Thursday, March 29, 2012

Editor's  Note:  I checked my emails late afternoon, so I hadn't read this entry when I was in class early afternoon.  The question was raised by a student about "the gay agenda and gay identity" and took the whole class period. . .excellent questions raised, etc.  I planned to write about this and what students said to post on The Dunes.  Then I read this post.  Connectedness, ehyah.  ;-)

HELP:  I am very interested to hear your comments about this article - your ideas, esperiences along these lines, feelings. . . .etc.  My personal experience here still has a long way to go.  If you will, you can really help me talk with my students about these matters.

Perhaps this may make it easier. . .If you are willing to share your ideas on this  and do not want your name or identity to appear on The Dunes. . . .write your comments as usual  beginning with a request to have your identity NOT revealed. . . or email me privately. . .

I certainly would appreciate your assist here.  THANK YOU very much. . in advance.  Justin
Posted: 29 Mar 2012 05:20 AM PDT
2389998032500It’s Saturday night in New York and James is once again on the prowl....
He heads to his favorite gay bar.  Before long he has worked up a sweat to the driving beat of dance music and the crowded room of men.

The sensation of being alone in the crowd makes him feel united with something beyond himself, although he might have a hard time putting it into words.  He feels alive and connected in a way that makes him high.  He senses that he is part of this community of sexy, writhing men and it's important to him, even though he hasn’t spoken a word other than to order a few drinks during the first two hours of his night out.  He feels sexy and alive in a primal way.

It’s well past midnight now, James drives off and heads home with Ted.  The bass beat still makes his head pound – but that’s not the only part of him throbbing. The connection James felt at the bar echoes within him as he and Ted undress one another and explore each other’s bodies. Not all sex happens within a relationship.  While many men equate sex with love and intimacy, many other men do not. 

Men who make a distinction between sex and romantic love are looking for something else.  For some it is simple pleasure or erotic relief. For others there is another quality to this part of their erotic selves – a sense of connection to an erotic tribe of gay men.

Tribes have certain rituals; members have ways of acknowledging one another.  Some tribes are homogeneous, with everyone looking and behaving pretty much alike; other tribes make room for all sorts of members, so long as they go along with the rituals and rules. Gay tribes come in both flavors.

Ted is headed to a sex club he visits when he is in town.  Once there he undresses and joins the other towel clad men walking the hallways.  Sometimes there’s a nod or a smile or an exchange of pleasantries; more often there is only a quick glance.  The music and smell of the place is familiar and exhilarating.  To Ted it smells like sex.

After making the rounds and checking out who’s here, Ted heads to a dimly lit room where a circle of ten men stand.  All are naked.  They are pleasuring themselves, standing shoulder to shoulder and urging one another on.  Ted finds himself wondering why is this so exciting, when none of these men is really his type.  Maybe it’s being together with other men who are shameless and feeling the same thing. He begins to surrender to the building excitement.

Separating love and sex isn’t always good for you, of course.
Sex can become compulsive, and looking for one sex partner after another can be a way of avoiding the challenges of intimate relationships. 

Continually being on the hunt can mean never simply allowing yourself to enjoy feeling content.  And cruising for sex can be a problem if it serves as a way of distracting yourself from other problems in life that you would be better off addressing.

It’s too simplistic, though, to make the judgment that all men who have sex in tribal settings are avoiding one-on-one intimacy.

Ben is on a retreat at a ranch in the California wine country.  At least once each year he comes here for a program that helps him to get more in touch with his spirituality and his sense of himself.  If you ask him, though, he’ll freely admit that spending six days naked with three dozen other gay men is a big part of the experience for him.  He enjoys the sense of camaraderie and he likes the touch.  He’s been coming here long enough that the experience of driving up the mountain seems like entering a deeper spiritual dimension to him.  For Ben, this place has become holy ground.

Connecting raising erotic energy with the sense of tribal bonding these men feel is a powerful experience – especially for those of us living in communities where we can feel isolated, or where we have outgrown our familial or cultural roots.  This sense of connection isn’t something everyone encounters, but for those who do it can be an important experience.

Americans are optimists and have a long history of experimenting with utopian communities that haven’t worked out well.  In the same way, it is important for men who connect with this tribal erotic energy to cultivate an ability to reflect on their experience.  Take a look.  Is connecting with the group a substitute for finding a deep relationship with one individual?

 Does the sense of tribal connection require everyone to act and look just the same, or are men of other races, looks, abilities and ages welcome?  Is there an unhealthy pressure to conform?  Will you be kicked out of this seeming paradise when you reach a certain age?

For men who are part of the erotic tribe, taking a look at safer sex practices is especially important.  Is any sex that takes place safer sex?  Is there a place for self-disclosure, or would saying to someone “We need to use a condom, I have HIV” be seen as odd? 

Allowing your sense of tribal connection with others to become an excuse for avoiding taking care of yourself or others with whom you connect is just another way of being in denial.

Sexual self-expression in all its glory is something our gay male community has traditionally valued. 
Take time to stay conscious about your choices and the events in which you take part and celebrate your life.

John R. Ballew, M.S. an 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 GAYTWOGETHER or John R. Ballew, M.S. -

thanks MICHAEL,


GreginAdelaide said...

I've never felt the need, the urge, to be with other gay strangers.
I've never been to a gay bar, never wanted to, not even curious to visit one, even when I was young(er).
Never felt the desire to visit a gay club.
I'd rather meet individuals, then I can choose if I like their company and mix with them some more, or not.

No tribal gay urges for me. No desire to belong to the crowd, the herd.
But then that has always been me, no need, no wish to "belong" to any group. I've always just been me.
I have a sense of who and what I am, no need of groups, I far prefer more intimate socialising, ir at least the ability to examine, analyse, question, conclude who I wish to be intimate with I mean.

In fact I've never been drawn to outwardly obvious signs or expressions of gay people. The stereotypical gay type has always been a turn off, if anything, for me.

Sure, I've had friends that are obviously outwardly gay and I've loved them, but I knew them (got to know them) and who they were, I got to know them more by circumstance, not from choosing to search them out and get to know them.

Interesting, I'll think on this more as the day goes on.

Thanks Justin, I've never considered this before, I've just always known that I'm not one who burns to be part of a crowd. Never thought beyond that before.

GreginAdelaide said...

Just after I posted my last message I fell across this:

Fitting the average. Our world programs us into molds. We can choose to be programmed, follow the herd, or not.

Funny guy, interesting talk. Watch it.

Coop said...

Go ahead, Justino. Post it with my name.
I appreciate what John Ballew is trying to in this article.The Ted thing... yeeeuck. But the author is telling it like it is.
I don't need "erotic energy" to be a part of every interaction I have with other gay men. I've had thoughts of finding a guy to hook up with. Intellectually, I knew that it was the hormones talking. And I may not be able to look myself in the mirror afterwards. Companionship and camraderie are VERY important to me. That's why I have the friends (gay/straight/male/female) that I do. "Gay agenda?" That sounds vaguely homophobic and it made me cringe. Justin, I hope you enlightened this student. I keep one foot in conservative land and some people really think that ALL gay men just want to get off with each other. The kinky-er the better. Our "pride" festivals give them ammunition. And I'm not proud of that.
I'm NOT trying to tell other gay men how to live their lives. That's none of my business. There is room for ALL of us {-:

Coop said...

Question: Is this blog (Justin and all the regulars) a tribe? I think it is.

I think John or someone else could write a whole article on non-erotic tribes.

Gary Kelly said...

I think certain guys, straight or gay, need to express a level of physicality with other guys. Images of footballers, baseballers and locker rooms spring to mind. Fact is, guys enjoy the company of other guys. But the attraction need not be physical. Male camaraderie also includes gentlemen's clubs, a night out with the boys, etc.

But I think getting one's jollies by standing in a circle of naked adults wanking themselves stupid is a bit rich. Ew!

That's not primal. That's juvenile.

GreginAdelaide said...

Interesting Coop...that "yeeeuck" comment.
Had me puzzled. So I watched it again..... yeah.

But it did raise the subject of conformity and molds and how we and others view "us" etc and watching it straight after I read Justin's post it sorta fitted enough to make me think. I guess I watched it with those thoughts in mind and not as a speech on it's own.

So, viewed in isolation, I can sorta agree with your comment, or at least understand it, perhaps.

And your comment on The Dunes being a tribe. Yes, most definitely.

Actually, reading your comments again Coop, I am not all that clear on exactly what you mean, I can interpret some of those comments in various ways. Maybe you are trying to say too much with too few words, or else you assume we are all on the same wavelength?....or maybe I'm a bit slowwwww....heehee.

I guess I'll find out......

GreginAdelaide said...

I just realised MY misunderstanding of your comment Coop...the "Ted thing....yeeeuck!" I just re-read it, and woke up to what you were talking about, and now I can see what you were talking about, I wholeheartedly agree!!

What I misunderstood was the "Ted" reference, it was the name of the circle-jerker....hell!
I thought you were referring to my posting of that TED video I mentioned in my second post...doh!!

See, I'm too sensitive to criticism and disapproval. Idiot me, I jumped to a conclusion too readily.

And now that I have revisited that TED speech, the guys sounds like a salesman, selling tickets on himself perhaps. ...haha!

Coop said...


No worries. I thought you were confused by my transition to talking about the "gay agenda" which is a myth. Every gay person has his or her own agenda. They are no different than straights.
I'm Queer so nobody asks me about my agenda. teehee.