This is my second in a 3-part series on male attraction. Check out Part 1 — What Attracts Me to Other Guys — and stay tuned next month for a “why” capper on my male attractions.
I’ve pretty much always been attracted to guys in one manner or another. Some times more obsessively and explicitly than others. Some times more emotionally than physically.
And for whatever reason, never sexually . . .
My fascination with the other boys started as early as first grade. I’ve written about under-the-jacket bus rides with a female classmate, talking all about the boys in our class. It’s funny to me now, thinking back on how open I was with her. With anyone.
I certainly didn’t stay open.
Later in childhood, around third grade to seventh grade, I took my escalating fascinations to the written page, fleshing out fictional adventure stories that featured me with my male classmates — most of whom I had no actual friendship with.
But I wanted it. Especially with one or two of my cute classmates in particular.
I found them physically attractive, yes, but at this age I just wanted to be around them and soak in some of their personality, their masculinity as my own.
Oh, those storybooks. It was either really cute or really sad.
How badly I wanted to live out those adventures with the other boys.
High School and College
My inner fascinations for other guys eventually turned external. Where the emotional attraction turned more physical. Hooray, puberty.
I describe these years as metaphorically peering over fences or “stretching my eyes” in locker rooms. I was in a really athletic class, so changing before/after PE gave me a front row seat to some beautiful male bodies.
I was also really drawn by the kind of underwear all the other boys wore. I felt isolated in my boring tighty-whities and found all the other colors and styles so appealing and, yes, arousing.
My attractive class also had some bullies, and bullies have a lot more free reign in the locker room. So despite my delight in seeing my classmates shirtless or pantless, I also didn’t want to get unnecessarily picked on or mocked for my paleness or wiry frame (or tighty-whities).
So, I often delayed my trips to the locker room as long as I could without being late.
It was a complicating kinship and disconnect in the locker room: the ability to exist in the same arena, seeing other men as vulnerably as I knew to that point, and yet feeling so out of place all the same.
My physical attractions for other guys intensified the more I caught passing glimpses of abs and boxers in the locker room. Masturbation happened more often, but only ever in admiration of the male body I didn’t have. Never a sexual thought accompanying.
College gave me some momentary opportunities to bridge the chasms with other males. I roomed with some guys my freshman year and found such a “scary contentment” in simply coexisting with them.
Our suite held a poker night early into the fall semester, and I actually did well as a beginner. A couple of the guys went out of their way to say how great of a poker player I was, and I’d never felt so affirmed by a group of men to that point.
One shirtless guy burped and farted right next to me, and it was oddly endearing to sit literally beside him as an equal at the table. Not peering at these guys from the sidelines of my bedroom.
I don’t remember being attracted to the other guys in that circle so much as I felt I could finally breathe in their midst. Not holding my breath while looking from the corner of my eyes to see what kind of underwear they were sporting today.
The physical attractions bounced back more toward the emotional.
Then, after freshman year, I moved back home and discovered pornography.
Starting sophomore year, living back at my parents’ house, I went back to peering at men from afar through the lens of pornography. It was “only” soft-core porn, and I got further drawn into the beauty of the male figure — while simultaneously getting sucked into something else altogether.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now recognize the allure of porn: the ability to bask in the beauty of a man without ever engaging him. Seeing his heart. Letting him see the messiness of mine.
I spent many years in masculine isolation, always wanting to connect in “real life” with other men but not ever taking much initiative. Porn was easier. Masturbation with a little physical fantasy was easier.
Later in my journey, illicit web chats with other men were easier. And far more intoxicating. Like porn, but recorded footage turned to “real life.”
Despite the physical allures of porn or such video chats, I see the heart of my attractions throughout: an emotional longing to connect, going all the way back to tenting my jacket with that girl on the bus, gossiping about all the boys I wanted as my friend.
I’m beyond blessed to have more men in my life than ever before. Mostly of the same-sex attracted (SSA) or gay-identifying variety, but increasingly some straight men too.
When I stop to consider how relationally rich I’ve grown in my thirties, I feel bad. I feel confusion.
Why am I still beckoned by illicit things? Why hasn’t all the good of male relationships erased the bad?
In my attractions for other men, I still face temptations to masturbate with unhealthy fantasy and watch things I shouldn’t and engage in dicy chats I shouldn’t.
I still bounce between heightened desires for emotional and physical connection; rarely do I feel “content.”
I crave more physical connection with one friend, more emotional connection with another. More of both with many others.
I want the benefits of a “relationship” without the work of one. It’s in these harder moments of friendship-building that I feel antsily attracted to men and, often, the cheap way out.
But I’ll talk more about why I’m attracted to men in Part 3 of this series — including why I’m not attracted to men sexually. Though that’s still an unfolding journey of self-discovery.
To close: I like being attracted to men, in a sense. Not for any nefarious reasons of envy or lust, but simply because I enjoy affirming a guy’s manhood (and, obviously, vice versa). I enjoy sharing in his similar physical features and also, more significantly, sharing his — and my — masculine heart.
I’m grateful for the men who have shown me their heart over the years, gay or straight or anywhere in between, as I’ve shown them mine. As we’ve not run away from the darkness sitting across from the other.
As we’ve walked side by side in the light of this shared masculinity, together.
When have you been attracted to men: physically, emotionally, and sexually? Do you see any patterns or cycles to your same-sex attractions?