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But Not Too Gay
Hot gay hugging action.

...and even though their relationship is super new and they are super attracted to one another, they do not make out at all.
(Do not drink. That is not gay. That is TV gay.)

Okay, let's say you're done hiding your lesbians and you don't want to bury any gays. You want to feature a gay character on your show or, hell, make him or her the starring character! But what if they get a Love Interest? Will they flirt? Hold hands? Or even get it on? Gay characters enjoy increased visibility in media and numerous positive portrayals. However, there is a bit of a Double Standard regarding gay love portrayals and love scenes and the like.

Rather, the lack thereof.

Homosexuality is still a taboo in much of the world, and while some audiences may tolerate a gay character, they may be completely squicked out by shows of affection and sex scenes with gay and lesbian characters, no matter how tame they may be. So television shows and other media don't push the envelope too much on gay affection. There may be a hug, or a meaningful handhold, but never a kiss unless it's heavily promoted and advertised (and even then, don't get your hopes up that it will happen as advertised). So basically, you can have gay people and gay couples but they can't be shown actually behaving like a couple.

This is sometimes a case of Reality Ensues, as many gay couples in real life avoid being affectionate in public for fear of unwanted attention (as was the retroactive justification for the page picture). But if we see straight couples' private behavior while the gays continue to act like overly-sentimental roommates, it comes right back to being this trope. In many cases, you're more likely to see female couples kissing and having sex than two men. This is due to a combination of Male Gaze and Girl on Girl Is Hot, which has led to lesbianism being turned into a promotional strategy that is expected to attract viewers rather than repel them.

Of course, this is a common source of Unfortunate Implications. Values Dissonance plays heavily into this trope regarding acceptance of homosexuality, though, and it varies from country to country, from decade to decade, even within countries and communities. It is all too easy to look at the prevalence of this trope and come to the conclusion that homosexual couples are fine if they're on TV... as long as they don't show any sexuality. As the tolerance toward homosexuality grows, this trope is fading little by little, though old habits can die hard. This Trope may also occur due to heterosexual actors feeling uncomfortable going too far with someone of their own gender. In historical shows set in time periods where it would have been unsafe for gay and bi characters to be out, this trope is probably due to Deliberate Values Dissonance and is arguably justified.

Before you add an example, please think about if it even fits the trope. If you aren't able to really describe an example, it's best not to put it here. Try comparing examples to whether or not the straight characters show their love more, or describing particularly jarring occurrences.

Subtrope of Selective Squick. See also Get Back in the Closet for media with gay love content, but it is just rated higher than media with heterosexual love scenes and the like. There is some overlap with Hide Your Lesbians. For bisexual characters, see But Not Too Bi. See Have I Mentioned I am Gay? when a show with supposedly gay characters doesn't ever reach even this level of physical affection between gay characters.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Les Yay overflowing in teasing and subtext, up and including two women sharing a bed and raising a daughter together, and plenty of mentioned groping in the visual novels. But good luck seeing an actual kiss or explicit flirting in the actual show by anyone, same sex or not.
  • The anime adaptation of Togainu no Chi, originally a Boys Love Eroge, desexes hero Akira and his childhood friend Keisuke's relationship to subtext, hand-holding, and a couple of hugs. No love confessions allowed. Considering that Keisuke raping Akira is a large part of this route of the game, it's actually detrimental to the plot.
  • An episode of Code Geass has president Milly announce a contest (catching a cat), with the prize being a kiss from someone on the student council. While a group of girls fawn over the thought of smooching Lelouch, one of their number expresses a preference for Milly. Here's where it gets quirky: In the American broadcast, the girl is asked why she's "so weird". In Japanese, she's told not to come out there and then.
  • The Sailor Moon anime is interesting in that it is, even in the Japanese version, very coy about Haruka and Michiru. While the main, straight couple of the series still only kisses infrequently, Haruka and Michiru never kiss. On the flip side, while Usagi and Mamoru never indicate that they actually have a sex life (their daughter was born hundreds of years in the future), Haruka and Michiru are just about the only couple on the show that we know have been intimate.
    • The manga does not have this problem. Though Haruka and Michiru still never kiss, Haruka does kiss Usagi on several occasions (used to illustrate her personality consisting of both genders).

    Comic Books 
  • In Young Avengers, gay couple Hulkling and Wiccan are seen doing little more than holding hands and sleeping together...clothed, while straight characters in love (also teenagers) have been shown kissing and sleeping naked, implying some off-panel nookie. Thankfully, the last issue of Children's Crusade averts this. (Though every other instance in the series plays it straight.)
  • Similar to the Young Avengers example above, the Runaways featured almost no physical contact between Karolina and Xavin, even though they were supposed to be betrothed. This was probably for the best, since Vaughn and Alphona stubbornly insisted upon having Xavin take the form of a man despite him having promised to take a female form since Karolina's gay. But even after subsequent writing teams made Xavin female, there was still a noticeable lack of affectionate displays between them.

    Fanfiction 
  • There's an in-universe example from Circles of Power. After they have graduated from Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Dean, Seamus, and Neville all share a house. Harry and Ron also happen to be a couple, and there's a house rule that they are not to show affection towards each other when there's other people around. In the beginning no one really seems to think it's strange, but toward the end it becomes an issue. At one point, Ron gets scolded for putting his arm around Harry's shoulders, at the same time as Seamus is getting it on with his latest girlfriend on the living room sofa without anyone saying anything about it. It ultimately leads to a fight between Ron and Seamus who, as it turns out, is the only one who really has anything against Harry and Ron showing affection.
  • Skewered in Hunting The Unicorn both humorously and seriously; the Warblers lampshade Kurt and Blaine's relationship by complaining about how chaste and tooth-rotting it is, but then comes the eleventh chapter where we find out that Blaine has a really good reason for being terrified of sex. He tried to invoke Sex Equals Love, ended up strung along for weeks, and Blaine's big brother effectively had to break things off for him. By threatening to burn the guy alive. His discomfort only gets worse after he and Kurt get together because he doesn't want Kurt to end up like he did, and he tends to avoid any and all discussion of the inherent problems this will cause.
  • Nicely averted in Keena & The Defendants Of Constan Academy with Lily and Michie. While it was a rather Take Our Word for It kind of moment, chapter 12 has them admitting that they indeed have had sexual intercourse.

    Film 
  • Philadelphia: Andy and Miguel behaved more like a pair of roommates than a couple. As Tom Hanks explains in The Celluloid Closet, quite a few scenes were filmed that showed them more intimately, but the studio forced them to take them out before release and the film might never have seen the light of day if they hadn't relented, which they eventually did since it was the lesser of two evils.
  • Brokeback Mountain is a lot better in this aspect, but it still received a lot of accusations of using this trope.
  • Parting Glances subverted. There is a gay sex scene a few moments in.
  • In The Family Stone, Thad and Patrick never kiss.
  • I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry: The two characters that are (pretending) to be gay never kiss each other even during their own wedding ceremony — they hit each other instead. Why? Because the MPAA threatened to give them an 'R' rating and Adam Sandler wussed out.
  • In Valentine's Day, Sean and Holden are the only couple that doesn't kiss at some point.
  • The 1995 film Higher Learning: Two college-age girls (one gay, the other bisexual) share a very chaste kiss where their lips barely touch and that lasts for only slightly more than a second. They are both in the privacy of the gay girl's bedroom and are not showing much skin. Then there's another love scene between a boy and a girl (both straight); they are making out more or less in public, and are in their skimpy track-and-field clothes, with the girl baring her midriff. The boy is right on top of the girl, and the camera lingers on them a lot longer than on the two kissing girls. When this movie is shown on American television, it gets even worse: the girl-on-girl scene is cut entirely! (We do see the girls briefly holding hands in both the theatrical and edited-for-TV versions, however.) At the very least, it's good to see that, unlike most other media depictions, the girls aren't treated more sympathetically for not being male homosexuals.
  • In the film version of Mamma Mia!, all of the adults of the older generations ended up in a romance that got development (or at least a musical number) Except for Harry. He comes to the island seemingly single, and then shows up with a boyfriend in the last two scenes without ever explaining it further. And the pair's screen time can be comfortably counted in seconds.
  • The Kids Are All Right, a movie marketed on its portrayal of a lesbian couple, has one lesbian sex scene — in which the two women have unsatisfactory (and interrupted) sex, all of the action is under the covers, and both women keep their shirts on. On the other hand, the movie has numerous straight sex scenes, all of which are fairly explicit and very pleasurable for all involved.
  • Played with in Tell No One; Anne and Helene aren't shown being as affectionate with each other as Alexandre and Margot, but they act like a married couple in other ways (Helene even refers to Anne as "my wife" at one point), and even argue like one when Helene finds out what Anne knows concerning the plot.

     Literature 
  • The Black Magician Trilogy: When it comes to the gay couple, characters claim that Everyone Can See It, but what it is that they see is a mystery. Unlike the straight romances in the trilogy, there is no sex, no kissing, no cuddling, no touching that isn't triggered by a life or death situation (and even then it amounts to two hugs and two cases of grabbing each others' shoulders), no meaningful looks and no reference to any physical affection or attraction whatsoever after they get together. Mind you, this includes scenes where the reader get to see them alone togther and thinking about each other.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Played straight with Lord Renly Baratheon and Ser Loras Tyrell. Their physically intimate moments together are not nearly as sexually explicit as the heterosexual pairings on the show.
    • Ditto for the "Kissed by Fire" sex scene between Loras and Olyvar, a spy and prostitute in the employ of Littlefinger. Although Olyvar is completely nude, the Knight of Flowers is nearly fully clothed, save for his bare chest and feet. We never see the two men do more than lie in bed and kiss. If you contrast this scene with Theon Greyjoy having intercourse with Ros in Season 1, there's a definite discrepancy between how gay sex is portrayed on the series in comparison to its heterosexual counterpart.
  • Bad Education Played straight with the teachers, averted with the students.
    • In Season 2, Rosie starts dating a woman, but although it's often talked about, we only see the couple together for a few minutes, holding hands. Made all the more obvious because Rosie kisses Alfie twice.
    • On the other hand, there's the students Stephen and Grayson. Several straight students mention having boyfriends/girlfriends or are seen flirting, but only Stephen and Grayson are seen kissing.
  • Modern Family was criticized by many when gay couple Mitchell and Cameron (pictured above) hugged each other after a reunion at an airport, in stark contrast to straight couple Phil and Claire. Of course, some noted that none of the couples seem overly affectionate with each other but this was a big sticking point. In the second season, it's revealed that Mitchell is adverse to being affectionate in public. They finally do kiss, but it's a small peck discreetly played on the background, and they kiss again in the next episode in a way more visible and casual scene.
  • As the World Turns's gay couple Noah and Luke actually had a fan instituted countdown in between their kisses. They went 211 days in between two kisses and it took them 514 days from their first meeting to get their first love scene. This is unusual, particularly in the Soap Opera media where romance and love scenes happen frequently.
  • Averted on The New Normal. The main couple, Bryan and David, kiss in nearly every episode (sometimes multiple times) and show a normal amount of affection for a committed couple.
  • This trope is a common criticism of Will and Grace regarding Will's flaccid love life. It wasn't until the two very last seasons that he could actually kiss someone (the early kiss with Jack doesn't count, seeing as that was an eyes-open smack on the lips) — the last season was the only time he could have a proper, goddamn finally make out with a Special Guest.
    • Ironically, the show actually parodied and called out this tendency at times; one episode has Will and Jack conspire to kiss live on The Today Show as retaliation for a major primetime drama cutting away from a gay kiss to a fireplace at the last minute, as was a common occurrence in shows like Melrose Place.
  • South of Nowhere dipped in and out of this trope. TeenNick apparently had no problems with cute pecks and hugging with the two lesbian characters Spencer and Ashley, but this was in contrast to the straight couples fully making out and displaying more affection for each other. And most of the time, they didn't even touch other.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow and Tara were a couple for about eighteen episodes before they so much as kissed on-screen, probably partly for this and partly to avoid claims of sensationalism. This was The WB's doing. Joss Whedon made sure to put their first on-screen kiss in "The Body" because it was a good character moment and it would keep the kiss from being the focus of the promos. When The WB initially refused to show the kiss, he threatened to quit (to the point of starting to pack up his office) and they relented. When the show moved to UPN, the lack of a standards & practices department allowed him to do what he wanted, leading to the first lesbian sex scene (at least one not played for fanservice) on network TV.
  • The Wire featured fairly regular straight scenes and one lesbian scene, but the fairly prominent gay character of Omar never gets a sex scene, and over three boyfriends and five seasons, only has two on-screen kisses (three if you count kissing Brandon's forehead in an early episode): he barely even touches the third boyfriend, Renaldo, even in a non-sexual way (possibly as a result of some controversy about the fairly steamy make-out scene with his previous boyfriend, Dante).
  • Ellen DeGeneres's first sitcom was criticized for focusing too much on gay issues and lesbian relationships after she (and the character) came out. When she got a second sitcom with CBS, the character remained a lesbian, but it wasn't much of a focus. Likewise, Ellen herself is criticized for downplaying her sexuality in order to appeal to mainstream America with her talk show, but she has mentioned her wife Portia de Rossi and marriage several times, and even before she became a national star, Ellen's comedy routines never put much focus on sexuality, either gay or straight.
  • Melrose Place had far more explicit scenes for the heterosexual characters versus the scenes for the token gay character Matt Fielding who wasn't allowed to kiss on screen.
  • Desperate Housewives
    • The one lesbian couple that only stayed for a couple episodes had two on-screen kisses — which was basically the same as what you'd get for a straight couple. Bob and Lee, however, have never kissed once and usually don't touch although they've been on the show for at least two seasons.
    • Desperate Housewives did have a few boy kisses between Andrew and his boyfriend in the first couple seasons, when Andrew was evil and trying to drive his homophobic mother insane, but none since he turned good.
    • In Season 5, when he and his fiance moved into their own home on Wisteria Lane, they lean in for a kiss... and the front door closes before their lips actually meet.
    • As of the latest season, Bob and Lee finally got a kiss when Gabby got them back together.
  • The Camp Gay Marc on Ugly Betty never got to kiss any of his love interests, and yet he did kiss both Betty and Amanda for comedic reasons. However, they were able to show a ground breaking kiss between the 15-year-old Justin and Austin, since the show had already been canceled by that point so there wasn't much risk.
  • Sal, the only major gay character on Mad Men (a show where the straight characters are seen banging each other all the time and in various combinations), is deeply closeted due to the time and place the show is set, so his gay love life mostly consists of resisting the advances of other men, and unrequited crushes on straight guys like Ken. There are two exceptions — one (a hookup with a maintenance man in a hotel room) is cut short by a fire alarm before anything happens, and the other (in which he's about to try cruising in Central Park) gets a Fade To Black at the end of an episode. The character has since been written off the show, apparently for good.
  • The now discontinued sitcom The Class has a very jarring scene where one half of a gay couple finds out that his partner sabotaged a school application for a friend because they didn't want to spend more time with her. The punchline to this is his reaction to this: exclaiming "I've never loved you more!" and then ... give his partner a hug and a peck on the cheek. Shortly afterwards, he was Put on a Bus, leaving his partner free to make plenty of comments about his sexuality and their love life without having to actually show anything.
  • On Friends, Ross's gay ex-wife and her significant other never kissed on-screen, not even at their wedding.
  • A recurring problem on True Blood. Straight characters either explicitly have sex or we see them laying in bed after having clearly done the deed. Meanwhile, the gay relationships are uncharacteristically chaste. It becomes disturbing when you think of how there have been at least three explicit rape scenes, and that is somehow more okay than a same-gender couple having consensual sex.
  • Averted, on Spartacus: Blood and Sand, by various gay characters, especially in War of the Damned with Agron and Nasir.
  • Pretty Little Liars, in the series at least. While all of the other girls' got an average of two fairly steamy make out sessions a piece, Emily's share consisted of one kiss early on and one make out session in one of the last episodes, in between which she and her love interest barely talked due to a serious lack of communication about how open they should be. She got even less action in the second season.
  • The Secret Life of the American Teenager. When Ashley's friend Griffin did get a love interest (Peter), both of their screen times shot down to almost nothing. They've only appeared once since they got together, though they at least got a decent onscreen kiss in that appearance.
  • This is both averted and played straight on Brothers and Sisters: Kevin and Scotty make out as much as any married couple on the show, and before the marriage Kevin made out with plenty of hot guest stars. Saul, however, rarely has an onscreen kiss, which could be tied to Nobody over 50 Is Gay.
  • In the UK, there was an example a few years ago that beautifully illustrates this trope. A newspaper started a campaign complaining about the increasing amount of "filth" shown on television, and its examples were gay kisses and straight sex. (That the newspaper in question was The Daily Star, owned by a pornographer and not above cross-promotion, just makes things even more delicious).
  • On Glee, it became a point of contention in the first three seasons that the same-sex couples are given less screentime and love scenes than the straights. This fortunately became less pronounced as time went on. The episode devoted entirely to characters losing their virginity gave equal screen time to Rachel, Blaine, and Kurt all having their first times.
    • This is parodied in an episode where Brittany and Santana are about to kiss in the hallway only to get called in the principal's office due to complaints about their affection, and Santana invokes this trope with force.
    • Inverted in the fifth season, when Finn's death bumped up the show's other long-term relationships. Kurt and Blaine became the Official Couple, followed by Brittany and Santana, with Sam and Mercedes coming in third at best.
  • Shameless has this problem when it comes to character Ian and his love interests. Although he sleeps with both his older married boss and a classic Armoured Closet Gay several times, all we ever see is shelves rocking and occasionally we hear moaning as the scene ends. Justified in that the actor portraying Ian was a minor until partway through filming the second series.
  • Torchwood
    • In the first series, we had Gwen and Owen's affair getting constant references, Owen's love affair with a time traveller getting two sex scenes and kicking off the final story line, and Tosh's affair getting its own episode. When it comes to Captain Jack though, he had one love affair that never amounted to more than a kiss, and apparently he also had a thing with Ianto, to which we get exactly four hints over course of the series. Resolved from Series 2 onwards, when Jack's same-sex activity is far clearer.
    • Also notably averted in Season 4, where Jack gets a relatively explicit gay sex scene. This single scene results in a lot of trolling on Torchwood message boards, and the insistence that Torchwood is now officially a gay-niche show, in spite of the large number of straight sex scenes played out in the rest of the series.
  • Gossip Girl gives Eric and his relationships less time than others.
  • Skins received this criticism in its first generation with the relatively little screen time and focus given to gay character Maxxie and his love interests, compared to the various opposite-sex couples on the show (even then, it's a relatively downplayed example of this trope as he's seen kissing boys and about to get oral sex). However, they promptly subverted the trope in the second generation with lesbian couple Naomi and Emily, widely considered one of the best same-sex couples on TV ever, and basically an Alpha Couple by Series 4. They opened the floodgates again, though, with the American remake, where the show even focused more on the "lesbian" character's confusion over and sex with a boy than they did on her relationships and sex with other girls. Some also see the change in Mini's portrayal between the fifth and sixth British series as this trope.
  • Discussed in The Golden Girls. In one episode, Blanche spends some time trying to get used to the idea of her brother Clayton's sexuality. She accepts it and they move on. In a later episode, her brother introduced her to a man he planned to marry. This episode is again spent on Blanche accepting her brother's homosexuality, because she was okay with it as long as it was only a word and a thought, not an action.
  • Justified in Soap because it was made in the seventies and Jodie was one of the first homosexual characters on television. All of the homosexual relationships are done purely by words, hugging, and a lot of suggestive phrases.
  • Thomas of Downton Abbey has a kiss in the first episode, and is rebuffed by a guest in the third. In the second season, he has a crush on a wounded soldier that never really goes anywhere as the soldier dies, leaving Thomas devastated. Apart from that, his sexuality is rarely mentioned. Some excuse this with homosexuality being illegal at the time, but considering it's outright stated he had a full-blown affair with the Duke of Crowborough before the events of the series. (Some also mention that England had an underground queer culture in the 1910s even with the anti-gay laws, although since it was largely confined to wealthy people in cities it's hard to know how much Thomas knew of and had access to it.)
    • In Season 3, he falls in love with a fellow servant named James, but it ends badly, with James rebuffing Thomas' advances and being so outraged and disgusted he alerts the authorities. Thomas only very narrowly avoided losing his job and getting arrested through the intervention of Lord Grantham. While this storyline didn't result in Thomas getting any action it did at least show the kind of prejudice and danger he faces, explaining why he can't be open about his sexuality and has to be cautious about embarking on relationships.
  • The Sarah Silverman Show had a gay couple who were very much Straight Gay. It so blatantly invoked this trope that, during the gay wedding, the minister directly says "no one wants to see [you two kiss]" and fistpump at the end of the ceremony.
  • Parodied in Kids in the Hall, with a sketch about three gay men going to see a Hollywood Coming-Out Story. They get let down when the show is mostly tedious dialogue scenes, many of which feature a topless woman, and two emotionally stilted male leads who never kiss on screen.
  • Steve from Warehouse 13 is the only Warehouse agent in the show not to have had a partner or potential partner onscreen. His ex-boyfriend eventually does show up for one episode and they work through some of their issues, leading to a very touching...hug. And some canoodling implied only through dialogue.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves averts this hard. Gay couples are not just shown kissing and having sex, the main couple in the story (Rasmus and Benjamin) are very physically affectionate with one another. The actors portraying Rasmus and Benjamin made a deal before shooting that they could touch and kiss each other anywhere at any time and they definitely do.
  • Jenny and Madame Vastra in Doctor Who, despite having appeared in quite a few episodes and being married, haven't been seen kissing yet. That may have something to do with Madame Vastra's green lizard makeup, but that's part of another trope.
  • In one episode of Castle, it turns out that the (male) victim was bisexual and had a boyfriend. After the initial reveal, the boyfriend is then referred to as the victim's "friend" for the rest of the episode.
  • Danny on Teen Wolf is mostly a Token Gay. While his sexuality is mentioned almost every time he appears onscreen, and he had a boyfriend during the first two seasons of the show, he is not a regular character and was never shown to even touch the boyfriend (possibly explaining why they later broke up).
    • Though it should be mentioned that this trope was very averted during on episode the third season, when Danny was given a pretty steamy love scene with one of the alpha twins. He's still little more than an undeveloped side character, though.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Mulan is revealed to be a lesbian or a bisexual and in love with Aurora. Mulan tells Robin Hood that she wants to tell an unspecified person that she loves them. She then goes to see Aurora, who interrupts her to tell her that she is pregnant with Prince Phillip's baby. Mulan then leaves, crying. Whether Mulan is in love with Aurora or Phillip is open to interpretation if you don't listen to the creators.

    Music 
  • Adam Lambert is this in spades. In real life, his sexuality has no shortage of mention. If you look at the few music videos he has, though, you'd get the impression that he is either Camp Straight or a snake zoophile.

     Web Original 
  • This episode of Black Box TV. The main character and his secret boyfriend are only referred to as "different" and are only shown hugging.

    Video Games 
  • Curtis, the protagonist of Phantasmagoria 2, has three love interests — two women and one guy. The women both get multiple sex scenes. The guy? Well, they almost kiss. Apparently, showing men actually kissing is much edgier than showing fairly explicit straight BDSM.
  • Jade Empire shows a big, long kiss between the Spirit Monk and a heterosexual love interest (Dawn Star or Silk Fox if the character is male, Sky if the character is female). With a homosexual pairing, however, the camera cuts away just before the two lock lips. There are a few mods that fix this on the PC, but Xbox players are out of luck.
  • Bully offers you the chance to kiss both girls and boys, and receive health bonuses after doing so. Problem is, there exists only one kissing animation for boy/boy couples, as opposed to at least three for boy/girl couples. Also, boy kisses can never progress past the second stage of health upgrades. If you want to get the most bonuses (and even to progress the story), you have to kiss girls.


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