I like gay male porn, but gay men in real life freak me out.

I have doubts: I am a 14 year old guy, I'm from Argentina now living in Florida and I have always pictured myself with girls in romantic relationships, and I still do. But now I enjoy watching gay pornography. When I picture a two-man relationship it disgusts me, but yet I prefer gay porn. About girls, I only feel sexually attracted to some but I do only picture myself with a girlfriend in a serious relationship. Whats going on!? I need help!
Heather Corinna replies:

What a person wants and enjoys in media -- including pornography -- may or may not have any relationship to what they want and enjoy in real life. That's often particularly the case with fantasy media, which pornography usually very much is. A big part of viewing, reading, or otherwise engaging in fantasy is about escaping reality, or exploring thoughts and feelings that maybe we think we might like in reality, but which aren't actually realistic or possible, aren't possible yet, or which we don't feel would be safe or comfortable for us in actuality. Porn isn't just fantasy for the viewer, either: just like actors in movies who play FBI agents often aren't and don't want to be FBI agents, actors in pornography are sometimes not the sexual orientation in real life that they're portraying on-screen or in photographs, or aren't really into what they're acting like they're into in a scene.

When someone is looking at sex (or anything else) in media, they're also not always imagining themselves to be in the picture, or imagining themselves to be in a specific role in the picture, or even necessarily mentally or emotionally following the scenes or the plot as they're laid out, but may be overwriting their own stories, ideas or feelings unto what's actually there.

It may be that some of what you find arousing in that material, for instance, isn't so much two men being sexual with each other, but is seeing male sexuality portrayed without female interaction or energy, or seeing certain kinds of masculinity that you might find appealing or exciting. What's different between same-sex porn and hetero porn also often isn't just that the pairs look different: for instance, you'll rarely see male-receptive anal sex (as in, anal sex about a guy's bottom) in hetero porn. Maybe you like that activity. Maybe you are projecting yourself into the picture and like looking at fitter, younger guys who might look a bit more like you than the men in straight porn. The interpersonal dynamics can be presented very differently: maybe that's what's getting you off. Or maybe you just aren't a fan of watching people have sex while wearing lipstick or lingerie. Who knows?

I'll talk about this more in a second, but it may also be that disgust you feel is part of or fueling your arousal: often enough, when people imagine something to be forbidden in some way, they can find it a lot more exciting than if they find something to be totally okay and no big whoop. Of course, it may be as simple as this: you enjoy watching men have sex together because you enjoy watching men having sex together or do want to have sex with men.

Regardless, some straight people like porn that isn't straight (like some gay people like porn that isn't gay), and what we like in fantasy or media isn't a sound way to try and figure out what our orientation is or a place to look for a match with what we like or want in real life, even though for some folks, it is in some ways. Porn just isn't the place to find that answer. At best, it can give little cues, and sometimes it doesn't give any at all. Sometimes it even gives what feel like, or you're sure are, the wrong cues.

You might be heterosexual, and in your real life may have no interest now, and may not ever, in having a sexual or romantic relationship with men. Your real-life sexual and romantic interests may lie solely with women. Or, it might be that you're not heterosexual, that you do have that interest now (and are just very resistant to it or are suppressing it because it scares you), or don't, but will later. Maybe you're bisexual or pansexual, and your real-life sexual and romantic interests include people of more than one or all genders. Maybe you're homosexual and your real-life sexual and romantic interests will be solely about men. Maybe you're something else entirely. You're not likely to know all of that right now, however, and you certainly can't predict the future. It sounds to me like where you're at with all of this is just starting to consider it for the first time.

Figure it's like an equivalent phase with how people decide what they want to do with their lives, when they're only three years old and they say when they grow up they want to be an astronaut who speaks Swedish and is also a roving-one-man-bluegrass-band in space. You probably wouldn't stuff a banjo and a Spanish-Swedish dictionary into that kids' backpack and then throw him in a shuttle. You probably also wouldn't tell him, when the next month he said when he grows up he wants to be a rollerskating stylist for only a very select clientele of poodles dyed plaid, that he could never, ever be that, since he already decided and announced he was going to be an astronaut last week. The same goes for you in this. No need to think you have to jump ahead when you're not sure how or if you want to jump.

When so much of this is still abstract in your real life, when you're just starting to develop your adult sexuality, it's often really hard to know or even make a realistic guess of how you'll feel later on down the road when this is all less abstract and less new. You don't have to have all the big answers right now. All you need to know at any given time is what you do want at a given time and what you don't. If you don't have a name for what that is or feel confident giving that a name now, you don't have to. You don't ever have to name you in this way if don't want to. So, I say you just let yourself be in the questioning space you're in for now, keep thinking about it like you've started to, and don't sweat whatever the conclusion will be later, because whatever it is, it'll be okay.

But I also want to unpack some other things in your question to inform some of that thinking. I think they're important for you and important for others. They're important to me, particularly as a queer person and someone who wants everyone to be able to live in a world where we're all accepted for who we are and can live our lives in peace and with real liberty. If you discover sooner or later that you are not heterosexual, unpacking some of this will make a huge difference in your own life, in your feelings about yourself, and in your real relationships, both your sexual and/or romantic relationships, but also in how you relate with friends, family and everyone else. If you think who you are or might be is disgusting, or can't picture the life you may want without feeling disgusted, you're likely to be an incredibly unhappy person who is going to have a very hard time in life.

It's one thing to just be uninterested in something we don't want, and to feel apathetic about it. It's something else to be disgusted, or to have a strong aversion, especially when that something is totally optional in our own lives, when it isn't about anyone doing any kind of harm to someone else, and when it hasn't done and won't do any harm to us.

Let's say I don't like running on a treadmill (I don't). It hurts my knees, I find it dreadfully boring, and I'd just rather be doing something else. I get a choice about whether or not I do it, though, and it's not that it's hurting me or others, so I'm apathetic. Treadmill running? Meh, no thanks, whatever. I don't have a strong reaction to the idea of it because it's not like jogging on a treadmill ever did anything horrible to me, it's just not my thing. If I got to choose between the treadmill and another activity I really liked a lot, like boxing, I'd choose boxing, not because I disliked the treadmill, but because I really like boxing. My choice there would be about moving towards what I did like, not liking something else only out of reaction to what I felt an aversion to, to what I wanted to avoid. By all means, if I tried treadmilling once and wound up with the treadmill disabling my body, or someone forced me to do it when I didn't want to, I would probably feel a lot more strongly, and might have an aversion, quite justifiably. I might even be really scared of it, because what happened to me with it was traumatic.

But if I had really strong, negative feelings about the treadmill without any kind of traumatic or negative experience, or felt I was only choosing something else to avoid the treadmill, not because I much more wanted to do that something else, it'd be sound for me to figure that something was seriously up with my heart or my head that I wasn't in touch with -- like having a fear of some kind, rational or irrational -- or that I was perhaps reacting to someone else's aversion and/or fears.

That strong disgust you feel when you imagine men together in a relationship, and perhaps may even feel when you're turned on watching men have sex together in porn, is coming from somewhere. It could be coming from homophobia in your upbringing, community, from friends or family, or just out and about in the world: there's a lot of it, so it's mighty hard to miss. That reaction could be about gender: it's hard sometimes to untangle homophobia from fears or insecurities about gender or gender identity. It could come from a fear that you're gay or bisexual yourself, or that liking men sexually or romantically, even in fantasy, makes you less of a man, fears that might be irrational, but might also be rational. While there's nothing scary about being a given orientation in and of itself, much of the world we live in presents it as scary, awful, wrong or bad. Much of the world is still not at all kind to those of us who aren't heterosexual, and queer people often have to face a lot of discrimination and bias that most straight people don't. And if you think you might be a way you just really don't want to be or don't feel prepared to be, even though it's okay to be that way, it can feel very frightening.

In case the term homophobia trips you up, UC Davis' Department of Psychology says: "The American Heritage Dictionary defines homophobia as "aversion to gay or homosexual people or their lifestyle or culture" and "behavior or an act based on this aversion." Other definitions identify homophobia as an irrational fear of homosexuality." AVERT gets more in depth with their definition: "Homophobia is generally defined as hostility towards or fear of gay people, but can also refer to social ideologies which stigmatise homosexuality. Negative feelings or attitudes towards non-heterosexual behaviour, identity, relationships and community, can lead to homophobic behaviour and is the root of the discrimination experienced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Homophobia manifests itself in different forms, for example homophobic jokes, physical attacks, discrimination in the workplace and media representation."

Some studies, like one done at the University of Georgia, reported in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (August, 1996) have linked greater sexual arousal to homosexual material to homophobia. In other words, it's entirely possible that your feeling so aroused by this might be because of, or amplified by, homophobic feelings or attitudes. Homophobia is something that is very often seen in people who may be homosexual or bisexual themselves and are very afraid of those feelings, or feel there is something terribly wrong with them (even though there isn't). Whether or not any of this is the case for you, you'll just have to find out or figure out for yourself which, again, will probably take some time.

I don't know if you've been paying attention to the news lately, but if you have, I don't have to tell you that we've had a lot of tragedies lately that stemmed from homophobia. That's nothing new, as this has long been a very serious problem, but it's a major and horrible wake-up call for anyone who had the idea homophobia wasn't still a big deal.

No one's thoughts, mind you, all by themselves, can do anyone else harm. I'm not suggesting that the thoughts and reactions you're having around this make you responsible for anyone else's suffering or death. But homophobia has been very much associated with some kinds of violence and aggression, as well as with the high suicide and depression rates of queer people. A big reason why some people put those thoughts into violent or otherwise abusive action, actions that can and DO do others real harm, tends to be because they don't have those thoughts challenged, don't really take a good look at them, and don't work on working through those attitudes and feelings to ditch them. This is important for everyone to know whether they might be the person who hurts someone else with their own homophobia, and/or who might be hurt themselves by someone else's. Like racism or xenophobia, homophobia can and does deeply hurt people and the world we live in. Even when the more benign effects of homophobia can have a big impact.

One example of institutionalized homophobia (and heterosexism and transphobia), for instance, is that very few people grow up in a world or a culture which presents same-sex or same or similar-gender romantic and/or sexual relationships as as normal, as acceptable, and as potentially wonderful as opposite-sex or gender relationships. Even when those relationships are in a child or teen's immediate community, often they are hidden away or intentionally made less visible than straight relationships.

You talk about only being able to picture yourself in a serious relationship with a girl. That might be because it turns out you only want relationships with girls. But it might also be because that's the only picture that got put in your head, or that the people or world around you ever showed you or let you see. A lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual or other not-heterosexual folks have a hard time picturing themselves in anything but opposite-sex relationships not because they aren't really queer, but because it's the only, or the most pervasive, picture they've seen, or the only way they have seen relationships or families presented positively.

Again, maybe you aren't picturing yourself with another man romantically or in a family because that isn't what you want, and you're just not wired that way. But maybe you aren't because you can't even really imagine what that picture looks like (and which porn isn't going to show you), are only seeing it as some weird or wrong translation of a male/female relationship (which doesn't make sense since there aren't any women present) or because you're scared of that picture and how other people feel about it.

But you know what? That IS an okay picture: no more or less okay than any other. It is also a REAL picture: as real as any other. There are lots of real, live men in the world whose real, live picture that is, and who are as okay as anyone else is okay. People truly loving each other, people deeply committed to each other, people passionate about each other, who are caring for each other well and creating happy lives together. I can't create a picture like that with any combination of people that is disgusting to me, because I can't find anything disgusting in those things. I think all of those things are beautiful and marvelous.

But if you have a hard time doing that when it comes to men doing that with men, and it really freaks you out, I think it's a good idea to think through why. I know some folks will think that can be a lot to ask of someone you're age, but I'd say if you've started asking the questions, and seeing the conflicts, you can get started -- just started, not finished, that would be too much to ask or expect -- trying to answer those questions and resolve those conflicts.

I'd love to say none of this is anything to be scared of, but the fact of the matter is that no matter what kinds of sexual feelings and feelings of love we have, and no matter who we have them about or with, even if and when we and everyone around us is accepting and supportive, that's big stuff and big stuff is all often scary in some way.

No matter what, and no matter where your head and heart take you in all this, the most important thing I want you to know is that it's okay to have doubts, it's okay to have questions, and it is okay for you to have sexual and/or romantic feelings for people of whatever gender you have those feelings for. If you find or figure out over time in your life that you're straight, that's okay. If you find out you're bisexual, that's okay. If you find out you're gay, that's okay. If you find out you're something else entirely, that's okay. No matter who you are and what it is you wind up wanting, so long as you enact those feelings in yourself and with others with genuine respect, care and consent, it's okay and you're okay.

I do hope that you can identify someone besides me, who you can't talk with in person, to talk to about some or all of this, both about your worries and feelings about orientation, but also about using pornography, and what questions it brings up for you, especially given your age.

I do feel I should tell you that at your age, you're probably accessing material that isn't lawful for anyone to be providing you. Now, that onus isn't on you: in the United States you aren't breaking any laws by looking, the legal bits of this are for the adults making and distributing the porn you're accessing to be concerned with. That said, while I don't feel comfortable saying there's any one "right" age for sexual material as a whole, sexual material can, while arousing, also be pretty confusing. I know that both porn and orientation can be really uncomfortable things to talk about, and you probably also want some privacy around them, but is there an adult in your life you can trust and feel comfortable talking to about this; who you suspect will be supportive of you, won't punish you and who will give you feedback that's sound? I know not everyone has someone like that, but if you can think of anyone who might be able to be that person, I'd encourage you to have some of this conversation with them, too, especially if you're going to be cruising a lot of porn, since it can send some mixed messages, can portray a lot of things in ways that are so unrealistic, and can sometimes make conflicted feelings feel even more tricky.

I'm going to leave you with some links that might help you out more, and an open invitation to come to our message boards and talk more about this, especially if you don't have anyone else you feel you can talk to or feel comfortable talking with.

More like This