I’ve often wondered with our over-sexualized media culture — something which I acknowledge I contribute to with my catalogue of gay erotica — if we are separating love and sex, and thus we’re being encouraged to cheat. I think this argument could hold true for society at large, but I think it’s a much stronger argument when we look at just the gay male community.
As a gay man — even as one who is not all that plugged into gay culture — I’m constantly bombarded with sexual images and ideas. My local pride festival invites a handful of celebrities in for pride weekend, and half of those celebrities are gay porn stars. (The other half of the celebrities are drag queens. My local pride organization seems to think this is gay pride, not LGBT pride.)
With the gay magazines and their naked photoshoots, the prevalence of porn on the internet, the way gay culture centralizes on sex (like with this music video, or this one), and with my local pride organization idolizing porn stars as leaders in the community, I’m left with one very clear message. I need to be bigger, harder, longer, and I have to fuck every hot piece of ass I can find. And I need to do it every day, though twice a day is better.
All of this culminates in one word: sex. Not love. Sex. We are encouraged to seek out sex, not seek out love. And if we need to cheat to get some good sex, well, it’s apparently worth it. Because sex is awesome. To believe otherwise is to not be a part of the gay male culture.
With the prevalence of Grindr and the ease with which men hook up, it’s become ingrained in us that a quick, anonymous fuck is fine — even if it’s not with our boyfriend. After all, it’s just sex. It’s not like we’re in love with the guy we’re hooking up with. (And I don’t mean to diss hook ups and anonymous sex — they certainly have their place and I’m no stranger to them.)
Disengaging love from sex is something that certainly happens naturally in some relationships, and can be a healthy way for other relationships to survive and thrive — but gay culture paints this very clear picture that we all should have this separation between love and sex, so that we can fuck with abandon and come home to our love at night.
But the truth is that if there isn’t a pre-arranged agreement that infidelity is acceptable for both partners, someone will end up getting hurt. And even in situations where there is an agreement, one partner may find that over time they grow uncomfortable or upset with their partner’s sexual adventures. Some people can handle open relationships and other people can’t. Gay men shouldn’t be told that open relationships are the gold standard; instead, open relationships should be presented as an option. Every couple works differently and every type of couple should be portrayed in gay media — from swingers and polyamorous relationships to committed and faithful couples.
So where does this leave me as a writer of gay erotica?
I often write about hook ups — whether they’re anonymous or they know a little bit about each other. However, I always acknowledge that the heart has its place. Hook ups can spawn feelings of attachment, feelings of shame, or sometimes no emotional reaction at all. While I don’t always depict infidelity, I’m careful to keep it in line with the character’s view of infidelity, and to not put too much of my own opinion in there. In my latest release, Go-Go Boys of Club 21, Ryan cheats on his partner Liam — Ryan absolutely feels no regret, for him, infidelity is part of how he operates in a relationship. For Liam, though, it’s devastating since he believed that Ryan was faithful to him. And in my short story, Bathhouse Nights, Daniel hooks up with Justin, a supposedly straight jock with a girlfriend. Justin doesn’t care that he’s being unfaithful, but Daniel is put in a (brief) moral dilemma knowing that the man of his dreams wants to fuck, and in doing so, he’d be helping that man cheat on his girlfriend.
Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Go-Go Boys of Club 21: The Complete Series. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.
Considering how complicated a boots-on-the-ground relationship can be, perhaps we write these stories as a surrogate for our true make-up, without the gamble of being hurt or hurting a loved one. Reading about transgressive behavior isn't nearly as dangerous as a potentially messy situation and may allow us to explore those emotions with confidence.ReplyDelete
I totally agree, Daddy X. Sometimes a fantasy (lived out through a story) can give a huge sexual charge and reward without the messy complications of actual infidelity.Delete
Cameron, you've identified something every one of my gay-male friends has complained about. (And if I can trust what I hear, non-aggressive local gay men are about as likely to be date-raped as young straight women on the local college campus. I've heard alarming stories about spiked drinks.) The emphasis on sex seems to go with contempt for the "old" -- any guy over 40 who has not maintained an athlete's body. (All my friends are "old.") This makes me wonder: who forms culture? How many outsiders does it take to change it? (Actually, I've been told that "bear culture" developed as a reaction to the clone ideal. Maybe a cult of nesting or monogamy needs to emerge. )ReplyDelete
Hehe -- at 32, I'm considered an "older man" by many young guys. I'm in an awkward stage -- I'm too old to be a twink (but I look like a 19-year-old twink), but I'm too young to be a daddy (and I'm not hairy enough to be a bear or an otter). I'm sort of in a no-man's-land between the labels the gay male community imposes upon itself. As far as I know, there's no term for someone that looks like a twink but is too old to be one. And this bothers me... and I don't know why. I abhor labels, especially one that sexualizes me in one word, yet I long to know what I "am" in the gay community.Delete
Do you think this might be a "phase" of sorts, a reaction to both the (perceived, at least) retreat of the danger of AIDS and the accessibility, as you said, of wholesale online hookups? Maybe the youngsters drunk on freedom will be looking for more stable relationships as they get older. Or maybe not.ReplyDelete
Is your Pride weekend a fairly recent thing? Where I live (near Northampton, MA) we had one of the earliest Pride parades in the country, still going strong--but, being in a heavily lesbian area, these days there are more marchers accompanied by their kids and dogs than floats with drag queens--and I kind of miss that colorful energy.
It's interesting you bring up the AIDS epidemic -- with the missing generation of gay men, I wonder if the community is actually missing a whole generation of gay men who could be role models. Perhaps a whole generation has emerged without a suitable number of older role models and have had to find their own path through life and have taken on a sexualized role.Delete
And online hookups (or smartphone hookups) are totally part of this. In your profile, you're encouraged to classify yourself with sexualized labels. Twink, bear, otter, daddy, chubby, chaser, cub, bottom, top, versatile. And then, depending on the site/app, you're encouraged to list your sexual interests. Thus, men are meeting each other online and the FIRST thing they know about this man is that, say, he's a bottom bear into dominant twinks. If that's how gay men are used to meeting people, I don't know how they then move to meeting people in a more romantic context or even a friends-without-benefits context. (Even in a friends-without-benefits context, lines are blurred among gay men. I met one of my best friends at work and I know a lot about his sex life and certain measurements of his body.)
Pride weekend here has been going on almost thirty years, so it's been a while. I don't understand it, though, because the Pride planning committee is made of men and women of a range of ages and racial backgrounds, yet 99% of official guests and entertainers are young gay white males (or drag queens). I would've expected that committee to bring in a range of guests that better represent the community at Pride.
Great post, Cameron.ReplyDelete
Maybe the answer is that gay erotica/erotic romance should illustrate (as your examples do) that the love/sex duality doesn't always work emotionally or even practically. Although some would argue that erotica should be escapist, I personally appreciate an author who can articulate the incredible complexity of desire and its consequences.
I'd hate to be part of a culture with that much pressure--though I think straight male culture has some of the same stresses.
Oh, I totally agree -- each culture has its own stresses. Straight men are supposed to be strong, macho, sexually predatory, and have zero emotional connection with other straight males. I couldn't imagine having to live by those rules.Delete
And while escapist erotica can be a lot of fun (and I read it from time to time), I also enjoy stuff that's a bit more serious, where the sex has consequences. Both are good, just depends on the mood I'm in. :)
Nice post. I rarely go to Pride because I feel like it's not for me... which is pretty messed up when it's supposed to be exactly for me. These days it just seems like an excuse for teenagers to drink in public. The loudness makes me uncomfortable and the crowds give me extreme anxiety and I get a sunburn EVERY TIME and I could go on complaining, but I'll stop now. hehReplyDelete
But I do like how strangers wish you Happy Pride. For some reason, that make me go, "I'm part of a community. Nice."