by Martin Cole*
Throughout college, I didn’t date that much. I like to think that I was a cute guy, and looking back there were probably girls who were attracted to me. But I didn’t date much. When my friends (and even the well-intentioned family member) asked if I was possibly gay, I was offended – not because I thought being gay was bad, but because these people who were close to me made assumptions about me which were off base. If I was honest, I would have told them I had a fetish. I still do. Strong women telling me what to do is arousing, and has become almost the only thing that excites me anymore. That’s difficult to say – at least out loud – to people who ask you questions about whether you “owned that” or “smacked that ass.” You’re the one who wants those things done to you, and the idea of you doing it to someone else, while mildly exciting, pales in comparison.
Once, I tried telling one of my guy friends about it, even going so far as to say that I had bought a sex toy to penetrate myself (fantasizing that my girlfriend at the time might eventually be persuaded to use a strap-on with me). I say “once” because it was such an embarrassing experience, especially when word got out to our friends. I was ashamed, humiliated even. And it was really confusing that I jerked off to it afterwards for months. Especially when my girlfriend broke up with me for “a real man.”
I don’t have mommy issues. My mother and I have a very good relationship and I’ve talked to my therapist to work out whether maybe I’m fooling myself. But that’s part of the problem; we tend to think that any time someone has a kink that something is wrong with them, that they are broken or have “issues.” No one ever asks the steady flock of nurses who regularly come into my store for romance novels if they are perverts. The housewives who feign aloofness when they ask if I have a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey? They get a free pass. No one raises an eyebrow, curious whether they are in an abusive relationship. It seems that the double standard goes one way; when a man wants to be in a female-led relationship (which is not the same as BDSM’s version, Femdom) his masculinity and mental health are called into question. I’ve heard it all – fairy, sissy, queer, freak – you name it. But none of those are accurate. I’m still a man. A straight man. A straight man who enjoys watching a game and drinking a beer after work, who enjoys working with his hands and building furniture on the evenings and weekends. And yes, who wants a woman to tell him what to do, to take control, and to occasionally penetrate him.
Even writing about it now makes it sound like I have to explain myself and reassure my own masculinity. It’s exhausting. And after years of doing that very thing with girlfriends, I just want to say how bad this feels. It sucks. It sucks that I have to explain myself over and over and tell the world, “I’m not weird. I’m just get aroused by something you don’t. That’s it. I still have to pay my bills, I still want to have kids someday, I still shop at Wal-mart and get stuck in the slow line, but unlike you when I am honest about what turns me on, I’m put in the corner, made fun of, and often question why I feel a need to live with other humans who talk about ‘understanding’ and then do the exact opposite.” It’s not arousing anymore to be shamed for your sexual preferences, and because of the lack of acceptance I have found, I have thought on several occasions about killing myself (something yes, I have brought up in therapy). Few things are as painful as the rejection I feel when, in an intimate moment, a lover’s face slowly recoils and their head begins to slowly shake as they say, “I don’t think I want to do that.” Losing my erection is the easy part. Closing the door after they leave, knowing another relationship has failed, that another person I loved has rejected me or been disgusted by me? That’s the hard part.
In the last few years, we’ve talked a lot in the news about sexuality and gender roles, their fluidity, and yet the stigma of non-hyper-masculine men prevails for reasons beyond our comprehension. Last week’s release of Arrested Development’s 4th season made a long-running joke out of George, Sr.’s loss of masculinity and his brother, Oscar’s renewed potency. Men who don’t want to break beds as they “take” their bride’s virginity like Edward in Twilight, or men who aren’t turned on by making “their” women sign a submission contract with them like in 50 Shades are the newly neutered. We’re not considered “real men” anymore because we’ve don’t get off on what society has said for so long we should – we don’t abuse women. We respect women. We even (at least in my case) prefer to worship and adore them, submit our desires to them, and even deeply enjoy performing oral sex. We’ve made princesses and queens out of women, and yet… we’re not considered manly men because to do any of these things – to put a woman first even in matters of sexuality, and especially submit that sexuality to them – is effeminate and “queer” and “unmanly.”
Don’t get me wrong. There have been women who have enjoyed sex with me. I’ve had committed relationships for extended periods – as much as two years. But that’s been the cap. Women want more from me than owning my own business, having a nice car, adoring them in bed, having enough money to take them out, or even pursuing “masculine” hobbies like sports, the occasional construction job, and building furniture. They want a “real man” who will fuck them – not the other way around. One of my best relationships ended the moment I said, “Let’s try something different. How about I be the girl tonight?” and I have all but given up hope of having those same ideals that my friends have already attained – marriage, raising children, and a frequent & mutually satisfying sexual relationship.
These are the kinds of stories that get lost in the cracks, the kind we don’t talk about because they are still taboo. And for all the progress we have made at advancing marriage equality and women’s rights, we still do not have space in our communities for men like me. When women possess “masculine” qualities in the bedroom – a voracious appetite for sex, dominance, and interest in trying out new things – we either celebrate or slut shame her. But when a guy possess “feminine” qualities like wanting to live a quiet and simple life, and yes, take it up the back from a woman? Ha. Good luck with that, sicko.
I’m not weird. I just don’t get off on what everyone else does, and maybe that’s something worth discussing.
Martin Cole is a pseudonym for a bookseller and artist living in New Orleans. He enjoys reading, writing poetry, and running through City Park.
Randall S. Frederick is editor of Sexuality & the City and cowriter of this piece. He lives in Los Angeles, where he is finishing his second Masters.