Saturday, July 7, 2007

What is Straight Guise?

In this blog, I’ll explain the concept of SMSM (straight men who have sex with men). This term derives from the growing body of literature showing evidence that not all men who have sex with men—even obligatory homosexual sex—are gay. It struck such a chord that even Oprah addressed the issue when she interviewed J.L. King who originally exposed this lifestyle in the black community with his breakout bestseller, On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep with Men and Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America by Keith Boyken. Straight Guise takes King’s book several steps farther. Both books talk about this phenomenon among African-American men however the truth is that it exists amongst all races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic classes.

Straight Guise will explore the many reasons men have sex with other men, only some of which have anything to do with homosexuality or bisexuality.

Many types of men engage in same-sex relationships, for a variety of reasons, which I will identify for the reader. A few of them are:

1. Openly Gay: These are men with homosexual orientations and preferences, who are romantically and sexually aroused by other men. When engaging in sexual activity with men, they feel affirmed and positive.

2. Closeted homosexual: These are homosexually oriented men who are sexually attracted to other men but are ashamed of their feelings and repress their urges to enjoy their fantasies and behaviors—knowing it could lead to romance and love. When they engage in same-sex behavior, they feel ashamed.

3. Hetero-Emotional and Homo-Sexual Men: These are men who are romantically attracted to the opposite sex and are usually heterosexually married and can be sexual with women they love but they are predominately aroused and driven sexually by desire for sex with other men.

4. Bisexual: These are men with combined heterosexual and homosexual orientations and preferences who are sexually—and often romantically—aroused and desire both genders. When they fantasize or act out on these urges, they too feel affirmed and positive.

5. Homosexual Imprinting: These are men acting out early childhood sexual abuse. These heterosexual men are not homosexually oriented. They do not sexually desire nor are they aroused by other men. However, they compulsively re-enact childhood sexual abuse by male perpetrators through their sexual behaviors with other men. This has nothing to do with their sexual and romantic identities.

If a basically heterosexual boy is molested by a male relative, he may keep “returning to the scene of the crime” to defuse and desensitize his emotional pain. When his original trauma gets cleared up, the “homosexual” behavior he’s re-enacting ceases. This isn’t about gayness; it is about sexual abuse.

6. Men who are sex workers/male escorts: These heterosexual men engage in sexual behavior with other men by choice for the financial reward and lack desire for the other men and are aroused by the behavior not the man.

7. Men seeking intensely arousing but shameful experiences (dildo sex, bondage): These are heterosexual men who are strongly compelled and interested in various sexual experiences and preferences that would often be labeled as homosexual. To avoid being identified in this way by females, they seek out men, whom they perceive as non-judgmental.

8. First Sexual Experience: Sometimes heterosexual males experiment with other males sexually, usually in adolescence and/or young adulthood (up to age 25) for the experience and curiosity.

9. Availability/Opportunity: These straight men have high sex drives and are sexually aroused easily. They connect with men for physical sexual release, which can be quick and easy, avoiding having to emotionally engage.

10. Father Hunger: These are heterosexual men who crave affection and attention from their fathers and seek sex with men as a way of getting that male nurturance and acceptance.

11. Narcissism: These are straight men who are self-absorbed and have a constant need for attention and acceptance; they use sexuality with men to be worshipped and adored.

12. Sexual Addiction: “Gay” behavior can be the result of sexual addiction. I’ll clarify what sexual addiction is—and isn’t—and explore its defining signs and symptoms. But even a "cured" sex addict will still feel attracted to men, as do celibate gay priests.

13. Cuckolds: These are men who enjoy fantasies of--or the reality of--their wives and girlfriends having sex with other men either in front of them, nearby or with their knowledge about when and where it occurs. They’re often sexually aroused by feeling humiliated that their wives are being pleased by another male whom they see as more potent and better endowed. Other men enjoy being sexual with other men's wives in front of the husband or at least with their knowledge. Sometimes they engage in sexual behavior with the man but only in the presence of the wife or girlfriend.

14. Exhibitionists: These are men who enjoy being looked at by both men and women as long as they are being admired for their bodies. Many are body builders and muscular and enjoy the homo-erotic attention of gay men and might even flirt with gay men to encourage more admiration.

15. Sex in Prison: These are men who are imprisoned who engage in same sex behavior. Their need for sexual release with another person occurs with men as they are available. Once released from prison they no longer engage in sexual behavior with men.

16. Homosexual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (HOCD): This is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which the individual is preoccupied about being homosexual when, in fact, they are heterosexual. They experience intrusive thoughts that they might be homosexual and feel compelled to engage in certain behaviors that make them think they are gay when in truth they are straight.

I’ll also address the controversial concept of reparative therapy (RT), which is based on the notion that gay or lesbian behavior is due solely to childhood trauma or gender confusion. RT does not believe there is anything positive about homosexuality and believes sexual orientation change is possible. Trying to change one’s orientation is harmful and impossible. In fact, RT has been widely discredited. I believe that RT isn’t therapy: it instills self-hate in gays and lesbians and is covert cultural sexual abuse. Every mental health institution and accrediting organizations have deemed it unethical.

Written from my perspective as a gay psychotherapist who has counseled thousands of sexually confused men over the years, Straight Guise shows how this phenomenon goes well beyond the African American community. Not a week goes by when I don’t receive distressed emails or phone calls from men who worry they might be gay and either are or are not and wives who have discovered their husbands engaged in gay hookups and relationships or exploring gay porn.

If there are any success stories by someone practicing RT or helping someone stop same sex attractions, the individual was not gay from the start. In other words those who state they have helped someone go from gay to straight or be relieved or same sex attraction are simply describing someone who is heterosexual who may have been acting out homosexual behavior having nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

The harm of groups which attempt to change sexual orientation are well documented in two excellent films, Fish Can't Fly and One Nation Under God.

I intend to help readers just as I have helped my clients, first by separating the two types of men in the world: There are men who are gay and bisexual and then there are heterosexual men who seek out sex with other men. The difference is one of sexual preference versus sexual identity.


Doris said...

I have some questions about "father hunger" as the cause of same sex attraction and behaviour. Our culture is so full of men with "father hunger," is anonymous or casual sex a response to it as in "love addiction" or is the need for affection and attention from other men filled by a relationship. How do we connect the underlying need and the behaviour? Is the experience an affirming one? I am a female therapist trying to help men with same sex attraction sort out their confusion and understand and accept their feelings and behaviour.

Joe Kort said...

Hi Doris,

I think that father hunger and male to male sex for heterosexual men is about affection and attention from other men which is not filled by relationships with men.

Oddly men are not allowed to touch or show affection to one another so it becomes reconciled in the erotic by sexual contact.

This is not about homosexuality but about male to male contact which other than sports is prohibited in our culture. I think it becomes sexual because it can stay hidden.

I believe, though it leaves straight men feeling badly, confused and ashamed.

These men do not feel same sex attraction in terms of romance like gay men do it remains sexual. These are my opinions. I welcome others.

Anonymous said...

ok, i'm a little confused. as a man who was married 16 years, 3 kids, then divorced 3 years ago because i kept acting out with men and felt that i was gay, it is now odd to read this. i thought i have moved on as a single gay father man. basically everything you wrote is consistent with all the counseling and efforts i did to become "straight" including my attending journey into manhood. they all along said i was straight just had my needs being met poorly through sex with men. so now i read this and it starts to feel like - okay, great, did i make the wrong choice to leave my family?

Joe Kort said...

Dear Annonymous,

Congratulations for your coming out and for living in integrity regarding your identity as a gay man.

The men I am referring to on this blog are those who's identity are straight but their sexual behaviors occassionally or regularly engage in same sex activities. These men do not feel good about their sexual activity and even if they do it does not match their affectional and romantic as well as sexual interest in women.

I don't know you but if you are like me and other gay males, our sexual behaviors match our sexual and romantic identities. For SMSM's they do not.

Think of it as when you were heterosexually married. You had sex with you wife but that did not make you straight most likely.

Straight Guise is about men who enjoy same sex behavior but are not closeted or repressing anything of a gay orientation. For them it is behavior.

I suspect for you it is about identity.

I hope that helps.

Joe Kort said...

One more thing Annonymous,

I do not believe there is any such thing as being able to "turn" straight. Those therapies you were involved in are unethical.

The men I am talking about on this site are already straight they are not becoming straight nor does their homosexual behavior turn them gay.

Warmly, Joe Kort

Burrton said...


I got here from your recent email. I think you are starting a very useful conversation.

The MKP organization is really struggling with challenges brought by USSA men and others who credit reparative therapy.

I've missed you at RWG. Hope our paths cross again one day soon.

Burrton Woodruff

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Joe, would you agree that many (most?) self-identified straight men have some level of sexual attraction to other men, but that they tend not to act on it (b/c they've repressed it, or b/c they're much more attracted to women, or b/c of socialization, religious beliefs, or fears, etc.) unless they happen to fall into one of the categories you've enumerated? (The same could be said about some level of heterosexual attraction in self-identified gay men...)

I agree with your assessment that, as I understand it, certain cases of homosexual behavior are problematic, pathological, passing, "unnatural" relative to one's sexual orientation... I'm just thinking that part of the larger social remedy has to be to normalize the existence of same sex attractions and potentials in all people; and recognize the limitations of constructions of sexual identity (gay, straight, bi), as useful as they can be in social discourse and the struggle for equality.

Human beings, our desires and how we understand them, our decisions about how we will attempt to bridge our inner reality with our interpersonal life are extremely complex, unique, evolutional.

I appreciate the psychogical insight and therapeutic attention you are bringing to this area of human behavior, helping men toward greater self-understanding, personal meaning, and self-efficacy.

myboyhood fears said...

i read the list you have here and i think many of these reasons are spot on...but i would like to ad something here....many of the reasons you have listed might be caused by other things in your list.
so some of these things may actually cause one to percive they are 1-4, might have 5,7,10, 12, for instance, and think you are (or identify as) 1 or 2 and still be doesn't that mean if you receive therapy to deal with 5,7,10, and 12, could recover your hetersexuality?..maybe the reparaitive therapy does help those who have issues 5,7,10,12 and others,...but not those who are truly 1 and 4, but you might never know you are truly 1 or 4 or heterosexual if you have 5,7,10,and 12 going on concurrently....which is my situation, and probably a large number of gay men...i would gather no one fits into a any one box that is arbirarily dawn...we fit into many boxes. it would seem just as damaging to never adress 5,7,10,12 and throw your hands up and assume you are 1 and 4...because its easy and reinforces what one has become acustom to, but still causes you a great deal of stress and is self distrcutive.

ubiquity_boy said...

Hi Joe - I found your blog by way of a gay men's forum. I appreciate your putting into words what I have intuitively sensed for many years. I also identify with a couple of your commenters, especially 'Anonymous July 11, 2007 5:02 PM'. I, too, was married with children. Despite faith, religion, reparative therapy, and trying really really hard to be straight, I ultimately came to terms with my being gay - something I've basically known deep down since I was 12 years old. Believe me, the journey was not easy, and I left plenty of debris in my wake, but life's a journey, not a destination.

Also, like myboyhood fear, I think that I fall into multiple categories, but the proof in the pudding is that I fell in love with the man of my dreams - a relationship that's lasted for several years, now. I guess that's the 'romantic identity' of which you speak.

I could go on and on, but my real motivation in writing is this: People like me, and families like mine, could have been saved a lot of pain and anguish if these concepts had been better understood and accepted in Western/US society in my youth. For me, the damage is done, but I hope that your work enlightens others and brings about a new era of understanding, self-acceptance and tolerance. I look forward to exploring your blog and gaining new insights into the mysteries of sexual identity.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your article & found it very informative. Although I don't understand what is the difference between a gay man in denial & a hetero-emotional/homo-sexual male? Are they one & the same?

Anonymous said...

Just found your site after telling my wife about my extra-marital activities with men. I love her and want to be clear about why those extra-marital activities occurred (outside of the issues in our marriage, which are linked, but separate). In particular the question of "father hunger" comes up. My father continuously made comments to me including calling me "worthless", "no better than a girl", and "our fourth daughter" (I have three sisters), before I even knew what sex was. But I can't figure out if that was because of something he saw in me, or if what he said made me believe the lie he was telling me. In my youth, my fantasies about men were always about older paternal men, not men my own age. Once married I didn't have any physical involvement with men until after my father (hyped-up on parkinson's meds) groped my wife sexually and I stayed frozen and didn't react. I never sought out a romantic relationship with a man, and in many ways can't picture being in a romantic relationship with a man. Is that a lack of imagination? Or is it something else? I do find the male body attractive. I also find the female body attractive. So here I am on the precipice of my family falling apart and I don't know what the hell I'm made of. I have a counselor that I will refer to your site.

Anonymous said...

Your site has given me a gift of unmeasurable worth. As a child I was always excited about getting a matchbox toy car at the toy store after I went with my uncles to places to do what boys and men do when they are nakid and alone. Until the state took me away, my normal childhood was rubbing and having uncles make it feel good down there with there mouths. It wasnt until I was getting signs from strangers that something was wrong with me. I got messages that I should not have enjoyed the visits with my uncles. Not having a father, these men gave me love. I have felt guilty for so long and I have twice at a very young age introduced my buddies into the secret things boys do. Thanks to you I felt like a light came on and you gave my complex life a real understanding and I feel like I have forgiven myself and I feel like I am not alone because one man on a web site wrote about me. Thank you. I feel so free and I feel like starting my life and living life. I am so excited! God bless you and what you have done.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the last comment and I wanted to make clear that what those men did was beyond criminal, but I didnt know that as a little boy, I have forgiven my mother who was mentally ill and needed the money for her addictions. I couldnt turn my uncles in when I was 9 because I thought they loved me. Now I am about to turn 50 and I am trying to make sense of love and I will be working day by day to find out how to love myself. And people please, look around, abused children will lie as they have been taught and they will deny because they feel responsible, dont let any adult have a friendship with a child unless they really know the parents and the parents know that adult. My life has been a self hating struggle and an insecure needy search for validation that went from one woman after another that would abuse me and if she shamed me someway I stayed and didnt even know why. I will probably never have a healthy relationship my goal is to feel happy about myself. I just wanted it to be clear that I dont approve of what happened just because I liked it then, it wasnt my fault and I didnt know better. Thank you, God bless you.

Anonymous said...

I was married to a sex addict and on more than one occasion SMSM has occurred to me. His lies, cheating and stealing went on for sixteen years. He wouldn't get counseling so I divorced him and now he is begging me to take him back. I just can't, those years were hard and miserable. I was sick and depressed almost all the time. I tried so hard to support and love him and every time I got slapped down. His shame brought on alcoholism and he is not a nice drunk, so the beatings began. Why did I stay and let all these horrible things happen to me. We are roommates now, which really is all we were to begin with. Our sex life was non existent when we were married. I have been diagnosed with PTSD due to my relationship with him. So, while I understand what happened to him, his older brother(s) sexually abused him. He only admits to one, but one of the brothers has given me the heads up about what went on in a house of seven boys and one girl. My ex even says he isn't sure if he abused his sister. Isn't sure, what? Because of the way he stated it, I now believe he abused his baby sister. I find him disgusting in so many ways and then I think about being molested myself. It was by my mom's second husband and all I think of my ex now is he is my stepf, sorry I can't say father in regards to that creep. But, my point is, I may have been permisuous as a teen and younger woman, the only one I have ever hurt in my life is me. Why is my ex so cruel? Why does he treat me like dirt, I have poured my heart and soul and I can't tell you how many thousands of dollars to get him out of trouble. I even wonder if he had anything to do with a rape of a young woman. So far, all my suspicions have been correct, even so I am still confused, mad and hurt. I think he is past just sexual addiction and smsm, I think he may be acting out criminally. Any recommentations?