Q&A from “Is Her Straight Boyfriend Gay?”  
Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11:51AM
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. in Dating, Divorce, Friendship, Male Female Differences, Marriage, Parenting, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, pornography

Wise Readers,  

Our column about porn and sexual orientation raised myriad questions:  What if straight women get turned on by porn of women?  Why aren’t more people bi?   Is there a ‘sniff test’ to tell if a guy is gay?  And why do gay men marry straight women, anyway?   

 Read on! 

Cheers, Duana



 —So If I’m A Straight Woman, And I Get Turned On Looking At Other Women, Is That Normal?

              From Just Me: 

I am a straight woman (husband and kids), but I find pictures of beautiful women to be seductive and arousing to me. If sometimes my husband needs a boost, we can look together inside the Playboy magazine and it gets us both in the mood. I am glad this makes me normal because the women in the article look at everyone.

            Duana’s responds:

Hi, Just Me, I don’t think I’ve heard you here before.  Welcome!

Yes, it’s normal for women of all orientations to get physically aroused from looking at gorgeous naked women.  And at gorgeous naked men.   And at women being gorgeous together.  And at men being gorgeous together.  And at men and women being gorgeous together.  And, well, you get the gist. 

(In fact, I think that’s one reason so many Survey respondents thought Janine’s boyfriend is bi.  If 2/3 of the respondents are women, and women are easily turned on by looking at Everyone…then why wouldn’t men, they might reason?)

To wit, here’s what one lesbian woman wrote on the Survey:  “Talk to him and see if he could open up.  Just because it does something for him doesn’t mean he’s gay.  I am 98% lesbian and the idea or images of straight sex often turn me on, and so can gay male porn for that matter.”



—Why Aren’t More People Bi?


            From Curious But Not Bi:

Hi, I haven’t written before but want to now. It seems weird to me that so many people have had sex with someone their same gender, but they don’t say they’re bi. Did I read that right? If I did, then why aren’t more people bi? 

            Duana’s response:

Yours may be the best question of the lot, Curious. 

Indeed, some theorists think bisexuality—not heterosexuality—is the default state of most mammal species.  It is boringly common for males of many species to mount one another, for instance; whales have been observed rubbing their penises together (a text I own shows a rather impressive photo of that); and bonobos—after chimps, our closest genetic relatives—regularly have foreplay and intercourse and, apparently, orgasms, with both genders. 

And not only do about 10% of adolescents have one or more same-gender sexual experiences, but researchers since Alfred Kinsey in the 1940’s have found that 10% of adults do, too. 

Yet various studies have people self-labeling as bi only 1% to 3% of the time. 

So what gives?


My first guess is Stigma

A letter I received last week from a bi woman sums up the complexity of this stigma: 

“I’ve quit telling people I’m bi, because nobody has been supportive, no matter their orientation.  People want you to fit a nice little category.  Some don’t even believe bisexuality exists, as if I’m making it up and haven’t admitted I’m a lesbian.  So I live straight and tell people that’s what I am.” 

And here’s another letter I received, also from a bi woman who no longer tells folks she’s bi because of the reaction she’s gotten (she now lives as if she is straight):

“Not all folks are All Gay or Nothing. The degree of sexual attraction is not one or the other for some of us. In my case, I have been attracted to both and I did not fall in love with my husband BECAUSE he has a penis; I fell in love with him AND he has a penis….just an added bennie. In other words, it is HIM and not his anatomy that I love.”


My second guess is that most people lean very far in one direction—with few smack-dab in the Absolutely Bi middle

One of the famed Alfred Kinsey’s most important contributions was the idea that sexuality exists along a continuum.  And indeed, his data showed that sexual expression is not nearly as either-or as people had formerly assumed. 

But.  He also found most people skew towards one gender or the other.  So, even among those with some bi experience, folks tend to have the majority of their experience with one gender only. 

This leaves much room for people to label themselves as straight or gay, and to see their exceptional behavior as…exceptions from their real orientation. 


Love Is The Answer

Finally, for many of us, every fiber of our emotional being is tied up with only one gender.  And as we’ve seen from the article and from one of our commenters here, who writes that “I am sexually attracted to both men and women, but only bond with men. That’s why I consider myself heterosexual”—Whom We *Love* is a huge part of orientation. 

Many are just very clear that we’re only are drawn to love and lust with one gender or the other, and bi-ness truly hasn’t occurred as an option. 

Thanks again for a splendid question. 



—Is There A ‘Sniff Test’ To Tell If Someone’s Gay? 

            From Bobert:

In one of your previous articles you wrote that smell has a big impact on attraction. I really don’t know much about bisexuals, but do they like the smell of both genders? Do straight women who appreciate other women sexually, but only love men prefer the smell of one gender over another? As for Janine, could a smell test help her realize what’s up with her boyfriend?

            Duana’s response:

Brilliant question!  You’re referring to the Q&A from “When Love Stinks” (full Q&A is here).

Unfortunately, it’s looking like your ignorance of bisexuals is widely shared in the scientific community…I am having a tough time finding much on much about bi’s, and I found nothing on scent. 

As for your other query, Yes, Janine could probably use a smell test to tell whether her boyfriend is gay.  Here’s a quick re-print of the relevant part of the Love Stinks post:

“Yolanda Martins and Charles Wysocki did olfaction research with over 80 straight-or-gay participants who smelled armpit sweat of gay and straight strangers (No, they didn’t stroll up and sniff armpits; participants didn’t even know what they were being tested on. They just sniffed pads that had been worn in strangers’ armpits, and then rated how much they liked the smell.). Results?
a) Gay men loved the armpit smells of other gay men more than any other smell;
b) Everyone else put the smell of gay male armpit sweat dead last;
c) Gay men were neutral about straight women’s armpit scents, but actively disliked the sweat smells emanating from samples from lesbians and straight men;
d) Lesbians had the same profile of scent preference as straight men and women did—liking the smell of heterosexuals (male and female) the best.

“Which brings us to yet another question: *Why*? Answers are speculations at this point, so here are the hypotheses:

“First, it appears from many different studies that many women have a more malleable sexual orientation than men do—in other words, a man tends to be either entirely gay or entirely straight in orientation, whereas some women have an element of choice in the matter.

“Second, the odor of a man is determined in part by his testosterone profile—and sexual orientation may flow from that. It behooves women to sniff out those who are Frankly Not Interested In Us, Dahling! And perhaps it’s a boon to men who are gay to sniff out other men who are gay—after centuries of persecution and risks of hatred that can still be appallingly high.”

Thanks for your insight, Bobert.  Come again!



—What About Resources For The Straight Mate?

            From Candi:

I know the boyfriend may be feeling confusion and needs a supportive person to help him with the transition/realization about his sexual orientation, but I bet the girlfriend is feeling devastated and might not be the best person to help him. He hasn’t done anything wrong, perhaps he hasn’t cheated and maybe he is trying to avoid hurting her, but his revelation will probably still hurt. Telling his girlfriend he prefers men over women is probably still going to feel like a rejection to her, even if it isn’t meant personally.

The advice for her to be supportive is ideal. I would congratulate any woman who could be that for her “boyfriend”. But my bet is that she needs help with all this, too. She’s gonna need someone to help her with this new information and I imagine it’s going to be difficult for her to be the cheerleader for him that he needs and wants. Professional counselling might be a good idea for both of them.

           Duana’s response:

Candi, you’re absolutely on-target that the recipient of the “I’m gay” news is often devastated.  The vast majority of mixed-orientation relationships are entered into unwittingly—sometimes by both parties.   And when one partner comes out—or is discovered to be having same-gender affairs—the heterosexual partner suffers a revision of his or her entire history.  They lose not only trust in their mate—but in themselves, in their own ability to judge even the most basic aspects of a partner, and yes, in their appeal as a person sometimes.   The revelation, though it’s little to do with the straight person at all, shakes the very foundation of that individual’s confidence, self-esteem—and valued love relationship. 

So I agree with you that help beyond what’s offered in this column is often needed.  And while counselors can be a good resource, I’d like to direct readers to this one as well: the Straight Spouse Network, founded by Amity Buxton.  Whether people who visit the site choose to interact, or merely to read and feel solidarity with many who stand on ‘the other side of the closet’, it can help. 

The mission statement of the Straight Spouse Network is as follows:

“Who we are:

“Current and former Straight Spouses/Partners of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people, Mixed Orientation Couples and our Families and Friends.

“What we do

“Serve straight spouses, mixed orientation couples, families and community by:

Here’s the web address:  http://www.straightspouse.org/home.php.  I hope anyone reading this who needs or has needed this resource will give this Network repeated visits. 


—What Causes Sexual Orientation?  Is It Subjective…Or Genetic?

             From Gillian:

Great article, and what a surprise!

Given these facts, I would have said that Janine’s boyfriend is bi (my first choice). Or possibly straight, though extremely sexually curious (my second choice). But not gay.

Regarding gayness, here’s the particular section of the article, which I didn’t understand:

“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.”

I’m trying to reconcile this statement with the notion that sexual identity/orientation is genetically determined. In other words, there is a gay gene. It’s either active, or … it’s not.

The boyfriend may be fighting his identity by pretending to be straight (for all of the valid reasons, which you give), but what role do the boyfriend’s genes play in this picture? Is sexual identity “100% subjective” … or is it genetic?


           Duana’s response:

Gillian, hi!  Great question.  If sexual orientation comes down to what we think we are—then what role do genes play? 

These are actually separate questions, because sexual orientation and the origins of sexual orientation are two distinct things. 

Sexual orientation comprises our *feelings*—whom we love and lust.  You can be 100% lesbian and spend your entire life living and behaving straight, all the while knowing yourself  to be inclined towards women; you can be male and in prison and have tons of same-gender sex and return to heterosexuality immediately after imprisonment—and say you were always 100% straight.  And you’d be right.  You are what you say you are.  It’s Subjective.

But that doesn’t tell us where our orientation *comes from*.  Like almost everything else—including whether you’re male or female—sexual orientation comes from a combination of nature and nurture. 

Let’s back up for a minute and consider something that is thought almost purely genetic: Type 1 diabetes.  Although there are genes for it, it appears that something in the environment (a virus, it’s now thought) must turn the genes on—the genes alone can do nothing.  This is why, for instance, there are twins where both carry the T1 genes, yet only one has diabetes. 

Or consider calluses.  Just because you have genes for those, doesn’t mean you have them.  You have to encounter friction on your hands or feet or fingers to develop calluses—the gene and the environment interact. 

Taking this to the matter at hand, there is no one known cause of any particular sexual orientation.  Many lines of research, including genetic research on other species, brain imaging research in our own, and twin concordance rates, to name a few, show that genes are indeed important influences. 

The environment is important, too—just not the environmental influences most people guess at.  Most people think that gayness is caused, for instance, by being reared by gay parents, being ‘recruited’ by someone gay, being molested as a child, or being inappropriately parented by straights.  ALL of these ideas have been thoroughly shattered by science. 

Yet there is *one* environment that does seem extremely important: The pre-birth environment.  The hormones that are released or not released during fetal development, and the antibodies the mother may or may not carry against subsequent male fetuses, seem to be the most vital environments yet found for influencing sexual orientation.  It’s nothing the parents or the child have any choice about—but it is environmental. 

And ultimately, it’s still a mystery. 



—Do Straight People Cause Mixed-Orientation Marriage?  (Why Do Gay Men Marry Straight Women, Anyway?)

         From Joan: 

If I were Janine, I would have a flood of mixed emotions. I’m sure her boyfriend’s emotions are flooding, too.

I have witnessed first-hand the situation of a gay man marrying a straight woman to conform to his parents’ expectation and to avoid anti-gay prejudice. This occurred during the Vietnam War; the guy was young - just finishing college. He married his college sweetheart (a woman) to please his uber-conservative family and to give her a widow’s pension … if he didn’t come back.

He survived the war and came home, but the marriage failed a couple years later when the wife discovered he had a boyfriend. They spent a year in anguish trying to make their marriage work, but the wife ultimately divorced him. I suspect that (perhaps like Janine’s boyfriend), this man didn’t fully realize he was gay until he was already involved with a woman, and didn’t intend to mislead or deceive her.

I guess my point is that that people do go through this, and may not automatically know their orientation in the younger years. I suspect that genetics do play a role, as Gillian suggests, but it’s not as simple as taking a blood test to determine your type ….

I agree that Janine should talk to her boyfriend, but then what? Are there any support groups that could help Janine and her boyfriend deal with what must be a flood of emotions?

            Duana responds:

Dear Joan, the sad story you relate, and your thoughts about it, are on-target.  I’ve already written about the Straight Spouse Network when answering Candi (below), so I’d like to focus here on your insight regarding Why Gay Men Marry Straight Women.

In a nutshell, it appears this occurs for two main reasons:

1. Because Straights Recruit:

Being raised with the presumption that everyone is straight –which is how almost everyone in the world is raised— means that if one is not, as it happens, straight, that could take a while for oneself to figure out. 

The data on gay men indicate that most of them have their first inkling of attraction to another male around age 8, and that they wait until age 18 or 19 before disclosing their orientation to anyone else. 

And many wait until…well, until never. 

2. Because Antigay Prejudice Sucks:

Turns out, many studies concur that the more taboo and stigma and antigay prejudice there is regarding gayness, the more men stay in the closet or live “on the down-low” (the African American term for being publicly straight and heterosexually married while pursuing gay relationships on the side). 

Yeah, yeah, we all know there are hate crimes against gay men.  We know middle- and high-school would be possibly the worst times to even think of coming out.  And most people even know intuitively that there are more hate crimes against gay men than against people of any other orientation. 

But the sheer enormity of the amount of antigay prejudice I read about when researching this article floored me.  To be spat upon, vandalized, threatened, beaten, harassed…even be paid less (yes, it’s been experimentally proven!) because one is gay is, in this writer’s view, heinous.  And in the view of the law, it’s increasingly punishable. 

Ironically, then, it’s most likely a gay man from a really conservative culture will wind up heterosexually married—eventually shattering many lives including, quite possibly, his own—than a gay man from a more open culture. 

Telling people they can’t be gay, in other words, does not eliminate gayness.  It just increases mixed-orientation marriages and the trauma of discovery. 



—Why Is It So Hard To Just Tell The Truth, Already?!

             From Just Me:

PS: Why is cutting Jan’s boyfriend all this slack? He is lying to her. He is hidden his porn habit. He needs to come clean on his porn habit. Say the truth to her that he likes men. At least say the truth that he is confused….He needs to man up to the same standard we all have to. Give honesty in the relationship. If he loves Jan he should talk to her. He might not know he’s gay, but he knows he’s confused. He is oblige to talk with HER, but Janine is having to discover and bring up the talk. Poor Janine.

Hiding important information from your partner is kind. Not in my book.

            From Monica: 

I don’t think “hiding your porn” is necessarily lying. Especially in a situation such as this, it seems like the kind thing to do.

Most of us have, at one time or another, been in a perfectly lovely and appropriate relationship that (nevertheless) wasn’t “who we are”. It can take a lot of time and introspection to eventually figure that out. Were we LYING to our significant other? No way. Were we lying to ourselves? Sure, maybe…but likely not. It takes time to figure out your true self, and I think Janine is fortunate to be in this position while dating instead of having this predicament after potentially getting married.

….Now, if it turns out that he knows that he is gay/bi/confused in a concrete way, then I do lose all sympathy for him. Then I’d say it’s totally NOT fair to Janine because this puts the whole thing more in the perspective of sneaking around. THAT I would NOT abide. My entire commentary is predicated upon the notion that he is in the early stages of “confused”.


                Duana’s response:

 Dear Just Me and Monica,

Ironically, your letters remind me very much of one I wrote in preparation for this column. 


A gay friend objected to Janine’s and my presentation of Boyfriend’s behavior as dishonest, because Boyfriend might be confused; and I wrote back, “Well, then he needs to be honest that he is confused.  But then again, I’ve always had the luxury of knowing I was straight, and the world is made for me and my orientation—so maybe I need to give this some more thought.”


In that spirit, here’s an exercise I did, that you might or might not want to try:

Imagine that you are a member of a group where rampant discrimination and hatred against you is the *norm* rather than the exception. 

Now imagine that you can easily convince others that you aren’t a member of that group.  You can “pass” so well, you can even “pass” to yourself most of the time. 

Would you?

For many, many gay men—especially African Americans and Latinos, whose cultures are empirically *much* less open towards gays than European-ancestry cultures are—the answer is YES. 

Given all the antigay prejudice, it’s not surprising that science shows that most men, if and when they do come out, are very selective about revealing their gay status only to highly trusted friends.  The response these friends offer can color the man’s perception (of himself, of his identity, of the world) for many, many years—so they need to carefully plan to tell those who will be the very most supportive, and it’s important that they don’t guess wrong.  And gay men may then wait many years more, or even a lifetime, to tell family. 

And to risk telling others when they are in the identity confusion stage—well, that can just seem foolhardy.  Again, putting oneself in the boyfriend’s shoes, if he tells Janine he is confused, and she tells others—he’s risked his reputation and risked much hatred for an uncertainty. 

No wonder many would prefer to wait until they’re really, really SURE before they come out even (especially?) to their most cherished Others. 

This is not to say I lack compassion for Janine; far from it.  I would doubtless be heartbroken and angry if I were in her place, even if I did understand the boyfriend’s motives.  I think it’s awful that there is such tremendous pressure on her guy for him to live straight that she’s unwittingly with a gay man (so I presume)—I think it’s horrid that she has to be the one to bring this up—and I think it’s rending that she may be parted from a man she might have wanted to make a life with. 

But she is still dating, and has every chance, we hope, to find someone wholly suited to her.  She will not face huge stigma for so doing.  The world is made for her, and I am glad for her that it is. 

Too bad her boyfriend can’t say the same for his scenario. 



—Do Both People In The Relationship Need To Agree On Orientation?

            From Curtis:

I found the distinction between behavior and desire to be very interesting. That was new information for me. Thank you for assembling it. It does bring up an interesting quandary. Is it possible that to the girlfriend, he is bi, while at the same time he self-identifies as gay? Is it possible/healthy for the relationship to succeed if they identify his orientation differently?

Anyway, fabulous work, as always!

            Duana’s response:

Curtis, most welcome, and thanks for a great question.  It is possible that Janine could think her bf is bi and he could already self-id as gay.  And it definitely happens that there are mixed-orientation relationships where the two people define one person’s sexual orientation differently—hence the 1.7mm to 3.4mm American women who are or have been married to gay men in the USA

My best guess is that a healthy relationship can succeed sometimes even if couples have different ideas of one person’s orientation.  I’m basing this guess on Amity Buxton’s research showing that 1/3 of marriages survive a disclosure of mixed orientation; some of the interviews I’ve come across of the straight spouse who stayed in the marriage indicate that they’re still happy with their husband and their marriage, even if they know their mate is gay and has boyfriends on the side.  And sometimes, the gay spouse is happier that way, too. 


Here’s a quote from a gay man who has remained married with his straight wife for 36 years—and has been out to her for 34 of those years (found in the text Human Sexuality In A World Of Diversity, 8th Ed., p. 311, Rathus et al.; reprinted from a NYT article by Kay Butler, “Many Couples Must Negotiate Terms of ‘Brokeback’ Marriages”):  “What is intimacy?  I am totally committed on all levels to [my wife].  I felt so intimate with her when I was caring for her during her cancer treatments—to me, that’s a stronger expression of love than whether I’m having anonymous sex with a man.”  This couple have a now-adult son, share every aspect of their lives (including sex sometimes)—and acknowledge to one another, though not to their child, that they each have affairs because of the father’s gay orientation. 


I will also add, based on the 2/3 failure rate of these marriages, that they usually don’t work, and the normative outcome is tremendous pain for everyone. 



—Why Did The Survey Takers Think This Guy Was Bi?!?

            From Diverticuli:

As always, you increase the public knowledge every time you post a new article … so thank you for doing such once again. What I found most compelling about the article, and I had to do the math in my head since I was too lazy to get up and get a pencil, so let me know if my math is wrong … I broke down the percentages into n’s and it seems that 4 of the straight survey takers believe that after looking at gay porn, homeboy, I mean “Straight Boyfriend”, stills resides in Camp Breeder. I would be curious to know the demographics of said respondents. In fact, I would wager all were men, and please feel free to just tell me I am 100% wrong, and to a lesser degree I am confident that these men are a bit on the older side of an age/gender frequency chart. And if you had a geographical question on your survey, they would all live on a pretty river in Egypt.

Here’s the part where I piss-off all the survey takers. I have found many inspiring comments throughout your collection of articles, and consider your population of commenters, and I guess by affiliation, readers, to be well educated, with very little prejudice, and overall quite a “thinking” lot. BUT, when 75% choose to press the Staples’ Easy Button and just mail in a safe response of “bi” so they will be at worst half right, it just puts my proverbial knickers in a bunch. Assuming I am correct about your population, you have an excellent opportunity to do some quality research once you force the buggers to make a decision. Said my piece, I’m old, going to bed.

         From Candi:

Diverticuli……I am a woman and I am straight and I live in Nebraska. I don’t live by a river but the creek near my house is quite picturesque if you can live with the mosquitos. I voted that the boyfriend was bisexual. I did this not because it was a safe answer but because the evidence seemed to suggest that he was attracted to both women and men. Afterall, he did choose to have a girlfriend. From what I could tell she didn’t kidnap him and force him into the relationship. Who knows, though? The article doesn’t clarify whether that was the case or not. Duana, did she kidnap him or did he choose to date her? I’m not at all “pissed off”, you’ve given me great fodder for my naturally sarcastic sense of humor.

Diverticuli is plural for “a blind tube leading from a cavity or passage”————The medical definition is not as pleasant sounding.


           Duana’s response:

Dear Diverticuli, what a diverting name you have, lol.  Thanks for a new (albeit curmudgeonly) voice.  I hope you’ll write again. 

Here’s where I agree with you: Love Science readers are an intelligent, thoughtful, unusually articulate lot.  I’m constantly being told by acquaintances that the Love Science comments sections are among the few civilized discourses left in cyberspace, and that the comments often outstrip the articles.   The culture here is exactly what I was hoping for:  learned, curious, open, and kind.  Not necessarily in that order. 

But.  I have to go with Candi re: Why Readers Thought The Boyfriend Was Bi.  As the 80 respondents (whom I thank!) know, there was space to explain their answer regarding their own orientation as well as to explain their guess about the boyfriend’s sexual identity.  Almost every respondent wrote a *lot* about why they picked the boyfriend’s particular orientation—it was hardly a simple choice for them.  For instance, here are just a few of the responses:

—Bi woman: “Impossible question.  Could be any (orientation).  However, my guess is that he is not actively bi and is currently confused.”


—Lesbian woman: “I was with men only for my entire life b/c I was terrified of coming out to my friends and family.  I finally came out [many years later, after the birth of children]….this guy is definitely in the closet, b/c a straight guy, no matter how much of a freak he is, does not want to see two men together sexually.” 


—Straight woman: “The fact that he’s not just astisfying a passing curiosity (he goes to these sites often) means that he’s feeding his sexual appetite in some way.  Perhaps he hasn’t acted out his desires yet, but I think there’s a good chance that he wants to and may do so in the future.”


—Straight man: “At this point we would say he is heterosexual as he has not actually been caught engaging in homosexual behaviour.  He could be referred to as “bi-curious”.  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.” 


—Straight woman: “because straight men are usually so keen on ensuring their straightness, any diversion from that incurs a cost that would seem to be only worth risking if he were somewhat interested in the idea.” 

What respondents wrote was revealing in at least two other ways:

First, some mistook the phrase about the boyfriend watching “gay porn and anal sex” to mean he was watching some gay porn and some straight anal sex.  I didn’t make it clear enough that it was *all* gay porn—with a particular interest in gay anal sex.  That might have cleared things up a bunch.

Second, most people in and out of this Survey think others’ *behavior* is how to tell others’ orientation.  Which seems fair enough, given that with other people, their behavior is all we have to go by.  And since this guy is involved with a woman and showing some interest in men, too, readers inferred that he is bi. 

(That all seems logical enough, until we consider that our *own* orientation has a lot more to do with what happens between our ears than between our legs.   To see this, all we have to do is consider how we would feel if forced to live and have sex with the gender to whom we aren’t attracted and/or inclined to fall in love.  Would having sex with a woman make me forget that I genuinely love and want to be with a man?  I feel sure the answer is NO.)

Finally—there weren’t many stereotypical conclusions I could draw from this Survey.  Not all the straight readers who guessed ‘straight’ were male.  And the most fearful comments came from women (ex: “dump him or you’ll get AIDS”)—despite antigay prejudice showing up mostly among men towards gay men in daily life/research.


—I Think My Ex-Husband Is Gay

             From Anonymous: 

After reading this, I am almost certain my first husband was gay. I remember just having a funny feeling about it. Also, one of his friends told me later he was surprised when “Dave” (not his real name) got married because he always figured Dave was “of the persuasion” (gay.) My evidence? It’s thin. Aside from his effiminate nature, I one day discovered porno magazines under the bathroom cabinet. NOT Playboy and stuff I had never seen before. I was too nauseated to look at it, but it was weirdo stuff to me - like orgies - men and women, alone, together, in strange couplings, etc. On top of that, I found a set of photos of Dave and his former girlfriend in which they seemed to be playing dress-up. Dave had his finger nails painted! There were other problems in the marriage. I divorced him, and he never remarried. His Baptist mama would come unhinged if she thought her son was gay. To this day, the family blames me for hurting their son so badly that he could never get over the divorce to remarry. thanks you for letting me say my peace.

              Duana’s response:

Dear Anonymous,

You are welcome. I’m sorry you (and Dave) got hurt like that. It’s a great irony that prejudice—especially within the family of origin— is what creates the impetus for men to hide, sometimes even from themselves, in heterosexual marriages.

Perhaps the people who want everyone to behave as if they’re straight don’t really get it that this means a lot of gay men will be married to straight women— women such as their daughters. Maybe they think gay people can choose their orientation—even though in every class where I’ve collected data, not one straight student has said yes, they could want sex with a member of their own gender if being straight were suddenly deemed Wrong. Whatever the rationale, research is clear that trying to change our orientation Does Not Work, and we Do Not Choose whom we’re drawn to love.

At any rate, I hope you have found happiness now. My best to you.


—Isn’t A Vow A Vow?  (Can’t People Be Faithful Even In Mixed-Orientation Relationships?)

And What About Asexuality? 

            From Anonymous2:

I do have a interesting scenario or viewpoint. What does it matter? One has taken an oath, a vow, a promise, a whatever to stay loyal to a partnership with one other person. Now of course love has much to do with it but what about the cohabitation and the reliable living arrangements and the secure lifestyle awarded to oneself being in a partnership that may be working? Is sex such a barrier or be all end all for the success of a marriage? What if the situation is totally safe with no cheating or no lies or no violence. What if its a curiousity? All men and women attracted to other men and women but does that mean that infidelity is going to happen? I know this is a strange argument but if the guy is homosexual, does that mean he’s going to sleep with a man and be an adulterer? Isn’t the urge for straight men to find another fem just as strong? Yes, I know that the female presence has no bearing on the homosexual male but there is that vow, that promise made to a good friend that he does love. What if the spouse, male or female, has no sexual attraction to anyone? That’s another story…

           From Gabi:

I might be willing to stay married in anonymous2’s scenario. However, I believe that sex is a core human need, and that some form of an open relationship would have to be in effect.

           Duana’s response:

Dear Anonymous2,

The affair rate among straight spouses is between 13-50% of all marriages over a lifetime, depending on how the question is asked and how the term ‘affair’ is defined. So you’re right that straight men (and women) do, of course, sometimes have affairs even though they have presumably married someone they are in love and lust with.

The distinction between that and a mixed-orientation couple, though, is striking. In the mixed-orientation situation, the gay partner is often neither in love nor in lust with their spouse. Yes, they love them—they just may never have been in love with them. We can predict a much-higher-than-normal affair rate when the sexual/love bonding never even happened to start with.

So while some of these spouses probably do just Do Without for their entire lives, I agree with Gabi in thinking that doing without love and lust on a permanent basis is asking quite a bit, and in saying that not only would I not stand for it…but I doubt many others would, either.

I base that statement not only on research, but on the historical record. Throughout the world for much of recorded history, the very wealthy have been placed in marriages which were arranged for the sole purpose of maintaining powerful alliances (well, that and creating heirs who would forward said alliances). These marriages were entered regardless of the individuals’ preferences, including their sexual orientation. And here’s what usually happened:

The guys fooled around. If they were straight, they fooled around with women. If gay, they fooled around with men. King James I (of the King James Bible fame) was so noted for sodomy and male favorites that it’s quite well-known he had one young man he referred to as “my bride”, for instance.

The women, meantime, remained faithful on pain of death. What they did with their ladies-in-waiting or in the harems, however, can only be guessed at :).

Thank you for an interesting question or two!


PS: If the spouse is asexual—having no sexual attraction to anyone, as is true of 1% of the population—then my guess is that the more sexual spouse is either going to look elsewhere for that kind of fulfillment…or the asexual spouse is going to pony up some sex. Marriage has many benefits, as you rightly noted…but sexuality is considered absolutely Core among them to many, and the responses to a lack of a sex-life in the marriage tend to include quite a lot of getting sex Elsewhere.

I admit myself ignorant of the field of asexuality, though, and look forward to any insights anybody here more well-versed at present can offer!


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All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D. and Love Science Media, 2010

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