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Mark Olmsted Headshot

Gay Men and the Reciprocity Factor

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Unrequited love happens. It does. Human beings often want other human beings who don't want them back or are unavailable. Sometimes these are sexual infatuations, but sometimes they are much more serious.

Except for the pain they cause the person who feels rejected, these crushes are mostly harmless. But when the subtext is predatory, they can be dangerous, resulting in rape, kidnapping, or honor killing. And this almost always occurs between heterosexual men and the women they want. I have yet to hear of any gay man keeping a straight man chained in a house for years as his sex slave. (Some straight men abuse other men, gay and straight, in prison. Many have horny bromances. That does not make them gay. And pedophiles are pedophiles; whether the children they're attracted to are of the opposite sex or the same sex is secondary.)

I had crushes on straight guys, particularly as an adolescent. A few times my raging hormones and alcohol led to minor passes, but more often drunk curiosity (or closeted homosexuality) led to passes in the other direction. (There's hardly a gay man alive who can't tell you of the guy he screwed for years who is now married and has three kids -- and probably thinks every night of those forbidden encounters.)

Steve Grand is a gay country music (wannabe) star who has made a big stir with his independently made music video for his song "All-American Boy." Coincidentally, it has been reported that the hunky actor playing the closeted country music star hopeful on Nashville is going to be a regular character. In both the music video and the TV show, these handsome men direct their attention toward straight men who may have sent some mixed signals, depending on how much the desirer wanted to see them. But the objects of their affections are straight. Our heroes are eventually both rejected, albeit not too harshly.

This does happen. I even know well a gay icon who falls in love exclusively with unobtainable straight men; it causes him immense heartache. But let's be really clear about one thing: In situations where there is overwhelming pressure to not reveal one's homosexuality, one is much more likely to seek outlet with the willing. In the presence of literally countless YouTube videos and movies in which boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl again and everything in between, we could use a little more popular depictions of a situation that happens all over our heterodominant culture: Against the odds, boy finds boy. In the military, on Wall Street, around a country campfire in Mississippi, it has always happened. That story should not be restricted to the briefly vertical minute at the beginning of gay porn. Nor does it have to be idealized as some sort of prejudice-free episode in the vein of Will and Grace (replete with the hypermasculine but unrealistic Vince D'Angelo) or Sex and the City (with its mincing court-jester best friends). But what it really needn't do is encourage the misperception that gays, like most people, don't factor something very crucial in their look for love: the desire for reciprocity.

Steve Grand is a beautiful man with a great body, as is Chris Carmack on Nashville. They don't have to plant unwanted kisses on best friends; they could have their pick of hordes of willing men. The writers don't need to abandon the overall theme of the closet impacting these relationships; the "down low" is still a fact of life all over America. But when the ratio of same-sex to opposite-sex depictions of mutual attraction is still way out of whack, it would be nice to show very desirable guys desiring guys that desire them back.

On that count, gays are just like everybody else. We tend to choose the gettable over the ungettable, because it's far more satisfying to have and hold than to yearn for what is permanently out of reach. We're not asking for tellers of gay stories to cast Modern Family's Mitch and Cam lusting for each other, any more than Mike and Molly would be featured skinny-dipping in a straight video. MTV set the rules everybody plays by: It's about the conflation of music and sex up on that screen.

But enough of these sad-sack hunks wanting the one guy who'd rather be with the girl. Let the hot gay guy get the hot gay guy. If he's not ready to tell the world, so be it, but at least let his periscope point in the right direction.