A Kiss is Just a Kiss--Except When It's Not

Manifesto September 2002

No, I'm not a doctor. Nor am I a professor. And the last time I checked, Manifesto was not a professional journal of sociology or human sexuality.

But spare me and this newspaper any incoming ordnance for the following, and be forewarned this article details plot points for movies currently available in DVD and VHS formats.

Heterosexual males.

Seemingly oh so tough. Demonstrating no fear. Willing to take on the most daunting and foreboding challenges (that is, excluding diaper changes and talking about feelings).

Yet still the most unfathomable of the many sexes.

This point was driven home yet again a couple of weeks ago while watching Alfonso Cuaron's socio-sexual movie "Y Tu Mama Tambien."

Late in the film, the two teen age male leads are being simultaneously 'attended to' by Luisa, a woman in her mid-twenties who has just left her philandering husband. Julio and Tenoch look at each other and then awkwardly embrace and kiss in a moment of fumbling homoeroticism.

Up to that point, with little or no visible reaction, the audience has witnessed a smorgasboard of sexual activity. But the sexuality has been strictly of the heterosexual bent. Well, this celluloid kiss produced the best part of the night for me. Here's why...

A middle-aged man, sitting next to my friend, immediately responded with a very loud "oh s--t" and appeared in dire need of an bag similar to those supplied on airplane trips for motion sickness. An aura of disgust and revulsion reeked from his seat.

Reaction from other audience members seemed to bounce between surprise, (nervous?) laughter and derision. The scene quickly ended and decorum was restored.

I recall witnessing a similar reaction from another nearby male during a previous movie that also showed a male-male kiss scene. Both these incidents took place at The Nickelodeon, our alternative movie house, not a megaplex screening a handful of Disney movie clones.

Is change in the air in the People's Republic of Santa Cruz? Has the Birkenstock crowd shown its true colors or were the revulsion-niks present that day hoping to see some lascivious nakedness but received a wee bit more than they bargained for?

I'm betting on the latter premise.

I also harken back to the lesbian sex scenes in David Lynch's recent "Mulholland Drive." The audience, including, but certainly not exclusively, heterosexual males, was quieter than Bill Clinton during Confession. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I don't think it was because the heterosexual males in the "Mulholland Drive" audience were shocked into silence.

In another recent film, "Kissing Jessica Stein," the two female leads toy with two would-be Lotharios over drinks in a bar. One of the women inquires why men find lesbian sex so titillating. Clearly unable to articulate a logical answer, the men stumble for a reply, mumbling something about soft skin and lips.

So heterosexual males, what gives?

Why is lesbian celluloid sex so much more palatable than film of male homosexual activity?

Is it the heterosexual male fantasy of a two-women-and-yourself menage a trois? Or because the depictions of lesbian sexuality generally involve attractive actresses?

In the case of viewing acts of male homosexuality, would a Brad Pitt-Jude Law screen coupling be handsome enough to override any feelings of revulsion?

Or is one's uneasiness provoked by latent homosexual urges?

Perhaps some irrational primal fear surfaces from picturing being forced into a sexual act by a more powerful male?

Inquiring minds want to know.