check with people what’s actually okay with them.
    Just like if there had been (is?) a mother and/or a number of female family members around the household. Routinely hugging, smooching and kissing them should by no means be a green light to hug and kiss any girl out there either.

  2. FlyingKal says:

    Hi mr Almond,
    I think there’s a lesson here, but coming from a northern European culture where most any kind of bodycontact often is awkward at best, I’m not quite ready to agree with your assumption on what that lesson is.

    Personal boundaries are just personal, and need to be respected regardless of gender/sex/biology.
    I do hope that your son will continue to hug and kiss you, Papa, and his best friend at daycare, for as long as you’re all comfortable with it. But that he will learn (with a seed planted from this incident) that not all people are okay with that, and the further he moves away from the closest “nucleus” of family and closest friends, the more he needs to check with people what’s actually okay with them.
    Just like if there had been (is?) a mother and/or a number of female family members around the household. Routinely hugging, smooching and kissing them should by no means be a green light to hug and kiss any girl out there either.

    (the reload of the page is acting kind of weird. If this comes up as a double post I apologize for that.)

  3. Sometimes your issues are just your issues. I am raising my nephew alone and have been doing so since he was born. He is not a hugger. I am super affectionate with his sister and him but he does not reciprocate. He is not weird about it. He just has his boundaries. I was taking him to school and this kid ran up to him. The kid (a boy) looked like he was going in for a hug and my kid put his hand up and said I am not into hugging. I used to worry about this but after many a conversation with my son/nephew I have learned that he knows what he is comfortable with. He still talked to the kid and was totally nice but he did not relax his chosen boundary. I was actually proud of him for that.

  4. Donald Perry says:

    I am happy to belong to a church where men are free to provide other men with fraternal hugs and even to cry when they are moved to tears It is refreshing to see fathers hug their children of both genders as well as their wives.

    Too often women complain that men should get in touch with their feminine side, as if only women have emotions; then when they encounter men who are tender and caring.they reject them for the “bad” boys. We need to stop socializing males to be crude troglodytes and then complain when they fit the mold we cast for them.

    • Supra deluca says:

      The same women? Or different women? All the time or only when they are not really looking for relationships but just detached men for sex? And how often is the “too often” you are talking about?

  5. boys kissing boys …would not be considered rape…. but if young boys were to kiss a young girl on the playground in todays “Culture”…he would likely be charged as a sex offender for life.

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