Masculinity is something that can be both beautiful and deeply toxic to who we are as men. For me as a polyamorous man it's been extremely important to figure out where my fragile masculinity is getting in the way of my (good) polyamory. In this series I'm exploring some of the myths about masculinity with which I've struggled while practicing polyamory.
"If you're not straight, you're gay."
This is perhaps my favorite myth because of how prevailing it was when I was growing up and how ridiculous it is to me now. Most men are familiar with the idea that two women kissing is seen as "super hot." On the other side of the gender binary, men doing the same is gross, unthinkable, and "gay" in the pejorative sense
I once participated in a Reddit thread where a man with a long-term girlfriend of over 10 years was scared to death to tell her that he wanted to cum inside her and then clean it up. I asked him why he thought it was so hard to tell her what he wanted. He responded, "I'm terrified she'll think I'm gay."
"Why would she think you were gay?” I asked.
He said that he carried so much shame around with him everywhere he went about who he was and what his kinks were.
"You can do this Man, no one who is worth your time would walk away from a 10-year relationship because their partner told them about their kink. Worst case scenario, she's not comfortable with it, but at least you feel like you're living true to yourself and have expressed your desires."
"I just can't do it," he said. It made me so sad.
I imagine that this man, like so many of us (of all orientations), was probably bullied with the insult of “gay” as a young person.
“You must be gay.”
Good at math?
Everything that wasn't football and fighting was “pretty gay, bro,” and for many young cis-men who weren’t playing football or fighting, there was shame.
Informed society can now agree that there’s a spectrum and that “straight” is not covering it. Since beginning my practice of polyamory I've explored sex with people of many gender expressions. There is undeniable beauty in the connections between all people, and I often think back on some incredibly powerful and touching moments in my life holding another man in my arms and feeling so close to someone else's masculinity in a non-toxic way. There is always a little fear because our heteronormative society still reigns supreme, but it's less and less every day. Sometimes the people we are attracted to surprise us. That should be something that our culture ensures is free of shame and yet often it does the opposite. Everyone is allowed to say no if they're not interested in doing some particular sex thing; it's really shitty, though, to shame someone for who they are or what they desire.
About 17 years into my relationship with my wife, we decided to transition from monogamy to polyamory. We knew that if we were going to go into polyamory with confidence in who we were as a couple, we needed to know everything about each other and not have secrets. As part of that process, we had a conversation where we put all of our cards on the table. A lot of things I had been keeping in were around my interest in men, the (gay) porn I preferred, and my fantasies.
I knew deep-down that she would never shame me for my sexual interests, but sharing all of that with her was so freeing. She didn't leave. She didn't shame me. She didn't do any of the things that the man on Reddit was afraid of. And if she had, I'm not sure that our relationship would have been long for this world anyway.