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How Gay Marriage Put an End to Gay Sex [25 February, 2009]

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Years ago, I was at a queer political meeting on a Sunday afternoon.  Some of us felt that our group lacked a broad enough representation of all demographics, particularly women.  A man, at the time a dear friend of mine, let’s call him X, said, “We usually have more women at our meetings, but look at us today! We’re all men!”  A puzzled silence fell upon the group, and I turned towards him with what I hoped were eyes brimming with inquiry.  At which point, X turned beet red and apologised profusely: “I’m so sorry, Yasmin! It’s just that I always think of you as a gay man!”

X, who knew enough about my sex life, had long seen me as one of the boys.  And I’ve long declared myself a gay man in a woman’s body.  I purred in response to his words.

Everything I know about sex I learnt from gay men.  By sex, I don’t just mean specific acts but the whole fuck-and-be-fucked, sex-doesn’t-have-to-mean-hello-or-even-goodbye attitude that I have treasured most about the culture of gay sex.  And it’s a culture that I see, sadly, dwindling.  Or, at the very least, being made invisible as a brand new culture of homo/hetero (the two are so interchangeable these days) normativity takes its place.

As the push for gay marriage becomes more relentless, images of gay men kissing spring up everywhere.  But that’s where it ends, without the slightest hint of what might come after the kiss.  There is nary a whisper about the reality of gay male partnerships.  I realise, of course, that I’m venturing into dangerous waters here.  Who am I to think I know anything about “the culture of gay sex?”  How dare I assume that such a culture, if it should exist, defines gay men?

And what kind of a lesbian models her sex life on that of gay men?

I can’t help it.  As a child, I sneaked peeks at the grown-ups’ copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.  But while I found that intriguing and fun, I was never as enthralled with it as with the discourse of hook-ups and tricks that gay men around me would engage in, years later.  I like gay porn.  Gay sex defines me.  I suppose my new age-y friends would say that I’m dominated by male energy.  Which might explain why, after reading my craigslist ad, one respondent wrote, “So.  You want to fuck like a man.” A gay man, sweetie, a gay, gay man.

What do I mean by fucking like a gay man?  I mean, for instance, the ability to fuck around with or without a partner in tow, or even watching.  The ability to be brutally honest about what you like and don’t like.  The ability to be able to take and/or give what you want without having to be tied into some contractual agreement to call back.  I’ve been around gay male friends who’ve turned to me at parties and said, “Okay, at some point I need to start attending events where I haven’t fucked every man in the room,” and laughed.  I’ve been around gay male friends who’ve openly discussed their previous night’s paramours with their partners at the breakfast table.  I think all of that, in its messy complicatedness (and, I’ll admit, as embedded as it is within a US-specific paradigm of gayness) is worth holding on to.

I know all of that still exists.  But it’s being silenced and hushed up in the din around gay marriage, and I know - at least on an anecdotal level - that it irritates a lot of gay men, even the ones who’d like to marry.  The fight for gay marriage is swaddled in a lot of self-righteous bunk about gay people being better at relationships and more loving and more caring.  Somewhere along the way, someone at GMM (Gay Marriage Movement) headquarters decided that that meant denying the existence of gay sex.

I see, but am not sympathetic to, the logic behind this.  Most Americans are willing to accept gay marriage if it seems harmless and cute and about “love and commitment.” And completely sexless.  Witness, for instance, the incredibly manipulative anti-Prop 8 advertising campaigns where little children plead with the viewer: “Don’t Divorce my Parents.” Gay sex represents too much of an “ick factor” for most Americans; they can tolerate gay marriage and parenting (maybe).  But actual sex?  Gay sex?  “Ew” is the general response.

Dad and Dad don’t fuck in the bedroom next door to the kids.  And neither one of them would ever dream, of course, of bringing home a one-night stand to spice up the relationship.  Mention the possibility of gay sex, and the most liberal “straight ally” will turn and run and withdraw support for “my best gay friend’s wedding.”

You might ask, at this point, what about lesbian sex?  The answer to that is simple: We don’t have any.  Nope.  Nothing goes on here, as I’ve written in an earlier post about “Larry Craig, Weapons of Mass Distraction, and Lesbian Public Sex.” When it comes to lesbians, people either don’t care or can’t see lesbian sexuality (The L Word notwithstanding). But I digress.  This is about gay sex in particular.  And the fact that gay men, like it or not, are being asked - implicitly or explicitly - to shut up about sex while the GMM forges on.  Even as gay sexual life, such as it is, continues on its way.  I hear from a friend that several single gay men found themselves being hit on by gay couples looking for threesomes - at a gay marriage convention.  I know, from the constant swinging of the doors of my neighbourhood bathhouse, and from my conversations with friends, that there’s plenty of gay sex going on all around me.

I’m sad about how much of gay sexual culture is being made to go away while the adults play at respectability in order to win the marriage game.  I wonder: After gay marriage is won, will we talk more openly about what married gay men actually do with and to each other?  Or will we have completely forgotten how to have those conversations?

Originally published on The Bilerico Project, 25 February, 2009.  Read here for comments.


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