I Married a Lesbian

Hugo Schwyzer tries to discern why even after several failed relationships with lesbians or lesbian types, his heart still flutters around short hair and strong jaws.

I enjoyed reading last week’s A Girl Who Likes Boys Who Like Boys: The Joy of Dating Gay Men. I know from my colleagues, students, and friends that “Feminist Dating Blogger” is hardly the only heterosexual woman with a penchant for pursuing gay men. But there’s a male equivalent to this, and it’s one I know all too well. I’ve fallen for more than my share of lesbians, including my second wife.

Lots of people have “types” to which they are consistently attracted. From the time pubescent hormones started surging through my body, I found that I was particularly drawn to female jocks. It’s not as if my attraction was limited to athletes alone; I was a horny teen boy who could be turned on by almost anything that moved. But I tended to get crushes on the same type of girl: the star basketball player, the soccer forward, the swimmer. Some were lesbians. Some weren’t.

In several classes during my junior year of high school, I sat next to “Kendall,” the statuesque multi-sport star. A year ahead of me, Kendall was nearly six feet tall, broad-shouldered, with a jawline that could cut glass. All-League in three sports, she wore her letterman’s jacket almost every day, and would often come to class with her short dark hair still wet from the post-workout shower. Her signature scent was chlorine with a hint of sweat.

I was a nerd; she was a jock. We both liked history. We became fast friends.

It was rumored that Kendall was a lesbian. (This was a homophobic small town high school in the early ‘80s.  No one was “out.”)  She certainly didn’t seem to date anyone. When I worked up the courage to ask her to the Homecoming dance, she gave me her dazzling smile and said, “Aww, Hugo, let’s not spoil our friendship, okay?” She told me later she didn’t like school dances. “A waste of money, and the music sucks.” Kendall headed off to college on a swimming scholarship, and in that pre-social media era, we quickly lost touch. Years later, thanks to Facebook, we reconnected. And I learned that Kendall was happily married to a woman.

My attraction to androgynous jocks continued in college. I dated a couple of athletes at Cal (a friend labeled me, rather unkindly, a “sports bra sniffer”). At one point I developed a huge crush on Meg, a club soccer player and a freshman year housemate. Meg soon set me straight, as it were, by introducing me to her girlfriend. I knew perfectly well that not every female athlete was a lesbian. But I was developing a pattern of falling hardest for girls who liked other girls—or who, at the least, were far from boy crazy.

What is it that drew me so often to women who were same-sex attracted? It certainly wasn’t the stereotypical male fantasy about what they were doing in bed, and it certainly had nothing to do with a macho belief that I could turn a gay woman straight. And though I dated and slept with women who were straight as arrows and whose interest in competitive sports was nonexistent, I kept getting little crushes (and sometimes much more) on lesbians.

♦◊♦

A college roommate of mine (a psych major headed for a career as a Freudian analyst) offered a theory: perhaps I was scared of being with a woman who would really be in love with me because of the harm I might do to them. As Terry put it: “If you’re with a woman who is primarily attracted to other women, then even if she does sleep with you, you can’t really break her heart. That makes you feel safe, like you’ll never be the truly bad guy in her life.” There was a grain of truth in that, I felt. It was certainly better than Terry’s other theory, which was that my mother was a closeted lesbian and that chasing Queer women was my way of drawing close to her.

Another friend, Sheila, was more inclined to scientific explanations. She wondered if I might be chemically drawn to women with high testosterone levels. Sheila, who was not gay, was convinced that there was a specific “lesbian biochemistry” and that many lesbians had discernible facial features (especially around the jaw) that marked them out from other women. I wasn’t so sure about the specific physiognomy of gay women, and knew damn well that lesbians didn’t all have higher testosterone levels than straight women. But maybe Sheila was right, and this attraction was more chemical than anything else.

But theories only carry us so far. Even if we choose to believe that one of them is true, mere awareness of why we do something is rarely enough to stop doing it. And after college, my pattern kept re-emerging.

After a disastrous and brief first marriage, I met “Courtney,” the woman who would be my second wife. We met at a Twelve Step meeting, and became fast friends. I fell hard. My first wife had been a petite, feminine young woman who hated to sweat; Courtney represented the epitome of “my type.” I figured I needed to revert to form, and Court—a short-haired athlete, hiker, and yoga enthusiast who lived in the flannel that was de rigueur in the early ‘90s—embodied the kind of woman to whom I’d long been drawn. And I was sure she wasn’t lesbian; when I first met her, Courtney was dating a man.

At first, my crush didn’t seem reciprocated. But after months of spending platonic time together (and after my first divorce was at last final), Courtney told me shyly one day that she thought she might be falling in love with me. As far as I was concerned, it was a dream come true; I was ecstatic. Our mutual friends assured us we were perfect together. One, Jenny, remarked, “You guys make so much sense. Court’s just a little bit masculine, and Hugo, you’re just a little bit femmy in some ways. You two are meant to be!”

The sex was, from the start, awkward. Courtney seemed to love foreplay, and she definitely loved receiving oral sex. But she never offered to reciprocate, and when I shyly asked her why, she shuddered. “I just have a weird hang-up about it,” she said. “Can we do other things?” Other things included intercourse, though she always begged me to come quickly once I was inside of her. She assured me it was because she got sore easily, and not because she didn’t like what we were doing. I wasn’t so sure. Eventually, we developed a reliable routine: I would go down on her and masturbate myself while I did so. It was the one kind of sex for which Courtney seemed eager, and I got pretty good at timing my orgasm to hers.

♦◊♦

Sexual awkwardness and incompatibility can mean so many different things. I knew that it couldn’t mean Court was lesbian; after all, she reminded me constantly how in love with me she was. (She was very good at verbal reassurance.) And I was so in love with her that the thought didn’t cross my mind. It crossed the mind of others, however.

After a family dinner to celebrate our engagement, a lesbian cousin of mine called me up and asked if I was “sure” about Courtney.  When I inquired why she was asking, my cousin noted that my fiancée seemed to “light up around certain women” but never “lit up” the same way around me. “I just have a feeling, Hugo,” my cousin said. “Has Courtney ever dated a woman?”

I was stunned. I shouldn’t have been. I was already teaching women’s studies; I worked with gay and lesbian students and activists on an almost daily basis; I volunteered with AIDS Project Los Angeles. I was open about my past of sexual experimentation with men. If anyone had exquisite gaydar, it was me! But even as I awkwardly reassured my cousin of the intensity of Courtney’s attraction to me, something about the idea made sense. But it couldn’t be. I told my cousin she was confusing Courtney’s outer androgyny with her inner sexuality. There was no such confusion in the bedroom, I insisted.

But there was.

For our honeymoon, Court and I went fly-fishing on the McKenzie River.  She didn’t want a beach in Hawaii; she wanted a rod and reel and a driftboat in the Northwest. I was so in love I’d have worked on a Ford assembly line if that was how she wanted to spend our first week as husband and wife. The sex was the same as always, but Court seemed giddily happy to be married at last.

Two weeks after we got home from the honeymoon, Courtney and I had sex for the last time. I was cut off cold. Bewildered that her admittedly lukewarm libido had turned off so completely, I complained and sulked. I masturbated disconsolately in the shower a few mornings a week.

Outwardly, all was well for a while. Court and I hiked together, rescued dogs together, volunteered together. We held hands and hugged still, but it was clear that everything else was off limits. My wife offered a series of explanations and excuses; sometimes it was that she was too tired or stressed, other times it was that I had been “mean” or inattentive in some way. As in love with her as I still was, I assumed she was telling the truth. Eventually, it just became easier not to try. We joined the ranks of the sexless and married.

♦◊♦

Twenty months after Courtney and I had married, I relapsed on drugs after several years of sobriety. I “used at her,” getting loaded out of hostility and frustration that I couldn’t fully articulate. I went back to drugs in the hope that that might show her how much pain I was in, particularly over the sexless state of our marriage. Court insisted I move out. I rented a room in a sober living boarding house, and soon began an affair with a housemate. After more than a year and a half of fidelity, I cheated with a woman who made it clear she wanted me. It was a cowardly, but understandable, way to get back at Courtney. I told my wife what I’d done, and she instantly demanded a divorce.

The legal proceedings were swift and easy. So too was my quick descent back into heavy drug and alcohol use. My now second ex-wife made clear she wanted me out of her life completely; she couldn’t even be friends with a former husband who was using. We lost touch.

It was only after I got clean again two years later that I learned, from a mutual friend, that Court had moved in with a woman just weeks after our divorce. Her “coming out” had been greeted with a complete lack of surprise by virtually everyone who’d known her. I was overwhelmed with a mix of shock and relief. Shock that I’d missed so many obvious signs, relief that despite my myriad failings as a husband, our complete lack of sexual connection had not all been my fault.

I knew better than to believe that I had turned Courtney into a lesbian through my own sexual incompetence, though it didn’t stop a few people from teasing me about just that. She had come from a conservative family who would have been deeply embarrassed to have a gay child. She may always have known, but did her best to hide it, perhaps hoping that her feelings might change. Or she might have been like more than a few women I’ve known, and only discovered her true sexual identity after already being married to a man.

Of all my exes, Courtney is the only one with whom I’ve had no contact since the divorce more than fifteen years ago. She rebuffed the one attempt at an amends I made, more than a decade ago, and I see no reason to try again. In the Facebook era, I’m easy enough to find should she want to reach out. I’ve heard a few small tidbits from mutual acquaintances over the years, and know enough to know she’s still a short-haired jock who rescues dogs … and lives with a woman.

Nine years ago, when I started dating Eira, the woman who is now my spouse and the mother of my daughter, I had a moment of trepidation. She was a former college soccer star turned triathlete and kick-boxer. She had short dark hair. Physically at least, she was very much my “type.” And as we laughingly established early on in our dating, when I shared the story of my marriage to Courtney, Eira was straight.

I confess that after a dinner where I introduced Eira to my lesbian cousin, I raised a querying eyebrow at the latter. My cousin laughed. “You’re safe this time,” she promised. Nearly a decade later, I’m pretty sure I’m safe for good.

But every once in a while, I’ll be walking down the street and pass a tall woman with short hair, a lantern jaw, and a loud, confident laugh. And for a few seconds, my heart will beat just a bit faster.

—Photo justin/Flickr

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About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website

Comments

  1. Ethan Miller says:

    This was a very interesting article for me. I am a 20 year old college student, straight, and male. And yet, I have a tendency to be attracted to (and have dated on more than one occasion) girls who later come out to me as a lesbian or bisexual (or were already out as bisexual). Granted, it doesn’t help that the vast majority of my female friends at school at lesbian. But as a straight man that seeks to transgress traditional gender norms, how do I deal with this problem? What if my ‘type’ just happens to include many lesbians?

    • Apel Mjausson says:

      I guess you ask, Ethan. Even then nothing is certain, except that there will be heartbreak. That’s the same for all of us. The cleverer we are, the more plausible the after-the-fact rationalizations for why. This particular one is just a bit more bullet proof than most.

      It doesn’t matter either way — it hurts just as much. Focusing on one thing, e.g that you easily develop crushes on people who aren’t into people of your gender, isn’t really helpful in the long run. There are no guarantees. If there were, I’d be first in line.

  2. Hugo, you are a wonderful storyteller, and brave, I might add. I admire you for putting this experience of yours out there.

    As a heterosexual woman who adores men, I was appalled with how Courtney treated you sexually. The love you two shared sounds beautiful, the stuff real friendships are made of, but no man (or woman) deserves to be treated (sexually) with such a gross disregard for their needs, rights and longings. Good for you for finding a way out of that relationship, and I’m happy to hear you have since re-married.

    I’ll speak to you soon.

    Jessica

  3. Tony Martin says:

    I was married to a lesbian for 20+ years, maybe 24.
    I didn’t know she was gay until she told me, after she said she had left the marriage.
    There really wasn’t any clues, yet I wasn’t shocked. That speaks volumes about my state of being at the time.
    I know now that I, and my ex wife, were hiding within our marriage. She in denial, and me from the pain of the emotional and sexual abuse of my childhood. Familiarity has a strong pull.
    I had created another relationship for myself that was less than I deserved.
    Now, therapy and mistakes are gradually changing the familiar.

  4. Dude, she was dishonest with you (and maybe herself) and refused to have sex with you, her husband. Maybe you’re leaving out some detail but why on earth would it be your job to make amends? Sounds like she is the one who owes you an apology.

    • Good point.

    • I was an alcoholic who ended up cheating on her. Regardless of her part in things that was a shitty and cowardly way to end our marriage. Amends deserved.

      • As a woman who has endured the pain of both been “cheated on” and being treated as if my sexual needs and longings don’t matter (separate relationships) I can say emphatically that I found being cheated on a pain that was far more bearable. It is admirable, Hugo, that you can recognize your ex-wife’s right to be treated with dignity and respect even when you had not been treated in kind. If more people were like that we would live in a kinder, safer and more peaceful world indeed.

        But betrayal is betrayal. Do marriage vows not include the pledge to love one another? Assuming as much, and assuming that most of us agree this does not exclude sexually, your wife betrayed her vows long before you betrayed yours, and she did so repeatedly, over a long period of time. I could be wrong, but it sounds to me that your betrayal, “cowardly” as it might have been, was not a vengeful act, but rather a long-denied human need being met, and your soul’s way of trying to get out of a relationship you weren’t able to end otherwise. While this distinction may not matter when the deed is done — betrayal is betrayal, and it goes both ways — it can and should matter in the private, tender moments we have with ourselves, and in strengthening our capacity for self forgiveness, and in taking stock, giving [ourselves] credit where credit is due. Most of us, most of the time, do the best we can with what we have.

        • I don’t think anyone is saying Hugo didn’t deserve an apology too. But that doesn’t mean he has to withhold his own. If he felt she deserved amends, and at least attempted to make amends, what else matters?

          • Because the reason this elevated into such a mess is that he wasn’t willing to stick up for himself. After a couple weeks of no sex, he should have been man enough to tell his wife, “Hey babe — either start fulfilling your side of the marriage contract, or get the hell out.” Instead he used drugs in the hopes that she’d notice how much pain he was in. That’s very passive-aggressive and destructive… Part of being a Good Man in my book is being willing to stand up for oneself. Now not that I haven’t made my fair share of mistakes too … but unless there’s more to this story that he didn’t mention, if he really thinks he owes his ex an apology, I’m not sure he’s learned his lesson.

      • Is this satire? She lied to you by not telling you she was a lesbian and made you go down on her while masturbating yourself. And yet you still blame yourself?

        “Twenty months after Courtney and I had married, I relapsed on drugs after several years of sobriety.” By your own admission you didn’t start drinking again until twenty months into the marriage and yet you still blame lack of sobriety for its failure?

        You should have cheated on her, but not twenty months in– 2 weeks in.

        This is just bad advice for men.

        • If I’m not mistaken (I don’t know firsthand), making amends to those you have wronged due to substance abuse is part of the Alcoholics Anonymous program (and other 12-step addiction recovery programs). I can’t imagine those programs would encourage you to make exceptions for the people you’ve wronged who have also wronged you. Apologies are apologies, two wrongs don’t make a right (no matter how big the disparity between the magnitude of the wrongs).

          • Apel Mjausson says:

            You’re right. The point of 12-step amends is to set yourself free from any guilt you’re carrying. People who treat guilt and blame like a zero-sum game tend to relapse, so that’s not recommended.

            It’s also usually recommended that you make amends to yourself first. After all you (the addict) were the one who could never escape from the effects of the addiction.

            Courtney can go through the process herself if she wants the benefit of making amends. It’s something you do for yourself, not for the person you’re making amends to.

            • Megalodon says:

              “It’s something you do for yourself, not for the person you’re making amends to.”

              Confirms what we already suspected. All these open, conspicuous, florid apologies are exercises in selfishness and self-dramatization.

            • “The point of 12-step amends is to set yourself free from any guilt you’re carrying.”

              Do these 12-step programs tell every participant that they are entitled to be free from the guilt that they are carrying? Even addicts that have killed people?

              “People who treat guilt and blame like a zero-sum game tend to relapse, so that’s not recommended.”

              Obviously, these programs cannot promise their participants that the people they have wronged will accept their amends or react positively to the attempt at amends. Confrontations are probably inevitable. Does that risk relapse as well?

          • Megalodon says:

            “I can’t imagine those programs would encourage you to make exceptions for the people you’ve wronged who have also wronged you. Apologies are apologies, two wrongs don’t make a right (no matter how big the disparity between the magnitude of the wrongs).”

            Really? So if a drug addicted person stole from another person to buy drugs, the addicted person would have to apologize to that person no matter what? Even if that other person had, say, raped the addicted person during a drug induced stupor, as his own way of settling the score or getting payback?

            • Like I said, I don’t know firsthand how the program views amends, nor do I have time at the moment to look into it. I’ve seen Hugo mention the amends process before and I get the impression it’s pretty thorough. The scenario you pose is pretty extreme – more extreme, I’d say, than cheating on a wife when the marriage is already broken. I don’t know how the program would advise a recovering addict in that scenario.

              If Hugo had simply left Courtney in this situation because of how she was behaving towards him, I don’t think he’d have any reason to apologize. But he left her when he relapsed into heavy drug use and cheated on her during this time, so I can see how she would be on the list of people he would apologize to. Not “I’m sorry for leaving you and our marriage,” but “I’m sorry for the drug abuse and the choices I made because of it that may have hurt you.”

              Hugo has a “writerly” writing style – one of the reasons I personally come back to read his articles, not because I always agree with him. I can see how dramatization might come through more because he writes like this – moreso than it might if he were less writerly, more informational. “I did this, then this, then this happened, and that was that.” And if everything he’s revealed about his past is true, it’s hard to argue that his life has not been dramatic up until this point.

              Megalodon, the process of recovering from substance abuse and addiction is something one does for oneself, but that does not make it selfish. Substance abuse rarely affects ONLY the user – it has far-reaching impacts in their relationships. Part of recovery means realizing the harm one has done not only to oneself, but to others in your life; making amends is about getting closure on that part of one’s life so one can move on from addiction. I fail to see the selfishness here. If you ask me, the selfish thing would be to deny the harm done and decline to apologize for one’s role in it.

            • Megalodon says:

              “The scenario you pose is pretty extreme – more extreme, I’d say, than cheating on a wife when the marriage is already broken. I don’t know how the program would advise a recovering addict in that scenario.”

              Why would that situation be any different? You said:

              “I can’t imagine those programs would encourage you to make exceptions for the people you’ve wronged who have also wronged you. Apologies are apologies, two wrongs don’t make a right (no matter how big the disparity between the magnitude of the wrongs).”

              That “no matter how big the disparity between the magnitude of the wrongs” sounds absolute and seems to erase any escape clause for even “extreme” scenarios. The “disparity between the magnitude of the wrongs” is indeed large in this scenario. But according to this principle, that immense “disparity” is irrelevant and does not remove the obligation to “make amends.”

            • Oh, you’re one of those “takes everything literally” people. The quote you pulled from me did not represent my own views, just what I assume those of the 12-step program/amends process to be. The idea is that everyone you wronged through your drug abuse deserves an apology, but nothing in this world is absolute (except when dealing with math) and they probably do have exceptions. You ask how your scenario would be any different – my answer is that going back to that person to apologize might put the recovering drug user at serious risk of harm, so it would not be advisable to reach out to that person. For the third time, I don’t know exactly how the program would apply to your hypothetical drug user and his/her assailant. Ask an AA member or administrator.

              All I’m saying is, I understand why Hugo apologized to his estranged wife for sleeping with someone else while under the influence of drugs, and I won’t attack him for doing so. I’m not saying I would or wouldn’t have done the same thing, or that I think he should or shouldn’t have. I don’t think it’s my place to tell him what he should or should not have done in his past, nor does it make a difference what I think about it. He apologized because it was part of his recovery program, which he obviously took seriously. I don’t see the problem here.

            • “Oh, you’re one of those “takes everything literally” people.”

              No. I am not familiar with the 12-step ideology or the qualifications on its pronouncements. I just assumed that your words meant what they said.

              “The quote you pulled from me did not represent my own views, just what I assume those of the 12-step program/amends process to be.”

              Well, either the problem was with your assumption of the program’s views, or with the program itself, if your initial assumption was accurate.

              “my answer is that going back to that person to apologize might put the recovering drug user at serious risk of harm, so it would not be advisable to reach out to that person”

              That would be another nightmare can of worms for these recovery programs. Clearly, the “recovering” alcoholic should not risk apologizing to the person whose child he killed when he was driving drunk, lest they have their own violent penance in mind. Or does it have to be a physical risk for the addict? But on the other end of that, a craven addict may simply say, “I don’t want to apologize to anybody because if I think about the harm I did to them, I will feel bad and that will make me want to use again, which will harm me. So I won’t be apologizing.”

              “He apologized because it was part of his recovery program, which he obviously took seriously. I don’t see the problem here.”

              Yes, I’m sure people who harmed and exploited other people for their own gratification will take a course of action seriously, if they believe that course of action is ultimately for their own personal closure and comfort. No problem there.

            • “Like I said, I don’t know firsthand how the program views amends, nor do I have time at the moment to look into it. I’ve seen Hugo mention the amends process before and I get the impression it’s pretty thorough…the process of recovering from substance abuse and addiction is something one does for oneself, but that does not make it selfish.”

              I was not solely criticizing the “amends” process in the context of rehab. Generally, I was criticizing the trend of maudlin recollections of past wrongs told in memoir fashion with overwrought “apologies,” what you refer to as a “writerly” writing style. These essays and testimonials do not strike me as honest expressions of regret or authentic apologies, but as a ploy by narrators to gain attention and pity, making their misdeeds largely about themselves. Then again, when a person exploits his/her past wrongs as an opportunity to tell his/her personal narrative, something does not smell right from the start.

              “I can see how dramatization might come through more because he writes like this – moreso than it might if he were less writerly, more informational. “I did this, then this, then this happened, and that was that.” And if everything he’s revealed about his past is true, it’s hard to argue that his life has not been dramatic up until this point.”

              Yes, I agree that his past events are “dramatic” in the sense that they involved a lot of conflict, hostility and intensity. But when I referred to “self-dramatization,” I meant that these past events are recounted, manipulated, portrayed and emphasized so as to engender sympathy and pity for the narrator. The mention of supposed wrongs and efforts at amends seem to only be components to serve that end. “Histrionic” would be a more accurate term. Think of the difference between someone who just jumps off a bridge without telling anybody and somebody who writes a sappy suicide note and calls up everybody announcing his/her imminent suicide, hoping to receive comforting discouragement.

              “Megalodon, the process of recovering from substance abuse and addiction is something one does for oneself, but that does not make it selfish.”

              I agree that people are entitled to self-care and reasonable self-interest, and I guess some addicts think recovery is in their interest. Good for them. But if a self-interested and self-regarding process (recovery) is the basis for “making amends,” then that casts suspicion on the supposed “apologies” made and regret expressed. An ulterior, self-interested motive is in control. When a criminal makes apologies and claims remorse at his sentencing and his parole hearings, we are rightly skeptical of his assurances, because they are corrupted by his self-interest.

              “Part of recovery means realizing the harm one has done not only to oneself, but to others in your life; making amends is about getting closure on that part of one’s life so one can move on from addiction. I fail to see the selfishness here.”

              There is a real dissonance between those sentences. If a person is genuinely sorry for the wrong that he did to another, “closure” does not necessarily follow from the realization or the apology. Realizing and apologizing for wrongdoing is supposed to be an obligation in itself, not some stepping stone for one’s own benefit. It is one thing to help oneself by trying to recover. It’s another thing for a person to involve and conscript other people into his/her own recovery, especially people whom that person has wronged and who may have good reasons to never want to interact with that person again.

              If a person is apologizing for the sake of obtaining “closure” and emotional resolution, then that is selfish, and it is a mockery of the concept of apology. Apel Mjausson said it more bluntly above, “The point of 12-step amends is to set yourself free from any guilt you’re carrying.” Their concern is not the harm they did to others, but their own psychological and emotional comfort. “I am apologizing to you because I want to get better and feel better. Now please forgive me so that I can move on and feel better.” And if these 12-step programs believe that every participant is entitled to be “free from any guilt,” they truly are unhinged.

              “If you ask me, the selfish thing would be to deny the harm done and decline to apologize for one’s role in it.”

              Sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes an ostensible apology can be the continuation of the malefactor inflicting of harm. Some former South African police officer testified to the TRC about how he killed and murdered a man during Apartheid. He started out humbly enough, saying that he was sorry and that he did not expect the man’s family to forgive him. But by the end of it, he was publicly berating his victim’s relatives because they would not forgive him. I guess he was anxious to get his closure.

              Declining to apologize does not mean that the malefactor is unaware of the harm he inflicted. And sometimes not apologizing is the more decent course of action. If an alcoholic was driving drunk and killed somebody’s family, should that alcoholic write an apology to his victims because he joined AA in prison? Intrude on the lives of his victims to get his closure and be free from guilt? The persons that he wronged may find his attempted apology hideous and re-traumatizing. And who could blame them?

      • It’s not cheating if you’ve been abandoned by your spouse. Suppose she packed up all her belongings and left without leaving a note, but you were still legally married — would it be “cheating” if you had sex with someone else? Refusing to have sex with your spouse for 20 months is what the courts call “constructive abandonment” — a refusal to fulfill the basic obligations of the marital contract (i.e., sex) for at least one year.

        I’m not trying to be cruel — but based on your story, I would have to guess that she was perhaps more relieved than betrayed by your “infidelity.” As a lesbian, she might have loved you, but not in a way that would really create a healthy, lifelong relationship. Your having sex with someone else gave her a guilt-free “out” to sever your relationship.

        Maybe if being drunk caused you to be verbally or physically abusive or destructive etc., then I can see where you’d owe her an apology. But otherwise — as much as I know you think men are to blame for everything ;) — I don’t see it here.

  5. I’m thinking there might be another reason why people are attracted to gay MOTOSes. There’s a certain relaxation in being in the company of someone who decidedly doesn’t view you as a sexual object. You can relax, let down some of the guards and refrain from some of the “preening” (for lack of a better word). That sense of comfort and safety is (to me, at least) very like the feeling of being with an SO you’ve been with long enough to feel secure in the relationship.

    For me, being a bisexual woman, it’s a comfort being with gay men – because I know there’s absolutely no attraction from their side. I don’t quite get the same reaction to women, partly because of my own interest, partly because our society conditions even straight women to see other women as sexual objects.

    • “I’m thinking there might be another reason why people are attracted to gay MOTOSes. There’s a certain relaxation in being in the company of someone who decidedly doesn’t view you as a sexual object.”

      “Decidedly”? There is no guarantee of that. Though such persons may not be sexually attracted, they are not always above objectifying other persons. Remember what Isaac Mizrahi did at the 2006 Golden Globes?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Mizrahi#2006_Golden_Globes
      http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1152258,00.html

      • “I’m thinking there might be another reason why people are attracted to gay MOTOSes. There’s a certain relaxation in being in the company of someone who decidedly doesn’t view you as a sexual object.”

        For me that’s somewhat less of a problem in being friends with straight guys (I can usually tell the type of guy who sees me as a sexual object) than it is *other* people telling you that a good friend of yours is only friends with you because he wants in your pants. It’s insulting to both of us. Additionally, there’s the girlfriend issue–once a guy gets a girlfriend, chances are that either she’ll be jealous and cause drama, or that he’ll be afraid to offend his girlfriend by continuing to be close to a female friend.

  6. tom matlack says:

    Great stuff Hugo. I wish my first wife were a lesbian. Would make the pain a little easier to take. Or maybe not…

    I appreciated particularly the honesty of your journey here to find love (and sex) that are satisfying and sustaining. I think as guys we tend to shy away from how desperately we want both and how many mistakes we have to make to get it right. Jerking off in the shower, or to porn, is what so many men seem to end up doing when there is something better out there if they are willing to fail and try again.

    As for the homo/hetero side of this, I believe we are all on a spectrum. In some ways lesbian women are less threatening. Their sexuality seems more contained or at least clear. As a straight man, or even mostly straight, the idea of getting sex “right” with a woman who wants something from us is terrifying. Or at least it was to me for a long time. But therein lies the work, and the joy of getting it right at least once in a while.

  7. *ahem*. Just going put this out there: What if, instead of trying to explain our attraction to certain “types” of people with various theories… we just said we’re attracted to who we’re attracted to?

    If we let go of gender, and of what we’re “supposed” to like about someone, and stopped worrying so much about sexuality labels, and just said “oh, that’s what attracts me” – would that make things simpler, and yet also more clear? What if we loosened up our distinctions and standards and *allowed* people to just like what they like? Of course, the caveat is that someone has to like you back if you want to have some kind of relationship with them.

    Nice article, Hugo. As always.

  8. It is always endearing to see naivete, deception, alienation, recrimination, sexual humiliation, failed relationships and drug addiction get repackaged and resold as sentimental stories of self-discovery and personal growth.

  9. Is there a name to Terry’s theory ?

  10. Two weeks after we got home from the honeymoon, Courtney and I had sex for the last time. I was cut off cold. Bewildered that her admittedly lukewarm libido had turned off so completely, I complained and sulked. I masturbated disconsolately in the shower a few mornings a week.
    Hugo, you would have had to make ‘amends’ for what precisely?
    What your exwife did was not acceptable.

  11. I just read an article written by her about her homosexual former husband. Very illuminating.

  12. Interesting perspective, Hugo, especially in light of the “marriage defenders” who tell gay men and lesbians they can “just marry people of the other sex if they want to get married.”

    One thing though, you write:

    “For our honeymoon, Court and I went fly-fishing on the McKenzie River. She didn’t want a beach in Hawaii; she wanted a rod and reel and a driftboat in the Northwest.”

    I’m not sure that would imply lesbianism. Is there really a correlation between sexual orientation and a preference for going fly-fishing instead of going to a beach?

    This is anecdotal (but so is yours), but I’m a lesbian and I want the beach in Hawaii.

    • Sorry, Fannie, it wasn’t clear what I meant. Fly-fishing doesn’t connote lesbian. An interest in outdoor activities that limit the time you can be intimate with your new spouse might indicate a diminished level of sexual enthusiasm for him. That was my point.

  13. wow….reading this brought up a lot of emotions in me…I’ve had a similar situation with my ex girlfriend…
    she has had 2 new boyfriends since me…but this article opened my eyes…there are so many similarities.
    the “fast” sex part…the aparent soreness when having sex…the excuses for not having sex…the looks she gave other women…how she used to talk about other women and their bodies…the lack of interest in men…the “no contact” rules she made in bed…the statements of hate towards men she gave towards me after the breakup…the athleticism and jockyness she has…the interests in “boy stuff”…
    it all kinda adds up… it was all very painful…especially because I was deeply in love with her, even though she treated me like dirt.
    but then why does she keep wanting to be with men? it hurts to think about this, because when I understand our relationship right, she lied to me all that time…it was all “fake”…

  14. I’m not sure what the point of a story like this is, other than trying to get attention in a “woe is me” manner. Look at me! I pick bad partners and stick with them out of misguided allegiances!

    This relationship was quite dysfunctional from the start. Apparently this closet lesbian just needed a good pal she could share her feelings and activities with, who would go down on her every now and then with a pat on the head and a token in-and-out. Schwyzer seems to be advocating self flagellation in the face of a woman who quite clearly did not deserve his attention. I actually don’t blame him one bit for going off the deep end, his wife was clearly not upholding her part of the deal.

    However, “Good Men”, as this website claims to be trying to build, do not stick around in relationships where their girl is quite clearly not interested in you sexually, or interested in fulfilling you sexually. It is not the job of a “Good Man” to stick around in such a lopsided relationship, and the marriage should have been annulled/divorced after the first few weeks when it became apparent his wife had zero sexual interest in him.

  15. Another page in the table-bending phone book of Don’t. Pretend. To. Be. Straight.

    It’s good though, to see the often missing other side of the equation: Be sure your hetero partner IS hetero.

    On a less serious note I’d to see you teach a class on the works of R. Crumb. ;p

  16. Thank you for sharing your story, Hugo. It’s easy for people to say what they would have done not having been in your shoes. I lived in the Bay Area for a little while and I heard constant stories of married guys who would go out and have flings with other men, then come back home to their wives. There were even special places designated for that kind of thing. We aren’t going around telling the wives they’re terrible people and suckers. It’s not easy to leave someone you’re in love with, even when the going gets tough. It also takes some people longer than others to figure out, understand, or accept their sexuality. It was even more difficult 10 years ago, especially within a conservative family.

    “These essays and testimonials do not strike me as honest expressions of regret or authentic apologies, but as a ploy by narrators to gain attention and pity, making their misdeeds largely about themselves.”

    Who cares if it is? I enjoyed the story from this perspective and it’s one I haven’t heard before. For some people, it’s healthier to share their stories than keep them bottled up. It might be somewhat tacky to post in such detail personal details about an ex-wife, though, so I hope she never comes across this.

    • “Who cares if it is? I enjoyed the story from this perspective and it’s one I haven’t heard before.”

      Well, some people did not enjoy the story for many reasons and have registered their responses accordingly. Is only positive reception relevant?

      It is strange that you simply say “Who cares if it is?” and then you go on to say “It might be somewhat tacky to post in such detail personal details about an ex-wife, though, so I hope she never comes across this.”

      What if she does come across this and feels violated and exposed? Would that change your enjoyment of the story? Is your enjoyment dependent upon whether or not the author gets caught by the subject? Or is this possible “tackiness” just a non-issue?

      “I enjoyed the story from this perspective and it’s one I haven’t heard before.”

      If you’ve actually never heard this perspective before, you can get your fill from the Straight Spouse Network.
      http://www.straightspouse.org/home.php

      And is reader enjoyment the only thing that matters? That’s it? The only important thing about a personal account is whether or not some readers enjoy it? Some readers probably enjoy reading accounts of domestic abuse from the point of view of abusers. And some people probably like reading about gruesome murders from the perspective of the serial killers. Readers’ enjoyment of such accounts does not foreclose or shut out skeptical discussion or bad ethical implications.

      “For some people, it’s healthier to share their stories than keep them bottled up.”

      True, but that does not mean these people are always entitled to praise or thanks for “sharing” these stories (I do not say “their” because these stories may not solely belong to them). If a man revealed that he had abused his children, does he deserve approval for not “bottling up” his story? Rahna Reiko Rizzuto thought it was brave and “healthier” to write some memoir about how she found her children unfulfilling and a waste of her time and how she would rather focus on her writing and self-fulfillment. Well, she has the right to write any book, but I don’t think she deserves accolades and kudos for admitting she wants to abandon her kids. But she seems to believe that she deserves exactly that.

      If persons are purportedly revealing incidents of their harmful, wrongful behavior toward others, maybe they should not always been given a cookie just for revealing their misdeeds. When persons tell histrionic accounts and make faux apologies, and they receive praise and thanks for it, it may reinforce a belief that the story is all about them, and that they didn’t really do anything wrong.

      • It was a very funny article.
        Nice to know the officialy approved form of expressing sexuality (for men) is to perform cunnulingus on a lesbian while masturbating.
        Good thing feminists are a tiny hate group in my country.

  17. While it’s not really my place to psychoanalyze Hugo’s relationships, I will say that I appreciate seeing a story about relationships involving GLBT people on here. My husband and I are both pansexual (bisexual is easier to say in common social situations, but “pan” more accurately describes our preferences). He’s dated mostly bisexual and pansexual women in the past, had some experiences with men, and dated a straight woman or two. I think he dated one lesbian. I dated a few too many straight men before coming out, bisexual and lesbian women, and bisexual men. We’ve both had trans partners. Ultimately, we’ve both found it a lot easier to date within our own sexual orientation.

    Someone mentioned upthread that it may be easier to be around lesbian women because it takes a lot of the sexual pressure off. That may be true. In my earlier dating experiences, I found the relationships slipping into very gendered roles – roles I wasn’t okay or comfortable with, as I’m not one to follow the gender binary or identify with it much. Some of the straight men I dated in the past seemed to be caught up in the “which gender has it worse” argument, and one – who was abusive – called me a “dyke” when I did “unfeminine” things he didn’t approve of, like cut my hair short. Others weren’t ok with my having more money than they did, even when I offered or begged to pay for both of us. Oh well.

    From the outside, my husband and I look like any other straight couple. However, what’s perhaps exceptional about our relationship is that it’s free from the male role-female role push-pull that we experienced with heterosexual members of the opposite sex, or that we observe and hear about straight couples experiencing. We can have awesome sex, and then have a discussion about techie stuff that looks like two geek dudes indulging in their nerdosity. Or, we’ll talk about clothes or hot rockstars like girlfriends. We also slip fluidly in and out of gender roles. He fixes my computer, then I help him with his hair, then he cooks dinner, then I pay the bills and manage the money, then we talk about our feelings, then we go to the strip club and look at the hot female dancers. Etc. It’s pretty damn cool. We also have partners outside the relationship at times.

    We’ve run into insecure people here and there who consider each of us a “closet case,” call us various gay slurs, etc. Many people still believe we’re in a transitional phase and will eventually “come out” and leave the marriage. This is especially true for him, as the idea of bisexuality in men is still foreign to most Americans. We’re selective about who we choose to educate on this matter. Some people are best left to stew in ignorance and homophobia. There’s no use changing small minds. But we’re pretty happy to find something that works for us. I wonder how many other “queer straight marriages” exist in America. Maybe more than we think, but people aren’t talking about them?

    • Your story sounds fantastic, I wish I could somehow get my wife to see it too. We are stuck on a path to a loveless marriage. I am confident that she is a lesbian, but she either does not know it or does not want to admit it to me. I wish that I were wrong, but all it does is lead me to self-destructive behavior on porn sites, and other passive aggressive traits which I despise in myself. I desperately want our relationship to work and make sacrifices to enable her career, but I do not think it ever will work sexually, if it has not in 10 years it probably will not in the next 10?! I did not indend to have a sexless marriage, having sex less than once a month is worse than being a monk, but I don’t want to break our marriage, nor do I want to cheat on my wife because I respect her greatly as a human being and the mother of our children, she is just not a sexual wife, in all other aspects she is very supportive. Sadly, my grain of hope is that she just has a sexual dysfunction due to some chemical imbalance which makes her asexual, but I am afraid I am just plain wrong and that no such thing exists. I wish she would find someone who would satisfy her, or if she just has no interest in sex with anyone, then at least permit me to have sex, but keep living together as a family. Any advice?

    • My husband is bisexual and I’m pan. We also look like your typical heterosexual marriage, but we too “geek out” together and often spend the before/after sexytimes connecting through intimate conversation about who would win a lightsaber battle or discussing what our favorite bands are doing.

      I’m a very masculine/tomboyish woman, but that’s largely due to the fact that I have PCOS, and that causes my testosterone levels to surge a lot. I am obviously comfortable and happy being female, but I often wonder what it would be like to have a penis and all that entails. I am very sexually open and interested in my partner alone at this point. I think that I would probably be more open to outside sexual encounters if there was no drama involved (which there invariably is), and if there was no such thing as STDs (as I do not like having to use condoms). My partner is fluid-bonded with me, and there’s just something amazing about that. Although I must admit, we are not horribly creative with the sexual acts we tend to have (I’m not very interested in receiving oral sex and while he’s expressed interest in being anally penetrated by me, we don’t have a lot of time to “prepare” properly since we are also parents to a young child who likes to try and get into our room when we’re trying to have some sex), in general, I’m super happy with our sex life and the only thing I wish we could do is have more sex more often. Orgasm and sexual release with a partner is much more exciting and enjoyable than masturbation (although I like doing that as well).

      The funniest thing is that I spent such a long time being utterly boy crazy as a young girl all the while being terrified of being pegged a “lesbian” because I was also sporty and athletic and aggressively masculine and got along with guys very unlike most of my female peers. But now I just accept that’s how I am, and I’m comfortable with loving and desiring my husband, and realizing that yeah, I’m picky, but I picked the person who I truly want.

  18. Dan Abshear says:
  19. Okay, your reaction to being rendered sexless wasn’t all that great and it sounds like you weren’t particularly honest with yourself at points in this marriage. But it seems to me (unless I misread this article) that you pen apologetics for this woman. There is no nicer way to put it than that she wronged you: she was dishonest to you and by all accounts to herself (while I allow that she may have been confused about her sexuality, I doubt very much she harboured any doubts as to the issue of not sleeping with you and she should have come forward with that) and she put you in an unfair and unresolvable situation. So enough of the absolution-seeking: there’s no reason for you to flagellate and prostrate yourself like a penitent in front of this woman you’ve idolized.

    Or maybe this is just your subtle way of bragging about shagging a lesbian?

  20. Im a lesbian, ive never seen anything like this written before. I did not know that there were men who were attracted to women with masculine features, and i think that most streight women do not know it either. I can remember when i first went to a lesbian youth group at 18, i had people asking me if i was bisexual simply because i did not have the right masculine look. Many people seen to think that if a woman looks masculine she must be a lesbian, and because of this idea in peoples minds it becomes in a sense true. As a lesbian i know that there are women who will like me if i decide to cut my hair and dress boyish, and there are also women that will still like me if i dress like an average feminine woman. But for a streight woman, she does not have the option of looking masculine, even if she wants to. This is because a streight woman learns from an early age that to get a boyfriend she needs to play up her girl features and compete with other girls. Streight men tend to talk bad about butch looking women, even the ones that look after themselves and are in good shape.

  21. I also fancy lesbians. But it’s not about athleticism or mannishness, or a “she-jock” thing. I’m socially empathetic, and shy, nervous people make me careful about what I do and say around and to them. I’m more relaxed around women who are themselves confident, broadminded and sex-positive, and I get a buzz from feeling that way. But in my culture, a landslide majority of those women would rather have sex with each other than with any man.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I Married a Lesbian, I briefly discussed some of the theories folks have proffered for my long-standing attraction to [...]

  2. [...] article originally appeared on The Good Men Project. Republished here with [...]

  3. [...] “I married a lesbian,” writer Hugo Schwyzer analyzes his type. [...]

  4. [...] and a loud, confident laugh. And for a few seconds, my heart will beat just a bit faster. This post originally appeared on the Good Men Project. Republished with [...]

  5. [...] she named her relationship with him as toxic and abusive – highly likely, given that he’s written publicly, with potentially identifying details, about at least two of his exes who have made clear [...]

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