On The DL: Straight-Identifying Men Speak Candidly About Their Sexual Relationships With Other Men
A recent national survey released by the CDC revealed that more Americans are identifying as bisexual than ever before. Not only that, but more straight-identifying men are admitting to having tried gay sex.
Researchers interviewed more than 9,000 men and women ages 18 to 44 years of age. Of all the men interviewed, 6.2 percent of them said they had engaged in same-sex sexual activity at least once in their lifetime. And of that 6.2 percent, 2.3 percent identified as straight.
So who are these men? And, more importantly, where are they? (Hint: They’re everywhere!) It took some serious detective work, but we managed to locate a few and convince them to chat with us under the agreement that we would keep their identities confidential.
Now, let’s cut to the chase and hear what they had to say…
Rob (not his real name) is 46-years-old. He lives in San Jose, CA and has been married to his wife for 12 years. He identifies as “straight with bisexual tendencies” and has been hooking up with other guys on the down low since he was 19.
“Hooking up with other men, to me, is a non-complicated way of releasing sexual steam,” he explains. “It’s simply a physical release with no pressure.”
Rob prefers getting together with other married men on the DL, as opposed to single or openly gay men. He finds most of the guys on Craigslist or dating sites like Squirt.org.
“I seek out other married men for the simple fact that they are in the same boat as me, and hopefully can relate to what I am looking for,” he says. “I do not want to jeopardize my marriage. Another married man can understand that. Other married men are not willing to take as many risks.”
The primary risk being, Rob says, “getting strong emotions or falling in love. I wouldn’t want to become the object of another man’s desire. I do find some men attractive, but for me it’s just sexual. I don’t feel attracted to men in a loving way at all.”
Currently, there are two guys Rob sees on a regular basis.
“One is divorced, the other is a widower and semi-retired,” he explains. “They both live alone, and are therefore able to host our get togethers.” But, he is careful to add, “there is no love involved.”
Tony (not his real name) is 32-years-old. A divorcee, he lives in New York City and just recently began identifying as bisexual, though he’s only out to a small handful of people. He has a casual girlfriend as well as a few regular “buddies” who he will occasionally meet for sex.
“The first time I messed around with a guy I was 21,” he says. “He was an older married guy who I met on a gay website. My challenge is that New York City is a very feminine gay city, and that’s not my type. I’m only into guys who are DL, not being noticed as gay. That’s my protocol. When I find someone who’s a match I keep him as a regular.”
Tony says he meets most of his hookups on dating apps or on Craigslist, and he will often develop close friendships with them afterwards. He says he’s not “paranoid” about people knowing what he does, but he’s still not 100 percent comfortable with it either.
“I would be afraid of telling someone I had a relationship with a man,” he admits, adding that maybe someday he’ll feel differently. Until then, however, “I need to make sure the guy meets my criteria.”
Andrew (not his real name) is 33-years-old and lives near New Orleans, LA. He identifies as totally straight and has been married to his wife since he was 21. He had his first gay experience about ten years ago.
“I had been married for two years and was feeling that I wanted to try something different,” he says. “I’ve messed around with about a dozen guys since then. It isn’t often, usually when it feels like my marriage is in a slump or getting boring. It actually invigorates me.”
Like both Rob and Tony, he finds most of the guys he hooks up with online and tends to gravitate towards others who are on the down low.
“I prefer men on the DL,” Andrew explains. “I find I have more in common and it is easier to make a connection.”
Jane Ward is an Associate Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies, as well as the LGBIT Studies Program Chair, at the University of California, Riverside. She is also the author of the bestselling book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men.
“We can learn a lot about sexual fluidity and diversity from men on the down low,” Ward tells Queerty. “Some men on the DL identify as bisexual but are not public about their sex with men. Others are completely straight-identified and view their sex with men as an erotic hobby, so to speak. For them, it’s an occasional means of getting off, but it’s not something that feels significant enough to influence how they understand their sexual orientation.”
Ward continues: “The point here is that people can engage in the same sexual activity but make meaning of it in very different ways. It’s that process of making meaning that is what ultimately matters when it comes to people’s sexual identifications. Unlike animals, humans have the capacity to reflect on our sex practices and what they mean about who we are and who we want to be.”
OK, and now the answer to the question you’ve all been wondering: What about these men’s wives and girlfriends? Do they know about their extracurricular activities? Here’s what the guys had to say…
“My wife is not aware,” Rob admits. “I don’t feel guilty doing what I do. However, I would feel bad if she found out. She would be very upset and consider it cheating. It concerns me very much, since I do not want a divorce.”
“My ex-wife didn’t know what I did,” Tony says. “The women I’ve dated lately, though, know. They know how I am and still think I’m interesting and attractive regardless. At this point of my life, I don’t feel like living in lies anymore.”
“If my wife found out she would leave me,” Andrew says. “She is very traditional and religious and does not believe in homosexuality. I love her and wish that we could have some sort of open relationship, but she would never go for it.”
He continues: “Hooking up with other guys is not something that I am proud of. I wish that I didn’t have the urge or want to do it, but there is something about being with another guy that reignites me. After being with another guy I find that I am more loving and happy at home. It adds life to me.”
Photo credits: Kirk Lorenzo, from his series Undisclosed Hedonism