Sex is fun. Even in these crazy political times, we can all agree on that. As gay men, we can have sex however and arguably whenever we want. It can be so available it can seem transactional. Thanks to dating apps, sex is even more omnipresent. But because our culture is so sexually open it tends to be the simplest solution. It ends up being the automatic go-to to connect, engage with others, and sometimes even socialize. In the words of Peaches, we can “f**k the pain away.”
Sex, and the pursuit of it, can be masks for different emotions or underlying wants and needs. Sex can be a way to deflect emotion. It can be part of an underlying addiction. Some use sex as a coping mechanism or to self-soothe. It can provide an ego boost or a tension release. But is it giving us what we want vs. what we need?
Here are 11 possible reasons (other than being horny) that you might be having sex:
1. Misdirected Love
Sometimes we just need love. Maybe we meet a guy who reminds us of an ex or an old friend. Maybe a son or a dad. Hell, some guys can even remind us of our moms. This doesn’t mean you want to have sex with your mom. It just means you may have love you want to give and receive. But are you giving it to the first person who’ll take it? Sometimes, we ignore the work it takes to get our friendships, family relationships and romantic partnerships where they need to be. After all, it’s easier to process and manage an intense and fleeting relationship.
Does someone remind you of yourself if you were thinner, taller, younger? Sometimes, a cute guy at a bar can make you feel special. We can sometimes be quick to give away the love we need to give to ourselves to someone else. But is it an even exchange for just an orgasm. We need to be able to make ourselves feel special. To review, sex is great. But sometimes those minutes, or hours, scrolling on Grindr should be the time we do something for ourselves. The energy and attention we give to someone we are sleeping with could be the love and focus we give ourselves. Self-love is vital. We may need time to sit with the uncomfortable feelings we are trying to avoid and that’s love. Sometimes, we need to love ourselves as we are so we can be who we want to be.
2. We Want Someone to Hold…Space
You may need someone to hold space for your feelings. This is where someone just provides space for you to express yourself, vent, or explore your emotions verbally. We’re men living in patriarchal America. Tons of people don’t know how to hold space for their own emotions but can so easily do it for others. Maybe you’re emotionally overwhelmed and you don’t know what to do. So you decide you want to try and get it all out all over or in someone. But maybe try to get it out figuratively rather than literally. Sure, sex may give you someone who can briefly listen to you. Yes, sex can feel like your flood of emotions is “fixed.” But those emotions don’t go away. Sex may release some of the pressure but those feelings are still there. You can only run for so long.
3. Quality Time
Loneliness is a complex emotion. It’s often related to something deep like past trauma, unresolved sadness or grief. They say, “You can never be lonely as long as you like who you’re alone with.” We live such insular lives with our AirPods in glued to our phones. So often guys say they’re bored. But let’s be real, Karen. Only boring people get bored. You may just want human interaction. You want someone to talk to. Someone to shake things up. It can be easy to go on Grindr. It’s easier and less vulnerable to sleep with someone than trying to make friends based on your personal qualities and conversational skills. But that doesn’t fix the underlying issue. You have to love you first and be fine being alone before you invite others to the party.
4. You Need Physical Affection
As human beings, we need physical affection. Our moods change when we receive physical touch. Hugs can help us relax and feel safe. But this physical affection should be genuine. Calling it body contact sounds super creepy. No shame to your game but being vulnerable enough to say you want to be held can help you find a more authentic connection. If we try to “solve” a physical need with forgettable sexual encounters it can do more harm than good. Emotional, psychological, or social barriers are still keeping you from having the level of physical intimacy you need in your life. McSex is keeping you from solving those and finding deeper more fulfilling relationships.
5. You Want Validation
Sex is an instant boost of self-esteem and confidence. Maybe you are not being validated at work, in your art, or in your family life. Perhaps you want the validation that only comes from someone thinking that you are sexy. It can be easy to give into sex offers when you’re feeling vulnerable. But that validation is fleeting. Those emotions like the encounter can be quick and empty. You should feel confident and good about yourself when you have sex. But don’t rely on sex to feel validated. It can pull focus from the areas of your life that can give you lasting validation and personal fulfillment.
6. You Admire Someone
Sometimes you really like someone. Maybe they have a skill you do not. Maybe you love their personality, body or think they’re insanely smart. Sadly, none of those are transferable via bodily fluids. Sometimes, we misinterpret our appreciation for someone as a reason to sleep with them. Early on in being out our connections can come sexually before socially. It’s way easier to sleep with someone than be vulnerable enough to tell someone you admire them. As gay men our relationships are unique. We may have sex with someone rather than just celebrate what we like about them. In my experience, someone is way more likely to keep you around if you compliment them sincerely than if you have sex with them.
7. You Crave a Connection
Some of us have been victims of abuse, abandonment or alienation. That can make it hard to connect. Some victims of abuse may only know how to connect sexually. Our pasts can cause us to keep people at a safe distance. Sometimes you yearn to feel connected to someone and so off go the clothes. But it’s worth looking for your tribe who will understand you. It can be more fulfilling to connect with the people who value and appreciate you as you are vs. the orgasms you can give them. Some relationships can only develop socially, platonically, through common interests, and through an open heart.
8. You Want to Be Vulnerable
Counter to what toxic masculinity would have you believe, there is a power in being vulnerable. Don’t believe me, ask Brené Brown. But vulnerability can be tough to achieve. The easiest way to let your guard down is to let a stranger, or multiple strangers, inside you. You may let someone tie you up or do something else to give your power away. It can feel liberating. It’s a way to do physically what you may not be comfortable doing emotionally, psychologically, or socially. But what happens when you are done? If the vulnerability is not honored that can exacerbate the problem. You may regret your choice or have done something you can’t undo. Vulnerability and trust go hand in hand. You need that trust not just in partners but in yourself.
9. You Need Homosocial Time
Homosocial time sounds like a circuit party or a gay sketch show. But it’s simply time with other men. Male bonding is a skill that boys who play with boys learn growing up. But some gay men don’t engage well with men. They may have not had father figures, or played sports, or bonded with other boys. Some boys only learn how to engage with other men sexually. But learning to engage with men is an important tool for survival. And homosocial time is important. It teaches you about some intrinsic aspects of your manhood. But it doesn’t have to involve your manhood.
10. You’re Trying to Cope
Do you rush to Grindr when something bad happens? When you’re stressed at work? When you have a feeling you don’t know what to do with? Sex can be a way to self soothe. Sex can be the first time we get to fully feel like ourselves or like we have control. We can get stuck in using it to cope. This can lead to sexual addiction or compulsive behaviors. Sometimes the only way to handle your feelings is to sit with them and push through. After all, only you can solve your problems.
11. You want to be Paternal/Caretaker
It’s natural to want to take care of someone. It’s in our nature as human beings. But this can get subverted when sex is on the table. We can often seek out sexual conquests who need to be rescued vs. just helping someone. This can also be problematic if you are lording power over partners with money or because they are inebriated/addicts. Sometimes, it’s better to offer help and charity than trying to equate it with sex. Being a good caretaker is not about doing things for people and fixing their problems. It’s about giving them the space to sort their problems and offering support.
Sex is great. We should be able to have it how we want it. But also how we need it. It’s important to take the time to cultivate an understanding of what we need physically, emotionally, and socially. Because if we do something for the wrong reasons it can be more trouble later on. This list is in no way meant to shame but only to give more options. Imagine if you had 10 other things in your life that make you feel as good as sex does?