Concept of feeling of guilt
This chapter is dedicated to a reflection on the relationship between homosexuality and feelings of guilt. When a person has profoundly assimilated a code of behavior and performs actions that according to that code of behavior are reprehensible, that person experiences feelings of guilt. The feelings of guilt are the sign of the irreconcilability of having to be (behavioral code) and of being (actual behavior).
Function of the sense of guilt
It must be emphasized that the sense of guilt has a very important function in the maintenance of individual morality because its fundamental function consists in reorienting behaviors, leading them towards the respect for the rules.
An example can help to understand the concrete meaning of these concepts.
A guy receives a secret from a friend, then, with extreme lightness, he talks with other guys violating his friend’s privacy, gossip follows. The guy realizes that he has failed in the duty of confidentiality towards a friend who trusted him, he feels guilty for this, ad also feels the need to tell his friend to have stupidly told what should not have been told. The friend, seeing the real repentance of the guy forgives him. The story seems to end here, but in reality the guy who had transgressed the rule of confidentiality has learned a lesson in morality and when he will find himself in similar situations he will behave correctly. This is concretely the “physiological” function of the sense of guilt and, as we can see, it deals with fundamental psychological mechanisms of self-correction of one own behaviors.
Codes of behavior and individual well-being
In the example we have just seen, a condition has been taken for granted, that is that the violated code of behavior is a deeply assimilated and consciously shared code of behavior on the part of the guy who violated it. It is precisely this condition that leads to “physiological” feeling of guilt, that is, functional not only to restore respect for the behavioral code but also to improve the individual well-being of those who have transgressed it.
Respect for the code of behavior and individual well-being are often things very difficult to be implemented jointly or even irreconcilable and this happens when the code of behavior is not really assimilated and shared by the one who should put it into practice.
Let’s consider another example.
A guy had been induced, not to say forced, to tell his parents what his brother is doing because his parents wanted to know with whom the brother was usually talking on the phone or chatting. That guy, the first times, had adapted to the demands of his parents but then he began not to tell anything about what his brother was doing and this way he also felt the pleasure of transgressing what had been ordered by his parents. In reality the sense of guilt, anyway very relative, consequent to the transgression, was amply compensated by the conscience of having fulfilled a duty of solidarity which was considered to be of a much higher moral level than blind obedience to the parents.
It is precisely on the basis of mechanisms of this kind that even authentic acts of heroism are justified and motivated by soldiers who disobey orders in the name of respect for fundamental moral rules.
There is therefore a hierarchy of codes of conduct for which the violation of lower-level code provisions generate feeling of guilt only if the lower-level rules are compatible with higher-level moral principles, otherwise the lower-level rules are understood as substantially immoral and therefore the transgression to those norms is lived not only without feelings of guilt but even with the gratification that results from the transgression of an unjust norm.
Moral freedom and feelings of guilt
To judge a behavioral standard assimilated from the outside it is necessary to have a criterion of judgment that resides in a moral principle of a higher level, that is, to judge a norm of behavior assimilated from outside, a true free individual moral conscience is needed.
The freedom of the individual moral conscience is conquered over time and following a sometimes tortuous and difficult path.
Let us now try to take particular account of what a lot of gay guys experience every day. From a very early age hetero-centric education presents to children a well defined code of behavior for which heterosexual sexuality is the norm and gay sexuality is a deviance, heterosexual sexuality is physiology and gay sexuality is pathology. The result of this constant and subliminal process is the assimilation by all boys of a code of sexual behavior substantially heterosexual, this code will be functional for guys who will actually develop a straight sexuality but will inevitably be dysfunctional for the guys who will develop a gay sexuality.
The code of heterosexual sexual behavior, deeply assimilated by gay boys, in a phase in which there is not yet a real moral autonomy, ends up creating feelings of guilt, since a gay boy can’t however adhere to a behavioral code that is born for other needs.
Here is shown the discrepancy between the hetero norm and the individual good of the gay boy, that is not compatible with that norm. I would add that at an age in which individual moral autonomy has not yet been consolidated the rules of the hetero code will prove to be totally incontestable for the gay boy and in substance will be the only parameter of his moral judgment. Obviously the feelings of guilt will be profound and the frustrations arising from the impossibility of conforming to a code of behavior considered indisputable will produce environmental misadaptation and anxiety.
Dysfunctional attempts to overcome feelings of guilt
The mechanism mentioned above is not an abstraction and is observed systematically in younger gay boys who grew up in very religious settings. The code of behavior that that is proposed to them is slowly perceived as incompatible with the development of individual sexuality.
This results in frustrating attempts to align oneself with a sexuality that is not one’s own and, at sometimes, in real attempts to put all sexuality aside, which in turn result in heavy feelings of guilt and discouragement. Classics are attempts by gay boys to avoid masturbation or to focus their sexual fantasies on girls.
The conquest of moral freedom
Over time, however, the individual moral conscience gradually gains strength and the guys come to question the rules received from the outside and begin to feel them in contrast with other principles and above all with the principle of freedom and with the idea that “evil” is what causes real suffering in other people and not a generic transgression to a moral code supposed indisputable.
As the individual moral sense matures, guys begin to feel no more guilt related to the transgression of norms that are not compatible with their own individual moral principles. The feelings of guilt continue to exist but only in the presence of transgressions with respect to the moral principles of the guy himself, in this way the sense of guilt return to assume its physiological function as a mechanism of self-correction of individual action, which guarantees observance of the principles of a free individual morality.
We now come to consider an attitude that is not very common but neither uncommon among gay guys and that is self-degradation, the conviction of having big problems to solve and being unable to solve them, but I don’t intend here to refer to the problems arising from shyness or self-expression, I intend instead to refer to the self-degrading attitudes experienced by guys with rather free sexual behavior.
I am aware that what follows may cause perplexity and that someone will consider it an objective overturn of the most common way of thinking on the subject, but I think it is worth taking this risk.
Dangers of behavior patterns
Let’s start from a premise: we all tend to follow models of integration between affectivity and sexuality and models of couple relationships, these models can be points of reference but can also be the cause of a discomfort perceived by the guys in terms of impossibility or presumed impossibility to adapt to those models. It should be emphasized very clearly that the models of affection-sexuality integration, such as the models of couple life, represent precisely models which are often very difficult, if not impossible, to follow, i.e. models that are purely theoretical and substantially far from reality.
I try to present the concept through a concrete example. It is obvious that, at least in theory, the perfect integration of affectivity and sexuality is highly desirable, as is a couple’s life in which fidelity is absolute but, in fact, achieving full integration between affectivity and sexuality is very difficult as is maintaining an absolute couple fidelity, in particular when the couple’s life presents some tensions or when the choices at the base of the couple relationship have not been done completely freely and consciously or when the emotional exchange with one’s partner is not really deep. I mean that in order to achieve a perfect integration between affectivity and sexuality and a total mutual fidelity in a couple relationship, some preconditions must be verified, that often are not verified.
A relationship born with some original flaw will not realize the ideal models of couple life and this is not anyone’s fault but it is implicit in the premises. Often, however, gay guys are very negatively evaluated on the basis of the failure to achieve those goals and according to such evaluations they make a further logical leap, originally recognizing themselves inadequate.
Feelings of guilt induced by theoretical models
Even and especially for the most uninhibited guys, there is the idea of being somehow obsessed with sex and of being unable to live it in an affective dimension according to the commonly accepted theoretical models. Here it is necessary to define clear reference points. Sexuality is a fundamental interest for all guys, thinking about sex is a natural thing, not a pathological fixation. There are also addictions to sex but this category should be uses with great caution to avoid a too easy psychiatrization of behaviors that originally have nothing pathological but are experienced as pathological because of the fact that they are presented as such.
Homosexuality itself was considered pathological until a few decades ago and still today certain behaviors are often considered as pathological paraphilias. Exhibitionism and voyeurism have been considered pathological behaviors but, let’s understand each other well, a guy who is pleased with his own sex and shows it off online to another guy, perhaps in a sexually involving situation, has nothing to do with people who go around compulsively to show themselves in the nude to people completely unaware, and the same way a guy who spies on his friend (no matter if male or female) who takes a shower has nothing to do with pathological voyeurism.
Extrapolating these two examples, many behaviors in the field of sexuality, even if they don’t fall within the typical models of sexuality-affectivity integration and in the typical models of couple relationships, don’t however have anything pathological. I add an observation. We all grew up in a climate where the sexual dimension is clearly overestimated, both positively and negatively, there are sexual behaviors from which happiness is expected, but from which happiness doesn’t follow practically under any circumstances, and there are other behaviors to which we are brought to theoretically attribute a power destructive of the emotional life, even if such destructive power is not at all said to manifest actually.
Infidelity: the roots of betrayal
The spontaneous sexual fidelity is undoubtedly a symptom of the couple’s well-being. When a guy betrays, and even more when he repeatedly betrays, he is inclined to give about himself strongly negative judgments, to feel guilty for having gone to look for sex outside the couple. Rather than being dominated by feelings of guilt it would be useful for him to re-examine one’s couple life in search of what is wrong.
Betrayal very often does not result in a better psychological condition than the previous one, it doesn’t lead to building a new relationship but above all, if not only, manifests the intolerance towards the old one. And, I add, betrayal is not an unreasonable act or worse an act born of a pathological tendency to infidelity, but has roots, motivations in real life, which should be understood before thinking of being able to give any assessment of the betrayal in itself.
The real problem of the self-degradation of gay guys lies in hypothesizing their own original and somehow pathological inability to react according to the theoretical models commonly adopted and deemed indisputable, thus giving an ontological evaluation of themselves as incapable, unreliable, traitorous, etc. etc..
Frantic sexuality and emotional needs
Often the restless search for sexual contact has very little to do with sexuality in the technical sense and is the transposition on the sexual level of other needs of a largely affective type. The sexualization of affectivity on the part of a guy, especially in an environment where it is difficult if not impossible to find affective contacts, is a common reality and a guy who frequently seeks sexual contact is almost never dependent on sex but instead shows in that way his desire for affection and it is often a desire that has been frustrated for years.
The behavior of these guys appears to themselves as completely centered on sexuality but in reality, when the conditions for creating or maintaining sexual relations are not met, the emotional relationships that these guys have built up starting from sex, continue anyway, what would not happen if sexual interest were in fact the only drive to keep the relationship going. It often happens that a guy who has lived a difficult life is judged only on the basis of his formal behavior, completely neglecting all the facts that led him to those behaviors. In this way, seeing things exclusively from the outside, one can pronounce on that guy many judgements substantially unjust using abstract and moralistic categories completely inadequate to understand the substance of the problems underlying those behaviors.
Often, for a guy, the search for sexual contact is anything but a form of superficial recreation and instead has the meaning of getting involved altogether, asking the other for a real effort of understanding and participation, that is, asking the other to get out of the abstract categories of moralism.
What may appear to be a trivial sexual approach is sometimes a request for help, for understanding, a way to ask not to be classified with formal and superficial categories. A guy who, exasperatedly and I would say very emotionally and uneasily, looks for a sexual contact, certainly doesn’t want to be misjudged, he wants us to identify ourselves with his own point of view and to get to share something deeper with him.
Often, however, these guys get reactions of refusal or, worse, contemptuous judgments on the verge of immorality or even of mental illness. The discomfort in these cases can become very profound because it is experienced as a refusal of the person as a whole, generally follows a sense of inadequacy, ineptitude, inability to respect the rules that leads to self-degradation.
Internalization of the prejudice of others
A boy who feels his sexual behavior as not in line with the models of sexuality-affection integration and with the typical models of couple life, who lives a couple life in which the so-called betrayal is frequent and unsatisfactory, tends to react by blaming himself and feeling somehow unrecoverable, but the feelings of guilt are certainly not the best way to react.
One should ask oneself what is there upstream that does not satisfy, drawing the right conclusions. If the couple relationship is really lived as a value, it is possible to exit the chain of repeated betrayals, if on the contrary the couple relationship is radically unsatisfactory it is good to avoid carrying forward situations that generate more worries than gratifications. In a completely similar way a guy who tends to sexualise affectivity can feel deeply hurt by the judgment of others and can end up applying pathological categories to himself by introjecting the judgment of others, a judgment that in reality has nothing to do with the real motivations that guided that guy’s actions.
Having betrayed your boyfriend or seeking sexual contact as a substitute for emotional contact is not considered in itself a good thing, but such facts cannot and should not be considered superficially and above all cannot and must not permanently destroy, from within, the self-esteem of the guy who has betrayed (often inappropriate word) or who tends to sexualise affectivity.
Any situation can be changed profoundly if you really want it. Often, however, one gets the impression that the easiest choice is to abandon oneself to a basically passive and fatalistic position like: “I’m like that, I’m not trustworthy, I’m not worth anything!” Having betrayed your partner, even repeatedly, or having repeatedly sought sexual contact outside the couple doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t feel affection for that guy or that you don’t have a deep affective life, it could also be so, but it could also be exactly the opposite. One thing should never be forgotten: that for a guy, before sexuality there is the need to be loved in the family, to be respected and sought by friends and to find around him a dimension of understanding and constant attention.
Moralism and inability to understand the betrayal
People often show very biased and moralistic attitudes with regard to betrayal, but such attitudes are also very schematic and superficial and certainly don’t aim to understand what there can be behind betrayal.
These attitudes are generally deeply internalized by the guys who have betrayed the partner and thus produce self-condemnations without appeal, sometimes followed by depressive states that could be avoided by seeing betrayal as a sign of the couple’s discomfort and not as something that definitely brands the person who betrays with a kind of indelible stamp. Something very similar happens with the tendency to sexualize the affectivity that is too easily judged with completely inappropriate moralistic categories that are internalized and create profound suffering.
Self-esteem and feelings of guilt
Self-esteem is one of the pillars of individual well-being, but it is a pillar whose strength depends strongly on individual experience. One of the worst things that can be done is lower the self-esteem of a guy and paste on him a label of unreliable, sexual maniac or serial traitor. The reality is often completely different from how it is represented through these appellations.
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/T-homosexuality-and-feelings-of-guilt