By Dylan Flint
I feel a chapter of my life is coming to an end. Upon getting sober in June of 2013, it became absolutely imperative that I look at my sexuality. You could say it was a deep seeded issue that bubbled to the surface and demanded to be looked at. Put simply, my options were, look at this, or go back to drinking and drugging. Finding my newly discovered sobriety to be my most cherished possession, I began what has now come to be a four year journey into my sexuality and my, at the time, crippling fear of being gay. After many conversations with psychologists, awkward interactions with family members, compassion from understanding friends, endless thinking and writing, and finally what has now come to be several forays with the same sex, I am ready to share what I have learned about gay love.
But, before I begin, I feel it worthwhile to inform the reader that even though my understanding has grown and deepened these past four years, it is by no means perfect. There are many things I could still have dead wrong, and truth be told, even while writing this piece I stumbled and fell short of my chosen sex ideal, yet again. That being the case, I cannot deny the fact that there has been real progress in my sex life, let alone how great it is to even have an ideal that I am working towards. And that, I think, is worth sharing. So, continue reading if you’d like, or stop if you want, but, without further ado, I will begin.
First and foremost, I want to say that gay sex is just like “ordinary” sex. It’s gross, awkward and, if you’re sober, emotional. But if it’s done right, it can be beautiful, touching, and deeply satisfying. Having had occasion with both sexes, I would say on this score, there isn’t much difference.
The next thing I want to share is that being gay is not a choice. I’ve always found this to be really quite simple. I have met countless homosexuals who, as sad as this may be, if given a choice, would choose to be straight. Since those who are gay can’t just one day select ‘ungay’ from their repertoire of sexual being, I have always thought it a matter of simple logic that ‘gay’ would then likewise not be a selection one could just make. For, as I’ve understood it, a choice presupposes two alternatives, and if one of those options is impossible (going from gay to not gay), then I don’t see how we could still say going from not gay to gay constitutes a choice. But if anyone knows more about the logic of choice in this context than I do, please enlighten me. I would love to discuss.
In any event, I still believe choice matters a great deal. I may not have the choice to be a person who has, or does not have, same sex attractions, but what I do with those attractions still seems to be a choice. In other words, being bisexual, I would say I don’t have the power of choice to become unbisexual any more than a gay man has the power to become ungay, or a straight man unstraight, but it is up to me, I think, which desires I act on and which I don't. And I don't think anyone is unique in this. I think we can all, regardless of the content of our attractions, choose what our sexuality means, how we conduct our sexual behavior, and how we shape our given desires and attractions — not change, but shape.
For example, I assume we all have desires we wish we didn’t have. I don’t think it is the role of choice to do away with these desires at will, but perhaps what we choose to gratify or deny does, in part, shape how these attractions take form in our lives. And maybe it is the role of pleasure and pain to solidify, or perfect, this from. (1) If this is so, it would lead nicely into the last and perhaps greatest thing my sexual exploration has taught me.
The most striking thing I have learned in my journey thus far is that if I am not trying to work towards having a husband, or an emotionally intimate relationship with another guy, then gay love is both boyish and selfish. Now, before we get all up in arms, let me explain what I mean. I am, at times, very turned on by the thought, or image, of same sex love because part of me thought and still thinks it is free, uncommitted pleasure, which to an extent is true. When I was younger and was just starting to explore, the pleasure received and given was casual, innocent even, as both lovers were sincerely exploring themselves. No one was trying to get away with anything. But, ultimately, it is false to think that pleasure can ever be free, as I have come to learn that the exchange of pleasure will always increase bonds between people.(2)
As I explored, regardless of how honest and forthcoming I was, my actions caused bonds to grow, but my intentions never followed. Thus, it is no wonder why I always ended up feeling trapped. I had gotten myself into something I didn't want to get into: emotional intimacy and a real relationship. That being said, I still believe healthy casual sex is possible, but its genuine form is I think extremely rare.(3) To do so, one must meet the right person who is of a like mind, and who understands that both parties will be actively denying the bonds that ensue. Here, if everyone has truly understood what this entails, there will be no harm, as each are responsible for what they have gotten themselves into. For myself, knowing what I now know, I must hold myself to a higher standard, if you will. But, I obviously must encourage others to explore for themselves. For how could I cut people off from the means that gave me understanding?
It would not only be hypocritical, but I say harmful, to condemn others for wanting to understand their sexualities and find out what feels right to them. However, that being said, everyone must know how to be safe, open-minded, respectful, and most importantly communicative. If these things are absent, I see no reason why we shouldn’t intervene on the behavior of others or feel absolutely justified in their education. Furthermore, no amount of wanting to explore can ever excuse selfish and hurtful behavior. For example, just because I want to try same sex love, I can not then think it’s okay to tear through the lives of others simply in the name of exploration or “liberation.” Same sex love needs to be severed from its societal association with unsafe and selfish love. As a people, myself included, we desperately need this distinction. Healthy lovemaking is healthy lovemaking regardless of the genders of those involved. What really counts, I believe, is sex between people who want to grow together emotionally. The route of pleasure doesn't seem to matter much, and over time I have found that pleasure seems to only grow or be sustained with the same person given the amount of intimacy in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, perhaps it is the case that pleasure and intimacy work hand in hand to bring people ever closer. (4) The trick being to find the right person to start this with: someone who you are both attracted to, and can be intimate with, while the feelings are mutual.
Now, having got in touch with myself over the past four years, what has become clear for me is that this sex ideal that I have been outlining takes on application, with me, through the opposite sex. I want to grow together with a woman. I want a wife and kids. I want to find a relationship that grows into a traditional biological family. When I think of these deep bonds forming with another man there is just nothing there for me. That is why I say gay love will always be boyish and playful for me. But that is my truth, it is for no one else.
There is no reason why, given everything that I have said, that gay love can’t be mature — that two men can’t grow old and gray together, having carried out the ideal I am describing. I have heard examples of this, and hopefully someday they can be seen in all of our communities. Again, what really seems to count is how we love, not what we love. Perhaps in another lifetime my truth would be different, and I would be able to love another man the way I want to love my ideal partner. But, in the here and now, I must stay true to myself and go after what it is I want.
So, as I continue my journey into the wonderful and mysterious world of sexuality into its next chapter, I pray to stay open, sincere, compassionate, and loving. To life. To love. To sex. Go forth I say, and enjoy yourselves!
(1) For more on Aristotle’s pleasure as a perfection in functioning view see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Pleasure section 2.2.2
(2) This is my own derivation from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics: Pleasure perfects activity > an exchange of pleasure between people constitutes a human relationship > sexual pleasure is the most intimate of human pleasures > sexual pleasure will therefore move to perfect intimate human relationships
(3) Perhaps Camus’ Don Juanism is this rare exemplar
(4) This I think would be in-line with Aristotle’s teachings