Whenever I look at the â€śmen-for-menâ€ť personal ads, whatever the venue, itâ€™s apparent that there are at least two distinct classes of ads. There are those focused on relationships and intimacy, (â€śSeek candlelight dinners and long quiet walks in the fireplace,â€ť) and those looking for partners to act out sex fantasies, (Want hot throbbing man meat now.â€ť) Most of us, I think, can recognize both kinds of desires in ourselves. But as far as most moralists (and probably most psychologists) are concerned, â€śrelationshipâ€ť sex is in every way superior to casual sex.
In an essay directed to gay men in spiritual life (Queer Dharma, Gay Sunshine Press, pgs. 299-302), writer Clint Seiter offers a novel way of understanding casual and anonymous sex. He believes that casual sex operates on an entirely different plane from relationship-oriented sex (which he calls â€śIntimate Sexâ€ť). He believes that it derives its power from the â€śarchetypalâ€ť dimension of human experienceâ€“from powerful images in the unconscious mind which carry a larger-than-life energy. He obviously has a point here. When I look through online postings and ads, its clear that many gay men are seeking sexual partners who embody intensely compelling images of male power, beauty, and sexuality:
Bad boy. Good boy. Adonis. Jock. Little brother. Big brother. All-American guy. Regular guy. Stranger. Asshole. Punk. Thug. Rebel. Outlaw. Hero. Real man. Stud. Straight dude. Rough trade. Hunter. Predator. Natural man. Boss. Blue-collar guy. Handy man. Leather dude. Cowboy. Hunk. Hustler. Guard. Marine. Sailor. Soldier. Cop. Prisoner. Teacher. Coach. Father. Daddy. Master. Slave.
We also have our totem animals: Bear. Cub. Pig. Wolf. Dog. Puppy. Bitch. Ape. Gorilla. Stallion. Colt. Tiger. Panther. Lion. Kitten. Stag. Bull. Eagle. And so on.
Seiter believes that archetypal sex generally gets a bad rap. â€śThe Western Judeo-Christian culture has for centuries extolled the virtues of Intimate Sex while roundly condemning Archetypal Sexâ€¦[It is] dismissed as an urge of our animal bodies (or in Fundamentalist churches, the temptation of Satan) that must be transcended for the sake of our spiritual development. This results in expressions of Archetypal sex invariably linked to feelings of shame, remorse, and a need for penance.â€ť
He believes that psychology has inherited this prejudice: most psychological theories see Archetypal Sex as lower on the developmental food chain, as evidence of â€śan immature personality stuck in adolescent fantasies.â€ť People who like Archetypal Sex are â€śpromiscuous,â€ť a word that drips with moral disapproval. One currently popular way of pathologizing this form of sex is to see it as a â€śsex addiction.â€ť I have spoken with at least half a dozen gay men in the past year who suspect that their fascination with Archetypal Sex constitutes an addiction, and that, even though they enjoy what theyâ€™re doing and donâ€™t think itâ€™s causing any real problems in their lives, believe they really â€śshouldâ€ť go into â€śrecovery.â€ť Seiter acknowledges that Archetypal Sex can become addictive, but points out that the same is true for romantic love. There are many â€ślove addictsâ€ť who live for the high of the early stages of falling in love, but we donâ€™t for that reason pathologize romanticism. Any pleasurable experience can become the focus of an addictive process.
Seiter believes that gay men are a lot more accepting of Archetypal Sex than straight culture, but also that weâ€™ve been deeply affected by mainstream values more than we often realize. For one thing, we tend to split off Archetypal Sex from our day-to-day lives. â€śItâ€™s not incorporated into the rest of our personality, or imbued with our humanity and compassionâ€ť which sometimes results in â€śa lack of respect toward oneâ€™s partners, contempt, rudeness, emotional coldnessâ€¦â€ť
Problems also arise for us when we donâ€™t acknowledge the difference between these two sexualities. â€śA partner seeking Intimate Sex may view a partner seeking Archetypal Sex as shallow and objectifying. A partner seeking Archetypal Sex may see a partner seeking Intimate Sex as clinging and smothering.â€ť Other problems arise when we arenâ€™t clear about what kind of sexual experience weâ€™re looking for. Expecting a boyfriend to embody an archetype at all times, or going to a sex club looking for intimate connections are two common ways in which men confuse the two realms.
Most of us have desires for both Archetypal Sex and Intimate Sex, and Seiter believes that there is no need to see the two drives as warring opposites. He argues that, if we can appreciate the simple truth that there is more than one way to skin the cat sexually speaking; if we can accept that sexuality comes in more than one â€śflavorâ€ť, then weâ€™ll avoid falling into the trap of privileging one kind as the One True Sexuality. When we free ourselves of the false idea that there is a one-size-fits all model of â€śmatureâ€ť or â€śhealthyâ€ť sexuality, then weâ€™re in a better position to respect all aspects of our own experience, and to live sexual lives that are authentically our own.