Tiaan writes: “…I must add that I am not gay, but this is the whole problem. Why am I emailing you then you ask? Well, being able to handle girls is hard enough for me, but I need an expert’s help in handling gays too. I have a relatively serious girlfriend at the moment and just to give you an example, we went to the Cape Town Fashion Week last week, and being fashion week, obviously there are bound to be people from all walks of life.
“During the night I noticed a few guys smiling at me, and at first I thought nothing of it and just casually smiled back at them. But as the night progressed, I noticed staring, and that’s when I get uncomfortable. It became so bad that I was scared to go into the bathroom (I know it sounds pathetic, but I’m just being honest).
“A friend of my girlfriend, who happened to be with these guys then came over and said ‘those guys over there are perving over your boyfriend, so you better get him out of here quick!’ This just threw me off completely, and my girlfriend demanded that I kiss her on the spot, in front of them. She was actually a bit pissed off.
“Now, I want to be prepared for when/if this happens again. So I need you to tell me what to do in a situation like that. Look, I have nothing against anyone and would gladly go over and talk to someone if they seem friendly/nice. But I also don’t want to walk over and say ‘Look, I’ll talk to you, but let’s get one thing straight, I’m not gay!’, because I feel that’s a bit of a slap in the face. Then again I also don’t want them to think I’m available.
Because let’s face it, straight guys in general (at least in South Africa) are too fucked up to go up to a gay person at a social gathering and talk to them, and when you do, it is automatically assumed that you are gay too, which is wrong, but that’s how the cookie crumbles!
What do I do? How do I handle this in future? How do I tell my girlfriend, ‘I’m not kissing you just because you feel insecure’? I’m sick of people’s assumptions and what they think of me. I hope you can help.”
I know you weren’t expecting a lecture, but I just can’t help myself. Let me also preface this lengthy answer by saying that I have no professional capacity to give you any advice about this, and what follows is my opinion based solely on personal experience and stuff I make up as I go.
But on to your problem, of sorts. The answer is actually pretty simple, but it doesn’t resolve your problem. Before I get there, let me ramble around a bit in your psyche and possibly get you even more upset.
Firstly, any other member of the gay community (assuming there is one) would call me on the carpet if I didn’t explain to you that what you’re feeling is homophobia. The give-away line is “straight guys in general… are too fucked up to go up to a gay person at a social gathering and talk to them, and when you do, it is automatically assumed that you are gay too, which is wrong, but that’s how the cookie crumbles!”
I’ll assume the “which is wrong” part isn’t you saying that it’s wrong for people to assume that someone else is gay, but that it’s wrong to assume someone is gay just because they otherwise associate with gay people. I hope you see that both of those statements are incredibly prejudicial.
I realize you’re trying very hard to explain how fair and open-minded you are, but the point I need to make to you is, so what if someone else thinks you’re gay? You know you’re not gay. But you’re afraid someone else will think you are, which presumes on your part that being gay is bad and wrong and you’re somehow suddenly less of a person than you were before.
I will try not to make any judgments, here, but it’s important for you to understand that your discomfort is not something that others are forcing on you, but something you’re carrying around all by yourself. You don’t object to other women staring at you, which I would assume would also make your girlfriend jealous, just other men.
That said, let’s look at your reaction to getting attention from other men. My first question would be, “What are you afraid will happen?” At this point, some guy is staring at you. Someone else comes up and informs you that they’re talking about you, too. Frankly, unless they’re unzipping and pulling out and wagging themselves at you, so the fuck what? Now, going into the bathroom and some guy wants to look at your dick, yeah, now there’s a discomfort for anyone. Well, almost anyone. I can think of a few… but never mind. Go into a stall and have a seat if you’re that worried about it. Easy solution and you get to relieve your bladder and not blame anyone else for stopping you.
What I’m assuming is happening is that your brain is jumping several steps forward in some fantasy you’ve concocted and the next thing you know, you end up naked and tied up with some weird dude oiling up a dildo, all set to have his way with you.
Guy to guy (and not gay guy to straight gay), let’s level with each other here. Men are dogs. All men are dogs. We like to look. Studies have shown that that’s how men get the greatest sense of sexual gratification, other than, you know, sex — through our eyes. How many men are buying porn versus women? Who buys Playgirl? The majority are gay men. Women are far more complicated than that and need all sorts of different input. Romance novels? Women. Guys generally don’t want to read about hot sex, they want to see it. Let’s agree that’s a given.
Okay, so now we have you, someone (I assume) who’s young and cute and smiling. You’re in a room with men who like other men. They’re looking at everyone, because that’s how men are. You become a target of their attention. They’re looking at you because you’re attractive regardless of whether you’re gay or not. Maybe they think you are. Maybe they hope you are.
So what’s the answer? Unless and until some other guy comes up and propositions you, relax and enjoy the attention. You know you’re not gay. End of story. It’s a compliment. You’re hot.
Nothing else is likely to happen. No one is going to rape you. No one’s going to unzip your pants and suck your dick unless you want them to. If some dude does get up the courage to make an advance, tell them, “No.” Feel free to punch them out if they reach for your package after you’ve told them No, of course, because anyone would. No one gets my goods unless I say so. But I’m willing to bet that if you say No, whether or not you add “I’m not gay,” they’ll leave you alone. This won’t, obviously, stop them from staring, but nothing will.
Short answer: You don’t have to “handle gays.”
Now, if this is all about how your girlfriend feels, well, that’s her problem, isn’t it? If she’s that insecure — and, again, one has to ask oneself what she’s insecure of, that you’ll suddenly “turn gay” and want to leave her for some cute stud who winked at you? What are the odds? Anyway, if she’s that insecure than you’re going to have more problems in that relationship than just other guys staring at you.
Lastly, I’ll just apologize on behalf of those anonymous gay men whose stares have you so upset. Me, I never stare. I think it’s a generational thing. I was always afraid of the you’s of the world, that I’d stare at the wrong guy and he’d get upset about something or other (I guess that I assumed he was gay, which is unfortunately too rarely the case) and come over with his pals and kick my ass just for looking at him.
Staring is always rude, but it’s sometimes the only method gay men have of ascertaining whether the object of one’s attention would be willing to return that attention. Eye contact. We can’t, on average, just ask. We have to be stealthy and sneaky and careful. Even here in San Francisco, the occasional gay bashing still occurs. It’s just something we live with constantly. Some day, I may get beat up for no reason other than I am not straight.
If it helps at all, I’ve also heard the same lament from attractive gay men. They don’t like being stared at, either. I’m sure attractive women get very tired of it as well. It’s just a fact of human nature. Good looking people are going to get unwanted attention because they’re good looking. It often has nothing to do with gender or sexual preference or anything other than, “Holy Jesus, that is one beautiful person and I just want to look at them for as long as I can.”
I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it.
August 16, 2005