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Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men
Inside the secret world of the straight guise
By Tristan Taormino
published: July 31, 2008
Once again, a female singer has a hit song called "I Kissed A Girl"; I saw Katy Perry perform it on network television the other night. As she danced around in her cute yellow dress, I thought: "Wow, singing about lesbian smooching was pretty racy when Jill Sobule did it—same title and subject, different and better song—in 1995 on MTV." Now it's ready for prime time? Well, it's been almost 15 years. Plus, the whole idea isn't that threatening anymore. If a straight woman confesses she's messed around with another woman—even had full-blown sex with her—most people are quick to shrug it off. She was drunk. She's experimenting. At most, maybe this means she's bi-curious. But it's no big deal. Women have a lot more leeway to explore their sexuality with other women without questioning their orientation or setting any alarms off. On the other hand, society doesn't make room for men to do the same. Can you imagine the flip side of this scenario? No, I don't mean Bon Jovi topping the charts with a new rock anthem called "I Made Out With a Guy." Let's say one of your male friends confesses: "I was at the club last night with Bob. The music was pounding, I had a few shots, and his hair just looked so good, so we made out, and I jerked him off in the bathroom." For most people, there's really only one response: "Dude, you're gay." Maybe, but maybe not. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than three million men who self-identify as straight secretly have sex with other men. Although there's been some mainstream dialogue about African-American men who have sex with men "on the down-low," there hasn't been much talk about white guys who do it. And there are plenty of them out there. Take a brief scroll through one day's worth of "Men Seeking Men" posts on New York City's Craigslist, and you'll find dozens of listings like "Str8 Guy Needs Great Cocksucker" or "Handsome Masculine Married Irish Guy Seeks One or Two Hung Married Irish Buddies Who Want Head and Maybe More." From the super-brief to the incredibly detailed, some posts offer interesting explanations:
Though I have always been hetero, I also have had a fantasy to anonymously suck cock and swallow his cum.
I am a married white male forty-six, six-one, one-ninety—a goodlooking, successful, Ivy-educated guy who finds himself in town alone this week. Not interested in changing my life in any major way, but do feel the occasional need to deal with this side of my nature.
I am married . . . looking to provide no reciprocation needed or wanted oral service for VERY masculine, verbal straight/bi/straight acting men. My clothes do not even have to come off. This is about YOUR pleasure . . . not mine.These examples articulate some of the reasons why heterosexual men get it on with other men: for anonymous, no-strings-attached sex; to explore homoerotic desire without a gay identity or relationship; or to fulfill a fantasy, including one of dominance and submission.
"When these straight men have sex with other men, it is not about an attraction to the other man—it is about an attraction to the sex act," says Joe Kort (joekort.com), a licensed therapist in Michigan. "When asked about what they enjoy, it is never the actual man, but instead his body parts, the sexual behavior they engage in." Many of Kort's clients (who are overwhelmingly white) are straight men who have sex with other men (SMSM). He's even created Straight Guise (straightguise.com), a website dedicated to the subject. He cites dozens of explanations for SMSM behavior: "Some have been sexually abused and are compulsively re-enacting childhood sexual trauma by male perpetrators; some have sex with men because it's easier and requires fewer social skills than those required to have sex with women; some are 'gay for pay'; some like the attention they receive from other men; some like anal sex, which they're otherwise too ashamed to talk about or engage in with their female partners." He acknowledges that some of these men may be bisexual or closeted gay men, but in his experience in treating clients over an extended period, many of them are not. He believes that when it comes to sex, identity and orientation, preferences, fantasies, and behavior do not always neatly line up in one category. More often, they are complex and even contradictory.
Mike, whom I found on a personals website, is 44, married, and works on Wall Street. He has been having sex with men for four years, and says he likes the closeness and the male bonding. Plus, "It's just less complicated than with women. We're both there for sex, and that's it." John, 35, also works in finance, identifies as straight, and is dating several women. But he mostly enjoys getting blowjobs from men: "There are less emotional complications for me. Many men will do things some women will not, and many men give better oral sex. I think men will exercise their hunger for sex and not deny that they are horny more so than women. They feel comfortable sexually bonding." Both men admit that their female partners don't know about their behavior; in fact, their families and friends don't know.
Unlike some psychology professionals who want to pathologize these men, treat them for sexual addiction, or "cure them" of homosexuality, Kort approaches his clients without an agenda. He also unpacks some of the cultural baggage that contributes to this phenomenon: "They are interested in the sexual contact with other men. They are working through issues of father hunger, lack of touch from other males, and the need for contact with other men on deeper levels that women enjoy with each other and men do not. Some of these men tell me they meet other men and really just want to be held and talk to the other men, but that the men they meet want it to be sexual, so they go through with it but really don't want to. Ironically, since men are not allowed to touch—except for a pat on the butt in sports—they use the sexual realm to find ways to touch each other and receive touch."
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