• Karen O'Moore

SM seeks other SM

When we see two heterosexual women flirting or kissing at a party or pub, it is generally accepted - some will see them as either putting on a show for attention or exploring the fluid space that is female sexuality. But this is not the case for heterosexual men. When they hook up, it is perceived that it is either a case of confinement (prison etc) or that, well perhaps they aren't straight after all. There does seem to be this idea that women can explore their sexuality without it being seen as gay; no explanation required, while with men, either there's some explanation for it, or they are gay and they just don't realise or won't acknowledge it. Society has always thought of sexuality as straight or gay. Bisexuality has even only begun to be taken seriously. The idea of separate, static and neatly defined sexual orientations is woven in the fabric of society and is part of our cultural thinking of gender itself; 'real' men are masculine and only attracted to women.

Yet, many straight men desire or fantasise about sex with another man. Research shows about 21% do - although it may not rank up there with the fantasy of having sex with two women, it is still a large number. And in the many conversations I have had with men around this, the fantasies vary and for many it will stay just that, a fantasy, and for others, they will look for ways to explore it a little further. The desires vary from wanting the experience of another man's touch, to wanting that feeling of being taken, of being 'filled', to simply wanting a sexual release in a different way (nearly 70% of straight men having sex with men are married). Nearly all are not looking to experience anything romantic in these scenarios.

There seems to have always been the idea that men's sexuality is more rigid that women's and that women are inherently more sexually fluid. Women's sexuality has always been said to be more receptive, more fluid and triggered by external stimuli - they have the capacity to be aroused by so much. The train of thought with men has been that they have this hardwired heterosexual impulse to spread their seed and that's relatively inflexible. This is changing though. A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has given a breath of fresh air to long held beliefs about heteronormative sexual orientation. The study looked at sexual responses by looking at the eyes and whether they dilate or not when shown various images. We cannot control our eye dilation (and it was a little less invasive than studying genital arousal!) The results, thank god, challenged those deeply held cultural beliefs about sexuality in that it is way more complex than gay and straight. If a straight man is shown a picture of a woman masturbating, their arousal will cause their eyes to dilate. Shown a picture of a man masturbating and there was still some dilation. (Many men secretly watch gay porn). Interestingly, this would not happen if a gay man was shown these two images - there would normally be no response from seeing the woman masturbating. The 100% straight theory just went flying out of the window.

It is unfair that there is so much cultural crap around men having a sexual attraction to another man. This makes it so difficult for men to talk about it, meaning they live in a world thinking they are the only one to experience these feelings which they then feel is 'wrong'. For many it is confusing and emotionally draining. All this cultural baggage, makes finding a space to explore these desires in a safe space, a difficult one.

There is a huge difference between our organic, innate sexual and romantic orientation and our sexual preferences. Straight men can and do have sex with other men (both gay and straight) and not be gay. Just because you are sexual with the same gender, it doesn't necessarily reflect your sexual/romantic orientation; there is a difference between sexual identity, orientation, fantasies and behaviour.

Let go of the baggage.

Photo credit? Greg Colbert


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