Abstract: 

This study draws on semistructured interviews with 19 white, rural, straight-identified men who have sex with men to understand how they perceive their gender and sexuality. It is among the first to use straight men’s own narratives, and helps address the underrepresentation of rural masculinities research. Through complex interpretive processes, participants reworked non-normative sexual practices—those usually antithetical to rural masculinities—to construct normative masculinity. Most chose other masculine, white, and straight or secretly bisexual men as partners for secretive sex without romantic involvement. By choosing these partners and having this type of sex, the participants normalized and authenticated their sexual encounters as straight and normatively masculine. The participants engaged in bud-sex, a specific type of male–male sex that reinforced their rural masculinity and heterosexuality. The married men framed sex with men as less threatening to marriage than extramarital sex with women, helping to preserve a part of their lives that they described as central to their straightness. The results highlight the flexibility of heterosexuality; the centrality of heterosexuality to normative rural masculinity; how similar sexual practices carry different meanings across contexts and populations; and the social construction of masculinities and sexualities by age, race, gender, time period, and place.

Silva, Tony J. 2017. “‘Helpin’ a Buddy Out’: Perceptions of Identity and Behavior Among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Each Other.” Sexualities, published online first. doi: 10.1177/1363460716678564.

Abstract: 

I conducted semi-structured interviews with ten American rural, white, straight-identified men who have sex with men to understand how they perceive their sexual identity and sexual behaviour. All ten tell other people that they identify as straight, and eight actually identify as straight. I detail three main themes: changes to sexual attractions, reasons for identifying as straight, and the meanings attached to sexual behaviour with other men. Half of the participants reported experiencing major changes to their sexual attractions, challenging the assumption that male sexuality is static. They described several reasons for identifying as straight, demonstrating that attractions and behaviour are not the only bases for sexual identity. The participants also explained that they experience sex with men in a variety of ways, many of which reinforce their straight identity. The results indicate that heterosexuality is a performance, rather than a natural expression of sexuality, and that interpretations – not just attractions and behaviour – are central to being straight.