Feel his guns?

Have straight guys finally transcended their queer fear, or is their flirtation just another version of homophobia?

By Greg Nott

Published August 3, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

My boss told me to feel his guns.

This was out of nowhere, apropos of nothing. I swear, I did not know where to put my hands.

I know where I wanted to put them. This is a handsome, well-built man (not a Calvin Klein's Eternity model type, but a down-to-earth, attractive, masculine individual for whom I would enjoy suffering rug burns). But we were in the middle of our workplace and we were not alone. Another male co-worker received the same invitation. The co-worker is straight, my boss is straight, and I -- not to put too fine a point on it -- fall somewhere between a horny little queer and a dirty old man. Also, my boss is married: happily, faithfully. I don't think he would play around with a sexy, vibrant, delightfully female co-worker even if the opportunity arose. I also don't think he has even one toe in the closet. Nevertheless:

"Feel my guns," he insisted.

My short hairs tingled, my knees turned heavy as lead and it was all I could do not to drop on the spot. I wanted my hands on his thighs and on the high round temples of his ass and on those swing-low-sweet testicles of his.

I'll feel your guns, all right.

Back in reality, he wanted us to feel how solid his arms were ("Oh, OK, mmm, yeah, wow, geez!"), and I'm sure it had something to do with what we'd been talking about, but my synapses got so overheated I couldn't remember.

It was a powerhouse moment, but it did not happen in a vacuum. A few days later, he came over to me and, in front of several people, flicked my left nipple for about 15 seconds. I believe my face went through all seven colors of the rainbow.

"I'm not trying to be frisky," he said. "I'm just letting you know that your name tag is missing."

I may never wear it again.

Then there was the time he invited me into his office while he was changing shirts. There are also the inevitable dirty jokes, the references to his balls being hung out to dry or getting fucked by his boss without lube or pissing matches between him and another department manager.

He would never behave this way with a female employee. In fact, none of the straight men joke around with the women, or touch without absolute consent and obviously pure intentions.

But they play around with us fags.

Every year we add new young men to the mix: boys, really, 20-year-olds from the Philippines, from Colombia, from Alabama and from Nebraska. (For some reason, women tend to gravitate toward other shifts in this department.) A lot of these guys started with some serious homophobia around me. I've had more than one lecture about how I'm going to hell, about how disgusting gay men are in general. ("Nothin' against you, man, y'unnerstand, but the fags in this city are fucking sick, ya know?") Six months later, they're play-humping each other in front of God and everybody, and egging me on to feel their asses ("Go ahead, it's still virgin, prime meat, Dude, you know you want it, g'wan, stick it in, I'm juicy!").

Trying to keep up can be so exhausting.

I would love to believe that this is part of an educational process, a few steps down some garden path toward wisdom and compassion, but I'm not so sure.

It all reminds me of a pissing/cruising scene I saw in the Washington Square tearoom in New York City.

This toilet was so filthy and so full of activity, it took my breath away on both counts. These guys did not have a shy bone in their, um, bodies. Tougher than shit, too. The muscular arms and thick necks I saw looked more like the product of prison than Gold's Gym. It's possible that these guys got their outfits from the Gangsta department at Macy's, but to me they looked very real and very dangerous and very attractive. I was apparently too white-bread, middle-class and middle-aged to attract any interest (much to my disappointment), but I had to stay and take in the vibe, at least.

Then five or six guys surged in, all loud and sweaty and in uniforms, obviously members of some soccer team. Far from being surprised at what they saw, these guys seemed to take pride in being the coolest of customers. They stood far from the urinals, as if to prove that they had no reason to hide and nothing to fear. They didn't pretend to be blind either; indeed, they checked out the whole situation and everyone in it quite clearly.

Wow, score another one for the revolution! I thought.

Hardcore jocks unfazed by in-your-face queer behavior? We can all kiss and go home, be friends.

And men won't have to pick up guns anymore to prove how heterosexual they are. They won't have to kill people, and then take their own lives, to kill some softness inside.

If this nation wants to have a serious dialogue about male violence, it must address internalized homophobia. I'm not saying every murderer is a closet case, but ignoring fear of the queer would make any discussion dishonest and useless.

Was that toilet the scene of male enlightened attitudes? Once again, after more thought, I'm not convinced. Those soccer guys may have strolled out of that park and made fag jokes for the next two hours. And that guy at work who wants me to feel his ass every other night, well, I wonder what he does with his buddies at 3 in the morning.

But even if they mean no harm, does a cool attitude and some playful flirting change anything?

I'm afraid that the male dynamic at work here might be the studly stance of being sexually ready for anything. Of not having an emotional response to any situation.

Eric, my ex-lover, told me about this straight guy, Johnny, who was an adorable, outrageous flirt. After a year and a half of hot lube jokes and nipple pinching, Eric decided to take it to the next level: He invited Johnny over for a few beers.

Johnny got drunk. They started fooling around. Now Eric's apartment was not quite a dungeon, but he made his own four-poster bed and there were chains and handcuffs in all the appropriate places. Johnny got more drunk, and laughingly agreed to be put into the restraints.

Eric never touched him that night.

He waited till the next morning. He greeted Johnny with a strong hot cup of coffee and a straw, because Johnny was still in the restraints. And here was the moment Eric got to deliver his well-practiced speech.

"OK, punk, I'm gonna fuck the shit outta you and I'm gonna do it while you're sober so you can't pretend that nothing happened. You been leading me on for more than a year, lying to yourself that it was all just in fun. Just teasing. You didn't mean it. Bullshit. You meant it. And now you're gonna get it. The lies stop here. Any questions?"

Whatever happened to Johnny? The story ended there, and perhaps for the best. Eric would never tell me what happened.

This may sound over the top, but I worry: What are we doing to ourselves, men? And what is it going to take to heal?

Greg Nott

Greg Nott is a writer living in San Francisco.


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