Joe Kort on Male Sexual Fluidity – Smart Sex, Smart Love with Dr. Joe Kort

Why would straight identified men have sex with other men? Are they gay, bi or somewhere in between? Do you really understand what sexual fluidity is, or, even means?  This week Joe talks about his book, ‘Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi?: A guide for women concerned about their men.’  Men are stigmatized for having one non-heterosexual thought, and women are fetishized for having one.  Joe addresses the concerns of worried women who suspect their men are not straight. Listen to Joe help make sense of a confusing situation, plus make sense of ways couples can have sexual health conversations around the topic of sexual interests that don’t match one’s sexual orientation, and remain married, even with a ‘happy ever after’….

Dr. Joe Kort:                       Hello and welcome to Smart Sex, Smart Love. I’m Dr. Joe Kort, and today we’re going to be talking about male sexual fluidity, something that isn’t really talked about in our culture very much. We’re much more prone to talking about female sexual fluidity than we are males. So I decided to dedicate this entire episode to just talking about what happens for men, how do they behave in fluid ways, how does it work similarly to women, not similarly to women.

It’s really based on my latest book, which is called Is My Husband Gay, Straight or Bi? A Guide for Women Concerned about Their Men. I wrote this book because women were calling me on a regular basis and coming in for sessions worried about finding their men looking at gay porn, looking at bisexual porn. They used to be on Craigslist when that was available. They may have had gone to a bath house and they were completely freaked out, understandably, and scared that their husband was actually gay, but it would turn out for the most part that they weren’t.

And so you might be thinking, “Well, how can that be if they’re having gay sex, or they’re looking at gay porn, or they’re having same sex interactions? How is that not at least bi, but instead is even gay?” Well, I’m going to argue that today, and I’m going to give you some different ways to think about it. You may or may not agree with me; some people don’t agree with me at all. In fact, I’ve had some criticisms over the years where people accused me of bi erasure. Bi erasure is the idea that we’re a binary sexual orientation. We’re either gay or straight, I’m not binary at all. I’m not bi erasure. I do know that men are bisexual, as are women, but I also know that there are men that have sex with men that are not bi. They’re absolutely straight, or they’re mostly straight, and bisexuality or even pansexuality is not part of their identity.

How do I know this? Well, first of all, I’m going to give you a spoiler alert. I’m not a gay whisperer. Right? So if I was at gay whisperer, I would be so rich that I would be having dinner with Cher tonight, and spending the weekend with Oprah. I wouldn’t be doing this podcast. Instead, I help men come to terms with themselves, what their own orientation is, which is all anyone can do. Their partners can’t tell them, their therapists can’t tell them. They have to be guided to go inside to tell themselves. So let me begin by talking about the fact that this conversation began inadvertently.

It didn’t just originate up to be talking about male sexual fluidity, but I think it was 2006, or maybe 2005, where we started to learn about African American men going on the down low, and this was a book that was written by J.L. King and it was called On the Down Low. What he did was he exposed African American men going to spaces and being sexual with one another and not bringing protection. So what would happen is then they would pass on STIs, STDs, HIV that go back to their wives or girlfriends and pass on the STD or STI, and then some of these women became HIV positive and this became an Oprah show. On the Oprah show, I’ll never forget this, everybody including Oprah believed that these men were all gay or at least bi, and I knew differently back then.

I knew that first of all, this was not just an African American thing. This happens with all men, and I mean not every man, but it’s not just a black thing. It’s all ethnicities, all religions, all cultures, crossing all cultures and that they weren’t all … that they were straight men. I knew this, but the culture wasn’t ready for this at the time. My book, Is My Husband Gay, Straight or Bi, I wanted originally titled Straight Guise. Straight Guise, G-U-I-S-E. At that point, after my third book was written, I went to different publishers. I even hired an agent and said, “Can you help me get this published? I want men to understand and women don’t understand that they can be fluid, and straight men can have sex with men.” No publisher wanted it, not even tiny tiny publishers.

So the agent dropped it, and I didn’t want to self publish at the time. So I turned it actually into a website called straightguise.com, and guise is spelled G-U-I-S-E, and I have to tell you that it gets the most traffic between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM. I think that’s because a lot of men are surfing the internet. They’re looking at gay porn and they’re wondering, when they’re done, “Why did I do that? What does this say and what does this mean about me?” So I put the site up and put my entire proposal up, and started a blog at the time, so that I could have ongoing information for these men. So what happened was J.L. King, when he originally exposed being on the down low, he said he was straight. He has since come out as gay, which sort of weakens the argument that these men can really ever be really straight.

But I’m going to strengthen the argument hopefully today. And so I’m going to talk about when we first started looking at fluidity, this was Lisa Diamond’s work, and Lisa Diamond wrote a book called Sexual Fluidity based on lots of past research and papers that she had published around female sexual fluidity. At the time she didn’t believe that men could be fluid. She has since corrected herself and apologized and said, “I was wrong.” Not apologize, but just basically said she was wrong, and that men can be fluid, and now she is exploring that. I love the work she does as long with Ritch Savin-Williams is also doing male sexual fluidity.

So they’re putting science behind the clinical work that I’ve always seen in my office. And what happens is, my tagline is often this, that when men have one non heterosexual thought, they’re stigmatized. When women have one non heterosexual thought, they’re fetishized. So that creates burdens on both sides, right? So women have had to deal with being objectified, and men have to have the burden of being quiet. They can’t talk about it, and we know that bisexual men even don’t disclose often to their partners because partners see them as bi now, gay later. In other words, that they’re transitionally bi, but they’re really gay and they can’t accept it. And that’s not the truth. For true bisexual men, they’re bisexual. They can commit, they can be monogamous, but a lot of people have a lot of negative thoughts about that and don’t believe that.

Before I go into some of the categories of what it is to be a straight man or a mostly straight man having sex with other men, we have to understand that, again, things aren’t binary, right? So it’s not just gay and straight, it’s bisexual. And that we’ve had forever the Kinsey scale, right? So the Kinsey scale goes from zero, which is exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual interest, and it goes all the way to six exclusively homosexual with no heterosexual interest. But what about one through five, right? One is predominantly heterosexual, only incidental homosexual. Two is predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but we’ve either ignored this or we’ve said, “Well, that probably means they’re bi.” That’s not necessarily true that people are coming forward, and I think it’s because of the internet. The internet has allowed people to explore and examine unexamined and unexplored parts of their erotic self, their sexual self, and so they have a better understanding of, “What’s going on with me?”

So these days you can’t tell somebody who they are. It’s inappropriate, it’s politically incorrect, and frankly it’s insulting and injurious. The thing to say to somebody is, “How do you self identify?” That’s what I do with my clients. “Can you tell me how you identify,” and then if … Let’s say I have a client and she says, “I’m lesbian.” Well, that doesn’t tell me anything about her sexual behavior today. It tells me nothing about her sexual history in her past. I have to ask her about that. “What does lesbian mean for you? Tell me about your sexual behavior,” because she may in fact be having sex with men and still identify as lesbian.

For you that are listening, you may think, “Well, she can’t do that, and that’s not right,” but it isn’t for us to judge. It’s for us to listen and learn how she’s judged herself and how she labels herself. So, just as an aside, I’m actually going to do a podcast on this, is that Kinsey, in the forties and the fifties when he did his survey, he had the X factor, which was people who were asexual and non-sexual. So people think, “Well, asexuality is a new label,” asexual can mean somebody who’s not … has no sex drive at all, and has never had their own sex drive. It has a little bit of a sex drive, they’re called gray sexuals.

I’m going to do a whole podcast on that and explain more about that. It has a growing definition that we’re understanding, but the point of this is, Kinsey knew it and we didn’t. We haven’t been talking about it. So when it comes to bisexuality, though, there was Fritz Klein and he wrote this book called The Bisexual Option, and in it he talked about legitimizing bisexuality and at the time he looked at it, he didn’t like the Kinsey scale. He felt it was not dimensional enough.

So he created the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid. You can find these online and download them. I use them with all my questioning clients, anybody who sees themselves as little fluid, or unsure, or questioning. In it, Fritz Klein breaks things down. What is someone’s sexual attractions, sexual behaviors, sexual fantasies? Because we think those should all align, but they don’t necessarily align. What are someone’s emotional preference, social preference, self identification? Do they see themselves living in more of the straight community, the LGBT community? In the past, what was it? In the present, what is it? In the future, ideally, what would they want it to be? Then he does give a scale of one to seven. Are you attracted to the other sex only, all the way to the same sex only.

So it’s a lot to take in as you’re listening to my podcast, but if you download the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, you’ll see it. Even some people are saying even that today is becoming a little outdated because it doesn’t include gender identity, which also adds another element that I won’t be discussing today. But let’s talk about the fact that we have a sexual orientation and we have an erotic orientation. Our sexual orientation is to whom we’re attracted to: men, women, both, neither, a blend of both. Erotic orientation is what gets me off, what brings me to orgasm, what positions I enjoy, what fantasies I enjoy. Sometimes one’s erotic orientation is different than one’s sexual orientation.

So let’s talk about people that have rape fantasies. Now they’re calling them ravaging fantasies, right? Wanting to be raped or ravaged, and wanting to rape or to ravage. That does not mean that because somebody erotically is into that, that they want to rape, or that they want to really be raped. Because we understand that real rape involves power, control, and sex as a vehicle to do that and humiliate and degrade somebody. That’s not what rape play or ravage play is. The play involves consent and it is sexual and it’s mutual and it’s an agreed upon act. That’s its own podcast in and of itself, but I’m using it to prep where we’re heading here because you can have a sexual identity, sexual preferences, sexual behavior, and sexual fantasies, and they can all line up. So if you’re straight, they’re all to the opposite sex or the other gender. If you’re gay or lesbian, they’re all to the same gender and if you’re bi, it might be to both or many genders.

But that doesn’t explain the fact that I had somebody I knew who was a self identified lesbian, middle-aged feminist, whose primary fantasy was imagining herself being violently gang raped by a gang of straight men. She’d never had this happen. She never wanted to make it happen. She was never going to make it happen. It was just a fantasy of hers. The only reason she was in my office is that two girlfriends, one longterm and one short term, decided to no longer stay in relationship with her because they couldn’t handle that that’s what she thought about, and even though it was only in her mind. She knew she was still lesbian, and that it had nothing to do with how she self identified.

So given that, let’s talk about some of the categories that I’ve seen in my office about the sexually fluid men. So I’m going to start with Ritch Savin-Williams, who actually wrote a book called Mostly Straight, and that’s the term he likes to use. He is a Stanford professor and he has studied, continues to study, college age males at Stanford and who would identify themselves as Kinsey ones, and they would call themselves heteroflexible, so that they’re only attracted to women, but every once in a while it’s incidental, it’s random, it’s episodic, a male comes along and they’re able to be sexual with that male, but then they go back to being with females.

Now some people will say, “Well, isn’t that bisexuality?” No, because bisexuality, and again I’m saying no, but your client or you listening to this may say, “Well, it is for me,” and it might be bisexuality for you, but bisexuality usually means that I’m attracted to both men and women in different ways. These guys that I’m talking about, that Ritch Savin-Williams is interviewing, and that I’ve seen in my practice, they’re not attracted to men. They’re attracted to this particular guy for this particular reason, for this particular chemistry that’s between them. That’s it. It’s incidental. So that’s really what sexual fluidity is. You could even be homoflexible, right? So homoflexible means I’m only attracted to men or I’m only attracted to women, but every once in awhile somebody of the opposite sex comes along or the other gender comes along and I’m attracted to them and there’s something there.

And I’m going to admit that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more homoflexible. So I know I’m a gay man. I’m clear on that. But as I’ve gotten older, I have started finding myself, looking at women more, thinking about them sexually in ways I never used to, catching myself looking at certain women’s cleavage, or thinking about being sexual with them, and at first it scared me. I didn’t know what it meant, just like anyone else. You think you’re one way, and as life goes on you start to realize, “Well maybe I’m not only that way, but it doesn’t mean my identity changes.” There are also men that are bi-curious. These guys are interested in having a bisexual experience, but they’re not bi, they’re not even fluid. Their girlfriend might’ve wanted them to do it. They might’ve had some … they might’ve been drunk, they might’ve had some fantasy around it, but it’s just about being curious.

Then there are men I’ve seen in my practice that they would identify themselves as heteroemotional. In other words, heteroromantic and homosexual. So all their sexual fantasies are about men, but all their romantic interests and emotional interests are with women. They would never see themselves as gay or bi. The LGBT community is not a place they see as home, and for them they marry women and partner with women because that is their home. But while they’re having sex with her, they’re thinking of men. Sometimes they tell her, sometimes they don’t, and the reason they don’t is because they’re afraid that she’s going to maybe not understand it, think he’s really gay, and leave him. The fact is they’re just fantasies.

The most common thing I see in my office is what is called trauma reenactment. So these are men that have been sexually abused as boys, and they return to the scene of the sexual crime. So let me give you an example. I had a guy come to me and he was sexually abused. He’d had never put this together. His wife caught him going online and engaging in cam sex with other men, and when she opened the door, saw him naked and saw the people on the other side of the cam. She thought he was gay and and so they came to my office in crisis, and in his childhood he had had an experience where a brother and a cousin sexually abused him. So because of that in his webcam experience, he was reenacting that early abuse. So in other words, I ask questions, “When you’re on cam, what are you thinking about? What do you want to do with these people? What do you … How do you want them to feel towards you? How do you feel toward them?”

Every answer to the question that I had asked him led back to what happened in his childhood and what happened in the sexual abuse. I’ve had clients where they’ve been sexually abused and molested in the bathtub by male perpetrators. So then they go to rest rooms, or bath houses, bathroom areas. So then they’re reenacting what happened to them in the bathtub as adults. It’s unconscious. We all do it to different degrees. We all return to the scene of the crime from children, whether it’s sexual or not, but when it’s sexual, you will often turn back to it as a sexual behavior. This has nothing to do again with being gay or bi. It has to do with us being straight … it can, but it can also be a straight man who is reenacting something early on.

Then I get this a lot where men come to my office and they enjoy having anal sex, meaning receiving anal sex, and they try to tell their female partners. It doesn’t go well or she’s disgusted or he’s too ashamed. So he’ll find men to engage in anal sex. He’s not attracted to the men. He’s attracted to receiving anal sex. So he’ll go to a therapist. The therapist will say, “I think you’re either gay or bi, because why would you be doing this? So read Joe Kort’s book.”

Honestly, I’ve had this happen countless times. He reads my books, he says to her or him, “I don’t still don’t think I’m gay.” “Go see Joe Kort.” They come and see me and they look at me holding my books and they say, “If I’m gay, help me be gay, but I don’t feel like I’m gay.” And what I tell them is that “I’m licensed by the state of Michigan, and I’m a certified sex therapist, and I have to tell you that your anus doesn’t have a sexual orientation. It doesn’t know whether it’s gay, straight or bi. It’s an anus and you like prostate pleasure, and that’s all this is.”

What you do sexually isn’t who you are. I have an article somewhere on my website, Are You What You Orgasm? No, what you get off on isn’t necessarily who you are, and this is very relieving to a lot of men, because now they’re freed up to tell their wives or girlfriends, “I enjoy anal sex, and I’d like to do this with you,” and it’s actually called pegging. There are books on pegging, on how to do it well, and how to get women involved and men involved, and how to do that. Then there are men that are into BDSM, bondage, discipline, sadomasochism, and what they’re interested in erotically is the power exchange, impact play, being a slave, being a master, being bound, being dominant, being submissive. And they would prefer, straight men would prefer doing this with women, but if women aren’t available, or there are men that can take it or give it out, dish it out more. They’re willing to engage in that with men, but it’s not about the man. It’s about the BDSM.

And then there are people that have fetishes and kinks. So I had a client once that was into muscles and he loved going … He was a heterosexually identified guy. He’d go to female bodybuilding shows, watch women getting into performing muscle, bodybuilding contest. So then of course they leave and the males come out, and now they have different muscles, bigger muscles, and so then he found himself turned on by these guys, but it wasn’t about the men. It was about the muscle, and so he would actually engage in sex with them. And you again, listen, you might think, “Well that makes him gay or bi.” No, it makes him acting on his fetish or kink for muscles.

Then there are men who are sex workers, or enjoy getting paid for sex, male escorts. I’ve had many of them in my practice and what they tell me is sometimes I feel like I’m a cash sexual. I would prefer … they’re heterosexual identified, right? I would prefer having a woman pay me, and some women do, but most women don’t. Most women don’t have to, but men will pay for sex. So they’re … what turns them on isn’t necessarily having sex with the man. What turns them on is that they were paid to have sex with this guy, and once the money or the Google wallet, or whatever it is, cash app is, it makes a ding. They get an erection and it’s like an erotic sense for them.

A lot of straight men will say, “I have a higher sex drive. My female partner and I try to negotiate it. She doesn’t want to keep up with me. She can’t keep up with me. So I turned to men.” One of the biggest things I’ve noticed, because I work with men all over the place and for consultations all over the world, they all say the same thing to me. “I didn’t think I was cheating because it was with a man,” and they mean it. But of course once they are discovered or they come out about it, they realize, “Yes, I broke the relationship contract, and the fact is that I did cheat or I engaged in infidelity.”

Another thing that men do, this is becoming an outdated word, but people do know it’s still today, it’s cross dressing. It’s also called gender play. It’s also called feminization, where a man, and this is usually a straight man, it can be a bi man, and some gay men do this, but it’s usually a straight man who gets excited and gets aroused by dressing like a woman being with a man, maybe even being sexual with a man. This isn’t about being trans. He’s excited by feeling like a woman, not being a woman. That’s a different way and in a different … that’s different than being transgender, and it’s also different than being gay, because he’s not attracted to men. He’s attracted to the men helping him feel like a woman.

Finally the last category I’ll talk about is that there are men that are exhibitionists and there are men that are voyeurs. So an exhibitionist is someone who likes showing off, right? And voyeurs are the people that like to watch. And all of us have a little bit of that in us. We like to show a little bit, we’d like to watch a little bit, but if a man has a true kink or fetish that is primarily about exhibiting himself, he’d rather … a straight guy wants to do it to a woman, but if she’s not available or doesn’t want it, he’s happy to do it to a male. It’s about exhibiting himself that arouses him. Being watched. This is also true for voyeurism. It’s a guy who likes to watch, but if women aren’t available to watch or don’t want to be watched, then he will watch somebody the same sex.

I think what’s most important, I probably should have started this podcast by saying, “I’m only talking about adults,” and I’m talking about non offending, all consensual play here. And I’m talking about men that need a place to show up and know that being fluid is okay, that there’s nothing wrong with them. Women don’t usually have a problem knowing that they’re fluid. I get it in my office all the time, but when men come in, they’re freaked out and they’re worried and they want to know, “Am I gay, straight, or bi? I can’t be fluid,” and I have to sometimes say to many men, “You’re fluid.” It doesn’t … we’re not landing on anything.

If you want to know more, you can go to my website, straightguise.com, that’s G-U-I-S-E, and you can go to my book, Is My Husband Gay, Straight or Bi? A Guide for Women Concerned about Their Men, and I’m hoping to have more people on here talking about male sexual fluidity, and I’ll see you next time.