Sex talk
Speaking of Being Friends

Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

Bedfellow.com We can screw, sure, but can we still be friends? It's an age-old question without a simple answer.

In a long-term relationship, it's always great when lovers are also best friends; queer relationships, lacking built-in gender-based hurdles, seem particularly conducive to this. It's in the more casual, date-based or sex-buddy relationships where issues of friendship can complicate things.

Just because Mr. Perfect, with that cute face and perfect body, gives you wood is no guarantee that you're actually going to like him. Nor, perhaps, do you have to, even after you've managed to get into his pants.

"I have a sex buddy I've been seeing for a couple of years now," says one guy. "We're not all that similar – I'm older than him, he's more intellectual – but we're great, just great, in bed. I've wanted us to be friends out of the sack, too, go to movies and museums. He's resisted that, though in a very nice way, and I finally realized that maybe he's the smart one about this. Why risk ruining a perfectly good thing?"

In the straight world, expectations of commitment often stand in the way of it's-just-great-sex arrangements. But the standard het arrangement of dating-then-marriage-then-sex, or its more modern variant, with "bed" before "wed," is only one of many possibilities for gay guys, who frequently get to know one another through sex.

"I remember back in the 1970s," recalls a middle-aged man, "when sex came free and easy, it seemed like most of my best friends started out as tricks. A couple of men I first met way back then as one-night stands are still among my closest friends." Often, it seems, getting the sexual tension out of the way early on clears the way for camaraderie. Not that the course of long-term buddydom always runs smoothly. Sexuality, which affects us on so many levels – some of them highly, subconsciously emotional – can make a fuck-based friendship rocky.

Tom and Alan had known each other for months, almost all their get-togethers ending in sex, when they decided to take a weekend trip to a beachside resort. "From the first moments we got in his truck, there was tension," Alan recalls. "Suddenly, at the smallest imaginary provocation, he went ballistic. It was a totally awful weekend, and months later, I have no idea what all that was about. Since then, I've given up on the idea of us being real friends. But we still have great sex together, and that'll have to be enough."

Problems can also arise between fellows whose friendship has been non-sexual. Unrequited crushes can stress things, and even mutual lust, consummated or not, can add a complicating factor. ("I've always wanted him, though I thought I could settle for less. What'll happen if I put the moves on him? Will I lose my best friend or gain a boyfriend?")

Liking, loving, and lusting after can co-exist; when all three are mutually in play, it's the best of all possible worlds. But there are lots of other possibilities. Even in the best relationships, friendship and sex can ebb and flow; life is a matter of compromises, and the most one can reasonably hope for is They Lived Reasonably Happily Ever After.

But one of the very nice things about being gay is that we get to invent our lives. There can be room for the close confidant who shares the bed every once in a while, the sex-buddy who's also a casual friend, or even the excellent lust-based relationship that ends at the bedroom door. As long as we deal as honestly as possible with ourselves and others, sex and friendship can coexist in any number of delightful, rewarding, sometimes-surprising ways.

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

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