As a straight-boy jock, I have been showering with large groups of naked men for decades. And these showers have not taken place in bathrooms where we straight men yell at one another from modest private stalls. No, we athletes clean ourselves in large, communal Roman gladiator bathhouses. My high-school locker room's showerheads were placed so that we boys soaped up while facing one another. And we did this soaping while standing two feet apart.
In other words, I, Sherman, a heterosexual lifelong basketball player, have seen a lot more cock and man-ass than many gay men.
As I age, my cock is essentially the same one I owned in 1983. But my balls and ass are loosening and threatening to avalanche down my body. I think I'm an attractive man wearing clothes, but when I'm naked... well, let's just say that I'm grateful I have a pleasant face. And, grading on a curve, I'm actually a relatively fit middle-aged man. All around me in the health clubs, I encounter mountainous guts that make my chubby belly look like a foothill. I see butt cheeks that look like two Sasquatches playing tennis. I recoil from feet so gnarled, hirsute, and abused that a hobbit would suggest a pedicure.
So why do certain homely straight men worry that gay men are even remotely interested in sexually harassing their concave asses? If strange women don't amass in large numbers to jump your bones, then why would packs of gay men hunger for you?
And, hey, I don't mean to punish those folks who are not hot, hot, hot. The plain and the lovely deserve equal amounts of love. I am only talking about sexual objectification.
So how do these dynamics change when it comes to the relationship between gay men and beautiful straight men? Does it mean gay men might sexually harass beautiful straight men?
I've never been beautiful, but gay men have hit on me, especially at gay film festivals where my movie The Business of Fancydancing played to slightly interested audiences. More than one man whispered his room number to me while handing me a hotel key card, which isn't nearly as romantic as handing somebody an actual, old-fashioned key and would have also relied on me being able to remember a hotel room number. When I travel, I have to take photos of the room numbers so I can refer to them when I find my way back. If I had wanted to have a one-night stand with a gay cinema fan, I would've been forced to wander the Hyatt hallways chanting, "I'm a straight Indian filmmaker looking to explore other options," and hoping that my admirer heard me from inside his room.
Once, in a private box at a Mariners game, a dude (married to a woman, who was five feet away) stealthily pushed his crotch against my blue-jeaned butt. That guy wore his closet like it was a pair of khaki pants with an open fly.
How do I react to these sexual advances? My first thought is "Men are boundaryless animals." My second thought is "Women have to deal with this shit all the time." My third thought is "How flattering." My fourth thought is "I wish this dude hitting on me was cuter."
So who are the best-looking men in the USA? The answer, obviously, is professional athletes. I mean, Jesus, Google-Image Adrian Peterson. Study how cut, shredded, and jacked he is.
Cut. Shredded. Jacked. Those are violent straight-boy adjectives that mean "beautiful." But we straight boys aren't supposed to think of other men as beautiful. We're supposed to think of the most physically gifted men as warrior soldiers, as dangerous demigods.
And there's the rub: When we're talking about professional athletes, we are mostly talking about males passionately admiring the physical attributes and abilities of other males. It might not be homosexual, but it certainly is homoerotic.
So when Jason Collins, an NBA basketball player, announced this week that he was gay and became the first active athlete in the four major professional American sports leagues to come out of the closet, I was proud of him. And I was aroused, politically speaking.
He's the Jackie Robinson of homosexual basketball big men.
He's seven feet and 250 pounds of man-loving man.
And he's an aging center in the last days of his professional career who might not be signed by a team next season.
Homophobic basketball fans will disparage his skills, somehow equating his NBA benchwarmer status with his sexuality. But let's not forget that Collins is still one of the best 1,000 basketball players in the world. He has always been better than his modest statistics would indicate, and his teams have been dramatically more efficient with him on the court. He is better at hoops than 99.9 percent of you are at anything you do. He might not be a demigod, but he's certainly a semi-demigod. Moreover, his basketball colleagues universally praise him as a physically and mentally tough player. In his prime, he ably battled that behemoth known as Shaquille O'Neal. Most of all, Collins is widely regarded as one of the finest gentlemen to ever play the game. Generous, wise, and supportive, he's a natural leader. And he has a degree from Stanford University.
In other words, he's a highly attractive dude.
If he does play in the NBA next year, I'm sure certain teammates might feel threatened by his presence in the locker room. I imagine that homophobic fans will hurl insults at him. But I'll be a fan who will see him sitting at the end of the bench, maybe getting to play a few minutes every other game, and still be jealous of his athletic gifts.
I'll be the straight boy who'd love to have a fraction of Jason Collins's physical near-perfection. And other straight-boy fans, homophobic or not, admittedly or not, will also be jealous of Collins's status among the basketball elite.
Gay folks and straight supporters have had much to celebrate recently. I am happy that gay marriage is legal in Washington State. I am happy that an exclusively heterosexual institution is admitting my gay brethren. But I'm overjoyed that an ostensibly straight-boy activity like basketball, my greatest love, is now being recognized as the homoerotic extravaganza that it is. After all, aside from swimming, diving, and water polo—the Holy Trinity of Way Gay Sports—basketball is the sport where men wear the least clothes. When playing ball, we're essentially just in underwear. Hell, even among us pathetic hoopsters, we usually play shirts against skins. Yep, one team is always topless.
I recently saw video of my topless body jogging down the court. It was a tragic version of Bo Derek running down the beach in that movie about being a perfect 10. I look like a figure eight. So I've been eating better and exercising more because I, the basketball player who loves vaginas, want to be sexually objectified by women. And men. Truly, when it comes down to it, don't we all want to be universally desired?