Thank you for everything you do!
I have a problem: I consistently fall for straight men. Not only do I fall, but we form deep friendships – practically brotherhoods – that can last for months to years. Case in point, my most recent “bromance” has lasted 10 years and counting.
While I’ve learned to appreciate these relationships for what they really are, I’ve never understood why I’m mostly sexually interested in guys who are functionally paternal figures and show no sexual interest in me but are committed to being my friends.
I find myself going back to these themes across my sexual fantasies, porn viewing and movies too; always aroused by men who are slightly older than me, who I admire for physical, emotional, and intellectual consistency, but who might as well be my older brothers or dads.
While I’ve tried to date gay guys on and off (not very good at this BTW), I’m always disappointed as I often attract gay men who are emotionally distraught and carry a poor self-image – a stark contrast to my bromances.
I realize I might be trapped in an unhealthy pattern that’s stopping me from being romantically and sexually actualized. I’d love your insight on this as I work my way out of it.
I won’t pathologize your behavior because I don’t do that. There’s nothing wrong with these bromances (which the New York Times called “bromosexual friendships” a few years ago) and I certainly get their appeal. But if you want fulfilling sex and romance, you will have to shift your focus.
I don’t believe in “types.” Humans are exceptionally good at recognizing patterns and “types” are an irksome byproduct of that skill. We evolved to over-detect patterns because the benefits of recognizing them have, for our species, always outweighed the drawbacks incurred by seeing patterns where none exist. (According to science writer Matthew Hutson, this is one of the numerous mental fallacies humans developed over thousands of years, and this one, in particular, is partly responsible for a little thing called religion.) Detecting patterns is a useful skill — it helped us predict the weather and track migrating herds — but it also causes problems like “types.”
Relationships are unpredictable, so detecting patterns in them would give you the ability to predict human behavior more precisely and make sounder decisions. Seeing a pattern, you might come to the conclusion that you shouldn’t date or befriend someone with whatever feature(s) your failed relationships had — or that you’ve a certain knack for winding up with men who do not desire you. I call “types” a myth because I don’t think these patterns are objectively real. Most guys you’ve connected with (gay and straight) are likely more different from each other than they are similar. Most guys you’ve had bad luck with are also probably very different from each other. But your pattern-loving mind filters out the differences to see the similarities because that’s how human minds work.
In other words, the “gay men you attract” exist only in your head. Let’s try a different idea: you have a thing — call it a kink — for relationships with straight men who are older and emotionally unavailable. You can keep this kink, no one says you have to give it up, but if you want a sexual or romantic relationship, you’ll have to put it on the back burner and focus on men who identify as you do.
Kinky people do this all the time. It’s hard to focus on a relationship when you’re having frequent, extreme BDSM sessions. When I was in college, I told my sir that I needed to reduce the regularity of our meetings so I could focus on my then-boyfriend. I didn’t give up BDSM — I just shifted focus.
The problem with believing in these “patterns” is they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe every gay man you try to date will be “emotionally distraught,” that is what you will perceive and that will become your reality, and the pattern will be a self-enforcing feedback loop. If you think your best relationships are with straight men, that is where you will put your energy.
Many gay men have “straight men” fetishes. We eroticize them, probably because we all first fell in love with them (our school friends and first crushes). And here’s a truth we learn in kink: people love being denied. Withheld pleasure, dangled in front of you — the straight man you can be friends with but can’t touch — is very erotic. (I also detect a hint of a brag in your question; most gay men like showing other gay men how close they are — physically, affectionately, visually — to straight men. This is a weird byproduct of internalized homophobia and eroticism, two things all gay men share.)
An older gay man I know calls himself “homosocial” — he prefers the company of men, gay and straight, sexual and otherwise — and I think many gay men relate to that. It’s fine (and understandable) for you to be more comfortable among men and to have straight friends. But if you want to date, it has to be with a man who dates men. You can find a paternal older gay man (we call them “daddies”) who denies and withholds, but every now and then he has to scoop you up, hold you close, and kiss you.
Forget about “type.” You can control your behavior, at least within the confines of your biology (you can’t be straight), and break whatever pattern you think you’re in. Humans get stuck in patterns and feedback loops all the time — compulsive behaviors are real — but even fully-developed adult brains can form new neural pathways (learn new things).
Old dog, here’s a new trick.