Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tops or Bottoms?

What percentage of gay men are tops and what percentage are bottoms? Anon.

I have never, ahem, actually done a scientific survey on this subject, but I would say it's about evenly divided. Of course there are men who are versatile, both top and bottom, but judging from what I see on gay dating/sex/friendship sites, there don't seem to be as many of them.

I can tell you that in my experience you can't assume the butcher gay men are automatically tops and the "femmes" are bottoms, because sometimes the reverse is true. When two men get together, it's two men getting together -- neither one is the "lady." Men who are bottoms should never feel that they are somehow less male because of it. There are some men who think of themselves as being "straight" because they are always the top when they have sex with another guy -- they're fooling themselves.

And, as usual, I remind everyone to stick to safe sex. This is true even if you are a top. Although there have been fewer cases of HIV infection in men who are tops than bottoms, it does happen. When it comes to anal penetration, always wear a condom.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gal Dating Gay Guy?

Hi Bill, Thank you for your time. So, the guy I am dating doesn't know he's gay. My gay guy-friend had us over for dinner- says he's at least bi. It breaks my heart a little b/c I want him to be happy and he's so in denial. Is there anything I can say? I am primarily concerned for him , but I guess I don't want to get TOO attached and have him suddenly have an epiphany.... I'd rather he figure it out now, after 4 live-in girlfriends have cheated on him or left him b/c they "lost interest." I also don't want to contribute to the pattern. Thanks for your thoughts!!!!! AD.

Assuming the guy you're dating really is gay or bi, you have to tread carefully because some guys in the closet freeze up if you even make a slight suggestion about their sexuality. Bisexual advocates suggest that if he's genuinely bisexual he can have a sincere relationship with a woman, but he has to accept and deal with his bisexuality first, and also accept that he may be essentially gay, if that's the case. (Many women are uncomfortable with the notion of a bi boyfriend, which doesn't make them prejudiced, just leery over what the future may bring.) I don't know why your gay friend is convinced the boyfriend is at least bi -- there may be specific reasons or just a gut feeling.

I don't know if your boyfriend has a "macho" thing going on, but if you broach the gay subject with him it wouldn't hurt to start out by saying that there's nothing stereotypical about him -- if that's the case. Men who are in denial of their homosexuality have an absolute horror of being perceived as "queens" or stereotypical "fags." You can bring out the reasons for your suspicions, or say that your gay friend sensed something about him. Take it slow and easy, sensitively, assuring him that there's nothing whatsoever wrong in being gay. Explain that you care about him but you don't want to be in a relationship with someone who may be in denial over their sexuality and, as you put it, may have an epiphany months or years later.

A lot depends on his reaction. Getting hysterical or angry may not necessarily mean he's gay, but someone who's aware of and comfortable with his sexuality may more likely (but not necessarily) laugh it off and stay cool. There have been cases where a sensitive girlfriend has helped a man come out of the closet, and these gals deserve credit, especially when some of them may be in love with the guy and, understandably, would rather that he not be gay. But this is preferable to the women who feel they can "change" a guy, or are so unrealistic, possessive, or homophobic that they expect or even demand that the man in their life suppress his natural feelings for their sake. That's just asking for trouble in the long run.

You can start the conversation by asking how he feels about gay people and take it from there. Has he ever had sexual thoughts about men, or had a homosexual encounter? Make sure he's relaxed and lead him into it. The conversation may flow more easily than you imagine.

It may be difficult, but this is obviously a conversation you have to have. Feel free to ask follow-up questions.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who's Kinky?

Are gay men kinkier than straight men, perhaps in that they're more open to trying new things? Anon.

Interesting question. Right off the bat I'd say that kinkiness -- an interest in outre or unconventional sexual practices -- has little to do with sexual orientation. Lots of people, male or female of all persuasions, have kinks or fetishes -- this is entirely normal. There are probably yahoo groups devoted to every type of kink or fetish imaginable, some of which you may find erotic and others disgusting.

Gay men were (and in some quarters still are) considered sexual outlaws, so some of them may be more open to experimentation than straight men. But if a straight man or woman finds something to be a particular turn on (and it isn't illegal, immoral or fattening -- and even if it is) they may be just as likely to indulge in a little kinkiness now and then or even on a regular basis especially if it's a big, big turn-on for them.

Aspects of the leather/s&m scene have always been considered a little kinky and fetishistic. And while the leather scene has always been a vibrant part of the gay scene, the fact is that there are heterosexual men and women who are leather and s&m/b&d enthusiasts.

So ultimately I'd have to say that gay men -- some of whom are downright conventional in their sexual habits -- are not "kinkier" than straight men.

Homosexual But Not Gay?

Why do so many people who are homosexual not want to identify or be identified as gay? Murray.

Historically there have always been people who were open about their homosexuality, even in the days before the modern-day Gay Rights movement, and I think that today a much higher percentage of gay people than ever before are out of the closet and proudly identify themselves as gay. But you're right that there are still a lot of people who don't, and there are various reasons. The biggest reason is internalized homophobia, a basic shame in being homosexual that can be deeply ingrained in a person's psyche (sadly, even some out-of-the-closet gays can be victimized by self-hatred). These people may be essentially homosexual but they more or less live "straight" lives, getting married and having kids, anything to keep the world at large from knowing the truth about their sexuality. This is certainly true of the many men of all ethnic backgrounds who are on the "down low." They desire men sexually but simply aren't secure and confident enough to think of themselves as gay. One study suggested that married homosexuals have a lack of self-esteem that prevents them from coming out and challenging society's mores.

Then we have people who are bisexually active (sleeping or somehow involved with both sexes) or who at least think of themselves -- rightly or wrongly -- as being bisexual. Despite their same-sex attraction, they don't think of themselves as gay because they are also attracted to -- or are at least sexually, or in some other way, involved -- with the opposite gender. Some of these people are very pro-gay, however, feeling a unity with gays, while others (hypocritically) think of gay men as "fags."

Then we have homosexual men who don't identify as "gay" because they feel they don't conform to the public perception -- or stereotype -- of homosexual men. They are masculine and have no interest in the kinds of things that are supposed to fascinate gay men. They don't relate to "Madonna-loving queens" or have an interest in fashion. Many feel as I do that these men -- rather than saying they don't consider themselves "gay" (although they don't necessarily deny their homosexuality) -- would be better off being "gay" and challenging the stereotypes, helping to make clear that there is a great deal of diversity in the gay community.

Then we have homosexuals who simply prefer other labels because they somehow see themselves as being different from gays who have come before. "Post-gays," or what-not. Some are dealing with gender-identification issues that aren't easily summed up under the word "gay."

And some people just don't like the word "gay" and the frivolousness it implies. But the word, as a code for homosexual, has been around even longer than most people think and seems to be here to stay.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Dye Job to Die For

Dr Bill, what do you think of this? Maybe it will give you a laugh. I was cruising a guy one night when he turns to me and says "I love your beard but you shouldn't dye it." Dr Bill -- I don't dye my beard! PH

Oops! Maybe he was just hoping you were older than he was! Did he have gray in his own beard? Or maybe he was just telling you that if it got to the point where you wanted to dye it, you should keep it natural. Whatever the case, I have to tell you that if anybody ever asked me if I dyed my goatee I'd probably just say:

"Yes -- Every St. Patty's Day I dye it green!"

You can steal the line if you want. Feel free to try variations such as "Halloween" and "orange" and "Ground hog's Day" and "blue."

I think you get the idea.

Infatuated with Younger Man

I am a middle-aged gay man who finds himself unrequitedly infatuated with a younger man. I recently accepted the fact that it is hopeless and simply want to move on and get over him. But how can you get over an infatuation? BB

Now why does everyone ask me about unrequited infatuation? Seriously, there is a way to get over a crush, and while you may feel you're infatuated, obsessed, or in love, the fact is you're probably just in crush. I remember asking someone the same question once and I was told "You don't get over an infatuation. You just enjoy the fantasy." It sounded like a good answer at the time but it's completely inaccurate. Here's how you get over a crush.

First, stop hanging around the object of your affection, which you know you're doing way too much. Seeing him may be the highlight of your day, but you have to move on. Throw out your pictures of him, delete the ones on your hard drive, and cut him out of your life as much as possible. You've gotten past the first hurdle -- you've accepted that it's just not gonna happen. Now do the next sensible thing and get on with your life. Bless him and let him go!

Get yourself out there meeting new men! The easiest way to forget about the wrong guy is to meet the right one. Meet guys online, go on dates, frequent bars where you're more likely to find men who are your type and in your age range. Guys can be hot even in middle-age or older! You don't need the younger ones, baby! (Of course if you meet a younger guy who likes older men, okay, but that obviously hasn't happened here.)

I know, I know. You think you can't live without the one you think of nearly every hour of every day. You spend most of your time day-dreaming about the future with him that you know you won't have. Enough of that already! You may be feeling some heartbreak and disappointment, sure, but look at it this way. Think of all the people out there who lose spouses and partners that they've been with for decades. If you keep it in perspective you'll realize that what you're going through, while difficult, is a lot easier to deal with than the grief of losing a loved one of many years.

You can do it! You can get over this guy! The sooner you move on the faster you can meet someone new!

Think of the possibilities and go get 'im tiger!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Homophobic Boyfriend

I am a 28-year-old straight woman who is dating a thirty-year-old man. He is a nice guy in many ways but it bothers me that he is so homophobic. If he sees a guy that he even suspects might be gay, he'll say something disparaging. He also puts other men down by implying that they're gay. He uses homophobic slur terms on a regular basis. This happens over and over again. Could he be covering up some homosexual feelings of his own? He just never seems to let an opportunity to say something anti-gay go by. Thanks. SJ.

Whatever's up with this guy, he clearly has issues. There are a lot of homophobic guys out there, but if they go on and on and on about it it's never a good sign. And clearly he's overdoing it or you wouldn't be quite so bothered. Some straight men with mild homophobic attitudes can learn and change, but others have deep-rooted feelings that are much harder to reach.

Even if his feelings are caused by religious attitudes or the like, the fact that he can't stop making homophobic comments is a bad sign. It may be that he suffers from a severe inferiority complex, which is the cause of most prejudice (against gays or other minorities). For some reason he doesn't feel very manly and needs to hate gays so he can feel superior to them. Subconsciously he thinks: I may not be much of a man but at least I'm not a fag.

It's also possible that he's repressing his own homosexual feelings, which is often (but not always) the case with gay bashers. Men like this repeatedly insult gay men in the hopes that it will prevent anyone from sensing the truth about them, which they don't even want to admit to themselves.

Whatever the truth, he sounds like a guy with serious sexual identity issues. You can try confronting him on this and see what happens. Perhaps he can undergo counseling, or if he's repressed, learn to accept his sexuality. But in any case, it sounds like you might need to move on.

But I have a feeling you've pretty much come to the same conclusion, right?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Brutal Gay Porn on the Web

Dear Dr. Bill: I'm a gay man and for years I've realized that I'm intrigued and fascinated (OK, turned on) by porn movies or pictures that depict heavy-duty bondage and BDSM activities. Sometimes these are quite brutal. Undoubtedly I'm not alone: There are clearly tons of Web sites devoted to this fetish, as well as large sections of video stores. (I don't really know what goes on in leather bars or clubs.) The thing is...this stuff tends to really bother me, in the sense that I worry whether it's moral, whether it's good for the "victim" or exploitative, whether it's good for society and the gay community...and what it says about the people who salivate over this kind of stuff (including, now and then, me). I don't want to sound preachy or judgmental. I'm just concerned that it might NOT be a good thing that people (not only gays) are routinely giving in to their "dark side" these days and getting pleasure from pain, and calling it normal.

I mean, a few decades ago this probably would have been viewed as highly abnormal or wrong, yet the widespread presence of the Internet has made it all seem acceptable and commonplace. I remember many years ago in high school, a teacher asked us to define evil, and I said something like, "Getting pleasure from someone else's suffering." To me, that's still a pretty decent definition ... yet I wonder how the present fascination with the erotic side of pain fits in with that definition.

Yesterday I was bored and horny and used my credit card to pay for a month's membership on a gay bondage/pain Web site...the usual pics and videos of cute young gays being restrained on tables and crosses and abused (seemingly or in reality -- sometimes it's hard to say). After a few hours of this I felt really bad about myself and a bit depressed that this is not a moral activity for anyone ... that it's harmful to me, harmful to the actor, harmful to society. You might say that no one is harmed if everyone is consenting and going into it knowingly. But I feel bad that these young guys may be taken advantage of in the worst way and might be forced to go through these activities because of bad lives (poverty, addiction, etc.). If they need money desperately, is it really their free will?

I realize that every person's psyche is painted with both light and dark colors, that it's likely that ANY person can be aroused by either ecstasy or agony. No one is above feeling pleasure when someone else is suffering. But should it be such a widespread entertainment phenomenon? What does that say about us, if instead of repressing it we are turning it into a huge industry? Decades from now, what will be happening in these movies as the envelope is pushed more and more? Or have I just been watching too many scenes with Yoda and Vader in"Star Wars" movies? It would be great to hear your thoughts and readers' comments. P.

Thanks for your question. This may sound odd, but while I was reading it I was reminded of the debate over horror comics of the fifties, and mad slasher films of the 70's, and so on. What's that got to do with gay S&M porn? Horror comics and slasher films (or splatter movies) are dark and brutal and lots of perfectly normal people love them. Lots of people like to venture into the dark side now and then -- look at the popularity of Stephen King, Clive Barker (gay, by the way) -- and all the top-grossing super-gruesome horror flicks that abound (with victims dispatched in the most graphic, terrible ways). Most of these books and movies have a strong (generally hetero) erotic component to them. Now imagine if they had homoerotic twists... The violence in many of these films has often been considered pornographic. It troubles many people that this kind of stuff is considered entertainment -- it's troubled me at times -- yet most of the people watching these movies and reading these books (myself included) are not abnormal.

Now let's look at gay (or for that matter straight S&M porn). For that matter, let's look at the whole leather/S&M scene, which is not strictly gay but has historically been a big part of gay culture. On the one hand, we have leather fetishists who simply enjoy the feel and look of leather -- it makes them feel sexy and they are attracted to men with the same look. Not every leather fetishist is into S&M (sadomasochism) or B& D (bondage and discipline, a milder form of S&M).

I remember a friend once saying to me that the leather/s&m scene "wasn't about beating somebody up." It could be as simple as adding some titillation or "kinkiness" to a sexual episode. Or it could be a complete "lifestyle." I have known couples who live as slave and master, with one being dominant and the other submissive, but it was simple role-playing, something that turned them on. Again, it wasn't about "beating somebody up." Tying somebody up and having (consensual) sex with them when their movements are constricted, spanking or smacking somebody's bottom, seem like fairly harmless activities to me. [However, one should never allow someone you don't know well, or fully trust, to tie you up, blindfold you, or anything along those lines.]

I go to leather bars sometimes because I enjoy the masculine atmosphere, but I'm not there on the nights when you must wear regulation leather outfits. There are, admittedly, things about the scene that I'm unfamiliar with, and things that disturb me. Rightly or wrongly, the leather scene is seen as one where there is sexual experimentation of a more outre kind. For instance, fist-fucking. But it would probably be very unfair or inaccurate to suggest that every habitue of a leather bar is into extreme sex or total kinkiness.

What's most troubling to me about the extreme S&M scene is the aspect of degradation. Do some gay men want to suffer physical pain or humiliation due to internalized homophobia? Years ago I was on a radio program with a slave-type whose comments about feeling miserable and degraded ran counter to everything I believed as a gay man and activist. When I mentioned this he said that I just didn't get it. The whole point for him was to feel miserable and degraded. That's what turned him on. Conversely, do some gay men want to abuse/degrade other gay men because of their own self-hatred, only turned onto someone else? Is it a good thing to be aroused by being degraded or by wanting to degrade others? You can see the problem. (And how to explain heterosexuals who are into pain and degradation? I suppose even straights can have issues relating to self-worth.)

However, it would be all too easy to be simplistic. The leather/s&m community is undoubtedly as diverse as the larger gay or GLBT community. A lot depends on one's personal preferences. As an example, there are some people who would call being urinated on an act that is completely degrading to them. Others would say, "big deal, it's harmless. Just take a hot shower after a golden shower and who cares?" There was a time people thought performing fellatio or being sodomized was degrading but today we're more enlightened. Still, many people would rather keep waste products out of a sexual episode.

I suppose as long as it sticks to role playing and titillation, I can't see any harm to SMBD either in reality or in porn. But if someone is at the point where they can only be turned on by extreme mental and physical suffering and degradation ... ? Not healthy, I'm afraid. However, just because one enjoys it in a movie doesn't mean that's the only way they can get off in real life.

As for the actors in these films and the possibility that they're being exploited. Certainly some porn actors (and hustlers) have been desperate people who were exploited by the industry, but more often people go into these films for the excitement, the sex, and the money. I imagine the acts in hardcore S&M films are probably not simulated, just as they are simulated in soft core porn. Even in hardcore films a lot of it is probably play-acting like wrestling.

Ultimately, you're not really getting pleasure from somebody's suffering because a.) most of it is staged and b.) even if it isn't, they're not "suffering" if they enjoy it. Okay, that's probably a cop-out. But, whatever the situation, you're still just watching actors in a movie. If you enjoy their suffering it may be no different than the way the audience anxiously awaits the next victim to get slaughtered in a mad slasher film. Disturbing, maybe. But not necessarily something to worry about.

I'll end for now with a laugh. Years ago I was with a friend in a [non-leather] bar when I took my belt off and jokingly slapped it against his ass a few times as he bent over. After a minute or two it became serious; we were both enjoying it. Later on one of the two bartenders told me, "We don't like that sort of thing in here -- take it down to the docks!" The other bartender told me: "That's the most exciting thing that's happened here in years!"

So you see -- different strokes (pun intended)!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gay Cosmetics Line?

Do you think a make-up line specifically geared for gay men would do good business? JP.

First of all, I can't imagine many of the gay guys I know, many of whom are bears, would be interested in wearing make-up. Drag queens might buy make up, but the average gay guy is simply a guy, and like most guys, has no interest in wearing make-up. Also, we've got to get past this whole straight/gay business when it comes to men and what they like and dislike. I've already mentioned that there are straight guys who are neat, fastidious and clothes-conscious, and gay men who are slobs and couldn't care less about fashion. Some men -- gay and straight -- dye their hair as they get older; others -- again, gay and straight -- wouldn't think of it. I'm sure there are men who might wear bronzer to give themselves a tanned appearance, or some kind of cosmetic cover up to put over a blemish, but I think it has less to do with their orientation as to how much they care about their appearance. It's ridiculous to suggest that all gay men, or only gay men, care about how they look.

Not saying some cosmetics, depending on what they are, specifically geared to gay men might not sell, but if you're talking about lipstick or eye shadow I can't imagine it being a very large market, as only transvestites would have any interest in such products.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gay Freeloader

A friend of mine recently came out to me and says he is very grateful with how supportive I am being (I am also gay). But now I am feeling like he wants to take advantage of me. He asks to borrow money, shows up at my doorstep wanting to stay a few days (he lives in another city), and basically makes it clear that I must help him because, after all, we are gay brothers and gays should help each other out. There is nothing physical or romantic between us. I believe that he is definitely gay, but I almost have the feeling that his coming out to me was his way of getting his hooks in me. Last time he asked to stay overnight, but wound up camping out for a week, and it wasn't very convenient. He also raided my fridge and asked for "loans." He said he had to stay in the city because his sister was very sick in the hospital, but didn't know the name of the hospital when I asked. What should I do? Sick and Fed up.

Show this guy the door. It's all well and good to show solidarity with fellow gays, but this guy -- who sounds like a liar and Freeloader Supreme -- is only out to get what he can get. You might make the point to him that lying to and ripping off a "gay brother" is not exactly showing support for our community. Didn't know the name of the hospital, huh?

I have, unfortunately, met many people like this guy. Their friends exist to serve their needs. Once you stop being useful to him, cutting off all loans and telling him he can't "camp out" days at a time, he'll probably disappear. And good riddance.

You have to be firm with these people. Once you realize that they aren't really friends -- no matter how much they bandy the term about for their own purposes -- you'll find it easier to Just Say No!