A while back, I wrote an article about gay men and resisting the urge to “snoop” – that is, looking at your boyfriend/partner/spouse’s phone without his permission; more on that here. And in this article here, I offered some advice on how to use social media but avoid overwhelm, jealousy, mistrust, and stress. Similarly, I’d like to offer some feedback for those who are having some kind of drama about phone use and texting – more specifically, either you or your partner “sexting” (texting with a sexy edge to it) other guys. Basically, the message is this: Don’t worry about it!
Really. I see too many gay male couples getting all bent out of shape about this, and it’s really not a huge deal. If you have an open relationship, it’s maybe a part of that. And if you have a monogamous relationship, I know, I know, there are a thousand reasons why “sexting” sounds “slippery” and could lead to cheating – or not. But all the righteous anger and jealous indignation I see in session or hear about sounds like a lot of drama, when actually keeping a cool head and discussing things rationally is a much better option.
Because cell phone technology and the ability to send and receive text messages is so pervasive – whether it’s Grindr, Scruff, Growlr, Tindr, etc. – it really affects the whole population, gay and straight, with our modern technology. It’s like technology has out-grown and out-paced our ability to really think about and respond to how we want to incorporate new technology into our lives. All of a sudden, as of just a few years back, it’s just “there”, with no real invitation or warning. It’s just become a part of modern life, and we can’t even remember exactly when it began. When I used to advertise my practice on Grindr with their display advertising feature, their sales rep came to visit me with the contract and said that at any given time of day in Los Angeles County, over 30,000 guys are online at any one time. It’s probably way more than that now. That’s a lot of guys, and not all of them are single or in open relationships. And that’s just one app! So, as controversial as it might sound, I think we, as a gay male community, have to accept that while not all of us are on the apps and texting/sexting, a huge number of us are. So many, in fact, we might as well say all of us. And that genie is not going back in the bottle.
Sexting doesn’t necessarily lead to cheating, any more than going to the gym and flirting on the gym floor does, or being at a gay bar, or even being in a mixed venue like an airport or grocery store. If you’re in a monogamous relationship and you’re worried about cheating, you have to have that discussion with your partner regularly (in a recent article, I wrote about the most common reasons for cheating that I hear about in my practice, and how to anticipate or even “fix” them). Like so many issues in couples, communication is key to reducing conflict and solving problems. Regardless of how you agree to handle the issue of outside sex partners, where there is actual/real sex going on, I think you have to keep “sexting” in a whole category by itself, more like porn use, which is so ubiquitous that most gay male couples don’t even mention it to one another.
Too many times in gay couples, there is a double-standard where you like to use the apps, but you don’t want your partner to. That’s not fair. Think about how you use the apps, and most of the time I bet it’s about free entertainment, relieving boredom, or an exciting/fun/convenient way to converse with other gay men in a very safe/distant/semi-anonymous way. But you’re not going to leave your partner for “↑↓ Vers”, in all likelihood. To solve problems in gay male relationships, I like to play “what if”: What if we all just took a step back, realized that this technology is here to stay, it’s not a big deal, it’s not a threat to our relationships, and we all just enjoyed the “toy” for what it is? A toy that is not nearly as threatening as it is being given credit for.
All people tend to fear things they don’t understand, especially relatively new technology. My great-grandmother feared the television set when she first saw one. Even my grandparents and parents used to say to “keep back” away from the TV from it because it leaked radiation (they didn’t, even back then). Mrs. Patmore feared the electric toaster when she first saw one on “Downton Abbey”. We don’t want to look like Luddites who fear technology. Relax, it’s just sexting, and it’s over as soon as someone clicks over to Facebook or another app to see what the weather will be like tomorrow or to order something off the Amazon app, or to check emails or play Candy Crush.
If there are serious issues about monogamy, jealousy, sex outside the relationship, etc., then that needs its own discussion and attention, probably with a couples therapist to assess and identify what’s going on, and help you as a couple to develop a rational plan to deal with it. But really, for the love of RuPaul, can we just accept that texting/sexting technology is part of modern-day gay life, like when porn went from 8 mm “blue movies” and slick copies of “Henchmen” magazine to online sites like XTube? It’s just one more outlet for gay men’s stimulation, and if you think that’s a big pot, imagine all the sexually-related material for straight men in this world. Cyber-stimulation is a multi-billion industry, and it’s not going away. Let’s meet all this with a yawn, and not with a screech.
I just heard a beep. You might want to get that. I think “↑↓ Vers” just sent you his cock pic.