After a few days of putting it off, I finally reread the chapter on Male Homosexuality from physician David Reuben’s 1969 book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), that I last read fully in 1971.
Today the writing seems comical, dated, and completely inaccurate. But the tragic part is that this is the book that so many of us read in the 1970s to learn what it meant to be gay.
With a tone of contempt combined with titillation, Ruben writes as if he is the expert. In the question and answer format of the book, he answers his own questions in a breezy and erudite manner that implies he knows all. Sadly, even for the late 1960s, he describes a gay world and a male homosexual that never existed.
Throughout the chapter he repeats a theme that he is taken with: all homosexual men really want to be women. This goes so far at the end of the chapter for him to suggest that the ultimate desire of every homosexual man is to become a woman, ultimately for some, to the point of having a sex change operation.
A section that frightened me the most at fourteen years old was this Q&A leading to a discussion of where homosexual men are driven to meet each other:
“Most homosexuals do it another way. They have a compulsion to flaunt their sex in public. A public washroom is frequently their stage. Bus stations, parks, bowling alleys, are haunted by gay guys. Random and reckless selection of partners is the trademark. The fact that the stranger is likely to be a policeman, an “S and M,” or a syphilitic never seems to occur to them. This is the core of homosexuality.”
More excerpts from this chapter can be found on this web page, and reading these quotes quickly demonstrates how sick and hurtful this book was for so many men.
The thought that for my sexual life, I would be driven to find men for sex in “Bus stations, parks, bowling alleys” felt like a sick and seamy life that I wanted no part of. I cannot fully describe how completely this book and the chapter on homosexuality affected me when I was fourteen years old. It drove me to look for a way to change from homosexuality, something Ruben says is ‘easy’ with the right therapist, for many years to come.
Ruben’s purpose, so clear on rereading, was to titillate Middle America. “Madge, you won’t believe what those homosexuals do to each other sexually.” Ruben succeeded and the book made him wealthy. But hundreds of thousands of LGBT people were harmed, made to feel like sick damaged goods, with little hope for loving happy lives.
I feel sad for that fourteen old that I once was, desperate for information to understand who and what I was, but had to learn about himself in a snide, contemptuous, nasty, hurtful and inaccurate form.
Note: the title of this posting comes from a phrase from Ruben’s book, which struck me as too funny. Here is the full sentence: “A certain number of men who appear muscular, athletic, and manly in every respect are actually enthusiastic homosexuals.”