A Three-Way of a Different Kind

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About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is the co-founder of The Good Men Project. He has a 18-year-old daughter and 16- and 7-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life. Follow him on Twitter @TMatlack.


  1. “I was reminded of visiting a well-meaning neighbor who had recently recent rented Milk, Sean Penn’s portrayal gay San Fransico mayor Harvey Milk. “We just had to turn it off,” he said. ”The guys kissing each other was really too much for me to take.””

    There’s something I’ve always found a trifle confusing.

    I assume the same men who swoon at the sight of two men kissing can manage to watch a National Geographic documentary where animals get it on’ without reaching for the smelling salts.

    Why are they investing so much emotional energy into something that should be about as detatched and clinical as watching lions hump?

  2. I try to be open to these things, feeling that I should be ashamed of being embarrassed by seeing two men becoming intimate. I’ve come a long way and feel that I can identify them as individuals, not just as male individuals, expressing passion and emotion. This is great,however, its somewhat taken away from that thrill I used to get from watching two women kissing, (which happens more often in real life when I’m out with friends and girls just always seem to like to show off this way)!

    But, what I’ve come to notice is that this is not a unique reaction to men. In fact, I have found many more women who are, dare I say, disgusted with this action. An example would be a recent episode of Glee (yes, I admit my obsession) where the leading gay singers kissed, my female companion yelled something along the lines of “ICK” in disgust, saying “It’s just wrong!!”. There is obviously a stigma to this action in our culture. What or how we can overcome it, is really up to the evolution of our culture… I believe that in time, these things will waiver and pass into the realm of “why did ‘they’ have a problem with that”.

  3. “Why the male obsession with lesbians?”

    I think some men see it as a two for one deal. If they’re hot, twice the deal, twice the fun to watch.

  4. This is going to sound weird but I swear Im trying to be thoughtful. …. The lesbians I know think tv lesbians are crap. While the L Word (good show til the last season) and Queer as Folk were popular with the gay and lesbian couple I know and have known, for the most part, “Hollywood Gay” is a joke to them. ]’

    I texted my friend about this column and her immediate answer was “the people who make those shows are pandering not teaching….ignore it”

    One of the best movies Ive seen in years in The Kids Are Alright starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a married couple and Mark Ruffalo as the sperm donor for their two teenage children. The story is complicated, messy, weird, and well, a whole hell of lot like straight married life.

    I think if people would not always accept lowest common denominator entertainment (or subcribe to it) then we’d get better same sex storylines that may change ignorant views that stop people from voting for equal rights….

    one day, man, one day

    • Tom Matlack says:

      With you on The Kids Are Alright. Also that TV lesbians aren’t really like any lesbians I know. But then neither the lesbians in porn either. I guess the question is why we as men seem to want/need this fictionalized version?

      • The guys I know like the lesbian situations that are set up on TV, in frat houses by attention-seeking straight (or possibly bi-curious) college girls, and in porn because those situations are all FOR THE GUYS and not purely for the joy of the women who are actually, legitimately interested in one another. Guys are smart, they can tell the difference. Are there guys out there dying to see Ellen and Portia hook up? Rosie O’Donnell and her wife? Portia’s hot as hell, but I doubt there are a lot of Ellen and Portia fantasies just because it’s so obvious to the world that these two are in it for each other – and not for show.

        But I could be wrong.

      • Julie Gillis says:

        Cause you all think it’s hot? I’m not sure it’s really more complicated than that. Because it’s performative sexuality by women who fit a cultural standard of hetero beauty. Like Joanna says, are there straight male fantasies about butch dyke sex? Lesbian sex is different than tv sex, just like good intense hetero sex is different than tv sex.
        Real sex is always messier, more complicated and time consuming than tv/film sex.

  5. I think behind every male fantasy about lesbians is the male ego driven belief that deep down inside, somewhere they’d rather not discuss…a lesbian needs a man every once in a while.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Huh. Do you mean that you think lesbians don’t want to discuss it? Like it’s this secret need for d*ck? That’s a theory that I think most lesbians would laugh at.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      I mean when I watch man on man it’s not because I think those gay men have a secret need for vag or anything. Or that I believe that straight dudes all want it up the a$$. I watch man on man because it is amazing to see men be with men when they like being with men. I’m a viewer not a participant etc.
      Food for thought.

      • “I watch man on man because it is amazing to see men be with men when they like being with men.”

        You may like the more sophisticated man-on-man media designed for women, but there is a lot of bilge out there with an extremely questionable grasp on sexual mechanics, as well as hugely problematic notions of consent and gender. Look up ‘Rape is Love’ on tvtropes for how prevalent this scenario is in gay-erotica aimed at women coming out of Japan: ‘man rapes teenage boy; boy falls in love with man. Vary levels of sadism of man and masochism of teenage boy for flavor.’

        Niether gender has a monopoly in disturbing erotic fantasies and that includes the homoerotic ones.

  6. Julie Gillis says:

    1) watching people have sex is fun
    2) straight dudes like femme chicks, so watching femme chicks do it is hot for them
    3) I doubt straight dudes would appreciate watching butch dykes do it. Then again who knows….

    I personally love watching two men etc etc wink wink youknowwhatImean, as do many other of my female friends. Because of point 1). It’s cool to watch aggressive male sexuality in action with each other.

    But I have a question-”Lesbianism is a way to witness what female sexuality looks like without risking anything.” Does this mean that watching lesbianism is a way to witness what it looks like? The risk is in the not asking the woman having the sex? Your wife?

    There are some studies showing there is more fluidity to a woman’s sex drive than a mans. I can’t find it? But one such study showed that women (even if they didn’t report mentally feeling aroused) were physically aroused by pretty much any combination of sex. It might be some kind of ancient adaptation to get the vagina ready cause some sort of penetration could be just around the corner. Who knows. Or maybe men have been acculturated to freak out at male on male (though that wouldn’t explain why there is so much gay for pay, Craigs list BJ trollin’ and gloryholes at truckstops).

    All that being said, a poly MFF triad is probably more common than the MMF, though I’d guess there are nearly equal amounts of what are called “vees” where a man has two female partners or a woman has two male partners (though the two men don’t interact).

    Brave new world to have such things in it.

    • Tom Matlack says:

      I guess my point Julie was that three women living together in a committed cohabitation relationship is something most folks might find odd but acceptable whereas a man living with more than one woman is polygamy and criminal. Why is that? Not judging just asking.

      • I think we assume that in any relationship involving a man, there has to be oppression of some sort. Two girls and one guy? We assume he chose the second and the first had not choice but to agree.

        Lisa Ling did an amazing docu for OWN about this Mormon sect in Utah that is very divergent from the Warren Jeffs set. In this community, the females choose their husbands, and amazingly the husbands have no say, if their religious leaders approve the match. The women must also be older than nineteen.

        The most fascinating thing about this docu was that the women of this community were teaming up, politically with LESBIANS!!! Yes!!! Awesomeness!! They were teaming up in order to work toward the mutual goal of getting the government out of the business of telling them whom they could marry.

        Agree with the government’s involvement in marriage or not, the fact that these particular plural wives were teaming up with who would normally be their adversaries is a pretty cool thing. The women in LIng’s film were joyful about plurality and it was quite something to behold. One wife had even left her plural marriage for a while and her husband said something along the lines of, “If she doesn’t want to be married to me, that is not for me to decide.”

        I guess my two points are linked in saying that it is the **presumption of male guilt** that makes us believe that all polyamorous or plural-partnered relationships including men are ruled by the man. But obviously there are exceptions.

        I, however, would only offer my husband a sister-wife if I could have a brother-husband ;)

        • “In this community, the females choose their husbands, and amazingly the husbands have no say, if their religious leaders approve the match.”

          Why, exactly, is this amazing?

          Am I supposed to cheer for non-consensual marriage? Is it also followed by a non-consensual honeymoon in which the man is raped? Maybe faces excommunication if he doesn’t comply with his wife’s sexual wishes?

          Ugh. That sounds worse then the typical Mormon polygamous community, if only because people feel justified in celebrating the fact that one of the parties can’t consent.

          “One wife had even left her plural marriage for a while and her husband said something along the lines of, “If she doesn’t want to be married to me, that is not for me to decide.””

          But he didn’t decide to get married or stay married?

          This is really, really creepy and gross.

          • I’m not saying non-consensual marriage is EVER correct however it is **amazing** in that I am **amazed** that it exists. Pretty unbelievable given our understandings of plural marriage within the Mormon religion.

            Also, if he consents to marrying the woman, isn’t that consent? I mean, he believes that God makes a pairing and that the religious leaders (are they Elders? why don’t know I know this?) confirm it. By being a part of that religion, consensually (he isn’t chained, there are no physical or civil implications to him leaving the sect as far as I know), he is consenting to their form of deciding whom one marries. Isn’t that consensual? He’s an adult, he’s making a choice to be there. I would never say he couldn’t be a part of that religion and I would never judge him for choosing to follow his religious convictions, even if it wouldn’t work for me.

            This is a different story when we’re talking about minors. If it were a minor, girl OR boy, I would be against it. These are adults, let them give up their rights if they want to.

            He is only not “able” to divorce his wife because he chooses to follow the strictures of his chosen religion. He could still divorce her in the courts.

            Do you get this riled up over Catholics who are also not allowed to get divorced in the Church? Just curious.

            • I’m regendering part of your comment.

              “I mean, she believes that God makes a pairing and that the religious leaders (are they Elders? why don’t know I know this?) confirm it. By being a part of that religion, consensually (she isn’t chained, there are no physical or civil implications to her leaving the sect as far as I know), she is consenting to their form of deciding whom one marries. Isn’t that consensual? She’s an adult, she’s making a choice to be there. I would never say she couldn’t be a part of that religion and I would never judge her for choosing to follow her religious convictions, even if it wouldn’t work for me.”

              How would you feel about a church that told even adult women that they had no say in who they married, the elders and the man would decide that for them. I know how I’d feel. I’d feel like the women were probably being brainwashed to believe their consent was irrelevant.

              Also, just being able to ‘walk away’ is a lot harder then it sounds when you’re brainwashed to live a certain way and have to leave everyone you know behind.

              “Do you get this riled up over Catholics who are also not allowed to get divorced in the Church? ”

              Not sure how getting ‘riled up’ over non-consensual marriage is the same as being concerned about Catholics not being able to divorce.

            • First, yes, I would feel the same way about adult women choosing to be in a religious situation wherein the church chooses their spouse. Why would I feel differently? It would only change if there were evidence that they were, in fact, brainwashed. Either sex. I also am for the right of Muslim women to wear hijab or even burqa if it is truly the woman’s choice (I realize that very often it is not, but in many cases it actually is). I’m sick of men acting like they need to go save women from their own religious choices. I feel the same for men.

              Lisa Ling is an incredibly well-respected journalist and if there had been evidence of brainwashing in that community, I am sure she would have reported on it. There is the possibility that these men ARE brainwashed and she somehow missed it, but that seems pretty doubtful.

              Being in a marriage you don’t want to be in anymore and not being able to get divorced sounds non-consensual to me. (ie Catholicism – which I’m all for, if you want to be a part of it).

              You should see if you can find that docu to watch. It’s fascinating.

            • The other problem I have is that Polygamous Mormon sects have a habit of dumping unwanted boys by abandoning them on highways.

              Did Lisa Ling mention if this sect dumps any boys that don’t conform to it’s strict rules regarding their behavior?

      • Julie Gillis says:

        Well, one thing that comes to mind, Tom is that if the three people are out and gay, they may already be used to acting non-normatively. The gay community (as much as it is fair to generalize, or unfair actually), has traveled the edge territory of kink, non monogamy, etc. So perhaps for those three, it wasn’t as much of a leap.

        That being said, there are a lot of straight and bi identified folks in the poly communities of most major cities. I’ve seen MMF triads, FFM triads, Vees, quads, and other formations.

        It also depends on the audience. I suspect here in Texas three women living together would be acceptable in Austin (weird liberal Austin), but not at all in West or East Texas, where they might get ridden out on a rail as sinners. Any non monogamous or homosexual arrangement is suspicious out there.

    • Julie, I recall reading the same article — I think it was in the New York Times. Apparently women will have a sexual response (increased lubrication and blood flow to the genitals) when they see images of any kind of sex, even if they objectively report no feelings of arousal. I remember the article said that women have a sexual response when shown videos of chimps mating, but men don’t! One theory is that lubrication is an unconscious response to provide physical protection for the genitals when sex is imminent.

  7. “There are some studies showing there is more fluidity to a woman’s sex drive than a mans. ”

    I highly doubt that. Think of ancient homosocial cultures like Greece. I travel in contemporary homosocial cultures and I can tell you that there is a lot of physical affection displayed between males and I’m most certain many of them feel some kind of way about.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      I’d love to hear more K. The studies done are few and far between. Only recently has there been any support at all for the real existence of male bisexuality.

  8. I don’t know if there is any lesbianism cult but that many heterosexual men have no problem watching women make out is not complicated at all. Heterosexual men like women and like sex involving women. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

    Likewise, as a heterosexual, if a scene with two men kissing comes on, I cut it off or fast forward. I like women, not men.

  9. Sergius Martin-George says:

    I agree with much of the original post. i think there’s more than one double standard at work here. One comment that caught my eye was Lance’s quotation of his lesbian friend, who complained about the Hollywood version of lesbians:
    “The people who make those shows are pandering, not teaching. Ignore it.”

    Not “teaching?” Are they supposed to be “teaching?”. If so, who determines that this is the case, and who determines what should be “taught?”

    (please excuse the scare quotes. I’m just fascinated by all this.

  10. For the record… Harvey Milk was not the Mayor of San Francisco. He was called the Mayor of Castro Street.
    The Castro is the gay neighborhood that Harvey had a camera shop and lived in. It was just his nickname.

    • Yes. George Moscone was the mayor of San Francisco, and he was also an early champion of gay rights, although he was a straight Irish Catholic. Harvey Milk was on the board of supervisors.

  11. Archie Panjabi does not have a child.

  12. What some other commenters have said: “lesbians” you see in porn and on TV are there for societally determined het-norm male benefit. I liked the term “performance lesbians”. It’s pandering to what men are *supposed* to like – MORE female action that they can join in on. Voyeurism of women, objectified for male benefit. See, men are allowed to like watching a woman having sex (hence porn is almost all female-focused, with men-as-penis only, practically) – and, you know, maybe they don’t like seeing penises that aren’t theirs anyway so… have another chick do it! Yeah!

    Furthermore, there’s deeper idea about women’s sexuality in all this, and about male sexuality. She’s submissive, she’s a performer, she’s here for your benefit. She’s not the aggressor – she doesn’t get to watch. That’s in the freakin’ clip: “oh getting it on with women is all slow and crap, not all aggressive, because aggression is what it’s like with men. That’s why it’s different.” Oh, um, really? Honey, you are cah-learly not a lesbian if you think that’s what lesbian sex is all about. Bitch, please. (See? Performance Lesbian).

    The difference when it comes to gay men? Underneath all that uncomfy weirdness? It’s gender roles and misogyny once again. No, really. I’m serious. What can POSSIBLY be worse than being penetrated by a penis? Nothing – because being penetrated means you’re, oh dear, the WOMAN. I bent you over backwards, you gave up your power, your aggression – your manhood. Same ish with men who like to be penetrated by women or are bi – they MUST be gay. And gay = powerless, and men who are powerless? Aren’t men and we don’t know what to do with them. They make us feel weird.

    Or not. Hey, for the record? I think gay men sex is H-O-T.

    But, again – this is all along very staunch, society-says het-norm gender lines. They define female sexuality, and what women should be ok with – as much as they define those lines for men. What you are and are not supposed to be ok with and still be “a man”.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Yes to all of that. Woman on woman sex can be incredibly aggressive. Man on man can be loving and gentle.
      Humans, go figure.

    • I think “girl-on-girl action” is the colloquial name for “performance lesbians.” In mainstream media and straight porn they tend to be men’s fantasy women who have sex with other fantasy women. These shows are already showing an unrepresentative sampling of human sexuality, so certainly not a cross-section of the lesbian community. They’re generally women that straight men think are hot being turned on by each other.

      For many male viewers, it’s basically watching two attractive women being sexual instead of just one. No matter what situation there is at least one woman giving pleasure and at least one receiving pleasure, which is often not the case in a male-female twosome. Men watch sex scenes for their own pleasure, but they are not really interested in the male character’s pleasure; they’re more interested in the female character having fun, so in a “lesbian” scene there’s twice as much.

      There’s also a common trope in these stories about women awakening to new aspects of their sexuality, trying new things, experimenting with somewhat taboo things. It’s the whole “seducing the good girl” fairy tale. Notice in the Good Wife that it’s an ostensibly straight girl being tempted, not too out lesbians, which is not nearly as interesting to the mainstream audience.

      And, in a lot of lesbian-esque situations on TV, the women are just turning each other on as a prelude to a man having sex with one or both of them. Sort of the “warming up for our hero” kind of thing.

      I’m not attracted to men, but I don’t think it’s disgusting to see two men kiss on TV. I think *some* of the disgust with watching same-sex scenes is because of homoanxiety – “what if I watch it and I kind of like it?” It’s kind of odd that just because one doesn’t find something attractive then one is compelled to find it repulsive. Seems needlessly extreme.

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