Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Inside the secret world of the straight guise

My blog was featured in a story in the Village Voice by Tristan Taormino about straight men who have sex with men.

I really appreciated the journalist featuring my beliefs about why straight men have sex with other men and thought she did a fine job. She also pointed out the very thing that I have tried to ask myself--why is this okay for females but not for males? Read what she has to say.

Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men
Inside the secret world of the straight guise
By Tristan Taormino
Tuesday, July 29th 2008


Once again, a female singer has a hit song called "I Kissed A Girl"; I saw Katy Perry perform it on network television the other night. As she danced around in her cute yellow dress, I thought: "Wow, singing about lesbian smooching was pretty racy when Jill Sobule did it—same title and subject, different and better song—in 1995 on MTV." Now it's ready for prime time? Well, it's been almost 15 years. Plus, the whole idea isn't that threatening anymore.

If a straight woman confesses she's messed around with another woman—even had full-blown sex with her—most people are quick to shrug it off. She was drunk. She's experimenting. At most, maybe this means she's bi-curious. But it's no big deal. Women have a lot more leeway to explore their sexuality with other women without questioning their orientation or setting any alarms off. On the other hand, society doesn't make room for men to do the same. Can you imagine the flip side of this scenario?


No, I don't mean Bon Jovi topping the charts with a new rock anthem called "I Made Out With a Guy." Let's say one of your male friends confesses: "I was at the club last night with Bob. The music was pounding, I had a few shots, and his hair just looked so good, so we made out, and I jerked him off in the bathroom." For most people, there's really only one response: "Dude, you're gay." Maybe, but maybe not.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than three million men who self-identify as straight secretly have sex with other men. Although there's been some mainstream dialogue about African-American men who have sex with men "on the down-low," there hasn't been much talk about white guys who do it. And there are plenty of them out there.

Take a brief scroll through one day's worth of "Men Seeking Men" posts on New York City's Craigslist, and you'll find dozens of listings like "Str8 Guy Needs Great Cocksucker" or "Handsome Masculine Married Irish Guy Seeks One or Two Hung Married Irish Buddies Who Want Head and Maybe More."

From the super-brief to the incredibly detailed, some posts offer interesting explanations:

Though I have always been hetero, I also have had a fantasy to anonymously suck cock and swallow his cum.

I am a married white male forty-six, six-one, one-ninety—a goodlooking, successful, Ivy-educated guy who finds himself in town alone this week. Not interested in changing my life in any major way, but do feel the occasional need to deal with this side of my nature.

I am married . . . looking to provide no reciprocation needed or wanted oral service for VERY masculine, verbal straight/bi/straight acting men. My clothes do not even have to come off. This is about YOUR pleasure . . . not mine.

These examples articulate some of the reasons why heterosexual men get it on with other men: for anonymous, no-strings-attached sex; to explore homoerotic desire without a gay identity or relationship; or to fulfill a fantasy, including one of dominance and submission.

"When these straight men have sex with other men, it is not about an attraction to the other man—it is about an attraction to the sex act," says Joe Kort (joekort.com), a licensed therapist in Michigan. "When asked about what they enjoy, it is never the actual man, but instead his body parts, the sexual behavior they engage in." Many of Kort's clients (who are overwhelmingly white) are straight men who have sex with other men (SMSM). He's even created Straight Guise (straightguise.com), a website dedicated to the subject.


He cites dozens of explanations for SMSM behavior: "Some have been sexually abused and are compulsively re-enacting childhood sexual trauma by male perpetrators; some have sex with men because it's easier and requires fewer social skills than those required to have sex with women; some are 'gay for pay'; some like the attention they receive from other men; some like anal sex, which they're otherwise too ashamed to talk about or engage in with their female partners."

He acknowledges that some of these men may be bisexual or closeted gay men, but in his experience in treating clients over an extended period, many of them are not. He believes that when it comes to sex, identity and orientation, preferences, fantasies, and behavior do not always neatly line up in one category. More often, they are complex and even contradictory.

Mike, whom I found on a personals website, is 44, married, and works on Wall Street. He has been having sex with men for four years, and says he likes the closeness and the male bonding. Plus, "It's just less complicated than with women. We're both there for sex, and that's it." John, 35, also works in finance, identifies as straight, and is dating several women. But he mostly enjoys getting blowjobs from men: "There are less emotional complications for me. Many men will do things some women will not, and many men give better oral sex. I think men will exercise their hunger for sex and not deny that they are horny more so than women. They feel comfortable sexually bonding." Both men admit that their female partners don't know about their behavior; in fact, their families and friends don't know.

Unlike some psychology professionals who want to pathologize these men, treat them for sexual addiction, or "cure them" of homosexuality, Kort approaches his clients without an agenda. He also unpacks some of the cultural baggage that contributes to this phenomenon: "They are interested in the sexual contact with other men.

They are working through issues of father hunger, lack of touch from other males, and the need for contact with other men on deeper levels that women enjoy with each other and men do not. Some of these men tell me they meet other men and really just want to be held and talk to the other men, but that the men they meet want it to be sexual, so they go through with it but really don't want to. Ironically, since men are not allowed to touch—except for a pat on the butt in sports—they use the sexual realm to find ways to touch each other and receive touch."


11 comments:

Stranger said...

This is very interesting to me:

"They are working through issues of father hunger, lack of touch from other males, and the need for contact with other men on deeper levels that women enjoy with each other and men do not. Some of these men tell me they meet other men and really just want to be held and talk to the other men, but that the men they meet want it to be sexual, so they go through with it but really don't want to. Ironically, since men are not allowed to touch—except for a pat on the butt in sports—they use the sexual realm to find ways to touch each other and receive touch."

I'm wondering why the approach isn't helping men live in a healthy way with father hunger, to heal and more aware of their abuse, to find places for healthy male bonding, touch, then seemingly suggesting that its perfectly okay to use sex as cover up or an outlet for this?
Some men go through the sex though they really don't want to--they just want to be held and talked to?
This is clearly an emotional need that isn't going to be fulfilled by submitting to someone who is only interested in sex.

This will be fulfilled via relationship with other men and women. They are out there and it takes work but it's worth it. I found it in New Warriors and working on myself.

I guess what disappoints me about this article is that the highest regard is only given to dysfunction and no solutions for straight guys.
It drops dead in the water like a stone for me personally since I deal with these issues (like sexual abuse). I see you missing that and more focused on that they are quoting you.

Joe Kort said...

Hi Stranger,

It is true when they do a story they have to edit and decide what to use and not to use.

Througout this blog I talk at length about what to do.

What solutions would you like to know about?

Warmly, Joe

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

I very much agree with stranger.

It is true that throughout this blog and your websites you offer many directions and solutions for men who deal with sexual abuse.

But what about father hunger or more generally "male" hunger? How to deal with these in a healthy way ? How to find places for healthy male bonding without having to go sexual? (...especially if someone has low confidence in his masculinity or is unsure or uncomfortable with the typical "male" activities or settings, such as sports, etc)

Personnally, I am not dealing with sexual abuse or traumatic events, but my whole life I felt a real lack of bonding with other men (to various degrees at various periods). This led me to the type of encounters Taormino describes. But this has obviously not been fulfilling because it does not respond to my real need.

I spent the week-end reviewing your sites and links, hoping to find some direction or solutions. But I couldn't find anything that answers my questions and points me to possible actions I could take.

Perhaps you could answer these questions in one of your posts?

Thank you for your brilliant work and your very interesting blog.

Joe Kort said...

Stranger,

Tell me what solutions you are thinking about. Are you talking about stopping the search for sexual contact with other males? Many of the men who find my site do not necessarily want to stop sexual contact with other men they simply want to understand it.

If so what it would be different for each man. You quoted my saying that if the sexual contact is about wanting and needing more contact with other men than to do so through men's groups would be the solution. Getting your needs met with other men who are also trying to be close and connect.

Does this help?

Joe Kort said...

Hi Annonymous,

You say:

But what about father hunger or more generally "male" hunger? How to deal with these in a healthy way ? How to find places for healthy male bonding without having to go sexual? (...especially if someone has low confidence in his masculinity or is unsure or uncomfortable with the typical "male" activities or settings, such as sports, etc)
______________

My answer is www.mkp.org which is a men's weekend workshop on male bonding. Or any men's gathering that fosters closeness and connection there are many out there. I favor MKP.org because it helped me and the clients I have sent through there.

Also if it is about Father Hunger than I recommend going to your father and establishing a closer bond to him--whether he is open to it or not. It is about the attempt and working it through with him.

If he is not around or alive, than finding a father figure type man who would be open to mentoring and working with you.

These are just some thoughts I have not knowing you or "Stranger".

Your question as well as "Strangers" is helping me realize that I do need to focus more other options when sexual abuse is not the issue.

Warmly, Joe

Stranger said...

Well, really Joe, I just wanted you to realize what you are now realizing when you said:

Your question as well as "Strangers" is helping me realize that I do need to focus more other options when sexual abuse is not the issue.

Very cool. I think if sexual abuse is part of the issue it would be the same options PLUS more but not the exclusions of those. I've been abused and exploring father hunger, etc. helps significantly.

I've done New Warriors so I can testify to that. I've met some really great guys and truths through that. So, it's worth exploring.

--Stranger

Anonymous said...

avid reader of this blog but very unsure about one aspect: i've seen instances where you've claimed that certain men 'act out' with homosexual pornography yet are not homosexual. But if they can get aroused by gay porn then surely they must be at least bisexual? What constitutes orientation in your eyes

Joe Kort said...

Hi Annonymous:

Thanks for being an avid reader of this blog.
In the instances where you've claimed that certain men 'act out' with homosexual pornography yet are not homosexual. But if they can get aroused by gay porn then surely they must be at least bisexual?

The men are looking at the gay porn are excited by watching the sexual acts, the enjoyment and excitement about the specific sexual preferences.

I have an article I will reprint on this blog at some point about lesbians who enjoy gay porn. The women in this study are not attracted to men in the least.

The article talks about the lesbians enjoying the eroticism, shared and balanced power dynamics between the men and the mutual sexual excitement of both men by both the men.

What constitutes orientation in your eyes?

Orientation is one's identity from the inside. It is how one self-identifies.

Sexual preferences are *not* orientatin they are seperate. They are things people get into and get off on.

Warmly, Joe

Anonymous said...

That is interesting because i've always identified as bisexual for the very reason: watching gay porn. However i also get slightly aroused by looking at naked still images of men. Does this change things?

And another thing: homosexual imprinting. Can this only occur through negative aspects like abuse? What if a boy experiments with a friend and enjoys it but still doesn't identify as gay, then finds himself drawn to gay porn at a later date? Could this be imprinting?

Anonymous said...

I live in a Mid-western City where there many of the men in gay hookup sites state they are str8.
Based upon the profiles of these men, they are very interested in fitness and focus on how much they take care of themselves and are looking for the same. Are these guys somatic narcissists?

Joe Kort said...

The question was:

Q: That is interesting because i've always identified as bisexual for the very reason: watching gay porn. However i also get slightly aroused by looking at naked still images of men. Does this change things?

A: How you self-identify is completely up to you. No one can--nor should--tell you whethere you are bisexual or an SMSM.

I have had many SMSM's in my office--as well as lesbians--viewing naked images of males on the internet so it does not have to mean anything in terms of your orientation.

For the other question:

Q: Can this (homsexual imprintint) only occur through negative aspects like abuse? What if a boy experiments with a friend and enjoys it but still doesn't identify as gay, then finds himself drawn to gay porn at a later date? Could this be imprinting?

A: Yes it can absolutely.

And another question:

Q: I live in a Mid-western City where there many of the men in gay hookup sites state they are str8.
Based upon the profiles of these men, they are very interested in fitness and focus on how much they take care of themselves and are looking for the same. Are these guys somatic narcissists?

A: Some are and some aren't. I could not make a generalization on that. However I can say that many of the SMSM's enjoy how gay and bisexual men appreciate and verbally express positives about their bodies. Many SMSM's experience male-male affect through being sexually or physically worshipped.