Neil Patrick Harris says he loves women loving him, but is it morally wrong to flirt with, or actually sleep with women if they know you are a gay man, asks Rob Buchanan.
In his most recent interview with OUT magazine, Neil Patrick Harris said that he loves that women still want to marry him even though they know he`s gay. He isn’t the only gay who likes to bask in the glow of female desires.
For gay men the allure of flirting with straight women (who know they are gay) is that there’s little or no commitment involved on both sides, and no worry about the risk of rejection. There’s validation in it too, which some queers desire – ‘even though I’m gay, I could still get women’. (I think some of this is akin to the motivations of the ‘straight acting’ men I discussed in a previous column.) Then there’s the ability to make other men jealous, which will always be a drive for blokes with competitive natures.
It can be just a playful adult dynamic, greasing the wheels of work-relationships, for instance. Or it can let a gay man express his platonic feelings for a woman in a more intense way.
So there are many motivations, but what are the risks? Assuming the woman is mature enough to understand it’s going nowhere and the gay guy is not vain enough to milk the woman for compliments. like some sort of fairytale magic mirror, then it’s a harmless exercise.
I want to be clear, I am not referring to men who identify as bisexual here. I am talking about gay men’s relationships with women only and I want to point out some serious moral pitfalls to this playful game, where a gay man enjoys the sexual admiration of a straight woman. It can lead to a parasitic wallowing in the warm glow of the ego massage, without providing much to the woman in return. It’s a very one sided and narcissistic game to play if you string a woman along like this, and we all know gay men who do. Sometimes it mutates in to an unhealthy relationship, where the guy views the woman as a ‘fag hag’, while the woman misconstrues the relationship, thinking she is part of a couple on some levels, and this might actively prevent her from seeking a reciprocal relationship with a straight man.
Another more active type of flirting between the gay man and the woman is the sexual minefield I have found myself tiptoeing across on more than one occasion. It’s when a gay man and a straight woman, or even gay woman, find themselves becoming mutually attracted to each other on more than the puppy love level. The sexual chemistry ends up sparking beyond playful flirting and they take it to the physical level.
I found myself involved in one night stands with women (with their full knowledge that I was gay) and although I didn’t regret it, I was often left with the feeling that I had somehow used those people by actively indulging in an ambiguous illusion. Again, to be clear, I am not bisexual – if I where bi there would be no illusion. The fact is I could never love a woman that way. So these dalliances in to the lands of vagina were more an exercise in me using someone as a kind of masturbatory aid to relieve frustration, rather than as a genuine lover. Even though this was not a calculated intention, I still feel ashamed.
Far worse, though, than benign fanny teasing (at least I follow through!) are the scenarios where the gay man pretends to be straight and has absolutely no interest in women and every interest in satisfying his ego. Where the vain user becomes so addicted to the compliments that he finds himself in a one-sided long-term relationship. It’s abhorrent and immature to calculatedly lead on a woman on who doesn’t know that you are gay, in the full knowledge that you will not or cannot reciprocate.
So, is it always morally wrong to flirt with or actually sleep with women if they know you are a gay man? Well, if both parties enter in to things eyes-open and you respect each other for what you actually are, then what’s the harm? Sexual experimentation isn’t only for the straights after all.
The dynamic can be complex and very rewarding for both parties, once no one is expecting more. But make no mistake, there’s a thin line between exploration and exploitation. Straight women should not be used as toys to prop up gay egos. And remember, while you’re gaying off with the girls, you may well be delaying that encounter with the man of your dreams.
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