Friday, July 20, 2007

Father Hunger and Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men

I belong to an international group called The New Warrior hosted by The Mankind Project (MKP) which is an organization helping men learn how to have healthy relationships with others and live in personal and relational integrity.

In the MKP my work as a psychotherapist with gay, bisexual and straight men I see men who have have father hunger. I remember sitting across from a therapist at the age of 15 in 1978 who told me that my homosexuality was a result of my absent father who neglected me my whole life. I believed this therapist as he was my all-knowing doctor but inherently I knew that this desire for my father was separate to my gayness.

I still believe this today. Homosexuality is not the result of father hunger as some psychoanalysts and reparative therapies theorize. Both straight, bisexual and gay men suffer from this when growing up where their father was not around, unavailable, unaffectionate and perhaps may have been abusive.

I do not believe that father hunger creates a gay orientation in any way. There is no evidence to support this silly concept anymore than mother hunger would make a man straight.

That said I do believe that father hunger can direct the search for intimacy with another man for gay men, bisexuals and straight men to have strong desire for intimacy with other men.

For the gay man it would include romance, affection, and possibly sex that is congruent with how they see themselves.

For the bisexual man, it might include romance, affection and possibly sex--maybe even all three--that is congruent with how they see themselves as well.

For the straight man, it might include affection and possibly sex but it is not congruent with how they see themselves at all. Romance is not a part of the sexual contact for the straight men.

Males are taught from childhood that it is taboo to touch, show affection and love another male. So for straight men, going on the "downlow" for sex with men is their unconscious way to achieve this affection. In my office these men do not desire other men the way gay and bisexual men do. They are not struggling with desire or attraction to be sexual with a man nor are they distracted by images of naked men as gay and bisexual men are.

In the book, "I Don't Want To Talk About It", author and psychotherapist Terrance Real talks about growing up male I admire Real’s work for many reasons, chiefly because he writes mostly about heterosexual men and their fathers. It illustrates that straight men have problems with their fathers similar to those that gay men face. In other words, the father issues gay men face have little to do with being gay, but everything to do with growing up males without appropriate father figures. Again, the “scientific” explanation for homosexuality is that a weak father abdicates power to the mother. Thus the boy cannot identify with his father and separate from his mother, and the boy’s hunger for a male role model becomes eroticized. “This myth,” Real writes, “is repulsive.” I totally agree!

What boys need from their father, Real argues, is “affection, not ‘masculinity’.” He rightly stresses that men need more emotion and vulnerability, which they need to learn from their fathers. By being gay, little boys experience even more disconnection from their fathers but, again, this does not make them gay. Having a queer son can horrify a father. Yet how would he know if his son were queer? Perhaps a gay son is more clinging and emotional toward him, thereby provoking a harsh response, because he’s worried that his son is effeminate. If men are so ingrained to reject anything “feminine,” then imagine how a father reacts to an effeminate son or one who doesn’t behave in gender-appropriate ways. The distance is more extreme and the disconnection more severe.

Father hunger is the reason for homosexuality promotes groups like NARTH and other anti-gay reparative groups who believe change is possible.

My stance is that father hunger can direct erotic play and be separate from one's sexual orientation. It does not make someone gay or bisexual but can promote homosexual behavior. That is what separates my work from reparative therapists who do not believe in healthy gay and bisexual orientations which I do.

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