Your Husband Probably Isn’t Gay
Jennifer can’t believe it. Just married and pregnant, she discovers that her husband has been meeting Brad for sex. When confronted, Tom doesn’t deny it, but he insists it‘s just “a thing” and he isn’t gay. Jennifer is sure her marriage can’t survive, but things are not as bad as she fears. After seeing me for therapy, Tom and Jennifer come to understand that even though some of Tom’s sexual behavior is gay, his sexual orientation is straight. His compulsion to have sex with men is rooted in the abuse he suffered as a boy from a school coach. Therapy gives him relief. Tom and Jennifer are able to repair their relationship, reestablish trust, and save their marriage.
John’s wife, Karen, is just as upset as Jennifer when she discovers that her husband likes to watch gay porn. In my office, Karen raises the same questions that Jennifer has: Does this mean my husband is gay? Can my marriage survive? After a period of therapy, I determine that John is, in fact, not gay. Although therapy can diminish a man’s dependence on fantasies and porn, sometimes the simplest and most effective “solution” is not to worry so much about it. After Karen understands that John’s interest in gay porn isn’t a threat to her marriage, she becomes less concerned and the “crisis” is partly resolved by acceptance.
Tom wants sex with men, although he isn’t gay. John watches gay porn, but he also is not gay. Their stories illustrate the fact that men can be straight but have gay sexual interests. The distinction between gay men and straight men with gay interests is significant. Straight men generally can make their marriages to women successful. Gay men often cannot. Bisexual men are somewhere in between. One of the purposes of this book is to explain the best relationship options for these three types of men.
Women are increasingly concerned that their men might be gay. Television and books warn of “gay husbands” who endanger their wives by having unprotected sex with AIDS-infected strangers. Politicians and celebrities are forced “out,” and their wives tell the press they “had no idea.” Thanks to the Internet, straight men with gay sexual fantasies now easily find partners to act them out. Men who seek more and more purely sexual experiences discover they can turn to men, not out of a gay orientation but because often men are more easily available for casual sex than women.
Recent studies have confirmed a trend to blur the boundary between gay and straight. According to the New York Times , “… the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as ‘mostly straight’ as opposed to labels like ‘straight,’ ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’”.1 This trend away from a rigid interpretation of sexual orientation is also the focus of Lisa Diamond’s book, Sexual Fluidity .2
Psychotherapist Ian Kerner, whose books have been best sellers – for example, She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman 3 – told me recently: “Lots of women in New York City, at one time or another, have wondered if their boyfriends might be gay. It’s the topic I’m most asked about when I give a talk to the public.”4
The New York Times confirmed this concern by women in an article published on December 7, 2013: “In the United States, of all Google searches that begin ‘Is my husband...,’ the most common word to follow is ‘gay.’ ‘Gay’ is 10 percent more common in such searches than the second-place word, ‘cheating.’ It is 8 times more common than ‘an alcoholic’ and 10 times more common than ‘depressed’”.5
Why would a straight man be drawn to gay sex? There are many reasons, including sexual opportunism, sex addiction, and sex for money, but the most common reason is trouble in the man’s childhood involving a male sexual abuser or other assaults to the boy’s masculinity. These attacks on the child generate guilt and shame which carry over to adulthood. They embed in the man’s psyche as sexual fantasies, which the man often feels compelled to act out. This “eroticizing of childhood trauma” happens even if the early trouble is not sexual abuse. By investigating a troubled client’s “core sexual scripts,” that is, his most compelling sexual fantasies, a therapist can uncover what happened in the past and work with the client to lessen the force of his compulsions. Therapy will also help to diminish the crippling effects of chronic guilt and shame in other areas of a client’s life that are common consequences of severe trouble in childhood.
You may be better able to sympathize with the sexual issues of your man when you understand what is driving his behavior. As long as the spotlight is on kinky sex fantasies and behaviors, you may find it difficult to feel empathy. When the focus changes to childhood abuse, you can then find a window to understanding and healing.
But wait. A man’s sexual interests may appear to be “gay sex” without being gay at all. Many sexual kinks are interpreted as “gay behaviors” by both wives and husbands. That happens particularly because our homophobic society tends to make people hypervigilant about “men who act gay.” The man’s kinks may require some therapy or at least better communication and less secrecy, but he isn’t gay just because he has some atypical sexual interests.
A Google search for “gay husband” or “straight men who have sex with men” hits hundreds of thousands of sites, but the information there is often unclear, imprecise, or wrong. Few bloggers are legitimate therapists. Trauma-driven sexual compulsions are commonly confused with a gay orientation, as are many kinks and unconventional sexual behaviors. This book will give you clear, concise, and accurate information, unlike what you might get from a Google search.
I have been a licensed psychotherapist for thirty years, and in that time I’ve helped many couples stay together when “gay panic” seemed to be breaking them apart. Because I am gay and an authority on issues of sexual orientation, I have often been called in to help such couples, and based on my experiences with them I have been motivated to write this book about men who seem to have gay interests who are not gay and can remain happily married to an informed woman.
I have also been one of the pioneering psychotherapists to understand the therapeutic usefulness of clarifying and “decoding” the core sexual scripts of a man who is straight and troubled by gay sexual fantasies. Understanding how these scripts work is an invaluable insight for wives and husbands struggling to save their marriages.
Is Your Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi is a psychological self help book, similar in purpose to Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples .6 Like that best seller, this book is intended to help couples when the partners must deal with psychological issues left over from childhood, but unlike Hendrix’s book, the focus here is on straight male partners who seem to be drawn to gay sex.
Marriages can be hurriedly terminated because men and women (and their therapists) lack the information they need to understand a couple’s true options. This book provides clarity, describes options, and (in many cases) offers hope for relationships and marriages that, in the past, might have been abandoned. Is Your Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi is a unique and valuable resource for couples and their therapists.
This book is divided into two parts. Part One considers the lives of men and women struggling with the impact on their relationship of the man’s sexual behavior. Either he is drawn to sex with men, or he has sexual impulses that seem to be gay. The stories in these chapters illustrate the very different situations you might be facing.
Part Two takes a broader perspective. Chapters 10-12 offer general insights and understandings about the types of men whose issues are illustrated by the stories in Part One. Chapters 13-15 give options for various kinds of actions you might take, depending on what you are dealing with. Chapter 16 briefly describes a variety of other situations in which straight men will seek sex with men, and Chapter 17 sums it all up. The Appendix is a guide to therapy. The Bibliography includes books, articles, websites which provide further resources and support.
- Charles M. Blow, “Gay? Whatever, Dude,” New York Times , June 4, 2010.
- Lisa Diamond, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).
- Ian Kerner, She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman , (New York: Harper Collins, 2009).
- Ian Kerner, personal communication.
- Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, “How Many American Men Are Gay?” New York Times , September 7, 2013.
- Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2007).
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