I used to know a man who, every month or so, would drive 100 or more miles - over state borders - to have sex with men he met on the net. He was happily married, active in the local church, and decidedly...traditional in attitudes to adultery and family.

Now, according to him the real buzz in these encounters was when men told him things like, "Gee, that's a real big dick you've got" and "Wow, what a great cock". They'd suck each other for half an hour, then he'd drive back to the wife and kids, generally in a cloud of guilt and determination never to do that again.

He also liked to watch me masturbate on webcam, but always said he didn't have a cam of his own - so I couldn't return his appreciation. Oh, and it might have been the settings on his monitor, but he was under the impression that I wasn't a completely white guy - "Yeah, jerk that coloured cock for me".

Are you getting the impression of mixed motives here? Enjoys being desired, but he's the one doing the looking. Likes mexican and 'dark' men, but politically conservative. Crosses state lines as a way to compartmentalise his sexual lives, and likes to say homosexuality is wrong because it's sex outside marriage.

I'm not moralising about someone else's hypocrisy - rather I'm thinking about how the lies we tell change with the role of who we're telling them to, and how the lies change when the role of the listener changes.

There are the lies we tell our aquaintences to make us look good to them, lies we tell ourselves to make us look good to ourselves...and lies we tell our confessors to make us look good to god. Or 'society', which is the same thing.

In my role as extramarital fun I got one story. In my role as listener afterwards I got another - which depended on whether I was listening to post-orgasm guilt, pillar of the community, or internal monologue validated by a nonjudgemental audience.

I have to wonder whether he liked sex with men at all, or was one of those straight men who fetishise masculinity - as bodybuilders do. Or whether he'd found that the people who made him feel sexy and desirable just happened to be other men. Or whether the half hour encounters with elaborate distancing rituals were more about the idea of sex than the reality.

The number of men who sit for hours at their computers to arrange sex, and then find ways to avoid it, should show how common this last is.

All this was well over a decade ago, and if he ever told me his name I've forgotten it. I don't think I could tell you one definite thing about what his motives were, least of all whether he knew them himself.

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