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Tuesday 11 April 2017


Sexual honesty and the fear factor

Posted in: Safe Sex
By Chris Banks - 2nd October 2003

Over a third of New Zealanders have fantasised about a same-sex experience, yet most have never acted on it, plagued by the fear factor - and not in a hot Joe Rogan kinda way.

Gay and lesbian people are often accused of wanting everyone else to be gay or lesbian, usually in a derisory or dismissive fashion. But if the figures in the annual Durex Global Sex Survey are anything to go by, New Zealanders are doing a pretty good job of wanting to be gay or lesbian all by themselves - 37% of those polled in last year's survey said that had fantasised about a same-sex experience.

But further figures also show that this could be one of New Zealand's most guilty secrets. Although over a third have fantasised, only 13% in this year's survey would admit to having had a same-sex experience (fairly evenly split across gender) and just under 10% specifically identified as gay or bisexual.

What is the reason for this massive disparity in figures? Why do so many people think about it, and so few do it? It's not like fantasising about winning Lotto or meeting Oprah - in a free, happy-go-lucky, she'll be right society like ours, surely even the most shop-soiled of us have a pretty good chance of getting some same-sex action. Right?

Well, most of those 37%, and who-knows-how-many of the remaining 63% that lied in the survey, are plagued by the fear factor, and not in a hot Joe Rogan kinda way. Thankfully, there are switchboard services available for those who are brave enough to talk about their feelings.

"As a nation we still have very strong fears of homosexuality, and those fears prevent people from acting - fear of loss of family, children, job, status, blokishness..."

This from Neville Creighton at Auckland's Gayline, who says the service is constantly fielding calls from men who are questioning. A varying range of personal reasons can prompt these men to call, but quite often media coverage of a gay-related issue will result in a surge of calls, illustrated recently by TV3's vacuous and voyeuristic cruising piece on 20/20, for which Neville was interviewed.

"The context of the article was very negative. The original intention was to look at the reasons for why, in spite of law changes, gay men have been forced to cruise in a subterranean manner," Neville explains. "It turned out to just focus on married men cruising toilets, presenting it as sleazy, dirty, and unnecessary, and not exploring the reasons why it occurs."

So why does it occur? Well, if you're among that magical 37% and have yet to make a move, chances are discretion is atop your list of priorities for such an encounter. This immediately rules out safer options like cruise clubs, because you might be seen going into a gay venue or run into someone you know there.

"The majority of the men cruising toilets will be closeted, many of them will be married, and the toilets offer non-visibility...it's an adrenaline rush too for some...a great deal of the men who call say they can't afford to pay to go to saunas..."

Sadly, these men, isolated by both fear and socio-economic factors, would be most at risk from HIV infection, being cut off from information about safe sex.

The sexual needs and desires of older men of any persuasion are often ignored or sniggered about too. Many of these men would feel uncomfortable in a sauna environment, and Gayline receives a significant number of calls from them.

"I'm surprised at the number of men over 50 who have never explored their sexuality. Some men who call are recently divorced, or their wife has died, or perhaps isn't interested in sex anymore. But if they go to a sauna then nine nights out of ten they're going to be ignored."

Does Neville feel the figures in the survey are an accurate reflection of our society's feelings about same-sex attraction? Are we a repressed nation?

"I would think the percentages should be higher for both fantasies and actual experience. It all depends on how the survey was conducted, really..."

The Durex survey collected answers online from 5,500 people in New Zealand and 150,000 people worldwide. The fact that the participants were not randomly selected does put a question mark over the accuracy of the results.

Numerous studies made since the famous Kinsey research of the 1950's has put the percentages of gays at anywhere between 5 and 10% and the prevalence of admitted same-sex experiences between 25 and 40%.

So it would seem that, even in this supposedly enlightened age, where "gay" is joked about as being almost fashionable, a great deal of us still have difficulty being honest about our sexual feelings.

If you're part of that 37% harbouring an unfulfilled desire and want to talk confidentially about it, you can phone Gayline in Auckland on (09) 303-3584, or Wellington's community award-winning Gay Switchboard on (04) 473-7878.



Chris Banks - 2nd October 2003

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