Journey on over to Craigslist and read some of the postings for "Men Interested in Men" and you will find a BUNCH of postings just like this one--definitely some a bit more graphic. A while back I wrote a blog titled, "No Fems!" that expressed my frustration with gay and bisexual men that place a lot of emphasis on masculine gender expression and label it "straight-acting." But more recently I have been intrigued by another group of men: straight-identified men that have sex with men.
I just read an amazing article by a professor, Jane Ward, that I will soon be one of my faculty advisors here at the University of California, Riverside, titled, “Dude-Sex: White Masculinities and ‘Authentic’ Heterosexuality Among Dudes Who Have Sex With Dudes.”
Abstract: Based on examination of an online community in which white "str8"-identified men assert that sex with other white men bolsters their heterosexual masculinity, this article examines the heterosexual and racialized meanings that white str8 dudes attach to their same-sex behaviors... I argue that in a culture constituted by both a racial and sexual binary, whiteness and heterosexuality are "natural" bedfellows that simultaneously signify the "really, really normal" subject. [Abstract from publisher's website]
Ward does an amazing job shedding light on this subject and I highly recommend reading the article if you are able to access it from the publisher's website.
There are so many questions that are raised when thinking about straight-identified men that have sex with other men--particularly identity questions. I have had my own encounters with men this category of men. Men that will have sex with men just for the sake of having sex (the ecstasy, the pleasure, etc.) but identify as straight. They claim that sex is just a physical thing and they are able to separate sex from emotions.
So is it possible? Can one identify as one sexual orientation and cross over sexually just for the sake of physical and sexual satisfaction?
When I began peaking out of the closet I was very hesitant about meeting anyone since I was not willing to allow myself to "outed" or even really to admit that I was seeking out guys because that would mean that I accepted my homosexual identity (I was still convinced that I was straight, or would at least end up straight). I met this one guy in my dorm hall that I started fooling around with. It was a way for me to start understanding my attractions for other men, even if I was determined to make them go away. The guy on the other hand had no same-sex attractions. He was a rather sexually active straight college student. Our little rendezvous were (at least for him) just another way to be sexually satisfied. He made it very clear that it was sex for the sake of sex and that he was straight.
Our little "meetings" ended when I confessed to my counselor that I was seeing a regular sex partner. In my quest to freedom from homosexuality I had no problem cutting him out of my life--although it was tough because he lived down the hall. I look back and see that area of my life as part of my coming out experience and how I was able to make sense out of why I am naturally attracted to men.
After I ended my sessions with my counselor and came out as openly gay I made contact with him again. I figured sharing my journey with him and how I was able to affirm my own sexual orientation would at least inspire him to feel comfortable with himself and accept his own gay identity. Except, he doesn't have a gay identity. It was sex for the sake of sex.
I think it is important to then move away from (or perhaps past) being defined solely by sexual activity. Were I to never have sex again, I would still be gay.
I discussed this topic with my friend Brian Murphy and we both raised some very important questions about sex and sexual orientation: How much weight do we place on sex acts? What is "straight" or "heterosexual"? How do we balance identification with action? How has a "straight" identity (ours or another) impeded relationships or personal growth?
I personally would like to argue that one's sexual orientation is not defined by their sexual activity. Looking at ancient civilizations, it is easier to to understand how this argument can be true.
All around I think this is an interesting topic for us to think about and to begin processing. How much of our identity is based on our actions? I look forward to posting more about this subject and I welcome feedback and different perspectives.