Ann Friedman writes about straight men and social support networks:
From an early age, most women are socialized to be more nurturing and relationship-oriented than men, so perhaps this isn’t surprising. My guess is that homophobia also plays a huge role. Men are taught to perceive intimacy with other men as gay. You can see it in trend stories about “man-dates” and movies about male friendship, which often veer pretty quickly from depictions of platonic affection to defensive homophobia. There’s even a social stigma attached to cross-gender friendships. Just ask Slate’s Juliet Lapidos and her best friend, Jeff. Or me and my bestie Josh. (No, he’s not gay. No, I’m not gay. No, we’ve never dated. Yes, we are super tight.) If all of these relationships are socially off-limits, who’s a man to befriend?
I thought about this gender gap in support networks when I read the Times article about Jared Loughner. For all of the explanations that have been offered for his actions — a culture that glorifies violence, easy access to guns, poor access to mental health care — Loughner’s lack of a strong emotional and social support network has not been a prominent part of the post-tragedy narrative. It’s been taken as a given that this young man was a loner. We’ve come to expect that perpetrators of headline-dominating acts of violence will be young, single, heterosexual men like Loughner.
There are consequences to the fact that many men don’t have the social support they need and deserve. I think this is changing as our societal understanding of gender evolves. But it’s changing slowly. I, for one, can’t wait until bromance is not just a punchline but a part of every dude’s life.
I thought of this today when I was getting ready to be anesthetized and have my teeth pulled. I had put down on some form that Kate Crawford was going to pick me up, and from there basically everyone just assumed (accurately) that she’s my girlfriend. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption, per se, but it’s emblematic of the phenomenon Ann’s talking about here. In practice, a straight single man who reaches out for help will almost always find that people are ready to be there for him. But there’s no socially validated way to do so.