Sex talk
Speaking of Closeness

Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

Sure, we all want to get off. But we want to get close, as well. Sex and intimacy go together as nicely as Vaseline and beating off, or so it would seem. Yet when many gay men get out of a pal's bed, they feel like something's missing.

"Sometimes I have sex that's technically great, but still feel like I haven't connected with the guy at all, except on a totally physical level," says one unattached queer man.

Gay men traditionally are accused of having intimacy issues; anyone who's been exposed to the depersonalized worlds of bar cruising and mega-parties would tend to agree. After all, queer guys not only have to deal with the legacy of internalized homophobia, but with the find-em-fuck-em-forget-em tendencies of the human male.

Having one-off casual sex with someone who started out a total stranger can make the feeling of emotional disconnect even more acute; at least when you're fucking someone on a regular basis, chances are you'll get to know him a bit better. But even in an ongoing relationship, there can be a big gap between where your dick goes and where your heart is.

Vulnerability is scary, so some of us choose to avoid it by running after the next guy and the guy after that. There are abundant strategies to prevent getting hurt. There's the "once is quite enough," no-repeat rule for sex partners. Some men bury themselves in work, others deaden their feelings with drink or drugs, and some sculpt their bodies into gorgeous sex machines. "Hell," says one survivor of the gay dating scene, "some of those gym rats even look armored." One man in his early 40s, who's way cute rather than hunky, muses, "I tend to desire muscle gods, men I assume won't want anything to do with me. I guess when I set myself up for defeat that way, it's a way of keeping myself out of trouble."

Some gay men take refuge in open relationships. Maintaining loving intimacy with their primary partners while stepping out and tomcatting around, they ensure they always have warm arms to come home to. (Their outside partners, though, can get burned unless Mr. Partnered has been upfront with them all along.) Others follow the more traditional monogamy model. And while many unattached guys look for boyfriends they can get close to, others have pretty much given up the search, maintaining close nonsexual friendships while fucking men they have no intention of getting to know.

It may be better to have loved and lost than never to have loved and all, but after a while, lusting and getting hurt can get old. "There's no easy answer to the intimacy quandary," says one counselor. "It's really all about who we are as human beings, and since people are complex, we usually send out mixed messages, even to ourselves."

Still, there are some things we can do, even when our dicks are hard. Being less judgmental about others and ourselves, approaching sex partners as fully rounded individuals rather than objects to get us off – that's advice that may sound cliched, but it's nonetheless apt. Honesty – though not the brutal sort – helps. So does curiosity. One man who sleeps around a lot says, "It's not till we've both come and I lie around talking with a new sex buddy that I feel like I'm really getting to know him. I just love that part: finding out who he is. That way, even if I figure I'll never see him again, I feel close to him. At least for a little while."

So give it a whirl; it's safe to say that getting intimate with someone can be more than worth the gamble. Get to know the boy who's boning you: Open up when you open wide.

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion

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