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The Wild West Of Male Sexual Desire

For years I have received compliments from readers on both the Left and the Right who love this blog’s comments section. David Brooks once told me that this blog’s commenters are the best on the Internet. Partly this is because I edit the comments to keep the trolls and the bomb-throwers off, but mostly it’s because this blog attracts really smart commenters. I don’t always agree with what y’all say, but I like for this blog and its comments section to serve as a catalyst for discussion and debate.

One of my favorite commenters is a man who writes as Matt in VA. I know his real name, where he lives, where he works, and so forth. He is an out gay man who is in a same-sex marriage, and is raising at least one child, perhaps more, with his partner. He is also a strong critic, from the Right, of establishment conservatism. Do I think he goes too far sometimes? Yes, I do. But I almost always learn from Matt. A national TV journalist once wrote me to ask Matt for an interview. I passed the request on to Matt, but Matt would risk his job if his real name and location were known.

I would rather him be here offering challenging commentary.

With that in mind, here’s something Matt posted the other day as a comment to my “Stonewall’s ‘Gift'” post:

Those of you who are saying this can’t go on, there will be a backlash, etc. etc.

It’s worth thinking about what happened just a few decades ago. The first open (more or less) gay communities, that formed and indeed visibly exploded after the Stonewall riots, during the seventies, created a sexual culture that led directly to the suffering and death of thousands. And it took many non-gay people along with it (think of the hemophiliacs.)

Why didn’t *that* lead to a huge backlash and a recognition on the part of heterosexuals that homosexuality needed to be stigmatized and the newly formed gay male enclaves that arose after gay liberation needed to be driven back underground?

Here we saw gay liberation lead directly to mass suffering and death! One would think this would be tailor-made to create the backlash that re-orients the culture back towards the traditional understanding of homosexuality as something shameful and unlawful.

And yet what actually happened? Gay rights grew more powerful, not less; the AIDS crisis resulted in stories that showed gay men as suffering victims who cared for and loved each other as they died in terribly tearjerking ways. Longtime Companion, Philadelphia, etc.

When I hear conservatives talk about how the Left will Go Too Far and there will be a backlash, I hear the same old Ideas Have Consequences (so my side will win, inevitably, of course it will, without me actually doing a thing) passive impotent mentality. The LGBTQ++ movement will go much further than we know, because it has no opposition, because none of the conservatives will apparently ever actually do anything to stop or oppose it.

Massive evils — for example, slavery — can go on for CENTURIES if nobody puts a stop to them. But American conservatives of the postwar era might as well not even exist, in terms of the direction of our culture. Child drag queens and toddler transitioning — you haven’t seen anything yet. This is all just getting started. This stuff is tame compared to some things that are out there, that I know about, that I have even seen with my own eyes.

In a note to that comment, I asked Matt to elaborate on what he mean by that last paragraph. He responded this morning with this:

Like what? I’ll give the same answer I’ve given before, I think: what Cormac McCarthy is writing about in Blood Meridian. When I read that book, I didn’t experience it as “here is the truth about how our nation came to be,” or “here is a depiction of the Bad Old Days before modernity,” or “this lies beneath the thin veneer of our civilization and we might one day find ourselves once again living this kind of life and dying this kind of death, if we’re not careful.” I experienced it as “this kind of thing is real, and is really happening, *right now*, but we look away, because it is intolerable to look at it.”

Gay male sexual culture contains within it a kind of Wild West, but not the kind you see in John Wayne Westerns. It is the kind of Wild West that Cormac McCarthy writes about.

To come out of the closet is to enter a social-cultural space in which the loudest and most committed and most aggressive voices are the ones constantly pushing the message that authentic/real/superior/just and true and equal homosexuality is about having casual unprotected anal sex + whatever variations or add-ons make your dick hard — and that this is the way to live your entire, decades-long (if you’re lucky, I suppose) adult life. This has always been true at least since Stonewall/1969; it is unquestionably well documented that the most vocal and committed gay men fought the hardest to keep the bathhouses open and attacked anybody who questioned promiscuous and dangerous sexual cultures even when HIV was a death sentence. If one is not into certain extremely dangerous sexual practices, fine, but you had better NOT try to “sex-shame” or be “sex-negative” or be “judgmental.” You had better NOT contest or criticize in any way the very loud voices whose agenda is “sex-positivity” and “de-stigmatizing”. These are the things to be normalized and centered and lionized; these are the things this culture is to be oriented around.

I am not trying to say or claim that all or most gay men are peddlers of this suicidal and murderous sexual “ethic” — I am only saying that the most vocal and most committed and most will-to-power gays are. One of the drums I bang on constantly is that it doesn’t really matter so much what a “majority” believes or values deep in their hearts — the public square is shaped by those who are most *committed* to seeing their vision of society realized and made hegemonic. And of course the gay men with the most poisonous and toxic sexual priorities are the most committed and vocal — these are people who value their sexual practices and choices more, much more, than they value their own lives or the lives of their sexual partners.

If you read the well-documented accounts of Gaetan Dugas in And the Band Played On, or the stories about Foucault — this type of gay man may not be the majority, but it is not an exceedingly uncommon type, and it is the type that is *committed* to seeing its vision of what homosexuality means or should look like realized and affirmed (think of Foucault’s influence.) If others say it is false to declare these kinds of people murderers, that we are talking about consensual choices, then I would say at best they are the equivalent of heroin or fentanyl dealers, and gay male sexual communities are the equivalents of urban communities where hard-drug dealers and their “values” are aggressively and relentlessly normalized. These are failed communities.

If one reads publications or websites that are specifically aimed at a gay male audience — every fifth article or story is about making the message crystal-clear that casual unprotected anal sex of any amount is not to be criticized or stigmatized or counter-signalled in any way, that people with HIV are *better* than people who don’t have it (because they are strong survivors, or noble victims of “homophobia,” etc.), that not using condoms makes a person more honest and more authentic and more open to experiences and more open-minded and more truly liberated and free, etc. I do not think it is unfair or an exaggeration to say that gay men from the moment they start to come out are mentally and culturally *groomed* to accept at least as a legitimate option (and preferably as an awesome and superior approach to sex) this mentality which is *designed* to enable those with the cruelest and most evil sexual impulses and desires. It is not unlike the pedophile’s approach, the desensitization and boundary-pushing and normalizing of what should not be normalized, the deliberate fostering of rot inside of other human beings.

Again, I think of the passages in And the Band Played On (Randy Shilts was not afraid to tell the truth about gay men, and I often think that nobody like him and Andrew Holleran and pre-AIDS dementia Larry Kramer can exist anymore because gay men have become more politically banal and more propagandistic liars as we have become more bourgeois) about Gaetan Dugas: the way, when it is pointed out to him that he has AIDS, people are dying, and his lifestyle of flying from city to city to city to have as much unprotected anal sex as possible is surely going to kill more people — the way he says, just flatly, just emptily, that he is not going to stop f***ing, period, that somebody gave the disease to him so he doesn’t care who he gives it to — one feels, reading these passages, that a person like this is already dead. It is a culture of death, and it doesn’t matter if that hurts my feelings as a gay man or causes cognitive dissonance or affirms people who would put me back in the closet or in prison if they could. It is the truth whether I like it or not.

Two things are simultaneously true: I am not talking about all nor even most gay men, here; but at the same time, I am talking about many of the most committed and loud and determined gay men, the ones who put great effort into normalizing and promoting *their* priorities and making the community into something that satisfies *their* desires as much as possible. [Emphases mine — RD]

The constant refrain one hears from well-meaning liberals when this kind of thing is brought up is, “These are outliers, these are extremes, most people know that their gay brother or son or cousin or friend is a normal person.” But two other things are also simultaneously true: people are both nature *and* nurture — or, in this case, “nurture” is a horrible name for something that would be much better termed as “environment.” The debate over nature and nurture continues endlessly and will never be resolved because both play enormous roles in who people are, probably somewhere close to 50/50.

There is such a thing as “the homosexual” — people who just are that way and there’s nothing that can be done about it. I don’t think “nurture” or the environment or something happening made me gay, for example. But at the very same time, it is also true that sexuality and sexual desire is shaped and formed and pushed and pulled by the environment and by influences, that people are not, in fact, just born with X or Y sexual template, that it develops and changes and is formed over time.

We can see this very clearly with internet porn — it *does* change people’s sexuality, it desensitizes, it bombards and overwhelms, it has the sort of paradoxical effect of making many men effectively impotent in the real world, with a real partner, and it develops fetishes and extreme sexual tastes by stoking and nurturing hungers and paraphilias and by developing the need for more, more, more, more graphic, more lurid, more debased, etc. So with gay male communities — when the dominant voices in the environment are the most degraded and debased, it changes and shapes large numbers of people, it can affect nearly everybody to at least some degree.

The fact that one has a desire is no guide at all in answering the question of whether that desire should be indulged or not. And at least with male sexuality, desire is perfectly capable of being evil, even purely evil–both starting out that way, and becoming that way. Something that I have always thought — though this may be unfair and may be a gay man’s limited and distorted understanding of the other sex — but I have always thought that the feminist idea that “Rape is not a crime of passion or lust but a crime of power” is truly a woman’s idea and says something about *women* more than anything else. Because I do not understand the idea that passion and lust cannot themselves be about power and violence. This feminist claim assumes the (to me) obviously false idea that sexual desire itself cannot be about power and control and violence. Here’s a link to a list of “rape myths” that gives a great example of how wrong and stupid this idea of rape is: https://socialsciences.exet…

To me, this document is a completely ideological and false accounting of what sexuality is/can be, motivated by political reasons, and in terms of gay male sexuality, it is completely useless and untrue. There is no line or divide between lust/passion/desire and power/violence/rape; there is no separating these things out from one another.

Male sexual desire and lust is such that to say “only within consenting adults” is to put up no guardrail whatsoever. Consenting adults are capable of “consenting” in the heat of the moment, or at certain points over a lifetime of degraded and relentless mental and cultural grooming, to raping and being raped, to risking death to oneself or one’s sexual partners, to deliberately infecting others and/or deliberately, even fetishistically, exposing oneself to infection with anything and everything; to mutilating one’s body or somebody else’s body — to anything. To foster and normalize and promote an adult lifetime of “uninhibited” promiscuous multipartner sex is effectively to throw “consent” out the window. It cannot be done. People are human beings, they are not superhuman or machines, and you *will* break down in spots, in places, over time, you *will* find that your will fails you, that the evil part of you (and we all have that within us that is evil, all of us, somewhere) overwhelms you in some places. It is just *false* that rape cannot be a crime of lust or passion. Lust or passion or desire can be ANYTHING. And among gay men, this can become horrifyingly clear, I believe precisely because gay male sexual culture is a kind of Wild West in which people are treated — and treat themselves — as bloodily and heedlessly and callously as the characters in a Cormac McCarthy novel are about murdering whole villages, dashing babies’ brains out, cutting men’s throats, and all the rest of it. I had something of the same feeling when reading “I, Claudius” by Graves, for that matter; this is not a different world, this Roman world in which morality is nothing and power is everything; this world exists, today, and you can see it if you look.

The comment-reply from Dukeboy01 here, I believe it. “You regular folks out there have no idea the level of deviance lurking below the surface.” [Dukeboy01 is a veteran police detective; I know his real name — RD]. It does not have to be the case that all or most or the majority of gay men are this way or act this way for it to be true that this stuff exists and is real and there *is* something about gay male sexual communities that I believe creates an environment in which numerous people are essentially culturally groomed to destroy themselves and others. And we do not, I mean gay men do not, police ourselves at all, not at all. It does not matter how much I might want this not to be true. It is true, and it is a very serious problem. (And of course it in fact hurts gay men most of all.)

The Salo Forum [an alt-right website — RD] take on gay male sexuality is more true and honest than the views of millions of well-meaning and genuinely kind liberals, and the traditional Christian understanding of the nature of desire is the truth whereas liberalism’s understanding, or at least consumerist liberalism’s understanding of it, is false. No matter how much I might want a society and a world that gives me, and has given me, the undreamed-of and almost unthinkable (from a historical perspective) privilege of marrying a man and raising a child and having my cake and eating it too, if that society and that privilege can only be realized in a world that does not face the truth about what desire and sexuality are capable of being and what kinds of cultural and moral toxic waste it may in fact be the nature of gay male sexual communities to produce, it will not work and it will fail. I do not say that this *must* be so, that it is already written, but I fear that it is so.

Are we living in a sexualized version of Cormac McCarthy’s dystopia, but are too politically correct to see it? Is Matt in VA wrong — or is he telling inconvenient truths?

Let the conversation begin. I remind you that I know Matt in VA’s real name, where he lives, and where he works. He is who he presents himself as here.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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