“To have sex or not to have sex, that is the question.” While it’s certainly important to have a healthy sexuality when you’re single, how you negotiate your sexual behavior as a gay man if you’re on a “boyfriend hunt” can definitely have an impact on helping or hurting your cause. Have you ever gone out on a date that seemingly went really well to then be utterly confused when the guy doesn’t ever call you again after you’ve slept together? Or what if you’re in-between relationships, what role does sex play in your life? What do you do if that hot guy asks you back to his place after your first meeting? Are one-night stands ok?
These questions remain at the forefront of every single gay man’s mind as he embarks out into the dating world, and they can be quite controversial topics for discussion among gay circles. The bottom line is that there are no steadfast rules or right/wrong answers to these questions necessarily; our sexuality is our own responsibility and we have personal choice in terms of how we decide to express this part of ourselves. But those unique choices you make about sex can have implications for relationship success if your ultimate goal is to find your life partner, and this article will address some of those factors and offer suggestions for navigating through those tricky decision-making processes.
Gay Sexual Development
As a result of being raised in a homophobic society, most gay men as part of their development denied and/or stifled their sexual feelings for other men out of shame and the need for acceptance and safety. As adolescents, most gay men missed out on accomplishing the developmental tasks of building dating skills and exploring their sexualities. Upon “coming out” to oneself, sex tends to take on a great significance and emphasis. After years of oppression and stuffing their sexual feelings, it is normal for gay men of any age to experience a “delayed adolescence” as they experiment sexually with other men on a casual basis, exploring who they are and defining a new identity as sexual gay men. These dynamics can change, however, the more comfortable one becomes with his sexual identity and crystallizes a more solid sense of self. For many men at this point, sexual needs become blended with a desire for emotional intimacy, something that can only be gained over time in the context of a loving relationship, not through a quick fling with a guy who was just met at the bar. Each scenario is purposeful, and neither should be judged as better or worse. What is important is a recognition of who you are, what you want, and aligning your behavior with that knowledge so there’s congruence between your values and your actions.
Sex Vs. Love
What it all boils down to is honestly acknowledging to yourself what your priorities and ultimate goals are. Simply stated, what’s more important to you at this particular juncture in your life, emotional involvement or sexual gratification? Emotional involvement is driven by a need for intimacy and connection, possible commitment, a shared set of values, interests, attitudes, and goals, and is characterized by the forming of an attachment where both men can risk being vulnerable and show their “true selves.” Sexual gratification implies recreational sexual release that can be no-strings fun with a lack of expectations for anything of any depth beyond this. Be honest! Your answer to that question will be your guide to the kinds of choices you make that will allow you to live with sexual integrity.
Things To Keep In Mind
If you choose to have casual sex…
·Sex Changes Everything: Realize that once you have sex, the dynamics will never be the same with your lover. Intimacy can’t be rushed and is built over time; early sex can help determine sexual compatibility on some level (although don’t underestimate the fact that sex can get hotter as a relationship ages), but it can put the kebosh on intimacy because the relationship is rooted in sex and no other foundation has been able to be established. Don’t confuse sex with love. While there are some one-night stands that have lead to long-term relationships, they are generally in the minority.
·Practice Physical & Emotional Safe Sex: Everyone knows of the importance of condoms and other safe sex practices to help protect against the transmission of sexual diseases (please play safely!), but safe sex also involves emotional integrity and honesty. Both men must be on the same page going into a sexual encounter to avoid hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and disappointment. Be up front and honest with your needs and intentions and make sure you both have the same expectations. Set clear boundaries and communicate these, even if it “kills the mood.” If it’s purely a sexual thing and you don’t plan on maintaining contact again, politely say so and don’t exchange numbers if you really don’t plan on following through and placing a call.
·Determine Your Sexual Motives: Seems like a strange question, but why are you having sex? How does your sexual behavior impact your search for Mr. Right?
Exercise: Identify the reasons you believe that you have sex. This will help assist you in assessing whether your sexual habits are healthy or self-defeating and then you can begin developing “battle strategies” for overcoming those reasons that may be undermining your true happiness. Here are a few common purposes underlying sexual expression: “I have sex…”
___ to cope with frustration and for stress relief
___ to overcome loneliness ___ to cope with boredom
___ to increase self-esteem ___ for pleasure and fun
___ because I’ve given up on trying to find a boyfriend
___ to cope with inadequacy and shame for being gay
___ as a form of freedom & independence, the ultimate expression
of being gay
___ to avoid intimacy
Too much casual sex can sometimes harden a person to the point where sex becomes impersonal and he can then become detached from his feelings during lovemaking, even when he doesn’t want to be disengaged. You may wish to consult with a therapist or coach on any of the above if you detect a pattern of sexually addictive or promiscuous behavior that you’ve been unable to manage.
If you choose to refrain from sex initially…
·Prepare for Love:Make the most of your singlehood by developing a vision for your life and future relationship so you’re ready for it when it comes. Develop a dating plan and identify your negotiable and non-negotiable needs that you want to have for a fulfilling partnership with Mr. Right. Casual sex can steer you away from living this vision and you can begin attracting the wrong type of men, not to mention harm you “image.” Know who you are and what you stand for!
·Stabilize Your Libido: Most dating coaches agree that it’s best to hold off on having sex until you really know the guy you’re dating first. This way you’ll be able to determine if you’re comfortable with this person to risk being vulnerable. Additionally, by not sleeping with him right away, his continued pursuit of you increases the probability that you’re budding romance is predicated more on genuine interest in you and not just sex. If the sexual chemistry persists even after this, it’s also likely that this attraction is more than just lust. In the interim, meet your sexual needs in other ways (eg. self-pleasuring, fantasy, etc.), as difficult and unrealistic as it may be at times.
·Pacing: “Pacing” refers to the art of taking things slowly and with conscious intent. You be in the driver’s seat and proceed with your dating relationship at a speed that you’re comfortable with and that is in alignment with your vision. Remember, common interests and values are the cement that help sustain relationships, not sex. Go slow.
Balancing head, heart, and libido is a very challenging task when you’re single and dating, but the rewards are great if you live congruently with your values and standards you’ve set for yourself. Recognize the power that your choices have in influencing the direction of your life. In closing, some additional questions that might be helpful as you further ponder this topic are:
* What role does sex play in my history and current life situation?
* Am I really looking for a relationship or am I content with “cruising” for the time being?
* Does having sex distract me from my goal of finding my life partner?
* How do I feel about myself after sex?
© 2005 Brian L. Rzepczynski
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