Men Left to Themselves

He’s disgusting. He leaves shit all over the floor, never washes his Tupperware, uses the same stinking bath towel day after day, hardly ever brushes his teeth (he prefers to suck at them incessantly with his tongue). He belches, he farts, he scratches; he’s loud, reckless, and immature. But when the lights go out, he’s like a pile of warm laundry on a cold day, and I can’t say no.

The last time we had sex was a week ago. I ate his ass and gave him head. We haven’t talked much since then.

Having sex with a straight guy is at the top of every gay male’s bucket list. And if he happens to have a girlfriend or (fingers crossed) a wife, even better. I’m not sure why this excites us. Perhaps it’s the thrill of chasing after something we can’t have. Maybe it’s about fulfilling those high school locker room fantasies. Or maybe it;s for the glory, the sense of accomplishment that comes from having converted a man using our superior sexual prowess.

In the past month, I’ve learned (very unscientifically) several things from my romps with Bubba: First, sexuality is not binary–it’s continuum of many shades. Second, behavior does not inform orientation. Having sex with another man will not make Bubba gay anymore than my having sex with a woman will make me straight. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that having sex with straight men is ultimately unfulfilling, like a thirst that can never be quenched. There are too man boundaries they are unwilling to cross, not necessarily out of disinterest, but out of fear.

These boundaries are crazily arbitrary. According to Bubba, receiving a blowjob from a man is fine; blowing a man in return is not.Likewise, my licking his ass is perfectly reasonable. A little fingering is also okay, but anything past the knuckle, and he freaks out–“Alright! That’s enough! That’s good!”

(I’m reminded now of that Seinfield episode in which George becomes aroused while receiving a massage my a masseur–“I think it moved!” he cries. Jerry reassures him that, according to what a gym teacher once told him, you’re only gay if it moves as a result of direct contact with a man.)

The acts–kissing, sucking, fucking–are not what frighten Bubba, rather it’s the label associated with those acts that he fears, a label which to him (and many other men) symbolizes weakness, sissyness, inferiority–the antitheses of how “real” men are supposed to behave.

In his book My Own Country, Abraham Verghese–Professor and Senior Assistant Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine–writes about the influence that women and society have on male sexuality:

In a way . . . [gay] men are more representative of men than heterosexual men . . . . I mean to say, with gay men you are looking at men without the confounding influence of women to deal with. You are looking at the behavior of men left to themselves, men not conditioned by what women allow, what women find acceptable, what society thinks is normal.

I’m not suggesting that all men are secretly gay, or even bisexual. But I do think bisexuality is more prevalent than people assume. And the degree to which bisexuality is expressed depends largely on environment.

Prison is the perfect example of an environment that operates outside the influences of women and social norms. Stuff happens here that wouldn’t otherwise happen among men in the free world: Solicitations, threats, bribery, love triangles–“men left to themselves.”

Stanley warned me months ago about tutoring my students one-on-one outside the classroom. He said that some guys may just be looking for an excuse to get closer to me. He wasn’t specific, and I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. And then I noticed that many of the guys asking for my hep were the ones who never participated in class, who never expressed any real desire to learn. They’d come to me later. They were all black and much bigger than me. “When you gonna come tutor me?” they’d ask. “Man, I just ain’t gettin’ these fractions,” they’d say. One student slyly commented that he saw me with my “partner” the week before. He grinned. I told him it was my brother.

I don’t tutor anymore.

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