Here is a hypothesis that, if correct, would explain many instances of male homophobia. Heterosexual men often objectify women, and they believe (often correctly) that other straight men do likewise. Consequently, they believe that men generally objectify those persons to whom they are sexually attracted. Therefore, such a man may believe that homosexually oriented persons objectify men, and in particular are apt to objectify him. But he has an aversion to being objectified, or at least to being objectified by persons he is not himself sexually interested in. Therefore, such a man exhibits a certain kind of aversion or even fear of men who are sexually attracted to men—he does not want to be lusted at.
The hypothesis would suggest the following predictions:
- Homophobia is more often directed at men by men than at men by women, women by men, or women by women.
- The incidence of homophobia is correlated with the incidence of the objectification of women (both individually and in a social circle; thus, even if x does not himself objectify women, if his friends do, this may correlate with increased homophobia).
- Homophobic heterosexual men are likely to be averse to having a very unattractive women being sexually interested in them.
- A significant amount of homophobia is also directed at sexually abstinent homosexual men.
I should note that I do not equate homophobia with a moral disapproval of homosexual activity or with a disgust at homosexual actions, and hence I can consistently say that homophobia is irrational (or even that some homosexual actions are disgusting—just as some unnatural heterosexual actions are), while still holding that homosexual activity is wrong. It is, after all, possible to strongly disapprove of an action, but to have no aversion or fear towards the persons who perform the action. Thus, orthodox Catholics strongly disapprove of contraception, but I think are unlikely to feel an aversion or fear towards the large majority of fellow citizens who contracept. (The case is chosen carefully: The Christian tradition classifies homosexual activity and the heterosexual use of condoms in the same moral category of "unnatural acts", and both Catholics and Protestants traditionally called both sets of acts "sodomy".) Nor can one identify disgust at an action with an aversion to the person who does it. Thus, everyone on a daily basis does disgusting and morally unexceptionable things in private, but being disgusted at these actions is not equivalent to aversion to oneself and one's fellow man. Disgust at an action can sometimes give rise to an aversion to the doer, but the disgust and the aversion are still distinct.