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Let’s Not Get Physical

In this installment of the 4-Way Panel, the team gives advice to a gay man wondering if there's any hope for a relationship with a man he's likes but doesn't feel compelled to sleep with.
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Dear 4-Way,
I’ve gone on nine dates with a man I really like. But we haven’t slept together yet; in fact, we haven’t even messed around or slept over at each other’s houses yet. This might sound normal to most people, but I’m a gay man and this is pretty uncommon behavior for me and my circle of friends—if I like someone, I usually at least mess around on the first date. I think he’s funny and smart, and I definitely think he’s attractive; I just find that I’m not all that excited about the idea of having sex with him. Sometimes when we’re talking on the phone, though, I get really turned on by him, but never in person. This has never happened to me before, and I’m not sure what it means. Any thoughts? —KJ, San Francisco, California

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
So you’re saying that neither of you has made a move to connect on a physical level after nine dates? Gay, bi, or straight, my friend, that’s unusual. Let’s remember here that he’s not made a move yet, either. Maybe the physical/sexual connection is not in the stars for you guys. You say you like the guy; what do you like about him? Perhaps it’s more of a shared friendship. 

I think for us gay folks, the line between the beginning of a new relationship and the beginning of a new friendship can be tricky. Not all straight daters are attracted to one another, and not all gay people are, either. And just like straight people, sometimes we spend time dating someone when it turns out friendship would be a better fit.  Start by talking to him about what you’re feeling. You don’t need to have it all figured out inside yourself before you do this. Tell him you’re puzzled by the fact that there’s been no sexual contact. Ask him how he feels about this scenario; I’m sure he’s noticed, too.  Be open to having a great new friend. Perhaps after hearing his story and sharing your feelings, you’ll have reached a whole new level of intimacy. That may lead to the bedroom … or not. Be prepared for the journey either way, and enjoy it.

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
Actions speak louder than words, and your actions say you’re not going to bed or anywhere else with this guy.

We can be attracted to people, acknowledging how smart and amazing and wonderful they are, but in the end, if there’s no desire and action to get intimate with them, we’ve got a problem, San Francisco.  It’s one thing to consciously resist getting physical with each other, repressing strong urges to refrain from jumping in too fast, and it’s totally another thing for it not to be much of a sacrifice to keep your hands off each other.  It’s a mystery why we have chemistry with some people and not others. But you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to solve what this means: you’ve got a friend here, KJ—not a lover, and not a boyfriend.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
I have this thing that happens every time I try to eat liver or cauliflower and convince myself that either of them actually tastes good: my throat involuntarily closes up and I can’t swallow. I just can’t choke them down, even though I know that both are really good for me and probably have some sort of antioxidant that could take twenty years of aging off my face. I really want to like them, but my body won’t let me.

The point is, sometimes we know something physically before we know it emotionally. Your body is rejecting the idea of drunken third-date (or ninth-date) sex with this man; someone who, in theory, you think you should like romantically because of his good looks, smarts, and affable personality. As Jennifer Aniston mused in The Object of My Affection (oh, come on, don’t act like you never saw it, KJ?you’re a gay man!), “doesn’t it all just turn into friendship anyway?” It does, but before it turns into friendship, you really should want to rip each other’s clothes off, and the fact that you don’t should be telling you something important.

Here’s something else to think about: perhaps putting this man into the dating category is making you evaluate him only in terms of romance, significant-other potential, and physical fun. Dating forces us to focus so hard on finding The One that we sometimes forget that it might also lead us to The Next Great Friend. If your personal HR department is currently accepting applications for new buddies, have a convo with him and tell him where you are and what you want. If you want to focus your energy only on finding romance or physical fun, that’s fine, too. But you need to tell him that and then move on so you can find someone you do want to have drunken third-date sex with.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
Congratulations, KJ, you have a new friend. Let’s go way back to junior high. Remember when you went out on a few dates and you just knew you had to make a move soon or the guy/girl would inevitably turn into just a friend? Well, dear, the same rule applies when you get older.

But let’s say for argument’s sake that he is more than just a friend. What should you do to move the relationship out of the friendship zone and into the boudoir? You said yourself that you’re not all that exited to have sex with him. Why is this? Are you still thinking of someone else whom you’ve dated? Are you afraid that you’ll ruin your friendship if you make a move on him? What does he think? Have you asked him what’s going on with the two of you? If you met under the guise of dating, then I’m sure the lack of physical activity has crossed his mind, too, so I bet he’ll be open to having a conversation about it. And I think you should. Otherwise, there are too many awkward moments that may go unexplored.

Perhaps you’re turned on by the thought of him more than you are by the reality of the situation. My advice is to have a candid conversation to determine if you’re on common ground. You’ll be able to move in one direction or the other only after that’s established. Good luck!

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