Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How do you know you are gay?

By Mister Curie

I'm sure most faithful MoHo's have had this question asked of them. How do you know?

Continuing our theme of the inadequacies of labels, while on a DAMU group recently, homosexuality was being discussed and someone posted a link to StraightGuise, a website about straight men who have sex with men (SMSM) and are not gay. If having sex with another person of the same gender does not constitute homosexuality, what does? The website is complete with a list of at least 20 reasons straight men may have sex with men, but are not gay (perhaps #21 can be love potions, as illustrated in the above picture from the movie "Were the World Mine").

And yet, as far as labels go, many faithful MoHos have never had sex with someone of the same gender, yet they still consider themselves gay. Of course many single mormons have never had sex with someone of the opposite gender and know they are heterosexual (heck, I've had tons of sex with my wife and I still didn't know I was gay - of course my wife claims that she knew. . .). Perhaps we need to compile a list of how you can know you are gay if you have never had sex with a man or are having sex with your wife (for those in mixed orientation marriages). That ties into my questions on bisexuality. Can you be gay and still enjoy sex with a woman, or does that automatically put you into the bisexuality group? As we have noted, I suspect labels are inadequate for this circumstance as well.


  1. This really does go to the crux of the whole labeling matter, doesn't it? It also points out the problems with reducing these definitions to sexual actions. As you say, how can a person who has actually never had sex with anybody be counted as heterosexual? (Which, of course, supports my long-held notion that single Mormons are supposed to be more asexual than anything.)

    Since reducing sexuality to the actual sex act seems wholly inadequate, then perhaps it comes down to the motivation behind the sex? Obviously, no matter the orientations of the partners, biology will take over at some point and sex can be had by any two willing people.

    Then perhaps it is the relationship that matters. Rather, the hoped-for relationship. Maybe what we call sexual orientation is actually about with whom we hope to form our most intimate bond.

    Hmm... I see problems with that, too, although it does seem better than the purely sexual definition. Hmm...

  2. I'm not sure I totally buy into this notion of straight guys who have sex with guys. I think if you are totally 100% straight (i.e. a 0 on the Kinsey scale) then you couldn't do it - you'd have to have 'some' homosexual inclinations.

    I think, perhaps, some men use the reasoning that they find women attractive therefore they must be straight - when in fact the only thing conclusive is that they are not 100% gay (i.e. a 6 on the Kinsey scale).

  3. I'm going to look completely ignorant here (which I am... so thats fine), but how reliable does the LGBT community regard the Kinsey scale? I've heard both ends of the argument - that the Kinsey scale is great, yada, yada, yada, or that it pigeonholes people and means people can "choose" orientation, yada, yada, yada.

    Just curious.

    When I think of the Kinsey scale and the discussion of orientation "fluidity," I sort of imagine a rope that it tightly attached to two walls, but very loose in the middle. I see myself as on the rope in that loose middle, but for some reason is seems many (particularly men) only really regard the extremes (straight and gay), which are rigidly attached to the wall.

    I hate labels.

  4. I think the Kinsey scale probably over simplifies sexual orientation which is really quite complex. But, I think it does illustrate that sexual orientation is a continuum with infinite degrees. That is why I'm having trouble with this idea of straight guys having sex with guys - there has to be some level of attraction.

  5. I totally buy the straight guys having sex with other straight guys, as long as they really are doing it as a simple sexual release. If they're trying to create relationships, then they're not "100% straight." If they're just in it for the sex, then how is it different than masturbating (not in a moral sense; merely in a sex sense)?

    It puts me in mind of those who engage in bestiality - that is obviously about sex and nothing but. Besides calling such people perverts, their sexual identity labels are not called into question merely because of the sex act. Rather an extreme example, I know, but I think it sheds light on the subject.

  6. Have you all seen the movie Brokeback Mountain? The relationship between the two men in that movie sort of reminds me of this line of questioning. When I watched the sex scene in that movie, I remember wondering, "Am I watching a rape scene or a sex scene?" These guys had barely spoken 8 words at once to each other in the leading up scenes, and while the one guy was initiating with the other, there was absolute violence between the two of them.

    I didn't get it at all.

    Contrast that with the movie Latter Days, which we had watched several days before. The sex scene in that one was gentle and loving and perfect, and there was so much emotion and relationship wrapped up in it.

    That is where I get confused in this whole relationship discussion - on the one hand, you have two men who engage in an extremely violent sex act with each other, with little to no emotional relationship (at least at that point in the movie). On the other, its the building of the relationship first, and sex as the result. Yet the couples in both are both considered examples of "gay" men having sex - not straight men engaging in homosexual acts.

  7. @EV - I think the simplest explanation is that life is messy and labels mean different things to different people.

    @Abelard - Actually, if you read the Guise list, some of them make sense, like being the victim of sexual abuse. If you are raped by someone of the same sex it does not automatically make you gay, it just doesn't. (Anymore than having sex with a woman makes you homosexual, I guess).

    @Abelard/MC - Where can you get a copy/explanation of the Kinsey scale?

  8. How do you know you are not gay?

    I have an interesting true life story. Some years ago, loved one had a friend named G. We got to know G very well. Turns out G had a mid life crisis either fully or partially precipitated by his wife leaving him. Apparently, G was questioning and decided that coming out to San Francisco was the ticket to his new life. So he sent the last kiddo off to college, loaded up the U-haul, drove out west and settled into a basement apartment in the Mission District. On his first venture out into the "Gay Scene" as he had imagined, he stopped at a bar and all went well until . . . a man in a superman suit jumped up on top of the bar with a large sausage stuffed down his tights. G claimed that from that moment onward he no longer questioned he might be gay and "knew" he was straight.

    G was full of great stories, all of which I do believe to be true, and I miss him. I had an opportunity to live a few with him, he was the kind of person who drug "quieter" folks like myself in his wake. And, I basked and froliced in the joy and fun of shared times with him.

  9. Quiet Song- That story gives new meaning to the phrase, "Scared Straight"!

    (And.... I just got the word "testis" for my word verification. Lovely. And ironic.)

  10. Frank Lee Scarlet07 January, 2010

    This post contains many questions I have asked myself and others over on my own blog. At times I have a hard time determining my place on the Kinsey scale--a device helpful if only because it presents sexuality as a spectrum--because of the rather baffling ambiguity that I and many others experience.

    A note on labels: I find it helpful to keep in mind that the notion of a gay/straight dichotomy is a relatively new concept. Throughout history it has been more common for men to define or label themselves sexually as either passive or active. With this perspective in mind it is clear that SMSM is nothing new; in fact, for active (penetrating) men, "gay" sex could be an extremely manly deed. Such a man might, in some cultures, even brag about his "conquests" of other males--and yet he was not perceived as "homosexual" in our sense of the word. The gender of the partner wasn't nearly as significant as a person's sexual role.

    (This is not to say that homosexuality did not exist in certain cultures or times. Even in ancient Greece--where sexual attraction was understood as more or less gender-blind--Plato (I think it was Plato, anyway) observed that some sought exclusively same sex companionship.)

  11. Frank - Can you direct us to your blog? A simple click on your name didn't do the trick.

  12. Frank Lee Scarlet07 January, 2010

    Sure, it's . I'll look into my settings to see if I can fix that--thanks for pointing it out. :)

  13. This has made me think about things.

    At first, I thought, "Why hasn't anyone raised the obvious: sexual orientation is primarily discovered through sexual attraction...So, it should follow that one's actions can "disagree" with one's attraction."

    But then as I read the comments which continued to bring up the idea of "relationships," I realized that perhaps I was being too short-sighted and not "obvious" at all. After all, don't we cringe when people try to reduce sexual orientation (particularly homosexuality) to "just being about sex" and fail to realize that it is about relationships too?

    Hmm. But still, I'm not quite sure. I still lean to rather crude and basic understandings (at least from a guy's perspective...there, quite simply, are some noticeable biological responses that can tip of sexual attraction pretty easily. I hope I don't have to elaborate further, lol ;3). These crude and basic understandings spill over into other areas (e.g., who I would even possibly want to pursue a meaningful relationship with...)

    This will probably make me pretty unpopular here, but I find it interesting that while EL looks at "legitimate" forms of human sexuality as relating to whether there is a desire for relationship or not (e.g., "IF they're trying to create relationships, THEN a straight man who has sex with another man isn't 100% straight," but with something like bestiality, it is "obvious" that "that is obviously about sex and nothing but." Interestingly enough, many zoophiles/bestialists (there goes those different labels..) would argue that they do feel they have a relationship that is special -- and would chastise those who do *not*. The question really isn't whether they perceive they have a relationship, but whether this relationship is appropriate. Most of us are fairly convinced that no matter how much a bestialist (or a pedophile, for that matter) argues that they are trying to have a "relationship," that even if they do have these intentions in mind, their relationship is invalid and inappropriate.

  14. I guess I don't comprehend the idea of having sex for the sake of sex. For me, sex is the consummation of a relationship. I just cannot fathom the idea of having sex with someone for whom I didn't have some sort of feelings for. If you need a sexual release then that's why god gave us masturbation.

    Am I weird?

  15. @FLS - I think we may have a lot in common as we try to place ourselves on the Kinsey scale. I look forward to following your blog.

    @AndrewS - Certainly one's actions can contradict one's attractions, but it does cause some cog-dis when one has attractions that go against his actions (simply spoken as a married mormon with homosexual feelings, on the other hand my actions with my wife fully follow my attractions!).

    @EV/AndrewS - I appreciate the thought experiments, but I would be most comfortable if people could be more creative than trying to understand homosexuality by using comparisons to bestiality or pedophilia. Homosexuality has nothing to do with bestiality or pedophilia (as I'm sure you are aware), but to those who don't understand homosexuality, I prefer to try and avoid furthering homophobic stereotypes.

  16. Mr. C:

    With respect to the comment you addressed to me, I think that cog-dis is a general consequence whenever we go against inclinations (e.g., when we act against our *beliefs* too...)

    With respect to the comment that you addressed to both EL and me, I'm not comparing homosexuality to pedophilia or bestiality. In fact, if you look at both EL and my comments, at best, we are strongly contrasting. We are pointing out the dissimilarities, not trying to drum up similarities that do not exist.

    But I will comply with your request; it's not my site.

    Abelard Enigma:

    I personally don't think you're weird, but I also don't think you're in a strong majority (this says more about society than it does about you). After all, since people commonly say sex is more pleasurable than masturbation, then it's easy for them to fathom sex for the sake of sex or for the sake of release. I mean, there *is* prostitution. There are one-night stands. There are hookups.

  17. @AndrewS - I appreciate you honoring my request. I agree that you were not comparing homosexuality with beastiality or pedophilia. However for the homophobic, I think posts containing all three topics may see more connections than differences.

    @Abelard - I agree that you aren't crazy, however AndrewS does bring up a good point. Your perspective may also reflect beliefs you were raised with.

  18. One of the things I have enjoyed most about discussions on here has been how much conversations on sexuality have focused on fluidity and relationships. I find that often, such discussions just devolve into talk about sex. Its been surprising for me to find that I'm not alone in finding sex to be the outcrop of a variety of other attachments.

    I think we have hit the core of the issue of why labels fall apart. Are we physically aroused by a man/women because of relationship or physique? Some people have argued one way and some the other.

    When I was in college, I hated going to frat parties with my friends, where everyone just hooked up randomly and made-out (or more) with people they found attractive (usually with the help of beer goggles). This held absolutely no attraction for me. It lead me to think I was asexual. I HAVE to have that emotional connection to have physical arousal. HAVE TO. I can't even make love to my husband unless I am feeling "connected" with him. So, does that make me emotsexual? I am aroused by emotion and attachment rather than physical?

    At the same time, I fully understand that others enjoy one-night stands or whatnot. So I know my experience isn't the only one. I just have trouble with the labels we try to pin on these things, because they can fall apart when we reduce it down to whether we have had sex with someone. From the moment I had sex with my high school best friend, did that make me a lesbian? Did my repulsion at my college boyfriend's anatomy (despite an "attachment") make me asexual? Does my marriage to my husband make me bisexual?

    I don't think its that easy. But it is important to dissect.

    One thing I have noticed here is that there are a lot more women participating in these discussions. I've really appreciated having that second voice, and I think its added a different viewpoint to things.

    And yes, I realize that comment was all over the place.

  19. I had one more thought on this topic...

    Most people have one "primary" love language, or way in which they feel love. Typically, people use the same language to show love as they do to hear love. You can learn a love language other than your own, but it is difficult if you aren't being spoken to in your own language.

    For reference, the different love languages are:

    Words: Positive verbal reinforcement, like saying "I love you"

    Time: Spending time with and emotionally/ intellectually bonding with your significant other

    Gifts: Receiving small (or large) tokens of love, such as chocolates, flowers, etc.

    Service: Small daily acts of service that show you are thinking of the other

    Physical Touch: Can be companionate/comforting (snuggling) or sexual

    I wonder if whether some of our differences in opinion about what it means to be "gay" has to do with each person's primary love language and where they are on the Kinsey scale.

  20. Hmmm. Makes me wonder how different love languages apply even in a very long term heterosexual relationship. I am constantly wondering why my wife thinks going to a lot of work for me that I have specifically asked her NOT to do will please me. And I am constantly wondering why she gets annoyed when I fail to do "little" things, while being unimpressed when I do "big" things for her.

    You'd think after about 35 years of knowing each other we'd figure each other out. Thanks for the reminder.


  21. FireTag, your comment made me laugh out-loud. Yes, the love languages apply in pretty much all relationships - they are individual ways each person feels love. My primary love language is Time and Mr. C's is Service. I've had to learn to do little things for him rather than just talk, and he has had to learn to sit and listen to me even when he feels like he has served me all day :)

    Sounds like your wife's primary love language may be Service as well.