A Commentary on Sex, Sexual Abuse, Society, Spirituality and Sexual Orientation
PREFACE: I wrote this after having some communication with an old friend who had been sexually abused as a child and who was having confusion about his sexual feelings, the source of his feelings, and was judging his feelings as well as himself for having his feelings. I have titled it “Everything Under the Rainbow” because of the old saying that great variety is “everything under the sun”. The variety of human sexual content and expression runs the full gamut, which is everything under the rainbow.
Growing up gay in the rural Ozarks of the 1960’s on a farm, physically distant from neighbors without even a telephone for communication, I also grew up naïve. My only impressions of the world outside that farm came mostly from our old black and white TV that could only pick up two channels. In those days, shows like “I Love Lucy” depicted separate beds even though the fictional couple was obviously married. Gay was something not even mentioned on television, radio or elsewhere. Prior to “don’t ask don’t tell” was, “let’s pretend it doesn’t exist”. I knew precious little about the rest of the world, and I certainly had never heard of Stonewall or anything to do with LGBTQ rights, but then I was fourteen years old when Stonewall occurred. I don’t recall any news coverage about it, and if it received any national coverage, I missed it. At the time, the world still wanted to pretend that gay didn’t exist. The hippie movement brought sex, free sex and sexual liberation to the American discussion, but gay rights would not really have much recognition until the early 1980’s.
Not only had gay rights just begun when I came into adolescence, I was also raised in a church so fundamentalist that one of my uncles told me I was going to go to hell when I chose a Presbyterian collage. However, attending that little Presbyterian college (Lyon College) was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. That was where I first began to lose my naivete. I went to school with kids from all over the world, and I learned about things I had never even contemplated. I had companionship and real friendship for the first time, and some of those friends happened to be gay. Lyon became the first place where I was given permission, by other students and some professors, to own my sexual orientation and be myself. Still, coming to grips with that would take me several more years. As a matter of fact, my own progression in the acceptance of my sexual orientation has pretty much followed the same timeline as the gay rights movement. Not that long ago, being gay was something I had kept completely silent, even though it may not have been hidden as much as I tried to pretend. As a teen, and young man, I told no one about being gay, not only because my church forbade it but because of things I saw written on bathroom walls, things I heard other boys say and fears that I would be ostracized or beaten, perhaps even killed if anyone knew how I truly felt. When I was a teenager, the minister who baptized me gave a sermon in which he said, “The sin of homosexuality is worse than the sin of murder.” This quote is referenced by a character in my second novel, The Calling Dream. Even though it is stated by a fictional character in the book, it actually did happen to me. After hearing that sermon, I thought, If I am worse than a murderer, would they put me to death if they found out? Should I go ahead and kill myself and just get it over? Thankfully, I had my grandmother and later, I had mentors and Lyon college where I first began to have a place to heal. ***As a side note here, let me tell you that I was raised in the same general locality as Gerrard Conley who wrote Boy Erased, his 2016 memoir which was produced as the 2018 film by the same name. He also attended Lyon. His interview, about his LGBTQ experience and attending Lyon, can be found online in an article published in the “Lyon College, The Highlander” by Olivia Lynch titled “Interview with Gerrard Conley”. https://www.lyonhighlander.com/single-post/2018/04/27/Interview-with-Garrard-Conley
When I first began to become aware of sexual feelings, I noticed that I had attractions to men, but attractions are not just sexual. There are other types of attractions such as attraction to a person’s “vibe”, their energy and essence, and that type of attraction to men existed for me long before I became aware of my sexual feelings. However, when I was taught that attractions to men were worse than murder, I did everything I could to try to force myself into heterosexuality, even though feminine essence just didn’t feel right. I loved and respected women and still do, but I love them as human beings, as mentors and friends, not because I have sexual attractions to them. So, back then, I did what many gay people did, perhaps fewer now, but I know it still occurs, I tried to force myself to be straight. In those days before gay marriage was legal, gay people often married the opposite sex, raised families and later reached a point where they realized they just couldn’t keep up the pretense any longer. The strain of trying to pretend that you are someone you are not can be overwhelming. Also, when a wife or husband who thought their marriage was real, gets blindsided by the actual reality that their spouse is gay, the strain is unfair and overwhelming, as well. I am so grateful that I never married. I dated girls, I tried, but I could not bring myself to have any more than fleeting attractions to women. After college, I tried again. When I got my first job after graduating college, I dated a couple of girls, made out with girls and had sex with girls, but it was never the same. Still, I felt a horrible shame about my sexual orientation and could not bring myself to accept it. I reached a point where I could accept others who were gay, but I still could not accept it in myself. I was twenty-four years old before I really began the process of accepting who I was, and completing that acceptance took many more years. As is true of most gay men of the time, especially those from fundamentalist religions, admitting that you were gay was almost as bad as being gay.
Even though gay rights have come a very long way since then, to this day, being gay is something that many, if not most heterosexual people just can’t comprehend and many LGBTQ people still struggle with self-acceptance and worries about how society will treat them. I think societal acceptance is even more difficult for people who are transgender, and just to clarify, gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. Gender has nothing to do with attractions. Gender is about male, female or fluid identity. Sexual orientation is at least partially about attractions, but gender identity has nothing to do with who you might be attracted to. Regardless of how far gay rights has come, LGBTQ is still the only minority at risk of rejection by their own family and, according to the Trevor Report, gay teens are three times more likely to contemplate suicide than their heterosexual counterparts and five times more likely to have attempted it. As well, LGBTQ youth coming from rejecting families were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide as LGBTQ youth from families where they are accepted. Much more work needs to be done to instill pride in being who you are, owning who you are and knowing that it is okay to be who you are. As well, work needs to be done to increase acceptance, reduce bullying, and help kids to understand that their worth is not determined by what others think. If there would be one thing I would want to instill in gay youth, but extend to youth in general, it is that another person’s behavior is never about you, even if it is directed at you and blamed on you. It is always about what is going on inside of them. If someone casts judgment and prejudice toward you, they are showing you who they are, not who you are. The Trevor Project:
One of the more common questions that heterosexual people like to ask Gay people is, “When did you know that you were gay?” Although the question, in my opinion, is inappropriate, at least they are trying to have some understanding and acceptance. Over time, I began returning with the question, “When did you know that you were straight?” Heterosexuals seldom ask themselves, “How did I get this way, why am I straight?” Gay people, at least of my generation, were prone to ask themselves, “What made me gay?” Perhaps, many young gay people still ask that question. However, the reason the question was ever asked in the first place is because homosexuality has been looked upon as an abnormality. The assumption is that there must be something wrong with you if you are not straight. Few people, at least in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures, considered that being gay could be a natural and normal phenomenon. Yet, there have been cultures, many Native American tribes among them, who embraced homosexuality and transgender identity as normal, often even as sacred. However, in mainstream society, when homosexuality is considered to be an abnormality, the conundrum that this presents to many straight people is that, if they have even one homosexual thought, one passing attraction to someone of the same sex, then they have to consider whether that also makes them abnormal and unacceptable?
Back in the late 1980’s, when I was living in Nashville, a friend said to me, “I think I might be gay.” I asked him why, and he said because he had been having sexual attractions to men. I asked, “Okay, what percentage of your sexual attractions are to men and what percentage of your attractions are to women?” He said that he was attracted to men about ten percent of the time and to women about ninety percent of the time. I said, “Don’t you think that is a pretty clear indication that you are straight?” I knew he wasn't gay, but I understood his confusion. The tendency of wanting to lump things, especially things like sexual orientation, into nice neat little categories presents a problem, especially since attractions do not easily fit into categories. The general consensus among researchers is that human sexuality is on a continuum, and it is not uncommon for people to, at least occasionally, have attractions outside their generally identified sexual orientation. The question I want to ask is, “What difference does it make?” We are who we are and what difference does it make how we got that way, who we are attracted to or why?
The assumption that anything other than heterosexual is somehow an abnormality has brought about years of research trying to figure out what caused it. However, just because a minority of people experience it does not mean that it is abnormal. Consider that only a small percentage of the population has naturally red hair, but we don’t label red hair as a deformity, nor do we care about what caused it, or spend millions on research trying to pinpoint the cause. It is accepted that it is genetic and that’s that. There is nothing wrong with having red hair, even if only a minority of people have it. You simply are what you are. People can dye their hair, but their natural color is always beneath the surface. Either you are born with it or you are not, case closed. It may take a while to have this same acceptance of sexual orientation, but just because someone is different, does not mean that they are abnormal. Yet, for centuries, anything other than heterosexuality was considered to be abnormal. Up until the 1970’s homosexuality was considered to be a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Yet, that was overturned when psychiatry began to take into account that homosexuals were no less well-adjusted and or less emotionally stable than heterosexuals despite severe and overt prejudice, rejection and oppression. In fact, most gay people who sought therapy about their sexual orientation did so because of pressure from church, family and society that claimed they were not acceptable as themselves. Send someone who is redheaded to therapy, try to change them into a brunette and see how far you get. You can cover over it all you want. A redhead can pretend to be a brunette, but beneath the façade is their true color. The same is true of people who can pretend that they are not gay. Beneath the pretense is their reality. The shame is that society would, at least in the past, rather have had them pretend they were straight than be true to themselves—don’t ask, don’t tell. Society’s tendency has been to push gay people into the shadows and then punish them for being there. How dare they even mention that they exist, much less consider having a marriage or a family unless they are willing to pretend to be straight.
So, how does someone become gay? What has all that research shown us? Again, I say, “What difference does it make?”, but let’s consider that research has shown a variety of things, and has shown nothing conclusive. You will find mothers who will tell you that they were aware that their child was gay when the child was as young as three years old. You have people saying that it is genetic and point out that homosexuality tends to run in families. You have people who say that it has to do with the hormone levels of the mother during pregnancy. One line of research showed that each time a boy is born into a family, the chances increase that the next son born will be gay. However, this does not apply to lesbians and the number of girls born into a family. Again, I pose the question, “What difference does it make?” To me, it doesn’t matter if it is genetic, due to something that happened in the womb or environmental. If Gay is who you are, then Gay is who you are. Whatever attractions you have are the attractions you have.
The old line of thinking was that gay men were the result of a strong mother and a weak father. That was proven to be bullshit, just like the early theories that schizophrenia was caused when a child didn’t develop a proper attachment to the mother. In the old days, they always liked to blame the mother and, of course, there is no underlying misogyny there, hmmm? One of the most ridiculous theories I ever heard (from an old psychiatrist I met in the early 1980’s, who shall not be named) was that homosexuality resulted because a boy did not have a strong male figure in his childhood, and needed, therefore, to suckle at the penises of men to try to incorporate the missing masculinity into himself. SERIOUSLY? So, those gay men who have very close, loving relationships with their masculine fathers, what is going on with them? Then, certain religious groups decided that orientation could be turned around with conversion therapy and that you could be trained to be straight, also proven to be bullshit. I seriously doubt that any of them stopped, for one moment, to contemplate what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot and someone was insisting that they could be trained to be gay. How easy would that be? You may be able to dye red hair brunette, but that does not turn the redhead into a brunette, only into a redhead pretending to be brunette. It only covers the reality of the situation. One of my own early therapists had me looking at heterosexual porn where I was supposed to fantasize about being the man in the photos enjoying sex with the woman. All that did is give me an appreciation for pornography where I got to see erect, naked men. That was also forbidden by the church, but guess what happens if you show a photo of bread to a starving boy? Some gay people live their lives pretending to be straight, but that does not change how they feel. It only shows their determination to fit themselves into the mold that the church, family or society assigned to them. Again, try putting the shoe on the other foot, and ask someone who is straight to spend their life trying to be, or pretending to be gay. How fair would that be?
It is possible that our sexual orientation could be very much like language. We know, for instance, that human beings are the only creatures on earth whose brain will double in size after we are born. That means that half of all the neural pathways in our brains are formed after we are born, most of it within the first three or four years of life. This is why the first few years are called the formative years. We learn language in the formative years of our lives, and it becomes so ingrained and natural for us that we cannot imagine not being able to speak it. We know that it is much more difficult to learn a different language as an adult. So, most people never do. Even if we learn a new language after growing up, we will never be as comfortable speaking it as speaking our native tongue. In fact, the tendency will be to slip back into our native tongue, and the evidence of our original language will be present in our accent and occasional difficulties with the new language. Nonetheless, whether sexual orientation, like language, is established during early development is basically irrelevant and not provable but if it is like language, then our native tongue, like red hair, is always going to be beneath the surface of any other language we learn. Some insist that that homosexuality is the result of having been sexually abused as a child. However, there is no proven validity to that assumption, either. There are, after all, men who were not sexually abused by men during their formative years who are homosexual and men who were sexually abused by men during their formative years who are heterosexual. Flip the coin and the same is true of women. The same speculation has been made that a fetish is also developed during the formative years. Yet, no conclusive evidence has ever proven that. A person’s attractions, especially their full-on orientation, are more complicated than the development of language. Again, why should it matter?
Over the past 40 years, having met many male survivors of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by men, it has been my personal observation that about 90% of them are heterosexual, about the same percentage estimated in the general population. I recall one who was feeling ashamed that the first orgasm he ever experienced was while being molested by his father. Yet, his orientation was heterosexual. Abuse does not determine sexual orientation. Nonetheless, sexual assault causes confusion, even for adults. For instance, women and men who have been raped are more likely to develop PTSD than survivors of military combat trauma. My observation of male survivors of sexual assault, even if it happened in childhood, is that they are much less likely to admit it, carry more shame about it and are much more likely to avoid getting help than women. Women who have been sexually abused, despite the trauma and mental upheaval it causes, seem more willing to seek help and to disclose their abuse than men. I think men are more likely to hide it because of the shame generated by a society that sees any homosexual contact as specifically wrong. Men also assume, perhaps more than women, that they should have been able to prevent it. After all, aren’t men supposed to be big and strong, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and therefore able to fend off sexual assault? Many men don’t reveal their abuse because they think people will “accuse” them of being gay. Before we go on, let’s clarify something here. Rape has nothing to do with sex itself. It is the use of sex as a weapon of domination, whether it is rape of a man or a woman. Men in prison who rape other men, for instance, would otherwise prefer females for their usual sexual contact. They are not gay. They rape as a weapon of humiliation and dominance. Again, the humiliation of male rape goes back to the assumption that homosexual desire is abnormal. Therefore, if a man raped me, I must be gay and I must be abnormal, for not only do I have the shame that I was not able to prevent the rape, but I have the shame of having been made into someone’s “bitch”. It is perhaps no coincidence that places where toxic masculinity is common are also places where sexual assaults are common.
Let’s not forget the underlying misogyny in all this. Men have long blamed women for their own attractions to them. It must have been Eve who made me eat that forbidden fruit, for I had no choice in the matter myself. This blame is the reason that women in some Middle Eastern cultures are expected to cover themselves in public, but the blame of women is certainly not exclusive to Islam. The underlying implication of a woman having to cover herself is that, if a man is attracted to her, it must be her fault. Since religion admonishes men to control their lust, woman are expected to take responsibility for not enticing their lust. Then, perhaps, men don’t have to take responsibility and get a free ticket for lust if they can point the finger and blame it on someone else. She tempted me, therefore it is not my fault. I call bullshit. Blaming a woman for a man’s behavior is not a new thing, but it definitely needs to stop being a thing. We are long past due to get over the assumption that anyone who is raped or sexually intruded upon must have done something to entice it. Here is the truth. Every one of us is 100% responsible for the choices we make. If someone is raped, it cannot be the fault of the victim. Here is more truth. If you are having sex with a consensual partner and are moments from climax, if that person says, “stop” and you do not stop, at that moment it ceases to be consensual and becomes rape. For male sexual assault survivors, it doesn’t take a lot to recognize that the erroneous logic behind a blame the victim culture would speculate that if a man is sexually abused as a child or raped as an adult, it must therefore mean that he is gay and that he somehow invited what was done to him. Again, I call bullshit.
It is true that people who were sexually abused often have confusion about their sexual feelings, but that does not mean that the abuse caused their sexual orientation. Confusion over your sexual feelings is not the same thing as your established sexual orientation. Many, continue to submit to the same type of sexual contact that occurred during their abuse because they feel tainted by the abuse and categorized, much the same way that gay people feel categorized when expected to “act straight”, even though the sexual contact does not really feel natural to them. Girls who are sexually abused often consider themselves as “used goods”, and therefore unworthy of meaningful, truly loving relationships. Boys who have been sexually abused often go into overkill trying to prove that they are the opposite of gay or assume that the abuse made them gay, so they have to act the part, even if that is not how they really feel. Often, male survivors of sexual abuse become body builders, engage in martial arts or other “manly” pursuits because they think it will protect them from being sexually assaulted again. Often, they engage in repeated conquests of women in an effort to prove they are not gay. For many, male or female, promiscuity gives them a false sense of control, the illusion that they are able to call the shots— “use them and lose them”—but this is often at the cost of not being able to establish meaningful long-term relationships. Some do the complete opposite and sink into asexuality where they want no physical contact and abstain from all romantic involvements. Also, adult survivors of sexual abuse are much more likely to have sexual intrusion because having had abuse causes them to have a sort of boundary blindness where they don’t recognize intrusion readily, or don’t feel safe setting boundaries. It is even possible for a person not to realize that they have been raped until after the fact. Although there are some common responses that people have to sexual trauma, reactions may also be as varied as personalities.
Many heterosexuals like to assume that gay people are more likely to perpetrate sexual abuse than heterosexuals, another myth based on fear and ignorance. Some gay people do perpetrate sexual abuse, but most sexual abuse is perpetrated by people who identify as heterosexual. There are also myths about sexual perpetrators themselves, and many people get dumped into the same bucket with sexual offenders when they deserve better than to be there while others who should be there never even get charged. An example would be a twenty-year-old girl, who began dating a boy who told her he was eighteen when he was actually only fourteen. He told her that his reason for not driving was that he had wrecked his car and was saving the money to get another one. He lied to her and she believed him, never thinking to question his story or ask for identification. Why would she? Many teens look like mature adults, and some adults, especially young adults don’t think about age verification. That doesn’t make them sexual offenders, much less pedophiles, maybe careless, possibly ignorant, but not a sexual offender, and certainly not deserving of being placed on a sexual offenders list for the rest of their lives. Most of the time, why would a college aged kid investigate a potential dating partner or a hook up? When the parents of the boy who lied to this older girl found out about her and that she was having sex with him, they pressed charges and she ended up being placed on a sexual offender’s list. Compare that to the twenty-eight-year-old woman who began having sex with a twelve-year-old boy, knowing his age, seducing him and sexually taunting him. When his parents found out and tried to stop it, she continued to seek contact with, and continued to sexually solicit the boy, but was never charged with sexual assault. It depends on the state, whether parents seek legal action, if they can afford it, and how long ago it took place. Some states still have laws stating that the age of consent is fourteen, but are far more likely to go after prosecuting males than females even when the fourteen-year-old reports consent. The world has a long way to go toward understanding the issue, much less standardizing laws to prevent things like “child brides”, trafficking, or justification for other abuses of children. The whole issue of what is, and is not considered sexual abuse depends on culture, country or state, and is a continually evolving process of definition. My own grandmother eloped across the county line when she was fourteen and lied about her age to marry my grandfather who was twenty-four. That was in 1923, and things were very different then, especially in rural America. When she came home and told her father that she had gotten married and asked him what he thought, he said, “You have made your bed, now you are going to lie in it.”
There are some perpetrators of sexual abuse who simply do not have good awareness of boundaries, perhaps because of early violations of their own boundaries. Some people fail to maintain appropriate sexual boundaries is due to being mentally and emotionally challenged, and sometimes a child perpetrates on another child. For this, let me say that we don’t do a tenth of the sexual education that we need to do, especially where boundaries, self-control and self-protection, are concerned, and we expect teens to be abstinent at a time when hormone levels are kicking arousal to the highest peaks of their lives. When pre-teens and teens are not taught about sex, about boundaries, about safe options for sexual outlets or are shamed about masturbating, it increases, rather than decreases the chances that they will make the wrong choices. Also, these days, kids who are too young to understand can easily find potentially damaging material on the internet including misinformation and access to all types of pornography. Many adults who endorse having sexual addictions report exposure to pornography prior to or during the development of puberty, and that they began using sexual arousal as entertainment. Often kids who have been abused or had access to pornography too early in their development play that out with other kids around them. Sometimes, they do it because of simple curiosity, but other kids, especially younger kids, can be damaged by it.
For adults, we know that someone is more likely to perpetrate sexual abuse when they have been drinking too much and might never have acted on such impulses had they not been drinking. People forget, or don’t know, that the first thing alcohol anesthetizes in the brain is discernment and common sense. If that were not true, there would be no drunk drivers. Sometimes, people perpetrate because of their own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy with those their own age. They think a child is more likely to be accepting of them than another adult. Perhaps they don’t start with the intent to perpetrate, but let things go too far. Then there are the pedophiles, sociopaths who don't care about the consequences of their behavior, who act out their sexual urges with whoever is available, including children, and don’t care if they have to force it. They may prey on children specifically because of the fact that they are easier to control. They don’t care what effect the abuse has on a child and have no compunction about acting on sexual impulses toward children, sometimes even killing children. There are multiple factors that can lead to the sexual abuse of a child, and not all of those are because of overt intent or grooming of a child for molestation. Some people have proposed that those who have been sexually abused as a child causes them become sexual perpetrators. However, thankfully, this is not true. The majority of those who experience sexual abuse never perpetrate it, even though they may fear that they might or fear that they could be accused of it. Nonetheless, the majority of people who perpetrate sexual abuse have been sexually abused themselves. What might cause some victims of sexual abuse to become perpetrators while most who have been abused do not become perpetrators would be a very long and complicated discussion.
Still, the experience of having been molested or sexually assaulted causes a great upheaval in the mind of the person who is victim to it. I have said, for many years, that it is not the sexual contact, itself, that causes the most damage during sexual abuse, it is the mind fuck that takes place, especially in the mind of a child who does not have the maturity to process or understand what is going on. If some heterosexuals think that one fleeting gay thought means that they could be gay, what do you think something like sexual abuse does to the mind of a child who does not have the cognitive maturity to understand it or process it? Depending on the developmental stage of a child at the time that sexual abuse takes place, there could be any number of effects from the abuse. It also depends on whether the abuse was gentle and eroticized, violent, cruel, by male or female, and in what religion or culture it occurred, but does abuse determine sexual orientation? No, it determines sexual confusion.
For some, therapy helps them to let go of their anguish over the fact that the abuse may have been eroticized and arousing, and that becoming sexually aroused by someone of the same sex does not mean that their sexual orientation was determined by that. My friend in Nashville who said he thought he might be gay, had been a survivor of sexual abuse and was in therapy for it. I recall another young man who was having guilt over the fact that he went back to his perpetrator when he as a teen, lived with him and that he had experienced orgasms from the homosexual contact. He went back because he was poor and had been kicked out of the house by his parents. He went back because the home of his perpetrator was a resource for survival. He submitted himself to sexual exploitation as a price for his survival. He felt shame that he had enjoyed the homosexual contact, even though he had never engaged in sex with men since getting out of that situation. His wife was trying to tell him that it didn’t matter, that it was in the past and that she loved him anyway. Yet, he couldn’t get over the fact that he had achieved orgasms with another male, even though the vast majority of his attractions were heterosexual. I asked him if he were to begin rubbing his crotch against a nearby stuffed chair if he thought he would get an erection from that. He said, “probably”. Then, I asked him if he thought he could have an orgasm if he continued to rub against that chair. He speculated that if he were to do it just right, he would probably climax. Then, I asked him, “So, do you think that make you a chairosexual?” He laughed, and my point was made. Even if the abuse was eroticized with the same sex and you enjoyed it, it does not make you homosexual. Sexual orientation is something far different from simple sexual arousal. It is a state of being, not just physical attraction. Back in the 1970’s, I was able to have intercourse with women and reach climax. However, the energy was never the same, the attraction was never the same and it never felt as comfortable as being with a man. Even though I tried very hard to be a heterosexual, as I was expected to be, that simply wasn’t who I was. Still, some people are completely comfortable sexually with both men and women.
Some people seem to think that sexual orientation is like picking out your favorite cupcake at the bakery. However, it doesn’t work that way. Attractions may work that way, but sexual orientation does not. As society has progressed, however, some people have become willing to experiment with sexual arousal. When I lived in Nashville, I once had a heterosexual man ask to sleep with me because he wanted to see what it was like to have sex with a man. I was single. So, I consented, we went to bed, he became aroused and about ten or fifteen minutes into foreplay he said, “You know? I don’t think this is my cup of tea.” There was no problem on my side because I had previously reached self-acceptance and had developed the awareness that sex is not nearly as big a deal as most people make it out to be. I enjoyed the fifteen minutes I had with him and had no expectations of it. He wanted to try it. I let him try it, and he decided that he wasn’t really attracted to men. Had we continued; he probably could have achieved climax, but I realized that he was probably feeling much the same way I felt when I went to bed with a woman. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get aroused or complete a sexual act, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Now, let’s consider that for some people sexual orientation is fluid. It is not that they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual which would imply that their attractions would be around 50/50 between men and women, it is that they are just sexual. I once talked to a man who had been married for thirty-five years and had adored and cared for his wife, been faithful to his wife and had lovingly cared for her during the two years of her terminal cancer before she passed. He told me that he had sexual attractions to both men and women. I asked, “So, do you consider yourself to be bisexual?” He said, “I just like sex.” It did not matter to him whether he had sex with a male or a female. To him, it was just sex. It was not love or a commitment, just sex. He had love and commitment with his wife. So, despite the fact that he also had sexual attractions to men as well as to women, he remained faithful to his wife right up to the end, never acting on his attractions to either men or women. When you love someone and you have made a commitment, you honor the contract of your relationship unless the other person is not honoring their part, and honoring a commitment in a relationship also has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Being faithful to a relationship is simply one of the things that love does.
Sigmund Freud theorized that everyone is essentially sexually fluid and that there is a sexual element to every close relationship even though we would never think about having sexual contact with friends or family. Freud saw sex as an underlying bond that holds society together to form families and communities. Still, having attractions does not mean that we have to act on them or want to act on them. If everyone were to act on all their sexual attractions, the world would be a bigger mess than it already is, and would be way beyond needing something like #MeToo. The truth is that we all have to have control of our impulses regarding who we are attracted to regardless of our sexual orientation. There are plenty of reasons for not acting on most of our sexual attractions. I often wonder, however, what would happen if there were no rules about who you could sleep with, so long as it was with a consensual adult, no categories or qualifications or worries about what people might think about your sexual choice at the time, just freedom to choose and freedom to follow the feelings you are having at the time so long as it is an agreement between two people who have the cognitive capacity and maturity to consent. There might be times when it feels right to be with the opposite sex and times that it might feel right to be with the same sex. Some people would only be with the opposite sex, some only with the same sex, but I wonder how many would occasionally switch out if the rules were relaxed.
Most of us do not act on most of our sexual attractions for a variety of reasons. Growing up gay in fundamentalist rural America, I couldn’t even admit my attractions, much less act on them. I learned, over time, to simply enjoy the attraction itself. I don’t have to act on an attraction just to appreciate being attracted. I can enjoy being in the presence of a man, and enjoy my time with him without him knowing that I ever felt attracted to him, and if he were to know, that would be fine as long as he is comfortable with it and understands that attractions do not mean actions. The wonderful thing about eye candy is that there are no consequences. It causes no harm, and if I happen to get a hug from someone who is eye candy, but sexually off limits, that is an extra special treat, and it need not go any further than that. Personally, if I were to act on every attraction, I would never get anything else done, and there are obviously other things that deserve my attention. If Freud is right, society may be bonded together by sexual attractions, but we get things done by channeling our attractions into creativity and other venues or by ignoring them so we can get our work done. Having grown up constantly being around men to whom I was attracted and never being able to even mention it, much less act on it, I have very little sympathy for those who use excuses, say they couldn’t control themselves, or blame others for their sexual intrusions, and I think we have been way past due for the #MeToo Movement. I understand what it feels like to be desperately lonely, and, as a young man, I can’t say that I have never been sexually intrusive, but I also understand that everyone has a right to their personal space and boundaries. Everyone’s body belongs to them exclusively. We each have the right to choose who touches us, when, how and for how long. God gave your body and your life to you and it belongs exclusively to you. No one has the right to intrude on your life, and you have the right to set boundaries if they do. It doesn’t matter whether the intrusion is due to an innocent misunderstanding or overt transgression. You don't have to allow intrusions to continue if you don't want them. Regardless of our attractions, we all have a responsibility to each other, and especially to those who would be harmed by acting on those attractions, but let’s not condemn people for mistakes they made thirty or forty years ago. People change and mature. What they thought and did when they were immature has no real relevance now unless they continue with the same behavior.
When we do engage sexually, there is something that is very important to understand. We may learn a language during the formative years of our lives, but 70% of all communication is nonverbal. Sexual attraction is a condition of the brain, sexual arousal is a physiological response in the body, but sex is also a form of communication just like language. We have a need to socialize and communicate through language just like we have a need for sex. We can communicate love and compassion, indifference, boredom, joy, intimacy, intensity or anger and hostility through the spoken word or through body language, but also communicate those same things through sex. After all, what does a rapist communicate through sex? It is most assuredly not love and compassion. It, therefore, becomes very important that we guard what we are communicating sexually and what we are allowing to be communicated to us, especially if the sexual contact is with a stranger during a hook up.
Though many people think of intimacy as a sexual encounter, and it is true that we cannot be physically closer to another human being than when engaging in sex, mental, spiritual and emotional closeness is another thing entirely. Intimacy is actually not sex. Intimacy is a bond of trust developed over time. The greater the bond of trust, the more comfortable the sexual encounter is going to become and the more likely it is that love and compassion, a type of soul communion, is what is going to take place instead of just getting off. Orgasms are nice, but if the orgasm is the only reason we are engaging in sex, we may be doing it wrong. If sex is truly an intimate communion with one another, then it can be a wonderful experience without an orgasm. An erection is also not required for intimate physical communion. Most of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, have a tendency to get rushed and not take our sexual encounters as sensually and as slowly as perhaps we should. Many of us aim directly for that orgasm like a horse out of a starting gate, and forget to enjoy the journey to it. Couples get so used to work, school, events, paying bills, etc. that they stop taking time to simply get in bed and sensually commune with one another. If the bond of intimacy is not there, then sex, even with your life partner, may not feel safe and becomes something to avoid or just get it over. If we are too rushed and focused on the requirements of making a living and maintaining a household, sex can become a quickie in passing now and then. Nonetheless, if the intimacy is there, even a quickie is still communion. However, sex is not what the relationship is all about. A relationship is like cake. Sex is like icing. A relationship can be good by itself even if it doesn’t have any icing, and most of our relationships don’t. We may have many relationships that are just cake, and they are good just as they are. People rarely add the icing to anything other than a relationship with their committed life partner which also needs to be the best cake. If the cake is good, when you are old and there is no more icing, your relationship can still be delicious. Some people try to have the icing all by itself, a one-night stand, or friends with benefits, but after a while the icing alone just does not satisfy like having the whole cake. Still, if all you want is the icing, go right ahead, but you might give some thought to how you could also guard your physical and emotional health if you do.
Now that we understand that sex and sexuality is an extremely complicated subject, that sexual orientation or where it came from is irrelevant, and we understand that even though sex is no big deal, it can also be something sacred or something destructive, let’s all get past worrying about why we are attracted to whoever we may be attracted to. So, live and let live. Be happy with yourself, whoever you are, whatever you feel. As long as you are not malicious, or ignoring the consequences of the choices you are making, it does not matter. Be yourself. Love yourself as you are. Respect and honor yourself and honor those around you. Respect the boundaries of those around you and especially respect the boundaries of those who don’t really understand them or who cannot set them for themselves. Also, respect and honor your sexual orientation and your attractions as well as the orientations and attractions of others. It doesn't matter who you are attracted to or why. When seen with perspective, we become aware that all our attractions are a gift. They are there for us to enjoy. So, we need to honor our attractions, honor who we are and love ourselves for who we are. So long as what you do is not intruding, harmful or malicious, is not coming from a point of manipulating or coercing another person, is not taking advantage of having authority or power, or taking advantage of someone who has neither the cognitive awareness, or maturity to give responsible consent, and you are not continuing to victimize yourself by being with someone who has those agendas, then it should not matter what you do or whether that person is male, female or identifies as other.
Let me close with this. Where the church and my fundamentalist upbringing are concerned, there is so much that I cherish about my Christian history, and I respected many people from that fundamentalist church where I grew up. One of them was my grandmother, who truly did embody genuine Christianity. Over the years, I have learned to put into perspective the Bible passages that once brought me anguish. Reinterpreted, many of those passages now bring comfort and solace, and the recognition that genuine love neither condemns nor discriminates. I appreciate my Christian upbringing and it is not uncommon for me to quote the Bible. Yet, it is very important to keep an objectivity about the Bible. For if one is going to cherry pick, then one ought to pick only the good fruit and leave the rest. There is so much more in the Bible that can be used for the cause of love than could ever be used for the cause of judgment or hate. Since my childhood, I have done a huge amount of soul searching. I’ve studied religious texts from practically every religion, and I have come to the conclusion that God truly is love, and it is impossible for the real God, for real love, to hate or despise any of its creations. Love does not condemn, for in condemning, it ceases to be love and becomes judgment. Judgement and love cannot share the same place in our hearts at the same time. We will serve one or the other, but we cannot serve both, and if someone tells you that they love you while they are condemning you, then they have failed to understand what real love is. The Bible itself encouraged us not to judge, but for far too many years, I judged and condemned myself for being gay. However, now, my spirituality and my sexuality are no longer in conflict, for I have no doubt that God loves me as I am. The same God who made everyone else, and made them who they are, also made me who I am. Therefore, who I am is not a sin. Who I am beneath my sexual orientation is a man with a good and loving heart with a desire to teach the truth about love to others. I don’t always get it right because absolutely nobody gets it all right all the time, but what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the loving God that created everyone created me, and we are all, forever and always, as God created us, equal and deserving in God’s eyes. If I can remember that, and side with love, I think I am going to be okay.
I will leave with a quote by Dolly Parton, “If people want to pass judgment, they’re already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say that somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody.” “If people want to pass judgment, they're already sinning. The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else is committing. I try to love everybody.”