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): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
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.