The New York Times ran an interesting article last week about whether or not gay men and straight men can be friends. Of course, the article concludes that they can be, but it does raise some interesting points along the way.
The kinship between gay men and straight women is familiar to the point of cliché (see: "Sex and the City," "Will and Grace," Kathy Griffin's audience, etc.), but friendships between gay and straight men have barely registered on the pop culture radar, perhaps because they resist easy classification. For every sweeping statement one can make about such friendships, there is a real-life counter example to undermine the stereotypes. And as with all friendships, no two are exactly alike.
Resist easy classification? What could possibly need "classified" about friendship? Either you're friends or you're not... In fact, most of my male friends are *gasp!* straight - and I'm just fine with that too. I'm willing to bet even money that a lot of our readers - and not just gay men - have close friends who are straight, cis, or whatever "opposite" you'd like. Surrounding yourself with clones is boring and doesn't help you grow as a person.
But what about the sexual tension?
Still, as Billy Crystal remarked in "When Harry Met Sally," it's difficult for men and women to be friends because "the sex part always gets in the way." The same can be true between gay and straight men -- only it gets way more complicated
My closest friends have usually been straight men. Was there some sexual tension? Sure. Did we both kinda like it that way? To quote Sarah Palin, "You betcha."
I've found that one area the article didn't fully explore is that often the straight guys like being the center of attention. Women and men show interest in vastly different ways and sometimes having a dude think you're hot can be a turn on for a straight guy. It makes them feel sexy and wanted without having to do the delicate dance of "If I flirt back will she think I want a relationship?" After all, what have fathers warned sons about from the beginning of time? The man-trap. Even though it's an obvious stereotype, I've found a lot of straight men tend to believe it.
One of my friends and I were roommates. He knew I had a serious thing for him (hey, he was hot!), but we both knew it was never going to happen. He was comfortable enough about his sexuality that he didn't care if I thought he was sexy; in fact, he flirted with me more often than I flirted with him! Hell, he'd walk around the apartment naked like our apartment was the frat house he'd come from.
In a couple of other cases, my buddy and I actually slept together, but that doesn't mean we fell in love and lived happily ever after. One friend literally said, "A blow job is a blow job is a blow job" while another just wanted to know what the difference was between sex with a girl versus fucking a guy. It doesn't mean they weren't straight any more than the guys who experiment in high school or middle school. I'm a firm believer in letting people classify themselves since they know what they want/like better than I ever could.
Ask any of my friends, I'm a natural flirt. I do it all the time without even thinking about it. Straight or gay, it doesn't matter; I'm going to flirt with almost every man. Jerame laughs about how many straight men respond to me.
Recently, a new friend was going for drinks with us and some other friends. Before we left, Jerame was telling him about how I always attract the straight guys and the topic continued when we got to the bar/restaurant. Our waiter that evening was a cute young guy - obviously straight - and our group of friends were amazed that within an hour I had him eating out of the palm of my hand. Hell, by the end of the night he was offering to buy me a pack of smokes, had touched me on the shoulders and arm a bazillion times and forgot to address the group most of the time since he was so focused on me. ("Want another drink?" "No, but they'd like one!")
One of the main reasons gay men and straight men can be friends is because sex doesn't get in the way most of the time. Sure, you get the occasional ass - both gay or straight - who doesn't know the boundaries already set up in the friendship and tries to push it. Whether it's the straight man convinced that his gay friend only wants in his pants or the gay guy who thinks there's his friend just hasn't "found the right man," there's potential for some bumps in the road. Most of us know what we want and how we like it and we're able to set our own limits to what's acceptable. If you're a true friend, you respect those boundaries.
But sexual tension is a fine thing. As the quote from "When Harry Met Sally" points out, the issue is the same for straight men and women who are friends, straight and lesbian women, straight and gay men, or two gay or lesbian friends. People have sex. Big deal. It doesn't always "get in the way." Sometimes it adds a little spice to the friendship.
Can gay men and straight men be friends? Absolutely - and I like it that way.