FEATURE

Sex talk
Speaking of "Coming out"


Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

Photo: BG-East.com "My partner's not out to his Mom and Dad," said Bryan. "They live in a small town, see�"

Queer men are, of course, used to keeping secrets. From high school to the armed forces to the workplace, there's often – even in the 21st century – a tacit conspiracy of silence. The United States military calls the arrangement the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, though in the greater world it's often known as "the closet." It's not exactly lying; it's just not telling the truth. And there are sometimes good reasons to remain silent: Bryan is, for instance, HIV-positive, but hasn't told his aging parents because he doesn't want to upset them.

Things get somewhat stickier, though, when secrecy meets sex. Bryan and his partner, Paul, have extended their code of silence to their dicks. "Our relationship is open, sort of," Bryan says. "He knows that I mess around when I'm out of town, and he does, too, I guess. We just never talk about it with each other."

One might argue, as the U.S. Armed Forces do, that silence about screwing is the best way to make things run smoothly. And each relationship is unique; what works for one couple won't work at all for another. Still, as Carl, who's been in a successfully open relationship for nearly a decade says, "When two people are supposed to be sharing their lives with one another, I doubt that keeping secrets is the best way to go."

Not everyone can handle – or wants – an open relationship, of course. And many "open" relationships do have restrictions of one sort or another. Even honesty can have its drawbacks. Carl says, "At the beginning, after we'd decided we'd have an open relationship, we ended up telling each other everything about the outside sex we had, all the details. The sharing was almost compulsive, like showing off or something. Since then, we've both become more discreet. It's not like we can't tell all, but we're secure enough in our commitment not to have to tell all."

Secrecy through silence isn't limited to whether a guy fucks around on the side. Often it extends to fucking itself. "I didn't want to hurt him," the story goes, "so I didn't tell him that�" That I wish he would learn how to suck dick. That I don't really enjoy being fucked. That I want to spank him, but am afraid to tell him. That I wish he would brush his fucking teeth before we have sex. Whatever.

Yes, it can be hard to tell the whole truth. Despite their bravado, men can be pretty insecure about sex. And so relationships – whether dating, long-term, or just a one-time trick – can end up, if not actually dishonest� well� not entirely honest.

The coming-out process is founded on the idea that, unless disclosure is used as a hurtful weapon, honesty is, in the long term, the best policy. And that goes for sex, too. Not telling your partner what you want – what you really, really want – leads to dissatisfaction, resentment, tension, and all that niggling stuff that drives guys apart. Uncertainty itself can be damaging. Says Bryan, "Sometimes when Paul's off on a business trip, I imagine him having all this wild sex with men who are hotter and more sexually adventurous than me. Is that really happening? I really think, knowing him, that it's doubtful. But I get jealous anyway. Jealous of, probably, nothing at all."

So how much honesty is enough? Well, maybe it all comes down to practical considerations. As playwright David Mamet put it, "Always tell the truth – it's easiest to remember."

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion



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