Andrew Sullivan on gays and testosterone

  • slimnmuscly

    Posts: 541

    Jun 10, 2011 10:52 PM GMT
    Great, nuanced stuff that covers a lot of ground. He's at or near his best here.

    As a gay man, I have lived in a world created, propelled and dominated by testosterone. I have loved it, been entranced by it, obsessed by it, crushed by it, exposed by it, humiliated by it and also exhausted by it. The gay male world is in some respects women's revenge on men - because everything women deal with on the testosterone front is doubled and then inflicted on other men.

    In the long run, it makes sense to settle down and see this raging, deranging horniness/temper decline in one's life, whether you're gay or straight. Marriage has had this effect on me in ways I never fully expected. Yes, men can domesticate men, even if not as effectively as women can. But in the short run, especially when young, surging testosterone offers unparalleled sexual excitement, constant no-strings-attached adventure, risk, ecstasy, thrills, passion and a form of psychological escape from the ordeal of consciousness that is, to my mind, unmatched. I suspect that's especially true for men, gay and straight, under stress or in the public eye constantly. To be something else for a while, to be purely an id, must be a particularly powerful relief for those required to be civilization's super-egos.

    But back to the gay angle. Because there is so much more physical and psychological equality in a male-only sexual culture, the traps and tragedies of straight men's testosteroned lives in interaction with calmer, saner women, may not be so common. Yes, hearts are broken, diseases caught (by far the biggest drawback), cruelties unleashed. But there is also more civility than you might expect. Very few fights break out in gay bars over emotional rivalries. Aggressive, unwanted pursuits of beloveds are less likely, because guys can tell guys to fuck off and mean it much more successfully than less physically imposing and more decorous women. When you're rejected, you are more likely, as a man, to know it's only superficial, because you too are superficial, and perhaps recover more quickly from the blow to the ego.

    I generalize wildly of course but when I tell straight friends that among the most civil places I have ever been have been gay sex clubs, they are often amazed. But they are. The best check on testosterone can be testosterone. And gay men are simply less affronted by an unsolicited picture of someone's dick than many women. Just don't send them the female equivalent. Now that will offend them.

    But to echo Joe, testosterone is a blessing and a curse. (I wrote a whole essay on it a while back.) But in gay male culture, these things tend to cancel themselves out with fewer costs and less drama. We are lucky in this way, which is why so many gay men remain a little mystified by the outrage over a few emailed dick pics. But, as marriage spreads and gay male culture evolves, perhaps this will begin to decline, or gay marriages will seek their own ways to deal with them, without wrecking the marriage entirely. Perhaps that will help inform straights better; or warn them of the dangers.

    We are, of course, also cursed by it - and I don't want to minimize that. What matters in a testosterone-only society are muscles, good looks, youth, masculinity. There is a ruthless simplicity to this that keeps gay guys in better shape than many straights, but leaves many men with more to offer than a hot pair of biceps a little stranded at times. Ageing can be particularly cruel. Marriage, in this way, has helped give more dignity and status to older, less sexually marketable men. Which is one reason it helps humanize what can be a brutal facet of a subculture. Otherwise, you're on your own. And, yes, it can be harsh as well as manly.


  • beaujangle

    Posts: 1701

    Jun 11, 2011 3:07 AM GMT
    Wow, this is articulate!
  • cageym

    Posts: 99

    Jun 11, 2011 3:13 AM GMT
    Andrew is awesome!
  • musicdude

    Posts: 734

    Jun 11, 2011 3:28 AM GMT
    i like it. well written
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    Jun 11, 2011 3:30 AM GMT
    Wow - Great piece!!! With the possible exception of "is the guy above you packin"' It could pretty much be inserted into any RJ thread and be completely relevant.