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New York Mag recently ran a feature, “Why Straight Men Have Sex With Each Other” that spoke on the many reasons some straight men have sex with one another – highlighting the grey areas of male sexuality. From having no other options in prison or the military to simply saying if one was really secure in their masculinity (whatever that means) it’s not “gay” to have another man please you, the reasons were plentiful.

Sexuality is a touchy subject in America where homosexual couples have just been given the right to marry; it’s also a touchy subject in my home. When I was about eight years old my mother walked in on her husband (my father) having sex with another man. I was upstairs sleep, unaware that our house had just broken. My mother gave my father a chance, let this go and let’s move one. But my father said he was okay with how things were. He wanted to stay married and have a little something on the side. A few months and a divorce later, my father somewhat accepted his sexuality and now dates men over women.

“When straight women hook up with other straight women, no real explanation is required; when straight men hook up with other straight men, it’s a different story,” wrote the NY Mag author. And she is certainly correct, most men and women alike laugh off two straight women being intimate as explorations in sexuality, but when a man does so —- “nah, he’s gay” is what my sort of hood, male best friend would say.

Is there a grey area we are missing when it comes to men and their sexuality? Jane Ward, an associate professor of women’s studies at the University of California and author of Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, thinks so.

“Given how prevalent this behavior is in so many different sorts of settings, (biker gangs, fraternities, suburban areas) Ward suggest it’s time to stop explaining it away — and argues that society’s conception of male heterosexuality is an unrealistic, expedient one.”

It is a very well known statistic that African American women contract HIV more often from men on the down low, so this has been a particularly sensitive subject in our community for years. But, maybe it’s time we break down the doors (I don’t think all men are in closets, sometimes we ignore the signs). As women, we have to decide what we’re willing to stick around for. Straight men who have sexual activity with other straight men need to feel comfortable sharing their sexual desires in any relationship.

I have experienced this firsthand. When living with an ex-boyfriend, I stumbled upon (it popped up, I kept clicking) transexual porn he had been watching. This was during the time popular radio DJ Mister Cee was arguing claims he’d been seen with a transexual and everyone had a say on what this meant for his sexuality. As for my ex and I, this was a person I thought I was going to marry and not some fling. So I sat there after my discovery stunned and fearful.

Was this something he was into? I mean, it was a lot of transexual porn. But, I tried to go – “It’s just porn.” That is until my probing led me to the “Meet Local Trannies” site he had signed up for. Welp, that did it. Now, I definitely needed to have a conversation. Did this mean he was gay? How do I ask?

I took a few days to calm down, cry, and realize we needed to take a break regardless. About a week later, we laid in bed and, though I can’t remember the exact words that fell out of my mouth, it went something like:

Me: “Are you into transexuals?”

Him: Blank… “What??”

Me: “I saw a lot of trans porn on your computer. It worried me some, just wanted to know what you were into.”

After loads of defensiveness and cursing me out for going through his stuff, he told me he’s been watching that type of porn for years and enjoys watching two females get it on without having to use a dildo. I will be honest and say it was a bit much to wrap my head around. But okay, maybe bae is into some sort of stuff that I can’t quite understand.

My gay male friends told me there was a reason he was looking at transexuals instead of straight up guy-on-guy porn and I probably had nothing to worry about. My hyper-masculine straight guy friends said it wasn’t normal and they wouldn’t be caught dead.

Enter the grey area.

And, what about the meet local transexuals site? If he were single – great, do your thing! But, that wasn’t the case here. He proceeded to tell me he just wanted to see if “there were really people out there like that.” But his profile said he wanted to watch and join in.

We took a break, I came back but there was always that something in the back of my head I didn’t quite understand. Maybe I didn’t need to understand it all? Maybe I needed to provide an open and safe space without judgement that allowed him to be honest and then decide if it was something I was okay with.

But I wasn’t alone in our situation and neither was my ex.

Ward says there are many men who seek sexual encounters with other straight men (or transexuals) and that it actually reinforces their heterosexuality.

“I am so straight that I can do this without it actually having any consequence whatsoever for my daily sexual orientation, which is straight,” Ward said of most men’s thinking.

And all we have to do is head over to Craigslist.com, which is what Ward did in her book, to find evidence of this. It’s not always sex that is desired, sometimes it’s just a “friend” to masturbate with while watching straight porn. While Ward focused on White men in her book, she said much study has also been done in African American communities as well but these men are often tagged as on “the down low” too quickly.

As for the ex-boyfriend and I, the thought that he was on the DL did indeed cross my mind and the issue, overall, took a small toll on our relationship, but we ended things for other reasons. During our time together, I asked him to stop watching transexual porn and he agreed; yet I secretly often questioned his behaviors. He seemed to be very secretive, arguing that he was just “a private person” and that certainly didn’t help things.

Women often want to feel as if our men are the most masculine around and a question of sexuality can make one unsure of that. While that may not be fair, as masculinity isn’t wholly a heterosexual male trait, only you know what you can handle. But if you find yourself in this situation, all parties need to be extremely open, honest and sensitive to each others’ desires and concerns. I agreed to love my ex despite this roadblock, but in the end it wasn’t meant to be.

Could there be a grey area we need to be more conscious of? Would you be down for a straight guy who has sexual activities with a man from time to time?

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