Two-and-a-half percent of American men ages 15-44 who identify as straight have had same-sex relations. That's according to a December study published in the journal Sociological Perspectives by Tony Silva and Rachel Bridges Whaley, which examined “the relationship between straight identification and nonsexual social factors among men who are attracted to men."
Colloquially, it's called “bud sex.”
Other recent articles and studies have pointed to a “bud sex” trend catching on in rural areas, particularly among white males. We conducted an unscientific search through hundreds of exciting propositions in the casual encounters section of Craig’s List to see whether these findings hold true in North Texas.
We began our search during a holiday week, perhaps not the best time to track down straight men looking for discreet gay encounters. To start, we placed an ad: "Straight man looking for straight man for bud sex.” We got three responses in the following hour and then nothing else.
Terry M. replied by volunteering a fantasy his wife had of being penetrated by a stranger, but only for 10 to 15 minutes (no "marathon fuck," he said). Terry also volunteered to film the encounter, but made no mention of the man-to-man offer.
Micky B. said he “would be interested,” and described himself as 50 years old and “DWM." That acronym could stand for “divorced white male” or “dick wet mission."
We also heard from Nicht Namen (“No name” in German). “I’m a MWM [married white male] but I have always enjoyed sucking a cock, touching, JO [jerking off] with a guy. Cousin did it to me when I was very young. Did it a few times in college.”
We asked Nicht Namen a few more questions and never heard back.
The Observer responded to several ads matching searches for “straight” and “bud sex." Some of them made mention of “manly” activities like beer-drinking in addition to sex.
A restaurant worker named Mike agreed to an interview. He advertised himself as being 20 years old, white and straight. “I have a fat ass and if I’m being honest a smaller cock,” Mike wrote in his personal ad.
Mike said he has no sexual experience with men, and purposely used that as a selling point. “Well, if they’re replying they obviously can’t be entirely straight,” he said. “The idea was that maybe more experienced gay men would be interested in a 'straight' guy.“
Mike said he’d received about a dozen responses but hadn’t met up with anyone who’d contacted him. “Some of them seemed shady,” he said, adding that just placing the ad had given him a thrill.
We asked openly gay pop singer Dezman Lehman, who performs as Dezi 5, for his take on bud sex. Lehman says he has “never had to come out; anyone who knew me already knew, and if they didn’t something’s wrong.”
The appeal of straight men, Lehman says, is that “everybody wants something that they think that they can’t have, and everybody likes the forbidden fruit.”
Lehman says he is frequently propositioned by “down low” men, both straight and married. In his experience, straight-identifying men are simply afraid to come out.
“I feel it has a lot to do with men and the gender role they have to perform," Lehman says. "A man would definitely date a woman that says he has had sex with a woman. But when a woman finds out a man’s had sex with a man, it’s different. I don’t know if it’s a gay or straight thing; it’s a human complex.”
Silva, who conducted the December study on bud sex, is a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at the University of Oregon. He points to another study published by Archives of Sexual Behavior which concluded that the number of adults who have had at least one same-sex experience has doubled since the 1990s. Yet another reveals that 2.8 percent of straight men under the age of 45 reported a same-sex experience.
“It’s probably much higher, but because of stigma that prevents honest reporting," Silva wrote the Observer in an email.
Silva shared some of the responses he received from subjects of his own studies, when he inquired after their motives for seeking sex with other straight men. He says participants made a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual identity.
The latter referred to a way of life and community, while the term “orientation” included a sense of attraction, fantasy and desire. In the case of married men, Silva said, “their extramarital sex with men seemed less threatening to their marriages.”
That last bit of reasoning was more prevalent in conservative, rural areas, Silva says. “Straight identification and marriage is especially important for many rural men,” he said.
Participants also reported a lack of desire from their female partners, male desires for anal eroticism or a desire for other men’s penises without attractions to men. “To help a buddy out” was another answer, as was the desire to feel dominant over, or dominated by, other men. Some of the participants expressed that men were able to have sex without romantic attachment, while women are not.
The majority of ads the Observer found on the Dallas Craig's List were seeking a “jack off buddy.” Lehman says he doubts the line is drawn at mutual masturbation. “It’s foreplay; they’re just being modest,” he says.
But one man who placed such an ad ("looking for a jack off bud"), a 39-year-old married postal worker named Kevin, insisted that was the only form of physical contact he was interested in, and he was neither conservative nor repressed.
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In his ad, Kevin shared a close-up of his genitals, and specified that he was looking to watch "pussy porn” with a friend. “Not looking to kiss, fuck and lots of body contact,” it read. "Married would be cool.”
Kevin said that he met someone off Craig’s List twice for this purpose, but that he’s had a difficult time finding men who only want to jerk off. “Talking about females, etc. would be hot with a like-minded person,” Kevin wrote to the Observer.
When asked why he prefers to do the latter with a straight man rather than, say, a straight or bisexual woman, he replied that “more drama and feelings go with that.”
Kevin said that married men like him seek each other because it offers more discretion. He says he's not gay, although he is attracted to penises. He's just not attracted to men in general. “Honestly, saying it doesn’t make sense. It is what it is.”