In the days before I had come to a full acceptance of my gayness, I had a fantasy. I actually told my fantasy to my best friend at the time, the guy around whom the fantasy centered. I told him that I wished we could always stay together and be friends forever. In my fantasy, we would each marry women and have families of our own. But we would buy houses that were located literally next door to each other. We would work at the same company. We would see each other every day. Our wives would be best friends. Our kids would play together. We would share meals every day. I imagined no fences in our backyards. We'd come home from work, and have a big family barbeque together. We'd hang out and talk until it was time to put the kids to bed, and then we'd retire to our respective homes until the next morning, when we'd see each other again. Ready to be best friends again for another day.
I knew it would never be a reality. I knew that each of us getting married would in reality pull us apart, separate us forever. But a guy's entitled to dream, right?
It's interesting to me looking back that gay sex was nowhere to be seen in my gay fantasy world. I remember a time when the notion of actual gay sex kind of scared me. Did I want to touch and be held and always be close to a man? Absolutely, yes, with no question. Was I ready to get naked and get crazy? No way.
I've seen similar fantasies floating around in the gay Mormon blogosphere. Celibate fantasies where guys live together forever as best friends. Fantasies about the restoration of a kind of modified polygamy that would let us have our eternal marriage cake and eat it too. Gay dating that lasts forever, that never goes past first base so we can still answer the temple recommend questions the right way. So many blog posts devoted to the theme of finding some way to find the emotional and social and spiritual fulfillment of same-sex love, without the excommunicatey aftertaste!
Recently, Scott posted about his continuing search to meet basic emotional/social/physical needs (needs for touch and for friendship) in a way that lets him stay true to his marriage. Mohohawaii posted a comment that struck me as particularly poignant. Most gay men, at some point, do hunger for the intimacy and connection and physical relief that sex provides. But the fundamental drive is not toward sex. He used the terms "bonding" and "nesting" to describe what we essentially long for. I was struck by the "nesting" comment in particular, because when you look at the various asexual Moho fantasies out there -- including my own pre-coming out fantasy -- that's where it went. It was all about preserving and nurturing in some form a primary male-male bond that includes constant fellowship, if not actual living together.
My last grasp at heteronormative sociality went beyond the realm of fantasy and into a real, actualizable homosocial lifestyle. I spent the summer in a Roman Catholic monastery in central France (with the Brothers of St. John), and seriously considered the possibility of joining the Catholic Church and taking vows. My spiritual wrestling with that very real possibility eventually led me to the conclusion that I did not have a "calling" to be a Roman Catholic monk. But if there had been a way for me to live a fully satisfying life with the potential to meet my deepest emotional and social cravings, that would have been it.
(Either that, or being a Mormon missionary forever and ever. I've actually also had fantasies of being one of the three Nephites!)
But the point is, being gay is not and never has been primarily about the sex. It's been distorted into that in certain segments of the gay community. A couple of the other comments posted on Scott's Selfish Again post suggested (in the usual stereotypical fashion) that gay relationships just don't last; that gays find it harder to forge committed relationships than straights. Well, there's a grain of truth in that, if you look at aspects of the gay American subculture. There are elements of that subculture that romanticize fast, easy, noncommittal sex; that romanticize a perpetual search for hotter guys and intenser experiences. There are way too many gay guys who have taken the bait of the culture of pornography and free sex, and haven't figured out yet how to break the bad habits that keep undermining healthy relationships and true happiness. I've posted elsewhere about this problem. I see it as a consequence of centuries of stigmatization and homophobia, and yes, the continuing efforts of our society to undermine gay relationships through political campaigns like Prop 8. Of course I'm the first to admit that the only way we can break the cycle of unhealthy sexuality is to take responsibility for ourselves and our behavior and for each other. We can't blame Prop 8.
The unhealthy stuff in gay culture is unhealthy precisely because it fails to take account of the true nature of our yearnings. It's not about sex. it's about relationship. Any married couple will tell you (and I'll add my voice to the chorus), marital sex has its ups and downs. On occasion it's great -- transcendent! "Holy," as Mohohawaii put it. Göran and I have been together for going on 18 years, and some of the best sex we've ever had is now. But often sex meets a need, and it's done. And sometimes it's outright frustrating or disappointing. We have a refrigerator magnet that says, "Not tonight, dear. It's a gross misdemeanor!" Often you just don't feel like it, and you go without it for a while. A marriage that is just about sex will not last long. Marriage isn't and never has been just about sex, and sex doesn't meet our most basic needs. But the sex is an expression of something profound and important. It's one of many forms of physical touch, which we do need. It expresses profound emotions that can't be expressed in any other way.
It is one facet of the profoundly human need that is best expressed by the gay fantasy of two guys living together as best friends forever.