Sexual Adolescence vs. Sexual Compulsivity in Gay Men

Whenever I am with a group of gay men, sex invariably becomes a topic of discussion. Often it is funny, sometimes sarcastic, biting and hurtful. However it appears, our culture, on the surface, has an ease about discussing sex in a way that I don’t encounter in heterosexual environments. I wonder what it is about our culture that makes this talk so easy, so expected… so normal? As a therapist, I am curious about where it comes from and how it affects us.

Sociologically speaking, if you look at the gay community as if it were an individual, we are a relatively young “out” person. Stonewall happened in 1969, which signified the first time we had the strength and visibility to be “out” and have a voice. That “out” voice is a mere 40 years old.

Additionally, many gay men do not come out during their physical adolescence. In typical adolescence, hormones, physical and emotional development collide at the same time. As a result of this, many adult men hit their “gay adolescence” later than their physical body.

Next, consider the most profound, wonderful, horrible, exciting, scary, “I can’t get enough!”, “Now, now, now!” aspects of adolescence… Sex, love, to be wanted, to be noticed, to feel special and, of course, immediate gratification.

So, I understand part of the sexual talk and behavior of our culture is about recovering a developmental piece we didn’t get to explore in an open “adolescent” way. The potential problem arises when adolescents don’t know how to grow up, get stuck in this stage of development and find themselves unable to move toward healthier adult attitudes about sex.

Consider the following as you look at your sexual development or question whether sex has too much of an emphasis in your life…

1. How much time do you spend thinking about sex, doing it, talking about it, looking for it? Are you attending to the doings of your everyday life, or is sex getting in your way?

2. Do you constantly look at the world through “sexual lenses” – sizing up everyone you see as a potential “yes” or “no”? Are you constantly on the prowl looking for your next conquest? Most people who identify themselves as sexual addicts will tell you it is “the chase” that is the high, not the sex.

3. If you continue to cross the line of your value system regarding sexual behavior, look at what is keeping you stuck. We all have a value system in place for acceptable sexual behavior. As a subculture, we are the only children that, mostly, don’t have parents that are like us (gay). So unless we have some healthy gay role models, we must create this value system on our own. A value system about sex can be fluid, depending on whether you are single, dating or coupled.

As you consider these questions, if you think you may need help, plenty of resources are available. There are support groups for sexual compulsivity/addiction and numerous books directed specifically to gay men and healthy sexual attitudes. Therapy is also helpful. You may need direction in exploring your behaviors, attitudes and value system about sex. My hope for you is to find a way to integrate sex with your adult world in a way that gives you long-term satisfaction and pleasure… but is not bound by your adolescent thinking.

© Copyright 2010 by By Jimmy G. Owen, LPC, CDWF. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • LaScala

    February 1st, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    That was a good article, Jimmy. Thank you! I found the part about gay men hitting their gay adolescence later than their physical body interesting and your theory very logical.

  • Lacey

    February 1st, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    Perhaps it’s finally having that freedom to express themselves too that makes it so easy to talk sex amongst other gay men. There’s sadly still so much prejudice. It’s taken so long for society to get even to where it’s at today too! I know you said heterosexual environments don’t have that same kind of ease, Jimmy. What about in mixed company, where it’s evenly split between homosexuals and heterosexuals?

  • kelly

    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:34 AM

    Being addicted to anything can really hamper a person’s everyday life… and when the addiction is for sex, it is all the more damaging because it can come in the way of your relationship with other people, be it professional or otherwise…

  • Eric

    February 2nd, 2010 at 5:45 AM

    I am a gay male and do not find this to be any truer in the gay community than in the heterosexual community. Gay people and straight people alike talk about sex, and I don’t think that in any way that means one of the other is compulsive about it. We are young, those are the concersations we have, but they are not the only things we talk about. I happen to think that boiling it down and saying that is what leaves many staright people afriad of homosexuals, which leads to misunderstanding and unfortunately discrimination and sometimes even violence. People are people and those are things that are going to be discussed in every community and to say that one is compulsive because of that is simply wrong and careless.

  • Jimmy

    February 2nd, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    Thanks everyone for the feedback.
    The point of the article is not do demonize gay men and sex. Eric, I agree all people talk about sex and this is just a part of our lives. My consideration is to look at the delayed development some gay men have where sexual attitudes and behavior lie and to offer some support for those feeling stuck. I also see straight men who come into their sexual adolescence later than their biological adolescence experiencing similar circumstances. Women, too. My job certainly isn’t to be a “values police”. I am merely offering observations as a gay man and a seasoned therapist. And to do so in 600 words or less ;)

  • Chad

    February 2nd, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Really enjoyed this article Jimmy. My friends and I have had discussions regarding this topic. Many of my friends never had the chance to experience “gay adolescence” in an open way and when they finally had the chance to be open with their sexuality, they really took charge and experienced it! I agree with your theory here. Thanks for the article!

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