Is my boyfriend gay?
January 4, 2013 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Am I being paranoid for worrying that my new boyfriend is gay? Also, is there a delicate way of broaching the topic or should I avoid it altogether?

I just started a new relationship with a guy I've known through work for awhile but never got to know closely. Maybe I'm an asshole but when I first met him I thought his speaking style and mannerisms screamed gay. Usually I'll hold off on judgment but in his case the impression was so strong that I didn't even question it at first. Sometimes I get uneasy when I have to work with straight guys because of the sexual tension, and I remember thinking to myself when we were introduced, "good, he's gay, I can relax." Other people I know also thought he was gay at first. So I was surprised a couple of months in to hear him mention an ex girlfriend.

Recently he confessed he'd been harboring a crush on me for awhile, and he asked me out. I was thrilled because I liked him too. He seems very smitten with me -- he tells me constantly that he adores me, calls me beautiful, says he feels so lucky to have me, when we are together he can't keep his hands off me, other people who have seen us together have said, "he is clearly falling in love at break neck speed." He is the one who initiates most of the physical stuff -- he was the first one to kiss me. We are already in a committed relationship even though it's early, something he and I both wanted. I'm totally crazy about him, but I keep having panicky thoughts that I'll discover he's closeted.

Sex seems to make him uncomfortable. After our second official date we wandered back to his place. We started making out and he seemed very into it or so his hard on suggested. But he got uneasy when things moved in the direction of sex. He told me it was a little too soon for him so we both got naked but didn't go further. The next date we were in the same situation. This time he told me he felt torn because he wanted to have sex with me and was horny but it was important to him that it be "real" and "meaningful." He started touching me down there and then took his pants off and put himself inside me. After about a minute he pulled out and said he was too tired to continue. We are going on our fourth date tonight.

Other relevant info. He is 23, had been in a long term serious relationship living with a girlfriend previous to this that ended two years ago (she ended it, he was crushed). He told me he had been celibate since that relationship ended because he was so scarred by the breakup and wouldn't ask girls out even when he felt attracted. He also told me that he doesn't do casual sex. Other things... He is on heavy anti depressants and I know those can disrupt sexual functioning. He is very insecure and afraid of rejection. We live in a very liberal community and his best friend is a lesbian, so it's not like he'd be ostracized by his community if he came out. This is probably stupid but I'll just throw it out there: the other day when we were talking about the movie "Lincoln" he told me he had a "man crush on Daniel Day Lewis."

I know anything's possible but am I being ridiculous for worrying? Are there lots of totally straight guys who come off as stereotypically gay in their manner? Could there be other explanations for his sexual hangups? Any other women have experience dating straight guys who come off as gay to strangers? What about women who were with guys who later came out -- what were some of the warning signs you see in hindsight? Would it be a terrible idea to address my concerns?

FYI I have never mentioned anything about this to him, and he doesn't know I thought he was gay at first. I didn't want to hurt him by mentioning it because I'm sure he gets it all the time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Men can be effeminate without wanting to fuck other men. If you're really that concerned about it, you need to talk to him about it.

But. Anti-depressants are a known cause of interrupted sexual function. It doesn't sound like he has problems, though. It sounds like he wants to take things slow. Everyone has their own pace -- his is just slower than yours. Nbd.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

No, he's not gay. He just has issues.

And you're right, some anti-depressants play havoc with the libido and with erections.

Enjoy the ride. He's young and inexperienced and that will give him performance anxiety like nobody's business. Especially if you're worldly or sexually aggressive. Let him set the pace for sex, he'll be into it when he's ready.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

his speaking style and mannerisms screamed gay

Not relevant. Get over it.

Sex seems to make him uncomfortable

Important issue. Wait, you've only had 3 dates and he's telling you he's not ready yet because he wants it to be meaningful? Nevermind, totally normal.

am I being ridiculous for worrying

Yes. Nothing you've said seems like a sexual hangup at all. Mental exercise: try reversing the genders. Would it sound like a sexual hangup if one of your girlfriends said she wasn't ready for sex yet by the third date and that she doesn't like casual sex?
posted by randomnity at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2013 [34 favorites]

First, you've only been on 3 dates. Give it time to sort itself out. You're barely even in a relationship.

Second, you need to modify your thinking on this. You shouldn't be thinking "is my boyfriend gay?", you should be thinking "are my needs being met in this relationship?". Say he never ends up being too interested in sex -- it doesn't matter whether he's actually gay or not, it matter that you don't have a good sex life in your relationship.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

We started making out and he seemed very into it or so his hard on suggested.

If you are a lady then him making out with you and getting a boner means he probably is not gay

Would it be a terrible idea to address my concerns?

With him? Oh yes, that would be a spectacularly bad idea.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:53 PM on January 4, 2013 [52 favorites]

We started making out and he seemed very into it or so his hard on suggested.

This is dispositive.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, in case it helps, my very first serious boyfriend figured out that he was gay after over a year of dating and sex that was good for both of us (yeah, don't ask me). So I have more reason than most to be paranoid, and I still think you have nothing to worry about with the information you've given us so far.

I mean, sure it's always possible, but nothing you've said would be worrying me at all.
posted by randomnity at 1:57 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not all camp men are gay.

Most people with hangups about sex are not gay.

Most people who have hangups about sex after a bad breakup are not gay.

Many men who screw men are not gay. Some of them are bisexual.

At heart, your question is "Are his sex hangups something we should talk about?" and then maybe "Should I stay with him despite sex problems?"

In which case "Yes, but tactfully" and "Maybe".
posted by emilyw at 1:58 PM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

I know anything's possible but am I being ridiculous for worrying? Are there lots of totally straight guys who come off as stereotypically gay in their manner? Could there be other explanations for his sexual hangups? Any other women have experience dating straight guys who come off as gay to strangers?

posted by massysett at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are a lady then him making out with you and getting a boner means he probably is not gay

I know quite a few gay guys who have dipped or do dip into the other pool occasionally. It's a dirty little secret. And I know screamingly feminine gay guys who are married to other dudes after twenty years of heterosexual marriage and kids (one, in fact, left his wife reluctantly, because she told him he was gay while he denied it , and he fell in love with a dude he met moving into his first solo place).

Sure, not everyone crosses borders, and some people know right away. This guy could be anything at all, but he's very, very young. It's possible he's gay and doesn't realize it yet, or it's possible he's just nervous, or it's possible that the antidepressants make it impossible for him to orgasm and he doesn't know how to talk to you about that. No one here can put your mind at ease or tell you what you want most to know.

One thing is sure: he has lied to you. That "too tired" excuse? That right there is bullshit, and unacceptable. So ask him what's up, and listen.
posted by thelastcamel at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2013 [19 favorites]

It's unacceptable to say you're too tired for sex? Come on.

He probably is just nervous. Give him time.
posted by Justinian at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

Dude who gets boners for ladies while making out? Absent a written and notarized declaration that he only wants to put his penis into other men, or a letter from his doctor saying he has uncontrolled erectile excess, I'm guessing he's into you but is either inexperienced or coming from a background or viewpoint where people don't have sex without more history (or at least a culture where people say that, and he's internalized it).

So, not gay, but with things for the two of you to talk through. Some time when you're not making out, or stressed, or rushed, make time to talk about sex and relationships and where you're both coming from - get to know him! Then you can figure this out.
posted by zippy at 2:18 PM on January 4, 2013

I think most people would be thankful to find a boyfriend who doesn't want to rush into sex and wants it to be real and meaningful. I'm not sure why that would be a 'gay' thing at all unless you think he's just making excuses not to have sex with you, and it sounds way too early to say that.

You are making him nervous by rushing him into sexual things he's not fully comfortable with, it doesn't sound like it has anything to do with being gay.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also what thelastcamel said.
posted by zippy at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2013

Feeling uncomfortable about having sex on a third date is pretty normal for both men and women. Especially since it sounds like he may have only had one other partner.

Also, 23 is pretty young in the grand scheme of things. It's an age where people are still figuring out who they are and getting comfortable with themselves. It's not really very socially acceptable for a young man to not want to have sex with an attractive girl who wants to have sex with him, so that's probably a big part of what his discomfort was about.

One of the most effeminite men I know has been happily married to a (incidentally quite butch) woman for 20 years. There's so much variation in how people express gender roles.

I mean, sure, he could be gay, but there's nothing in your post that indicates a strong chance he is.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your boyfriend is not gay unless he wants to fuck other dudes (and even then, if he wants to fuck other dudes and also fuck ladies, he's bisexual). This is true no matter how he dresses, no matter what his voice sounds like, and no matter how many movie musicals he knows by heart. The fact that he may be somewhat cautious about casual sex and worried about moving too quickly has nothing to do with who he wants to have sex with. And all of the available evidence suggests that he wants to have sex with you; just not on the third date.

If you don't want to date him because of his mannerisms or his approach to sex, you have every right to feel that way. But that's about you, not about him. And if you try to pin your insecurities on him by claiming that your discomfort is about his honest self-expression rather than about your own hangups, then yes, you're being sort of hurtful.
posted by decathecting at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2013 [10 favorites]

Also, this is not to say you're "bad" or "slutty" or anything silly like that for wanting to have sex before he did. It does sound like you guys are somewhat differently aligned there, so that's probably a good thing to talk about.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

He had a long term serious relationship with a woman, which crushed him by ending, and he hasn't had sex, or even tried for a relationship because he was so scarred, since. And he's on antidepressants, which might be affecting his sexual functioning.

There's nothing about what you said that screams gay. There's plenty that screams nervous, though.
posted by Solomon at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2013

Men are allowed to view sex as a deeply personal and emotional experience. Your boyfriend may feel really uncomfortable introducing sex too soon in a relationship because for him it causes a big shift in dynamic that he takes very seriously.

I understand where you're coming from on all this, but you gotta get over this STAT or you're gonna end up being a really disrespectful person. Engage him in a frank dialogue. You could say, "hey, I've noticed that the last few times we've gotten hot and heavy that I've really enjoyed myself. I'm really looking forward to taking the next step with you and wanted to make sure that that's something you're interested in and ready for. How would you feel if we started having sex?"
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had this problem with oh...almost all my boyfriends. At some point I realized I was the problem, not them. I was the one who was feeling uncomfortable with it, wanting myself to be attracted to the big brawny dude when in reality I loved the guys who liked musical theater and fashion. It was my issues with social norms and masculinity, not theirs.
posted by ponytime at 2:32 PM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Could there be other explanations for his sexual hangups?

I think it would be helpful to you to de-pathologize his behavior. He doesn't have hangups -- he has a timeline for getting intimate that is different from yours.

There is this dopey myth in our culture that men (especially young men) are sex-bots, sans emotionally-complex inner worlds, who are ready/willing/able to have intense intimate experiences as soon as the panties drop. This is far from the truth for many.

He is allowed to proceed at whatever pace is comfortable for him. It may be a fits-and-starts type of progress, due to him being both attracted to you, but emotionally not quite ready. (I've had this experience with men in my life.) If that pace isn't workable for you, then that is a separate issue.
posted by nacho fries at 2:34 PM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]

This is what you said happened :

Recently he confessed he'd been harboring a crush on me for awhile, and he asked me out. 

He voluntarily made public his crush, and then asked you out. Jeez, even straight-certified men don't always make such a clear cut moves of the hetero kind.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

It's unacceptable to say you're too tired for sex? Come on.

It's not unacceptable to say you're too tired for sex. But saying you're too tired for sex a minute after sticking your penis into a lady? Yeah, there's something going on there, and he is not being truthful.

That doesn't mean he's gay, but it can still be a giant red flag.
posted by corb at 2:45 PM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]

But saying you're too tired for sex a minute after sticking your penis into a lady?

Obviously sir, you are not a drinker.

I think given the context, "tired" may not have been 100% truthful, but it is more likely to have been code for "suddenly less than comfortable" or (though not mentioned) "a wee bit too drunk," than for "gay" or "HORRIBLE DARK SECRET."

This myth of man-as-irrepressible-perpetual-wangmachine reaaaaaaallly needs to die.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:56 PM on January 4, 2013 [15 favorites]

Maybe I'm an asshole but when I first met him I thought his speaking style and mannerisms screamed gay.
I've butchered this in the past, but here goes another try:

Gay people can be butch or femme. Straight people can be butch or femme. And there is plenty of room between and beyond those goalposts. Learn about your new boyfriend by talking to him, not judging his appearance.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:04 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

i've totally had sex that ended 30 seconds after it began with no climax because the guy was too tired. it wasn't a lie. it's my understanding that sometimes guys can get hard and be horny and want to have sex but once everything begins their brain lets them know just how exhausted they are. sometimes you push through that, but sometimes you admit that it's just not going to work today. the addition of anti-depressants and a long dry spell and a bad ending to his only sexual relationship probably all swarmed together.

i think you need to let him take the lead on making out and sex - let him take off your shirt, or take off his - let him touch you first. it sounds a little like you might be pressuring him. it might be months before he wants to have sex on the regular. if that's not ok with you, that's totally fine, but you'll need to find another partner not push this one into your sex drive.

i don't think you have any evidence that he's gay. he might be bi. i know a lot of effeminate straight men with guy crushes.
posted by nadawi at 3:06 PM on January 4, 2013 [12 favorites]

On the issue of the too-tired thing: I would take him at his word. Sometimes, when a person is depressed and/or on anti-depressants, a feeling of emotional-overwhelm manifests in part as flat-out exhaustion. It can come on suddenly, and in unexpected moments. While the underlying trigger might be something emotional/psychological, the physical component is very much real.

Let's cut the guy some slack before we brand him a liar. So far, he has been open and expressive enough to talk about his past hurts, and to express his affection for the OP. He actually sounds remarkably willing to make himself vulnerable, and to talk about potentially shame-inducing subjects. (Especially given his youth.) He doesn't strike me as someone who'd suddenly need to lie to protect himself.
posted by nacho fries at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tiredness, alcohol, stress are all pretty common reasons for a man to not "keep it up" for very long. And the thing is that we men are socialized to couch a lot of our masculine identity in our virility, the most salient example of which is an erection. So if dude can tell he's not going to be able to keep it up, he may not want to have intercourse.

But here's the thing: as millions of gay people will tell you, intercourse is not a synonym for sex. Perhaps if you relaxed about intercourse, and focused on having the kind of sex your partner is comfortable having at this point in the relationship, you'd both be more relaxed and learn to trust each other, and have a lot of fun to boot. If he doesn't want to have intercourse, what does he feel comfortable doing? What kind of touching and foreplay turns him on? Focus on those things.

Figure out how to be what Dan Savage calls "GGG" - " good, giving and game" - that'll help you get in tune with what you like, and help you be able to recognize that quality in your lovers.
posted by eustacescrubb at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Seconding nacho fries: An overwhelming feeling of depression resembles fatigue. He may well have felt tired.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2013

If you have not personally with your own special eyes seen him engaged in any kind of sober and consensual sex acts with another man then yes, you are being totally ridiculous in suspecting that he is somehow seekritly gay.
posted by elizardbits at 3:24 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are making him nervous by rushing him into sexual things he's not fully comfortable with....

Treehorn, I don't see how this is happening. The OP states that he's usually the one who initiates the physical stuff, and she explicitly laid out a scenario in which he took multiple steps in a direction which ultimately seemed to make him uncomfortable.

OP, no one here can tell you for certain whether your boyfriend is straight, gay, or bi. But if you continue to be uncomfortable with dating him as he is, then break up. You deserve a partner you are comfortable with, and he deserves a partner who is comfortable with him.

In the meantime, maybe hammer out an agreement with him to keep your dates within bounds that you are both comfortable with until you are comfortable with moving to the bedroom.
posted by bunderful at 3:25 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, he could be bisexual. Or he could be totally straight. Or he could be secretly gay.

What we do know is that he is inexperienced, has gone through a crushing break up, and is on anti-depressants. All of which affect performance and self-esteem. We also know that he initiates intimacy and appears smitten with you and wants sex with you to be meaningful. Which seems to suggest that he likes you.
posted by heyjude at 3:34 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

There's no way to know whether he's gay or not, but he likes you and gets hard when you guys make out, so...I'm thinking he's at least straight enough to be a good boyfriend.

I'm gay and had boyfriends who didn't like me very much and had a hard time keeping it up, so there's that.
posted by xingcat at 4:17 PM on January 4, 2013

Infatuation and early love go hand in hand with anxiety. Sounds like yours is manifesting around this issue, but if it weren't this, you'd probably be overthinking something else, since that's what everyone does during the first few dates. :)
posted by salvia at 4:18 PM on January 4, 2013

"One thing is sure: he has lied to you. That "too tired" excuse? That right there is bullshit, and unacceptable. So ask him what's up, and listen."

Sometimes guys get tired and don't feel like having sex, you know, just like women. That is a totally normal and totally fine thing for him to feel, and would be at worst an indication that he is aware of his body, doesn't buy into bullshit expectations of masculinity laden with misogyny, and doesn't have sex he doesn't want. All of these sings point to him being a keeper. If him being tired was short hand for him not being someone who wants to have sex immediately in a relationship, someone still working out their feelings about their previous relationship, or someone who is just shy, or whatever all of these same things apply.

Congratulations, you've lucked out - don't fuck it up.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a straight woman. Here are things that my totally gay high school boyfriend did:
- Got hard when we made out
- Enjoyed my sucking his dick
- Liked to put his hands in my pants
- Initiated the relationship by confessing a crush
- Gave great compliments about how beautiful I was
- Lamented the fact that people thought he was totally gay
- Was a theater geek with a built-in, would-have-been-supportive community

But you know what? He was totally gay! Was his affection for me sincere? Yes, I think it was. We got along like gangbusters and talked on the phone late into the night. We were best friends for years. It never, ever in a million years would have worked out, because he liked dudes—alas, a thing I would never be.

Wait, it goes on. Here are things my totally gay cousin did:
- Pursued his wife with great intensity.
- Fathered a number of children via regular old PIV sex
- Was married for more than thirty years
- had a shit-ton of casual, drunken sex in bars with men
- denied he was gay when asked about it more than 40 years ago
- prompted every single one of my friends who ever met him to ask me if he was gay. "No!" I said. "He's been married to my cousin for 30 years!"

OP, I'm not saying that your dude is gay. I think that none of us can offer more than a wild speculation based on our own personal nonsense. (See above.) But nothing in your question rules out being gay. I should also note that I know a bunch of dudes with effete mannerisms who are in apparently happy marriages.

I can't believe the pile-on you're getting that unless you've seen his official Rainbow Card issued from the Homosexual Home Office you have to ignore your instincts. I mean, young gay men having relationships with straight women is so not outlandish. It's on tv all the time: Mitchell from Modern Family and Max from Happy Endings both have girl exes, and Lena Dunham discovers that her college boyfriend is gay on Girls.

If he seems like a great guy, go with it. You're having fun, you haven't invested too much in this relationship anyway. But, don't ignore your gut. And if you feel like you need to ask him about it? Ask him. If he acts the way you describe, you will not be the first one. But do not just move forward indefinitely with this continuing to bother you.
posted by socks on both your houses at 5:57 PM on January 4, 2013 [21 favorites]

I'm 43, and of somewhat ambiguous sexuality. It all comes out in the wash, so to speak. Give the lad some time, and just chill. It will work, or it won't, but if you sweat him, then he will certainly feel the pressure. It's like a director saying to an actor "BE SEXY!". Only the pros can do it (and many of them, as it turns out, are gay). Watch a movie or something. If he makes a move, your question will be answered. If you end up watching the entire MGM library without so much as a smooch, then you probably have your answer.
posted by Optamystic at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2013

Shit, I should have said above: I know lots of effete guys in apparently happy marriages to women.

I absolutely did not mean to make marriage sound like it's for straight people only. It was an oversight in typing. Apologies.
posted by socks on both your houses at 6:23 PM on January 4, 2013

I believe you.

Go with your gut. And no, I don't think you can ever ever discuss this with him. Sorry.

Anyway, this weird feeling you have could be about anything. What is important is that you have a persistant intuition you two aren't compatible. Or at least that is something important he's not telling you.

Even if you have named the cause of it wrong, I'm going to bet on your gut on this one.

I really hope I'm wrong, because he's sounds lovely and positively dreamy!!

(I have a strong convictn that if you honor your intuitions, you have better luck finding out what that niggling feeling is about, and whether the feeling is true or not. I you keep telling yourself you'r being "nutz" every time you get a funny feeling, you may end up missing important sign posts in life. You can still date this person and see where it goes, but please don't listen to people tell you that you're being silly for having a gut feeling. Negating your inner voice isn't a very good idea!)
posted by jbenben at 7:26 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

None of us can answer this question for you with any degree of certainty. Above all else, I think you should just trust yourself and your instincts wherever they may lead you, and try to be kind/tactful whichever way things shake out.
posted by Lina Lamont at 7:36 PM on January 4, 2013

Maybe he wasn't emotionally ready to fuck you. Maybe he was too tired, physically, to orgasm. Maybe he likes dudes.

I don't think we can answer this for you. You need to learn to trust your instincts and to hone them, but I can't tell you whether they're right in this case. But I don't think a conversation about his sexual orientation ends well.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:51 PM on January 4, 2013

As someone who dated a gay guy for a period of time, I've got to say that I think some gay guys actually are interested in sex with women, to an extent, and can produce, um, biological reactions to it. I think the main thing about being gay is where your romantic and emotional interests lie. My boyfriend was able to have sex with me, and even enjoy it a little bit, but he was WAY more interested in dating and having sex with men (maybe he was a bit bi, but then again, isn't everyone?)
posted by bearette at 7:54 PM on January 4, 2013

Even if you have named the cause of it wrong, I'm going to bet on your gut on this one.

I can't disagree with this. For whatever reason, you guys may be incompatible in general or simply not good for each other in this time and place in your lives. Something is wrong and you're not comfortable with it. "I don't know what your problem is, but I bet it's difficult to pronounce," is a perfectly valid reason to give up on a budding relationship that isn't working out for the two of you.
posted by deanc at 8:21 PM on January 4, 2013

I'm confused as to why some of the responders state with such certainty that this isn't something OP can talk about with her boyfriend. Could someone spell it out for me (and any other socially inept people reading this)?

I just don't understand why OP shouldn't sit down and have a calm conversation about this with her bf if the relationship continues but her concerns don't dissipate. Do people not talk about where they fall on the Kinsey scale with their partners?
posted by Brody's chum at 8:33 PM on January 4, 2013

I'm confused as to why some of the responders state with such certainty that this isn't something OP can talk about with her boyfriend.

She can definitely talk to him about it, but if the problem is that dude already seems less-than-comfortable in the bedroom, I can't imagine it's going to make sex time any more thrilling after she's all, "Hey, let's talk about how gay I think you are"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:20 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can't speak for your boyfriend, but in the interest of anecdotal perspective, 25 year old closeted me was a lot like this in his single, ill-considered attempt at a straight relationship. Same coming on strong (something to prove to myself), same making out excitement (hey maybe I AM straight), same pre-coital aversion (let's take it slow, I really care about you, I don't want to ruin things, I want this to be meaningful), same intra-coital systems failure (ooh this never happens, I'm stressed out from exams).

I can't say what I would have done if my gf at the time tried to broach the topic or ask me if I was gay, because it would probably have been something approaching a death rattle. The shame and confusion and self deception were layered on so thick that comments like that would have been absolutely devastating. Like being stripped naked and put on parade or something.

There is really not much you can do for someone in that position except wait it out and protect yourself from them: I know I ended up acting like a massive heel in order to keep up my self deception. I felt like a cornered animal in the times when it felt like my secret was going to get out, and lashed out accordingly, I am ashamed to say. Be careful of jerks like me.

All of that said, again I cannot say this is the case for your BF. He could be totally straight and just have some issues to work through. Be supportive, but I can't tell you not to be cautious.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 10:02 PM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Heterosexual male here. While I don't have gay mannerisms, I have zero interest in casual sex, I'm on a heavy dose of antidepressants, and I totally have a man-crush on Kevin Spacey. Dude can act.

Your boyfriend may or may not be gay. Some straight men have homosexual mannerisms. Some homosexual men are in denial and date straight women. Either way, you really need to assume sincerity and honesty on his part. That is a prerequisite for a successful relationship.

maybe he was a bit bi, but then again, isn't everyone?

Pretty sure the answer to this is no.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:18 PM on January 4, 2013

Another perspective: when I first started seeing someone several years ago, he had recently decided that he might be bi.

We've been together for 9+ years, married for 2+ years.

I'm still a little concerned that he might one day decide he's bi, or wants to be with a dude, or is gay. But what matters to me is that right now, we love each other and we're committed to each other. We have a great relationship. Either of us can decide at any time that we no longer want to continue this relationship for any reason. Until then, let the good times roll.
posted by kat518 at 7:45 AM on January 5, 2013

Heterosexual guy here. I think it's way too early for you to say. He likes you and was crushing on you for awhile so he is probably just nervous, this can happen for awhile. Enjoy each other and just see how things develop and just relax. If things continue to get akward and don't progress then bring it up. But for now I would just have fun and don't give the guy any additional pressure because he is probably dealing with enough on his own.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:13 AM on January 5, 2013

I think you should ask yourself if you're going to be comfortable in this relationship long-term or if wondering if he's gay is going to get to you too much? He could be straight, he could be gay, he could be bi. I don't think you should ask him about it, but ask yourself if you can truly be happy or if you're going to be thinking "but what if he's gay" indefinitely? Even if he's as straight as they come, it's still OK to move on if his mannerisms make you too uncomfortable.
posted by Autumn at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
So I have a big update on this. Our date went well last night but again he seemed hesitant to do anything sexual. Finally I asked him if he was uncomfortable with sex for some reason. He told me that he was because he had been sexually abused by his older brother as a child. :( :( And that he still wanted to have sex eventually  but he needed to take things slow, and that sometimes his urges weren't as strong as other people's.

I guess this abuse was what sent him into a mental hospital for a few weeks a few months ago when he sank into a heavy depression.

I asked him if he was totally straight and he said, "as far as I know." :(

I told him that I'd be willing to take things slow, and it meant a lot to me that he had confided that.

The next morning he told me that he had fallen for me.

What are people's thoughts on this?
posted by restless_nomad at 12:30 PM on January 5, 2013

Sure, he could be gay. He could also not quite know or be able to accept he's gay or know how to talk about any of this. Or he could be straight. There is just not enough information here to really say anything and what there is is vague. What is this alleged effeminate behavior? Does touch down there mean he pat your pudena like a good dog?
There are gay guys who will have sex with women, and I don't mean bi guys, just because they can. Not all gay guys are horrified by vaginas. In general, young guys can become erect at any kind of stimulation. Some people get horny when they are sick. There are all kinds of reasons for all kinds of things and every possibility of anything. But is this fourth date only the fourth time you guys have spent any real time together? Fourth time in a month or a week? So how long have you known him and it is a "committed relationship?" Do you know why she broke up with him or why he's on antidepressants? Does he? I just don't know what "real" and "meaningful" and "committed" mean if you guys are not comfortable talking about stuff or know each other that well yet. He could not like sex with girls, not like sex, be very bad at it, who knows?
I've had gay guys ask me if I wanted to have sex, but if it's like being a human masturbatory aid, that really doesn't seem appealing and I don't usually find gay guys sexually attractive. Even some straight actors who play convincingly gay roles end up in the asexual pile. The only time I think I had relations with who was possibly gay was this twenty year old who had just broken up with his long term girlfriend who he had been planning to wed and breed. He was blitheringly drunk and I kind of tried to confuse and terrify him a bit for driving drunk to my place and having no idea if I was going to steal his kidneys or not. Sure, he could have been sexually inexperienced or had too much alcohol in his system or blah blah blah, but he started off the night in very hushed tones about why he thought our classmate didn't talk to anybody and was kind of weird. He'd been making extreme efforts to be inclusive to the guy in the last week. He thought he was gay and this was this could not tell horrible secret and I must be sworn to secrecy. I told him he was homeschooled. [This is actually part of a much weirder story.]
Anyway, he's a churchgoing boy who seems to think church is about making you feel bad and guilty. When he couldn't keep it up or come, I just told him it was whiskey dick. For all I know I deflowered him somewhat despite his four year relationship because if he had ever had sex before it was apparently silent with very little movement, probably missionary-- the more I think about it, the more virginal he seems, which is kind of sad because he had a terrific penis.
Part of why I did it was because I was tipsy and feeling a wee bit destructive, but he had just had this traumatic break up. Generally having sex with someone else seriously speeds up the recovery factor, he was my lab partner, nice kid, blah blah. While I doubt he was a complete virgin, he seemed to be much more of a spectator than a participant and I don't think he ever took his eyes off my face and seemed to be in awe or mild shock.
Since I don't usual run around having random sex and, like I said, terrific penis, I inquired if he'd like to give it another go and was he okay and not fatally damaged by the experience. No, but he was fine. It wasn't until I started putting bits together over time with other reasons that I considered he might be gay. And that wraps up my sleep deprived "I think I kinda did a gay guy" story.
There is also the great possibility that I totally freaked him out by telling him I was [email for the blank].
posted by provoliminal at 12:38 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seems more like you should be worried about becoming involved with a recently hospitalized abuse victim who falls in love really fast and will likely never be very into your sexual relationship for whatever reason.
posted by provoliminal at 1:01 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

His update doesn't surprise me, sadly. The incidence of sexual abuse (including incest) against boys is prevalent enough (even with the under-report rate) that I feel we women need to keep that in the back of our minds with new partners, and proceed with due care.

Your boyfriend is showing an extraordinary level of trust and vulnerability with you. Those are lovely qualities in a partner.

In terms of what you should do now: I would suggest doing some research and reading to inform yourself, but mainly, letting him set the pace.
posted by nacho fries at 1:03 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

And for future reference: asking a guy who has just confided that he was molested or raped by a same-sex sibling if he is "totally straight" is not a wise, kind, or appropriate question. It could be interpreted by him in all sorts of damaging ways. e.g.: That you think the incident with his brother "turned him gay," or that somehow, if he *is* anything other than "totally straight", he somehow brought the molestation/rape upon himself.

I'm not saying he thought these things, or that you were implying them, but I'm just taken aback that you chose to insert that line of inquiry into the conversation *at all*, particularly at that sensitive time, and after all the advice to not go there in this thread. Oy.
posted by nacho fries at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2013 [16 favorites]

OP, I really want to tell you, in case you don’t know- It doesn’t make you a jerk for leaving. Not then, not now with the most current update. This young man sounds unfortunately very troubled and I’m afraid he’s latched onto you, consciously or subconsciously, because he sees a kind heart that won’t abandon him. While that is compelling and understandable, and I really do feel for him, you have needs as well. You don’t have to forgo sex if you don’t want to. You don’t have to date him if you can’t handle it, or act as his therapist. It really, truly, doesn’t make you a jerk, and be wary if he suggests it does, because a truly loving person in his position would be the first to let you go if you couldn’t handle it. Please remember that.

Although I don’t have direct experience with this exact situation, I’ve dated troubled young men in the past, and it shaped out remarkably similarly- I might even call it the Ballad of the Troubled Needy Young Man and the Nice Lady. Some of the signs were the same and are sending off alarm bells- the holding off on sex until an emotional connection was established (this can have many reasons that are genuine and innocent, but it can also come from a less noble place of fear and neediness and bargaining- holding sex hostage until he’s sure you won’t leave, for example) Also, the spilling of his feelings very early and getting prematurely attached, coming on too strong. Some other things I would look out for if I were you- making you pity him excessively or reveling in playing the victim, huge “movie” romantic gestures, making you into his “personal savior or angel” – those things can turn exhausting and hurtful fast.

Also, please please remember this- the longer you stay, the more of a victim he will see himself as. Instead of being a girl he saw once or twice and “someone who almost worked out” you’ll become “yet another person who let him down and another girlfriend who lied to him and abandoned him” in his narrative of victimhood. If you feel uneasy, act soon. Be kind, but do not delay.

(Disregard all of this if you genuinely feel that you love him, are falling as fast for him, don't feel uneasy, etc.)
posted by quincunx at 1:56 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

In addition to the many good points above, this whole thing seems awfully heavy for dating someone you know "through work." If he is a co-worker ... oi.
posted by stowaway at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2013

First of all, yes, I have done this:
Any other women have experience dating straight guys who come off as gay to strangers?
Difference here being that he didn't come off as gay to me. Not your situation.

I, too, am surprised that you asked him if he was "totally straight" after he told you that he had been sexually abused. But what I am really surprised by is that you have put so much emphasis on his sexuality when the fact that he was recently hospitalized for a mental issue, is depressed, that his version of "going slow" is physically slow but emotionally quite fast, you are in a committed relationship after four dates, you know each other "through work"... are all issues/red flags that would put many people off, in addition to the "is he or isn't he" question.

I guess my TLDR response to "What are people's thoughts on this?" is that I think the thing you are worrying about probably isn't the thing you should be worried about, here.
posted by sm1tten at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked him if he was totally straight and he said, "as far as I know." :(

What is that frowny face about? Are you still thinking he might be gay? I think his self-doubt here is more about his painful past.

I don't understand why you're still worried about this and frankly think you need to get over it so that you can avoid hurting him. I'm sorry to be so blunt. But it worries me that you claim to be crazy about this person, you just learned that he was the victim of a horrific event, you know he still suffers so much that he is on heavy anti-depressants, and yet your speculation and worry about his sexual orientation is still front and center to you. And you're bummed he can only reassure you with 100% certainty and not 125%, not with God's own omniscience? :) Really? It's like you're hallucinating an imaginary danger, letting that blind you to the fact that he is standing there with a broken leg, then asking him to walk over and help defend you from your fears.

I think you're likely wrong that he's gay. You did correctly sense something under the surface about his sexuality. It turns out that yes, there is something there -- a massive childhood history of abuse. You asked, "could there be other explanations for his sexual hangups?" Well now you know what the real explanation is. Maybe there's something more here that I'm missing, but I don't see why that wouldn't fully explain the situation. It seems to me that you need to wake up from this dream you're having of him being a closeted homosexual, trust what he says about his own orientation, and take a look at what sounds like the real situation. The real situation is that he has probably suffered quite a bit and could probably use as much support and compassion as you can offer.

It's generally presumptuous to say that you know someone better than they know themselves. I understand that you're concerned about this, and your feelings are very important (more on this in a second), but your feelings are a separate thing from your assumptions about him, which may well be wrong. Whether right or wrong, believing you know him better than he knows himself is not a mutually respectful foundation for a relationship, so for that reason alone, you may want to give him the benefit of the doubt (or cut bait). But to claim superior knowledge of his sexuality to a victim of childhood abuse could be destabilizing or hurtful. He may be in an extremely vulnerable place and in need of a lot of compassion and support as he attempts to start a new sexual relationship. I'm afraid that your insecurity and need for reassurance might make it harder for you to be a caring friend for him or even lead you to say something that hurts him. It sounds like you're trying, and we're only hearing 1% of your conversation, so I'm probably worrying needlessly, but please be careful.

It sounds like he is reassuring you as much as he can (that he's straight as far as he knows, that he's completely fallen for you) and that his history backs up his story. But as I say, you're entitled to feel excited, nervous, worried, scared, insecure... I'd start by trying to find support for your feelings from others, others who don't know him and will protect his confidentiality, like a therapist if you see one. If you do talk about your feelings with him, I'd keep the focus on your own feelings, don't give guesses about him, speak with great caution not to hurt him, and speak with only the desire to be known, not to pressure him to change his behavior. "I'm so excited about this relationship that I get scared it'll turn out to be an illusion." "Us not having sex makes me worry you don't find me attractive. I'm not saying we should have sex, I just wanted to admit that my insecurity rises up some times."

You may or may not want to hang in there with him as he struggles with this, but I'd do your best to be careful and respectful, and not imply that his history means he won't be a great partner for someone. It sounds like you spoke in a very caring way to him, and I may be reading waaaaay too much into your emoticon, but it worries me to think that you are holding on to this one explanation for his behavior (that he's gay) rather than keeping up with reality and grasping the real explanation that he just gave you (that he's an abuse survivor). I'd shift your focus to thinking about how to support someone who experienced what he did. I'd do your best not to take it personally (not even personally-on-behalf-of-your-entire-gender) when he doesn't want to have sex. Good luck. My heart goes out to you both as you try to navigate these intense feelings. I apologize for any ways my comment here is harsh or off-base.
posted by salvia at 4:23 PM on January 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is hopefully not going to be a popular opinion, but I cannot help but post it because my own personal experience dooms me to a cynicism on this issue that I simply cannot shake. Please forgive my devil's advocacy, and consider it a counterbalance to some of the more optimistic and less biased advice here.

Here it is: he might be lying about what he's told you, or even if he isn't he might still be gay and closeted and using this disclosure as a way to avoid questions about his sexual performance.

Consider: the effect of what he has told you is that his sexual disfunction is now completely protected from question from this point on. If you continue in this relationship and believe what he is telling you, he will never have to explain any kind of sexual failure on his part ever again.

Why am I so cynical? Once again putting myself in my own shoes from my closeted past, while I couldn't imagine saying something like this when it wasn't true, I would be envious of the fact that someone who did could essentially 'be' totally straight while never having to explain why things go so badly in the bedroom. When things don't work, it will be something sad that will result in more love from you, rather than shame and doubt and frustration and self-questioning.

Whether or not what he is telling you is true, if he is actually closeted and hiding it this will make it essentially impossible for you to ever question him about it, ever. There is now a wall around his sexual disfunction that just cannot be scaled, because who would ever question someone about something like that. If he is telling the truth, things just got very, very serious between you. If he is lying (or even if he's not lying about the abuse, but is still gay and closeted), this is a thermonuclear deterrent to any potential outing.

Again, this is a very, very, very cynical opinion, and should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt – frankly, the mefites posting above encouraging support should be given greater weight than my cynical projections.

That being said, there are some very sick people out there, and some of what you've provided raises some concerns. Consider that these disclosures are coming early in the relationship (before solid trust has been built, which would be the more normal context for telling someone this type of thing), and that these confessions are being made in direct response to sexual failures, both of which raise suspicion.

I'm too biased by my own past, and I've dealt with too many awful, lying people, so again please take this comment in context of the others that come before it; however, I have to keep urging you to be cautious about what you're committing yourself to.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 10:14 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, he told you about his childhood sexual abuse and you... Asked him if he was totally straight? I hope that wasn't the actual order these things happened in. If you still have concerns, I would let the guy go. He sounds like he's in a really emotionally vulnerable/fragile place right now and if he's going to be in any relationship it should probably be with someone who isn't so unsure about things from the start and who can handle the emotional baggage that comes along with that.
posted by Autumn at 12:09 AM on January 6, 2013

Been there: broken up and broken down from a previous relationship, naked in bed with someone I'd wanted to fuck, and suddenly freaking the shit out because WHAT THE FUCK I CAN'T DO THIS weirdness in my head. I literally jumped out of bed. Gaaah.

Tried to apologize, but, hey: it was pretty dramatic, and as I said, I was in a bad mental place at the time, so it's not like I could rationally explain myself.

TL/DR: From my experience, he's not gay - he's a younger me. And he's currently undatable, although with patience he might be fuckable.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:16 PM on January 6, 2013

Per the update:

It's impossible to say if he's gay. What is clear is that he's going to need a Lot Of Work, and it may not work out in the end. If you think he's worth it? Go for it. If not? Bail.
posted by corb at 3:57 PM on January 6, 2013

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