Gay Men: Do You Resent the "Promiscuity" Stereotype?

I’m taking a Human Sexuality class in college, and we had an after-class discussion today featuring a panel of seven gay men. As this is, after all, a Human Sexuality class, the guys were really just there to discuss gay sexuality as opposed to other aspects of being gay.

It was very funny and very fascinating. The students were laughing and gasping along as the men talked about their (rather “promiscuous”) sex lives. Most of them have had between 200 and 1,000 partners in their lifetime (they were mostly 40-somethings, except for one 24 year old who’d had about 40 partners), and they talked freely about things like attending orgies with 50-75 guys. Several of them are in long-term but “open” relationships where they are extremely emotionally faithful, but sexual fidelity isn’t important. One couple is very close with one another, also has a third person in the relationship, and sometimes includes others in addition to the third; another couple will sometimes share fuckbuddies and sometimes have exclusive fuckbuddies apart from the partner–but they will always tell their partners everything, or else it’s lying and therefore emotionally unfaithful.

I found all of this really interesting, and I don’t disapprove of their sex lives (yes, there is a much greater chance of STD’s this way, but as long as everybody is comfortable and has the same expectations I don’t have a beef with it), but I wonder if the prof failed to present the other side of the story in choosing his panel. Promiscuity such as that seems to be the stereotype for gay men. I know there are gay men who have long term partners and are sexually as well as emotionally faithful, and I wonder how representative or unrepresentative these men are of the community as a whole (what general percentages of gay men act in which way, whatever).

So I wonder if any gays resent the promiscuity stereotype, and if so–or if not–for what reasons. I’d appreciate all of your thoughts one way or the other!

Um, yeah, I’m having a hard time believing those numbers. They sound more like the numbers I’ve read in anti-gay propoganda. I’m not going to accuse anyone of trolling, but if this were the Pit I might.

I don’t believe that gay men are any more promiscuous than straight men. What I resent is people spreading stereotypes like this without any real evidence.

JOhn.

Well my gay friends all go out a lot and their stable relationships last less than my hetero friends… so if you think having different partners all the time is promiscous… then gays are usually more promiscous than heteros. I wish I could have sex life that active myself…

Then DON’T.

Anyway, the numbers (straight from those particular horses’ mouths, after all) aren’t THAT inconceivable when you consider the following:

  1. This is in 20 plus years of a very active sex life. Say, 25 partners a year would be 500 partners altogether.
  2. Gay men usually count oral sex encounters when they’re talking about “partners,” so not all of those represent a full-blown anal encounter, and many of them may be encounters with multiple partners at once.

(If you’re a straight guy, this exemplifies what I’m about to say.) One thing we’ve discussed in this class is that many straight guys would have sex lives just as active as gay guys, if only more women would cooperate more often. Women are on the whole less interested in casual sex.

Now, that said, back to the OP. What do the gay men in the audience think about the promiscuity-stereotype question?

Then DON’T.

Anyway, the numbers (straight from those particular horses’ mouths, after all) aren’t THAT inconceivable when you consider the following:

  1. This is in 20 plus years of a very active sex life. Say, 25 partners a year would be 500 partners altogether.
  2. Gay men usually count oral sex encounters when they’re talking about “partners,” so not all of those represent a full-blown anal encounter, and many of them may be encounters with multiple partners at once.

Another interesting point to consider:

(If you’re a straight guy, this exemplifies what I’m about to say.) One thing we’ve discussed in this class is that many straight guys would have sex lives just as active as gay guys, if only more women would cooperate more often. On the whole, men are very interested in casual, no-strings-attached sex, and women less so.

Now, that said, back to the OP. What do the gay men in the audience think about the promiscuity-stereotype question?

D’oh. Sorry for the multiple posts. The second version is what I meant to post, so ignore the first one. :wink:

Ahem.

Of course, you DID just accuse her of trolling and knew you were doing so. The “I’m not going to call you _____, but” approach is not as subtle as you think.

I’m grinding my teeth, but I’ll put it this way: you didn’t read the post you’re responding to. She did NOT perpetuate a stereotype, and did NOT say all gay people are more promiscuous. She asked gay Dopers how they felt about this stereotype about them, and about these who appear to live up to it.

On to the personal stuff. Seeing as how I’ve been dating Born of Stardust for 15 months, I can tell you for a fact she’s not trolling and really heard this in class. We’re both in school here, the name of the Prof. is Michael Bailey. He’s actually rather infamous among the LGBT community, especially the T part. Bailey brings in guest speakers from time to time, and this was such a time. Stardust doesn’t post here very much, so you might not know her character. Although it’s best to examine someone’s body of posting before calling him or her a troll regardless. Anyway, even if you don’t know her posts, I’m around here rather more often. So perhaps you recognize my posts and hopefully my word will mean something on the matter. Read through some of my stuff and you’ll find I’m not an anti-gay propagandist. You won’t find any anti-gay propaganda in her posts either.

If you have anything else to say about the matter, say it in The Pit and please keep it out of here. She asked a legit question and is entitled to have it answered. I was concerned as soon as this was posted that it would get personal, so please let’s avoid that situation.

Well, to get back to the OP, I’m gay, I’m not promiscuous, but that has more to do with being a naturally shy and bookish person than being prudish.

Among the people I’ve known, there is a very, very wide range of sexual behaviour. I’ve known a couple of men with numbers comparable to those mentioned in the OP, though both had to leave their families while they were teenagers and worked as prostitutes. I also know at least one guy who waited until he met the right guy, fell in love, and they had been together for awhile.

What’s different isn’t that gay men are naturally more slutty than straight men, but have more opportunity. You’d see that same range, too – both extremes and every place in the middle – if straight men had the same opportunities for sex that gay men have.

I don’t resent the stereotype itself. I understand that there are individuals out there who conform to the stereotype, and I fully support their right (and their ability) to engage in that sort of sexual activity. It sounds like fun.

But for me, it’s not fun. I’ve always been basically monogamous. The few meaningless flings I’ve indulged in have always ended up with me wanting more from my partner than just physical intimacy. Having found someone who I really want to spend the rest of my life with, giving up sex with other partners isn’t even a hurdle. I want to concentrate on making one man happy, for good.

I do resent the expectations that people who buy into the promiscuous stereotype have of me. I resent the idea that my relationships are somehow less important or less honest because the promiscuous stereotype, which I don’t conform to, exists. I resent being judged before I’ve even made someone’s acquaintance.

'Cause that’s, you know, prejudice.

I don’t resent the stereotype. I do resent the implication of using the stereotype as an insult - that I am a lesser person if I am promiscuous. I find that using promiscuity to tar someone with, frankly, says more about the person doing the tarring. After all, a slut is just someone who’s having more sex than you are.

I’ve been fairly open about my promiscuity when I was younger; I racked up a fairly large number of encounters in the space of about three years. Even though I’m not needing to do that at present, I don’t regret it. I think it was an important part of my life to pass through. At present, I don’t hunt for sex, but the boi and I have an open relationship, and I’m not one to turn down an encounter with a desirable person if it is offered me. (And no, I never got an STD, thank you very much.)

As for why some gay men are promiscuous to a degree that some straight people find astonishing, I think it may be the “access” argument at least partially, but I also think the notion of “blowing the doors off” is also important: once you come out and question the sexual repression of your society in that way, you have an opportunity to do the same wholesale for all of its sexual mores. If the injunction for monogamy is among them, that’s the way it is.

“Easy”? Well, is there some value in being difficult?

It’s perfectly true that there are plenty of gay guys who want nothing more than to settle down with Mr. Right, and who don’t sleep around even when they’re single. I’d say at this point they’re probably above the median, at least in this burgh. And that’s cool; whatever you want. (It’s a little annoying when they’re hot, but c’est la vie.)

I do find, though, that a lot of the time the gay guys who are self-righteous about monogamy - the ones who really are really reactive towards the attack, screaming the loudest about how FALSE the stereotype is and how promiscuity is BAD and how we ALL WANT MONOGAMY are usually the ones you find at the bathhouse after the conference, but YMMV.

Do I find the promiscuous stereotype offensive? Not really. In and of itself, practiced safely, promiscuity is not an insanely dangerous behavior or even degrading. That’s the key, of course: practiced safely. Everything, even monogamy, should be practiced safely but sleeping around more so than anything else. I know a few people who seem to enjoy it and seem to be quite sane folk, so kudos to them. Would it float my boat? Probably not. Do I think more than a few people do it because they buy the stereotype or for less mentally healthy reasons? Yes. Yes I do. A lot of gay men, myself included, have a lot of baggage we need to learn how to offload (most especially internalized homophobia) and some choose to do it in self-destructive ways such as drugs or unsafe promiscuous sex. I worry about them, but try to keep the safe and unsafe categories as separate as I can.

I’m reminded of Wilt the Stilt who probably has achieved more orgasms with the assistance of the opposite sex than any gay poster on this message board. But then he is a special case.

I don’t think your professor obtained a truly representative sample of gay men. Consider that those who have had very few several sexual relationships are also probably the least likely to talk about them. If your sex life is ordinary, there really isn’t much to talk about in front of a class in sexuality.

The stereotype doesn’t offend me. Like many generalisations, it is founded on a kernel of truth: on average, gay men are more likely to be more promiscuous than straight men. Like other posters in this thread, any offense I take stems from the judgements some people are willing to make based on the fact of promiscuity.

FWIW, unlike most other gay men in this thread I do conform to the stereotype. I’ve also lived as a straight man, so I had some idea of the difference between the promiscuity of straight men compared to gay men. As others have put it, gay men have more sex because they can: it’s really easy to score in the gay world. Perhaps due to the fact that gay men have already thrown off one of society’s prohibitions (i.e. same-sex relationships), gay men are less likely to heed the other societal shibboleth that is casual sex–compared to straight men, but more significantly, compared to straight women. We’re also less likely to settle down, marry and have kids–which means many gay men lead active and promiscuous sex lives past their 40s.

I’ve never had anonymous sex–I’ve always had some level of personal involvement with my partners before and after sex–but I’ll say the numbers given by the OP (200-1000 by age 40+) aren’t unrealistic. (I’ll add here that I don’t come anywhere close to those numbers (!)… but I’m not yet 24. ;))

I certainly resent the stereotype, just as I resent all stereotypes. I’m also baffled by the lack of resentment of stereotypes reported by previous posters. A stereotype is a prejudicial and often grossly oversimplified over-generalization that is intended to disparage members of a given group by speciously claiming or assuming that all members possess a set of negative personal or behavioral attributes.

The stereotype that most gay men are promiscuous is just as offensive as any other stereotype, such as that most African-American men drink malt liquor from 40-oz bottles, eat mostly fried chicken, have huge dicks, and lust constantly after white women.

How can people not be offended by and resentful of stereotypes? Is it because they accept and perhaps even endorse the stereotypes themselves and thus are their own victims, too self-loathing to bother to protest their own degradation?

I’m not a prude, nor am I criticizing that small minority of my confrères who are highly promiscuous, but the more methodologically sound statistics I’ve seen over the last 20 years indicate that most gay men have only about 10-30% more lifetime partners than straight men. This translates to perhaps 15-20 different sexual partners for gay men over their lifetimes, which is far fewer than the stereotype suggests!

Face it: Stereotypes, even when they have some factual basis, are offensive and misleading and thus should be resented by all intellectually honest and fair-minded people.

Or else it could be that I prefer to save my offence and resentment for actions that hinder and injure Queer people. Even among false beliefs about Queer people, the notion that gay men are most likely promiscuous is far more offensive to me than, for example, the notion that gay men are most likely pedophiles.

As for the one in question: inaccurate? For many. Annoying? Often. But degrading? Only if you think promiscuity is degrading, which I do not. I don’t find this stereotype any more degrading than “All gay men have track lighting, and all gay men are named Mark, Rick, or Steve.”

I’m also not sure what you mean by “endorsing” it; I hope it’s not more of this “You’re living up to the stereotype!” ninnyhammering.

That should, of course, be "The notion that gay men are most likely promiscuous is far less offensive to me…

Well, to play devil’s advocate (because I have no idea what ambushed has in mind with his comments, and don’t want to step on his toes), this particular stereotype is often used as a reason why homosexuals are undeserving of marriage, civil unions, and sometimes even jobs (though the same is true in the latter case of heterosexuals, as well, tho’ you could argue that they aren’t automatically assumed to be promiscuous by the people who would withhold a job because of it). To a lot of people, especially those in power, it matters; why else do you think Bush would be pushing his federal marriage counseling idea?

Unfortunately for a simple answer of “THAT’S A STEREOTYPE AND IT’S FALSE AND WRONG AND AAGH!,” the fact is that there are many promiscuous gay men. (There are, of course, plenty of promiscuous lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals, but nobody ever seems to mention that in this context.)

If you attack the statement on the grounds that it is false that all gay people are promiscuous, all your dishonest opponent has to do is revise his/her statement to say that many gay men are promiscuous, which achieves the same rhetorical effect.

Instead, wouldn’t it be more honest to attack the statement for its illogic? I mean, it doesn’t even make stupid sense. What in the world are they trying to insinuate? Even if it were true that all gay men were promiscuous, why would that mean that gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t have the right to marry?

If you attack the stereotype, you’re buying the bullshit linkage. If you attack the bullshit linkage, you’re getting two for the price of one.

Further, a worse problem with not denying the bullshit linkage is that you are tacitly affirming that it would be okay to discriminate against gay people who are promiscuous. That’s dangerous and false.