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 . . .

Childhood

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.

Young Adulthood

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.

Today-ish

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?

  • As someone about your age, Tom, it is actually helpful to hear that you are still wondering why these attractions have not diminished. I also have been incredibly blessed with some excellent friendships, and I’ve been trying to navigate similar territory. Maybe I should focus less on trying to feel content and satisfied in friendships and just enjoy them for what they are. It is not my friends’ fault that I always want more. It occurs to me that the way forward is to stare my heart’s aching, bleeding, affection-sucking black hole in the face, laugh back at it, and tell it that God is enough for me even if that hole doesn’t think so, and carry on with my friendships.
    …or something like that 🙂

  • Tom,
    Haha commenting on this post demands vulnerability. Only those willing to be super vulnerable will respond. I might as well start.
    There are attractions that are legitimate and attractions that are temptations to sin. I will refer to the former as desires and the latter as lusts.
    Often I desire emotional closeness and friendship with men. This is appropriate and happens often, especially when I am alone too much. Jesus taught on friendship many times, so I know I can in good conscience take steps to find friends and build trust with them to fulfill those good desires.
    Unfortunately this good desire can be twisted into sexual lust, which is a temptation that I must always resist. When I see a physically attractive man I don’t know well, I can feel a sexual lust for him. I respond by replacing it with an effort to do what is good toward him, instead of something sexual.
    For some reason, when I am friends with a guy I usually don’t feel sexual lust toward him. I recognize his good looks but that doesn’t pull me towards sin.
    There are certain patterns I have noticed. As with most guys, I am tempted to slip into watching pornography when I am lonely. If I am not seeking to fulfill my desire for friends in right ways, I am tempted to lust in wrong ways.
    Another pattern is that when I am closer to God, such as when I was in high school, sexual temptations towards men have no power over me.

    • Grateful for your perspective, as always, Marshall! Viewing male friendship through the lens of a giver and not a taker is still a relatively new concept for me. I’m still learning my long instilled wirings toward self-preservation, bordering and spilling into selfishness. Grateful for men like you who show me what true Christian love for his fellow man is all about.

  • I think over time i have noticed less patterns in my attractions. When I was hiding behind all the clothes in the depths of the closet and in almost complete denial I looked like that meme with the guy who looks crazy trying to explain something(see gif below). Because if you throw the fish out of an airplane at a right angle the pilot is boubd to have a headache right? I made sense where there was none. Im attracted to people because they’re attractive. And while it is a physical attraction many times it isn’t always necessarily a sexual one. And being that Im married that plays out in different ways. What I think I can see at least more clues to is when/why I might have a small crush on a person or start catching feelings which at this point in my life doesnt happen very often either lol. It usually points to a level of disatisfaction with some area of my life https://media3.giphy.com/media/rR0jTsej7AfKM/giphy.gif

    • So…I don’t get the fish/airplane/headache metaphor…am I dumb??
      Haha. I love your distinction between physical and sexual attraction. I’m still trying to fully explain it to others, and even to myself, but it’s been an important distinction for me in the last couple years. I have more language than ever before about why I’m attracted to my same sex. Which will be elaborated on more in Part 3!
      Thanks for your perspective, Ashley. Always grateful!

      • it was supposed to be confusing/nonsensical like those story math problems in grade school that made no sense lol

  • Ah, labels. Always a fun one to dive into. For 32 years I’ve bounced around the label spectrum trying on SSA and gay and queer and asexual. I see elements of myself in all of them but no single one truly resonates. I’m cool with any label someone else wants to use as we dive deeper to the heart of the matter and the meat of my story.
    Thanks for sharing some of your story here, Mike. So sorry to hear about your friend. Ugh, that’s awful. Prayers and blessings. Thanks for being here.

  • I think the clearest pattern I’ve seen through time for myself is that there is almost always one guy who is foremost in my attraction and attachment. Different guys may occupy that spot through different seasons of life, but whoever it is, everyone else fades a little bit into the background. I feel like I’m currently in a unique season because there isn’t this one primary guy right now. It’s not that I’m not attracted to anybody, but my heart’s spread out a bit more. It’s kind of a relief.

    • Ryan, I’m so happy to hear that there is not just one primary guy you are attached to! You will be far more happy and effective if that keeps happening.
      From what I have experienced and what I have seen in many others, long term obsession with one guy never ends well. It always explodes in one way or another and causes great pain. When I love a few close friends in a deep but non-sexual way it works a lot better!

    • I can relate with having one guy in that “top spot” throughout various seasons of my life. Wonder why that’s been the case more often than not?
      Spreading out my own heart in recent years has been a huge help in lessening any obsessions. I feel ya on that relief!

  • Ooooooooooof. Been pondering those questions at the end for about 15mins now. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ gotta spend some time and recall my whole life for a sec brbbbbbb

  • I’m so late in responding…and please forgive me. I so enjoyed reading more of your story Tom, and can relate in many ways…especially the locker room. I hated them in school. I remember one guy in particular bullied me and would hit on me. I suffered in pain and anguish not knowing what to do and feeling very alone. I was scared to make any kind of eye contact with anyone. I remember one fateful day when a guy cornered me in the locker area and was relentless in something I would rather not say here….until I gave in.
    As we tell our stories, I find encouragement and comfort…at seeing God’s hand in the midst of it all. I’ve shared here some of the “credentials” I’ve received. Quite frankly, I would not have chosen such “credentials” but they have given me a platform from which to speak. One of my favorite verses in the Bible comes from II Cor. 1:3-4 when it says why do we go through what we go through – it’s so we can give comfort and help to others with the comfort and help God has given to us.
    Thanks again!

    • Thanks for sharing vulnerably, Dave. Love that passage from Corinthians. Such truth seen in my life these last few years. Grateful for God’s hand guiding this story and connecting it to others, too.

  • This…this made me cry.
    Especially when you said “equal”. Thats all Ive ever wanted. To be equal and feel like “one of the guys”. And “bro out”.
    Great read Thomas!

  • Thomas Mark Zuniga

    I'm a storyteller and story-liver in Asheville, North Carolina – the Jewel of the Blue Ridge. I'm YOB's cofounder and editor, and I also host our bimonthly podcast. I've written a couple books, including a memoir in 2013 where I first came out to the world. Once upon another universe I anonymously blogged about my faith and sexuality under the Xanga username, "twoBeckonings." I'm an INFJ, an Enneagram 4w5, and my spirit animal is the buffalo. My favorite place in the world is the one where coffee and vulnerability meet.

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