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Sex Talk by Simon Shepard
Withholding affection
by Simon Sheppard - SGN Contributing Writer

It should be easy. You've just had great sex with an attractive guy. You're lying around in bed, cooling down. And you want to turn to him and say, "Hey, I really like you."

So why is showing affection so tough for so many of us? Says one fellow, "I play the field a lot, and it always amazes me when I meet someone who'll do just about anything on a first date, from getting fucked to getting flogged, but refuses to let me kiss him on the lips."

Sometimes reticence can be practical. A guy who likes to mess around explains, "I'm in a great open relationship, and I also like having sex with a variety of partners. But the last thing I need is to fall in love with one of them, or even develop a crush. Staying emotionally removed keeps things simple."

And one man in his 20s reveals, "I like to have sex with older men, but I'm kind of wary. It seems like a lot of the guys are emotionally needy, and if one of them gets that look in his eyes, I feel like telling him I'm just out for fun, not an enduring relationship."

The issue may also have something to do with internalized homophobia, or stereotyped notions of masculinity. Society tells us that Real Men keep their emotions in check. (And, of course, that they don't take it up the ass.) Having sex already leaves a guy physically naked and vulnerable. Does he want to risk emotional vulnerability as well? It can seem easier - if potentially less rewarding - to remain armored, rather than risk rejection.

We're raised to believe that sex and love are linked, or at least should be. But male sexuality can be a lot more single-minded than that. Many Gay men like to have casual, even anonymous, sex, the kind that's not particularly conducive to cuddling. "I might as well face it," says one self-described slut. "When I get down on my knees at a dirty bookstore, I'm interested in a man's dick, not his heart."

Not every tricker agrees. "Listen, I fall in love really easily," says another fellow who plays the field, "and when I let somebody fuck me, I want to believe they at least like me a little bit. I don't want to scare a guy off, but I'll usually just go ahead and act affectionate, and see what happens."

A lot of what occurs, and how that leaves us feeling, may be a matter of differing expectations. Says one observer of male/male relationships, "When two men meet, one may be hunting for a boyfriend, while the other's simply looking to get off. So the love-seeker may end up with an empty feeling afterwards, while the other guy says that's just the way things are."

Our self-described slut says, "When someone I've just met tells me how much he likes me, I feel like explaining that we've only known each other for a couple of hours, and that what he really likes is his idea of who I am, who he needs me to be. I mean, yeah, sure, I'm a prize, but how would he know that? So I just nod and smile distantly, and if he thinks that I'm being cold, well..."

Clearly, the withholding of affection - or sex - in the context of a long-term relationship is a serious matter. But if you expect to find instant love by answering some online spanking ad, perhaps you should step back and reassess how you're going about things. And if your life seems limited to loveless couplings, and that leaves you dissatisfied, then it's pretty clearly time for a change.

As the field-player points out, "My fuckbuddy has a boyfriend, and maybe he thinks acting lovey-dovey with me would be a betrayal. So he comes over, I fuck him, we share a brief hug when it's over, and that's going to have to be fine. Hell, in a weird way, a single embrace from him seems hotter than an extended make-out session with someone else. Does that sound pathetic? It doesn't feel pathetic."

Yes, sex can be deep and meaningful and the ultimate expression of love. But it can also be a lot of other things, from stress relief to self-exploration. As long as it's consensual and respectful and safe, then it's not necessarily wrong - even if you don't love, or even like, the guy you're with. And if the guy you're fucking doesn't seem affectionate, it doesn't mean you're second-rate. Hey, being a sex machine ain't bad, either.

Simon Sheppard is the editor of Homosex: Sixty Years of Gay Erotica, and the author of Sex Parties 101, Kinkorama, and In Deep: Erotic Stories, and can be reached at SexTalk@qsyndicate.com. Visit Simon at www.simonsheppard.com

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