In the past few weeks there have been numerous speculations that John Travolta might have been sexual with men and therefore might be gay.
Our culture is obsessed with men who have sex with men and quickly label them as bisexual or gay. The gay community becomes angry toward those who are closeting themselves, wanting these public people to come out and show that being gay is OK.
Women call my office frantically after discovering their husbands and boyfriends looking at gay porn or meeting men on Craigslist and understandably worry their husbands may be gay or bisexual. These women care for obvious reasons, because if their man is gay, then the marriage is over in their minds.
The truth is that having sex with another man, even repeatedly over long periods of time, doesn't have to mean that the man is gay or bisexual. After all, being gay and bisexual is about much more than what happens in the bedroom.
I have seen hundreds of heterosexual men come to my therapy office and men's workshops with same-sex behaviors, worried that they might be gay. However I have always been able to help these men distinguish between their organic, innate sexual and romantic orientation and their sexual preferences.
Many gay men, especially those who were heterosexually married, become angry at this notion, because they lived their lives for many years in the closet and identified as straight themselves, or even as bisexual, until they finally came fully out of the closet. The difference between those gay and bisexual men and straight men is that there is no closet to come out of. There doesn't exist an identity formation around sexual orientation. These men are truly heterosexual.
Some think the behavior itself defines a gay orientation. Others, particularly gays and lesbians, understandably worry that it will be used to show that people can go from gay to straight.
Why Straight Men Have Sex With Men
For straight men who have sex with men, same-sex encounters aren't about romance or sexual attraction and desire but about sexual and physiological arousal -- "getting off" with another who's male and accessible. They don't sexually desire or get aroused by looking at other men, only by the sexual act.
But if they don't actively desire other men, how do they get to the point of having sex with them? These men typically want to bond with and get affection from other men. Their behavior may reflect a desire to experiment, to engage in something that's taboo, or to express inner psychological conflicts involving their sexual feelings and desires that have nothing to do with having a gay or bisexual identity. The possibilities include sexual addiction, "bicuriosity," homoeroticism, a history of sexual abuse, financial payment, cuckolding fantasies, or an interest in kinky sex involving other men and women. In many of these sexual situations in which straight men have sex with men, women are present, and when the woman leaves, the two men are left cold and turned off.
We understand that straight men have sex with other men in prisons, and we don't speculate that they are gay or bisexual, and they don't "turn gay" after leaving prison, either. Some straight men who have sex with men are in their own psychological prisons, acting out early sexual trauma that causes them to return to the sexual scene of the crime. Men who were sexually abused as boys or teenagers may reenact that trauma by engaging in homosexual behaviors -- and at first glance, such men may appear to be in early denial about their homosexuality. In contrast, some women, gay or straight, who have been sexually abused will repress their sexuality, while others reenact their early abuse by being sexually promiscuous with men when, in fact, they are lesbians.
Many of these straight men who have sex with men are not homophobic, nor do they have the childhood memories of crushes or sexual interest in other boys the way gay and bisexual men do.
No one knows what is going on for John Travolta, if anything, other than John Travolta. What I do know is that if we are going to speculate about men's sexuality, we deserve the same room and understanding that women have around sexual fluidity.
For more information, go to StraightGuise.com.