Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Not Husband Material

Once upon a time I went for a walk with a classmate who told me of her conundrum. She had received a proposal of marriage from a male friend who was both a lawyer at a top firm and a practicing homosexual. His idea was that their marriage should provide him with extra leverage at work, a classy hostess for his dinner parties and the children he very much wanted. Meanwhile, the marriage would provide my classmate with enough money to pay for her PhD studies. Being flat broke, my classmate was seriously considering his proposition. Neither of them was religious. I forget why my classmate picked me to tell about this; she was a bit worried I'd be shocked.

I wasn't shocked. For millennia, men and women have married without love, without overwhelming sexual desire and, indeed, without much hope of sexual fidelity. They did so for the benefits that the male-female bond brings: a public, social, economic partnership, complementarity, joined families, children. And throughout history men with same-sex desires have married women for those reasons, and to mask their same-sex desires, usually without being as honest about it as this lawyer.

But, as I pointed out to my classmate, as part of the deal was that she was to have this man's children, she was putting her health and the health of these children at risk by having sex with a man who had been sexually active with men and was planning on being sexually active with other men in future. I forget if I mentioned that she would also be cheating herself of the real love of a deeply heterosexual man for a woman to whom he is determined to be faithful.

Fifteen years later I got an email from a Catholic twenty-something very much involved in the arts community. Unsurprisingly, she had met there many men with same-sex attractions--the men themselves would have described themselves as "gay"--and was glad that she had managed to both witness to her Catholic faith in this community and still be accepted by it. She had made good friends in this community, particularly with one man who was handsome, kindly, talented, charismatic, intelligent, sensitive and all those other things, plus gay. (Imagine the self-styled gay man you know best and admire most, and you'll get the picture.)

To make a long story short, to her surprise, this great openly gay guy turned out not to be quite as gay as he had seemed. Indeed, he was THAT into her. Although my reader's spiritual director and parents were not happy about the situation, she and her gay friend became a couple. Then he told her that he was still not over his ex-boyfriend, and he wanted to be with him. And that was the end of that.

My reader's letter was more confused than sad. Indeed, it was the least sad break-up letter I have received in six years. I wondered if she was giving him a pass because he was gay, but she said it was more because he was such a great guy. Without knowing him, of course, I wondered if he was so great as all that, as he had allowed my reader to believe he could never be romantically attracted to her, revealed at last that he was romantically attracted to her, and then ditched her for his ex-boyfriend. I'd love to ask him what the heck he thought he was doing.

My reader wondered if sexuality were not just entirely fluid and changeable and that there was hope for men like her now ex-boyfriend to make great husbands-to-women and fathers-to-their-mutual-children one day. And because she asked what I thought, I told her. I think it possible, but rare. Very rare. Rarissimus. I have spoken to no less a personage than Father John Harvey on the topic, and he said it is very, very unusual for an adult homosexual man to become completely free of same-sex sexual desires and to go on to have a happy, sexual, faithful, married relationship with a woman. Can it happen? Yes. Is it likely? No.

The subject of homosexuality is so fraught and political and difficult to talk about without hurting someone's feelings that single Catholic women are often terribly surprised to discover that whatever pious or politically correct platitudes they have been told are wrong.

First of all, men lie about their sexual desires all the time. Men who advertise themselves as openly "gay" sometimes turn around and hit on women. I have been propositioned by at least two self-styled gay men in my time. You could have knocked me over with a feather on both occasions. Oscar Wilde, by the way, sired two children and was terribly upset that his wife divorced him. An old pal of mine frequently slept with a guy who came out of the closet a few years later, and when I said, "Ahem. Explain", she said, "Sex is sex."

Second, Catholics use the expression "men with SSA" instead of "gay men" to avoid identifying people primarily with their sexual orientation or preferences. However, many men do identify themselves with their sexual preferences. You know how I talk about couples ideally sharing their primary values? Well, with some men, even if they are sometimes attracted to women, their primary value is being gay. A man who identifies so strongly with being gay is simply not husband material.

Third, self-styled gay men are often very attractive. It's not just that they are sometimes very good-looking, graceful and well-dressed. (Sometimes, of course, they are none of those things.) And it's not just that they are often very intelligent, witty, cultured, compassionate and kindly. It's not just that they are often as quick with the right compliment at the right time as a good female friend. It's also that they seem so safe. You can hug and be hugged by your gay male friend and be open with your emotions and hopes and dreams and fears with him in a way you might not be with a heterosexual man. So it comes as a shock when something unexpected happens and you realize that your gay friend is actually still a man.

Gay men are men. Men, men, men. And I love men. Some gay men are also the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. But not all men have women's best interests at heart, and that includes some gay men. The second soi-disant gay guy who hit on me told me that he understood women better than other men because he was gay. GARBAGE. You know what man is most likely to understand women? A old married man with grown-up daughters. A man who thinks about women, loves women, lives with women, sires women, works for women, suffers for women.

Gay men are not an exciting new kind of woman. They are men. Men who court men. Tattoo this to your brain.

And, as Camille Paglia points out, men are really into having sex. She blames the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s on the completely unfettered sexual behaviour of men unchecked by the relative sexual prudence of women. As Paglia thinks there is something noble in this and gay male sexuality in general, we can't chalk up her ideas to homophobia.

An adult man who identifies as gay, unless he has handed his life over fully to God and is absolutely committed to chastity in continence, is very likely to have been sexually active with other men and is very likely to be so again.

As red flags go, that's rather vivid. Gay men can make great friends, but they almost never make great boyfriends and husbands.

Combox moderation for this one, of course.


Teddie said...

In college I dated a guy who called himself bi. A horrible situation. I think it was his hook to have as much sex with as many people and as little consequence as possible. The kicker for me, that it took me a long time to slough off, was that he was interested in me because he thought I looked like the female version of a gay man who would ONLY give him the time of day.

My self esteem took a nosedive for years afterward. And I wouldn't have know had I not asked. It goes to show that you really don't know what's going on in the minds of any men--especially gay. Tread with caution ladies, when thinking about dating gay men....

Anna said...

Interesting that Auntie posted this right after I read this from the Daily Mail.

Sarah said...

Aha, Seraphic, have you seen this floating around the internet?

It's a blog post by a married (to a woman) father of three... who is gay... whose wife knew he was gay when they got married. His wife even has her own commentary on the post.

It's an interesting read, and I am still not sure how I feel about the situation described.

berenike said...

Club Unicorn: in which I come out of the closet.

A Mormon. srsly, read it. (and the comments)

Seraphic said...

Good heavens! First I've heard of this Club Unicorn thing. Mostly I was thinking about this issue because of the email I got.

Well, I must read it!

Seraphic said...

Okay, that was very interesting. And they sound like a very happy and nice couple with a very happy and nice extended family.

Both husband and wife are committed Mormons, and it would seem that the husband has never indulged his sexual attraction to men. Being gay is part of his identity, but it seems to me that his being a Mormon, a husband to his wife and a father to his daughters is way more central to his identity than "being gay." He's always chosen the traditional Mormon way of life over what is called "the gay lifestyle."

As Lonergan says, only the concrete is good. This appears to be a concrete situation in which one particular man who is sexually attracted to men and not to women (and yet is not impotent with this particular woman) is a good husband-to-a-wife and father-to-their mutual children.

I think it important to concentrate on ALL the details of his story, most importantly that he has NEVER lived "the gay lifestyle" and that he has always chosen to live by his Mormon beliefs.

That is all I have to say on this subject for the moment. As I said, possible but rare.

berenike said...

And this is why (among other reasons, obviously) one should never think of oneself as a conservative or a liberal or a feminist or a Pole or gay or whatever, but always as a Christian, a Catholic. The rest is somewhere behind that, and shaped by it. Otherwise, you may find your idea of being a Canadian (or whatever) clashes with something that you should be as a Christian. Whereas, if you're a Christian first, then you will see matters of sexual attraction or taxation or immigration or whatever in that light, and not in that of some ideology or mistake.

(more to the "should people with SSA marry" question than this)

I was very struck by one paragraph in there in particular, the one where he talks about the sexual expression of love. I thought it was very well put, his meaning very clear particularly in the context of the whole post.

Seraphic said...

Yes, I agree with you, Berenike, 100% on the identity question.

What Mormon chap said about sexuality, however, didn't resonate with married me, however. Obviously this chap shouldn't have to talk about the most personal and private details of his married life (which might be a crime against his wife's dignity and modesty), but I think a lot of married couples read what he said about not being sexually attracted to women and still having a great sex life and asked each other "How?" I mean, fantastic if his reason and will have so much control over his sexual functioning, but...ummmm....

berenike said...

The bit I thought best was the bit where he explained that!

Seraphic said...

Hmm. Married lady keeps modestly stony silence before audience of lovely young unmarried ladies.

berenike said...

Whatever :) His account chimed with me - not the SSA part, for I have wondered in the past whether, never having had any kind of crush on a female in ma puff, I am not some kind of freak, but the part about attraction following affection, as it were, and a couple of other bits. Each to their own - some to the mad pashes, some not!