Atlantis Alumni

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Robbed Of Our Gay Adolescence

Why are so many gay men sexually promiscuous? This question has often been asked and in today's New York Times Magazine there is this explanation:

There was a reason, of course, why so many gay men my age and older seemed
intent on living a protracted adolescence: We had been cheated of our actual
adolescence. While most of our heterosexual peers had experienced, in their teens, socialization around courtship, dating and sexuality, many of us had grown up closeted and fearful, “our most precious and tender feelings rarely validated or reflected back to us by our families and communities,” as Alan Downs, the author of “The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World,” puts it.

So, we who had no sexual adolescence feel compelled to make up for lost tine once we finally come out. It's a powerful argument and quite a revelation I suspect for many men. In my own case, not only was I robbed of my gay adolescence but I also married a woman in my early 20s, so I was robbed of that decade as well. Nevertheless, when I finally came out at age 29 I did not feel the need to "make up for lost time" by racking up a number of sexual conquests. Rather, I went looking for a partner to fall in love with and settle down. So I guess I don't quite fit the mold. But I can see how this could resonate with a lot of gay men.

The article in the Times, entitled "Young Gay Rites" focuses on gay men who get married in their 20s. It certainly is a different world for them than it was for us older gay men. By and large these young gay couples favor absolute monogamy and do not view the sexual and emotional components of their relationships as potentially separate entities as many older gay men do. I was at a cocktail party the other evening with a group of mostly older gays and I tried to make the argument that it is possible to separate out the two as in the case of loving but sexually "open" relationships, but no one would agree with me. Particularly, two younger 30 somethings professed their monogamy in response to my argument.

My own attitudes about monogamy have changed somewhat over the years. How to define monogamy is also something I'm not sure of. Strict monogamy means absolutely no sexual contact with others, I suppose. I think that's a tough standard for many people, both straight and gay. A casual one time contact, or even several with different people, or an occasional three way, are these violations of monogamy? Or, as I am beginning to believe, is an "affair" or a multi-session liaison with the same person that contains both sexual and emotional components what constitutes non-monogamy?

My own behavior actually fits the strict definition for the most part because I have just never felt the need to experiment sexually with a number of different men. I have a loving partner who I enjoy sexually and for those times in between I can look at porn and get off. That's always been enough for me. Come to think if it, porn and self release was enough for me during all of those bleak years of my tortured adolescence, and those years I spent married to a woman. Sure, I yearned for sexual contact with another male, but I never experienced it until my wife left me when I was 29.

I'm glad things are better now for younger gay people. I'm glad that they can come out earlier, date earlier, and marry earlier. They'll experience some of the same problems we all do in life, but at least they won't start out behind the eight ball to the same degree that we older gays did. No one should be robbed of their adolescence. There's no way to make up for that no matter how hard you try.


PHOTO; The Fire Island Pines Harbor on an early Spring morning

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