GAY SEX ADDICTION; THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?
How many times have you heard a gay man saying it’s impossible to find a partner because most guys are just looking for sex? Whether this is true or not, with testosterone running riot in our systems, both gay and straight men are wired to think about sex every few seconds – without it less babies would be born and the human race may well disappear. But, us gays take it to the next level and that puts a big block on the road if your destination is Relationshipville.
In the gay community, sex addiction is often mistaken for the norm. Nobody bats an eyelid at multiple partners, chemsex groups or spending a night in a dark room. Even when gay men do couple up, a lot of the time it seems they can’t wait to open up their relationship so they don’t miss out. But when does a highly sexed gay man become a sex addict? Where’s the crossover, who decides what is normal or not and do gay men actually care anyway? Even experts can’t agree on what is sexually ‘normal’, but they do agree that it becomes an addiction when it starts negatively impacting your life. So a man who is hiding his actions with secrecy , living a double life, getting arrested for public sex, exposing himself to STD’s, unable to have a healthy relationship or obsessed with checking Grindr every few minutes to the detriment of his work/ study or social life is on the path to sexual addiction. The biggest sign is the avoidance of orgasm during sex because after climax, the elation finishes, the addict comes down begins to feel guilt for what he’s just done. Sex addicts can extend the high with drugs – the sex can go on for days and days, but this also brings drug addiction in to the mix. Sex also becomes an action that you need to carry out compulsively with anyone, regardless of whether you find them attractive or not.
But why are gay men so prone to this addiction and why is nobody talking about it like it is an addiction? Firstly, gay culture is completely sex obsessed. According to the apps, magazines, porn sites and sex-clubs that surround us – a gay man’s sole purpose in life is to have as much sex as possible. Of course, a mature, grounded gay adult can ignore that pressure but imagine a gay teen who just moved to a big city. To him, it would be hard to resist that sexual draw becoming his norm. But, I hear you ask, why shouldn’t gay men screw around? On one hand, the gay liberation movement has afforded us the right to adopt, to marry and serve in the armed forces but on the other, we have the right to live without the same pressures from straight society (marriage, being the breadwinner, kids etc) and many gay men stick two fingers up at the heteronormative law makers. But with no cultural or moral guides, they may also feel disconnected from society and ask themselves where they fit in. With drug fuelled sex parties and instant grindr sex at their fingertips, the words ‘boyfriend’ or ‘monogamy’ do not compute in their mind. That’s boring!
Secondly, despite all the recent LGTBQ progress, there’s a contradictory message being beamed at gay men from religion, rap culture and even youth culture ‘speak’ which uses the word gay as a derivative term. We know that many older gay men who were born before the ‘OK to be gay’ era often feel shame about sex and their sexuality but, surprisingly, there are much younger gay generations who are also uncomfortable with their orientation and this manifests itself it their sexual behaviour. Behind this constant desire for random, intimate-less hook ups, fuelled by apps and porn, lies a deeper need for connection and validation. Men who grew up feeling any kind of shame or discomfort about their sexuality (and who are thus unable to form relationships) can find the human connection they hunger for in a sweaty session. Others, who grew up trying to be ‘straight’ to please their parents or friends were unable to develop or experience intimacy as their life was a show, a ‘straight act’. For a short while, between the sheets, they feel a kind of love, they feel desired, a closeness to another, like they fit in. Once they feel that deep validation, they want more as it’s only a temporary satisfaction that evaporates with those final thrusts.
Even men who are perfectly content with their sexual orientation can get tired of looking for love in the wrong places and feeling the disappointment and rejection from trying to find a mate. By keeping the encounter purely sexual, they disconnect their emotions and protect themselves from getting hurt. For them too, sex fills a void. But this kind of robotic, disconnected sex can then become the norm for them too. We live in an age of loneliness, where we connect with each other through our phone screens. Sex is a substitute for touch, hugs, warmth and above all intimacy. The problem is that when we use something (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling) to fill a void, we can’t just suddenly stop – it becomes addictive. The painfully obvious lack, whatever it may be, must be covered up.
Many gay men enjoy the free and single life, having exciting sexual adventures at the drop of a hat- they find the freedom exhilarating. But, for others, who are looking to form a loving relationship it can be tricky to, firstly, find a partner who is not hooked on the thrill of constant easy sex, and secondly, to resist the distraction of easy sex themselves instead of looking for their Mr Right. I’ve heard countless stories of guys out on a first date, mobile phones on table, then suddenly the Grindr/ Scruff/ Hornet message alert goes off. I often hear gay men bemoaning how difficult they find it trying to organise a date with anyone, let alone start a relationship. Nobody wants to go on a date anymore, they all just want sex! It’s impossible! When I enquire where they are getting this impression, they tell me Grindr. When I enquire further into their profile and the photos and the text they are using, it becomes clear that they are looking for sex. They have a desire for intimacy and to be in a relationship but, ultimately, find themselves in a repetitive cycle of sexual encounters. Or is it the issue that they don’t want to acknowledge that they actually prefer the sex to settling down? At the end of the day our actions speak louder than words (or Grindr alerts). Next time you automatically check your Grindr for the 5th time in an hour, or hear a friend boasting of his excessive sexploits – ask yourself what is ‘normal’ for you and if any areas of your life are suffering. Go out and have amazing sex but don’t accept any baloney about the ‘normality’ of sexual addiction in the gay community – it’s only normal if we accept it.