Hopeless Romantic

Friday, October 13, 2006

Question

Have you ever heard of a gay man who doesn't like casual sex? Well, you have now. My best friend Douglas is always sharing risqué anecdotes about his latest trick in the park. I can't imagine having sex out of doors, much less doing it with a stranger. I don't want to be vulnerable with someone who isn't willing to have a conversation with me and spend some time getting to know me. Maybe you could explain how this works to me. Douglas thinks I am missing out on a lot, and I sometimes wonder if it's true. He certainly has a lot more sex than I do. My last date was three months ago, and it's been a year and a half since my last lover broke up with me. Am I cheating myself out of something wonderful?

Answer

We don't really know how many gay men are able to enjoy casual, anonymous sex; public sex; or group sex versus those who don't. Nobody has been able to do a comprehensive research project on this topic. But it is safe to say that the most public aspect of the gay men's community seems geared to providing opportunities for this kind of adventure. Since this is what the most accessible "gay community" offers new members, along with enough drugs and alcohol to lower inhibitions, few men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSMs) are able to resist the promptings of their testosterone-producing organs. MSMs who don't identify as gay use casual sex as a way to keep themselves in the closet. Even gay men who are looking for a relationship usually assume that sex will take place before any decision is made about a commitment. "How do I know if I want to marry him until I know what his cock looks like?" one friend of mine said when I questioned this assumption.

I don't have any moral objections to most of the various sex behaviors consenting adults have been able to invent. I've gone through phases in my life where anonymous, public sex seemed very attractive, and phases where it did not. But everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to spend some time thinking about their own values. If you know for sure that a certain type of sex is wrong for you, don't do it, no matter how different that might make you. (Of course, we also ought to think about the origins of our sexual values. If they are based on body shame, the Old Testament, or prejudices like homophobia, maybe we need to confront those feelings instead of giving in to them.)

Morality aside, there are several practical reasons why sex out of doors might no appeal to you. The first one that comes to mind is bugs, and after that, pine cones and thorny bushes. Lack of good light makes it hard to see if your partner has genital warts or obvious STDs like herpes, and makes fumbling with a condom more difficult. Washing up before and after sex is also more difficult. Then there are those members of the police force who feel an inexplicable dedication to the futile task of "eliminating" public sex. It can't be done, but they haven't stopped trying, and legal penalties can be surprisingly severe. Some newspapers still publish the names and even the addresses of people unlucky enough to be arrested for public lewdness or whatever they call it in your penal code.

Seems like one of your objections is the assumption that somebody who has casual sex with you doesn't want to bother to get to know you. But I do know more than one pair of long-term lovers who met in venues like bathhouses or tearooms. They had good sex and then they had some good conversation, and then some more sex, and before they knew it, they were having anniversaries. Granted, most casual sex is not going to be anything more than a frenzied attempt to get off.

Another aspect of this whole question is the fact that not everybody is suited to this kind of cruising. Some of us don't have the kind of bodies that are valued in baths and backroom bars. Gay businesses can discriminate against men who are not white, thin, and young. If your idea of good sex is more complicated than giving or getting a blowjob, or vanilla fucking, you might not do well in the mainstream gay venues. Then there's the problem of negotiating sex. Some guys have a knack for being able to tell who is approachable and who doesn't want them. The rest of us dread rejection so much, we can't even try.

Your relationship-finding style isn't one that the majority of gay men follow, but it still has merit. I would finally suggest that guys who have become jaded about disrobing with a stranger might find a new and naughty sort of thrill in actually going on a date. If one is bold enough to put leather appliances around his genitalia or bend over in a public restroom, why would one be frightened of a little dinner and civil conversation?