With the new season of Netflix’s Love is Blind hitting, we’re once again confronted with a question that has been floating around the internet for some time now: “Are the straights OK?” 

That phrase has served as a kind of shorthand for every question we’ve had about the oftentimes fascinating, sometimes cringe-worthy, and maybe even unsettling memes, tweets, and TikTok videos to have ever come out of Straight World

It’s also the name of a hugely popular subreddit that serves as a repository for some of the most puzzling content out there, as well as queer-made memes that distill all our concerns about what in the world straight people are even getting at. 

At first glance, the “Are the straights OK?” memes might seem hyperbolic – mean-spirited, even. But look deeper and you might find that these outlandish behaviors might even suggest that, perhaps, a good number of cisgender heterosexual people still carry questionable and sometimes downright harmful perceptions about gender, sexuality, and relationships. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the rabbit hole of the “Are the straights OK” meme to figure out whether the straights are actually okay – and whether we might not be asking this question enough. 

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Fellas, Is It Gay?

It doesn’t take a very long time on the subreddit to realize that a lot of cis-hetero memes have an underlying theme of toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity can be described as a “narrow and repressive description of manhood”, emphasizing the idea that manliness is about power and aggression. 

Emotions are seen as a sign of weakness and feminine traits – including emotional availability – are emasculating. This fear of the feminine oftentimes translates to homophobia, as gay men are looked down upon for their effeminacy and vulnerability. 

The “fellas, is it gay?” meme is the most damning piece of evidence for this – and the parodies are hilarious. It seems that so many cisgender, straight men are so fragile when it comes to their masculinity that seemingly innocuous things like standing next to someone at a urinal, enjoying sunsets, and even looking at yourself in a bathroom mirror could be enough to make someone question their sexuality. 

 

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Gender Obsessions

Conservatives and fundamentalists like to mock progressives for seemingly having an obsession with gender, citing parents who let their kids explore their gender identities from a young age, zoomers who attach their preferred pronouns to their social media bios, and activists fighting for trans and non-binary rights. But it can be argued that nobody is as obsessed with gender as straight people – and this is evident in the mountains of memes there are out there about how men and women should and shouldn’t act.

“There is no denying we’re living in a gender-obsessed moment,” writes Nicola Heath for the Guardian. Just think about the elaborate gender reveal parties that have filled up our Instagram feeds, the aisles of pink and blue toys at toy stores, the onesies with graphics like “chick magnet” and “ladies man” emblazoned on them, and all the sayings that are casually thrown around without being given much thought to how they could affect a child’s perception of gender. 

The problem isn’t so much about the obsession with gender as it is about the reinforcement of gender roles. By reinforcing notions that men are dominant, aggressive, and have little respect for women’s boundaries, while women are submissive, nurturing, and home-oriented, it strengthens all these misogynistic ideas that women are incapable of holding their own. 

The Old Ball And Chain

Gender stereotyping doesn’t just affect women’s chances to advance in their careers and get equal treatment in the workforce – it affects nearly every aspect of a woman’s life, including her relationships. 

Stereotypes dictate that women turn into “fun-sucking” nagging wives who are obsessed with domesticity, want to control their husbands, and depend on their husbands financially – all of this creates a ripple effect into how men and women view marriages as “traps”. There are gamer-themed memes featuring a bride and a groom with captions like “It’s game over”, and the offensive comparison that marriage is a life-long prison sentence for men – thus “the old ball and chain” jokes.


And with so many memes and jokes about this on the subreddit, it’s no surprise that the “About” section reads: “Is someone holding these poor souls hostage and forcing them to be together?”

Is someone forcing them to get married? Because, frankly, for a lot of LGBTQ people, to hear so many straight people complain about being trapped in unhappy marriages simply by virtue of having all these unnecessary roles and expectations can feel quite hurtful – especially when so many LGBTQ people around the world still don’t have marriage equality. 

 

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So, Are The Straights Really OK?

There is so much more to glean from all the cis-hetero-centric memes out there. There are people like conservative blogger Matt Walsh who think that married people shouldn’t go out for a “meal alone with a member of the opposite sex” – because (and note the sarcasm here) men and women apparently can’t have purely platonic relationships.

There are men who take pride in being overprotective of their partners and daughters, even going so far as to control how they dress and what they can post on social media, as well as humiliating them by threatening to beat up potential suitors. 

And there are men who believe in repressing their femininity and emotions because it somehow puts their masculinity in question – though it doesn’t really. 

On the outside, these jokes may seem like just that – jokes. But these jokes do more than make straight folks laugh. They reinforce negative stereotypes and repressive gender roles that don’t just affect the quality of their lives and their relationships (imagine hating your wife) but can seriously put the most vulnerable of us in danger as well.

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