With the global economy in the midst of a crisis, gay rights activists are working to counter the sexual revolution, in part by challenging the culture of masculinity.
A new study suggests that the rise of gay culture and politics is part of a broader global backlash against the traditional gender roles and sexual taboos that define traditional gender norms.
The paper, “Queer Power: Queer Men, Gay Men, and the Gay Men’s Rights Movement,” says the rise in gay rights activism reflects a global backlash to the traditional sexual codes and expectations that define gender roles.
The authors, an interdisciplinary team of academics and activists, argue that gay activism and politics are part of an ongoing fight for the equality of all genders, including men.
The study, “Feminism in the 21st Century,” was recently published in the journal Gender, Politics, and Society.
The researchers say the sexual revolutions of the past 20 years have been driven by the rise and success of a new generation of men who are increasingly comfortable with sexual and romantic openness.
The new men, the researchers say, are a critical part of the resistance to a global sexual revolution and are also key players in the gay rights movement.
They call these “sexual liberators,” and say that the gay men’s “movement is inextricably tied to the LGBT movement.”
They say that as a movement, gay men have already made significant gains in terms of access to power and in terms to media representation, and they have the potential to become even more powerful.
But they argue that the new gay men are also at risk of losing power as they move away from traditional gender identities and adopt new sexual identities.
The gay men, they argue, are increasingly at risk for being marginalized, marginalised and, ultimately, criminalised, for example, if they do not conform to the masculine gender model of masculinity that they were taught in their childhood.
They say gay men who reject these norms and practices are also vulnerable to being criminalised for being gay.
And they say that gay men in particular have to do more than simply accept this new gender role as part of their normal lives.
“If we are to truly be a part of this movement, we need to be more vocal and more active in the political arena,” says co-author Richard Staveley, a sociology professor at the University of Sydney and the author of a recent study on the changing gender landscape in Australia.
Stavely says gay men must start by challenging traditional gender assumptions and gender roles in their own lives.
The findings suggest that the most effective way to fight back against the sexual revolutionaries of the present is to be active in politics.
He says gay activists can and should speak out on issues such as reproductive rights, climate change, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and other pressing social and economic issues.
“We need to make the case that the only way forward for women and men to have a fair and just society is for us to participate in the democratic process,” he says.
“And we need a new, gay-inclusive politics.”
Stavele says the new generation is also increasingly critical of traditional gender expectations, which he says are part and parcel of a patriarchal, male-dominated society.
In fact, Stavellys study found that gay and straight men who identify as feminists tend to have more positive attitudes toward gender than those who identify with other social and political groups.
“The gay movement is in a way a gay civil rights movement, because the men are more in line with feminism,” he adds.
“Gay men are being seen as a moral force to counter a patriarchal and patriarchal culture.”
In fact a recent Pew Research Center study found gay men were the most positive about their gender identity among all groups surveyed.
But that also means that gay activists need to continue to work in ways that make the gay and lesbian movement more visible.
They need to create and advocate for more visibility of the gay community and to create spaces for gay men to openly talk about their own gender identities, Stoveley says.
They also need to promote more men and boys to take on leadership roles in the LGBT community.
Stovely says the gay movement can and must continue to push back against traditional gender codes and gender expectations.
And that’s something that is happening today, with new activists taking up the cause of a global gay rights struggle.
“This is a fight that will be won and lost in every country,” Staveleys study concludes.
But, it adds, gay activists have to continue speaking out against the new sexual revolution in the face of the challenges it poses to their own identities and the gender norms they were raised with.
“I think the most important thing that can be said about gay rights is that they’re a fight for men,” Stiveley says, “and it’s a fight to reclaim what is rightfully ours.”