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Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men (Sexual Cultures) Paperback – July 31, 2015

3.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[Ward] shows that homosexual contact has been a regular feature of heterosexual life ever since the concepts of homo- and heterosexuality were first created -- not just in prisons and frat houses and the military, but in biker gangs and even conservative suburban neighborhoods." - New York Magazine

"[Ward] has arrived at an interesting conclusion: straight men - specifically white men - are having sex with other men to affirm just how straight they are, because to be straight and still be able to perform 'gay sex' - while always remaining uninterested - is the height of white masculinity." - The Guardian

"So readily visible are the pieces of evidence she amasses, and so surprising are her conclusions, that reading Not Gay is like doing a Magic Eye puzzle for the mind: All the dots you'd never before put together suddenly snap into place, allowing you to see just how hot for other men some straight men are." - Vice

"Jane Ward...has written what may be the definitive (or perhaps the only) book on [this] subject." - Breitbart

"Jane Ward...[has] penetrated the internet with one of those ideas that people were maybe thinking but just weren't saying: Male sexuality is as fluid as female sexuality... Ward's idea that our cultural understanding of men's sexuality has been way too simplistic for way too long is fundamentally sound and refreshing. Ward's reach suggests she's well on her way to enacting the change she intended with her writing." - Gawker 

“The title of Jane Ward’s book is not meant to be ironic.  Her argument is that while sexual activity between straight white men does take place, it doesn’t mean that the participants are gay.  The book is about exploring the circumstances under which this situation can be said to arise.”-The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review

“Ward presents a critical piece missing from GBLTQ studies: the examination of white homoerotic activity within heterosexuality...Ward exposes the cultural construct of heterosexuality as it applies to men and women, illuminating the patriarchal and gendered roles assigned to gay and not-gay men and women. […]  A valuable study for those interested in gender and GBLTQ studies.  Summing Up: Essential.”-Choice

Not Gay is nothing less than a breath of fresh air. This book is certain to change the way that we think about heterosexuality’s relations with the homoerotic.”-Roderick Ferguson,author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique

"Ward’s book is confident and theoretically well-informed, and offers a rich, often counterintuitive and thought-provoking tour through straight white men’s homosexual activities and their shifting meanings – in history, in the military, in fan fiction, in French kissing among Hell’s Angel members, as well as in the accounts of pop psychological experts who assure straight men having sex with other men that they are not gay. In short, this is cultural studies at its best."-Times Higher Education

"[Not Gay] provides a compelling and intriguing argument, that, rather than erasing queer identities, complicates the concept of identity itself."-The Society Pages

"Ward's significant contribution to the current discourse on sexual fluidity lies in her deep reflection on how self-identified straight men construct an identity where context-specific, same-sex, sexual behavior can be incorporated into an otherwise white, straight, masculine identity."-PsycCRITQUES

“Clear-eyed and unsqueamish, Not Gay defiantly insists that sex between contemporary American straight white men is in fact meaningful sex that can't—and shouldn't—just be hand-waved away. Jane Ward provides a timely and convincing corrective.”-Hanne Blank,author of Virgin: The Untouched History

"Ward pays close attention to the ways in which white straight men justify their own sexual behaviors with other men.  She neatly breaks down common defenses given to 'explain' such actions...Ward is not arguing that these men are 'really' gay or bisexual.  Instead, her point is that what makes these men 'not gay' isn't their actions, nor the complicated and contradictory emotions that are involved in those actions, but rather, their commitment to straight, normative life."-Vice.com

"This fascinating book explores the worlds of white men who have sex with other white men and yet identify as straight.”-Pacific Standard

"Rather than focusing so much on sexual orientation, or trying to unmask the feelings of these men, who position themselves as heterosexual yet engage in same-sex sexual behavior, Ward turns her attention to the ways in which certain organizations use homosexual acts to further men's investment in heterosexuality, hypermasculinity and homosociality in order to build lasting, strong bonds and friendships and to reassert white manhood."-Metapsychology

"Ward's idea that our cultural understanding of men's sexuality has been way too simplistic for way too long is fundamentally sound and refreshing. Ward's reach suggests she's well on her way to enacting the change she intended with her writing. Greater understanding of any cultural phenomenon is only a good thing for the world."-Gawker.com

“[…] Not Gay, an insightful treatise on the nature of heterosexual male interaction with other men, addresses many of the stereotypes and assumptions associated with straight and gay men.  The book also skillfully analyzes the often fluid nature of sexuality, race, privilege, and the taboo crossover behavior between sexually active men of opposing preferences.”-The Bay Area Reporter
"Not Gay opens up a discussion of male sexual fluidity that is real and needed."-Bitch Magazine

About the Author

Jane Ward is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She is the author of Respectably Queer (2008). Visit her website at janewardphd.com.


Product Details

  • Series: Sexual Cultures
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press; First Edition edition (July 31, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1479825174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1479825172
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My feelings towards this book are highly ambivalent. As someone who is in the very rare position of having done a large study of straight identifying men who have sex with men that has tried to break out of the racialised stereotypes that characterise this type of research, any research which shifts this racialised discourse is very, very welcome. However, the more I read the book the more disappointed I became. The main problem with the book is that it is not based on meticulous qualitative/ethnographic research with the participants, but on personal anecdotes, historical accounts, media accounts and popular stories in the main. I recognise the value of this type of secondary research, but only as a background to empirical study, particularly where the subject is so personal and sensitive. The problem I think, with the research, lies from this fundamental lack. Firstly, the methodological construction does not allow the many generalisations about this activity that are made as knowledge claims. These need to be reined back. I was taken aback at some of the generalisations about this group. Secondly, and again this is probably due to the data used - there is a massive lack of empathy with this group, many of whom are leading painful, difficult and complicated lives that they feel they have no escape from. Thirdly, the over characterisation of misogyny and violence as central to this activity is naively handled. I have seen a great deal of misogyny and violence in gay and lesbian sexual behaviour. No attempt is made to locate the contribution in terms of sexuality per se, only straight male sexuality. Fourthly, there is a permeating bisexual erasure throughout the work. The writer claims to challenge the straight-gay binary, then reproduces it again and again.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I am one of the few researchers that studies straight white men that have sex with each other. One paper from my master's project, in which I interview members of this population, is forthcoming in Sexualities (as of the posting of this review). I say that to indicate that I review this book from an academic angle, with extensive knowledge on the subject. Not Gay is a must-read book for anyone who is interested in sexuality. By analyzing historical research, studies that use methods such as interviews and participant observation, content analyses of Craigslist ads, and contemporary phenomena such as hazing rituals, among other sources of data, Ward provides a brilliant account of why straight white men have sexual contact with one another.
Ward does an excellent job at examining a wide range of data. The data she examines give critical insight into this phenomenon, just as other methods will provide similarly important insight, from different angles. The beauty of different methods is that each give us a better understanding of a particular issue, so it is unfair to criticize a study simply because of its methods. Ward pulls data from a variety of sources to craft her argument, and her conclusions are well supported; she did not conduct interviews or ethnographic observations because she uses other sources of data. Other researchers (myself included) use different, and complementary, methods to study the same issue. I hammer this point because all methods are equally important and insightful, and it is unfair to criticize her book because of her methods; they provide ample evidence for her arguments, and they make for a rich study.
Moving on, Ward examines why straight white men engage in sexual activity with one another given their historical and cultural locations.
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Format: Paperback
Straight white men have sex with each other nearly as frequently as gay men do, argues queer theorist Jane Ward in her new book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men -- they just don't think of it as sex. In her view, hazing rituals, homoerotic touching, and mutual masturbation sessions are neither the result of latent homosexuality, nor of purely non-sexual dominance and submission impulses: "From a queer perspective, hazing scenes look easily like kinky sex play, like the kind of consensual soft-core BDSM at which most queers would hardly bat an eyelash."

Just as male-female sexual encounters may follow any number of familiar scripts, same-sex activities between straight men are equally scripted. They may be explained away as situational (no female partners are available), ironic (some forms of playful touch), or about enduring something uncomfortable to "prove" one's heterosexuality: "There's nothing in the world I want to do less than what we're talking about doing," says one of the bros in "Humpday", after he and his straight friend dare each other to have sex for an amateur porn contest.

It's not that straight men are lying or in denial about same-sex attractions -- their disgust may very well be genuine -- but Ward suggests that discomfort alone is not a reliable or relevant signifier of one's sexual capacity: "Straight men's sexual track record points to a dynamic tension between desire and disdain for that which is being f*****.... [A] sincere repulsion with homosexual sex and with other men's bodies does not signal innate heterosexuality any more than ... sincere misogyny signals innate homosexuality."

In Ward's view, straight men may see these activities as being necessary to, or in service of, heterosexuality.
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