An anthropologist reader points toward the book by evolutionary psychologists Catherine Salmon & Donald Symons called Warrior lovers: Erotic fiction, evolution, and female sexuality, and asks:
Reading your comments on Brokeback Mountain: I haven't seen it, but I wonder if you've run into the phenomenon of "slash" fiction (widely available on the web, mostly non-commercial, and sometimes in violation of copyright laws)? Slash involves taking male buddies from popular fiction -- Kirk/Spock, Holmes/Watson, Starsky/Hutch (hence the "slash") -- and writing stories in which, in the course of their adventures, they find out that they're more than just good friends, and wind up having graphic sex together.
"Slash" is about 100% written and read by women -- some lesbian but most straight. In fact it follows romance novel formulas very closely. One member of the buddy pair is more sensitive and feminine -- physically a man, emotionally a woman -- while the other is a conventional romance hero. With Kirk/Spock, it's Kirk who's the sensitive one and Spock who's the cold, emotionally distant hero who discovers his true feelings at the end. Part of the appeal is that the guys end up having sex not because they're gay, but because True Love conquers all.
Gay men aren't any more interested in "slash" than straight men are in Georgette Heyer. [Who?] The real parallel to "slash" among straight men is girl-on-girl pornography, where women combine ultra-feminine bodies with implausibly guy-like appetites for casual sex. Presumably these women inhabit the same male fantasy land where hot babes are interested in cool guy stuff, like martial arts and field-stripping automatic weapons, instead of boring girl stuff, like relationships and feelings (whatever those are).
Both slash and girl-girl porn tell us a lot (maybe more than we'd like to know) about the chasm between male and female sexuality. but, apart from the physical activities, they have nothing to do with real homosexuality. It's funny how many reviewers are so clueless about human sexuality they can't figure stuff like this out.
Another reader points out that a similar phenomenon exists in Japan, where it is called Yaoi.
This might explain why the whole movie seems to be taking place in some alternate universe.
If you're looking for a film set in what's recognizably our own space-time continuum, you could do a lot worse than the insightful romantic comedy "Something New" about an affluent black woman who, unable to find a black man of her class, reluctantly tries dating a white guy. Over the years, in response to my "Is Love Colorblind?" article, I've gotten hundreds of emails from well-educated black women just like the heroine. The "Something New" screenplay rings quite true.
A reader writes:
I think that more than anything else, what slash and girl-on-girl porn represent women and men (respectively) trying to dispel their anxieties about the opposite sex.
I think that most men are secretly (or openly) afraid that women don't like sex and only view it as a bargaining chip to get what they want out of males (companionship, emotional and physical support, or babies). Women are afraid that men only want them for sex and thus view emotional support of females mainly as a chore that they perform in order to get sex, or in order to have her give him children (in other ways, the same way men worry about women and sex).
Girl-on-girl porn "proves" that women want sex, because if they didn't, why would lesbians bother having sex with each other, instead of just cuddling all the time? Similarly, if gay men get all "girly" around each other and think about love, commitment, and relationships, then that "proves" that men are interested in such things - because if they were just ploys to get sex, gay men would have no reason to do these things amongst each other, because they can easily get sex from each other.
So heterohomophilia (a term I coined for heterosexual fascination with homosexuals of the opposite sex) is, I think, as much about dealing with insecurity as anything else.