I was going to post this as a comment to the last post, but since this is MY BLOG and my thoughts are THE MOST IMPORTANT so I get CENTER STAGE and also I am THE SMARTEST, I am going to make a WHOLE POST out of it.

So.

A few have noted that it’s possible for a man with SSA to have deep relationships with other men without these being sinful. I definitely agree. I think such friendships are not only good but incredibly important, lest chastity become just plain loneliness.

A few have also compared this situation to a man (without SSA) having a chaste, but nevertheless deep, friendship with a woman. I think that’s a pretty good comparison — such friendships are certainly possible and certainly good.

The comparison isn’t perfect, though. It seems to me that as a friendship between a man and woman deepens, there is a natural tendency towards romance. I know this isn’t true in every case, but it still constitutes a tendency. On the other hand, in my experience, as friendship deepens between two men (even if one or both of them have SSA), the tendency isn’t towards romance, but just — deeper friendship.

I think we have a tendency to consider friendship and romance/eros as differing only in degree (that’s why people always say: “More than just a friend.” I don’t believe that’s the case. They differ in kind.

Speaking again from my own experience, when I initially make a solid connection with another man, there’s a period where romance rears its head, and where I’m tempted to think of him as THE ONE — that one perfect companion, soulmate, comforter, etc. that so many men with SSA long for. If the friendship survives this phase, the next phase isn’t romance at all; the romance part is usually due to me idolizing him, projecting onto him qualities he doesn’t have.

So, to sum up: I don’t look for romance with a man. The romance part is usually just what happens before I actually get to know and love him for real.

72 thoughts on “Quick Thoughts on Romance

  1. Chris

    Thank goodness, a new thread… TY!

    So for you, wouldn’t that sort of equate romance with infatuation? If not, how are they different? If so, is that only because you’re trying to be chaste and you don’t want to linger there, and you want to get past it so you can get to the more healthy, platonic love? Or is it something else I’m not quite getting at?

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  2. SUZANNE

    Friendship with a man is what men with SSA need!

    There is a possible danger, but then, if the friend isn’t attracted, nothing’s going to happen.

    Romantic feelings are just that– feelings. They don’t necessarily mean anything. What means something is what you will, and what the objective truth of the situation is. The objective truth is that once you feel good about yourself and your masculinity, it goes away. It’s like you said.

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  3. Daniel

    Suzanne, i completely disagree. as a homosexual i can tell you that being a homosexual has nothing to do with whether or not you feel good about yourself and your masculinity. I feel very secure in the person i am and my identity as a man. in fact, that’s probably one the reasons i am a homosexual, because i like being a man. My parents and some of my friends kinda don’t believe i am gay because of how masculine i am. but i am as gay as they come. That is a very sharp accusation to say that i don’t feel good about myself and that once i do, my homosexuality will go away. wish you were right, but you’re not. sorry to be blunt

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  4. Mark

    I think it’s a great blessing for a gay man to have a straight friend, but do you think two gay men can be *intimate* friends with each other? What do you think about the concept of occasion of sin when it applies to this?

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  5. Jim

    Mark: As JPII said, it’s not correct to put continually over the man/woman the weight of the suspicion. We are called to redemption, so the repression is just a moment (necessary) but not the goal. Jesus wants us redeemed, and not just repressed. We can suspect of every situation. We can find, if we try, that every situation can become a concept of occasion, because the problem is in the heart. Too much weight over the person. I think that -partially- the abandonment of the catholic morality done by so many people is due to this kind of approach to the human fragility. I support, naturally, a good prudence, but I distrust the overworking prudish attitudes. (Excuse my english. I don’t want to be rude in anyway. If so, I ask your pardon. I’m not english native)

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  6. Victor

    Steve, you say: “I think we have a tendency to consider friendship and romance/eros as differing only in degree […] I don’t believe that’s the case. They differ in kind.”
    It is a rare occasion when I don’t agree with you, but here we are. If marriage is an image of the Father’s loving of the Son and vice versa AND an image God’s love of the church, what exactly is Jesus speaking of when he says “love one another as I have loved you”? To put it another way, is God’s love of me romantic in nature?
    I think the first thing we have to do is distinguish between genuine love and what is widely called “love” nowadays, namely erotic desire or even sexual conduct (as in “making love”). But of the genuine love there is but one kind, be it between friends, a mother and her child or a wedded couple (and, yes, two men with SSA). Love within a marriage expresses itself in a unique way, but this is the privilege of marriage, not of romantic love.
    Perhaps I have a wrong understanding of romantic love. Does it always mean to desire a sexual relationship with the object of my romance? Say I have a friend whom I like to have around, spend time with, even lay my head against his shoulder (think Jesus and John!) – if that is “it”, should I consider this romance already? If no, then I agree with Steve (phew – the natural world order is restored!) – I don’t look for romance with a man. But as I have SSA, I have difficulties to make a proper judgement – is this so different from a heterosexual man’s best buddy?
    To quote popular culture, does anybody know the show “Scrubs”? The two main characters, J.D. and Turk, maintain a friendship so close that Turk’s wife refers to J.D. as “the man [their daughter] will compete with for [her] love for the rest of [her] life.” I am aware that this is a work of fiction, but in my romantic delusion I like to believe that this kind of close non-romantic friendship exists in reality too. (For further reference, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL4L4Uv5rf0 )
    Any thoughts?

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  7. jp

    it would seem helpful if we can get a true, objective definition of ‘romantic’, if that’s possible, or is it relative to each person?
    one person’s sexless romantic relationship may be what another person calls a deep friendship.

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  8. Dante

    Non-sexual intimate interpersonal friendship-love between two gay men without ever going sexual exists. I have been blest with this “bromance” for about 10 years now. We both have our root and focus in Christ as Source and Center of our hearts.

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  9. Sarah

    I second what JP said… I am not sure if I quite understand what the definitive understanding of romance is, here.

    If I have “romantic” feelings for someone, it usually goes hand in hand with certain sexual desires. It’s never not been so for me. If I don’t have a desire to have sex with him, I don’t consider my feelings for him to be romantic. If I *did* have sexual/romantic feelings for him, but a sexual relationship were not possible, I’d try to put distance between myself and him so as to avoid an occasion of sin. I certainly would not exchange intimacies as I would with a close friend.

    For example, I have a close friend who is a priest, and a close friend who is a seminarian. But if I found myself harboring romantic feelings about either of them (and here I use romantic with the sexual feelings I believe accompany them in mind), or if one of them held those feelings for me, I believe the safest, smartest thing to do would be to end the friendship so we were not tempted towards sexual sin, or have to deal with the pain and frustration of not being able to have those feelings resolved.

    So… I agree it would be very good for men with SSA to have a close, intimate confidant, who supports you emotionally even as much as a spouse might, I think maybe we’re either not using “romance” in the same way. Because to me, when I hear “romance,” I think of sexual desires. And it seems like you mean something else. Unless you do mean that having sexual feelings for that person would be okay, and were that the case, I’d have to respectfully disagree. It’d be putting yourself in a very dangerous position, spiritually and emotionally.

    After some of the discussion yesterday, I hope everyone understands that–as a straight woman– I’m not trying to pretend I have any real insight to what you men with SSA are going through, or what is best for you. These are just my opinions, and I hope no one feels like I’m stomping on anyone’s toes or interjecting and sitting in on a discussion where I don’t belong.

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  10. Victor

    Sarah (and every other non-SSA man in this thread):
    As a man with SSA, I don’t sit on my throne, lamenting every moment of my life that nobody really gets me and how lonely I am. Of course the situation for SSA men is different as for heterosexual women, or men, or SSA women. But beyond these undoubtable differences there is a common denominator. For my part, I appreciate your thoughts and feelings and do in no way feel tread on my figurative toes.

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  11. Sarah

    Daniel, okay, in that case, I do agree. If that is your idea of romantic love, than a true bonding of souls and hearts can certainly be without sex in the equation.

    Victor, I just noticed your Scrubs reference earlier. I love JD and Turk’s bromance. That show is awesome.

    Also, thank you both for not making me feel like I’m imposing. Mostly I just want to make it clear that I don’t think my feelings about, or experiences with love and friendship are necessarily applicable to the experiences and feelings of others. :)

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  12. Peter M

    Bravo, Steve! I think that you’re dead-on with calling the difference one of kind rather than degree. It seems to me that in any human relationship we seek to know and be known in an ever more intimate way. What I would call a romance, though, has the additional ingredient of sexual attraction, hinting at the possibility of creating new life with the other person. A friendship can become a romance, and a romance can become a friendship, but such a change means adding or dropping a whole dimension of the relationship.
    And of course, that points to why a same-sex relationship can’t be a romance; it inherently lacks the possibility of that added dimension, seeing as two men or two women cannot create new life. Relationships between people with SSA are the exception that proves the rule. The sexual urge, twisted around from its true object and made to conform with a deep, psychological hunger for affirmation from the same sex, is actually something of an obstacle to true intimacy, rather than an aid. There’s no possibility of sexual union, and thus sexual activity is just so much baggage dragging down what could be (and could only be) a beautiful friendship.

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  13. Joe K.

    It is actually enormously interesting how much people equate sexual attraction with identity. You can see it in the comparison people have made between men with SSA and women. Men with SSA are not women. Men with SSA want to have deep friendships with men in the same way heterosexual men want to have deep friendships with men. Men with SSA are just often Bad at it. But that doesn’t mean those friendships are not some of the greatest goods for them.

    Men and women are, of course, entirely different, and trying to put myself in the role of a woman because I have SSA is harmful to everyone involved. I don’t like my friendships with women as much as I do with men. And that has nothing to do with sex. I am just a man, and I relate more and grow more with men. Close friendships with women actually sometimes make me uncomfortable because I am a man. I always feel like I am supposed to be courting her, etc. and it just feels false and phony to act like normal friends. This doesn’t mean, of course, that a man with SSA (or any man perhaps) is incapable of having a non-sexual relationship with a woman. It’s just different. Because men and women are entirely different.

    It’s amazing how much this post relates to my life right now actually. There’s a guy I’ve become friends with just recently, and of course the SSA problems are there. But at the same time, he seems to be a genuinely good person that would make an excellent friend. And while I constantly have to check myself (Why do you really want to meet him today? Would a normal person be texting him this message?) it just doesn’t seem right that I should flat out never talk to the him again and only be friends with girls.

    And this is really one of the hardest parts about having SSA in my opinion. At least it’s the one part that most people never see or just don’t understand. It is so difficult sifting out disordered feelings with genuinely healthy ones. People without SSA (at least the ones I talk to about this) seem to genuinely think, “Oh, just don’t have sex with guys, and then everything else should be good, right?” In some ways, Yes; in a lot of ways, Absolutely Not.

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  14. Annette

    Like Sarah, I have recently become a bit wary of actually commenting, what with the admonition that I, being female, cannot possibly related to s man with SSA. However, I’m pretty stubborn, and I get all riled up when I am confronted (my husband loves that, as you might imagine), so here’s my opinion on the matter:

    I myself have trouble having close friendships with the opposite sex (i.e., men), because it is difficult to tell where boundaries lie. Am I just being friendly, as I intend, or might I be perceived as flirting, and so on? Women just don’t have that same amount of baggage. However, the women I have known with SSA, I feel the same level of uncertain boundaries, only more so. It has been my experience with these ladies that they are much more …expectant of more in a friendship, perhaps. Maybe, because these ladies were very strongly SSA, they were into flaunting it? I don’t know. However, I do agree that men and women are quite different, and overcoming those differences can be very difficult indeed.

    Love this post, Steve. Your insights are fantastic, as always.

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  15. Sarah

    Thanks, Annette, for offering some back-up. ;)

    Great point about women with SSA. I never thought of that. Perhaps men with SSA can have deep friendships with other men without worrying about crossing boundaries. But women see both relationships and friendships in a much different way. Our emotions and our sexuality are more tightly bound, perhaps? I don’t know. But I do think this brings up a great point.

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  16. Annette

    whispers to Sarah (they scare me a little with their upfront and in-your-faceless, those SSA girls)

    Interesting point on intimacy boundaries as perceived by men vs women. I shall think on that a little…

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  17. Sarah

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone was actually saying you were. This is why I felt the need to submit a disclaimer that I wasn’t trying to assign my feelings or experiences to anyone else.

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  18. Tom

    Ding, ding, ding, ding!

    This post rang true for me. Not having SSA, I dated a girl, but things didn’t work out. We just naturally became friends, but I still was attracted to her.

    It wasn’t until months later that something clicked in me. I realized I was no longer attracted to her and our friendship continued to grow.

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  19. Victor

    Annette: “…it is difficult to tell where boundaries lie. Am I just being friendly, as I intend, or might I be – perceived as flirting, and so on?”

    There has been much talk here about how men with SSA are not girls – and I agree. But I can absolutely relate to your statement – I think it might be even more difficult for men with SSA. Let me explain why:
    When Annette talks to a man, she might have difficulties to define boundaries – as might her counterpart. But both parties are aware of the theoretical romantic implications. Whereas when I, having SSA, talk with a man, of course I am aware of it, but for all he knows, I am just an ordinary guy and into women like the next guy.

    I told my closest friend (a “straight” male) about my having SSA just a few months ago. Now, when we spend time together, I still have problems to define the boundaries, but he understands and can pay attention as well. It takes a lot of concern off my shoulders – if I ‘misbehave’, he might understand me a bit better.

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  20. Victor

    BTW I posted this earlier, but my comment was probably too filled with other stuff so nobody answered yet:
    “If marriage is an image of the Father’s loving of the Son and vice versa AND an image of God’s love of the church, what exactly is Jesus speaking of when he says “love one another as I have loved you”? To put it another way, is God’s love of me romantic in nature?”

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  21. Gabriel

    Interesting that you should post this now — I am in the throes of trying to sort out what, if any, difference in kind there is between friendship and eros. I’ve spoken to three married men who seem to feel that, from a psychic or emotional perspective, there isn’t any, or that the difference is minimal. Obviously there is the b’donk based difference, but that is a difference of activity, not necessarily of affection.

    On the other hand — I have difficulty accepting that the difference between romance and brotherly love is whether you do, or want to, have sex. I’m a gay Christian who has been in love with two different male friends (both were devout and heterosexual, so the feelings had the safety of being non-reciprocal), and the quality of feeling toward them did not at all seem simply to be a difference in how strongly I felt. (Although I do tend to feel romantic emotions more powerfully than fraternal ones; that may mess with my perceptions, I guess.) I didn’t want the same kind of relationship with other male friends as I wanted with the objects of my erotic affections. And it isn’t just the same thing as finding someone attractive — either personally or sexually. There are lots of hot guys I would never even contemplate dating. And having friends, close friends included, doesn’t seem to satisfy the longing for a mate (irrespective of sex).

    On the other other hand, I cannot articulate to myself what the difference between eros and brotherly love is, apparently. I’ve tried. And men I know who’ve experienced both, at least the ones I’ve talked to, don’t seem to be able to articulate it either.

    The best explanation I’ve come across was in a book about the masculine and feminine aspects that exist in every person. Basically, the notion that author put forth was that, when a man falls in love with a woman, it is because (for whatever reason) he unconsciously projects the image of his own interior feminine onto her, and when a woman falls in love with a man, she is projecting her own inner masculine onto him. So there’s a longing for personal wholeness that erotic love symbolically satisfies. I’m not totally sure how that would work for men falling in love with other men, or women with women … partly because, while masculinity has always been a struggle for me, I recognize what Daniel says about liking men for being male, and what recovery of my masculinity I have accomplished has not dampened my desires in any way.

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  22. Chris

    Victor, I don’t know if greater minds than mine ever mulled that question to the affirmative, so I’m hesitant to answer. But my gut reaction is that if romance is a mere shadow of God’s infinite love for us, then projecting the shadow back on him is an injustice.

    I do recall a priest on the radio (Fr. Longenecker, perhaps) once saying that since the Church is the bride of Christ, our relationship with Him puts us – men and women alike – in a decidedly feminine role.

    So let me pose a few questions back at you and the other men with SSA here. What do you think about that? Some of you seemed to take offense with comparisons with women, and because our Church uses masculine imagery for the Persons of the Trinity, do you take issue with the idea that you should “play the feminine part”?

    I can’t help but wonder if, because the Incarnate God was in fact male, that you view your relationship with Christ in a (pardon the expression) homoerotic way that I simply can’t fathom. Is that also what’s at the root of this “bromance” stuff? (After all, it was you who cited the example of Jesus and John in a not dissimilar way.)

    As a hetero male, I am unable to imagine a friendship with a woman so deep as to call it “romance” yet without any hint of eros. I do have a very strong male friendship with my best friend – so strong that my wife was intensely jealous of it – but if either of us ever tried to cuddle the other, there’d quickly be a few broken teeth on the floor.

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  23. Victor

    Chris: Thank you for your input. I have to say though that parts of your comment struck me as (probably unintentionally) aggressive. You seem to presume that I am having some kind of agenda while I am honestly looking for answers here. Personally, I could have done with a language a bit more toned down.

    There is no doubt that we can hardly do justice to God whatever words we use. What I wanted to express with my question is: When God’s love to us is just of one kind, how can there be a difference in kind between love and friendship that are both reflections of this divine love?

    As stated further up, I do NOT take issue with being compared to women. There are enough common denominators to compare men and women, with and without SSA, though one should be aware of the fundamental differences that exist between the sexes.

    That being said, I am not sure what exactly you want to hear from me about “playing the feminine role”. Personally I would be surprised if heterosexual men could easily relate to this. Frankly, I think before asking such a complex question you should come forward with an answer yourself.

    But I really take issue with your fourth paragraph. What exactly are you insinuating? (And yes, I read your bracketed apology). “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (Jn 13:23, DRA) At least at that time and place this must have been acceptable social behaviour. As I learn, it is not nowadays – at least not for you, Chris. But how is my referencing Scripture homoerotic?

    It is late, and I am tired. Perhaps I thoroughly misunderstood you, in which case I beg your pardon.

    Steve: Sorry if we have hijacked your comments section. You are the supreme master of this blog, and I won’t forget it…

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  24. Erik

    I think you’ve hit on something really solid here, Steve, and I completely agree with you, having been in the situation you describe towards the end three or four times now. As it currently stands, I have three really close male friends who A) are devout Catholics B) know about my SSA C) Are still my best friends even after I told them and D) I have no sexual attraction for.

    What I’d like to add to this post (if it hasn’t been read already, I only skimmed earlier comments) is that I think this result indicates something interesting about SSA. It is not only a perversion of natural sexual relations, but it is also, and perhaps more significantly, a perversion of friendship. All guys want close male friends – it’s the way of the bro, as it were. With SSA, some other feelings get mixed in there for a while, but once you really get to know someone, and learn who they are – you find you can’t simply covet how they look anymore; in other words, you know them too well to think of them in only a sexual way. At that point, you’re mostly in the clear. I’ve built a number of amazing friendships with ‘straight’ guys, and the SSA doesn’t bother them or me. This is what friendship truly is, and it’s the antithesis of homosexuality. So I think it’s immensely important to build good solid friendships with other guys – in my case, that is what keeps me strong in the face of temptation.

    As always, thanks so much Steve. You da man.

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  25. Mark from PA

    A lot of interesting comments. We need to realize that we are all individuals. In regard to gay men, yes, we aren’t girls. We have male bodies like hetero men so this we share. Some gay men are more accepting of the feminine inside them. But gay men are masculine in their own way, but again, it varies from person to person. Some gay men do feel a closeness to women and perhaps find it easier to have friendships with them then straight men do. In a way, not objectifying women is a blessing in a way. I find that sometimes women call me honey or other nice names and think that they wouldn’t talk more masculine (in a stereotypical way) men like this. I suppose I am non-threatening.

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  26. Justin

    As a man with SSA, I pretty much feel that romance must be oriented toward sexual congress. I think for women it’s more subtle; they don’t, I think, always associate romance with sexual arousal in the way men understand it, but it’s still oriented toward sexual congress in some way. Therefore I maintain that this is fundamentally different in kind from friendship, which is not so oriented. However, my experience is that having SSA I can get things confused emotionally, so that I’m seeking friendship but get caught up in romance. Or, perhaps it’s better to call it infatuation. Someone asked about the difference between romance (at least in the sense of falling in love) and infatuation. I’ve asked this question myself and not been able to come up with an answer. I’m not entirely sure falling in love isn’t just some form of insanity, to be honest. But that’s speaking as someone with bipolar disorder who is familiar with mania.

    I am reminded of David and Jonathan in the bible, whose love, it says, “surpassed that of women.” I don’t see this as romance. I think it is possible for two men to have an intimate relationship — a “bromance” if you will — with no sexual component. I think in today’s American culture it is very rare; such relationships I think were much more common many years ago. Male friendships are very superficial in our culture; men reserve their friendships for their wives and girlfriends, which is the exact opposite of how it used to be. I think in fact this is why homosexuality is so common today; there is a genuine need for men to fellowship with men, but today that’s branded as “gay”, and men who feel this genuine need conclude they are ‘gay’ because they have affection and want emotional intimacy with men, and wrongly conclude — because in our culture this is reserved for romance and sexual relationships — that they are “gay”. Then they sexualize the desire and actually become (genitally) gay.

    But as someone pointed out, everyone is different. Daniel rebuked Suzanne because, in his words, “homosexual has nothing to do with whether or not you feel good about yourself and your masculinity.” Yet this was precisely the case for me. I’ve always doubted my own masculinity and I attribute my SSA to this. I never felt “good enough” for a woman so I was left to envying men, which became sexualized.

    As for a homoerotic view of Jesus, I don’t know for sure what the author had in mind, but I can say that as a man with SSA, I can appreciate the idea of being part of the feminine Bride of Christ with Christ as bridegroom, with all the mystical consequences of this union, more I think than a strictly OSA man. I think I may also have fewer limits when it comes to my personal relationship with Jesus. There is a divine Eros, although we can’t think of it in carnal terms (much less fallen terms, which is how all of us experience eros). I can’t comment further on this topic since I haven’t studied it.

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  27. Gregg

    For me as an SSA man I’ve found my intimiate guy friendships to be the most rewarding. Often as i’ve grown more and more accepted by my close friends it’s easier to think of myself as one of the guys, instead of as other, or an outsider to my own gender. I definitely struggle at times idolizing friendships and at times when i meet a new friend it’s hard to separate interest as a friend and interest as a crush. Usually as the friendship deepens the romantic or lustful elements, if there ever were any, diminish and almost completely disappear. Often after telling a guy friend i’m always fearful they’ll treat me differently, stop touching me or hugging me out of some fear. In my experience though the opposite happens. Out of their desire to affirm me and show their love for me they can almost awkwardly increase the physical affection for a short time, often to my amusement and appreciation. I think C. S. Lewis deals with this romantic v friend love very well in his book, The Four Loves, I found it to be rather helpful in understanding the distinctions.

    While i value a great deal my close girl friendships they don’t equal in intimacy my close guy friendships. I think it’s important for all guys to have good friendships with the opposite sex however i do believe there is a difference that does make same-sex friendships and opposite friendships distinctly different. Both valuable, but my same-sex friendships play an especially important role in my life. That’s just my 2 cents…

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  28. Chris

    Victor, my most sincere apologies. I meant no insult in any way, shape, or form. I’m really wrestling with this particular thread of the discussion, and I guess I’m just thrashing about trying to find some way to talk about it that makes sense to me.

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  29. Steve Gershom

    This is a great conversation, and I plan to add something useful eventually, but for the moment, I’m just disappointed that nobody has acknowledged my Trololo pic yet. Don’t you people internet??

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  30. Chris

    Steve, I googled the Cyrillic-looking stuff and found his Wikipedia page. Then I watched the video. Then I put up a blog post that said, “Well, now there’s one fewer Internet meme in the world that I’ve never heard of.” Never saw it before now, but that’s not surprising – it took a while for me to come across my first RickRoll too.

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  31. Victor

    Chris, apology accepted – I might have been a bit overtired and feel a bit sheepish about it to be honest.
    Steve – I recognised it but since I take your coolness for granted felt it superfluous to point it out expressis verbis. And I agree that this thread is awesome – can’t wait for you to add another two cents…

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  32. Daniel

    I don’t really agree with Eric when he says homosexuality is a perversion of friendship. Homosexuality doesn’t pervert any close relationships I have with my guy friends and it isn’t the antithesis of friendship. Like, what does that even mean? Sexuality has nothing to do with friendship. Homosexuality perverts same-sex friendships just like heterosexuality would pervert opposite sex relationships I feel I would have my same friends if I was straight or gay. All that changes is (duh) who I am attracted to. And I don’t really agree with this general vibe that once you get to know a friend really well, the homosexuality goes away, or that once you come to terms with your masculinity or identity the homosexuality goes away. Sometimes I think I have something different than other people who identify themselves as gay on here…

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  33. anthony

    i usually lurk here and check out comments once in a while, but i think Daniel has made a great point in the above post:
    “Sometimes I think I have something different than other people who identify themselves as gay on here…”

    just because people may share the same behavior, or preference for genital attraction does not mean they share the same inner reasons, compulsions, projections, insecurities etc that feed the behavior.

    at this deeper level each one is unique, and each one’s sexuality/genital expression expresses one’s unique history, struggles, family past, developmental fixations and hassles, previous relationships etc.

    of course, there are some common themes in all this that we share, and it can be helpful to let other’s insights and concepts shed some light, but once we get personal and concrete, we each have a very unique struggle to accept and our deeper sexuality and to express it in a healthy, positive and productive way.

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  34. Chris

    Thanks Daniel, your latest comment seems to clarify things a little more for me – I was trying to reconcile your view with that of some of the others, and I may not have appreciated that the reason for the discontinuity is there’s a difference of opinion there.

    I do very much agree that heterosexuality perverts my opposite sex relationships. Trying to picture in my mind what that clash is like for you guys with sexuality inverted is very difficult for me to imagine.

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  35. Sarah

    Agreed with Chris. I thought y’all were just elaborating on one shared feeling, so was confused too by the apparent disconnect. Knowing you feel differently from the others helps me sort this out.

    And, I’m guessing that there are probably lots of different feelings for different people with SSA, just like love and friendship mean different things to, well, everyone.

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  36. Peter M

    My $0.02:

    I think infatuation isn’t necessarily different from romance; it’s an early stage of romance that, while nice, eventually has to give way to something deeper. C.S. Lewis points this out in The Screwtape Letters: there comes a point in every romance where the initial magic, the infatuation or state of “being in love”, ends. It has to; we have to transition from being in love to actually loving. It’s easy to will the good of the other as other when you’re in a joyous haze, but true love is to will the good of other as other no matter what, even when you don’t feel like it or don’t particularly like the other person. This is also why a relationship with God is not one ecstatic religious experience; we need to learn to love God as He loves us, without prospect of return.

    I guess a same-sex “romance” could never really go beyond the infatuation stage, except, as Steve says, by turning into a friendship.

    Reply
  37. Justin

    Daniel,

    Here’s another area I’ll have to disagree with you. I’ve experienced the phenomenon of disappearing SSA with a specific friend at least a few times. Granted, not every intimate male friendship where I have an SSA interest has turned out that way, but at least some have. I agree that, observing this, everyone’s SSA seems to have it’s own genesis and form and it’s not really wise (regardless of which side you’re on) make generalizations about men with SSA. I’ve done this too in the past and probably still do. It’s more complex than anyone can imagine.

    I don’t believe, as you say, that SSA is the antithesis of friendship. Enmity is the antithesis of friendship. Although, if you were friends with someone merely to satiate your lust, in the sense of using them for your own pleasure and not loving them disinterestedly as persons for who they are, that might also be the antithesis of friendship. But I see, at least in me, SSA more as a genuine and wholesome desire gone awry. It isn’t strictly a desire for friendship; it is also a desire to belong to the male sex. If you want to dub this a “perversion of friendship” I suppose I won’t argue with you. I’m not too proud to admit to that. Being mentally ill (or at least prone to it) I’ve developed a certain humility about labels.

    Reply
  38. Erik

    Allow me to clarify some of my comments, particularly to Daniel, as I do not wish to be misunderstood.

    I can see why you’d take umbrage with my comment that SSA is a perversion of friendship. When I say that, I do not wish to imply that your close friendships would all be perverted. Indeed, I was suggesting the opposite: that the close friendships of an SSA man are the most pure, the most loving, and most intimate because they are NOT sexual.

    My point is this: friendship is a good; indeed a great good, as classic authors from Aristotle to Virgil to Michel de Montaigne and CS Lewis recognize and right about. English poet Edmund Spenser devotes an entire book of The Fairie Queene to the virtue of friendship (Liberal arts geek alert). Friendship in the sense which they think of it (filia) is an intimate, but NOT sexual, relationship between two people of the same sex. As with all good things that God gives us, Satan attempts to screw them up, and so we desire them inordinately, in the wrong time, place, or way. Thus, the inclusion of our sexual desire (over which we admittedly do not have control) into the process of building friendships is the devil’s way of trying to muck up those friendships. So, when I said that homosexual relationships are the antithesis of friendship, I did not mean that they were moral opposites, but that homosexual relationships are the inversion of friendship.

    This is why having great, close friends is so awesome for us: because the SSA doesn’t play a hand; it is a holy relationship. God’s good like that.

    Reply
  39. Erik

    Alas! I just saw Justin’s comment, which makes a wonderful point:

    “But I see, at least in me, SSA more as a genuine and wholesome desire gone awry.”

    Precisely what I meant. The desire for friendship gone awry. Well said, sir!

    Reply
  40. Mark from PA

    Peter M, you say, “I guess a same-sex romance could never go beyond the infatuation stage.” This is not necessarily true. Today many states have same-sex marriage so in some places it has gone beyond the infatuation stage. Many of these couples are also raising families. So they are partner, best friends and parents. A question is how the Catholic Church can accept such people. Pretending that they do not exist may not be the way to go. I think it is difficult for Church leaders because a small number of Catholics really hate homosexuality and dislike gay people and some Church leaders don’t want to cross these people so they are put in a tough position.

    Reply
  41. Daniel

    ok so any sexuality would screw up a friendship. you should just say sexuality is the antithesis to friendship instead of homosexuality if thats what you meant.

    And justin, its obvious that you if you don’t foster an infatuation or love of your male friends then you being sexually attracted to that person will go away. thats also true in heterosexuals with opposite sex friendships like people have said. you may “have a crush” or be sexually attracted to a person but once you become good friends it goes away cuz you don’t wanna hurt your friendship or the infatuation just dies. But come on, the opposite is also true, no matter your sexuality. when you meet someone your attracted to the infatuation is there but once you get to know that person really well you may realize, woah i’m falling in love with this incredible person.

    And to digress this is the kind of romantic relationship that i have been talking about in almost all my comments. romantic love can happen without sex. its been proven with couples who are paralyzed and can’t have sex yet still romantically love each other. Like, does anyone really think its that absurd for someone to romantically love someone so much that they wouldn’t want to have immoral sex with them. like, a heterosexual couple could really have the urge to perform oral or anal sex (to completion) but not do it and still love each other. because they love each other really. why couldn’t two gay men do the same? any of you married our coupled people out there who would love your significant other even if your dick fell off? or any single people out there who like someone a lot and just hope they ask you out, not to have sex, but like, to spend a saturday with them. in fact, you would actually prefer just to spend time with them. for the rest of your life. cuz you love them.

    and i really don’t agree with Justin’s statement that homosexuality is the desire to belong to the male sex. anybody else have a problem with that statement. my homosexuality is not a desire to belong to the male sex. but maybe thats just mine, like i said, i might have something different. what do you call people who are attracted to men because they already belong to the male sex and well, they just find that the people they fall in love with are men. i have that

    Reply
  42. Chris

    Mark, I think Peter meant that for a person with SSA, a same-sex “romance” can’t go beyond infatuation without falling into sin. At least, that’s how I read it, and I agree with that idea, and it’s in accord with the Faith.

    I agree with you – and the Church agrees with you – that it’s an important question how the Church can “accept” people with SSA. The Catechism says: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” But (and this is a huge BUT) we get a wrong impression by reading that out of context:

    “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

    The challenge for Church leaders is to teach those who “dislike gay people” that these are human persons deserving respect and compassion, and there can be no room in our hearts for hate and prejudice. But they must also teach those who support same-sex unions, adoption of children by same-sex couples, and other aspects of “the gay lifestyle” that this kind of activity is objectively disordered and contrary to the Gospel.

    In the past, I myself have been very critical of homosexuals because I was only hearing from those who militantly promote that lifestyle. I came to realize that you can’t be prejudiced against an action, but you can be prejudiced against a person. I was drawn here by Steve’s great witness – here was a man who I have no right to be prejudiced against, because he clearly and devoutly clings to the Faith, and renounces those disordered actions the same way I do. If I do anything less than support him with all the “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” I can muster, I am not living my faith.

    Conversely, you say that pretending that people with SSA don’t exist is not the way to go, but pretending that we can conform the Good News to accept “the gay lifestyle” is contrary to Truth and equally untenable. We have to understand the clear distinction between people like those you describe and the kind of life they might live. The people we must accept without prejudice, the lifestyle we must reject out of love for those same people.

    Reply
  43. Daniel

    why can’t same sex romance go beyond infatuation without falling into sin again? i really wanna get this (me) straight

    Reply
  44. Chris

    Daniel, I don’t think I can convince you, but I do disagree with you.

    “its been proven with couples who are paralyzed and can’t have sex yet still romantically love each other.”

    Sure, absolutely, people could be romantically in love, and if they were both quadriplegic, they might be unable to perform the marital act. But you have to take the analogy one step further: unless we’re missing something, they would want to have sex with one another. Romantic attraction IS sexual attraction. If there’s no romance, it’s just friendship.

    I realize there may be different opinions on that here, but as I’ve said, I have a hard time grasping how you can say otherwise. Since we’ve been on this discussion, I’ve talked about this with my hetero friends at work, and they all agree with me. I’ll have to summon the courage to broach the subject with one of my coworkers who has SSA.

    “Like, does anyone really think its that absurd for someone to romantically love someone so much that they wouldn’t want to have immoral sex with them.”

    No, of course not, it’s beautiful. But there are a lot of conditions in there you seem to presuppose. First and foremost is that not wanting to have immoral sex does not equate to not being sexually attracted. In fact, exactly the opposite – it’s because you reject the immorality of it that you go through the trouble to suppress the sexual attraction. But you’re suppressing it, not eliminating it. If you weren’t sexually attracted in the first place, why would it even occur to you that you should avoid immoral sex? Wouldn’t you just be friends?

    “any of you married our coupled people out there who would love your significant other even if…?”

    I’m not editing you just because I don’t want to repeat the word… if you’d said “testicles” that would make a difference. I would point out that yes, romantic attraction could be disrupted when the sex drive is eliminated by castration. (At least I guess it is, I’ve never been a eunuch, thank goodness, and hope I never have the opportunity to find out.) Now, as Christians, we would say a married man who is castrated would still love his wife, but what we mean is he would continue to share in agape with his wife even if he can no longer experience eros.

    “why can’t same sex romance go beyond infatuation without falling into sin again?”

    If two people with SSA progress beyond infatuation into true romance, the least they are doing is enticing or teasing the other person to break the chastity to which they are both called. If they do even more than that, and they engage in “homosexual acts”, the Catechism says they are doing something “intrinsically disordered.”

    CCC2357: “They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

    Again, we’re assuming “romance” here means a relationship inspired by sexual attraction, where the two parties are seeking to foster and build deeper into a physical relationship. If you’re not sexually attracted, and there’s no intention of engaging in acts that promote erotic feelings, then why is it romance and not friendship?

    Reply
  45. Dolores

    Kind of off topic – just want to say thank you for the thought and effort put into this wonderful site. Suggested it to a female Catholic SSA friend and, although, I don’t think she has followed through, I am hooked. Comment section is really stimulating. So grateful to have stumbled upon it.

    Reply
  46. Gabriel

    @Chris: A lot of gay men, in my experience — myself very much included — can be rather defensive about being male and masculine (whether or not they are insecure about it), in distinction from being transgendered or transsexual. This is, I think, largely because they’re just not the same thing. There may also be residual defensiveness from being made to feel like a sissy as a child or an adolescent; since I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically effeminate about finding men attractive (or even anything intrinsically sexual about it, come to that), I’d tend to defend my masculinity as compatible with homosexuality.

    This is quite a different question from the, so to speak, relative or symbolic gender of our relationship with God. The symbolism is obvious: God comes into us from without and we receive Him; He infuses life into us. Any creature is, in this relative or symbolic sense, feminine with respect to God’s masculinity. I have always had a very easy time with that — I mean, as a concept, I’m completely comfortable with that and with the symbolism. Whether that’s because I’m gay I don’t know; somehow I suspect that my orientation is irrelevant. I suppose my concept of God might, in that sense, be homoerotic. But I’m not absolutely convinced that that would be wrong, any more than it would be wrong for a married woman to have an erotic concept of God. (This isn’t to say there couldn’t be very sick ways of dealing with said concepts, but the less said about that right now the better — whole different thread.)

    If I may be rudely intrusive, I might offer you a caution about language, at any rate when speaking with people outside the faith. There are an awful lot of words and phrases from the Catechism, like “objectively disordered,” that say one thing to us and something totally different to a gay activist or sympathizer. To you or me, it is: ‘a desire directed toward a wrong object.’ To them, it says, ‘You’re sick whether you admit it or not, and anybody can see it.’ I’d hesitate to speak about Steve as someone against whom you have no right to be prejudiced, too — not because you ought to be, of course, but because an unsympathetic (or just unfamiliar) reader might take that to mean you feel you have a right to be prejudiced against gay activists. All unfair — it would be better if people would take the trouble of checking precisely what we mean — but perceptions are perceptions, and I know from experience that the public rhetoric of the Church and of Catholics is (1) widely different from what it’s like to be friends with a Catholic layman or priest, and (2) apt to drive people away with an appearance of judgment and hostility. I don’t believe those things of you — it’s obvious they’re not the case from the rest of your discussion. But another person, someone with less knowledge of the Church and a worse history of being scarred by Christians (I got off lucky on that one), might not want to wait and find that out.

    @Steve: Will you kick me off the comment section if I admit that I don’t internet? I was in Liberal Arts, and remain distrustful of this black sorcery.

    @Daniel: Believe me, you don’t want to know how I lost my masculinity. Not the whole story, anyway. Being bookish and unsportsy didn’t help, I’ll say that. But I’m inclined to think (have any of you read Melinda Selmys’ “Sexual Authenticity”? She’s great on this) that there are multiple ways of being masculine, and that my own masculine archetype doesn’t fit into the rather narrow concept of masculinity our culture has. (This is not the same thing as saying that masculinity and femininity are just social constructs; I think they’re psychological, maybe even spiritual, realities, but broader ones than we easily perceive through our particular cultural lens.)

    Reply
  47. Mark from PA

    I get annoyed when people talk about the “gay lifestyle.” Gay people have all different kinds of lifestyles, just like straight people do. If a man picked up women in bars and used hookers would you say that he was living the “heterosexual lifestyle”?

    Reply
    1. Maki

      Sorry if I haven’t track all the comments on this post but, the reference to ‘gay lifestyle’ and gay people, I guess it was a way (not the best one probably) to refer to people that do not seek to consider and apply the catholic conception of sexuality in their lives. Regardless if they are engaged in multiple sex relationships or remain faithful to one sex partner. I don’t think there was a pun intented in the use.

      Reply
  48. jp

    Gabriel wrote,
    “I’d tend to defend my masculinity as compatible with homosexuality…”

    I wonder: if all men are, in some sense, “in Adam”, there must be a masculinity common to all men, too. every man is unique, and yet we’re all the same. could the same be said of masculinity?

    how do you see homosexuality and masculinity as compatible? i ask because i’m trying to make sense of it in light of Genesis 2. Since woman is made of the same stuff which is why “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh,” then how is homosexuality compatible with masculinity, assuming that part of being male is re-uniting in the one flesh relation with a woman?

    Reply
  49. jp

    sorry, i meant:
    according to the creation account, woman and man are made of the same “stuff,” and in light of this, sex between a man and woman is unitive, in some profound sense.

    Reply
  50. Daniel

    Chris I don’t really disagree from your last post. I’m not denying that paraplegic couples wouldn’t want to have sex with each other and the romantic relationship between two men would be the same. Both want to have sex with one another. You’re right when you say romantic attraction IS sexual attraction but it isn’t JUST sexual attraction. There is a lot more to it. obviously

    And I didn’t mean if any genitals fell off someone they would stop producing hormones which meant they would stop being sexually attracted to people. I just meant that if any of you found out that you couldn’t have sex again but you still had the urges, would you still romantically love your significant other? You know like kiss and hold hands. I still pose the question to everyone.

    And like I have said before, everyone has temptations everyday. Heterosexuals could tease and entice the other person to break chastity through oral or anal sex. Your right hand could entice or tease you to break chastity. So can your computer. Does that mean you shouldn’t live with your computer? Sorry to get all like, remedial or simple or whatever, but homosexuals don’t entice or tease one another for sex constantly.

    So like I said. Two men could be sexually attracted to each other at not engage in sexual contact

    Reply
  51. Daniel

    and jp, very good point. masculinity and femininity are socially constructed so when people (like me) say masculinity and homosexuality are compatible i just think they mean acting/behaving “like” a man socially (disregarding sex). but you are right. homosexuals will never be “masculine” the way God intended. It sucks

    Reply
  52. Gabriel

    @Mark: Absolutely!

    @JP: What I mean is that I don’t believe that homosexual attractions (whether accompanied by heterosexual ones or not) make you effeminate. I can accept the idea that my desires are ordered toward a moral wrong; I cannot accept that, because I have them, I don’t get to be a real man. (Not that I took you to be saying that.)

    This is partly because I don’t accept that desiring, much less accomplishing, sexual union with a woman is a prerequisite for masculinity. I do think it is a natural expression of masculinity; but I view it in the nature of a (normal) consequence, not a cause, of gender. After all, if sexual relations with the opposite sex were necessary to gender-wholeness, then Jesus and Mary were damaged goods by remaining virgins their whole lives, and priests and religious would be rendered effeminate by their celibacy. (In the case of nuns … what’s the female equivalent of effeminacy? Butched-up-ness?)

    Liking to roughhouse is a good parallel, actually. It is a natural and normal expression of masculinity, and most males (boys and men alike) experience it, and if it is absent there could possibly be something wrong. But then again there might be nothing wrong: you might just be dealing with an unusual form of masculinity. Roughhousing is a normal expression of masculinity, but not an essential component or cause of it. So, I think, with attraction to women.

    Reply
  53. Chris

    Thanks Gabriel, I realize my diplomatic skills suck, but that’s one reason why I appreciate anyone’s willingness to engage in this discussion. I’m trying to overcome my own sinful tendencies and figure out how to talk about SSA without causing more harm than good.

    Daniel, I guess the difference is that when a single hetero man is romantic with a single hetero woman, it’s courtship. Any physicality is an attempt to discern if they will be physically compatible for marriage. There are limits they shouldn’t cross until the wedding, but otherwise it’s all a part of the road at the end of which is a lifetime of spousal commitment.

    I can’t do that. I’m married in the church and civilly divorced. Any romance is adultery, even if actual sex isn’t involved. So in order for me to remain chaste, and avoid the near occasion of sin, non-platonic relationships with women are out-of-bounds.

    Similarly, if two same-sex people are romantic – even without sex – it’s a betrayal of their calling to chastity.

    Mark, I apologize for using an indelicate phrase. I have harsh words for the kind of man you describe, but I wouldn’t tar all heterosexuals with that kind of phrase. So how should I describe those who live a lifestyle against the teaching of the church on these issues?

    Reply
  54. Gabriel

    Thanks!

    I’d hesitate to describe a romantic relationship of any kind as a betrayal of chastity, even if its consummation would be a sin. Emotions, after all, are involuntary, and you might find yourself in some other sort of relationship (old friends, let’s say) in which two parties each have romantic feelings for the other that are acknowledged but not necessarily pursued. This of course doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to do whatever feels right in that context; I’d just be inclined to nuance, to say that it is probably an occasion of sin, but that it doesn’t have to be. That might seem like it opens the door to possible laxity, and of course we humans are ingenious at finding moral loopholes; but I’ve usually found my own tendency to erect fences that keep me away from possible violations just as harmful as actual sins, if not more so.

    Why does the moral life have to be so hard! (Please, no one answer that.)

    Reply
  55. Mark from PA

    Daniel, you said that homosexuals will never be masculine the way God intended. I don’t agree. If God didn’t want there to be gay people, we would not exist. So perhaps we are the way God intended. Gabriel, you made some good points, but uh oh, I never liked roughhousing when I was a kid.

    Reply
  56. Daniel

    Chris, how is it a betraying of the calling of chastity if both men are being chaste?
    What defines these sins if not sex? What can and can’t these men do. Spell it out for me. And why?

    And Mark, I just meant in the obvious catholic way. Obviously, the reason why gay men are called to be chaste is because god made man to be with a woman. Its how our parts function. Its like the underlying assumption to the church’s teaching of homosexuality. I was just kinda saying the obvious but I know that god made me and I know that god made all homosexual men. But he also made sin. Like I said before, I know that doesn’t make any gay man any less of a man.

    Reply
  57. Chris

    Daniel, I’ve been trying to spell it out, but I guess I’m just not very good at making myself understood. I had hopes that by making the comparison to adultery in my own situation it would help clarify things, i.e. it doesn’t take sex with another woman for me to betray my marriage vows. Granted, it’s not instantly a mortal sin to catch sight of a cheerleader during a pro football game, but I also can’t delude myself into thinking everything is venial as long as I don’t get her pregnant.

    Since I used the “b” word, how about a different analogy? Read Matthew 26 and tell me where Judas first sins against Jesus in his plot to betray Him. Is it at verse 49 when he kisses Him? Or verse 47 when he arrives at Gethsemane with the temple guards? Verse 22 at the Last Supper, when he asks, “Surely you don’t mean me?” Was it in verse 16, when he started watching for his opportunity, or verse 15 when he made the agreement with the chief priests and took the money? Near as I can tell, it’s before verse 14, whenever he got the idea to approach the chief priests and make the deal in the first place.

    So, now I’ll ask you your own question: when does a Catholic man with SSA, who knows his Faith, begin to sin against chastity? When he’s in bed with another man? When they’re making out during a date? When they’re holding hands walking down the street? When they’re planning the date? When they’re flirting with one another?

    I honestly can’t tell you, because sin requires intent. (Also, the obvious fact that I’ve never been in that situation with another man, and I’m beginning to see that maybe I just can’t say with it’s like for you.) It could come before you start to flirt, or after if you were doing it unconsciously. It might never happen, if you’ve mastered your passions and it’s not really a date, you’re just hanging out with a friend. But if we’re using the language of dating and romance, it would seem it’s already been decided that you don’t just want to “just be friends.”

    I can say this: for me, if I don’t avert my eyes when I see that NFL cheerleader, it only takes a few moments (or less!) before she’s undressed in my head. Game over, that’s at least a venial sin for me, because I know I haven’t mastered my passions enough to say otherwise. Can I push that aside, engage her in conversation, become her friend, go out to the movies or a ballgame with her, and never break my vows? Absolutely, I could. But I’m not going to try testing that theory on any NFL cheerleaders anytime soon without an annulment.

    Reply
  58. William M.

    Great blog Steve! I just heard your recent interview on Catholic Answers Live and found your blog from there – good stuff here!

    I like what you said Steve about getting past the infatuation phase to arrive at a friendship with another guy. I have ssa and am older, almost 50, but I have also experienced these stages in friendship, and have heard therapists such as Dr. Joseph Nicolosi emphasize that non-sexual friendships with men are key. Of course discernment and prudence are also key to keep the friendships on the right track and non-sexual.

    Also, I agree with several commenters who said that ssa is not a uniform experience. I think it helps demystify the problem to know that while there are certain frequently observed similarities, each person’s experience will vary and some will vary quite a bit. That being said, the elements most commonly experienced – such as difficulty connecting with father or male peers and establishing a strong masculine identity – are very telling and can give many of us valuable clues with regard to how we might best heal and/or deal.

    Networking is also so very helpful with this issue and has historically been difficult, so thank you so much for providing this forum. God bless and Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  59. Gabriel

    Well, it’s opaque to me, but if you like women, whatever. I don’t judge. ;)

    But seriously. Obviously, actual gay sex is wrong. (Well, not “obviously” to some of us — myself included — but if we accept Catholic moral teaching, which I gather those of us conducting this discussion do.) And obviously, deliberately putting yourself in an occasion of sin, i.e. a situation in which your ability to remain chaste is in serious jeopardy, is tantamount to a direct violation of chastity too, in addition to being an act of hubris.

    I’d say that technically anything else is innocent. But I’d hasten to add that such things as flirting, hand-holding, and kissing are all usually in the bad-idea, morally-sketchy, playing-with-fire territory. Whether they are in themselves occasions of sin probably depends very much on the person. And on the individual act. A kiss, even between lovers, need not be a lovers’ kiss (cf. C. S. Lewis in “The Four Loves”); many expressions of affection that our culture regards as gay are not even necessarily sexual, and plenty of other cultures are quite positive about intra-male affection without being very accepting of homosexuality — Arab culture is an outstanding example.

    For myself, I doubt that I could kiss another gay man with — how shall I put it? — detachment. But there are one or two straight men that I know, friends of mine, with whom I believe I could exchange a kiss that was really brotherly. Admittedly that sounds pretty odd with our cultural background, but when you come to think of how most cultures, ranging throughout both geography and history, have expressed affection, it is our combination of Stoicism and squeamishness that is odd. The same goes for hand-holding — or for laying my head against a man’s chest, a la St. John and Jesus.

    By the way — I want to thank you, Chris, for the efforts you are making at understanding us. One of the most dismal things about this struggle is how little those who do not experience same-sex attraction seem to care about it. That is, we often have straight friends who care about us, but not about the issue as such, and they come off as being cast in an I-care-about-you-but-not-your-problems mold. (Even Courage gives me that impression, though I’ve never been involved directly.) Your deliberate engagement with the matter is encouraging, and rather touching. Thank you very much, and merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. ann

      I was reading a book about St Ignatius Loyola. The book said he’d told his priests not to kiss each other. The author said, us Northern Europeans (the author was English), the question might seem to be why would two men want to kiss each other in the first place-but to the men Loyola was writing to, quite different ’cause of different culture-and it might seem to them that Ignatius was trying to banish friendship.

      Reply
  60. Brother B

    I live in Europe, where two guys kissing each other on the cheeks is quite a common sight. And not just members of the same family. Just goes to show how different cultures view things. I can kiss a guy on the forehead or cheek and not feel like I am doing anything sexual or gay at all.

    Reply
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