The term MSM (men who have sex with men)derives from the growing body of literature showing evidence that not all men who have sex with men - even obligatory homosexual sex - are gay. It's struck such a chord that even Oprah addressed the trend when she interviewed J.L. King who originally exposed this lifestyle in the black community with his breakout bestseller, On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men Who Sleep with Men and Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America by Keith Boyken. Straight Guise takes King's book several steps farther. Both books talk about this phenomenon among African-American men however the truth is that it exists amongst all races, ethnicity's, religions and socio-economic classes.
The reason for the MSM acronym is that men getting infected with HIV were self-identifying as heterosexual and had contracted HIV through sex with men. It became more known as these men were infecting their female partners and putting them at risk for STD's.
This article explores the many reasons men have sex with other men, only some of which have anything to do with homosexuality or bisexuality.
Many types of men engage in same-sex relationships, for a variety of reasons, which I will identify for the reader. A few of them are:
1. Openly Gay: These are men with homosexual orientations and preferences, who are romantically and sexually aroused by other men. When engaging in sexual activity with men, they feel affirmed and positive.
2. Closeted homosexual: These are homosexually oriented men who are sexually attracted to other men but are ashamed of their feelings and repress their urges to enjoy their fantasies and behaviors - knowing it could lead to romance and love. When they engage in same-sex behavior, they feel ashamed.
3. Hetero-Emotional and Homo-Sexual Men: These are men who are romantically attracted to the opposite sex and are usually heterosexually married and can be sexual with women they love but they are predominately aroused and driven sexually by desire for sex with other men.
4. Bisexual: These are men with combined heterosexual and homosexual orientations and preferences who are sexually - and often romantically - aroused and desire both genders. When they fantasize or act out on these urges, they too feel affirmed and positive.
5. Men acting out early childhood sexual abuse (also known as homosexual imprinting): These heterosexual men are not homosexually oriented. They do not sexually desire nor are they aroused by other men. However, they compulsively re-enact childhood sexual abuse by male perpetrators through their sexual behaviors with other men. This has nothing to do with their sexual and romantic identities.
If a basically heterosexual boy is molested by a male relative, he may keep "returning to the scene of the crime" to defuse and desensitize his emotional pain. When his original trauma gets cleared up, the "homosexual" behavior he's re-enacting ceases. This isn’t about gayness; it is about sexual abuse.
6. Men who are sex workers/male escorts: These heterosexual men engage in sexual behavior with other men by choice for the financial reward and lack desire for the other men and are aroused by the behavior not the man.
7. Men seeking intensely arousing but shameful experiences (dildo sex, bondage): These are heterosexual men who are strongly compelled and interested in various sexual experiences and preferences that would often be labeled as homosexual. To avoid being identified in this way by females, they seek out men, whom they perceive as non-judgmental.
8. First Sexual Experience: Sometimes heterosexual males experiment with other males sexually, usually in adolescence and/or young adulthood (up to age 25) for the experience and curiosity.
9. Availability/Opportunity: These straight men have high sex drives and are sexually aroused easily. They connect with men for physical sexual release, which can be quick and easy, avoiding having to emotionally engage.
10. Father Hunger: These are heterosexual men who crave affection and attention from their fathers and seek sex with men as a way of getting that male nurturance and acceptance.
11. Narcissism: These are straight men who are self-absorbed and have a constant need for attention and acceptance; they use sexuality with men to be worshipped and adored.
12. Sexual Addiction: "Gay" behavior can be the result of sexual addiction. I'll clarify what sexual addiction is—and isn't—and explore its defining signs and symptoms. But even a "cured" sex addict will still feel attracted to men, as do celibate gay priests.
13. Cuckolds: These are men who enjoy fantasies of--or the reality of--their wives and girlfriends having sex with other men either in front of them, nearby or with their knowledge about when and where it occurs. They're often sexually aroused by feeling humiliated that their wives are being pleased by another male whom they see as more potent and better endowed. Other men enjoy being sexual with other men's wives in front of the husband or at least with their knowledge. Sometimes they engage in sexual behavior with the man but only in the presence of the wife or girlfriend.
14. Exhibitionists: These are men who enjoy being looked at by both men and women as long as they are being admired for their bodies. Many are body builders and muscular and enjoy the homo-erotic attention of gay men and might even flirt with gay men to encourage more admiration.
15. Sex in Prison: These are men who are imprisoned who engage in same sex behavior. Their need for sexual release with another person occurs with men as they are available. Once released from prison they no longer engage in sexual behavior with men.
16. Homosexual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (HOCD): This is not a formal diagnosis and is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in which the individual is preoccupied about being homosexual when, in fact, they are heterosexual. They experience intrusive thoughts that they might be homosexual and feel compelled to engage in certain behaviors that make them think they are gay when in truth they are straight.
From my perspective as a gay psychotherapist who has counseled thousands of sexually confused men over the years, Straight Guise shows how this phenomenon goes well beyond the African American community. Not a week goes by when I don't receive distressed emails or phone calls from men who worry they might be gay and either are or are not and wives who have discovered their husbands engaged in gay hookups and relationships or exploring gay porn.
This article's intention is to help readers just as I have helped my clients, first by separating the two types of men in the world: There are men who are gay and bisexual and then there are heterosexual men who seek out sex with other men. The difference is one of sexual preference versus sexual identity.
Since 1985, psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW has been specializing in intimacy and relationship problems with gay and lesbian clients, and offering weekend retreats for gay men and lesbian and gay couples. He presents workshops and lectures for straight clinicians on Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy.
He graduated from Michigan State University with dual majors, in Psychology and Social Work. At Wayne State University, he earned his Master's in Social Work (MSW), then a Master's (MA) in Psychology.
His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Michigan Gay and Lesbian Paper, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, The Psychotherapy Networker and The Journal on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity other publications.
Besides providing therapy for individual and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. An adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Identity Development and Treatment at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he maintains a regularly updated website at http://www.joekort.com.