How Mike Piazza Made Me a Sexual Suspect

A couple of years ago, I read this "Esquire" article about Mike Piazza and the writer invoked that invariable cliche that when he walks into a room, men and women will size him up because the former want to be him and the latter wants to be with him (and probably change him, as women are often accused of wanting to do in these stories.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about the politics of sexual presence. A guy like Mike Piazza is undeniably handsome, so noting his sexual presence is par for the course. But what about the rest of us? About those guys who have no discernable sexual presence and simply must make do with whatever we have going for us?

I have always wanted to be looked at when I walk into a room. Well, I am looked at but not in the way that I'd prefer. You see, the hidden truth about men is that men indeed look at each other because they're sizing up the competition. It's automatic, maybe even unconscious, but definitely some deep evolutionary reflex at work. Can I keep up with him? you ask yourself. Is he better looking? Bigger chest? Bigger arms? Thicker hair? And yes, does he have a bigger dick?

I'll get back to that primal question in a minute, but suffice to say, when I've walked into a room, I'm routinely ignored. Can you possibly imagine what it feels like to be ignored? After years of such ignonimy, you start to feel completely sexless. It's almost as if you've become permanently affixed to the background with no hope of attracting any attention at all. You start to feel like a sexual suspect.

(Now to the primal question: yes, ladies, men may deny it left, right, and center, but we most certainly do look at other men in the locker room, because we want to see for ourselves if our friends measure up. And men pretty much assume that attractive men have bigger dicks, even though the first thing we say is, "Well, he may have looks and a great body, but I bet he's got a small cock." Listen to your male friends the next time and tell me if I'm wrong.)

Women ignoring you can be explained with some subtle form of unfailing logic: she's probably a lesbian. Or from Vassar. But men ignoring other men, that's a deep psychic wound that is hard to recover from. If you're threatening to another man, then how are you supposed to be attractive to a woman? Now, by threatening, I don't mean you give dirty looks to someone and make a fist or that "you-wanna-go-outside-so-I-can-kick-your-ass?" turn of the head. I mean in that evolutionary manner that takes all of three seconds from start to finish, but is so hard wired into us that we couldn't stop if we wanted.

So while people notice the sexual presence of Mike Piazza, they invariably will notice the sexless presence of me, thus making me completely suspect. And nowadays, that means the first question on their minds is "Is he gay?" Years of being ignored makes a sexual suspect feel deeply out of place, as if one is carrying around a sign reading "I am no threat at all. Not to men. Not to women. Please look past me." Now the irony of all this being ignored is that you wind up being focused on because people are trying to figure out your sexuality.

A sexual suspect doesn't get treated like a real man, but more an object of curiosity. So everything that he says or does gets parsed for clues. At my office, I have several pictures of my nephew hanging up, plus a couple shots of Mr. Piazza in action). Imagine my surprise when I overheard a co-worker ask another co-worker if I was gay. That's the experience of sexual suspect: under constant scrutinty. What would normally be nothing more than a proud uncle showing off his nephew becomes some re-enactment of ancient Sparta.

It's also made worse when you slip up. Sexual suspects need always to be on guard and often be more aggressive than is usually expected from men. I once made the mistake of mentioning that watching two women have sex in a porn film didn't really turn me on. I might as well have said that I found 5-year little boys thrilling, based on the reactions I got. It's a clich&ecute; that all men are supposed want to see two women kiss or make out or such stuff, but it's become so embedded that it's accepted as being Absolutely True, and the true measure of All Things Male. How did I get out of that situation? I clarified that I didn't like watching brunettes get it on. Everyone knows that real men like watching blondes go at it.

There is no cure for sexual suspects. You have to go through life feeling on the outside, ignored and questioned by all around you. In a funny way, you wind up looking at other men and wonder what they have that you don't. What is the root of their presence that gets a woman to look at you, or men to size you up as competition? (Even if a woman never comes up to you, it doesn't matter: you've gotten The Gaze).

The downside of all of this is that a sexual suspect begins to doubt himself. You feel different so you must be different, as the thinking goes. And I mentioned before, you start acting more aggressive to prove that you're really just a normal, average guy. Of course, because you're working from a sexual presence deficit, sometimes it comes across as forced, and the people who wonder about you just look at you, about to offer their helpful advice: "Why don't you just come out of the closet?"

And so it goes.