gawking

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Guy Gawking in Gay Relationships

Introduction

When I first came out to myself as a gay man many years ago, I was completely clueless about the gay lifestyle. Like any culture, I quickly came to learn that the gay community has its own norms and practices that differed to lesser or greater degrees than what I'd experienced in the mainstream heterosexual world that we all grow up in and internalize.

Living in the suburbs of Chicago where few resources existed for learning about and meeting other gay folk, I established a friendship base in the Windy City itself, which houses a fairly large gay metropolis. It was here that my virginal journey into gay society began. So naïve I was in learning all the social nuances involved in this new land I was venturing into! I amusingly recall one day walking through the gay ghetto with one of my friends, just chatting away about this and that, when all of a sudden in mid-sentence, his neck spun around in a double-take (very similar to Linda Blair in "The Exorcist") when a striking man in a tank-top walked past us. I found myself a little startled and taken aback by his behavior, which seemed so overt and untamed by my conventional standards with his eyes bugged out and tongue wagging. As I quickly came to learn, this commonplace ritual is called "cruising", an important social skill that all single gay men quickly learn to develop to snag themselves a potential date or casual sex partner for the night.

My continued immersion into the gay brotherhood brought an interesting tidbit to light about gay socialization; that is, this whole "gay gawking" phenomenon of sizing up with the eyes of one's attraction to another is not exclusive to the singles' scene. It's not unusual for gay couples to partake in this activity, either together or separate from one another. And that is the topic for this article, spurred by an interview I gave for journalist Diane Maples who was writing a piece for MSNBC.com on the practice of "ogling" that occurs and its impact on monogamous relationships. The following includes some of the content I offered during the interview for her story.

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