Jordan Hunt, L.C.S.W., our guest blogger, is a psychotherapist who worked at IPG for many years until he moved to Connecticut this summer.
A friend of mine recently asked me to comment on his blog where he was posing the questioning of why gay men have such a difficult time finding people to “date”. Below is my response.
So, you have asked me to respond to your blog about the difficulties that men (gay men, in particular) have when it comes to dating. Where do I begin? I mean, this topic is truly worthy of a dissertation. However, I did see that someone else responded saying, “I can’t even find a man worthy of a date.” To me, his statement is the crux of the problem that gay men encounter when trying to date or “make a real connection”. We prematurely JUDGE as a way of avoiding risk and vulnerability.
To be fair, perhaps gay men are not really entirely to blame for the difficulties we encounter. Regardless of whether we realized we were gay since birth, we are socialized based upon our anatomy. Society as a whole does not “socialize” people to be in romantic relationships…it socializes us to be in romantic heterosexual relationships; and since it is impossible to “opt out” of society, we are subliminally conditioned to view relationships (and the world) through a “masculine” lens. Herein lies the problem, as I see it.
The “masculine” lens teaches us (in an unconscious and insidious way) to be competitive. Regardless of whether as gay men we were ever “athletically inclined” has nothing to do with it. We are taught to be “strong” (don’t even get me STARTED on that one), competitive, ego-centric and entitled-all qualities that make a good “warrior”; and that all works really well (sometimes), as it helps us to be good protectors and providers to our families. But inherent in being a competitor is the fact that someone must LOSE. Now, women know how to lose. Our sexist society (though ever changing) has conditioned them to be OK with losing. They are OK with “acquiescing” or rationalizing or sacrificing because they think RELATIONALLY. We, as men do not. First of all, we are not wired that way, NOR are we taught to think that way. It’s a double whammy. Given the relationship template we’ve been given, SOMEONE needs to be OK with being vulnerable, sacrificing, and not somehow feeling inadequate as a person because of it.
So…here were are, 2 (gay) men, neither one wanting to be vulnerable (which is required in order to make a connection), sizing up a potential partner (making judgments about our competitor) and feeling “entitled” to entering into a relationship with someone as equally masculine as ourselves. Because we are wired visually, we see a well-muscled Adonis and think, “Oh, he’s masculine, like me. I want HIM!” And if we’re lucky, he finds us physically attractive, so we go to bed together (because let’s face it, as men we are not taught to initially access levels of attraction based on what our HEART tells is, we look to our penis as the barometer). Ok, let’s say that all goes well in the bedroom and we decide that we want to do it again, and again, and again…which we assume means that we ought to have an exclusive relationship. But remember, because we view life as a competitive sport, someone eventually has to lose if I’m to retain my identity as a “real” man. The irony here is that if we both are fierce competitors the relationship will be filled with drama and hardship; yet if one of us acquiesces…we’re no longer the “masculine” guy we were thought to be…and therefore we are no longer attractive…because we essentially have become “feminized”.
So, in a nutshell, it is the power struggle that trips us up. No one ever really wins. I think that as soon as we are able to embrace the “feminine” sides of ourselves…the part of us that can sacrifice our ego for the sake of a relationship, the better off we will be. We can learn a lot from women, if we allow ourselves to do so and not be threatened by what it might mean about our identity as “real men”.