Wednesday 22 November 2017

Dear Mary: I'm gay and into leather, so how did I fall for a woman after nights of intimacy?

Mary O'Conor

I'M a gay man, 52 years old, well educated and moderately successful. My friend is in her late 50s and is a wonderful woman, early widowed. Strange to say, I believe that she may be the love of my life. I would consider myself a Kinsey-six gay male, exclusively attracted to men. I like women, but have never been attracted to them. I'm a highly sexual, even driven, gay man, what is called a "leatherman". I've lived a largely closeted life but, in private, it has been a fairly sexually intensive life. That is not a boast; it's a simple reality. I holiday in gay male resorts and am absorbed by gay male culture, especially leather culture.

Leaving a party late night/early morning in full leathers, and waiting for a taxi, I encountered a lady also waiting for a taxi. She had left a bridge party. We started to have a relaxed conversation -- enjoyable, bantering and funny. She remarked on my clothing and said that I must be either gay or dressed in fancy dress. I said that I was gay. She was relaxed and matter-of-fact about this, slightly curious but not intrusive. She remarked that the leathers made me look like a "black leather knight".

When she established that we lived in the same general direction, she offered that we take the taxi together. When we stopped outside her place, she gave me her mobile number and urged me to phone her for coffee. I phoned her to say that it had been a pleasant chat and politely explained that I was busy. To my surprise, she invited me to dinner at her house. That was the start of a marvellous and seemingly platonic friendship. We found that we shared a lot of interests. I greatly looked forward to meeting her each time. I slipped gradually into what might be described as a mild courtship -- small, but I think thoughtful, presents, books, DVDs, perfume etc. It was easy going. On a birthday she bought me a Taschen book on Tom of Finland, as gay-themed a book you could imagine, and I found that she (I will call her "Mary") was utterly accepting of gay male sexuality, even the more exotic side of it.

We recently took a weekend in Paris. We booked separate rooms. It turned out that only one room, a double, was available. Mary insisted that it was no problem. We shared a delightful dinner together then I went off clubbing as the Parisian gay scene is fun and I arrived back at shortly after 3am. I came in quietly, undressed and got comfortable on a sofa. Later, Mary got out of bed and asked me to bed, saying that we were not teenagers and it was silly to stay on the sofa. So, we got

into bed. After a short time she hugged me in a friendly way. To my astonishment, I felt aroused. It was not as if I had not had enough fun earlier. I was upset and confused, broke from an embrace and apologised. Mary started laughing, made fun out of what had happened, and said that perhaps I was a teenager after all. I turned around and slept at the edge of the bed.

Later, Mary came over to me, hugged me again and it led to sex, beautiful, lovely, strange, intimate sex. It was nothing like my inept fumblings with a girl when I was a teenager. It was emotionally satisfying and physically delicious. The morning came. Mary was matter of fact, relaxed and a little amused. She said that she knew that gay men cannot be turned, there was no expectation except that she did not want this to undermine our friendship, was emphatic that I should go out and have wild passionate man-to-man sex and accept that it was just a passing but lovely moment. I did exactly as I was told and thoroughly enjoyed myself. To my relief, when I returned that evening a single room was available. Mary was upset that I would feel the need to leave and asked me not to move out. I was confused and uneasy. She prevailed on me to stay and that night we again slept together and were intimate. It was not just sex.

After this, it gets odder. Mary sleeps over with me during the week. At weekends, she stays at home. Her children are unaccepting. They know that I'm gay and they don't like the fact of their mother getting involved with a gay man. The fact is that I can see it from their perspective. The other problem is that I no longer feel like going to gay bars and clubs, I tend not to feel pushed about having sex with other men, and although I still recognise that I am 100 per cent gay, I am able to enjoy and be attracted to Mary. Mary is the ideal partner. She demands nothing, encourages, positively so, my sexuality, is unthreatened by and not at all jealous of my gay orientation. She encourages me to have sex with other men. Mary indulges my leather fetishism and has suggested items such as leather chaps etc. In a real sense, she celebrates my gay orientation. She looks at gay DVDs and has told me that man-on-man sex appeals to her.

The problem is that I have fallen head over heels for Mary. I love her and I'm confused. I am realistic enough to know that I will always be attracted to men and will always need to have sex with men. Only for now, that is not a need, but I desperately want to develop an exclusive and committed relationship. I know that I love Mary, not because she is a woman, but despite the fact that she is a woman. She is delightfully funny, understanding, intelligent, witty and beautiful. I have never had a really long-term relationship with another man, never exclusive and never beyond two years. In the time with Mary so far I have been more intimate and open than ever before. My worry is how this relationship may progress, and whether in all of this strangeness, I will end up causing Mary pain or upset. It might be a kindness and unselfish to end this relationship and friendship now. I could not bear to try to maintain a purely platonic friendship. It is all or nothing. Mary thinks that I make too much of the fact that I'm gay. She thinks that we should just let this evolve and let it take its course.

She is struck by what she describes as the romantic gesture of my trying to give up other men but she thinks that I will only cause myself frustration and tension by refraining from other men.

The idea of life without Mary seems unbearable to me, but if I now commit, I see this as for the rest of my life. I'm worried that I may not be able to be emotionally exclusive to her if I fall in love with a man.

I stand outside of myself looking at this, and there is a cruel joke in the fact that I have met the perfect woman but I'm gay.

Mary replies:

YOU are very lucky to have fallen for somebody who not only accepts your sexuality, but seems to rejoice in it. She even enjoys watching man-to-man sex in the same way that some men enjoy watching woman-to-woman. From the outset, you were absolutely honest with her and you have hidden nothing, and gradually went from being friends to being very close friends and then finally you were sexual together, which is how real relationships develop.

You say that you are exclusively attracted to men and would rate yourself as a six on the Kinsey scale (for those readers not familiar with it, the scale goes from zero to six, where zero is exclusively heterosexual and six exclusively homosexual). But that is not strictly true right now -- you are not exclusively attracted to men as you are very much attracted to Mary. So although some people remain at the heterosexual end of the scale others move along a continuum at different times in their lives, and this has happened to you. But it doesn't really matter what label you or others want to put on you. What matters is that both of you are happy in a relationship, and whereas you are happy right now you worry about the future.

In the gay community there is a lot of emphasis on sexual satisfaction with a lot of casual sexual encounters. I am not talking about gay couples who have long-term relationships but the gay scene in general, of which you have been a part. This is very different to what you are now experiencing with Mary, because you have an emotional as well as a sexual intimacy, and this must feel strange. There is nothing at all wrong with this, it is just a new feeling for you. And yet you are worried that you might fall in love with a man at some time in the future, perhaps when the newness wears off the relationship. You don't appear to have fallen in love with a man in the past in the way that you have with Mary, so why worry about the future? It would be far more likely that you will go seeking sex from a male at some point rather than a relationship, and in that case you already have Mary's full approval. (I know that you will be aware of how important safe sex is, but as this will be read by so many people I have to emphasize that when there is any question of more than one partner safe sex is imperative).

You want to have an exclusive and committed relationship, although you have never had that before. If you had one with a male instead of with Mary surely you would still want it to be exclusive and yet you may have the same urges to go and have sex with other males. How would you deal with that? Almost everybody is tempted to stray on occasion but it is what you do with the temptation that is important. So try to think of the relationship as a whole entity rather than focusing purely on the sexual aspect.

Her children are having a problem accepting you, and I can understand that. It's hard enough for children of any age to see their deceased parent replaced by somebody else, but the added complication that you bring makes it even more difficult. They have not been deceived, however, as the position has been made clear to them right from the beginning. They will want to see their mother happy at the end of the day and she seems to be very happy with your relationship right now.

Ultimately we cannot predict what is going to happen in any relationship. All we can do is to ensure that we are not harming anybody by our actions. I can see that you have Mary's welfare at heart and so you should be guided by her. She is old enough and wise enough to know what she was getting into when she started being your friend. She obviously wants to live in the moment and not worry too much about the future. I think that you should do the same.

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