FEATURE

Sex talk
Speaking of Discretion


Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

Is discretion truly the better part of valor, or is it just another word for cowardice? When it comes to sexuality, perhaps it can be a bit of both. Says one man, "I just don't volunteer the information that I'm gay. My sexuality is nobody's business but my own, and I've never understood other guys' need to rub it in people's faces."

There are some plausible rationales for remaining quiet about being queer. Some claim that the balls-out tactics of some gay activists are responsible for homophobic backlash, while rock-ribbed conservatives may argue that we're all sinners, and it's better for society if we keep our mouths shut about our peccadilloes.

But another gay guy counters, "Plenty of people in the closet tend to act as though sexual orientation were a private matter. But straights never bother to hide the fact they're hetero. The whole 'don't flaunt your orientation' thing doesn't cut both ways. Blatant heterosexuality permeates society, and it's clearly homophobic to expect us to shut up about who we are."

Even the most out-of-the-closet queer may occasionally find himself covering his tracks. It is, after all, tough to saunter into a new workplace or classroom wearing a gay rights T-shirt. As our out guy says, "In some situations, there are good reasons for discretion – who wants to get beaten to a pulp? But I'm not going to live my whole damn life in secrecy, trying to avoid conflicts over who I am. That's no life at all."

Fellows who are open about their queerness may be discreet about sexual specifics, though. Our out gay continues, "Still, there's a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. If I'm at a dinner party with straight strangers, I may say that I'm gay, but not share the fact that I love to suck dick. And I'll never tell my grandma that I'm in an open relationship. That's really more information than she needs...or can process."

When it comes to the kinkier parts of being queer, gays can even keep secrets from each other. While sadomasochism has become so thoroughly discussed that it seems almost vanilla, there are other bedroom byways – a lust for piss play, say – that many fellows choose not to flaunt. As one nice Jewish boy says, "I sure doubt that most of the folks at my gay synagogue would accept the fact I'm into anti-Semitic verbal abuse scenes. Oy!"

On the other hand, there are sex-positive activists who claim that doing it in the road is the path to liberation. A pro-sex observer says, "Sexual shame is the enemy. I know that some gay prudes may object to nearly naked leathermen with whips marching in pride parades. But why the hell shouldn't they? Why should getting flogged be kept any more secret than getting married?"

Some gay politicos would counter that it's hard enough for many people to accept same-sex marriage without bringing cock-and-ball torture into the equation. And it might seem paradoxical to go very public with behaviors that sexual liberationists claim should be protected under the right to privacy. Moreover, as one happy pervert says, "Part of the thrill of doing nasty stuff is that it's a dirty little secret. Confess to it in public and it gets less hot."

Though times change, context counts. In gay-hating countries like Jamaica and Saudi Arabia, the closet is still the safest place to be. But in many places, it's much easier for most gay guys to be open than it was several decades ago. And in the Internet age, it is, of course, a lot harder to keep a secret than in the days of the quill pen – carefree exhibitionists who post pics of their dicks on a wank-off website might someday come to regret it.

When it comes to self-disclosure, everybody has his own comfort level. And you may not want your boss to know as much about your bedroom bouncies as your boyfriend does. But most guys who've come out would agree that being free of the costs of concealment is worth the risk. And, as one 20-year-old who recently came out says, "Apparently, I was the only one who thought I was keeping my gayness a secret. My mom told me she'd known for years, but was waiting for me to tell her. And none of my close friends seemed the least bit surprised."

Coming out may be arduous, even dangerous. And the thrill of flaunting it may not be for everyone. But it's safe to say most openly queer men would agree with the slogan on an ACT UP T-shirt from long ago: "I'm out, therefore I am."

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



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