Running towards my kinks

Running towards my kinks

I ran from my kinks long before I took my first step towards them.

Looking back they were always there, the childhood crushes on Wonder Woman, Morticia Addams, and Catwoman. Tantalizing thoughts of being tied up, being beaten, or “forced” to do all kinds of things to women and men. The precocious obsession with the misc. category in the back pages of the alternative weekly; and hours of teenage masturbation to kink and swinger contact magazines, my porn of choice along with femdom erotica.

I was fascinated by the kinky things people did; amazed they could just do it, own it, advertise it. Even so, I knew this was not for me. To be beat, to serve, to get fucked… not part of the masculinity I knew, not part of who I could be; so submissive desire got locked away alongside those inconvenient emotions and bisexuality.

The boy became a man, the man I was expected to be. I met a woman barely out of my teens, fell in love, got married, had kids; those pesky thoughts never had a reason to surface, yet they didn’t go away. I’d think of them and turn my attention elsewhere. I’d masturbate to images that would disgust me before the orgasm was done. I’d think endlessly about talking to my wife about my desire, afraid she’d no longer see me as a man. I’d fantasize about actually pursuing these experiences on my own, but knew it would be wrong, shame stacked on shame. I began listening to kink and sex-positive podcasts, and discovered that there were many people who shared these thoughts, that wondered if they were ok, or who embraced their sexuality, or both. I dove into those podcast episodes, found online forums and websites, and began to chip away at the shame.

The ideas that sex acts were straight or gay, that gender was more than a binary should not have been a revelation, yet it was. That there was more than one way to have a relationship and that sexuality could be wonderfully complex had somehow fallen outside my grasp. As I write this I am embarrassed that I could have been so naive, so foolish. Unquestionably believing that sex was so simple, when the sexuality of real people is so varied that deviance is the norm. I had bought the sex shaming and misogynistic narrative one sitcom episode at a time.

My journey towards my kink began as baby steps. The self-exploration of ass play and toys I hid deep in the closet while awash in post-orgasm shame. The acceptance of myself as bisexual even if that identity only existed online. Moving past the idea that a man could only receive pleasure through his cock, becoming comfortable with nipple and ass play. The years of working up to asking my wife to peg me, a request met with a blank stare and misguided hope that the failure to say “no” was a “yes”, as I asked again and again. My journey continued as I began to open up more, not because it was safe but because my ability to repress my desire was breaking down as if I had no choice. Telling my wife of my submissive fantasies and desire to serve her; and after many failed attempts, the day I told her that I had bisexual desires and wanted to experience a broader range of my sexuality. Nearly a year later she began to open up to me about her hidden desire and we decided to explore our sexuality together, leading to a rebirth of our relationship and many fun times before the marriage crumbled from years of accumulated neglect and resentment that choked our growth and blocked our ability to relate to each other as things changed.

This journey has been one of evolving identity and surprising revelation. I entered a dungeon for the first time (3 1/2 years ago) with nothing but submissive thoughts, and left finding I was actually a bottom. A month later I was handed a flogger and took aim at a willing ass and got shockingly hard, I guess I was a switch. I saw knife play and was terrified, needles came out and I left the room, I was kinky but no edge player. I observed DS couples and knew that I was not into submission and was certainly no dominant. I watched heavy SM play; I was into sensation but no masochist, and what kind of person is a sadist? Then I went to Burning Man and when asked if I wanted to try fireplay, I said yes (as one does at Burning Man). I was surprised to find how I loved the warmth of the fire on my skin, the hand sensuously sweeping behind the flame, the fear, the relaxation, the swoon; an experience that weeks earlier I would have dismissed entirely.

This past Saturday night I had 20 needles pushed slowly into my skin, threaded two or three times, then dragged out with an excessive amount of alcohol to maximize the sting. It hurt and I loved it. Afterwards, still abuzz with floaty brain chemicals I realized that I am a masochist after all, as if waiting for someone to certify me as one. Along the way I had found that I am a bit of a sadist, finding that the infliction of pain upon the willing has the effect of a little blue pill. I have played with DS, and while I do not identify as a dominant I enjoy the role in scene (and the days leading up to one), and am now in a relationship where I am beginning to explore submission. I’m still very much the switch, wanting to experience as a bottom what I have enjoyed inflicting as a top, and topping informed by my experience and desire as a bottom. A passion for fire, electricity, knives, and needles has pushed my boundaries far beyond where they once stood and while I still have limits, I now know that they’re likely to continue to evolve over time.

I identify as a bisexual hetero-romantic non-monogamous kinky switch, a top, a bottom, at times submissive, sadistic, masochistic, and hedonistic; a cis-man unconcerned by others expectations or understanding of gender roles. It took a long time to get here and I’m proud to say that I am now living my kink, living as myself. I still have regret over how I allowed others expectations get in the way of being true to myself, of allowing myself to be ruled so senselessly by shame, and the role that this played in ending my marriage. I still find that I have difficulty asking for what I want despite now being in a relationship where I am encouraged to do so. And while there are regrets, there is much I’m proud of having arrived at this point, at raising 3 sex-positive teens, and the blogging and outreach I have done to help others with their journeys. Over the past couple of years my writing slowed down then stopped as problems in my marriage left me feeling like a sex-positive fraud. I am now back on the path of growth, connected with myself, and running towards my kinks.

Redefining our Marriage, Rewriting our Vows



When we began to discuss our plans for Burning Man this year we talked about the idea of a recommitment ceremony to honor our 25th year together. A ceremony not as a symbolic gesture, but an opportunity to redefine our marriage to reflect who we are today, both as individuals and as a couple.

As the day got closer, we worked on creating a ceremony informed by our experiences and the advise and wisdom gathered since first discussing the concept of leaving monogamy behind to seek out new sexual experiences and relationships. In writing our vows I researched a wide range of ceremonies, from traditional marriage vows of various faiths, polyamorous ceremonies, and pagan handfastings; borrowing what I liked while combining these ideas with my own words.

Once I had my thoughts together I shared them with my wife so she could build from my notes and discuss those things we believe would help us to continue to build and sustain a healthy relationship. During these conversations we discussed our shared hope that we remain happily together forever, and agreed that this is best served by creating a relationship where we make the choice to stay together out of desire and not because of a promise to do so.

In the end we had five principles, vows that we believe will allow us to continue to be great partners for one another even as we continue to grow and change as individuals. Last week we looked each other in the eye in a beautiful ceremony at the Temple of Whollyness, and amongst the dust of Black Rock City we chose to commit ourselves to:

  • Respect and appreciate our differences, to trust and honor one another; to love one another, and express that love as it wants to be received
  • Support and accept support from one another in times of joy and in times of pain and sorrow; to honestly discuss, encourage and assist one another so that we may realize our dreams and desires
  • Keep passion a priority in our relationship, to share in each others laughter and joy, trust in our growth and our ability to change, and to discover new adventures together
  • Communicate openly, honestly and with patience; with an empathetic ear and a compassionate heart. To share all of ourselves with one another, and promise to say the things that scare us, and
  • When we falter, to have the courage and commitment to remember these promises and take a step back towards one another with an open heart.

While some of this may seem obvious, the reality is that this is not how we lived before I learned to accept my desires and fully opened up to my wife. While our marriage was a “success” by conventional standards (as we were married for more than 20 years, had children and remained monogamous,) our marriage was rapidly eroding due to years of poor communication and mutual resentment. While we had love for each other, we did not treat each other with love.

While I expect that some may question the vows we chose to include in our ceremony, we found that these words reflect who we are as people today and what we need from one another for our relationship to work.  Since opening our minds and reestablishing the communication, trust, and support that has transformed our marriage; we recognize that the only constant in life is change.  While these are the vows that we live by today, we recognize that there may be a day where our needs change and we find this to be insufficient; and if that day comes we will discuss rewriting our vows so that we can once again commit ourselves to each other based on the people we become.

During the process of creating our ceremony I was once again reminded how well my wife’s emotional core compliments my logical mind; and how like our relationship, our collaboration on these vows produced a result greater than the sum of its parts. With these words I chose to re-commit myself in a marriage that is formed by our friendship; a union of lovers, confidants, and partners.

The Books That Helped Us Open Up

Having written about some of the sex-positive podcasts that helped me open my mind to the reality of sex and sexuality, I wanted to list some of the books that have helped prepare us to open up to consensual non-monogamy.

As a long monogamous couple we had many questions and concerns when first discussing non-mongaomy and much to learn as we began this journey. The following books helped us.

Sex at Dawn


Sex at Dawn
By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

The authors do an excellent job presenting humans as sexual beings and monogamy as a social construct. This book helped me discuss my desire for sexual diversity with my wife, and once we spoke helped her better understand where I was coming from.







The Ethical Slut
By Dossie Eason and Janet W. Hardy

When I began to look into non-monogamy, this was the book that everyone recommended. It was the first book I read on the subject and found that I instantly connected with much of what the authors had to say. The Ethical Slut provides a good primer approaching non-monogamy and the benefits it can provide.



Opening Up


Opening Up
By Tristan Taormino

While The Ethical Slut may be the polyamory bible, Opening Up gets deep into the details of how to approach non-monogamy, largely from the perspective of a couple that is opening up. The book covers a wide variety of non-mongamous relationship strategies and instructions on how to best approach this transition.






Ecstasy is Necessary
by Barbara Carrellas

I was very impressed with Barbara Carrellas, having heard her speak in a workshop that  my wife and I are taking with Marcia Baczynski. The book has a number of great worksheets to help you better understand what you need and offers great tips on how to get there and make your erotic dreams a reality.

How Erectile Dysfunction Improved My Sex Life


My wife and I were out of town for the weekend. A hotel room, a king bed, and no kids in sight. We had an erotic evening planned that our relationship surely needed.  After an evening out exploring a new city, we went back to the hotel and after playing around found that I was unable to get an erection. I began to notice this over the past few days; the realization that my body could not perform as it had led to frustration and confusion.  Together, we dealt with this new development in our relationships we handled many others; we avoided it.

I have written before about my journey to self-acceptance and breaking free from the “act-like-a-man box.”  I let others ideal of masculinity define me, as I tried so hard to conform to, repressing any desires or emotions that would challenge who I was perceived to be. While I know so much more now, this was at a time when I bought into lies about sex, relationships and sexuality. Before I was honest with myself about what I wanted, and years before I would be able to express those desires to my wife who was as repressed by her sexuality, as I was ashamed of mine.

For years our sex life consisted of a few minutes of oral foreplay followed by penis-in-vagina intercourse. We did not stray from this pattern, which allowed my wife to fulfill expectations and me to relieve the erotic tension. Neither of us were satisfied, though neither of us knew that we had a right to be. When my penis stopped functioning as it has, we were left without a routine and forced to try something new.

To my wife’s credit, once it became obvious that her efforts were not producing any firm results, she began to focus elsewhere. Her hands, and then her mouth found my nipples.  I never saw my nipples as an erogenous zone and likely swatted her hand away in any previous attempts to focus there. I understood the acceptable hetero male erogenous zone as beginning at the base of my penis and ending at its tip, as I avoided any expression of emotion or vulnerability that might challenge my heterosexuality. With few options, I gave in to pleasure.

Running my hand down my wife’s body I was surprised to find them welcome where they have not been before.  Up to this point she had been against the idea of me putting a finger inside of her. While she had recently discovered the joys a vibrator could bring, she was only comfortable being penetrated through intercourse. As things heated up, I lowered my head to where my fingers had been. While I have always loved pleasuring her with my mouth, she had never been comfortable allowing me to for more than a few minutes; not believing I would want to stay there despite my pleas.  Tonight was different, she gave me full access and I enjoyed bringing her to orgasm.

With my problems persisting the next night, we continued to explore new ways to combine body parts much to our mutual enjoyment.  Afterwards, when taking medicine before bed, it occurred to me that the new blood pressure may the root of the problem. I called the doctor in the morning and confirmed that E.D. was a known side effect, one she did not think worth mentioning when prescribing the medication. I stopped taking the medicine that day as she called in another prescription after challenging me on why I refused to take the medication, not finding erectile dysfunction to be a serious side effect. After briefly trying a replacement prescription to the same result, I stopped taking blood pressure medication and instead put a renewed effort on diet and exercise, which naturally lowered my blood pressure.

While my erectile dysfunction was short-lived, the effects of that experience was long lasting.  As my erections returned, we returned to intercourse but our sex was no longer defined by it. My wife opened up to more ways that she was comfortable receiving pleasure, and I became more aware of my body and its erotic possibilities. Learning to receive pleasure in ways not traditionally defined as masculine helped me take my first step out of the man box and begin to accept that there were other parts of me that did not conform to someone else’s idea of what it meant to be a man; eventually accepting myself and finding acceptance from my wife.

Why I came out to my parents as bisexual as a married adult

Recently I went to visit my parents while nearby on a business trip. I see them a few times a year, which is not enough and wanted to spend some time with them.  I also went there with the intent of coming out to them as bisexual.

I have read many coming out stories. They are touching, often heart-breaking and sometimes liberating. They are nearly always from the perspective of someone gay or lesbian identified, usually in their teens or early twenties with a need to face the people they love as they begin to date looking for a loving relationship.  As an adult married man there was no reason why I needed to come out to my parents about my recently accepted bisexuality. I have not lived with my parents for many years. I will not be bringing home a same-sex partner for Christmas. I do not require acceptance as I have found it with my wife.  I decided to come out to my parents out of a desire to share more of myself with them.  I wanted to allow them to know me more fully and better understand the issues that I have struggled with that I have previously spoken to only in vague terms.

On my way to see them I was nervous about the intended conversation and made it through the first day avoiding the topic entirely.  While I feared sharing that part of myself with them, I truly had nothing to fear. I am fortunate to have been raised without religious conservatism. My parents are socially liberal and have had numerous gay friends. I have smoked marijuana with my parents, spoke with them about their days as swingers in the 70’s and shared selective details of my wife and my recent experiences in non-monogamy unknowingly following in their footsteps.  My mother has even shared with me that one of her closest friends is bisexual and that through experience, discovered that she is not.  I had no reason to fear the hatred or judgment that so many face when opening up to loved ones.  With nothing requiring that I share this, and nothing truly to fear; I was nervous nonetheless.

In talking with my mother recently she mentioned writing about me as a young child who was more sensitive than my peers and more interested in reading or creative endeavors than roughhousing with the boys. While I can barely recall this version of myself, it was soon after that I remember what may be a defining moment of the years to come. It was being repeatedly told not to cry, that I should act like a man, to be tough, to keep my emotions in check. I learned those lessons well and grew into a man unable to cry, a man who hid all emotion and adapted to patterns of small talk to avoid conversations that may reveal myself.  In a TED talk titled The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown explained that the path to overcome shame is to make oneself vulnerable, though for men shame often comes from the very idea of vulnerability.

Over the years the dichotomy created between who I was inside my head and how I allowed myself to be seen continued to grow. Living with shame creates pain, and years of repression does not stop thoughts from returning; desire is greater than pain, greater than shame.  As a result, I had difficulty connecting with people, which included my wife. Over the years a mutual-resentment grew and I eventually tackled my issues, crawled out of the ‘act-like-a-man box’ and shared all of myself with my wife. I was an emotionally complex person and I learned to accept myself.

I had no issue with my gender identity; I am a man, just not the man that others would have me be. I had no issue with my sexuality, I now accepted that I was to-some-degree bisexual; and I say ‘to-some-degree’ as I have not yet had the opportunity to explore this side of myself. I was always attracted to women romantically and sexually and was left with nothing but confusion and shame from stray thoughts of men.  While I see myself as a hetero-romantic bisexual who could comfortably identify as bicurious, heteroflexible, or ‘round up to straight’ as many do, I choose the label bisexual as it is the invisibility of male bisexuality that contributed to so much pain and confusion.

One reasons I feared sharing that I was bisexual, first with my wife, and then with my parents was the concern that they would assume I was gay. My fear of being seen as gay does not have roots in homophobia; if I was gay I would like to believe that I would be out and I would be proud.  My discomfort of being seen as gay comes from the perception that sexuality; particularly male sexuality exists as a binary and that identifying as bisexual is the first step towards an inevitable second revelation of coming out as gay. This is the perception of many in both the hetero and gay communities, it is taught in gay studies classes, suggested by professionals, and reinforced by the reality that this is true for some. For me, my concern was the idea that someone I love may hear my words and assume that I was not honest with them, or not honest with myself. Even more so, it was the idea that through the confusion about bisexuality they would think my attraction to my wife, my love for her romantically, spiritually and sexually as a lie.

This misunderstanding of bisexuality helps to keep bisexuals invisible and people like me from coming out.  Ultimately I did come out to my mother on the second day, and in a subsequent conversation with my father shared much though I am not sure whether I succeeded it sharing this detail.  What I did share was that I grew up with much shame associated with traits that did not conform to the narrow model of masculinity I was raised with. One of the reasons it was important for me to have this conversation was to let him know that his words to me as a child caused me pain though I did not hold him responsible for that pain.  I have known that he felt deep regret over his actions and shares similar pain over his own childhood and subsequent inability to cry or express emotion.  As a young father he reinforced what he had experienced, yelling at me that “boys don’t cry”, or that “if you’re going to cry, I’ll give you a reason to cry.” As for a man, physical pain is the only acceptable form of pain and the threat of violence is motivation to conform.  He said these things, just as his father had said them to him. He said these things, modeling attitudes reinforced by popular culture and embedded throughout society. While it was his voice that drilled this into me, they were not his ideas.

It took me into my late 30’s to understand the truths about sex, sexuality, and gender. It took years wasted in shame and repression before I accepted myself and several more years before I worked up the courage to share this with my wife and begin to ask for what I want.  I was 40 before I began to accept who I was and despite the privilege I have as a cis-gendered male raised in an upper-middle class family, free of religious conservatism; I had self-inflected so much pain wile realizing that so many have it so much worse.  I now understand how this is all due to a lack of information that gender does not dictate character traits. That there is no right way to be a man or a woman, and that gender itself is not a binary with people identifying between gender lines or with neither.  That sexuality is a continuum and that bisexuality does not require an equal attraction to male and female; and that romantic, sexual and physical attraction can occur on different planes at different times. That monogamy is not ‘how it’s always been’ and is not the only way to have a loving and committed relationship. That we have a right to sexual satisfaction and that seeing sex as important does not make you a bad person or unworthy of happiness and fulfillment.

It is the degree of misinformation; intentional and used to control, to cripple and destroy us that I increasingly chose to be out as bisexual and non-monogamous. Not everywhere, and not to everyone as I am not yet able to do so; but if we all did our part to live openly and honestly, together we can help to end the needless shame that prevents us from loving ourselves and being loved for who we truly are.

Dan Savage perfectly summarizes the anti-sex movement


Earlier in the year, I heard Dan Savage perfectly summarize the conservative movement’s anti-sex position on his podcast (#episode 278).  Today I was reminded of Dan’s statement by Ruby Ryder who took the time to transcribe it for her blog and revisited the following quote by Dan Savage to on the latest episode of her Pegging Paradise podcast:

Abortion, contraception, homosexuality, it is all about – all 3 issues – are about the non-baby-making sex that you’re not supposed to be having. They don’t want to bring the abortion rate down. They want to make sure that people who haveabortions are punished for the having of sex without intending to have a baby by only being able to get the most dangerous and perhaps lethal abortion possible. They want abortions to be less rare than they are now, less rare than they are thanks to Planned Parenthood but much more dangerous because they think those bitches who are having sex and don’t want to have babies should be punished. And people who want to use birth control? They want to make sure that that is as difficult as possible because people who want to have sex without having babies should be punished. They want to throw obstacles in their way. People who are gay…they know just as they know that even in a world where abortion is illegal like in Romania and Nicaragua people are still gonna have abortions, they know people are still going to be gay. But they want to make sure that we are punished. They want us to suffer. They want us stigmatized and discriminated against.

The obsession isn’t babies, despite what you may have seen on billboards on highways in red states. The obsession is sex. They are terrified of their own genitals and more so of your genitals. They’re terrified of their desires and they wake up every day acutely aware that they could spin out of control sexually at any moment. They arebarely hanging on. Because that’s how we’re wired, all of us. They can barely control themselves and they think that maybe if they assert control over you they’ll have an easier time controlling themselves. They want your choices to be as limited as they have made their own. And if you make different choices? Around birth control, around being with the people who you’re actually attracted to if you’re gay or lesbian or bi they want to see you punished. Because if you’re allowed to make different choices, to have non-procreative sex, to use birth control, to be gay if you’re gay, it really does make a mockery of the limitations they’ve placed on themselves.

If you can do all those things and be happy, healthy, a contributing member of society and not miserable…they die a little inside. They get hurt. They get angry because they’ve told themselves that this is how sex is supposed to work. This is the way the world is supposed to work. And there you are living your life proving every day…that it ain’t the way it works. That that’s not what sex is for. That you can live the life you’re living and live it successfully and you know what that does? That rubs their pitifully unfulfilling fear-warped sex lives back in their own faces and they hate you for that! They can’t forgive you for that! Hence the desire to control you, persecute you, punish you…because you’re everything they want to be, everything they’re wired to be…and nothing they’re allowing themselves to be.

This sums up the anti-lgbt, anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion argument perfectly as it all comes down to anti-sex, at least the kind that doesn’t make babies. The right generally does a fair job masking their position, hiding it behind images of dead babies or protecting children, but it all comes down to a fear of sexuality, likely their own. Sometimes the motivation for all this anti-sex, anti-women legislation shows through, my favorite example was an interview with Rick Santorum from last year where he said:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. [Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.”

You can watch the video here (above is at 2:07). Another one from Santorum:

“The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”

While Rick Santorum may no longer be relevant (hopefully), his view isn’t an extreme one, it is the platform of the Republican party;  it’s just that Rick is more honest than most about what he believes and how it guides his politics.

I would like to point out that when it comes to ethical non-monogamy, much of this quote still holds but the hatred, fear and shaming isn’t coming just from the anti-sex right but from a larger and more diverse population.  These are the people who are fighting their urges to hold onto the ideal of mongamy as central to marriage and feel mocked by the idea of someone making a different choice, succeeding in their relationship(s) and not being punished for it.

Escaping the “Act-Like-A-Man Box”

I was first exposed to the concept of the “act-like-a-man box” two years ago through an article by Charlie Glickman and a TED talk that I came across the same month. While the term was new, the concept was not; as I had been living in that box from pre-adolescence to earlier that year when I took my first steps outside of it.

If you are not familiar with the “act-like-a-man box,” it’s a description of the narrow range in which masculinity is defined and the social pressure that men face to conform to it. As men, many of us find that we willingly stepped inside of that box, learning to perform masculinity to avoid the shame or fear of being labeled as less than a man, a homosexual or a woman (and that linkage of misogyny and homophobia is another blog post to write). If you are new to the concept of the act-like-a-man box, take a few minutes to read  Charlie Glickman’s Picking and Choosing from the “Act Like a Man Box or  The Performance of Masculinity who can explain it far better than myself, and listen to Tony Porter’s Ted Talk A Call to Men.

Before coming across the idea of the man box, I had been far more familiar with the gender stereotypes that are placed on women. Growing up in the 1970’s we saw a clear delineation between male professions (doctor, lawyer, mechanic, etc.) and female professions (nurse, secretary, teacher). Girls were discouraged from playing sports or being seen as a ‘tomboy.’ Over the years I have seen this largely change, with women now free to aspire to any profession, dress how they want, take on what were traditionally feminine or masculine behaviors, or even experiment sexually with another woman without being labeled for it. While I understand that women continue to face negative social pressures, such as slut-shaming, and gender discrimination in numerous ways; femininity can now be expressed in a fairly wide range, much more so than the rigidity that is masculinity.

As a young boy I was told by my father that boys don’t cry and threatened with violence when I did, as it is only through physical pain that there may be an excuse for tears.  I was discouraged from showing emotion and learned quickly to hide it. Without having a word for it, I retreated into the man box. As I grew older I found more parts of myself that did not fit inside that box. My emotions were more complicated than a man’s should be, so they were hid from others.  Sometimes I even cried from ‘feelings,’ the tears wiped dry before they can be seen. As I matured sexually, I had thoughts of sexual submission that spoke to a vulnerability I did not understand, so they were kept to masturbatory fantasy. Worse of all, in addition to my primary interest in women, I had thoughts of being sexual with a man. This is something that certainly did not belong in the box and was quickly repressed. When I began to have sex, I found that I desired a more varied sexual experience that extended to more than my penis, but was not able to communicate this should my request be seen as unmanly. As Charlie Glickman points out, “since the logic of the box is an either/or, you’re either all the way in or you’re all the way out,” and I was determined to stay in.

The following image of the “Act-Like-a-Man” is from an article written by Paul Kivel and shows what is expected inside the man box (left and right sides of the gray box), what keeps man inside the box (the words and actions on either side of the grey), and in the center – the feelings one is left with being inside that box.

image of the act-like-a-man box

I spent most of my life living with this shame and repression around my emotions and sexuality. Had I been gay, I believe I would have been able to stand up for who I was; but as a predominantly heterosexual man who looked the part, I shut down those problematic parts of myself instead. I married young, had children young, and focused on work, not dealing with the disconnect I felt between who I knew myself to be and how I allowed myself to be seen. This disconnect with my emotions, my desire for vulnerability, the intimacy it allows for, and the shame associated with sexual desires continued to grow. The repression was not working, given time desire grows stronger than shame. I felt isolated, confused, and grew resentful and angry. Keeping myself inside that box was damaging myself and destroying my marriage.

It was my exposure to ‘sex-positive’ podcasts that cracked that box open. Specifically, it was Dan Savage’s podcast where I listened to hundreds of people leave their questions that I finally understood the tremendous diversity in who we are sexually, and the amazing commonality in our desire to hear that we are ‘normal.’ I discovered that my problems were not unique. So many of us feel isolated, even when partnered; looking to be fulfilled and accepted for who we truly are.

Through a growing list of podcasts, I began to get in touch with what I wanted. As I worked to accept myself, I began to seek out advice on how to restore my marriage which has long suffered a break-down in communication. While I found advice on dealing with a spouse that did not communicate,where intimacy lacked, and there was a desire for  vulnerability and sexual satisfaction; nearly all of this advice was written for a woman. After all of the work I did, to take these initial steps out of this box, I came close to retreating back inside when the advice I sought basically called me a woman for wanting intimacy, communication and sexual satisfaction. Eventually I laughed this off and worked up the courage to take the biggest risk I felt I could take, to face extreme vulnerability, and put it all out there – to tell my wife what I wanted for myself and for us.

While this may have been the scariest thing I had done, it was also the most liberating. While the conversation and its immediate aftermath did not go ‘great’, it was far better than my worst fears imagined. Eventually we began talking about my needs for communication and intimacy, my sexual needs from her, and my interest in exploring bisexuality.  While I had long struggled with these desires, this was new to her and I had to be patient. Through these conversations, we set down this new path to open up to one another, to better understand our own needs and what we need from one another. While this is still a work in progress, the open and honest communication that came from these conversations brought us much closer together than we had been in many years. Taking that risk was the best thing I ever did, and while I regret that I allowed myself to waste so many years defined by a box based on social pressure and not science, I am grateful that I arrived at a place where I could be honest with myself and with my wife about who I am and what I need.