The ‘One Drop’ Ban on Male Intimacy

One of my biggest fears as an 18-year-old on the verge of coming out of the closet was being wrong about being gay. Perhaps my experimentation with other boys was a phase – an extended, immersive one – and how mortifying would it be to have already confessed my homosexuality only to meet my wife a few months later.

In reality, acknowledging same-sex desire (whether acted upon or not) is a point of no return for any man. Even if I had retracted my coming-out or explained how I had outgrown my pubescent curiosity, anyone to whom I confided would likely assume I’d always have an appetite for dick.

The aftertaste that blowjobs leave has been wafting in the air for the past couple of weeks, ever since R&B singer Tank suggested that giving one or two guys head does not mean a man is gay.

“It means he sucked dick twice,” Tank said on the “Lip Service” podcast. “He sucked a dick once and then he’s like, ‘I’m not sure if I liked it or not. Let me try again.’ And then he says, ‘You know what, it’s not for me.’”

Tank’s comments led to what’s becoming a ritual reminder that society has a “one drop” rule when it comes to intimacy between two men. As was the case when male experimentation was broached on HBO’s “Insecure,” the masses took to social media and radio call-in lines to warn about the potency of male homosexuality.

“There’s a limit [to the number of times a man can have sexual contact with another man and still be considered straight],” comedian D.L. Hughley said on his radio show. “And the limit is zero.”

Actually, the limit is less than zero. Many of Hughley’s callers noted that before a man could put a penis in his mouth he would first have to think about doing so, and merely having such thoughts was a sign of irrepressible tendencies.

Is there any woman who would be less disturbed if her boyfriend or husband admitted he had once masturbated to the thought of another man but never engaged in physical contact? By simply discussing a scenario in the third-person, Tank has sacrificed being perceived as a heterosexual and risked alienating his overwhelmingly female fan base.

America’s traditional “one drop” rule was the almost universally accepted, racist belief that a single drop of black blood – e.g., from one’s grandmother’s great-grandmother – was tainted enough to make a person and all of his or her descendants black. The same notions about impurity inform the “one drop” rule of male homosexuality, a sin so insidious that it forever leaves a stench.

The gay-at-first-touch threshold, which is guarded as strictly by LGBTQ folks as heterosexuals, of course keeps folks’ fathers, husbands, brothers, and friends quiet about any situational homosexuality they may have experienced: whether adolescent experimentation, during time in prison or the military, or when they were on vacation and saw an unarguably fuckable guy and realized no one in their life was watching. It also encourages young gay boys to leave their experiences or desires unspoken, lest they be exiled while they are still trying to figure out themselves.

The less-than-zero limit on same-sex contact reaches much deeper into most folks’ personal circle than they realize, and precludes discussions – and disclosures – that would allow for a broader, more authentic understanding of modern male sexuality.