Go to Craigslist for the San Francisco Bay Area. Click “casual encounters,” then “m4m” and the first page of results will return a handful of ads seeking out straight men.
One ad reads, “any straight str8 guy needs head?” Another offers, “Cocksucker Hosting for Straight Guys - Stop By, Get Sucked Off, Go” — but specifies, “You need to be basically straight (wife, girlfriend, date girls, not gay).” A more creative ad entices, “MARRIED? STR8? NEED TO BE GROOMED BUT AFRAID TO DO IT YOURSELF?”
It is officially easier to find men seeking sexual encounters with straight men than reproduction Eames chairs on Craigslist (just speaking from highly specific personal experience here). Not that I was expecting anything different, because this week a new study found that one in 10 “m4m” ads seek men who do not identify as gay.
Only 24 percent of ads seeking out this particular category of men were posted by non-gay identified men. As the study’s press release put it, “This suggests that many of the posts are placed by gay men seeking [non-gay identified] men, perceived by some gay men to be more masculine, dominant, or ‘straight-acting.’”
Why might gay men seek this out? It’s a sensitive topic, given the too-common homophobic male assumption that gay men are attracted to and will hit on anyone with a penis. Therapist Joe Kort, author of the upcoming book, “Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi?: A Guide for Women Concerned about Their Men,” suggests that gay men seek out straight or “straight-acting” men “because of internalized homophobia. He explains, “They seek out the privileged male, which is usually the straight man, and gives them the illusion that they are accepted by the type of male who usually rejects us.”
As Kort has written in the past, "A typical — and popular — porn scenario features a hot, straight military officer, policeman, boss, coach, teacher or other authority figure who forces himself onto a subservient gay man. And both wind up enjoying it! This fantasy lets gay men feel 'accepted' by a straight man (at least in fantasy) and offers them a way to feel good — even validated — about being dominated."
But what about the non-gay identified men who respond to these ads? Are they closeted, on the “down low,” bisexual? Kort says it’s none of the above.
“Many people become confused about this because they think these men are gay or at least bi because they are hooking up with other men,” he says. “But these men are not attracted to the men, they are attracted to the quick and easy sex that doesn’t involved social skills or getting to know one another.” Kort adds, “For many of these guys, they say it is opportunity for sexual release and they can engage in more kinky and fetish-type sexual acts that they cannot readily find amongst women.” Those who are partnered with a woman often feel that it doesn’t count as cheating “since it is with another man and not a woman,” he says.
A 2005 CDC report looked specifically at non-gay identified African-American and Latino men who have sex with men. As one respondent said, “A man having sex with a woman is more emotionally based. There is more conversation and romance. You at least try to pick up on her and flirt and romance. It is more of a relationship when it comes to sex.” A man having sex with man, however, is purely for sexual gratification, he explained. “Everything happens so fast. There is not much talking. Most of the time you don’t even know their name. There are no feelings involved. They only give you the gratification that a woman can’t.”
Another respondent echoed that sentiment: “I also feel that a man can sexually gratify me in a way a woman never can. If a woman could — I wouldn’t have sex with a man. So having sex with a man is strictly for pleasure.”
However, that pleasure is often restricted to the role of sexual aggressor. Studies have found that among non-gay identified men who have sex with men, it is more common to receive oral sex and perform anal sex. As this latest study put it, “This preference for insertive behaviors may not only contribute to the perception that these men are more masculine and dominant but may also serve to preserve their own self-image as masculine and heterosexual.”
The CDC report found that these men felt that “the word ‘gay’ represented a lifestyle or identity that was more than the physical act of having sex with another man.” As one man put it, “Gay is flamboyant, someone who doesn’t mind letting people know he has sex with men and that’s his attraction.” Another respondent explained, “People are gay when there is emotional attachment to the other person. A man who is gay dreams of falling in love with another man and spending the rest of his life with him.” The study put it this way: “The gay stereotype of effeminate men and the ways that they view themselves were not compatible,” and “the internal struggle over society’s definition of gay and their own identity caused confusion and uncertainty.”
As for non-gay identified men who specifically seek out sex with other non-gay identified men, Kort says, “They're trying to avoid any romantic and emotional connection,” he says. “If they find another non-gay man, the commitment never deepens.”
As juicy as this research is, it's mainly motivated by health concerns. This latest study found that ads seeking non-gay identified men were less likely to mention condoms. As for why that is, the researchers aren’t sure. But the study’s co-author, Martin Downing, told me in an email, “We believe that some NGI-seeking men may avoid the topic of condom use in their ads in an effort to attract non-gay-identified male partners without raising concerns about HIV/STD infection.”
This all goes to show that a better understanding of human sexuality — and its myriad manifestations — isn’t just salacious fodder; it’s a public health concern.
But, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with salacious fodder.