Friday, February 27, 2009

Dude-Sex

Straight Dude Drunk and Horny . . . Any str8 bud wanna jack? – 27. Here’s the deal. Went out drinking and clubbing, thought I’d hook up with a chick, but didn’t pan out. I’m buzzed, horny, checking out porn. Is there any other straight dude out there who would be into jacking while watching porn?...I’d rather hook up with a chick, but none of the CL [Craigslist] chicks ever work out.

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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ManBQ: Overcooking Gender Roles

One of the wonderful things about Facebook is newsfeed, it's like the gossip column of the 21st century in my opinion.  Through the newsfeed on Facebook I became aware of an event that several of my Facebook friends from Azusa Pacific University will be attending, "ManBQ."

Attention all MEN, we're hosting a BBQ this Wednesday night! Come to Trinity lawn for some free CARNE ASADA, conversation, and a chance to talk about Godly sexuality and manhood.  Author Jack Balswick, who spoke in chapel last year, will be sharing his thoughts. The conversation will be candid and you will be able to ask questions. Come out for free food and a great chance to talk about what it means to be a MAN. [Emphasis in original].

Besides being annoyed by the over-masculinized and patriarchal tone of the description, my attention was drawn to the discussion about Godly sexuality and the presence of Jack Balswick.  As I mentioned in my "True Love Waits" post, most discussions about sexuality in evangelical settings are usually misleading and in my opinion, don't offer any valuable advice.  Since this discussion will be within the context of "manhood," I can only imagine how misleading their discussion will be.  When I was a student at Azusa Pacific, I remember discussions about manliness being very depressing.  Often it was a group of guys trying to reassert and reaffirm their masculinity by discussing how they were different than women.  A lot of emphasis was placed on strength and how we were to assert our God-given strength, etc.  I never felt that I could identify with the masculine image that was being presented.  Although I would try and in the end feel like I was a hopeless little nelly.

This discussion will be aided by Jack Balswick, a sociologist from Fuller Theological Seminary that focuses on marriage and family.  The issue of homosexuality is rather troublesome for Balswick, considering his commitment to belief that the Bible is an authoritative text.  He accepts Fuller's strong commitment to heterosexual marriage but at the same time wants to avoid anything that resembles gay-bashing.  The result is language like this, from the book Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach (1999):

We acknowledge that some gay Christians may choose to commit themselves to a lifelong, monogamous homosexual union, believing this is God's best for them. They believe that this reflects an authentic sexuality that is congruent for them and their view of Scripture. Even though we hold to the model of a heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous union, our compassion brings us to support all persons as they move in the direction of God's ideal for their lives.

Thus, Balswick has developed a very "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy when it comes to homosexuality; go figure, so has APU and most other Christian colleges and universities.  But I wonder then how Balswick will approach this discussion about Godly sexuality and manhood; Jack and his wife co-author their books together, and they often discuss modern gender roles and lean towards shared roles in some parts, so I wonder if that progressive belief will fit well with a discussion about manhood.

My challenge to my colleagues at Azusa Pacific is to step back from what you think makes you manly, or trying to affirm your masculinity.  Instead affirm just your individuality.  When we try to define what is manly and what is manhood, we create boundaries.  And when someone doesn't fit that definition they are thrown into an identity crisis because they realize that they are out of bounds.  Let us remember that gender roles are socially constructed; therefore, each of us get to decide what it means to be a man or a woman for ourselves.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

True Love Waits

I am currently finishing up a book by Heather Hendershot titled, Shaking The World For Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture.  In this book Hendershot looks at the "center" of conservative evangelical culture, primarily though the white middle-class.  This is an excellent book to read especially if you've grown up in an evangelical setting like I have.  The book is divided into three sections; the first section discusses the "commodification" part of evangelical culture, such as Christian cultural products, films, shows, and contemporary Christian music.  The second section discusses sexuality, a very interesting that I want to talk about.  In the first chapter of this section, Hendershot discusses the chastity movement within evangelical culture, such as the True Love Waits campaign.  And the second chapter of the section examines the Cathedral of Hope, the world's largest LGBTQ church, as well as focusing on ex-gay survivors that are still Christians and how they have reconciled their faith with their sexual orientation after having experienced reparative therapy.

Hendershot raises a very important issue through this section of her book: sexuality, when discussed in evangelical media, is very one-sided.  Discussions about marriage, chastity, and sexual control remain reserved only for heterosexual Christians, while mainstream Christian videos, books, and magazines reject LGBTQ Christians.

During my high school years, I remember reading the upcoming topics in the bulletin that would be coming up in youth group.  The topic of "Sex" would usually catch my eye, as it did for the other hormonal teenagers.  It was always an interesting topic and it was addressed in different ways throughout my four years of high school.  Sometimes they would separate the boys and girls, other times we would remain together by on different sides of the room, and I think one time we were able to intermingle.  We were reminded that our bodies are temples and they are sacred, etc.  Also that sex is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing thing, that God gives us so we can experience it ONLY when we are married.  High school did a better job talking about sex than college did for me--in college the guys were they were out of control horny pigs and women fear us for that reason.

One year, if I remember correctly it was my junior year, we were presented with True Love Wait commitment cards!  These cards were a contract between us and God that committed us to abstinence until marriage.  The direct lines on the card were:

Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.

We were also to choose an accountability partner that we could turn to if we were feeling tempted; however, my accountability partner did not do a very good job keeping me accountable...

This contract I made with God served many problems for me.  I was to abstain from sexual activity "until the day I enter a biblical marriage."  Although some of my youth pastors never explicitly talked about homosexuality being sinful during youth group services, they certainly placed a lot of emphasis on what the Bible said about marriage.  They always discussed the nuclear model for marriage and there was no other alternative.  Part of my difficulty accepting my queer identity was due to my desire to want to get married and have a family.  Unfortunately the family portrait that was painted for me did not include two dads.

As Valentine's Day is approaching I can only imagine how many youth groups will be having their sex talks with their students.  I can only imagine how many True Love Waits cards will be signed.  In a way, I can support the idea of sexual abstinence until one enters into marriage or a committed partnership--the safest sex is no sex after all.  However, I cannot support a one-sided message.  It is not okay for LGBTQ youth to have feel like they're outsiders when evangelical chastity media comes out.  It is also not okay for LGBTQ youth to not be presented with the option to have a beautiful family with whomever they choose to be their partner.  True love knows no gender.