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(Gay) Male Sexuality & the Monogamous Ideal

In April 2004, while dining with a GayPatriot reader visiting from the Bay Area, I tossed out an idea for a post that was kicking around in my head. At that time, I called it The Vast Gray Area, a term I used to define the area of sexual morality where things are neither black nor white.

I have always believed, very strongly so, that there are certain sexual behaviors which are clearly wrong. I don’t draw the line as narrowly as do some religious fundamentalists, limiting the expression of sexuality to the marital bond, but I do draw a line. Except sometimes, I’m not sure where to draw it. It is, for example, definitely wrong to sleep with someone in a monogamous relationship.

The more I thought about the topic, the more complicated it became. I envied the simplicity of the fundamentalists’ formula — sex should be saved for married couples. Their formula makes it very easy to draw the line. Similarly, those who believe the only requirement should be that the adults engaging in the act are consenting have also simplified the “test” of sexual morality.

But, their simplistic formulae ignore the enormous complexity of human sexuality. Many people report feeling shame and/or a sense of emptiness after a casual encounter. Others find that sexual promiscuity at one stage in their lives makes them better able to appreciate monogamy in another.

Like many gay men (but not all), I have experimented a great deal, doing some things that, in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t done — even if they were “safe.” Yet, I look around at some of my heterosexual peers, many now in monogamous relationships, and realize that their standards for hooking up were even more lax than mine.

Men seem more readily disposed to quick sexual hookups (without emotional entanglement). Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, notes that:

Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road [while men] have O’Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes.

Yet, when some men find the right woman (and others the right man), their beloved becomes like the state highway department out to widen that small country road.

For example, one man who thought the purpose of college was “babes and brews” (where he “consumed” much of each) wouldn’t even think of cheating on his wife. He is as devoted a husband as any young man I know.

The lesson of this man — and others I have met — shows that a man could “act out” his sexual urges in his early adulthood only to settle down when he met the right woman. So, acting out one’s sexuality is not incompatible with finding a lasting monogamous bond.

But, it doesn’t answer my question of where to draw the line before one meets the love of his life.

And it is this topic I wish to explore in the category (Gay) Male Sexuality & the Monogamous Ideal that I created yesterday. Given the (overall) thoughtful nature of the comment thread to the post which inaugurated the topic, Loneliness & Unsafe Sex, I realize that other gay men are thinking about these issues as well.

I had long hesitated to write this post because I feared I would not be able to express my thoughts as well as I would like. And I wondered whether I should offer any personal anecdotes to illustrate my point. (I’m still on the fence about that.) But, I believe this is an important topic which, I fear, hasn’t received adequate consideration in our community.

We have learned that men are more sexually inclined than women. Should that give us license to act as we wish so long as we “play safe” and respect the marital and relationship bonds of others? I have at times come down on the side of Calarato and other times on the side of Michigan-Matt (yet don’t think prostitution should be criminally sanctioned). And agree with Dalebert that “promiscuity is an unhealthy and ultimately ineffective attempt to fill a need that really needs something deeper and more meaningful.

Reading these comments from you readers showed that y’all are ready for a conversation I hesitated to begin. One of the great good things about blogging.

-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest):

UPDATE: As I reviewed this, I realized I barely touched on the notion of sexuality and human emotions. I guess I’ll save that for a subsequent post in this category.

An Image of Domestic Bliss in the San Fernando Valley

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 4:08 pm - September 20, 2006.
Filed under: Gay America,LA Stories

So saturated are we here in West Hollywood with images of the buff physiques of young men that it seems that the only way we can find happiness is if only we look like that — or sleep with someone who looks like that. And yet I find that the happiest gay men I know are often the most ordinary looking.

Back when I was president of Log Cabin of Northern Virginia, I looked forward to putting our monthly mailing together at the home of this couple in late middle-age, both bald and paunchy. When I was around them, it never occurred to me how far they were from our cultural ideal. To me, they were the ideal. It was like being around my most beloved uncles. Not only did I delight in their company, but they made me realize that how a gay man could age with grace.

Last night I had a vision of a similar couple, though much closer to my age. While at a dinner for my college entertainment group in the San Fernando Valley, I saw across the room two men facing each other in a booth. From the way they looked at each other, it was clear they were a couple. Both looked to be late 30s/early 40s, one was kind of paunchy with bad hair. The other took more care of his appearance, having shaved his head which highlighted his somewhat haggard voice.

But, when I saw how they looked at each other, their imperfect appearances didn’t matter much. To me, they became the most beautiful men in the room. I imagined that one (or both) had had a difficult day. One called the other at work and suggested they meet at this restaurant rather than cook at home. And when they met, the cares of their days melted away. The company of his beloved was all each needed to feel once more that he was part of the universe.

Too often, in our media culture, we focus on the pretty and the buff. As if their physical beauty is the quality to which we all should aspire. But, then we see couples like this. And we know what really matters.

-B. Daniel Blatt (AKA GayPatriotWest):

Support Virginia Log Cabin’s PAC at 09/22 Fundraiser in Alexandria

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 12:35 pm - September 20, 2006.
Filed under: 2006 Elections,Log Cabin Republicans

As a sign of my commitment to building a new stronger Log Cabin as the organization seeks a new head, I encourage you to attend a the Annual PAC Fundraiser for the club I founded (now nearly ten years ago), the Log Cabin Republican Club of Virginia. Help this great group elect inclusive Republicans to State and Local Office.*

Join Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), who in 1999, as head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was the first member of the Congressional GOP leadership to address a gathering of gay Republicans, on Friday, September 22, 2006 from 6:30 until 9:00 PM at the historic Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 North Royal Street, Old Town Alexandria.

While the minimum donation of $50 entitles you to light fare, you can also support the group at these higher levels–Bronze ($100), Silver ($250), Gold ($500 or more). Contributors at these three levels may bring one guest at no extra charge. They will also be acknowledged at the reception.

RSVP to or mail contributions to LCR/VA, PO Box 16611, Alexandria, VA 22302.

*Next year the entire Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate are up for re-election. It is vital that Log Cabin Republicans have the resources to participate in this important election and support those Republicans who believe in a more inclusive Republican Party.

Congressman Tom Davis is asking for a donation of up to $2,100 per election from an individual’s own funds (or up to $5,000 per election from a multi-candidate PAC or a political party committee). He is not asking for funds from corporations, labor unions, foreign nationals or minors. Contributions are not deductible for income tax purposes.

UPDATE: Please note that this is not a fundraiser for Tom Davis. It is in the words of its organizer, “solely to raise money for the Log Cabin Republican Club of Virginia’s state political action committee,” a group which opposes the pernicious proposal (defining marriage) on the Commonwealth’s ballot this fall.