Am I having enough sex? Should I be having more? Or less? Should I be promiscuous while I’m young? Should I be having more adventurous sex? All these questions constantly go round and round in my head.
Gay sex is a minefield and for most of us, one we’ve had to navigate ourselves pretty much blind. Gay sex education is almost non-existent in school (at least when I was growing up), you can’t really turn to your parents for their perspectives and without gay siblings, role models or friends, there’s very few places one can turn to for advice.
For this reason most of what I personally learnt about sex was through porn and through trial and error.
I also wonder if the emphasis that the gay community places on sex is one of the reasons that so many guys (myself included) find it hard to make meaningful connections. There are definitely gay men out there who have a healthy relationship with sex but for the rest of, there’s confusion and disconnection and a little bit of anxiety.
Watch this video of me talking about gay sex and my experience and let me know how you feel about this sticky topic.
It’s the most colourful time of the year – it’s gay Pride in Sydney or as it’s locally called, ‘Mardi Gras’. A great time to celebrate the LGBTQI+ community and to stand proud with friends, family and straight allies. Unfortunately there are two things that happen around this time of year that really upset me.
Watch below and comment as I’d love to hear what you think!
I finally met someone off of a gay dating app who made it through my five phase filtering system. Now don’t be fooled by the headline, I have indeed met people off gay dating apps in the past, however this was the first date in 2019 and the first since I’ve initiated my new approach to dating. We met on a Saturday night and the below video is a recap of what ensued.
I’m giving gay dating apps one more shot but this time I’m applying a strategic method to hopefully find love. I’m also going into this experiment with an open mind, shifting my intentions slightly to see if it changes the outcome.
Inspired by a TED Talk given by a very intelligent and humorous woman named Christina Wallace, I’ve decided to apply five criteria to finding the perfect gay guy on Grindr, Chappy, Match, Hinge and Tinder. Watch the first instalment where I lay out the criteria that will hopefully lead me to find my gay Prince Charming.
Loneliness is a universal feeling but there are experiences of loneliness that are unique to gay men.
I recently published a post about being 34, single and lonely to which I received an overwhelming response. People reached out to show their love and support and in doing so, shared their own stories about loneliness. I read messages and comments from men and women who were older, younger, married, single, confidently alone and also afraid of being alone forever. Their words helped me to realise that loneliness doesn’t discriminate nor is it reserved for single people or for gay guys.
While loneliness is a common feeling, I do believe that gay men have it particularly hard due to the pressures put on us by gay culture and social media. In the below video, I discuss what I learnt about loneliness in the wake of my blog post and share my thoughts on why it seems that gay guys may struggle with loneliness a little bit more frequently and harshly.
What apartments, flat mates and colon inspections have taught me about loneliness.
I didn’t think I would be alone at 34. When I pictured my life in my 30’s I thought that I would be rich, famous and happily married to an Italian prince – no really, I thought I would be married to an Italian prince. Instead, I’m very much single, struggling to earn enough money to support my over indulgent millennial lifestyle and working in a job that makes other people rich and famous. Most of the time I’m content with this life however lately I’ve been feeling quite alone, a feeling which can be traced to the impending departure of my flat mate from our apartment. For the last four years I’ve lived with a wonderful flat mate in a gorgeous apartment, owned by a landlord who makes Patrick Bateman seem like a less aggressive Betty White. Soon my living situation will be turned upside down as my flat mate moves into his own place and we must decide quickly what to do with our lease.
This has left me in a predicament; find a random stranger to move into Patrick Bateman’s warehouse conversion with me or terminate the lease and move out by myself. I knew that this living situation wasn’t going to last forever and even though I wouldn’t have wanted it to, I honestly thought that the next time I would have to move it would be into a beautiful home with my beautiful partner (or a castle in the case of my Italian prince fantasy).
When I look back at the circumstances that led me to singledom in my 30’s, I’m not sure how this aloneness happened but I do feel that I’m partly to blame. Boys have come and gone in my life and while I’ve had a couple of loves, or what felt like loves at the time, I haven’t come across anyone who I think I could bare to keep for ever after. Perhaps I haven’t tried hard enough, opened my heart wide enough (insert anal joke here) or perhaps it’s because when one pictures his future husband to be Italian royalty with a sprawling estate in Tuscany and a villa on the cliffs of Positano, all other men pale in comparison?
Having to move has brought up a lot of unsettling feelings. Being a self-diagnosed social loner means that I should be relishing in the prospect of living by myself. Strangely, I’m feeling lonely and somewhat isolated. This move is a reminder that at 34 years old I’m solely responsible for myself – at the end of the day there’s nobody looking out for me except for me. Yes, I have a loving family but they live on the other side of the world. Yes, I have caring friends but this is London and everyone is dealing with their own issues which means that it’s my sole responsibility to find a new home while I juggle a hectic career, a health routine, a skin regime, cooking, cleaning, laundry, ironing, a social life, finances, check-ups, bills, appointments, groceries etc. etc. etc. If I drop a ball there’s nobody there to help me pick it up. Stupidly, on top of all this I’ve recently decided to give up alcohol (only until March) which now seems like the worst idea ever because alcohol makes me so, so happy. Oh and I’ve also given up sugar which is the only other thing besides alcohol that soothes me when I’m stressed. Mix all these things together and what’s even worse is that I’ve lost my sex drive completely. A once horny individual who’d get semi aroused at the site of a phallic shaped root vegetable, I now have no desire for sexual intimacy which means no desire to go out and meet men thusly continuing the cycle of perpetual non-man-ness and feelings of loneliness and gloom.
Just to give you an idea of how single I really am, let me regale you with a story of the anal kind. Mothers and friends stay with me here, this isn’t a story about sex. Alas, it’s a story about a medical misadventure. I’ll save you a rambling introduction and jump straight to the point where I find myself checked-in to Royal London Hospital for a sigmoidoscopy, a procedure that uses a camera to check the lower 20 inches of one’s colon. When you go in for such a procedure you are presented with two options; option one, sedation – this is where you’re put in a lovely state of utter relaxation through a twilight sleep whereby you feel nothing. The procedure takes place while you’re totally zonked and you wake up feeling fresh and revitalised with a professionally examined colon (as opposed to an amateur examined colon?). The second option is non-sedation whereby you’re completely awake for the whole procedure with nothing to relax you but some butt hole numbing cream. From what I’ve been told, option one is like floating on a soft marshmallow cloud of loveliness but take it from me, the chooser of option two, that option two is very different. You know that scene in Alien where the little alien explodes out of the guy’s chest? Yes? Well it feels a bit like that but without the relief of the alien actually breaking through your rib cage. At one point, when her camera was well past the point of no return, the doctor turned to me to tell me that some have likened the discomfort I was about to endure to the pain of childbirth.
Why would someone put themselves through such an ordeal? Well, anyone can choose option one but the catch is that they’ll only release you from the hospital if you have an escort. This means someone has to come to the hospital and check you out. They then need to chaperon you home and ensure that you don’t swallow your tongue or do whatever it is that doctors are afraid you might do after having some sedation and a camera up your bum. If you choose option two however, then you’re free to leave the hospital unaccompanied as soon as you’re finished.
It’s 3pm on a wintery Tuesday in December and I have no escort therefore I have no choice but to go with the alien-breaking-through-rib-cage-similar-to-childbirth option. I have no family member who’s obliged to help me out (because those are of course the rules of family), no friends to call upon because it’s 3pm on a wintery Tuesday and the hospital is in East London when all my friends work in the West and no Italian prince by my side because apparently Italian princes can’t be found on Grindr or Chappy or in dirty Hackney nightclubs. So as I stumble out of Royal London Hospital at 5pm on a wet and wintery Tuesday evening, releasing pockets of gas from my colon which I’ve been warned is a side effect of the procedure, and remembering that Dr. O’Donnell’s 20 inch long camera is the most action that I’ve had in weeks, I wonder to myself ‘is this the loneliest I have ever felt?’
But it’s not. It’s now when I have the real prospect of not having anywhere to live and no partner to lean upon that I feel the loneliest. Don’t cry for me though – this isn’t a pity post. I’m ok with my loneliness, in fact, I feel that loneliness can be an empowering feeling when looked up from a different perspective. It can shock you into action, make you evaluate your current situation and change your bad habits for the better. It can be the impetus for something beautiful and even a wakeup call to love.
I saw a psychic when I was in Sydney last month. She knew, without me saying a word, that I lived in London and that I was going to move out of my apartment. ‘You need to live alone’, she said, ‘it will open a space for you to find your soulmate’. What an interesting thought – maybe this loneliness, this current sense of foreboding and instability is actually the universe’s way of shaking things up to make room for love? Maybe this whole situation isn’t just a search for a physical home but it’s an awakening inside of me that things need to change in order for me to find a solution to my singleness. I believe that sometimes the universe gives you a hard nudge, such as imminent apartmentlessness, in order to push you in the right direction. While I’ve loved where I’ve lived for the last few years it has been the epicentre of a carefree, debaucherous and often wild lifestyle which I now see is in complete opposite of what I want and need now. Change can be hard and it can be scary and while I’ve tried to control my circumstances as best as I can to avoid the unknown, something inside of me tells me that this loneliness is only temporary and much needed for my own growth.
Who knows where I’ll be living in one month or even one year? Maybe I’ll still be alone, maybe I’ll be living with a partner or maybe if everything works out the way I imagined all those years ago I’ll finally meet my Italian prince, move into his family palace and live happily ever after.
I recently had a revelation about rejection while I was on the dance-floor in a random gay club in Boston. It was a Thursday evening in July and I was in the club alone. My friends were coming in from New York later that night and I had just enjoyed a dinner for one in a nearby restaurant frequented by Boston’s local gay community. After a couple of beers, a nice buzz settled over me and I was not in the mood to return to my hotel, so I did what I sometimes do when I’m feeling super confident (read tipsy) – I went out alone. Going to a gay club (or anywhere for that matter) by one’s self can be both daunting and empowering. It’s a lot easier when on holiday in a new city as you are unlikely to return anytime soon and thus need not worry about developing a reputation for being that guy who goes clubbing by himself (although there is nothing wrong with that either!).
I casually strolled past the door of the club a couple of times, conducting a ‘drive-by’ to try get a sense of what the place was like before committing to entering. ‘Just walk in and you can always walk out if you’re uncomfortable’, I said to myself, building up the confidence to actually go through with the act. Finally, I entered the unknown and was greeted by a sea of gay Bostonian boys. Another beer later and I was feeling even more confident and very pleased with myself at having the balls to go out alone. I tried to make eyes with the locals (eye contact – a dying approach to picking up in the world of gay dating apps) but received very little feedback. I began to feel a little despondent and conscious of the fact that I was dancing on my own (Robyn reference).
That’s when I realised that rejection is actually a wonderful thing.
To be honest, I hadn’t actually put myself too far out there to be rejected but I had been overlooked which at the time felt like the same thing. Nonetheless, I came to understand that rejection is actually a blessing in disguise. The way I see it is that with each rejection you’re one step closer to meeting the right person, whether that be the right person for the evening or the right person for life. It’s like a game of odds. The more chances you take, the more likely you are to win. You’re also bettering your game-playing skills with each chance taken. Let’s get mathematical for a minute to demonstrate my point further. Imagine that your Mr. Right is one guy in a group of 100. The chance of finding him on the first try is 1%. Those odds are pretty low but as you approach more guys and eliminate those that rejected you from the group, your chances get higher. Ultimately, you’ll find your man even if it means having to deal with 99 rejections along the way.
Now, I know that life is not a neat mathematical equation and I’ve probably over-simplified the problem but, in my experience, you do have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince (I’m still looking for mine and my lips are chapped but I’m hopeful!). The way I justify disappointment in love or picking-up in a gay club is through reframing the experience and seeing each rejection as a step closer to success. This is the same approach I try take in all areas of my life. Whether it be a career disappointment or missing out on renting what I thought was my dream apartment or waking up too late and forgetting to book tickets to see Britney Spears, I’ve noticed that something better is always just around the corner.
So instead of seeing rejection as negative or allowing your ego to sabotage the experience to reaffirm your feelings of unworthiness, change your thinking and learn to springboard off rejection, using it as a tool of empowerment. You must also never forget that in the end you want to be with someone who wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with them. If someone isn’t interested in you, there’s nothing you can do to change that so you shouldn’t exert emotion or effort trying to make them feel otherwise.
When I was a young gay boy and I felt disconnected from my peers, bullied by older guys because of my sexuality and generally despondent with the world, I would imagine a time in the future when I would be rich and famous. I’d see myself as an Oscar-winning actor, or a billionaire entrepreneur, living in a world where people longed to be my friend. This was my coping mechanism, my way to justify the hard times.
“One day, they’ll all wish they had been nicer to me. One day, they’ll see how amazing I am and they’ll regret the way they treated me”.
I thought that I had overcome these feelings but when an incredible opportunity came my way that almost made my childhood dreams and wishes come true, I realised that inside I was still a bruised young gay boy. It made me question the motivation behind my desire to be successful in all areas of my life and led me to ask, “Are gay men so obsessed with fabulousness and perfection because of the trauma we suffered growing up?”.
I don’t know about you, but my sexual education was a little blurry (much like the video below). It was very matter-of-fact, clinical and to be honest, terrifying. The key message was around safe sex and all the horrible things that could happen to boys and girls who didn’t follow the safe sex (or abstinence) route. This has had a lasting impact on the way that I view and enjoy sex. Watch the video below and comment to share your experiences around sexual education.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Israel several times, each time for a different reason. The first time I visited was in 2003 whilst on a youth program. We travelled the length and breadth of the country for three weeks, seeing every site, museum and two-star hotel that the country had to offer. The trip culminated in Eilat where I stayed on with a group of friends for a few days. It was during this time that I had my first adult gay experience. He was a soldier on leave from the army and our group had adopted him as one of our own. We all hung out together, drinking in our hotel rooms, going out for dinner, swimming in the hotel pool. One night after everyone had gone to bed, he and I decided to go for a late night dip. It was January in Israel, winter, but the pool was warm and the hotel near empty. We were messing around, as teenagers do. Just innocent, general roughhousing at first but the energy changed the more body contact we made. Sensing an opportunity, I dared him to take off his swimming costume. He said that he would if I would, so excitedly, I did. There we were, two guys, totally naked in the middle of the Middle East, not knowing what would happen next. Running into the pool was a man-made waterfall – one of those typical water features one would find in a holiday resort built in the 90’s. I dared him to jump off it. He did. Minus a few side glances in the high school locker rooms, it was the first time that I had properly seen another guy naked in the flesh.
The temperature dropped significantly so we returned to my hotel room which I was sharing with a girl friend. I suggested that we wash the chlorine off our bodies. He jumped into the shower first and then I joined him. We washed our respective bodies and climbed into the queen size bed which was dressed with one of those thick, floral bed covers – another nostalgic feature of resorts from the ’90s. I remembered how he had mentioned the fact that he wanted to study to be a physiotherapist after completing his army service. I recommended that he begin his education by practicing on me. He did. We eventually fell asleep next to one another. My leg occasionally brushed his leg. Once or twice his arm fell onto mine as he rolled over during the night. The four hours from pool to shower to bed felt like an absolute lifetime. My heart was beating feverishly. I had never felt so conscious or aware of the immediate moment as I had during our time together. It was the most errotic experience even without any sexual contact. The next day I left Eilat. Generously he drove me to the airport where we hugged, wished each other the best and parted ways. I don’t remember his name.
My second visit to Israel was the following December and it was far less eventful. I was still deeply in the closet and I was travelling with my family – a combination that very much limits one’s gay escapades. Most of the time was spent touring the country and visiting sites I had seen less than 12-months prior, only this time I was lucky enough to be upgraded from a two-star experience to a five-star experience. Bless my dear mother, she can hardly be described as pretentious, that is until it comes to hotels.
It was just before New Years 2004 as our tour guide pulled up to a hotel in Jerusalem that was far below par according to Mrs van Sant’s strict hotel criteria. Location – poor. Facilities – outdated. Decor – in desperate need of a makeover. Service – non existent. Rooms – dirty. Not wanting to add to the existing tension in the Middle East, my father knew that he had to act fast in order to avert an international incident. We checked-out before we even had a chance to check-in and were swiftly moved to the David Citadel. Now this hotel was much more to mother’s liking. Facilities – modern. Decor – divine. Service – exceptional. Rooms – modern and spacious. I can’t recall much of the rest of the trip but I do remember that I was sporting some sort of a mullet which apparently at the time was the height of fashion.
My next trip to Israel was four years later whilst I was living in Milan. By now I was becoming a fully fledged homosexual. Living in my own apartment in Milan, completely unknown in the gay community and not tied down by expectations or reputation meant that for the first time in my life I felt free to see and do everything that gay life had to offer. I took with me to Israel this excitement when in May 2008 I visited a friend who was studying at Tel Aviv University. He was living in a very cool, up-and-coming hipster area called Florentin. I recall that the apartment buildings were run down and didn’t have front doors meaning that visitors could come and go as they pleased. What they lacked in security they made up in charm, particularly because each building had a communal rooftop which were used by the locals for day drinking, laundry, dinner parties and general socialising. I visited quite a few cafes and bars that were beginning to open in the area but what I really wanted to do was explore the gay side of Tel Aviv. Unfortunately my straight friend, who perhaps was not 100% sure of his own sexuality at the time, was not very supportive of my endeavours. One evening, after passing a gay bar that I had read about during my extensive research online, I suggested that we pop-in for one drink. He was not interested and suggested that I go inside alone while he waited outside. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to see at least one gay bar in Tel Aviv, I entered alone. It’s not much fun being inside a bar and knowing someone is outside waiting for you. Remember when you were a kid and your mum used to come pick you up from your friend’s house but you weren’t ready to leave? It was reminiscent of that.
Flash forward to eight years later and I was back in Tel Aviv to meet my boyfriend who had already been in the city for a week to perform in a musical. We had had a fight just before he left and the relationship had moved into very rocky territory but I needed a holiday after a manic week working in Paris so decided to go ahead with our holiday which we had been planning for months. Our first few hours together were extremely uncomfortable however after copious amounts of alcohol we managed to settle into each other’s flow. The next day we broke up.
Although I wouldn’t recommend it, we managed to spend the next week together on holiday as ex-boyfriends, enjoying the food and nightlife for which Tel Aviv is famous. We stayed at Brown Beach House which was perfectly located between the bustling Allenby Street and Tel Aviv beach. We ate at Port Said, an incredibly cool and simple dining experience from famous Israeli chef Eyal Shani that is busy every night of the week. We visited the Dead Sea and Jerusalem and spent our last day relaxing on day beds, sipping mojitos in the sun at the ridiculously expensive but very European private beach club, Gazebbo. Our nights were filled with drinking at the now permanently closed gay Tel Aviv institution Evita Bar and Shpagat – a bar and meeting point where gay and straight locals gather before heading out to wilder places. Even though our nights always ended together, in the same bed, my ex and I managed to keep our hands to ourselves. Except for one night. Sun, drinks and the energy of Tel Aviv will have that effect on you.
I’ve now recently returned from my fifth trip to Israel. I was with my family again only this time I was with them in Israel as an out and proud gay man. On this occasion we stayed at a newly opened boutique hotel called Shenkin Hotel which was absolutely charming. Tel Aviv has come a long way in terms of hotels since my first visit in 2003. With tourism taking off and capital flowing into the city, there has been a surge in world-class hotels. Shenkin Hotel was not only modern and well situated behind the boutique shopping street from which it takes its name, but the staff were friendly and invaluable to have to hand when in need of restaurant and bar recommendations. On Tuesday evening the fabulous Israeli guy behind the reception desk (who was sporting beautifully manicured, black polished nails) suggested that I go to VRS at Pasaz. Accompanying me was my sister and her fiance. The party was wild, the boys were gorgeous and the music was the perfect blend of electro-pop, deep house and techno. Tel Aviv is one of those few cities in the world where people still smoke inside clubs and bars. This isn’t to everyone’s liking, particularly my very health conscious sister who had to leave after one-drink due to being overcome by smoke inhalation. Luckily, just before I was about to accompany her and her fiance back to our hotel, a friendly Israeli guy offered to look after me should I decide to stay for one more drink. Not ready to go home, I took him up on his offer and ended up staying at the club with him until closing. In fact, he looked after me so well that he even offered me a bed to rest my weary dancing feet.
The rest of the week was spent sun soaking on the beach and exploring Tel Aviv’s incredible food scene which included breakfast at Benedict, messy Middle Eastern fare at Miznon, two visits to Port Said and a long dinner with many delicious and inventive plates at Ha’Basta. I went back to Shpagat, which I’ve decided is my favourite gay place in Tel Aviv for pre-party drinks and was taken by a local friend to speakeasy bar, Cookies Cream where they played the funkiest disco music this side of 1973. To cap off my best trip to Israel to date, I spent the last four days of my holiday at the Ritz Carlton in Herzliyah which is at the height of luxury and a great place to escape from the craziness of Tel Aviv.
My next trip to Israel will hopefully be for Tel Aviv’s world famous pride in June 2018. While I’ve never been before, I’ve heard from friends that this truly is the best gay pride in the world not only because of the gorgeous men that descend on the city and the wild parties that line the beaches but because of the inclusivity and openness that Tel Aviv residents show towards their LGBTIQ+ visitors – something rather unique for the Middle East.
To come with me on all my travels and adventures, follow me on Instagram and Snapchat @joshvansant.