As my team made a compilation of the funniest "gay kiss" GIFs we were surprised at how many straight guys made our list. And how violent their reactions were. In fact, there were so many that we had to re-title it, "12 Man-On-Man Kissing GIFs That Went Terribly Wrong."
The most shocking GIFs were the ones of straight boxers who kissed their opponents on the lips as a way to provoke them into making mistakes (shocking because of the violence that ensued). That's kind of a neat twist when you think about it: Using homophobia to beat your opponent.
But not every straight guy gets outraged when another man kisses them on the lips, and that's where our entertaining list could be seen as a sign of how comfortable hetero men are becoming about being around gay guys. Some of the GIFs on our list show straight guys whose only reaction to a surprise lip-lock was a shoulder shrug, and in one case, to kiss back! If GIFs had been around ten years ago, I seriously doubt we'd see that kind of nonchalance.
Wouldn't that be great -- to kiss your straight male friends on the lips hello or goodbye the way you do your gay friends? If our list is any indication, we're not that far off. With the exception of a few violent or negatively charged reactions, the overwhelming number of GIFS we looked at --whether or not they made our list -- showed straight guys taking a lip kiss in stride. Of course, some of those GIFs were taken from TV shows like Modern Family (example: Clare's husband Phil gets kissed by a gay friend) but that proves my point: In the past, TV wouldn't have shown a man-on-man kiss, and they certainly wouldn't have shown a neutral or positive reaction to it. But today it does.
One of the reasons we were excited to see so many GIFs with neutral-to-positive reactions from straight men is that those GIFs not only reflect a growing acceptance of gay men; they help to create that acceptance. Here's how: Psychologists have known for years that building acceptance (to anything) requires not just "modeling" actions (like a male-on-male kiss) but the reactions to it as well.
In other words, what good would TV do us if it showed lots of male kisses with nothing but violent and abusive reactions? The audience would "learn" that the proper response to a male kiss is a strong left hook.
In modeling, not just a kiss, but neutral-to-positive reactions to it, these GIFs are showing straight guys that the appropriate reaction to a gay-man-on-straight-man kiss should be the same as a straight-woman-on-gay-man kiss: Unwanted, but no cause for alarm.
Martin Luther King once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Who knew that GIFs would help do the bending?
Michael Alvear is the author of the gay dating advice series, How To Meet & Attract Hotter Guys.