Sunday, August 15, 2010


Gay Relationships: Are All Men Pigs?

Richard heard from a friend recently who told me about a recent conversation with a young friend over dinner. Seems the young guy had recently split with a boyfriend after finding out that his man had been sleeping around. The conversation turned to gay men and sex. Why is it so hard to find a gay man who is interested in monogamy?

Why is it so hard to find intimacy and sexual connection in the same person? My friend told me he was stumped and found the questions a bit haunting. What is it about gay men and sex? Are all gay men promiscuous? We may wince at the word “promiscuity,” but research and personal experience both indicate that gay men have more sexual partners than heterosexual men. It’s reasonable to question why that might be, and to think about the costs and benefits of our sexual choices.

Sex is important to gay men. In addition to the obvious reason – sex is highly pleasurable – until recently sex between men was illegal, disapproved of and marginalized in most parts of our country. And gay male culture tends to be both sexy and sexualized. Ellen DeGeneres tells a joke about looking in the gay yellow pages when she first came out and remarking, “Wow! Look at the abs on that mortician!”

Gay men have always had long-term, committed and monogamous relationships, of course. That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider all the obstacles placed in the way of such relationships’ success: lack of legal recognition, frequent lack of family support, etc. But gay men don’t always assume that sexuality can only be healthy in the context of a committed relationship. (Contrast this with the situation of heterosexuals, where sex is supposed to be only within marriage, yet sex outside of marriage isn’t at all uncommon.)

Pleasure makes the sexual urge very strong, but that doesn’t mean our reasons for having sex aren’t complex. Sex can be lovemaking – celebrating the passion and connection with a partner we love. But there are all sorts of other reasons why people choose to have sex: maybe they’re horny or lonely. Maybe they’re drunk or just bored. And some men have learned to use sex as a way to escape from stress.

Sex can be a deep expression of intimacy, but pursuing many sexual partners can reflect just the opposite – a fear of real intimacy. Casual sex can allow us to scratch our itch to physically connect with another person without requiring us to do the hard work involved in having a healthy relationship. Over time that can decrease our ability to have those sorts of committed, fulfilling relationships.

Does the gay community encourage gay men to have a large number of sex partners, particularly outside of relationships? The sexual infrastructure of our community includes cruisy bars, circuit parties, bathhouses, sex clubs and Internet hook-up sites with names like Manhunt or Cruisingforsex. Sex is instantly available to anyone with a car or Internet connection. It’s not that recreational sex is a bad thing, but sex can become compulsive and unhealthy if it becomes the source of our identity or if it becomes compulsive. When we become preoccupied with sexuality or anything else, life loses its balance.

Back to my friend’s dinner conversation. Is it difficult to find gay men who are ready for committed relationships? I don’t think so. Our community presents lots of alternatives, though, and guys who spend a lot of time in the hypersexual parts of the gay community aren’t good candidates for monogamous life.

Chalk up another reason why it’s good to take plenty of time to get to know the person you’re dating before you imagine giving your heart to him.

John R. Ballew, author and contributor to GAYTWOGETHER, is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, relationships and spirituality. If you have any questions or comments you can submit them directly to GAYTWOGETHERor John R. Ballew, M.S. -

=== thanks again to Michael @GAYTWOGETHER.COM


Stew said...

To look at it from the other side, heterosexual guys are encouraged from a young age to find a girlfriend. Some don't see themselves as a whole until they have a girlfriend. One can not make it through high school without a gf. Then there is the natural progression into marriage and children. The parents encourage it and prompt for grandkids before the couple is even ready.

We live in a different world where we are not usually encouraged to do these types of things and of course there is the debate of whether or not we should be allowed to get married.

With these differences, is there any doubt why our relationships are so different?

As well, when you find a straight that doesn't marry, they are looked at the same way. Society encourages us to hook up with someone. You have to have someone. You don't want to be alone. Even at the cost of true love.

JustinO'Shea said...

STEW. . .you raise some excellent questions/observations which I think need examining. . .just just casual passing assent. Too often we agree with some thing but even before we actually think it thru as for meaning, value, ramifications.

This might very well be an area which gets nodding assent without knowing anything about it. What do you think?

It got me thinking: How many things do i just follow the herd without any real conscious choice or decision: I am just swept along
like Fall leaves in the winds of coming Winter. . . aimless aimless as well?


Coop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stew said...

I believe that we all are guilty of following the heard to some extent. It's not always a bad thing. However we must occasionally step back and ask ourselves, Is this what I want or what someone wants for me?

Even how many gays define their relationships can be so different than our straight counterparts. Since we are breaking the rules to start with. Who's to say what our rules are.... We write our own. And thus we are labeled as promiscuous just because people don't understand. They've never questioned the rules and just can't fathom why anyone would.

I say question everything. You may come up with the same answer, or you just might be the next Einstein

JustinO'Shea said...

Familiar with QUEER AS FOLK? Ok, the other day I watched a couple of the episodes where Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor are talking about commitments, loving, marriage, etc. .and this comes up every now and then as I recall. .

Brian makes the point. . .. His view. . "we're queer. .we're gay. . why do you want to regulate your lives by hetero standards on weddings, etc. .? Be queer. . not on the fence. We are not them!"...loose quote, etc.

He refers to commitment ceremonies and the wedding cake with two grooms or two brides as the symbol of the "heterosexual suicide pact."

Toward the end of the series Brian has bought "the house" for him and Justin. . .they are lying on the floor of there gorgeous home, with the fireplace blazing. . .and they decide not to have a ceremony, etc. ."we don't need ceremonies, papers, cakes. . . .we know who we are and why and how we love each other. . . .why be someones we are not?"
My decisions on this issue are still 'out' but I do see/understand Brian's views here.

If Peter and I do eventually "live together" will we go thru the queer version of heterosexual commitments services and rituals. .? I am not sure about that. . .for either of us. If we do decide to celebrate commitment some way/how. . .we do not think we'd want to do a rerun of a hetero marriage. . . It would certainly include our families and friends. . .but not in the usual fashion. . . think about it.

I do not envision myself as anybody's "wife" or "husband". . even the vulgar "top or bottom" is some sort of hetero role-playing. We are neither. . . we express our love. . .period. See what I mean?

The "housewife" role would never ever fit either of us. . hahahaha
That is riotously funny. LOL Nor would either of us want a "wifey to come home to after work".

I do not belittle or disparage other guys' or gals' preferences. . I honor and respect their choices.
I think some drag queens are amazing people, gorgeous in what ever they wear or not. . .and certainly the few I know well are just plain loving loverly guys! But that just isn't me. . and that is very cool.

The fight for equality is essential . . . just as long as "equality" still allows us to be QUEER.
Just some of Justin's ideas on a cool Monday morning. . . .
ciao ~~

Anonymous said...

Spot on Justin.
There is no need to follow the herd.
There is no need for anyone to become one of the that straight or gay.

We are individuals, we should celebrate that, we should live by it.

As humans do, we unfortunately all feel the pressure from the herd to conform. If we are too individual and non-conformist we can be in danger of being considered 'strange' or 'wrong' and perhaps becoming outcasts.

Other people's opinions can strangle our individuality...if we let it.

Not rocket science tho, just common sense. Well, it is to me anyhow.

So, if/when you an Peter eventually feel a need to publicly celebrate your committment to each other I cannot imagine you acting out some gay parody of a marriage. I feel quite confident that you will do it in your own individual way.

I've commented before that I don't understand why people feel the need to take on stereotypical roles. I don't understand why people value the mantle and trappings of a it gay, straight or a bikie, drag queen, ladies-man, emo, goth, surfie, etc, etc.

I do not judge them or believe them to be superior, inferior or whatever, I just don't have that desire, that need to conform or to belong....and I just don't really understand it other than to perhaps suspect it is because they are just not comfrotable with being themselves?

So, to come back to the subject, is gay = promiscuity?
I think that Stew is on to something. We are all, most times, unconciously following the path, the life and values that were around us as we grew up. We are encouraged to become part of the herd....and maybe when someone realises they are gay, they are different, then perhaps promiscuity follows because they are unsure of where they fit in society?
I dunno. I'm

Greg in Adelaide.

Stew said...

I couldn't agree more with your musings.
And isn't it nice that the humidity went down some! A welcome relief, indeed.

Gary Kelly said...

Herds. Yeah, well, they suit some people. Actually, most people. Being a member of a herd means you don't have to think.

In Oz we have parrots called Galahs that mate for life. And ya know what? Nobody marries them. Doesn't bother the Galahs though.

I understand the legalities and the reasons for legalizing same sex marriage. It's a matter of equality... like it was for blacks being relegated to the back of the bus, or made to enter a cinema from a separate entrance.

Opponents of same sex marriage are basically supporters of inequality. Simple as that. They consider themselves superior to people of a different pursuasion.

If only they realized how wrong they are. How pathetically wrong.

Coop said...

Justin's "Queer as folk" musings.

I read these on Monday and started to think about them as I was folding laundry. LOL. My first thoughts were that, on some level, Queer couples HAVE to confirm to heterosexual rituals.
Massachusetts and other places extend rights to same sex couples... and they are termed " marriages ". Making sure that if something BAD happens to one partner, the other has the power to make medical choices, is recognized as a family member, has protected rights to the money and the house, etc. I realized that all those things are necessities; which any real-life couple is sure to take care of.

There's an ad in Bay Windows inviting people to send in announcements they want published. It features a photograph of two plastic brides kissing on top of a wedding cake. That's obviously a Queer version of heterosexual commitment. I would have accepted my commitment ceremony as a "Wedding" with two "Grooms" on the cake.

I folded my laundry and I let my mind clear out and think freely cause Justin's musings are about a Queer couple celebrating their Love and commitment to one another before their loved ones and, quite possibly, GOD. And it's very liberating. "We know who we are and why and how we love each other. . . .why be someones we are not?" I haven't dreamed anything up yet; because whatever I do will be personal to ME and my boyfriend. I don't need a re-run of a heterosexual marriage.

I also think that the words "top" and "bottom" are vulgar. Just... Eww.... Yeah, husband is a little confining too. I'm just not a fan of "partner". It sounds like people are running a business or something.

JustinO'Shea said...

Y'are, COOPs, y'are. . .monkey business. . .swinging thru the trees on a huge vine, sleeping in a hammock. . .woo wooo. . .careful. . .y'll both git strangled!

Rockin' in the breeze. . bare ass. . . aaaaahh the life. . . How about a "banana belt" like in the photo? hehe

Coop said...

What if...

Right now, same sex couples are striving to get recognized as Couples. "They" (and I say this cause I'm UNcoupled :b) want to be seen as having committed, loving, relationships just like male-female couples.
Right now, perhaps, a lot of these same-sex unions are Queer versions of the heterosexual wedding rituals because the conventional "wedding" is something that everyone can identify with. Maybe Queer couples who want to formalize their union have trouble thinking outside the box. Same-sex commitment ceremonies will evolve... grow... change... into something even more Beautiful and meaningful than they are now.

Many expressions of Love are universal. I like the beautiful ritual kiss at the end of a wedding ceremony. I get teary just typing about it. In front of all who are important to the couple. Complete with the tears of joy and the clapping and the cheering.
Yeah, it's a fixture at heterosexual weddings; but I can't see going without it.

Justin, what are some of those "trappings of heterosexual marriage. . ." that 'the gays' could turn their backs on?