"No, no, I just...I was thinking about Eva Mendes in lingerie..."
Don't pretend it hasn't happened to you. Awkward moments caused by unexpected (even unwarranted) physiological "indications" that the body is preparing itself for reproduction-related activities. Yes, for men especially, this difficult-to-disguise indicator can make for a thoroughly embarrassing scenario. But perhaps it's not always indicative as you think, which is my purpose in writing this.
I've had conversations with a few people about this, including a friend I shall call Tommy. Tommy was concerned by accounts he'd heard of guy friends cuddling and one or both experiencing this "at attention" phenomenon. He avoided most such contact partially because he figured if he ever found himself in that situation, he would feel bad, sinful, and dirty. I am not one to tell people to loosen up, sexually. I think most people are plenty loose already, too much so in most cases. But I did see what I considered to be a possibly extreme interpretation, so I challenged it. I know: shocker.
I assured Tommy that the simple fact of that particular part of the body being engorged with blood does not necessarily mean you're up to no good or are engaging in something sinful or wrong. It doesn't even mean you're turned on by that person. He gave me a very confused look and begged some clarification, with a look as if I were fairly crazy or, at the very least, self-deceived. I continued, and the conversation went something like this (with some details filled in from my very vague recollection of the specifics, as this conversation took place a couple of years ago):
"Has that ever happened to you when you weren't engaging in inappropriate behaviors?"
"Has it happened when you weren't dwelling on titillating daydreams?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Have you ever had something brush you the wrong way and experienced a sudden 'response' from the big guy below?"
There was then an awkward pause in which I wondered if I had just revealed some crazy-strong sex drive I have or an exceptionally 'responsive' physiology, until I remembered I'd already talked to people who agreed this had happened to them plenty. *whew*
He countered, "But those are all things I don't necessarily have control over. If I'm doing something that causes it to happen, and I keep doing it, that's bad. That's sinful to indulge lust like that."
I retorted, "Does that physiological response always indicate lust? What if the vibration of a motorcycle 'caused' it to happen? Would you have to stop riding or go to the bishop for knowingly continuing the activity causing it by driving where you needed to go?"
From his somewhat blank expression, I could tell this was maybe not getting through as I'd hoped, and I was wary of coming up with examples that made it sound like I had a million weird fetishes.
"OK, listen. Sometimes, we think about getting all hot and heavy, and the body responds by getting ready for what it thinks you're anticipating. But the body also experiences external stimuli in certain ways that tell it, whether your emotions and brain are on board or not, that it's time to prepare for certain kinds of activity. It sometimes doesn't seem to matter what the stimulus is: if certain areas get brushed or pressure is applied, especially when you're the type of person who doesn't experience much physical contact to begin with, the body sometimes responds by heightening nerves or pumping blood selectively or whatever the case may be, depending on the stimulus and where it's applied."
I shared an account of just cuddling with a guy friend with whom there wasn't a romantic interest at all and wishing the ol' boy would just settle down because I really didn't want to do anything about it, and I didn't want the other party thinking I wanted to do anything about it. In fact, had the guy tried something, I would've had no problem saying, "Whoa, you need to consult the committee before believing the ol' loose cannon below. He tries to make executive decisions, but the committee usually overrides him."
I also told him about my first "real" massage at a local massage school and how I experienced some degree of 'response' even though the massage therapist, besides being a girl, was not the least bit attractive to me. It was just a natural physiological response that had nothing to do with wanting to get down and dirty. I certainly wasn't about to stop the massage and announce that though I am gay and have absolutely no concern about this becoming a saucy encounter, I mustn't continue an activity which results in blood flow to that particular extremity if my soul was to remain chaste. Junior sometimes just has a mind of his own, and there's not much you can do about it, aside from thinking about dead puppies or Lorena Bobbitt, both of which I did.
Tommy said something like, "OK, I can see that, and I hadn't really thought of it that way. But still, when you're talking about cuddling with a guy, it's pretty likely something more..."
"Well," I replied, "as I said, I've experienced it while cuddling up with a guy who was a friend but for whom I felt no attraction. But yes, it's a little more grey because sometimes you find you're attracted in a moment, and people sometimes fool around even when they're not attracted to each other but just because someone else was available and obviously...ready. So you definitely can't be reckless or complacent about it, and it's good to take an honest look at your motives and avoid pursuing activities which are likely to lead to things you don't want.
"All I'm really saying is:
b) even when it could be construed as a sexual response with someone you may be attracted to, if the act itself is not inherently 'bad', and it's not causing you to feel compelled to do 'more' (in which case you should probably change the situation, especially if there's any risk of reciprocation), you can just look down, laugh at your strong-willed little (relatively speaking, of course) friend who seems to have a mind of his own, shrug it off, and focus on the movie, conversation, or whatever else you should be focusing on besides an incidental and natural physiological process that you needn't do anything with.
"Simple as that."
His reticent face left me wondering how much headway I'd made, and he was beginning to look worn out from processing this perspective. I wasn't interested in pushing someone in the direction of unleashing their inner whore, so we moved on to other topics having nothing to do with anatomy.
Note: for related topics which spurred me to finally finish and publish this post after more than a year, check out Dichotomy and Hidden in the Light.