Men are Men regardless of their Sexuality. Arising from online discussions I have learned about a common misconception, particularly about differentiating between heterosexual and homosexual men. This is the stereotype that gay men are promiscuous, a stereotype often perpetuated by gay men themselves. However, if heterosexual men had the same opportunities to pick up a partner as same-sex attracted men do, there would be a lot more promiscuous heterosexual men out there than there already are.
What I Do
Queensland has been often described and considered as Australia’s equivalent to the State of Texas. This is not intended as a criticism as it is a wonderful place to live. However, for varied societal reasons, it is a conservative state. Through 20-plus years working with men, I have found that this conservatism has had a negative impact on the acceptance of sexual orientation and personal diversities.
In my private time, I communicate with men through online chat websites such as Grinder, Scruff, Tinder, and Blendr. My profile states that I am a clinical sexologist. I receive numerous messages from men of all ages asking me whether I can assist them with difficulties such as sexual dysfunctions, sexual orientation, low self-esteem, and relationship difficulties.
What I have learned
I have found that the level of trust that they have for me, a stranger on a chat line profile, is bewildering. Research continues to identify that many men find it difficult to reach out for support with matters of health, especially in relation to their sexual health. It has become obvious that behind a computer or on their mobile phone app, many feel safer being open about topics that they would rarely communicate or address in person. Most men have questions in regards to their sexuality, but very few have someone appropriate to ask. This belief has been confirmed by the willingness and openness of the online conversations that I have been engaged in.
Gay Men in Relationships
Many gay men also hold the related view that gay men cannot commit and long-term relationships are rare. The truth is that when people partner in successful relationships, they become less visible within the gay community. When, on the hunt, many men utilize nightclubs, pubs, coffee shops, and other meeting places in the search of meeting a partner. These places can sometimes become micro-communities, where others are searching as well. When people partner in a successful relationship, the needs for these venues changes and often become less important.
Each partner’s friends, families, neighbors, and colleagues form their new community. This does not mean that they won’t revisit their old community, but as time goes on and new people join that old community, their relationship becomes less visible. There are many healthy successful same-sex attracted men’s relationships that have just become more intertwined in society, and therefore less visible on the gay scene.
Similarities and Differences between sexual orientations
Another complaint, I continuously hear is about the body consciousness nature of same-sex attracted men on chat lines. For example, you need a muscular physique and good looks for any man to take notice of you. Often gay men feel that they are discriminated against, judged, and made to feel insecure about their perceived flaws by other gay men, and as a result, they form the opinion that this is a ‘gay’ trait.
Many gay men also complain that after a sexual encounter, their partner avoids them and he will not answer their phone calls or messages. On the Gay chat lines, these poor behaviors are constantly being blamed on the gay culture and criticism of the shallow nature and behavior of gay men.
These accusations are all true, however, they are not unique to gay men, or same-sex attracted men, and they are behaviors that some men display regardless of their sexual orientation. Women have been complaining about these behaviors in heterosexual men for many years! A heterosexual male may have a preference for big breasts, and same-sex attracted men, a preference for a big penis. Men are men – regardless of their sexual orientation.
Cultural Mixed Messages
There is no doubt that there are different cultural factors between same-sex attracted male communities and opposite-sex attracted communities, however blaming negative traits exhibited by gay men as being indicative of their sexual orientation is nothing else but an example of how deeply internalized homophobia goes in our societies.
Men in our society have grown up life being told messages that being Gay, is weak, abnormal, and deviant as well as an invitation to receive judgment and discrimination. Working with men who are in denial or are afraid of their sexual attraction to other men, often takes much unpacking of these negative influences and replacing them with the importance of being true to yourself.
Many of my male clients present with confusion about sexual orientation (as defined by the Dictionary of Cambridge as “feelings of physical attraction for members of the opposite or the same sex”). Clients often begin with a statement that they don’t know whether they are Straight, Bi, or just curious – but they rarely say, Gay. I have even experienced men who believed that they just needed to sleep with another man so that they can get it out of their thoughts, and move on and enjoy their relationships with their female partners.
Move Away from Labels
One of the best tactics that I use to support someone with sexual orientation confusion is to move away from using labels and focus on discovering who the individual is, free from the shackles that inhibit many men from being honest about their sexual desires and fantasies. Using a label to define a person’s sexual orientation, only achieves to restricts and limits the person to a list of prerequisites that fit. After a person has accepted their sexual orientation, they often present a label to describe the genders that arouse their sexual desires, when it is in their favor to do so.
I have also discovered from my conversations that the fear of breaches of confidentiality and judgment interferes with the fantasies held by many men. Sexual fantasy is intertwined with a man’s sexual orientation, meaning that a person can fantasize about same-sex sexual engagement, however, these attractions are kept separate from their attraction to a person romantically. For men who have not accepted their same-sex attractions, sexual fantasies can be used as a stepping stone to learning about a person’s sexual orientation.
Regardless, healthy sexual acceptance is paramount for sexual fulfillment. If men were guaranteed confidentiality, full control of their experiences, and no risk of cultural or social repercussions, there would be more men experiencing sexual exploration with same-sex partners, and more same-sex attracted men experiencing sexual exploration with opposite-sex partners. In other words, men are men within all of their diversities and labeling under sexual orientations of gay (homosexual), straight (heterosexual), bi-sexual, a-sexual, pan-sexual, etc, and any segregation of groups of men only leads to negatively affecting the ability of all men to achieve sexual self-acceptance.