This morning I woke up to a podcast of Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor. As usual, the episode was split into two halves, each dealing with recent news in the world of sociology. At the top of the programme, Laurie announced that one half of the show would explore Stephen Pinker’s contention that the violence across the world has been on a steady decline since the dawn of civilization. Okay, sure. That’s interesting enough. It was the other half of the show, however, that caught my ear.
Eric Anderson, a professor at the University of Winchester and the interviewee for the programme, recently published a paper called “I Kiss Them Because I Love Them”, about the increasing tendency for young, heterosexual men to kiss one another on the lips. And yes, you read that right. Heterosexual. Straight guys kissing—y’know, just cuz it’s the friendly thing to do.
Admittedly, Anderson’s study is a narrow one. He only interviewed 145 respondents, and mostly athletes; but 129 of them—all young, straight men—said they had kissed a boy at least once, often as a show of congratulations on the sports field. ‘‘It’s just part of sport now, isn’t it?’’ said one respondent, while another claimed, “Loads of guys kiss on the lips after scoring a goal; you’ll see it on TV, too.’’
Also interesting was Anderson’s reaction to his own work. On the radio, he described himself as coming of age in the 1980s, a time when he never would have dreamed of seeing this sort of behaviour (two guys kissing as a from of friendship or congratulations). The reason for this is that the trend has only surfaced in the past 5 or 6 years, meaning it would be probably be unheard of to anyone currently over the age of twenty-five, and that’s the whole point, really.
I wanted to blog about this not only because I found the results surprising, but also because of what it means to someone like myself and many of my peers, namely adults who write books for youth. Anderson’s study highlights how easy it is to fall out of step with the people you’re writing about.
Even still, I’m not sure it’s a trend the publishing industry will embrace all that quickly. Any bets on how long it’ll be before we see a YA book featuring two young football players who share a smooch after the game-winning touchdown? I’m thinking it may be a while.