Straight but Not Narrow

Friday, March 22, 2013

Question

Dear Patrick: Is it homophobic to say “no” to a blowjob from another male, especially if you have never tried it so you don't really know if you would like it or not? My best friend is gay. He says he wants to have sex with me and it is okay if it is one-sided. But that seems a little weird to me. Why would he want to do that? So I don't really trust the offer.

I don't think I am a hater. Did I mention my best friend is gay? But it never occurred to me that this sex thing would come up between us. As far as I know I have no fantasies about sex with other men. But I know it hurt him when I said, “No way,” and now I think maybe I was too emphatic or freaked out for all the wrong reasons. What do you think?

 

Answer

I have occasionally heard of people who only realized they enjoyed same-sex activity after they tried it. If not for these out-of-character experiences, they would have continued to think of themselves as exclusively heterosexual. The problem is that we live in a culture that censors images of hot sex between two men or two women. Yes, I know about Internet porn. That's not exactly what I am talking about. Unless you specifically seek out gay X-rated material, you probably won't see it. It remains in its own little ghetto. The point you raise is perfectly valid. If you've never tried it, to be 100% fair, you don't know how you will feel about it.

But is that a good enough reason to experiment with a sexual behavior that is radically different than the acts you do fantasize about and know, from direct experience, that you enjoy? As a card-carrying bisexual, you probably expect me to say, “Yes, of course,” but I'm not sure. Such experimentation is often punished. In a homophobic world, it only takes one blowjob from a guy to get another guy branded as queer. There's no recognition of special circumstances that might lead to behavior that doesn't necessarily wind up changing your identity. Bisexuality isn't validated either. Losing your job, your relationship, or your family's respect is bad enough when you know you are gay, and you at least have the rewards of self-knowledge, honesty, good sex, and a somewhat supportive community. I can't imagine what it would feel like to suffer from antigay stigma when in fact you prefer women.

The lack of explicit fantasies would prejudice me to believe you are a Kinsey 1, but once again, I have (very rarely) heard from men who were surprised to discover they liked a sex act or a type of sexual partner, but these things had not been part of their fantasies. It is much, much more common for women to be surprised this way. Most of the raw material for erotic fantasy is male-oriented. Some women like it anyway, and good for them, just as a handful of men enjoy lesbian erotica produced by and for lesbian feminists. In a sexually liberated world, we might discover that people differ a great deal in the degree of consistency or inconsistency between their sexual fantasies and their actual behavior. Some of us seem to enjoy certain fantasies because they include material that we don't want to actually perform. Other people can't imagine why you would get turned on by a scene that wasn't a hopeful re-living of an especially great encounter.

Despite the heterosexual bias of our media and other institutions, I think most gay men would agree that they knew they were attracted to other men and fantasized about them a lot before they were lucky enough to meet an available, attractive partner. This is also true, to a lesser degree, for most bisexual men. We could, of course, ask ourselves if this is the result, once again, of bias. In a world where you will become a second-class citizen if you are gay or bisexual, it takes a certain amount of toughness and “fuck-you-ness” to be out of the closet. If you can repress your same-sex desires, you probably do, and count yourself lucky while you fake it. I think this is a miserable way to live, but some people are not cut out to be outlaws or dissidents. Let's not deceive ourselves that all the disapproval, stereotyping, gay bashing, and other marks of disapproval don't take a toll. But you hardly sound like someone who is actively repressing a secret man-to-man magnetism. You sound like a considerate heterosexual who is an ally of gay people, someone who is educated enough to resist stigma and go his own way. But that doesn't mean you have to drop your pants.

You are in an especially difficult situation because you care about the person who propositioned you. It sounds like you wish to have the friendship continue. You are not being put off or frightened by his offer to give you pleasure. Like you, I am suspicious of the “no strings attached” proposition from a guy who is emotionally close to you you. If he honestly thinks he could have one-way sex with you and not resent it, or do it once with no expectation that it would continue, he is perhaps delusional. Very few gay men want one-sided sex. Friends who express sexual desire are no longer friends. They are applying for a promotion to the position of lover. There are good reasons to believe he may be falling in love with you.

All sex ought to be consensual and ethical. If having sex means something radically different to each partner, it may be a bad idea to let it happen at all. Unrequited love is painful enough without being reinforced. If there is no hope you will ever be his boyfriend, that is a harsh reality he cannot face and transcend or get over unless you are honest (and consistent) about your boundaries. I'm sure you can visualize the tension here. He would be auditioning for that promotion, perhaps representing all gay men in his own mind, and you would have mild curiosity about whether this adventure would give you an erection or not. Sounds icky to me, and a recipe for a major explosion afterward.

If you are worried that you hurt his feelings, you can ask for his permission to bring this up and process a bit more. He may or may not agree. If he claims he was just joking or disses you for taking the whole thing too seriously, let him save face. If he can keep his pride, the friendship might survive. He already knows you are not a homophobe. There is a history between the two of you that proves this fact. He also knows that he surprised you. He may have surprised himself by blurting this out. Sometimes there is no way to help another person, even somebody you love, to get through a painful event. If you are the cause of the painful event, for example, you can never be much of a comforter. You can only allow him to take a little space and do some self-care. It isn't easy to turn down a proposition from someone you care about. In a better world, he would not be so likely to become emotionally or sexually focused on a man who is not available. But this is not a better world. It is an ugly place full of hate and short on justice. Just let him know that you are still available to he his friend if he wants to give you a call. If he is angry, that's understandable, so try to be patient, but don't tolerate abuse. There is no rule that says straight people have to engage in same-sex encounters to compensate homosexuals for their poor treatment. Bad sex will not bolster gay rights.