Speaking of Saving Yourself for Love

by Simon Sheppard

We all love to be loved. And most of us love to get laid. But are these two things naturally linked? Or are they two quite different needs that sometimes, but not always, overlap? Should a guy save sex for the one he loves?

It's not just a simple matter of saints versus sluts. Even the most promiscuous men, in the midst of good sex, often experience at least a moment of emotion when the other guy morphs from sex object into boyfriend material. "I just don't want to feel so vulnerable if I'm with someone I may well never see again," says one cautious guy.

Yet, as many of us know all too well, finding Mr. Perfect ain't so easy. Many gay men engage in 'serial monogamy', putting out for the one guy they're dating at the moment. Others more or less successfully distinguish between 'important sex' with a boyfriend and 'just plain sex' with everyone else.

Much of what we think of as romance, 'falling in love', sexual fidelity, the 'Only One in the World for Me' is less hardwired into the human animal than it is culturally constructed. A lot of the Western world's notions of romantic love pretty much date from the Middle Ages, where it was cooked up by poets in... where else? France. After centuries of pro-monogamy propaganda, the idea of saving yourself for Mr. Right seems as natural as breathing. But male-male sex has never really played by the rules. To the shock (and envy) of many straights, gay men realized that where they put their woodies wasn't necessarily where they put their commitments. (Though the last few decades have shaken up the rules even for the heterosexually inclined.)

The question of what constitutes gay 'virginity' is tricky, since anal sex doesn't have the same primacy for queer guys that vaginal sex does for hets. Some gay men go through their entire lives sucking off hundreds of guys but never having anal sex, so are they still virgins or not? The lack of a clear division between queer foreplay and 'real sex' would seem to imply that any sexual contact at all would be a loss of cherry, but not everyone thinks a bit of mutual masturbation equals being deflowered.

There's much to be said for celibacy till couplehood. Life can be confusing enough without juggling a bunch of tricks. And sometimes men just aren't ready for or interested in having sex. Or so I've heard.

Still, sex is one of those learn-by-doing activities. One 18-year-old, though very much in love, confesses, "I don't know what I am doing in bed. I just need to know how I can make sex more fun." All the books and videos in the world are no substitute for experience. As one man in his 40s says, "It took a lot of screwing before I found out what my real desires were and how I could have dynamite sex."

On the one hand, there's the danger that when you finally find the man of your dreams, you'll be a jaded, worn-out hump-bunny, and on the other, that you'll fall in love and then find out both of you are pretty clueless where the Nasty is concerned. Will waiting for sex make eventually doing it with Mr. Right even better, or will horniness convince you that whoever comes along is Mr. Right? What's a homo to do?

Well, being honest with yourself and others is the kind of advice Mom would give you, but sometimes Mom is right. There are, unfortunately, no easy universal rules to follow when it comes to the heart and the hard-on. Trial and error, it's what being human is all about.

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