LETTER:Straight men and macho culture

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From Mr Peter Tatchell

Sir: The Commission on Children and Violence is right to point out the links between "macho male attitudes" and aggressive, antisocial behaviour (report, 9 November). However, to understand fully violent criminality, we need also to recognise that it is a form of behaviour associated overwhelmingly with young male heterosexuals (and very rarely with gay men). In straight male culture, aggression is deemed cool for "real men". Many act tough because they fear being accused of sissiness and queerness. Belligerence is seen as a way of asserting their masculinity and their heterosexuality.

So long as male sensitivity and tenderness is looked down upon as unmanly and queer, large numbers of straight men (especially those who are insecure about their sexual orientation) will continue to project a bellicose machismo to "prove" their manhood and avoid the "taint" of homosexuality.

Reducing male violence is thus partly bound up with eradicating homophobia. When heterosexual men no longer despise gentleness or fear queers, fewer will feel the need to act tough to distance themselves from the homosexual "other".

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell

London, SE1