It's awfully easy for a heterosexual like myself to shriek: Stop! If you don't have to, don't open that can of worms you're thinking about. If you have one shred of heterosexuality in you, cling on to it for dear life and make the most of it, because your life will be immeasurably easier.
Life is easier, after all, if you're in the majority of anything, and gays may be proud but often they have to work extremely hard to get to a point when they can take their sexuality for granted.
It's tempting, too, to say: if you have to give it a try, then do, but make it a one-night stand in a darkened club. At least you'll know whether you enjoy sex with men at all; at least you won't be messing around with the feelings of another poor bloke who's after hearts and rings which you almost certainly can't offer him at this stage.
Perhaps, since Ben is so young, it might be worth his giving gayness a proper go. But let's say he discovers he is bisexual - what then? He could find himself in real trouble, a sexual outcast, a member of no particular camp at all. Suspected by homosexuals, kept at arm's length by heterosexuals, a wandering sexual minstrel who will feel even more alone and different than he ever has in his life.
The problem is that if he's going to go in for a close loving relationship with either sex, unless it's agreed that he has flings on the side with anyone he wants, - highly unlikely - he will have to suppress one side of his sexuality in the end. A loving relationship with a guy? Well, if he wants to be faithful, and most of us do, he'll just have to lower his eyes when he sees a pair of lustrous lips and boobs waggling at him across the dinner-table. And if he ends up with this mythical woman, then what? Should he tell her of his - to use one of those strange words that's never found except in connection with sex - proclivities? To tell her would be to make all kinds of non-PC assumptions - that because he has a gay side he'll automatically be promiscuous; that because he's gay and he won't be able to keep his hands off other men, they ought to take special care when it comes to strange diseases. But in an ideal world he should be just as faithful to his heterosexual partner as he should be to his homosexual lover. In other words, at one point in his life, if he really wants to team up with a member of one or other sex, he's going to have to pack up all his other sexual feelings in a box and sit on them extremely tightly. Or, if not, be certain he never does anything about them.
Being bisexual does not mean having your cake and eating it. It means, unless you're going to lead a promiscuous life, having two cakes and eating only one. I think this is going to be extremely difficult after he's had a taste of the other.
Perhaps I'll go back to my instinctive reaction and advise Ben to stick to women. We all have sexual fantasies and proclivities (that word again); it doesn't mean they have to be indulged. There was quite a lot to be said for those old bisexual Victorian husbands who just buttoned themselves up, decided to plump for marriage and threw the rest of their sexual energy into catching butterflies.
what readers say
Go ahead - experiment
Why constrain yourself at such a young age?
I am a gay man in my late twenties who has had a number of gay relationships. I am now in a stable relationship with a man 10 years my senior who has had two lengthy marriages.
Maybe you are bisexual. If you want to explore the potential for a relationship with the guy you have already chatted to, why not?
Which of us ever knows that a relationship is going to be for ever when we embark on it?
Just for the record, my partner says he has never been so happy.
Whatever you decide, do it for you - and good luck!
Proceed with caution
There is never enough love in the world. If you have this chance to show it, then show it. Otherwise you could torture yourself for the rest of your twenties, as I did, and never know if it would have worked or not.
But a word of caution - don't put all your eggs in one basket. Talking to someone over the phone can be so different to meeting them in person. You may have to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince.
Trust your instincts
If you have feelings towards other guys, act on them.Should you decide that a male lover is not really what you want, you won't have lost anything.
I have many gay, bisexual and, of course, heterosexual friends; those of them discovered their true sexuality later in life always say they wish they had played a more varied field much earlier.
How do you know your attentions will go to the opposite sex after a while? Many people find that they are sexually attracted to a person's personality, regardless of their gender. My advice is: get on the phone to this guy who wanted a caring relationship and see what happens.
Respect others' feelings
The idea that everyone is firmly one way or the other is absurd. I have had loving relationships with both men and women, and so has my wife. I had a lot of confusion until I accepted my own feelings were justified.
Ben should look for happiness in a responsible and safe way - safe in the emotional sense as well as any other. If he is in a relationship with a man, that man may well feel extremely insecure if Ben starts talking about women and having children. Some women will also react badly to being told that the ex is a man. However, it is an enormous drain emotionally to be dishonest, and the damage done to relationships when it all comes out is considerably worse.
Next week's dilemma
Is it possible for me to change my husband? He has never given me a proper present at Christmas. Or, rather, he's never given me a present that I enjoy. He once gave me a mixer in its plastic bag from the electrical shop. Last year we had a new kitchen put in and he decided to make it my Christmas present, even though I had contributed towards it. In the early days he gave me a book of DIY, and this year he's said that now we're middle-aged we're too old for Christmas presents. I absolutely long for something to open from my husband. I feel childish, but it gets to me. It need only be a pot plant, or preferably something glittery, smelly or silly. I know Christmas will be ruined by my resentment. What can I do? Fiona
Letters are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a bouquet from Interflora. Send comments to me at the Features Department, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (fax: 0171-293 2182), by Tuesday morning.
And if you have a dilemma of your own that you would like to share, please let me know.