A recent obsession of mine is a new television program on Showtime, called “Masters of Sex.” It chronicles the work of a doctor/scientist in the ’50s conducting a “smut”-ridden project to learn about human sexuality and its affects on the body. In addition to being a show filled with personal dramas and intrigue, it also leads viewers to think about their own feelings and strategies when it comes to sex and how they view sex when thinking of other people.
I believe in a scale of sexuality. There are femme men, handsome ladies, and all sorts of personalities in between. I consider myself a pretty open-minded person when it comes to sex and how people engage in it and seek it out. My own escapades have been vastly enjoyable, yet without a lot of wild liberation that seem to be portrayed on television (and comes to our attention when watching an episode of basically any talk show). The wild side is something so common that learning about sexual proclivities isn’t relegated to pornography or dirty magazines, like in the time period of my new favorite show. It’s out in the open, for us all to marvel at.
My husband, in addition to being a very manly man, is somewhat cagey when discussing sex. While we were catching up on a new episode the other night, I started to pry into his personal life from a time before we were married, a time when he was a gay man playing the part of a straight man.
While I may never in my life understand what it means to feel truly trapped in the closet with no way out aside from a “normal heterosexual life,” or the courage it takes to “come out,” I still have questions for the person with whom I share a home. I still am curious as to who came before me in terms of relationships and sex. Living the life of a straight man until he was 27, my husband naturally had heterosexual sexual experiences. As a very gay man, I can’t imagine ever being in a sexual situation with a woman – nor have I ever tried. It is something I knew from childhood wasn’t for me.
As I pressed my husband for details on how it’s possible, especially for a man, to fake attraction and perform sexually, he was unable to find the words. He explained that the only person he was lying to was himself while dating those few women. Meanwhile, I sat on my couch, ears flame red, uncomfortable with the idea that anyone had what I now own, trying to wrap my head around the fact that my wonderful husband could say only “when you feel like you have to do something for your personal survival, you trick yourself into doing it.”
This comment enraged me because it was almost as if my husband was asking to be reinstated as a virgin in my eyes because he didn’t count his heterosexual experiences as sexual experiences because he is gay. I am under firm belief that black is black, white is white, and sex is sex. I am blessed to have been so sure of my own sexuality from childhood, yet I am also blessed with naivety. When it comes to relationships, especially sexual ones, I am unable to do anything but call it like I see it, but what my husband was trying to show me were the blurred lines of mind, of matter and heart versus physics. He was giving me grey.
This conversation obviously led me to ask about these women and try to understand who they were. The word from the other couch hit me like a ton of bricks. They were known as “covers,” while in my world we call them “beards.” I asked if he still had contact with any of them – apparently one showed up to my birthday party, another was a Facebook friend, another broke his heart too badly for him to repair (the six-year “cover”).
Knowing that there was still contact with his sexual history, I immediately became crazy jealous and asked for them all to be cut off immediately, whether through Facebook or otherwise, because I found it inappropriate to have a relationship with any ex, male or female, a rule which my husband utilizes against me concerning my own exes. When I did play the “no exes” card, my husband was disappointed that I couldn’t tell that these women were no competition nor were they even dignified as real relationships because he was gay the whole time. But didn’t he just say he’d slept with them?
After this upsetting outburst, I decided that I was square, not socially acclimated for the time I live in, or just uptight with far too little life experience. Or, possibly, I am completely normal and my husband, from living in the closet, is insane. I also decided that my husband was wrong for not only brushing off these girlfriends and flings as covers, but also denying the fact that for a man to perform sexually, he must be interested and for lack of a better term, excited about it.
The remarkable courage that any closet-case shows when coming out of that closet is something I will never understand, the same as I’ll never understand what it feels like to live as a young girl in Pakistan, and I thank God every day that my husband found his way to me. But this column isn’t about that triumph; it’s about sex and how it operates in different spheres and realms.
I’m sure this story hasn’t seen its end, but I just figured I would air a little of my dirty laundry for you all to ponder over. Is sex and love so free that anyone can fake it, and later write it off as a cover, an experiment, or life necessity, when in essence it is, or should be, something very real from the heart or loins? While you can have love without sex and have sex without love, isn’t there some justifiable overlap that pertains to our place on life’s spectrum?