This chapter was built exclusively on the basis of the experience gained in Project Gay, it is an objectively limited point of view that focuses mainly on undeclared gay guys, the average age of these guys is around 26 years, starting from 16/17 up to 40 and over.
The object of the survey is the set of emotional relationships of a gay guy, from familiar relationships to those with friends and those related to the love life, in other words we try to understand what can objectively contribute to individual well-being and what are the factors that for this purpose have greater weight.
Family affectivity and coming out
The awareness of being gay is not traumatic in itself but because it is hypothesized that being gay involves a condition of substantial separation, even if not always of objective exclusion, from the family and from social environment.
A gay guy very often realizes that he is living in an environment with which he cannot have direct dialogue and clearly perceives environmental and family homophobia. In other words, a gay guy often feels himself out of the family environment and out of the peer group, right because of his being “a gay guy” and hence derives the importance that many gay guys attach to the coming out (more or less enlarged) that is supposed to be the keystone for a full integration into the social and family environment of a guy as a gay.
All this is based on the often unrealistic assessment that the misunderstanding between a gay guy and his family or a gay guy and his social environment derives from the lack of clarity on the part of the gay guy rather than from ignorance and environmental homophobia.
A gay boy blames himself for not declaring himself to his parents and his friends and identifies the causes of his own marginalization precisely in the lack of clarity that he uses towards friends and family.
Not declaring themselves, especially in contexts that push towards coming out, is experienced with guilt, as a form of deception perpetrated against family and friends.
The push towards the coming out, which appears to be a push towards honesty and transparency, is greatly reinforced by the assumption, or rather we should say from the presumption a priori, that the family and friends are able to really understand and accept the situation.
In totally unprepared environments, the coming out can create situations of serious discomfort, on the verge of intolerability, because usually the reaction is not a clear refusal but a disguised refusal often accompanied by the parent’s feeling of guilt for not having been in able to grow “well” the son. The punishment for this alleged fault consists in having to keep the child as he is and trying to love him “in spite of everything”.
Similar attitudes, for the guys who have come out in the family turn out to be more destructive than the sense of generic loneliness and non-inclusion that had preceded the coming out.
Friendship affectivity and coming out
Even with friends, with very few exceptions, guys soon realize that the coming out doesn’t lead to true integration but to an integration “as gay”, that is, the identification tag objectively makes a difference unbridgeable. After the coming out, often, the situation becomes worse than before and the feeling of marginality and loneliness is exacerbated.
Affectivity research and gay sexual research
After the phase of the search for family and social integration, the search for solutions oriented towards the gay reality begins. It is realized that with other gay boys a dialogue of another level is really possible, but often the idea of a more direct and immediate dialogue is mixed up with the sexual research.
Every effort must be made to represent things in realistic terms, trying to avoid the mysticim of gay affectivity. I mean that not only sexual research should not be underestimated but it must be realized that it is a fundamental element for the growth and emotional stability of any person. The overlapping and integration of affective research and sexual research has nothing pathological and one should be amazed, if anything, by the excess of sublimation on one side and the excess of affective aridity on the other.
For a gay guy, as for any guy, sexuality has a fundamental role that must be understood and valued. In the context of sexuality, given the difficulty for a gay guy to find the sexual availability of another guy, masturbation takes on a particularly important meaning, especially when any couple sexual experience is virtually impossible.
Even pornography, when it does not create real forms of addiction, should not be demonized. The discovery of online pornography occurs at a very early age and often in a period concomitant with that of the discovery of masturbation. The first contacts with the pornography of preadolescents are frenetic, pornography becomes in practice in many cases a reality that dominates for a while the whole horizon of sexuality, but in the late adolescence needs of affective character mature and gradually lead to a certain devaluation of pornography and even masturbation takes on a more typically affective dimension, that is, it is considered as an integral part, even if projective, of a love relationship.
It is a fact that guys and in particular gay guys are very selective in the use of pornography, they are looking for videos that have actors of a few and specific physical types and especially videos that concretize situations that they would like to live in reality. In fact, masturbation with fantasies related to experiences really experienced is much more engaging than that related to pornography because it has a root in concrete experience.
While masturbation keeps over time a fundamental role, pornography tends to lose importance over the years and, in a good percentage of cases, certainly not marginal, guys quickly move to the phase of erotic chats and dating sites and here takes place a phenomenon similar to the one that happens at the time of the discovery of pornography: guys realize that having sex on cam with strangers is easy as well as not risky in terms of disease prevention.
Then begins a phase of frantic search for virtual sexual contacts. At first the thing is very engaging, even if often accompanied by feelings of guilt, then, over time, guys realize that all this is missing something that is easily identified with the physical presence of the other, the jump towards meeting sites follows, which is objectively much more risky both at the social level and at the level of prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
But even the meetings organized in the sites, except for very rare exceptions, are unsatisfactory, often the reason is found in the fact that the other is not exactly the one you were looking for, so you switch to a new experience and then to another and so on. The dating sites are likely to be the arrival station for many people, but in many cases guys ask themselves what is missing in all this and they finally discover the correct answer: in such experiences there isn’t any true affective dimension.
Economic model of gay affectivity
In what does gay affectivity materialize? The answer should be sought by keeping in mind the common overlap-confusion of two concepts: sex and love that often moves people away from a more complex conception of affectivity. I mean that affectivity can certainly be sexualized but in many cases it presents itself and is objectively completely independent of sexuality. A genuinely emotional relationship is born in a totally spontaneous way and above all it is not conditioned by anything, it exists, if it exists, only for its own strength, outside and often against any mechanism of control.
The economic view of affectivity is very common; balance of giving and taking, emotional investment, convenience, emotional failure, are all expressions derived from the world of economics. After all, the economic models dominate in many sectors and it is almost automatic to apply them also to emotional life, hence the idea of marriage and in general of emotional relationship as a “contract” in which one is bound to an exchange of services and offer certain guarantees and also the idea of an emotional relationship based on the possession of the other. In reality, the economic reading of affectivity is the cause of the failure of many marriages and many couple relationships.
Weak and gratuitous affectivity – Emotional affinity
The affectivity is not totally neither even essentially linked to the life of a couple, it is a much weaker concept, that is much less binding and contractual, but at the same time much more widespread and pervasive. Affectivity is the basis of a deep, spontaneous human relationship and responds to ancestral mechanisms aimed at mutual gratification and at creation of weak but lasting relationships on which the balance of individuals is based.
Affectivity tends to be a weak but stable aggregative force because it is independent of external factors and in large part also of the behavioral responses of the other. This identifies the gratuitousness of the affective dimension that gives without asking, even if it is not addressed to everyone but to a fairly small number of individuals who perceive themselves as emotionally similar.
Affectivity does not intervene towards people who are perceived as a potential danger for their unpredictability, but only when the behavior of the other is in some way predictable and judged honest, that is, driven only by affective categories and not by other aims. Affectivity comes into play when there is recognition of a basic affinity in spontaneous reaction mechanisms.
Where there is something dissonant, that is, a stranger or not understandable, affectivity doesn’t intervene and the unconscious and subliminal communication mechanisms don’t work, where on the contrary affectivity intervenes, most of the communication doesn’t need words or abstract conceptualizations and people get in touch with each other essentially through a subliminal communication easily deciphered because the communication code is substantially the same.
The affective dimension creates a form of communion-communication for which defensive shields vanish and the learning of behaviors, of ways of doing, of saying, of physically posing of the other is much facilitated, but all this remains at the subliminal level.
Free friendship and instrumental friendship
The typically affective relationship is friendship, it is a fundamental and spontaneous interpersonal relationship that does not create bonds but is able to minimize the feeling of marginality and non-inclusion that so many gay guys experience.
Unfortunately, friendships are often considered as a kind of technique for the satisfaction of other needs (mostly linked with sexuality), in this way friendship is subordinated to something else and loses its essential character of absolute gratuity. However, it cannot be taken for granted that the intervention of sexuality in a relationship of friendship is always conditioning and destructive, there are friendships that are substantially independent on the sexual involvement that anyhow accompany them, such friendships are not lost when the sexual interest that had been, at least partially, the glue of the friendship, vanishes. However, if the so-called friendship was exclusively instrumental for sexual purposes, when the sexual relationship ends, the relationship of friendship highlights all its weakness and vanishes in a short time.
Friendship between gays
Friendship does not constrain, does not limit, but opens up a way of communication between people who feel similar. Of course, the affinity can be of various degrees; if this affinity is truly profound, friendship is very firm. In this sense, sexual orientation plays an important role because in a friendly relationship the affinity of experience is a fundamental element. A gay guy uses a communication code that doesn’t coincide with the one used by hetero guys, the messages are different and more cryptic, the unsaid is much more important than the said, but a code like that for another gay, and especially for another near and congenial gay, is instead understandable and the discourse develops in depth even in the absence of many words.
The affective equilibrium is a psycho-physical state of well-being that gives the perception of being inserted into a network of protection and therefore also of not being alone anymore. This protection network is not a constraint and above all it does not depend on any condition other than being oneself and triggers itself only when one really needs it.
The certainty of the existence of this network of protection derives from the fact that the presence of the other is is something that can not be doubted, it may be missing for a period but neither of the partners thinks, plans or even foresees the end of the friendship. These are not necessarily constant relationships, are often suspended but are anyway real because they reacquire their concreteness whenever the need of them arises. Just a few words, a smile, the availability that does not lack at all, the perception of the attention of the other are enough to prove that the relationship of friendship has not been broken.
The construction of true friendships with other gay guys turns out to be the keystone of individual well-being. When a couple relationship goes into crisis, there is a bad feeling of disappointment and abandonment, but if the protection network made up of friendships actually works, if they are true friendships, the crisis is overcome and is not in itself destructive; feeling deprived at the same time of all emotional relationships, lose all friendships and have to start everything from scratch would be quite different. Such a trauma would actually be destructive and would compromise the emotional stability of an individual in a very heavy way.
There are no formal affinities of any kind that can constitute deep bonds like the spontaneous bonds emerging from affectivity. To be friends it is certainly not enough to be both gay or have in common a political ideal or a religious belief. There is no associationism that can replace the emotional relationships because such relationships that have their own motivations and their mechanisms and cannot be assimilated to anything else. I add a last but fundamental observation: true emotional relationships, those who create a deep contact between persons, are always reciprocal, are not the result of an act of will and less than ever of an individual act of will. The lack of reciprocity is not a defect of the relationship but a spy of its inexistence. But reciprocity is not reciprocity of behavior but reciprocity of affective dispositions, it is mutual interest, mutual respect, it is perceiving the other as a peer.
Sexuality as a substitute of affectivity
Talking with gay guys of all ages, I happened several times to realize how sexuality often has in reality a substitute value of affectivity and how this substitution is inefficient and disappointing. I am not sexuophobic, but I don’t believe that sexuality per se represents the basis of a person’s well-being. If sexuality has also a strong emotional, communicative basis of human warmth, then it becomes one of the most powerfully stabilizing elements of the personality, but if it is detached from the emotional dimension it often ends up being the manifestation of an unease.
I have seen many times sexually available guys systematically escaping the concrete opportunities to create an important emotional relationship and I asked myself why affectivity can be scary and from what I see the only credible answer lies in the fact that an important emotional relationship is seen as a narrow, constrictive bound imposed to freedom. Behind this way of seeing things there is often the memory of difficult family experiences, in which the affective dimension has been used as a means of restraining and controlling individual freedom, but beyond that there is also the model of couple linked to the traditional idea of marriage as the bond of a monogamous and essentially irreversible union.
When overprotective parents, who are unable to really get in touch with sons, experience with anxiety the freedom of their sons who move away from the family, they tend, even unconsciously, to make their sons feel the emotional relationship with them more as a bond than as a security. It is the typical educational model: “If you love me you have to do what I say”.
The fear of falling in love is also linked to another concept, namely the idea of avoiding the “compromise” that is very often the basis of the couple life. I mean that guys who avoid building emotional relationships to safeguard their freedom, avoid in practice to enter into relationships of which they are not really convinced, that is, they are much more selective than the average in the search for a partner because they don’t want to pursue the idea of the “couple for the couple” but want a couple that is not based on a compromise.
It is often very easy to slip from relationships of superficial knowledge toward very tight and binding forms of involvement that don’t have a really strong emotional basis. The guys who don’t seem to like the couple life tend to follow a reasoning that seems strange from the outside, but that actually has a very precise meaning, they say that one thing is “to love a guy”, even if it is the case, with a bit of sex, and a very different thing is finding a partner. Typical is the expression: “I like him, but I’m not in love with him, while I’m really madly in love with that other guy, and I would stay in couple with him!”
The discriminating element between liking someone and falling in love with him is clearly of a sexual nature and this is certainly not a trivial thing. A guy who seems to be afraid of couple life and who generally tends much more to protect his freedom is willing to sacrifice it “only” to build a stable relationship with a guy who involves him very strongly on a sexual level. The reasoning is absolutely straightforward: a basically definitive choice must have a strong motivation at its base and sexual interest is one of the components, if not the essential component, of a really strong interest.
Failure of couple life
If we look at the reasons for the failure of many couples, when there is a mutual esteem and affection in spite of everything, we find in the first place the fading of sexual interest, in most cases from only one part. A couple made of people all in all serious and balanced, doesn’t work when the sexual drive towards the partner is missing even from only one side.
When this happens, one has to wonder if that sexual drive has ever been real or has been replaced by a fragile condescension due perhaps to the need not to be alone. Most likely the couple who goes into crisis after a few months, was couple born on a compromise, in which, on the one side at least, there was no real sexual drive.
A few decades ago, it was quite usual to find arranged marriages due to the intervention of the families. In such situations, the couple’s true glue was given by the social approval that didn’t propose but imposed on the spouses a life in which sexuality became a secondary variable aimed at the birth of children. In such situations, on the side of the husband, having a lover represented the tacitly tolerated answer to the enslavement of sexuality in marriage; on the part of the wife, obedience and submission were proposed as a religious and consoling value, taking the total frustration of female sexuality for granted and inevitable.
This model of couple life has inevitably been exported also to the gay field. Obviously, given the lack of sons and also the lack of formalization of the relationship in a union basically indissoluble as in marriage, the gay couple born on a compromise is characterized by a greater fragility than that of arranged marriages. It should be added that the low social visibility of gay couples greatly reduces the fear of social reactions (the scandal) that used to slow down the crisis of the marriage or at least to reduce its visibility.
Affectivity crisis and non-affective sexuality
So far we have analyzed the motivations that cause certain guys to avoid easy emotional ties, it is a matter of strong motivations but, nevertheless, the renunciation of the precarious stability typical couples born on a compromise, especially when family relationships are in crisis and friendships remain superficial or conflictual, involves a sense of emptiness, of suspended life, increases the perception of the passage of time and inevitably leads to the search for values substitutive of affectivity and the only concrete answer is to try to replace affectivity with sexuality but, obviously, with a non-affective sexuality, with a result that seems to re-propose on the sexual level the idea of a couple based on a compromise that had already been excluded on the emotional level.
It is true, however, that we are almost never dealing, objectively, with couples arose from a sexual compromise because the basic requirement of stability is lacking, i.e. the constraint that is automatically excluded in the name of the protection of individual freedom and obviously lacks also the exclusivity. I would like to clear the field from moralistic prejudices. The only real risk of these behaviors is sexual promiscuity that, if not accompanied by the systematic use of appropriate forms of prevention, significantly increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
In terms of social relationships, guys who are not inclined to forming couples based on a compromise often encounter misunderstandings, are considered in some way dependent on sex and, moreover, on a promiscuous sex, because the idea of a couple based on a compromise, on a social level, is considered, let me use the game of words, a good compromise between sexual needs and stability, where stability means adapting to compromise, which is the most condemned behavior in words, and nevertheless the most widespread in reality.
The real problem of guys who tend to substitute affection with promiscuous sexuality lies in the fact that the partners they relate to, in general, reason in the most common way, i.e. they tend to create compromise couples, without major problems, when they meet guys sexually available, because they take for granted that sexual availability automatically involves a similar affective availability, what in the situations we are talking about is not realistic.
So two very different mentalities meet and the misunderstandings can be profound and lacerating because both partners feel they are judged and misunderstood in things that seem fundamental and obvious to them. It is precisely this mechanism that prevents the consolidation of relationships that are born on the sexual level and fuels the promiscuity of young people who don’t want to create compromise couples.