I recently met a 30-something guy, Ed, who is engaged to be married. He really loves his girlfriend and wants the relationship to work but he's having some second thoughts. "Am I man enough for her? Can I give her what she needs?"
His questions were surprising, especially for a straight guy.
It doesn't sound like Ed and his fiance' are much of a match, does it?
Well, on a more positive note, Ed says the couple shares every private thought and has no secrets. "We're very emotionally connected."
Ed believes his struggle with expressing love began as a young boy, when his father died unexpectedly. He says he loved his father so much, and the pain of losing him was so great, that ever since he's kept his feelings tightly controlled. He therefore understands why his fiance' gets frustrated with him.
When I heard this story I tried not to project my own feelings and experiences into it. That was difficult.
You see, long before Gabbie got involved with Charlie, she periodically complained to me that I didn't pay enough attention to her. I never knew how to respond. I totally loved her - what more did she want? Eventually I decided the problem was hers and not mine; she was needy and perpetually unsatisfied, not only with me, but with several other aspects of life. The best way for me to cope was to be patient and to accept her as she was.
I was so confident in my love for Gabbie that it took several years for me to see Charlie as a serious threat. In the early days, I actually relished the competition with him. He was such an obvious loser, I KNEW I'd prevail, and once I did, Gabbie would no longer complain about me. At one point I even said to myself, "Bring it on Charlie...there's no way you can win!"
Famous last words...
Getting back to Ed, he said he sometimes questions whether he might be a little bisexual. He's never been with a guy, and never sees it happening, but he does fantasize about them. Specifically, he wants to be pursued by a man and penetrated like a woman. This appeals to Ed because he's faced so much rejection from women that he imagines being pretty and sexy enough to attract a man. Stockings, women's lingerie and anal toys have all become a part of Ed's fantasy play, both alone and with his fiance'.
My fantasies have never gone in that direction so I can't particularly relate to Ed, but I see the logic of his thoughts. If you're an unattractive man and you're not desired, why not pretend to be a pretty girl so you'll be wanted? And getting penetrated is proof that you're desired, so that makes sense too.
My friend Hayden heard Ed's story at the same time I did, yet his take was very different from mine. His opinion: "Ed is obviously gay. He's just so repressed that he finds creative ways to rationalize his thoughts."
Hmm. Could be, I suppose. I never tried to hide my sexuality from myself so maybe I don't recognize deep denial when I hear it.
What intrigues me about Ed's fantasies is that the men in them are completely anonymous. He has no personal or emotional interest in them. His focus is entirely on being desired and getting penetrated. He doesn't imagine any talking or any kind of masculine bonding. And the last thing he wants to do is something intimate, like kiss.
Really, he sounds like a great many "straight" guys on Craigslist who are looking for gay sex.
I've never understood that phenomenon. I see actual behavior and frequent fantasies as indicative of sexual orientation, not intimacy. Intimacy is entirely optional, regardless of whether you're straight, bi or gay. I therefore find "straight" guys who post Craigslist man-4-man ads to be very puzzling. I don't understand how a man can genuinely believe he's straight when he has sex more often with men than women. I don't get it. And universally, neither do straight wives. Over and over their husbands explain how completely meaningless their hook-ups with men are, but their wives never believe them. "Straight men don't like dick, EVER!"
Ed's description of his fantasies with men reminded me that I've had somewhat similar fantasies about women. These fantasies are uncommon but they do happen, and just as in Ed's fantasies, my focus is very limited. I never envision a face, or even much of a body. My objective is simple: to hammer an anonymous vagina, with absolutely no concern for the woman involved. Intimacy has no place in this fantasy. Names, conversation, kissing, looking into the woman's eyes...I can't imagine any of those things. If I do, they kill the whole idea.
Fantasies are one thing but real-life encounters are totally different. Ed says he can't imagine ever being with a man. And while I have been with a woman, I can't imagine ever pursuing one again. However...if there was a place on the Internet where I could find local women who offered free, no talking, anonymous, NSA sex, I might be tempted to indulge. If I did, would that make me in denial of being straight? Or is just having a vaginal sex fantasy enough to earn me that label?
I'm sure opinions on the subject vary, but I'd bet that a lot of people (like Hayden), who would be quick to label Ed as "gay, in denial and very repressed" would not be a rush to label me as "heterosexual, in denial and repressed." Why is that?
It's common for people to associate shame with being in denial. Certainly they can be related, but are they always?
Hayden thinks Ed is so deeply ashamed of his attraction to men that he uses every excuse he can to maintain the belief that he's straight. Well, what if my disembodied, misogynistic vagina fantasy causes me deep shame? Does that mean I'm in denial about being straight?
As you can see, Ed's story has pulled me in multiple directions, some of which are contradictory. Maybe his fiance' is right to question his ability to desire her. Maybe he is gay, but in deep denial about it. Or, maybe he's just an imperfect straight guy, scarred by a history of endless rejection and emotional abandonment.
Whatever the answer, this is Ed's mess to figure out.
At first I wanted to tell him how my wife dumped me because I didn't pay enough attention to her, but the more I listened to his story, the more confused I became. Ultimately I decided not to share my bad experience. He isn't particularly attractive...he is being totally honest with his fiance'...what good would it do to confirm his fears? I actually hope he does get married and he and his fiance' live happily ever after. More power to them, right?
With all this said, I'm still wondering what the deal is with all those straight guys looking for gay sex on Craigslist. Are they all in-denial, closeted homos? Or, are most of them authentically straight, just somewhat fucked up the way Ed is? If you can enlighten me, I'd like to hear your thoughts.