We need to stop slut-shaming gay men

Do you know how many people you’ve slept with? 10? 20? Well, according to a 2010 study the average number of female sexual partners for men is 9.3. For women, the average is 4.7 male partners. I don’t know anyone who has had sex with .3 or .7 of a person but it does seem that most people can give you an exact number. I’ve had zero female sexual partners. But I have had numerous male partners, which isn’t surprising because I am a gay man.

I used to know precisely how many but after sleeping with more than fifty I lost count. Just to clarify, by sexual partners I mean those with whom I’ve had anal intercourse. Does this surprise or even shock you, or do you think that I represent the typical homosexual male?

There’s quite a stockpile of stereotypes for us gay men, including effeminacy, bitchiness, and a love of culture (or at least drama). We also have something of a reputation for rampant promiscuity.

Of course, social conservatives have encouraged this view for decades. More recently the notorious Lord Monckton quoted a supposed study that found “homosexuals had an average of 500-1,000 partners in their sexually active lifetime” and that most of our relationships “last as little as a few hours”. For many, it appears that gay men have an apparent lack of restraint and self-control that threatens to taint the entire LGBT community.

A UCLA study released in February suggests that most opponents of same-sex marriage fear that promiscuity amongst gay men threatens to undermine the institution as a whole. In response to this homophobia many gay men have sought to discredit these claims. For one, Patrick Strudwick explained several years ago that “your average gay person’s sex life is every bit as dreary and unremarkable as a heterosexual’s”, and that only a small minority are “freakishly promiscuous”.

The censure that many gay men have for promiscuity is part of a wider trend towards assimilation, best exemplified by the introduction of same-sex marriage. For couples who do genuinely desire their relationships to be recognised, I give them my total support. But is that really the only reason, or do we hope that by adopting the heterosexual ideal of marriage and children we will be accepted by society? It says that after all, gay men are really just like you, only with a minor difference in sexual preference. But those gays who don’t assimilate threaten to upset the entire process. We, the unbridled sluts, are dangerous.

In a rather patronisingly-titled article, Douglas Murray wrote that the legalisation of same-sex marriage brings with it the need for gays to accept the responsibility of monogamy. Gay marriage “allows young gay people to aspire to a more stable, accepted, and yes, conservative future. Down the road they will find themselves judged by the same norms as everyone else”.

But there are many gay couples in happy open relationships. Are those relationships, therefore, invalid?

Our society prides itself on being sexually liberated. After all, not so long ago it was considered immoral for two men to have sex at all. So why then, in 2016, should we be condemned for supposed promiscuity; for having sex with more than one man? It seems that gay men are offered conditional acceptance if we embrace monogamy. We are presented with the carrot of same-sex marriage and threatened with the stick of vilification.

Let me clarify: I have no objection to same-sex marriage or to anyone who wishes to live monogamously. But monogamy is one of many possible lifestyles, not the only one.

Unfortunately, society’s understanding of relationships and sex is woefully narrow for all people — not just us sexual deviants. But there are too many people, including other gay men, who condemn perceived promiscuity in homosexuals as particularly dangerous, instead holding up monogamy as the sacred ideal. Instead of changing ourselves to conform to society’s expectations, we should be changing society itself.

As advocate Noah Michelson adds, we should show “that sex is not scary, sex is not dirty, sex doesn’t need to be with just one partner.” Is there a limit on the number of penises we’re allowed to touch? No, and us promiscuous gay men need to show the world that sex outside of a relationship isn’t wrong. If we choose to sleep with one, two, or three different (consenting) people every night then that’s our choice.

If we live in a truly liberated society then shouldn’t we embrace all types of relationships and lifestyles, rather than just a variation of the same old monogamous theme? After all, what’s the point of freedom if it only means the freedom to conform?

Thomas

Thomas Pierce graduated from the University of Sydney in 2015 with a degree in history. Since then he has lived in both France and the UK. He enjoys reading, cider, and fluffy animals.