He was the last person I expected to make my hotline bling after the dozens of photos he was tagged in on Facebook the previous weekend.

“You should probably enjoy your honeymoon,” I replied with a kiss-blowing emoji. “Soak up this special moment, and maybe we can connect soon.”

I closed the text message and reflexively tapped the Facebook icon for distraction. In the few seconds it took my newsfeed to load, I contemplated having just casually agreed to have sex with a married man.

More specifically, with a man I knew was married, freshly married, because I had just seen pictures of him and his groom. He and his husband. He and his husband’s parents.

Before I could resolve the ethics of my text conversation, a picture appeared on my newsfeed announcing that another of my regular hookups was now married. I was suddenly woozy from how wrong I had been in thinking the legalization of same-sex marriage wouldn’t have any impact on the daily life of a gay bachelor with no interest in getting married.

Hooking up with a married man has always been nonnegotiable for me, with the caveat that screening for marital status is traditionally lax. However, being a “married man” had always meant to me that there was a wife involved, which guaranteed that there were secrets, deception and emotional damage attached to such a liaison, and so it was not something in which I wanted to participate.

I don’t automatically assign such sinister absolutes—secrets, deception, emotional damage—to a married man who has a husband, and I realize that’s a self-serving courtesy. It’s harder to feel guilty about violating someone’s marriage, hurting their unsuspecting partner, when you excuse yourself from knowing the rules that govern their marriage.

I know the rules that govern straight husbands, and how most of them violate those rules by sleeping with someone other than their wives. I know that, out of a mixture of kindness and laziness, society now assumes those same rules, the rules that straight men violate all the time, ought to apply to gay husbands, and many of us gaily accept those rules to govern our love, to make our marriages real.

But there are some gay couples who believe their relationship is real, their love worthy of commitment and protection, and they exchange vows without the expectation of sexual exclusivity. If you should ever have the chance to spend the night with this type of couple, together, some of my favorite—

Sorry, different column. For now, most gay men seem to accept the rule that lifelong love requires sexual fidelity, and if they enter into marriage, they expect monogamy from their partn– from their husbands. Which forces me to deliberate what, if any, obligation I have to a spouse that I don’t know, someone so naive that I, with all of my deliberation, am the least of their worries.

It’s all something new to keep it in mind while wading through the post-Obergefell dating pool. Legalized same-sex marriage wasn’t supposed to make my carefree love life eligible for a “Jerry Springer” episode or “World Star” video.

3 Responses

  1. Nicky

    A concept conspicuously absent from the author’s article is consent.

    In the article, the author implies that both himself and the man who he is pursuing sex with consent to having sex (or at least the potential of having sex in the future). Nothing in the article leads the reader to believe that coercion or any type of force are part of the equation between the author and his potential sexual partner – as well they shouldn’t be. The author and another adult capable of consenting to sexual activity have agreed to potential future sex. Great! No problems there.

    Now, mind you, part of consenting to sexual activity is deliberating (as rigorously or as briefly as one wishes) the potential implications for one’s sexual health. Whether you chose to have a thorough conversation with your potential sexual partners or limit the discussion to “DDF?” is up to you. (In the interest of staying on the topic of consent, I won’t discuss the importance of communicating about risk with potential sexual partners.) The key here is that each party to the sexual activity is given the opportunity to make choices about what risk they are and are not willing to take with their own body. In the article, both the author and his potential sex partner have been given that opportunity – as well they should be. Good for them.

    However, it’s not clear that this same opportunity has been extended to the man recently married to the author’s potential sex partner. If the recently married couple have mutually agreed to an open relationship, then there is no problem (so long as the author’s potential sex partner follows whatever boundaries he and his new groom have negotiated). If, however, the couple has agreed to sexual monogamy, then the husband of the author’s potential sex partner is being denied his right to consent – by both his new husband and by the author.

    If the author pursues this sexual encounter without first clearing up the unknown status of his potential sexual partner’s husband’s consent or lack thereof, then he may be denying the right to consent to another person. If the author is as sexually “evolved” as he implies (more on that later), then surely he would make efforts to steer clear of committing such a reckless and egregious offense – and I’m not talking about using condoms, PreP, or obtaining regular STI testing – condoms sometimes break, PreP does not offer 100% protection against HIV, and STI tests sometimes return false negatives. Rather, I’m talking about making an effort to ensure that gratifying your own sexual needs does not result in harm to another person. From what I can tell, the author has not made sufficient efforts to ensure this is the case.

    In the event that consent has been denied to the husband of the author’s potential sexual partner, it might be easy for some to assign full blame to the author’s potential sexual partner – after all, he would be the one pursuing a sexual encounter outside of his marriage without his husband’s consent. I contend, however, that the author himself would also be culpable as a party to the offense because he knew the denial of consent was a possibility and did nothing (at least nothing that was mentioned in the article) to prevent that possibility from becoming a reality. It’s kind of like watching a preventable injustice occur and doing nothing about it – your silence enables the injustice to happen. In this scenario, the author has not only failed to take action to prevent the denial of consent, his actions – if he chooses to pursue the abovementioned sexual encounter without first clearing up the issue of consent – make the denial of consent itself possible.

    And no, I will not be drawing comparisons between the author’s and/or his potential sexual partner’s actions and rape/sexual assault. Rape and sexual assault are much more serious offenses than the potential offense described in this article. But, they all do have one thing in common – they involve denying consent. While it would not be fair to liken this potential offense to rape or sexual assault (and I’m making no attempt to do so), the potential denial of consent in this scenario does fit under the heading of “sexual aggression,” as explained below.

    Regardless of whether or not the consent is denied in this scenario, the author has already taken an aggressive posture and engaged in the sexually-aggressive act of victim blaming by declaring that his potential sex partner’s husband is naïve. According to the article, the author knows no more of his potential sex partner’s husband than what he looks like in pictures posted to Facebook. Yet, the author feels sufficiently prepared to declare the husband naïve regardless of the fact that he (the author) has no knowledge of the character of the person targeted by his unfounded verbal assault.

    It would appear that the author is attempting to absolve his responsibility to ensure that his pursuit of sexual interactions does not result in the denial of consent to another person by maligning that person’s character (i.e., victim blaming, a sexually-aggressive behavior resulting from ignorance). If the author can conceptualize the potential victim in this scenario as “so naïve,” then any consequences from his interaction with the victim’s husband become the victim’s fault. Or so the thinking goes, if the victim was “so naïve,” then he was asking for it. It’s like blaming the victim of sexual violence for wearing the wrong clothes or traveling alone at night. If the author can malign the potential victim in this story, then the potential victim’s suffering can be disregarded, the author can absolve himself of responsibility and guilt, and he can continue his reckless and aggressive pursuit of sexual interactions in perpetuity, all while blissfully ignorant to the outcomes he could potentially inflict on others in the form of sexually transmitted infections and irreparable emotional damage.

    Also, did the author not stop for a moment to consider that perhaps it is not that his potential sex partner’s husband is “so naïve”, but that it is his potential sex partner who is especially deceitful? In a time when countless apps make it possible to find a partner with whom to engage in an extramarital affair (not to mention the countless apps that hide contacts, text messages, and other evidence), is it not possible that the author potentially got caught up with a real player? Or, would it conflict with the author’s sense of superiority to acknowledge that maybe he is being duped? Or, could it simply be that the author was too immersed in his aggressive and self-serving pursuit of sexual gratification to consider that possibility?

    Or, finally, perhaps the author’s own self-aggrandizing has failed to produce a level of self-confidence sufficient to liberate him from his desperate need to feel superior to those who choose monogamy. Maybe if the author was as “evolved” as he implies, then he would be confident in his identify as a sexual being, he wouldn’t need to malign the character of others to justify his actions, and he could pursue sexual interactions that result in pleasure for himself and his partner(s) while avoiding inflicting (or potentially inflicting) harm on others. Based on this article, however, it sounds like the author is years away from learning how to balance the need to fulfill his sexual desires with the right of others to consent to risk exposure. It would be wise for the author to abstain from the hookup pool for a time while he works on developing mature and ethical approaches to living and thriving as a sexual being.

    Reply
    • MJ

      “Hooking up with a married man has always been nonnegotiable for me”

      “…I realize that’s a self-serving courtesy. It’s harder to feel guilty about violating someone’s marriage, hurting their unsuspecting partner, when you excuse yourself from knowing the rules that govern their marriage.”

      “Which forces me to deliberate what, if any, obligation I have to a spouse that I don’t know…”

      “It’s all something new to keep it in mind while wading through the post-Obergefell dating pool.”

      All of these are points that perhaps you missed in the column. Yes, the idea of consent is missing, at least in an overt way. Not speaking for the author, but I read this article completely differently than it appears you did.

      Reply
      • Nicky

        The author states that hooking up with a married man has always been nonnegotiable for him, but ads the caveat that he is lax in making an effort to screen for relationship status. It’s like saying you don’t eat high fructose corn syrup, but then admitting that you don’t read the nutrition label on the foods you eat. Obviously, the author doesn’t care whether his sex partners are married or not. Otherwise, he might actually put forth some effort to determine their relationship status.

        I suspect, rather, that the author is purposefully lax in his approach to relationship status screening. As is the case in most situations, making no effort is more convenient than making an effort. Plus, it increases the odds that he gets to pursue another sexual encounter without having to confront the possibility that his actions may cause harm to another person. But, by saying that sex with a married man has always been nonnegotiable for him, the author creates an illusion he can use to avoid guilt and escape condemnation from people who possess the maturity and insight to conduct themselves in an ethical manner while enjoying their existence as a sexual being. Lets not forget that the author agreed to have sex with a person knowing that person was recently married. There is no mention of the author inquiring whether or not having sex with this man would violate the boundaries of his marriage. The author’s assertion that sex with a married man has always been nonnegotiable for him is nothing more than a thin veil to obscure his lack of integrity and unwillingness to be accountable for choosing his libido over an ethical course of action.

        The author does, in one small, shining moment, admit that it’s a self-serving courtesy to excuse himself from knowing the rules that govern other people’s marriages, and consequently fails to afford the same reverence for same-sex marriages as he does for opposite-sex marriages. That statement is the closest he comes to confronting how recklessly and irresponsibly he behaves while wading around in the pickup pool. The assumption that monogamy and commitment are not as often a part of same-sex marriages as they are of opposite-sex marriages is shortsighted and foolish.

        There are plenty of honest and open opposite-sex marriages, yet the author assumes (incorrectly) that secrets, betrayal, etc. would inextricably be a part of sleeping with a man who is married to a woman. Then, the author goes on to describe (again, incorrectly) how he assumes that secrets, betrayal, etc. would not necessarily be part of sleeping with a married man in a same-sex marriage. His thinking is not only immaturely compartmentalized, it also fails to appreciate the full spectrum of negotiated boundaries in both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages. And, finally, his thinking reeks of internalized homophobia, as demonstrated by the lack of respect he displays for men who are married to men as opposed to women who are married to men.

        The value of the author’s claim to deliberate the ethical implications of his actions in situations such as this is eroded when he goes on to describe the spouse of his potential sex partner as someone he doesn’t know and “someone so naïve.” If, while driving, I cut off the car behind me when changing lanes does the fact that I do not know the driver make me any less of a jerk? It doesn’t’ matter if I know her/him or not. Cutting someone off in traffic (although an accepted practice in metropolitan Atlanta) is a jerk move whether or not you know the person in the other vehicle. You’re still choosing your own needs/desires over the safety of another person and taking a risk with their health and welfare to suit your own needs. The same holds true of having sex with another person’s spouse.

        But, the author’s failure to hold himself accountable for his own actions doesn’t stop there. He goes on to label the spouse as “someone so naïve,” when in fact it may be the author who is “so naïve.” He couldn’t simply excuse himself from knowing the boundaries of his potential sex partner’s marriage (which is sleazy enough), he went on to malign his potential sex partner’s spouse so that he could assign the blame to potential victim in this scenario instead of accepting that he (the author) would be one of the two parties to which the blame belongs entirely. His strategy is clear – excuse yourself from knowing the boundaries of your potential sex partners’ relationships to avoid guilt and accountability in the short term, and malign the person whom you may hurt to avoid guilt and accountability in the future.

        This article is reminiscent of the same tired narrative that immediately began popping up in the aftermath of Obergefell, except the author is months late to the discussion. He whines and groans about how his identify as a self-avowed bachelor has become more complicated because a decades-old battle (finally!) resulted in the equal treatment of same-sex couples, at least in regard to access to the right to marry. He fails to acknowledge that part of being a self-avowed bachelor and choosing to dwell in the dating pool is accepting responsibility for how your actions affect others. And, he fails to recognize that sleeping with any married person – whether they be gay, straight, or somewhere in between – requires maturity and open, honest communication. And lastly, he fails to appreciate the fact that sexual openness and sexual exclusivity are two valid and equal dispositions, neither of which should be exalted above the other. It’s a matter of personal preference and it’s what Obergefell was all about – having legal recognition of our right to choose. Why is that so threatening to the author?

        Again, this article leads me to believe the author’s identity as a sexual being is simply too immature and too underdeveloped for him to be spending any time in the dating pool in the first place. If he first took some time to grow up, then perhaps he could lead the life of a self-avowed bachelor and enjoy sexual gratification without turning into a bull in somebody else’s China shop.

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