I'm an attractive gay male in a loving, committed, open relationship with another attractive gay male (going on seven years). By open, I mean we "play" (ugh, hate that term) with others, but only together. The other day, the two of us went out for drinks with a "straight" male co-worker of mine.
After several cocktails, co-worker "Mike" begins asking some seemingly innocent questions about the nature of open relationships, what it means to be gay, etc. Then he drops this bomb: he has a certain male acquaintance that he thinks is "really cute" and wants to sleep with. I've been down this road before many times, and I know where this is leading: He wants to have sex with us, but we (the bona fide fags, as it were) are supposed to make the first move.
Here's the deal: Mike is hot. Both my boyfriend and I really want to sleep with Mike. The problem here is twofold. He has a girlfriend, although the long-term nature of their relationship is dubious. (They live together, but she's moving away permanently in a few months.) Also, I work with this guy. As far as anyone else knows, he's straight. Suppose we do fool around, what then? It seems to me it might be weird having to pretend nothing happened on a day-to-day basis, or listen to him talking about "hot chicks."
I've had similar situations with several other male friends, including another co-worker. I passed up on those opportunities for ethical reasons, and I must say, I really regret it. I know, it's just sex, it's petty to get hung up over something that is so easy to come by, at least when you're young, cute and gay, but these are the sort of things I actually lose sleep over.
The Ethical Slut
Dear Ethical Slut,
I'm not sure "regret" is the appropriate word here. It sounds more like continuing desire that's keeping you up at night. It's an important distinction. You can't regret something that didn't happen. OK, you regret your decision not to act. But I think what you're really feeling now isn't regret, but unrequited desire. And I think if the situation were to arise again, you would have to make the same decision, because desire is not the only guide to action. If it were, you wouldn't be able to keep the agreement you and your boyfriend have. You'd be screwing everything. So you make choices; you don't act purely on desire. Desire lingers, and it taunts us and pains us and keeps us up at night, and God only knows why it should hurt so much, but it does.
The thing is, your decision not to act on it was a good and wise one, and I think you need to honor and respect it, while still feeling the pangs of this unrequited desire. It's unrequited by necessity.
Suppose you had slept with your supposedly straight co-worker, and he, being a novice, talked about it inappropriately, or became strangely attached to you, or became bitter and felt scorned and tried to destroy you. Now that would be something to regret.
All I can say is that you made the right decision at the time. Sure, it's frustrating to look but not touch, but I think you intuitively understand the ethical and moral boundaries; you recognize how fragile people are in the realm of their sexuality, and it's admirable that you recognize that. It's probably only because you recognize those boundaries and are sensitive to people's feelings and frailties that you've been able to have a happy and honest relationship with your boyfriend for as long as you have.
So I would continue to trust your instincts when they signal caution, and continue to think these things through. You're obviously gifted and fortunate. Don't get greedy.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Want more advice? Read yesterday's column.