As he scrolled idly through the ripped, shirtless torsos and smiling faces on his Grindr grid, sex educator and podcast host Topher Taylor received a surprising notification. There in his inbox was the unmistakeable face of his homophobic high school bully, so desperate for a fuck that he offered to book them a hotel right then and there. Taylor declined the offer. “He’s a really attractive guy, but my memories of him were too negative,” he tells me.
If this had played out in a movie, Taylor would have undoubtedly fucked his high school bully. Hollywood loves nothing more than a homophobic asshole jock with a secret desire to be boned by his prey. This is known as internalized homophobia, an ever-present phenomenon in which you lash out at people like you to mask your own self-loathing.
In a round-up of shitty tropes, The Advocate called this “The Closeted Jock” stereotype (naturally, it goes hand-in-hand with the “Promiscuous Queer”). Even progressive shows buy into this tired cliché — Sex Education has been lauded for its sensitive depictions of queerness, pleasure-focussed sex-ed and HIV, but its writers still couldn’t resist pairing up Eric with his bully, Adam. TV Tropes calls this The “Armored Closet Gay,” citing other examples like Glee’s Dave, who harassed Kurt vigorously before eventually making out with him, and the 2020 film The Thing About Harry, which features a guy who reunites with his now-pansexual high school bully. In gay romance novels, it’s basically an entire genre.
So, what gives? Are gay guys actually boning their bullies, or is it just a worn-out stereotype?
“I think it does happen a lot,” says Taylor. “I know so many queer kids who’ve been sexually approached by people who were unkind to them. Even as an adult, I’ve had men scream homophobic abuse into my face, but I’ve also seen them get boners as I square up to them!”
Taylor calls this “forbidden fruit syndrome,” explaining that many queer people have a sense of freedom that those repressed by heteronormativity or toxic masculinity seem to idolize. “I find the psychology behind it quite interesting,” he says. “I wonder if their dislike for us has evolved into a fetish?”
To cast a wider net, I take the question to the “Gay Bros” of Reddit — basically the most masculine Agony Uncles Reddit has to offer — and the overall consensus is that the trope is bullshit. One goes so far as to say “the idea that homophobes are just closeted is a smear campaign against gays,” whereas others argue homophobia is more often motivated by straight-up hatred than repressed desire. There are a few users who think the stereotype runs true, though — one apparently fucked his bully, “made him cum without touching his dick” and, in what appears to be the ultimate gay revenge fantasy, said, “Who’s the f****t now?” (These stories are obviously hard to verify on Reddit, and are probably best taken with a grain of salt.)
But outside of porn and Hollywood, the idea of fucking someone that actively made your life miserable is less appealing. Even if the archetype of the dominant bully is theoretically attractive — there’s certainly no shortage of them in gay porn — there’s little research on how often gay guys bone their tormentors, or how this perceived attraction skews when real-life trauma is factored into play.
“I’ve been approached by three guys in total, and I was tempted by one of them,” continues Taylor. “I almost convinced myself that it would be cathartic to sleep with him, but ultimately, I got my ego fed and some sort of ‘closure’ from this guy who used to be so cruel to me begging for my body.” As for the other two, Taylor says the memories were “too brutal — I couldn’t imagine giving my body to someone who ruined my school experience.”
Fetishization of “bad boys” aside — a few of the Reddit bros allude to Stockholm Syndrome, a term to describe a hostage who becomes attracted or otherwise loyal to their abuser, when considering whether fucking their bullies would turn them on — it seems there’s some truth to the stereotype, but nowhere near as much as media wants us to believe.
As for Taylor, he’s content with his decisions to kick his bullies to the curb. He didn’t need to fuck any of them to gain validation or closure. It’s enough, he says, to take quiet satisfaction in the fact these horny bullies are always the thirstiest, earliest viewers of his social media content. For him, revenge is a dish best served far, far away.