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Do You Believe Her Boyfriend Is Gay?

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Do You Believe Her Boyfriend Is Gay?

Boyfriend is gay, bisexual or just horny?

Dear Duana,

I’m quite the Love Science fan, so I (reluctantly) get it that a lot of guys watch some porn without fatally wounding their relationships.

But what if a supposedly straight guy watches gay porn?  I discovered that my boyfriend has not only browsed a ton of gay porn on the Internet, he’s also searched on many gay sex topics, focusing mostly on men and anal intercourse.    

This disturbs me greatly, because now I know that I don’t know whether my boyfriend is gay, straight or bi.  I’m fine being his friend regardless, but I am not fine with being lied to about it, and I don’t want to be romantically attached to a gay/bi man without even knowing that’s the deal.   

I asked two acquaintances their opinions, and they gave opposite answers.  The straight woman says he’s definitely gay; the gay guy friend says (and I quote), “All men are horny freaks,” so my boyfriend is just a sexually curious straight guy.   

What do you say?

Janine

 

Dear Janine,

Your boyfriend’s secret gay-porn habit has you wondering: What’s his orientation?  And what should you do? 

I asked LoveScience readers for their opinion in a survey (see beneath my signature for details and results).  And the vast majority of our respondents of *every* orientation think your boyfriend is bisexual.  As one straight man said, “….Once he engages in homosexual behavior then he would be classified as bisexual.  When he engages in sexual relationships with men and no longer with women, then he has become a full-fledged homosexual.” 

 

Yet I’d wager that your boyfriend is gay.  Why? 

 

1. Most non-heterosexually-oriented people self-identify as gay or lesbian not bi—even if they have sex with both genders.

It’s a funny thing about orientation:  When judging others’, we tend to focus on behavior.   But when labeling our *own*, we considerdesires—specifically, whom we are inclined to love as well as lust after.   

So when people are asked to self-id in surveys across the American adult populace, 4% say they’re *attracted* at some level to both genders, and 10% have had same-gender sexual *experience*—yetonly 1% say they’re bi.   The rest place themselves firmly into hetero (about 94%) – or homosexual (2.8% men and 1.4% women) categories.

And in recent research on heterosexually married men who’ve had sex with other men, only 5% say they’re straight.  But 38% identify as bi; and 57% say they’re gay.  Other studies of men and women concur—most people who’ve had sex with their own gender self-label as gay or lesbian or straight, but not bi. 

 

2. Men’s Orientation Tends To Be Either-Or…

…whereas more women can have their cake and, um…

Put another way, studies show there are fewer bi men than bi women, and more men who are very clear on their orientation by their late teens. 

So, many women shift their orientation over time, switch back-and-forth, or find both sexes equally appealing .   Yet terms like “hasbian” and “lesbian until graduation” have no analog among men.  And studies show the more aroused men are by men, the less aroused they are by women

 

3. Men’s Response To Porn Is Telling.

As scientists Simon LeVay and Sharon Valente write, “Most men can figure out their sexual orientation by monitoring their genitalia; few women can do so.” 

Indeed.  In a study where straight and gay men watched steamy videos of women only, men only, or male-female pairs, they knew what turned them on.  Gay men were physically and psychologically aroused only by images of men—straight men, only by images of women.  (Women were physically aroused by Everyone, but only said so about images that fit their stated orientation.) 

And when straight men and women don special eyewear that tracks precisely where they’re looking, straight men primarily gaze at the woman onscreen—whereas straight women watch both genders equally

 

So, Janine, I think your boyfriend watches a lot of gay male porn because it arouses him.  And I think it arouses him because he’s gay.    

 

But what do you *do* with the information?  

 

1. Consider *Why* He Hasn’t Told You Yet. 

a) Maybe he’s not gay.

Just because I think your boyfriend is gay, and most Survey respondents think he’s bi, does not make either true. 

Sexual identity is 100% subjective and self-defined and psychological—only your boyfriend can tell you with certainty, since only he lives inside his head(s) and is The Authority on his opinion of what’s happening there. 

 

b) Then again—even he might not know yet. 

As a gay man wrote me, “…the implication that the guy is lying to his girlfriend about his orientation bothers me.  Chances are he is in some stage of a coming out process.  Thus, he is figuring things out and cannot be presumed to be lying.” 

Excellent point.  The research on coming out shows that you can’t tell someone else you’re gay until you’ve figured that out for yourself.  And because Straights Recruit—usually modeling heterosexual behavior as the only acceptable option—most gay men initially go through a period of identity confusion

 

c) Then again, maybe he fears antigay prejudice.

If so, it’s a rational fear . 

From the 13% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who’ve been spat upon, to the 17% who’ve been physically attacked, to the 19% who’ve experienced property vandalization, to the 44% who’ve been threatened with harm, to the 80% who’ve been sexually harassed—*after* the rampant bullying in middle- and high-school and likely homophobia in their own families—it’s no wonder most tend to be extremely selective in revealing their sexual identity. 

In which case, you need to become someone your boyfriend knows he can Trust.  It may hurt to think you’re not already there…but you can head that way now.    

 

2. Talk To Him!!!

Wise Readers and I may not hold the same opinion of your boyfriend’s orientation, but most of us *do* have the same advice for you: Talk To *Him* rather than to the rest of us. 

Beneath my signature, you’ll see the Wise Reader responses that I think sum up the best advice on how to talk to him with compassion and supportiveness.  I’ll just add this brief script to help you along:

 

“I need to bring up something that’s been troubling me, and maybe you, too.  I found a lot of gay male porn in the online history.  I am wondering if you’re questioning your orientation, or if you might already know you’re gay or bi.  I am *not* going to condemn you for who you are, and I won’t tell anyone else your orientation.  But I need to know so we can both think more about our relationship.” 

 

 3. Decide What Kind Of Relationship To Pursue

Dating is the time to go for the relationship you want—not to compromise on Core areas of compatibility.  And the 2-4% of American women who are or have been in ‘mixed orientation’ marriages often feel shattered upon disclosure. 

Yet 1/3 of these marriages survive disclosure; there are many reasons people stay together, and it’s for you to determine what feels right for you.    

Whatever the answers, whatever the outcome:  I join many Wise Readers in hoping you remain friends, and wishing you both well and happy, in whatever relationship is ultimately best for each of you. 

 

Cheers,

Duana

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 The author wishes to acknowledge the following scientists and sources: 

Edward O. Laumann and others of the NHSLS (National Health & Social Life Survey), for data on mixed-orientation couples and sexual orientation percentages

William D. Mosher and others of the NSFG (National Survey Of Family Growth), for data regarding individuals’ sexual orientation versus their sexual attraction/behavior

Jim Malcolm, for research on heterosexually married men who have sex with men

Lisa Diamond, for research on women’s sexual fluidity in orientation

Richard Lippa and Sara Arad, for research on men’s either-or-ness of orientation

Simon LeVay and Sharon M. Valente, for their apt summation from their textbook that, “Most men can figure out their sexual orientation by monitoring their genitalia; few women can do so.” 

Meredith Chivers and others, for research showing gender differences in sexual arousal to sexually explicit images

Amy Lykins and others, for research showing that men and women look at erotic images of men and women for differing amounts of time

Vivienne Cass, for her foundational 6-stage model of sexual identity development, including identity confusion

Janet Shibley Hyde and John D. Delamater, for an eye-opening review of anti-gay prejudice

Amity Buxton, founder of the Straight Spouse Network, for data showing 1/3 of mixed-orientation couples stay married even after disclosure.  (PS: The Network is a great place for those who are on ‘the other side of the closet’.)

All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. and LoveScience Media, 2010, 2014.

 

Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, coming in January, 2015. She also contributes at Psychology Today and teaches psychology at Austin-area universities. Get a free chapter of Love Factually!

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