Bil Browning

Why Do Straight Guys Have Sex with Men?

Filed By Bil Browning | October 18, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gay sex, straight guys, straight or gay

Psychology Today has a fascinating article up on why straight guys have sex with other men. I've said it repeatedly on the site, but if straight-gay-guys.jpgit weren't for straight guys I wouldn't have had as much sex when I was younger. I'd say a good 50% of my experiences have been with straight guys. Most of my closest friends have been straight guys and I'd say I had sex with 99.9% of them.

Jerame is always amazed at my ability to flirt with a straight guy and get him to flirt back. Once when we were having drinks at a straight sports bar with friends, Jerame regaled the table with tales of my exploits and how straight guys will respond to me, but no one believed him. I'm usually able to tell within a few minutes if the guy would go to bed with me and as the waiter left, I told them that he was do-able. They insisted I demonstrate. By the end of the evening, he'd given me free drinks, stopped checking on them altogether unless I ordered for them, and had bought me a pack of cigarettes. What can I say? I have a gift.

Many of my friends have always said that those guys weren't actually "straight" and argued that they were at least a little gay. I disagreed, but no one ever seemed to really grock what I was telling them. The orientation and gender of the person they were fucking didn't matter. What mattered was that they were getting off. Period. It was fun and enjoyable and there were no strings or romantic involvement. At best, it was a fuck buddy arrangement - but mostly close friends who'd occasionally get off together when bored or horny.

Turns out, I was right all along. After going into a lengthy description of the differences between sexual identity and orientation, sexual preferences, sexual fantasies, and sexual behavior, the author gets to the heart of the matter.

For straight men who have sex with men, same-sex encounters aren't about romance or sexual attraction and desire, but about sexual and physiological arousal-"getting off" with another who's male and accessible. They don't sexually desire or get aroused by looking at other men, only by the sexual act. But if they don't actively desire other men, how do they get to the point of having sex with them? These men typically want to bond with and get affection from other men. Their behavior may reflect a desire to experiment, to engage in something that's taboo, or to express inner psychological conflicts involving their sexual feelings and desires that have nothing to do with having a gay or bisexual identity.

Straight men who have sex with men do so for a variety of reasons. Some have been sexually abused and are compulsively reenacting childhood sexual trauma by male perpetrators; some find sexual release with another man more accessible; some have sex with men because it's easier and requires fewer social skills than those required to have sex with women; some are "gay for pay" and get financial rewards; some like the attention they receive from other men; some like anal sex, which they're otherwise too ashamed to talk about or engage in with their female partners.

Personally, I think the biggest reason is in the second paragraph. In my experience, most of the guys just like the extra attention they can get from a gay man. As one said to me once, "If the gay dude is hitting on me and thinks I'm hot, then I know it's true. Y'all have good taste. Most gay guys look better than straight guys." It's a flattery thing. Combine that with the opportunity to get their rocks off and it's win-win in their world.

No matter the reason, I'm glad they do occasionally. Now if we could just move everyone past the labels to the heart of the matter: Does it feel good and not hurt anyone? If so, go for it.

(imgsrc: Straight Invasion VIII)

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The cited article, by social worker Joe Kort, is another example of bi-erasure in the gay and lesbian establishment. Kort conflates inner sexual orientation with outer social identity. He omits any possibility that bisexual men in a homophobic straight world and a biphobic G/L world might be compelled to publicly, socially identify as straight. In fact, the B-word only appears in the article when annexed to the dominant gay/lesbian population, as in, "gay or bisexual." The C-word, for closet, is missing entirely from Kort's article. See the I am Visible Campaign by the Bi Social Network, for a different perspective on GLBTQ diversity.

"The term also refers to how someone self-identifies, not how others may categorize him or her. Some people self-identify as straight, while others self-identify as gay or lesbian, bisexual, or questioning. It's important as therapists to ask your clients how they self-identify, regardless of with whom they have sex."

I assume you mean the section above. In the context of the article, it seems fairly clear that the discussion is about identity, specifically how clients choose to identify. In this sense, bisexual is looped with "gay" because it is exactly distinguishing straight-identified men from men who identify as gay or who identify as bisexual (or, literally in this article, people who identify as straight versus people who identify as being gay, being lesbian, being bi, or being questioning.) It seems that you're arguing that this is erasure because these men might NOT be straight, but merely bi men closeted by a bi-phobic society, with this aspect unexplored and therefore a miscategorization (or an intentional erasure of their bisexuality). But rather than being the kind of erasure where bisexual is reduced to the B in LGBT, this seems to actually be making the point that it is distinguishing self-identified straight men from self-identified bisexual men. In essence, one might assume that self-identified bisexual men were not the focus of this article, that they exist, and that the main focus was on self-identified straight men, not a case of simply viewing it as a dichotomy of "there are only two possibilities: gay and straight men". You are assuming, therefore, that these straight men's internal and external sexual identities are out of sync, which there is no reason to believe that all of them are.

While I certainly believe that SOME of those men may actually be bisexuals who choose to identify outwardly as straight, I think it is just as problematic in the war of labels (if I were to take up this side) to throw labels on these men who actually DO identify as straight and pass them off as "closeted bisexuals". By arguing that this article is simply "erasure", it likewise erases the reality of someones homogenous inner and outer sexual identity as a straight man. If the argument over sexual identity politics is rooted in "however a person identifies, that's what they are, end of story," then it is dubious to suggest that these straight men are just closeted bisexuals, as this is the same is problematic approach to others' sense of self-identity that bisexual men have faced from gay erasure time and time again.

Is the solution to bi erasure, where bi men's internal and external sexual identities are violated by being branded "closeted gays", to just brand straight men who have sex with men as "closeted bis"? I hope not.

>just brand straight men who have sex with men as "closeted bis"?

Please don't misquote me. I did not generalize all straight-identified MSMs as bi. I agree with you that some are straight. Some are gay; some preach homophobia from Colorado pulpits and some shop at Seventy percent, according to Mr. Kort, "are heterosexually married" and presumably self-identified as monogamous in their wedding vows. Kort claims that they "typically want to bond with and get affection from other men." His own generalizations about this population beg legitimate questions about the definition of straight and the role of the closet.

I voiced concern over Mr. Kort's omission of bisexuality in his analysis, which is particularly worrisome in the context of historical marginalization and erasure of bi people in the dominant gay and lesbian movement. In issues of human oppression, historical context matters.

Maybe I'm missing it (if I am, please point me in the right direction), but I don't see why he would include bisexual men, who are demographically separate from straight men. The point of the discussion is straight men who have sex with men, rather than openly bisexual men who have sex with men, closeted bisexual men who have sex with men, openly gay men who have sex with men, or closeted gay men who have sex with men.

If you're privy to a more detailed breakdown of his article or the study he's referencing, maybe that's where I'm mistaken. But my assumption was that since he mentioned bisexual men, bisexual men were identified and acknowledged in the study and excluded along with gay men, lesbians, and questioning individuals when forming this discussion piece. If that is the case, then it's not an erasure (at least not int he level of the analysis), just a focus.

It might be an erasure if this data was collected and Kort chose not to discuss bisexual men due to his own bias; essentially that they received the data, and let it sit there. "Sure, he's talking about straight men, but he's NOT talking about the data they collected on bisexual men." Is that the erasure you meant?

I had a similar thought to Kelley when I'd first encountered this, but going further.

Even respecting self-identification, the terminology is flawed. If a man enjoys anal receptive sex but is attracted to women, is he straight? Bi? More likely, the nomenclature breaks down, and our weird obsession with putting people (or ourselves) into neat little overly-general boxes causes us to miss some important insights.

Either definition or self-definition will miss part of an individual's essence -- an essence which places them squarely in the sights of this study, but also differentiates them from others in the study.

"Some have been sexually abused and are compulsively reenacting childhood sexual trauma by male perpetrators"

I had a problem with some of the "reasons," too. Some of them are possible, but in my experience with dates, many of these reasons are excuses and alibis, usually to alleviate guilt, social stigma and internalized / self-directed homophobia. The more elaborate the "reason" was, the more I had to be prepared for hostility after the, er, date was over.

Mercedes, I think this an interesting intersection of identity politics that is diverse within the LGBT community. I have seen the trump of personal identity politics pushed by members of the bi community, probably in response to identity politics being metered out on them by gays and lesbians. "I'm bi, NOT a closeted gay."

It's interesting to suggest that even self-identification misses out on describing one's essence. If one is satisfied with one's self identification, in what sense has one misportrayed one's own essence?

And if there's a suggestion here that how one self-identifies doesn't make one's "true" identity automatically conform to that perception of reality, I think there's a clear similarity here to bi-denialism or trans-denialism. Or at least, it may be interpreted as such. I doubt that's what you meant, so I'd like to hear a clarification if you'd like to provide one.

As for the reasons, I had a knee-jerk to the molestation reason, but it's a reality, and only stated as one of many. I doubt doubt it, and I'm not familiar enough with these respondents to reject their reasons as "alibis", even if I were more familiar with OTHER straight men who have sex with men. Perhaps the hostility you've mentioned is not from tapping away at some complexity that your dates don't want to reveal, but rather hostility from their experiences being rejected and denied from someone who doesn't know them beyond a date or two?

No, I'm not talking about willfully invalidating someone. If a person identifies a certain way, then it's peoples' responsibility to respect that until told otherwise. For individuals, I accept that as a given, and an absolute. I'm not suggesting that anyone ever deviate from that.

But for the purpose of study, it's reasonable to note *in general* that this is an area where people still feel great pressure to conform to one term or another, and that studies conducted with an expectation of a person being one or the other will make it easier to do so, rather than risk being the "misfit." Life experience has also shown me that people will sometimes attempt to conform or blend, so for the purpose of study and generalization, it has to be a factor to consider. None of that means we can invalidate an individual.

I can give a parallel from the personal, as well. I always understood myself to be female. I did, however, try to conform to being a man for many years and so called myself that, because I felt I had to and believed that my identity was a character flaw, or something that I could "fix."

Keep in mind that this study goes back to (when? 2009? I can't find the original study ATM) and that the CDC still classifies transsexual women as "MSM." The more general the study, the more skeptical I tend to be.

Perhaps the hostility you've mentioned is not from tapping away at some complexity that your dates don't want to reveal, but rather hostility from their experiences being rejected and denied from someone who doesn't know them beyond a date or two?

Nope. I don't dig, and especially not at the moment I'm talking about. To elaborate, these experiences were from when I was escorting, and what I'm referring to is the onset of societally-induced guilt afterward. If a date gave me some elaborate explanation for why he wanted to date someone trans, or seemed to need to have an excuse, that was a clear warning signal to be careful.

Gosh Bil this is interesting. Let's review observed behavior.

Men get horny. When that happens spontaneous behavior erupts. They will masturbate, put their bits in any available hole and won't quit until they go limp. It has nothing to do with gay or straight. You just have a talent for encouraging a man's blood flow into his penis which as any woman can tell you makes them very light headed and pliable. Forget all the psychobabble and face the hard facts.

Fascinating article and discussion.

I can relate to Bill, my nickname in college was The Ambassador.

I still don't know where the lines are in gayness, bi-ness, or straight-ness, but this discussion is very helpful as is each person's contribution that I have read above. The conversation needs to be expanded.

It does seem that a lot of this is also possible because of what we can say, these demarcations in identity and sexuality make sense to us today. Other times and societies will have other ways of thinking and talking about it, and this conversation will open the door to that and hopefully freedom as well from any negative judgment or fear regarding sex, sexuality, and identity.

I relate to the author experiencing the disbelief of his friends. I am a gay man, 56 and have been sexually active since I was 15. Probably half or more of the men I've had sex with do not identify as gay. I've found it best to not analyze and just accept and enjoy. Recently I've fallen in love with a man I later learned is in a heterosexual marriage. Since we've been together he's decided to identify as bi for the first time (he's 44). I am OK with the arrangement as it is but would feel even better about it if he were honest with his wife, but ultimately that is up to him. Human sexuality and our emotional lives are very complicated. I remind myself to stay in the moment and doing so continue to have a life full of good times with a variety of men I remember with love and respect and horniness.

According to the Williams Institute those who Identify as LGB are the minority of those who have some level of same sex attraction.Regardless of the psycho babble two guys getting it on = same sex sex which is then defined as homosexual behavior by the vast majority of Americans. So Bil I guess what I'm saying is no matter how you try and slice it the majority of Americans see your straight guys as atleast Bi and maybe they don't like the stygma that LGBT labels attached create.

Right on, Bil! We need to forget about pigeonholing men with labels. Men are sexual, period. In addition to the type of flirting which you experience, the internet has opened up a multitude of opportunities for straight men to be "curious". I am 70 years old, and between my portable massage table and Craigslist, I get more sex than I ever dreamed possible, and at least half of it is with men who self identify as straight.

Chitown Kev | October 19, 2011 7:43 PM

My experience is somewhat similar to Bil's although I haven't had as much sex with my straight male acquaitances...although i could have.

My only other observation is that straight men really do find it flattering when another man finds them attractive.

and yes, i agree that it's the getting off part that counts with men, even if it's simply mutual masturbation.

Most of the many self-identified straight guys I have had sex with are married. Many of them tell me they feel sexually limited by what women will accept. The attraction for me is that these guys are normally very enthusiastic participants and are not carrying any relationship expectations, although some have become regular friends with benefits. If these guys are "really" either gay on the down low or bisexual, then both populations are vastly underestimated in number. My private theory is that more straight men have opened up to the full spectrum of sexuality that's available to them, and that they no longer consider having sexual experiences with another man to be an exclusively "gay" thing. Maybe those who self-select to have same-sex experiences have sensation-seeking personality types (like me). "Many" guys have expressed open envy that men who have sex together are responsible for our own orgasms.

Why is it considered a badge of honor for a gay man to seduce or successfully flirt with a straight guy? Sorry, Bil, but it appeared to me like you were bragging. Yes, I've had situations where straight men have flirted back at me, but I firmly believe that if a "straight" man sleeps with me, he's had some homo tendencies or fantasies to begin with. Horny straight men will hook up with chicks before letting a gay guy get him off.
I get real tired of hearing gay men brag about doing straight men.

Neither behavior nor identity actually affects sexual orientation. If I quit having sex with my husband and starting having sex with women again, it would not change the fact that I am gay. Similarly, if I identify as heterosexual, it does not change the fact that I am gay. At any rate, a man who has sex with a man and thoroughly enjoys it, is probably at least somewhat gay (including bi), even if he is only a 1 or 2 on the Kinsey scale.

"But they like it, papa; there is nothing they like so much...."

"Well, I cannot understand it."

"That is the case with us all, papa. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other."

Jane Austen (1775-1817), Emma, chapter 9

Like Mr. Browning, I have had sex with str8 men quite a bit. I still do. Bil states we should get rid of the labels. I agree. A friend I made my second round at a university said something simply profound to me back in 1987. He said it would be nice if you could say to anyone that you found them attractive and wanted to date, have sex, whatever. And they either agree or disagree. No problems. No labels.
My thoughts on this are that men; straight, bi or gay like the idea of being touched, physical touching, hugging contact. Once males get to a certain age the hugging and kissing lessen until it basically gets to be none. In our world today, men desire the human touch they have been refused for so long. Go to a party. When str8 couples leave the women hug and the men shake hands. They may hug the hostess. But the women will hug just about every woman i the group as they say their goodbyes. I have looked at their faces and seen the faraway look that is not a sexual fantasy about the other women their girlfriend/wife is hugging. It is the look like a child when their mother, father, or someone else used to hug them.
Secondly, it IS just a sexual thing. Sex between genders is complicated. Each one wonder what the other wants and it they are doing the right thing in the right way. Not to mention the dance of just getting to the point of having sex.
Gay men know what gay men want. The sexual part of a gay relationship is rather easy. The same parts practiced on in solitude for several years before having a partner makes us experts at what pleases us.
The same for women as lesbians. They know their pleasures and parts better.
Add to that fact men have, in my opinion, two sexual settings. I am speaking only of men because I am one. I have referenced my female friends and found this is nt as common.
One is the eharth and home and relational setting. Not necessarily married bliss. But a long term relationship with the comfort of consistency.
The second setting is just getting your rocks off to use the vernacular. And a man knows and can see that in another man. There are no strings attached. They both know it is to serve a basic function. Neither will have a regret nor expect a phone call. No romancing needed. No dance. No miscommunications. It could be someone a guy has know for a long time; a friend, workmate, guy on the local softball team, whatever. Or it could be a waiter, the pizza delivery guy or the cable guy. Sometimes there is a simpatico relationship established and you become regulars. But still no romance or strings.
Simple! Quick. To the point. And I think the majority of the world is bisexual. Few are at one end of the spectrum or the other.
And the term is ambisexual. bisexual means you have both sets of sexual organs. Someone who uses either hand equally well is ambidextrous. Unless there is a genetic defect or and accident. Everyone is "bi-dextrous".