Inside Higher Education has an article about a recent study on the ubiquity of the fag patois in High Schools, and how it also applies to Universities. C.J. Pascoe calls it the ''fag discourse'' which is probably a better term. She writes:
''Exhibiting stupidity, emotions, or incompetence, caring too much about clothing, touching another guy, or dancing were all things which could render a boy vulnerable to the fag epithet. In this sense what I call a fag discourse is not just about homophobia, it is about a particularly gendered homophobia as these renouncements of the fag are as much about repudiating femininity as they are about denying same-sex desire.''
Actually, I've never seen ''exhibiting stupidity'' get someone labelled ''fag''; much the opposite. But I think she gets at something interesting about the fag patois- often it hasn't got much to do with actual homosexuality. Most students I've encountered are strongly for gay rights, and simultaneously really freaked out by anything that seems ''gay'' to them. Which often includes such things as dressing well or having an affinity for art.
This brings us to the somewhat unsurprising part of Pascoe's argument. She notes that the fag discourse is prevalent on campus, especially in fraternities, but much to the detriment of the lives of our homosexual students. However, I'd say that it's pretty unlikely that we can stop kids from calling each other fags, provided they don't do it in our classes. I'm sure as hell not going to take on the task of following around frat boys and trying to wash their mouths out with soap! Part of the reason that they do it is because Mom and Dad find it obnoxious and they're 19, so the dorky University instructor is probably even less likely to get them to quit. Besides, most of them grow out of it. In most cases, I think it's as much as cause for concern as their tendency to find flatulence hysterical. Not everyone outgrows that though.
Something that Pascoe doesn't mention, but which I already have, is the stranger fact that certain humanities are taken as ''faggy'' by young people. One of my best students was talking to me once after recitation about the paintings I had shown, and threw me for a loop with the comment: ''I actually liked the Art History class I took. I know it sounds queer, but I actually like art!'' I tried not to laugh and explained that a lot of people like art. But, we often encounter this strange idea that reading poetry, or studying art, or being emotionally receptive to many of the things that we study in the humanities is somehow ''gay'', in the sense of indicating homosexuality. Much to the detriment of the soul I believe.
It's the same with other arts as well. There is a popular connection between certain pop divas and homosexuality I find. As if one leads directly to the other! ''I tell you, Bill, I've always been attracted to women. But, then I was thinking about it, and I really like Madonna's music. That made me think that I might like having sex with another man.''
All of this simply leads people to limit themselves from pleasures that might enrich their lives. Including ''same sex desire'' of course, but gradually extending to all things which are contemplative instead of active. Masculinity as a shrinking cage. Not only is this somehow tragic; it's also ''gay'', in the sense of being stupid.