Who’s Your Daddy? Or, How to Maintain Your Sex Life as a Gay Father
by Randy Beach
So you and Mr. Right have finally found each other in that endless sea of Abercrombie and Fitch sleeveless t-shirts, circuit parties, underwear contests and half-price Jell-O shots. You’ve bonded over repeated viewings of Sordid Lives and Beautiful Thing, and you take turns mimicking sarcastic, Steel Magnolias one-liners in your best southern belle ala Claris and Ouiser.
You’ve made those trips to Paris, Amsterdam, and your relationship survived one hell of a romp in Bali; a string of junkets to Palm Springs and Vegas; and you’ve had that three-way with the cute guy from the softball team—it only took two pitchers of margaritas to get him there.
In short, your status as Gay-DINK has been fun and you stand ready for a deeper level of commitment. You buy a condo together; you name each other as beneficiaries; you even go so far as to register as domestic partners. On the second anniversary of the day you rescued Pickles, the black lab mutt you adopted from the shelter, you decide you want to adopt a child together. Ten months later and $50,000 lighter, you bring home Eduardo, a bright-eyed Guatemalan boy about a year old. So what now?
Gay men face unique challenges as they work their way into life with kids, challenges that are informed in many ways by the diverse sexual backgrounds from which gay men come and the wide variety of labels, subsets, and identifiers that make up the gay male community. The idea of maintaining a healthy sex life after kids for gay men often depends on how healthy their sex life was before the child entered the picture.
Sure the old standby ways of maintaining a healthy sex life riddle the pages of Parents magazine. But most of those articles, like most of the parenting literature, provide advice for the heterosexually oriented, and they also assume that the father is often absent from the child-rearing process and is therefore more eager for sex from the worn and tired mother. The situation is often not that simplistic for gay men. Gay men have a much wider variety of sexual options pre-kids and pre-commitment that it takes work to maintain a Queer-as-Folk sex life in a Teletubbies world.
Historically, many gay men have had a wide variety sexual identities to explore (circuit boys, daddies, and Bears, oh my!) that would run contrary to the stereotypical image of contemporary parents’ monogamous, even mundane, sex life that society seems to demand. So many gay men of partnering and adopting inclination have a shared past in the bar scene as a community to replace the isolation that can accompany a life lived half-way in and out of a closet somewhere. And the sexual openness of the gay community is often where gay men of the 30-something generation found the acceptance they had longed for after watching from the edges of society always feeling like they didn’t belong.
This changing role for sexuality must be considered once children are a part of your life since society puts what can be stultifying expectations on the sex life of parents. And that demand for sexual “vanillaness” seems to come from all people, gay and straight, with or without kids. At a recent get-together, a good friend—gay man, no kids– was recounting an invitation from a couple he met at a party to join them in a three-way. He was all in until he found out they had a three-year-old daughter who’d be asleep a few doors down. He turned down the offer with a feeling if moral indignation. “That’s just wrong,” he said. “Parents shouldn’t act like that.”
So is it impossible to have sex like a gay man once you have a child? Do you trade in the ass-less chaps for the diaper bag and never look back? For many gay men that history of diverse sex-on-demand can lead to conflicts in a committed relationship that will only be further complicated by the demands of a child. So what do you do?
Talk before you sign the first adoption paper or call the first agency about what you want your sex life to look like after kids. Will you have a closed relationship? Do you agree to maintain or experiment with an open relationship? The social expectations and barriers placed on couples do not have to immediately follow the inclusion of a child in your life. It’s all up to you and your partner. And if you think for a moment that all straight couples go vanilla after the baby comes, think again. It isn’t just single men keeping all those adult book stores open.
Gay men do not, and should not, allow the decline in romance and sexuality that can occur the same way in straight couples in order to validate their right to be parents. Of course, the rigors of raising a child can dampen anybody’s fires of passion and there isn’t much more to add that the straights haven’t already made hay about (sexy underwear, love notes in his pocket, recreating your first date—yawn!). But once the routines of paying bills, changing diapers, swimming lessons, play dates are in place, there are activities gay men can engage in to keep the romance, and the lust, alive.
- Stay in touch with friends, single friends, and let their sex lives remind you that sex is something that people do and value, since domestic sex life may become tedious for a gay men with a promiscuous past. Acknowledging that many men have a high sex drive and devoting time to sexual energy will help the overall relationship stay fresh.
- Consciously divide household duties and child-rearing demands based on your individual strengths. Since traditional child-rearing roles are so defined by gender, and many men have grown up in households where a woman was the primary caregiver, gender roles aren’t easily defined for gay male couples. Ask yourselves who is the more nurturing? Who is the more authoritative? Which of you is the more patient? It’s impossible to feel sexy or romantic if you’re arguing about who changed diapers last. And don’t feel resentment toward your partner if you realize you’re not the most nurturing one. Remember, it all depends on what’s best for the baby and you can always learn from each other’s strengths.
- Play sports or exercise. Many gay men look to sports groups in their single years to build a social network and maintaining those connections outside of the relationship with you and your boyfriend make you a healthier and happier person, which makes your overall relationship healthier and happier. Not to mention keeping off unwanted pounds! Men are often highly visual and respond viscerally to visual sexual cues (hello… why else is porn so popular with men?!) Even the most conscientious of lovers in the deepest phase of love will be affected by the sharp weight gain that can accompany the rigors and demands of child rearing. It may be shallow, but it’s true.
Finally, to maintain a healthy sex life after kids, ask all the right questions before children enter your relationship or before you commit to man who has kids already. Kids provide a different degree of stability in any relationship, and you can approach the effect of a child on your sex life as a positive thing.
But if sexual commitment is an issue for you, because of the general promiscuity and sexual openness you may have experienced as a single gay man, take a serious self-inventory and be honest when deciding if kids are right for you. Becoming parents for any reason other than the desire to give love unconditionally has the potential to do serious damage to a lot more than your sex life.
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