Know Your Sexual Shadow

We all have a sexual shadow. What is your sexual shadow? How can you learn about and from your sexual shadows? Is it standing in the way of finding real love? Can knowing it help you find a partner? Yes, it can help and hinder relationships.

Your peak erotic experiences and fantasies have coded information about you that can help you understand yourself better.

The easiest way to know if you’re in shadow is to consider what you most admire or dislike in others. So in sexual terms, that would equate to your peak erotic sexual interest. What sexual desires and fantasies do you most admire or dislike? Your peak erotic experiences and fantasies have coded information about you that can help you understand yourself better. It can even help you find the right partner for you, if you can decode the erotica of your desires.

There’s a saying that you can tell a lot about a person by knowing who his friends are. Well, if you understand your sexual fantasies and desires, you’ll learn a lot about yourself as a person. Sexual fantasies are not separate, but a result of your psychological makeup—a part of you, an extension of your psyche.

In archetypal terms, this chapter addresses your Lover energy—that aspect of you that carries and releases your passion, sexuality, sexual urges and fantasies; your emotions, sensuality, and erotic energy; and unconditional love for yourself and others. For us gay men, this is the source of perhaps our biggest wounding. As men, we are squelched by patriarchy to act like an unemotional and unaffectionate male. On top of that, the covert cultural sexual abuse we suffer as gay men squelches our Lover archetype.

What is healthy sexuality and what isn’t? In various ways, nonsexual material gets coded into sexual fantasies, desires, preferences, and behaviors. Many of my clients have unlocked their Lover energy, discovered more about themselves, and integrated it into their whole person. This chapter, I hope, will let you understand your erotic landscape and how your erotic mapping directs you to the right partner for you as well as how you relate sexually with a partner, and how you and he negotiate sex within your relationship. This chapter is about getting the gold from our sexual shadows.

Sexual Fantasies and Integrity

Sexual fantasies allow us to be out of integrity. Things we would never do or say in reality we get to do in our fantasies. Pay careful attention to your sexual desires, erotic needs, and sexual fantasies, and you can learn a great deal about what you’re looking for in a partner and want to receive in a relationship. The details of your sexual fantasies don’t matter as much as their themes—an important distinction, lest you get lost looking at the details and not be able to see the forest for the trees. Following the themes is like interpreting a dream. The details seem silly, but the symbolism is full of information about you. Whether you have healthy or unhealthy sexual desires, fantasies, or behaviors, it is in your benefit to understand what they represent for you. Believe it or not, you can improve your romantic relationships from making logical sense from them.

The guy seeking out Leather Daddies might be looking for a father figure. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, unless he’s looking for someone to take care of him so that he needn’t be accountable for his own life. As a child, he may not have had a father in his life, or the father he had was weak, passive, or abusive. A partner cannot make up for what he didn’t get as a child; seeking this out in the nonsexual realm could therefore lead to relational problems.

In sexual fantasy and play, however, this desire can be satisfied on a temporary basis. That is the cleverness of erotic moments. Another guy may get aroused by twinks because he came out late and longs to recapture his own youth. His driver’s license says he’s in his late thirties or older, but in “gay years,” he’s still in his early twenties. And he may find that while sexually erotic, a true relationship with a guy that young is not effective or even possible. (There’s nothing wrong with dating someone that young except if it’s only about erotica and nothing more.) The answer might then be to recapture his youth with a younger partner but without the enormous age difference. He might find other ways to recapture his youth outside the relationship as well. His self-help work in this case is to find ways to recapture his youth and mourn for those lost younger years.

If you asked a hundred different men about their sexual fantasies and preferences, you’d get a hundred different answers—many quite different. Certain things—even trivial ones—may be important to arousing one man, whereas the same fantasy might turn off the next guy. That is because everyone’s history, childhood, and socialized imprints are different. Each of us has his own erotic thumbprint. Later, they become the erotic blueprints for arousal, cleverly reenacting to the original disturbing event, this time with a happy ending. Unfortunately, fantasy does not translate into reality. Therefore, the more bonded you are to your fantasy, the harder it is to learn from it and bring it into actuality. In other words, if you let yourself be ruled by sexual arousal instead of being in control of it, it can interfere with finding a partner and entering a relationship.

There’s nothing wrong with fantasy and nothing wrong with play-acting it out. But I want to help clients explore—in a positive, not a negative way—why they’ve developed that particular fantasy. And what about incest stories—which can be found in both gay and straight porn? Sexual fantasies about family members ensure that attention is paid and connections are made. Having pornography serve as one’s initiation into gay manhood can feed a man’s impression that being gay is forbidden and underground. Sneaking around to a “dirty” bookstore can make him feel shameful, but also add to the excitement. Recall that during sexual arousal, phenylethalimine (PEA) is released into our system, causing us to feel excitement, ecstasy, and euphoria. The higher the risk and danger involved, the stronger the fear and consequent “hit” of PEA—which would logically increase the sexiness of porn and potentially hook gay men—all of which can all lead to sexual addiction.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

What about gay men’s sexual obsessions with real straight men? I’ve heard countless clients tell me of their interest in “getting sexual with a straight man” for one night. Some clients talk about wanting the man to remain straight all the way through the fantasy while they “service” him without reciprocation. Others want him to participate by talking or telling him what to do, while still others want him to lay back and be worshiped. Others want the straight man to humiliate them, while still others want the straight man to suddenly become sexually interested back toward him. Whatever the case, it gives you more information about yourself.

I see sexual fantasies about straight men as longings for being accepted by straight men in general or your father. Straight men can be stand-ins for your fathering figures—a dynamic very similar to that of the fag hag who flirts heavily with gay men, knowing nothing will come of it.

Gay men have been wounded, bruised, beaten down, and humiliated by straight men— resulting in straight men, particularly those in a position of authority, being recipients of both positive and negative transferences from gay men. We hear over and over that these men would never accept a sissy boy—which we have accepted that we are. Because of this, gay men often fear straight men. As children, we do love these paternal figures and we want their acceptance; as adults, we sexualize these straight men because it unconsciously offers a way to feel safely and pleasantly attached to them. In the sexual fantasy of pleasing a straight guy, you finally get a chance to make contact with him and get the approval you have always wanted.

Some gay men have fantasies of overpowering straight men—seducing or forcing gay sex onto them. Again, while these fantasies can make for exciting fun, preoccupation with them or acting on them—even with a willing straight male—won’t help you find Mr. Right in the long run, if that is in fact what you are looking for. It can also be a distraction from examining your own issues around straight males.

Objects of Passion

Objectification fantasies also can get in the way of getting real love with a partner when they’re compulsive. These include fetishes and fantasies where body parts and objects are desired, rather than a whole person. I’ve heard clients fantasize about being a guy’s footstool, table, chair, ashtray, or toilet; doing his chores, cleaning his house and car, and being totally humiliated and submissive to him. This can signify that while growing up, the gay male was treated poorly, like an object.

Again, as sexual fantasy and sexual play, there’s nothing wrong with this if you enjoy it safely and sanely with those willing to participate. But if you want a relationship, then you need to somehow incorporate this sexual fantasy with a partner.

©2009 by Joe Kort

Related: Issues, Books

Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives and 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love. or E-Mail

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!

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