The Question of Sexuality
From time to time we find heterosexual people approaching those of us who are gay, and stating, “I have often wondered if I were gay.” Sometimes it is expressed in a more round-about way, “I have often thought how much easier things would be if I were gay.” Almost invariably, the heterosexual in question will determine that no, they are not gay at all. But why do they ask?
The parameters of the questioning
It seems fair enough that a person may be interested in learning something about themselves and may query who and what they are, and any person on the road to self-discovery will go through this ongoing process throughout their life. However, there are certain areas of concern, some relating to the questioning and some to the conclusion.
First we may query what is happening when the questioning becomes excessive, when we pose too many times, ‘I wonder if I am gay or straight.’ If on each occasion a conclusion was drawn, why do we doubt our conclusion so consistently by having to repeat the question so frequently? Clearly there is something in our experience or perspective which does not sit well with the repeated conclusions.
Second, we might query why the questioning is externalised, why it has been posed to another person, as in ‘Do you think that I am gay?’ In other words, why it has been posed at all. The question is an admission that the dichotomy between the conclusion drawn by us and our uneasiness about that conclusion may be based on some attribute observed by other people but not by us, and that would lead us to believe that the original conclusion was simply wrong through incomplete evidence. If a person says, ‘I know that I am not gay,’ and then asks, ‘Do you think that I am gay,’ then clearly they do not know that they are not gay at all, or why would they ask? It is often an indicator of an awareness of a difference between what they believe about themselves and a popular perception, due to some sort of behaviour or signal, and they wonder if this has any significance. Certainly for many people, the question itself is irrelevant as a question, since if we were to answer in the affirmative, yes, they would often instantly reject the answer anyway, so they are not really asking us, but asking themselves through us: they want to hear us say ‘no’ to reaffirm their ‘no’ which they doubt.
Third, we might also query the conclusion when that is expressed very adamantly, for if we are honest, we all realise that we may have ‘a pretty good idea about ourselves’, but no one really knows even themselves with absolute certainty: throughout our lives we may often end up saying, ‘My goodness, I never really knew that about myself!’ Anyone who says that they know themselves absolutely is deluding themselves! Many straight guys only discover that they are gay in their forties or fifties, sometimes even later!
Fourth, we might further query when that conclusion is also repeated too often: we are reminded of the Shakespearean principle of ‘Methinks the fellow doth protest too much!’ If we keep protesting our straightness far too often, who are we really trying to convince? And some people certainly go to extremes to keep repeating that they are not gay, as if it is not us that they are trying to convince.
Fifth, while these people will often then give up on their statements of doubt and their questions and start overdoing things with directive statements like “But I’m not gay,” virtually never will these people say, ‘But I am straight.’ They say what they are not, but they rarely say what they are! And that appears to be denial rather than assertion!
And sixth, even on top of that, we might query the very need for labelling to begin with: we might ask why it is so necessary to say ‘I am straight’ or ‘I am gay’ at all. Why does one have to have these labels, if these labels even make sense to our unique circumstance? If a person says, ‘I am gay,’ does this mean that they must only ever have sex with men and can never have it with women? If they say, ‘I am straight,’ does this mean that they must only ever have sex with women and can never have it with men? Labels are designed to limit and shut down our world, not to open it up! And the fullness of our sexuality can only be found when we open up! Many people unfortunately want to find ways to close down their sexuality and limit it to the tightest definition of ‘normality’, where there is only ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ and absolutely nothing else! It is a traditional binary exclusion.
This movement from questioning to directive statements is at loggerheads with one’s history. To various degrees they included fondling, caressing, cuddling, rolling around on each other, wanking, licking, sucking, kissing and all-out pashing, and fucking. These are all levels of familiarity which have some application in the examination of a person’s sexuality and its relation to intimacy.
We add the fact that sometimes they have extended the querying about themselves to adamant statements about themselves and now occasionally to an active rejection of the alternative. Despite what is often years of ostensible liberalism, they may suddenly start to claim that they really are homophobic and totally disapprove of homosexuality as unnatural, undesirable and perverse, even in gays, in other words that they are essentially still a Christian in their sexual morality. This rejection they do not really believe, because they are aware of a vague homosexual element in them in relation to the way that he relates to certain other individuals, but the rejection is designed to help them hold onto their adamant conviction about themselves, by turning whatever threatens their conclusion into some sort of unsavoury monster: it is always easier to hold onto a weak belief which one does not really believe, if they eliminate anything which highlights the uncertainty. Thus, when the Christian Church wanted to cement itself as a powerful force, it was not enough for them simply to put forward their ideas for the acceptance of the masses, they had to find ways of turning alternative viewpoints into forces of evil as well. The insubstantial always looks stronger if you avoid arguing one’s own point and merely crap all over whatever was challenging it! They do not believe that homosexuality is unnatural and perverse; they just go through a phase of saying that it is. It is partly the residue of a Christian upbringing and training, and partly the common heterosexual self-defence of ‘tolerance’ that homosexuality may be all right in other people, but not in themselves.
In order for us to understand where anyone is in relation to a question on sexuality, we have to know what the words really mean, because the unsophisticated way in which the common masses use many of these words is often leagues away from their accurate meanings. Language influences the way that we think, and if the language is inaccurate, then so are our thoughts. Throughout all of these definitions we must remember that ‘preference’ does not mean ‘exclusion’: we can all do something, yet still prefer something else!
Heterosexual. Accurately, this refers not to a sexual preference itself but to the psychological disposition which leads to the sexual preference for people of the other sex. Becoming standard English in 1892, it was coined by the Hungarian Doctor Benkert in 1869, who noted that while we talked of men and women having sex with each other, there was no word to describe the psychological drive behind it. Because at the time people assumed that one had sex with a woman because they psychologically fancied them, the word has been wrongly used ever since to refer also to the sexual act itself: the act and the psychological state are deemed, even today, to be one and the same. If a man and a woman have sex with each other, it is called heterosexual, even if only one, or neither of them, is actually heterosexual.
Aliosexual. A word of my own coinage. Because we now know clearly that doing and desiring are not necessarily the same thing, we need a word which describes simply the act of sex with the other gender. Many homosexual men will have sex with women (and lesbians with men) when they have no preference for it. Sometimes it is through social pressure and oppression not allowing for any alternative, sometimes through an emotional closeness with a particular person who just happens to be of the other sex, sometimes for the sole purpose of pregnancy, sometimes through no more than pure randiness and the availability of sex.
Straight. This refers to a person who leads and lives a heterosexual lifestyle. They are rarer than assumed, because so many heterosexuals will still prefer women but have occasional sex with men, or will have fantasies about men, or other such things. We describe these people as ‘heterosexual but not straight’.
Homosexual. Accurately, this also refers not to a sexual preference itself but to the psychological disposition which leads to the sexual preference for people of the same sex. It became standard English in 1897. Again, people have wrongly used the word to refer to the sexual act itself.
Ideosexual. Another word of my own coinage. Again, we need a word which describes simply the act of sex with the same gender. Many heterosexual men will have sex with men when they have no preference for it. Sometimes it is through necessity, such as in prisons or at sea in the navy, sometimes through environment, such as single-sex schools, sometimes it is financially driven, such as gay rent-boys or lesbians in porn movies who are usually straight, sometimes by default when they have not had sex with a woman in a very long time, sometimes through an emotional closeness with a particular person who just happens to be of the same sex, sometimes through no more than pure randiness and the availability of sex, especially when alcohol has loosened the social constraints and conditioning.
Gay. This refers to a person who leads and lives a homosexual lifestyle. There are far more gays than straights, both because fewer gays have sex with women than straights have sex with men, and because for gays an actual ‘lifestyle’ is more discernible. However, there are many people we describe as ‘homosexual but not gay’, who do not go in for all of the trappings of the lifestyle and are essentially as inconspicuous as the next person.
Asexual. When a person has no sexual preference at all, when psychologically they are driven by who the other person is and not by what the person is, not by what is between their legs. This word is often wrongly used for someone who is not having sex at all.
Unsexual. Someone who is having no sex, or for whom sex is just not an important issue in their life.
Bisexual. Wrongly assumed to mean someone who has a preference for both sexes, clearly this can not be so, for then by definition it can not be a ‘preference’ of any sort: this would be ‘asexual’. Its only possible meaning must relate to those who do have both preferences, but at different times. These are people who will prefer women at one time, but then a day, a week, a month or a year later, it may be for men, changing back and forth throughout their life.
Ambisexual. When a person has sexual activity, or has the desire to have sexual activity, with both genders. This is distinct from asexual in that this again relates only to the act: an ambisexual person might have sex with anyone but still have a clear preference. It includes the concept of ‘desire to do’ since, other than through rape or coercion, one can not generally force the occurrence of the sexual act, and therefore the absence of sex with either gender can not be deemed to mean anything in this definition. Based on their desires, most men would have sex if they could have sex… it is just a matter of opportunity and with whom.
Any man can have sex with another man, and this ideosexual act does not automatically mean any particular preference. Homosexuals do it because it is their preference, heterosexuals do it because the opportunity arises with someone that they like, asexuals do it because they do not care a jot whether it is a man or a woman, bisexuals do it because that is how their preference is leaning at that particular time, and ambisexuals do it because it is there. The act tells us nothing of one’s sexuality!
Heterosexual men who have sex with men fall into three categories. First is the male who is not having sex with a woman for any of a number of reasons, but who feels positive enough about himself that he sees the sex simply as an acceptable alternative: if there is no chocolate cake, he will settle for the carrot cake instead with no worries! Second is the male who is also not having sex with a woman. He feels that he is, therefore, some sort of ‘loser’, and for him the sex has many of the characteristics of being a ‘penalty’: he thinks, ‘I am not getting sex with a woman, so my God, this is what I must end up with, this is what my lot in life is.’ He prefers chocolate cake, and when there is none, he sees the carrot cake as an inferior sell-out and may even be ashamed of himself for having it! He can not see the bonus and the benefit that sex and intimacy are fun, enjoyable and rewarding, physically, psychologically and spiritually, regardless of where it comes from, if it is with someone that you care about. For him it becomes a form of self-effacement. Third is the male who is having sex with a woman, but who simply enjoys sex for its own sake. He realises that all sex is fun and gets whatever he can for himself, despite his clear preference: for him, he will have a slice of both cakes! Some will have the chocolate cake first, in case there is no room to finish both and so he wants more of the preferred; some will have the carrot cake first, leaving the preferred taste to linger longer; some will have both at the same time, to see how they go together.
Divisions of attraction
Unfortunately, people are so incredibly neurotic about the homosexual in this country that anything in the homo range, any human interaction with the prefix ‘homo’ in it, is all automatically lumped together as if it were synonymous with homosexual. But this is simply not true! (I even once came across an utter idiot who thought that because I referred to him as “homogeneous”, I was calling him gay! I wonder what he though ‘homogenised milk’ was, milk for gay people?) There are three major divisions to be considered – homophilia, homoeroticism and homosexuality:
Homophilia. All animals learn in three phases: observation, association, assimilation. We observe the world around us, we associate with the things which have a similarity to us and to our perspective and environment, and we assimilate the experiences of this ‘sameness’ into a fuller understanding of ourselves. The Greek word for ‘same’ is homos, from which these various words derive. When we are children, most boys will associate with other boys, and will in fact eschew and deride any contact with girls. Indeed, in a perverse irony, while parents will often feel very proud when their ‘little man’ associates with girls, as if proof of his impending heterosexuality, it has in fact been observed that association with girls and sexual interest in girls at a very young age is almost always a precursor to homosexuality. Indeed, most homosexuals indicate a disproportionately high level of interest in girls at an earlier age than heterosexual boys do. During the homophilial phase, normal boys play with boys and normal girls play with girls. The interest in ‘otherness’, in the heteros, comes much later. Any interest in girls before the age of about twelve is a part of the homosexual element in us. We observe the femininity of girls and women, and this appeals to us because it appeals to the childhood androgynous femininity within us.
During this childhood phase, we set up the basis for a lifetime of male-to-male relationships which will often endure longer and more deeply than our heterosexual relationships. The old quote went ‘Lovers come and go, but mates are mates for life!’ The type of love that we have for each other, because we are males associating with males, sharing similar male experiences, viewing things in the same male ways, understanding things from the same male perspectives, and so on, this is called homophilia: homos, ‘same’, plus philia, ‘love’. In itself this has nothing to do with sexuality, with the eros love, although often there are sexual components: in children, boys will often observe and compare themselves with other boys and play with each other as a normal part of growing up, and boys who do not do this will usually have a distorted sense of self and of their sexuality as adults, as these things are developed in a vacuum. And in adults, men will often have sex with these ‘mates’ as a result of a few too many beers, or when the need to prove one’s heterosexuality has run its course. But this does not mean that homophilia is of necessity connected with homosexuality, only that sometimes it manifests itself in that way: it is primarily the male love for each other, irrespective of how it occurs.
Homoeroticism. Eroticism is one of many combinations of a physiological reaction with a psychological one, based on an interaction to something in the world around us. It may be direct, as in the physical presence of something which stimulates us, or metaphorical and allusive, as in an image or object which invokes another image or object at the basis of the stimulation: thus a knot in the trunk of a tree or a smooth, curved marble archway of a door may be erotic, because they both may invoke an image of a vagina. This stimulation is not always sexual, as in an erection: it may invoke tears or warm, fuzzy feelings or euphoria, etc. Homoeroticism is obviously when that stimulus comes from images of one’s own gender. Some people appreciate the sensuous form of a healthy, physical male, of a firm chest or even down to the erect penis itself. This is often described as ‘artistic appreciation’, but artistic appreciation is just a softer, more evasive term to avoid saying homoeroticism, because people do not like or understand the ‘homo’ prefix. Some find shiny, smooth new candles to be evocative; others find two soccer-players hugging after a goal to be exciting. For others, even a heterosexual porn image of a woman stretched out to her extremities may be homoerotic, because it may subconsciously evoke an image of a woman as an erection itself. While more likely to invoke a sexual response, this is still not necessarily so, and like homophilia it is not of necessity connected with homosexuality, since even heterosexuals can, and often do, find masculine images and metaphors stimulating, and not all stimulation must of necessity equate with a desire to have sex with men. (Cf. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line that he does not keep his body in shape to impress women, but to impress men. He finds their forms to be erotic, but does not have the slightest desire to have sex with them.)
Homosexuality. Setting aside the psychological preference described above, in this section it is necessary to see homosexuality as the only one of these three divisions which must, by definition, relate to a sexual drive. It is an extremely vague term because, like heterosexuality, it manifests itself in so many different ways: many people these days in fact use the word in the plural, homosexualities, to encompass the variety of expression.
As we can see, with the sort of complexity seen in the Terminology and in the Divisions of Attraction, the simple question of whether one is straight or gay is naïve and quite unuseful. We may have one form of sexuality in our preference, another in our activity, in our fantasies, in our physical stimulus, in our social interactions, even another in our emotional connections, and more. The simple, binary statement of ‘gay or straight’ ultimately tells us very little, because we are far more complex than that. No one is simply ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, or if by some peculiar process we were to find such a rare person, they would be the most statistically anomalous freak on earth: they would be neither natural nor normal!
The genesis of sexuality
For hundreds of years, we had been taught that heterosexuality is not only normal but natural, and that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural. The concept of normality is not the issue, since it is a matter of mathematics: something is ‘normal’ if it fits into the ‘norm’, the 66.6% majority at the centre of the bell-graph, like clothes and cell-phones are normal, because most people have them, but they are not natural. Recently we have adopted what we see as a ‘tolerant’ attitude that homosexuality is also natural and an acceptable alternative to heterosexuality. However, for hundreds of years we have gotten it entirely the wrong way around: it is homosexuality which is natural and heterosexuality which is artificial.
Both sexualities are made up of two principle functions. Heterosexuality is based on the natural rutting instinct known as oestrosexuality. All higher animals have it. Every day, the male produces levels of testosterone which diminish through the night. As the days get longer and the nights get shorter, and as the temperature of the days increases, greater residues of the previous day’s levels remain as each new day begins. When these levels get high enough, the desire for sex kicks in. Because humans have manipulated their living environments, so that we are surrounded by both light and heat for longer, we no longer have as clearly a defined rutting season as animals do, the ‘spring fever’. For us, we are sexual for most of the year, only losing this in the deepest of winter. On top of this rutting instinct is superimposed the learned and socially derived habits and customs that define and create heterosexuality. These have varied throughout time, society, class and circumstance. Heterosexual behaviour a mere fifty years ago was quite different from that of today, and fifty years before that, it was almost unrecognisably different. Each culture has its own rules, and various situations will call for different behaviour. Heterosexuality as we know it is a bonded combination of the natural rutting instinct and the entirely learned social education of the late twentieth-century European society, propelled by Hollywood, advertising and the literature industries, and with residues of Christian conditioning. Heterosexuality is and always has been manufactured!
Homosexuality, on the other hand, is based on the natural homophilial and homoerotic ingredients inherent in all of us. But superimposed onto this is a sexuality which, unlike heterosexuality, is not and can not be learned. Nothing in our formative years teaches us how to be homosexual. While in the heterosexually focused world, the first thing we ask about a new-born baby is whether it is a boy or a girl, we clothe the boys in blue and the girls in pink, we imbue each sex with gender prerequisites, and we flood their education with nothing other than heterosexual imagery, such as ‘boy meets girl’ or ‘prince meets princess’ or ‘mother and father’, there is not a single, solitary shred of such education, programming and conditioning for homosexuals. So how on earth would people learn how to be homosexual? The only answer is that they can not have learned it, and therefore it must be natural.
Activity and desire
We know that the actual act of sex with a man does not essentially make one a homosexual; however, the frequency within a voluntary situation, the scope of behaviour and the intensity of it, all help us to learn more about what the sexuality is. Fore example, we may presume, with some ease of conscience, that if a man has a singular sexual experience with another man, it may be for any one of the number of reasons already mentioned, and in itself means nothing. Before the event, we might ask, ‘Whom do you prefer, women or men?’ ‘Well, it was women.’ So they were heterosexual. ‘Now that you have had sex with a man, whom do you prefer, women or men?’ ‘I still prefer women.’ So nothing has changed about one’s sexuality: all that has happened is that a certain activity has taken place… and you either liked it or you did not. But it is this sense of ‘liking’, of desiring, which often causes the concern. Some men worry that they might be gay because when they did have sex with a man, they liked it more than they thought that they would. This is an absurd predicament, since the logic taken to its extreme is that sex with a man is all right as long as one does not like it. So what is the point in doing it? The only distinction worthy of note is between whether one enjoys the sex as it happens or one enjoys the approach to the sex itself, in other words whether one likes the idea of the sex before it happens. And this is closely related to the sense of desire expressed during the sex itself. One man may feel fine about the sex if it is something as simple as a little fellatio, others are more so if it includes anal sex, some even more so if the fellatio os performed by the ‘heterosexual’ man himself, and some even more still if the intimacy of kissing was involved. Yet even these dos not ordain that it is a ‘preference’: it may only indicate the level to which one has resolved the argument of exclusion versus inclusion, so that now, despite one’s preference, all things are available. We prefer the chocolate cake, but now the entirety of the cake-shop is at our disposal.
Woven into this fabric is the phenomenon that many men, despite professing their heterosexuality, will go to extremes to avoid sex with women when it is available. This often pre-empts the big question! Yet even here there are many reasons. For some people, religion is a big factor, that sex with a woman must only occur under very prescribed circumstances. For these people, sex with a man is sometimes seen as a lesser ‘sin’ than sex with a woman, especially for Catholics. Another is that some men feel socially or sexually incompetent, that if they are going to fail, it must be with someone in whom they have no emotive interest. Eventually, the ‘right’ woman will come along, and all will slot into place. So sex with a man is safely outside of this romantic ideal, one that is easily bruised by a sense of inadequacy.
The question, ‘Am I gay,’ can not always be answered with a simple yes or no, because while ‘no’ may seem to be correct, it tells us nothing of what one is! The conclusion may well be that someone is strongly heterosexual in their declarations and fantasies, asexual in their psychological make-up, ambisexual in their activity, homophilial in their interactions and bierotic in their immediate response with others. In other words, they cover all categories! That about sums it up!