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.
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