Tag Archives: gay health

SELF SABOTAGE AND THE MAGIC 10%

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I honestly believe that we are our own worst enemies. Growing up gay can be fraught with hardship due to the external pressures we feel from peers, our family and society but it’s the pressure we put on ourselves that can have the most debilitating effect. We don’t often realise the impact of our subconscious minds on our ability to live fulfilling lives. Why is that we never feel fulfilled? Because we self sabotage and what’s worse is that we self sabotage without being consciously aware that we’re doing it.

I used to think that fulfilment would magically find me when I had ticked a certain list of criteria pertaining to my body, career, sexuality, popularity and financial status. My life journey has now led me to understand that fulfilment is something you find within yourself that is not based on the accumulation of things or achievements beyond the self. I have also learnt that many people, myself included will never feel fully satisfied until we can overcome the sly devil inside of us that sabotages our efforts when we’re close to achieving success. Self sabotage leads to disappointment which is a roadblock to finding fulfilment within yourself.

Take this blog for example – in October I committed to writing 31 posts in the lead up to my 31st birthday. I started off strongly enough, posting an article everyday but as I neared the finish line something unconscious clicked inside of me which prevented me from writing until today. It was as if my intention to complete the task to which I had publicly committed was inherently flawed by cause of my own committal. Basically, because I had said I would do it, I couldn’t. I could not write the last few articles much like many other things in my life that I have abruptly stopped right before succeeding at them. This left me utterly disappointment and reciting a harsh yet familiar internal dialogue about my inability to complete a task to which I pledged.

Another example is at the gym where I’ve applied myself to strict regimes that I have confidently followed until spontaneously falling off the bandwagon which always coincides with the same point in time that I’m starting to see positive results from all my hard work. It is as if something inside of me doesn’t want me to succeed and when it sees me trying it lures me into a false sense of comfort before sneaking up on me and undoing all my efforts.

My own self sabotage and reflection of my habits has taught me a valuable lesson – the 10% principle. I’ve come to believe that you can put in 90% of the work but it’s the last 10%, the last push, the last effort, the last hurdle which is where the magic happens. There’s a point where you can see the finish line and if you’re not paying attention you’ll miss the mark and start running backwards unless you find the willpower to push through for only 10% more. That’s the point when everything changes. I believe that the most successful people in their fields are those who have learnt to overcome self sabotage and who push themselves 10% further than the rest of the population. Although it’s a small percentage of the overall effort, it is that portion of the work that makes all the difference.

It took me almost seven months to finally update my blog even though I felt the pressure inside of myself to do so everyday. Had I applied the 10% rule a little earlier then I would have had so much great content to share with you, my wonderful reader. Now I hope to make it up to you with more regular posts and content that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Image by Wendy Loke Photography

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NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU

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Here’s an important lesson which will help you make friends, develop relationships and generally improve your self-confidence – not everyone is going to like you. In the same way that you are not attracted to everyone you meet, so too will others not be attracted to you. Do you waste your time chasing after friends who are not really interested in spending time with you or boys who don’t seem keen on you? Well then it’s time to change your behaviour.

I spent too much energy in my 20’s trying to make people like me and then worrying about why some people didn’t. It was so easy to dismiss those guys that were flirty but so hard to overcome the feelings of rejection when someone’s response too me was less than awestruck. Through experience I have realised that the pursuit of other people’s approval is redundant. We have no control over another guy’s feelings or tastes so there’s really no point in trying to convince them otherwise. Rather focus on those who like what you’re offering.

Why is it that we chase after guys who are mean to us or dismissive or aloof but fail to recognise those that are kind, open and attentive? For me, it was the need to validation. When someone showed the slightest interest in me then I felt validated. I would then move onto the next person. If the opposite was true then I would chase after that validation until I either received it through exerted efforts to change their opinion of me or I would feel despondent and unworthy of love if I was unable to change their viewpoint. I see this same behaviour in friends of mine who are exceptionally good looking. They thrive off the attention they receive around other gay men but if they don’t receive adequate enough attention or they are not received in a manner they have become accustomed too then they become agitated and anxious. Their sense of self worth is dependent on exterior factors.

The need for validation, sought through other people’s liking of you, puts you in a volatile position. In doing so you are placing your happiness and sense of self worth in other people’s hands. When you realise that not everyone is going to want you, and that it’s ok if they don’t, then you regain your power and the need for validation subsides. Not everyone is going to like vegemite or baked beans or avocado but this doesn’t make vegemite or baked beans or avocado any less attractive to those that do!

Image by Saverio Cardia 

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THE POWER OF MEDITATION

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I’d like to share with you a secret that will bring you peace, focus and stillness. It is something that I try practice daily and when I miss the opportunity to do so, I can feel the difference in my mood and mindset. I’m talking about meditation and while I’m certainly not the first person to preach its benefits, I am a strong believer in its power. Meditation is often mistakenly associated with people on the fringes of society, practiced by men with shaved heads in hemp trousers but the truth is that it’s a secret natural mood enhancer enjoyed by people from all walks of life.

My personal favourite mediation is led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the leader of the Art of Living movement. I came across his teachings through a friend of mine and I can honestly say that his messages and approach to life has changed my understanding of happiness and peace. The below mediation is simple to follow, short in length yet extremely powerful. Try this every morning for a week and enjoy the changes that it will bring to your life.

 

 

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WHAT I MISS FROM INSIDE THE CLOSET

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‘The Closet’ can be a terrifying, lonely and suffocating place. It’s a metaphorical cage that represents suppression, oppression and even depression.  Looking back on my own experience those three things were certainly true but amongst the darkness there were a few positives that I can now say I truly miss.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always doom and gloom inside the closet. As you start to push open the metaphorical door and peer into the light beyond the crack exciting things start to happen. You realise that there is an enticing world out there with endless possibilities. Although you might not be ready to spring out of the shadows in all your rainbow glory, you start experimenting and testing the waters. The sense of curiosity, compounded by the guilt you feel for doing something ‘immoral’ can actually be quite exhilarating. I remember the thrill that came with kissing boys in the back of my car in deserted carparks or sneaking guys out of my bedroom window in my parents house. Sure most of these highs were then followed by lows and feelings of shame but during those stolen moments I felt ecstasy that I have found hard to replicate in my later years.

It’s the feeling of doing things for the first time, things that you are told are wrong but which feel so right – these are the times I miss from my youth and from inside my own closet. Finding moments to hold hands with a boy at a party when nobody was around and then letting go as soon as your friend walked into the room then desperately waiting for that friend to leave so that you can do it again.  Receiving messages on your phone from your crush and then telling your mum it was from your boss when she gets too nosey. Smiling at a stranger in the change rooms at an inter-school swimming meet. Once out of the closet these situations don’t hold the same sense of danger. The fear of getting caught is removed but it is the fear of getting caught that makes your heart beat faster and electrifies your senses.

When I first started experimenting with boys and going to gay clubs I felt as though I was doing something that was on the fringes of society. For someone who had been brought up in a somewhat conservative environment, being gay almost became an expression of rebellion for me. The cover ups and fabricated stories allowed me to be part of one world at night and then return to the normality of heterosexual, conservative life by day. It was fun, for a time.

After a while though the thrill of breaking the rules diminishes and you are left with the realisation that you cannot be happy and in the closet forever. For the short period of time, in the beginning of the long walk out of the closet, every experience is brand new, every man-to-man touch is a blessing and every moment, no matter how brief, spent out of the closet is a relief. These are feelings that can never be replicated again. This is what I miss from inside the closet.

Image by Damon Baker 

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PERSONAL TRAINERS WHO USE STEROIDS

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In my opinion, hiring a personal trainer who uses steroids is like asking Kim Kardashian to give a lecture on inner beauty – it doesn’t make sense.

Personally when I look to a trainer or a fitness professional for body inspiration, I want to know that if I follow their lead then one day I too could have a physique like them. It would be a shame to find out that this could never happen without injecting an illegal substance into my body. I see all these incredibly muscled fitness celebrities on Instagram, with hundreds of thousands of fans, spruiking messages of ‘strength’, ‘determination’, ‘willpower’, ‘gains’ etc. without acknowledging that their superhuman size is also due to another factor – steroids. Some, you can tell are clearly using artificial enhancement while others are questionable. The problem though then becomes, how do we distinguish between natural and not? By default everyone falls into the same ‘fit’ category and fans are left wondering why they can’t put on the same size as their heroes.

I guess that I don’t understand the obsession for size. While I try to see every choice from both sides, I have yet to hear an argument for steroid use (other than a genuine medical reason) that is plausible. To me it appears to be purely vanity and dare I say it, borderline narcissistic? I’m happy to be proven wrong and it certainly isn’t my place to judge someone’s personal choices. However, my issue lies with people in power such as trainers and Instagram celebrities, whose actions do have an affect on the expectations and self esteem of others. A young guy, following the training regime of another guy from Instagram, wonders why his physique is taking so long to change even though he works out religiously. Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment which is made harder when you’re only being told half the story in the first place.

Steroid use by personal trainers and Instagram fitness celebrities is like false advertising. PT’s are there to motivate and inspire you to reach your goals and one of the ways that they do so is through their own desirable physical appearance. You wouldn’t hire an overweight PT who clearly doesn’t practice what they preach. Rather, you choose the extraordinarily fit muscle man with the tight tank top, shorts and  fluro Nikes.  But what if your PT’s body has been boosted by chemical enhancements? You’re being sold a fake product.

We cheered for Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France and felt betrayed when we found out that he was doping. Why? Because we look to these sportsmen for inspiration, for examples of human will and achievement and when we find out they’ve been cheating, we feel cheated ourselves. We feel lied to. Why then is it different for bodybuilders, fitness professional and PTs?

 

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DAY 7 OF 31: CHECKING IN

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Today marks the first week since I started my challenge of updating my blog or Youtube channel daily. When I started this challenge I knew that it would be difficult, not because I don’t have anything to share with you, but because I want to make sure that what I do share with you is enriching in some way.

It’s crazy how many thoughts go through your head throughout the day but often when you try to collect them or put them into words, they fall through your hands like water. I guess the purpose of this post is to admit that tonight, I don’t have the mental fortitude to put my deep musings into words. Often I find it exhausting enough dealing with my own internal monologue and to have to relive those one man scenes again tonight is proving difficult. I do however have some interesting posts in the works for the coming days such as ‘How looking back over your shoulder at boys is the most fun you can have with two eyes’ and ‘Why gay men are never content in their relationships’ so make sure you come back again tomorrow.

Thank you for your continued support and don’t forget to email, tweet or comment below with any topics or questions you would like to me cover.

Image by Julia Hetta

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MODERN GAY HEALTH: WHAT IS PREP?

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To PrEP or not to PrEP: Is Truvada really a sexual health game changer?

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment about the use of PrEP as a safe sex tactic for gay men. Writer David Mang explains what PrEP is and looks at whether or not it’s the right tactic for you.

While the horrors of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s are mercifully consigned to history, HIV remains a major health risk for all sexually active people, particularly gay and bisexual men. In 2014, around 2,800 LGBT men were diagnosed HIV positive in the UK – many of whom could potentially have avoided infection had they been using a PrEP drug such as Truvada.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and is a method of preventing HIV infection which has recently been made available for sale in some territories, including the USA. It involves taking an antiretroviral drug on a daily basis. At present, the leading drug on the market is Truvada, which has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection for people who are identified as ‘high risk’ by as much as 92%.

The easiest way to think about is is to remember that PrEP is the method, whereas Truvada is simply a brand name. When the patent on Truvada expires in a couple of years time, the market may well be flooded by equally effective alternatives, lowering the cost of the drug.

How does it work?

First of all, it’s vital to remember that PrEP is not a vaccine. When you take PrEP on a daily basis, it enters your bloodstream and can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading. However, of you fail to take PrEP consistently, it’s effectiveness weakens, and there may not be enough medication in your bloodstream to protect you.

Should I be using PrEP?

The reduction rate in HIV transmission from using PrEP is hugely significant. With the medication broadly considered to be safe and relatively low on harmful side effects, the evidence in favour of taking them is compelling – particularly if you frequently engage in high-risk sexual activities such as barebacking, anonymous sex or group sex, or if you’re an intravenous drug user. It could also be a major breakthrough for mixed HIV status couples. According to a study by HIV I-Base, around half of gay men in London would take oral PrEP drugs to reduce their risks of contracting HIV.

On the other hand, PrEP is not a silver bullet for sexual health. First, it is only effective if taken consistently, so don’t think of it as a gay version of the ‘morning after pill’. If you decide PrEP is for you, it’s critically important that you take the drug every day. It also provides no protection against other STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, anal warts and syphilis.

What are the potential side effects?

Some people who have taken Truvada have complained of mild side effects including loss of appetite, insomnia and an upset stomach. However, in most cases these issues have resolved after regularly taking the drug for a month or so. Beyond that, it appears to be a fairly comfortable and easy drug to take.

How do I get hold of PrEP?

A relative newcomer to the sexual health market, PrEP is not currently available on the NHS in the UK, and can only be accessed by participants in selected medical trials. However, in other countries such as the USA it has been brought to market, albeit at a high price point. Sexual health campaigners are calling for Truvada to be made available on the NHS, and it is hoped that before too long PrEP will become another powerful weapon in our sexual health arsenal.

For more information on PrEP click here 

Image by Bruce Weber for VMAN.

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SEX WITH A STRAIGHT GUY (PART 1)

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Based on a true story.

The summer of 2005 was the most sexually exciting summer of my life. There was a feeling of freedom, of fun and of possibility. It felt as though I had finally found my niche. After years of coming to terms with my sexuality I had finally uncovered a world of nightclubs and friends that were embracing of people of my kind.  It was a summer of music festivals and boys and sweaty underground parties named Bang Gang, Starfuckers, Gay Bash and Healthclub. It was a summer of dance floors filled with fags and poofters and hags and drag queens and inquisitive straight boys whose sexuality was as questionable as the drugs they put in their bodies. There was a youthfulness in the air and the atmosphere was electrified by music aptly called electro. The summer was bright, not only because the sun seemed to set late and the disco lights shone for hours but fluorescent fashion was coming into vogue. Every Saturday was punctuated by a new purchase of fluro clothing which we paired with extremely short denim short or an oversized singlet cut so deep in the neck and underarms that it looked as if someone had tried to rip it off your body.

My days were spent lazing by my pool, which because of its proximity to the beach, became the central meeting point for all my friends after hours spent on the sand. We would watch the summer afternoons roll into nights from the prime position of deck chairs, strategically placed to catch every last ray of light. The Australian sun is famously harsh but staying cool was easy with the aid of bitterly icy beers and frequent dips in our own personal backyard lagoon.

I moved around that summer with a wildly fun group of friends. We were a mix of different backgrounds; an American girl named Tessa who was studying abroad, a private school boy named Rich, his best friend and keen surfer, Dave and another boy James who at the time was the love of my life. James and I were the only gay guys in our tight club of five and although we constantly hooked up, it was an enduring summer of unrequited love (on my part). James was so different to me. He had been out of the closet since 15 and was so at ease with his sexuality. I on the other hand had just come out to my friends and was still unsure of myself. James was an only child who lived with his mum in an apartment while I had a sister and lived with my parents in home that was on the other side of modest in size. He had graduated from a public school that was accepting of gay students whereas I had spent my entire education at a conservative private school that avoided recognising the issue. Even geographically we lived on opposite sides of the Eastern Suburbs train line.

Physically we were very different too. He was smaller than me in both frame and height, with long chocolate brown hair that fell across his face and a chiseled jaw line that seemed to be carved from stone. His skin was golden which he was lucky enough to have inherited from his Italian grandparents and covered in the perfect amount of dark hair. He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen. I was 6’3, fair, hairy and broad.

We met at university after I had spent the first semester pining over him from a distance. I can’t recall the details of how our paths crossed but I think that the now defunct social media site Myspace may have had something to do with it. By the end of the summer I considered him one of my closest friends, particularly after I realised that he would never love me like I did him. I don’t think the other members of our clan knew how strongly I felt for James nor was it important. What was important though was that each day was filled with pursuits of pleasure which often extended to pleasure of a sexual kind. As a group of two straight guys, two gay guys and a girl we certainly found ourselves in interesting sexual situations, the details of which need not be relived again. There was one incident though that was a turning point for our group and, from which I have learnt a life lesson that fundamentally changed my perception of sex and friendship.

It was two months into the summer, at the point in the year where the temperature is at its peak and the days their longest when the lines between friendship and lovers became blurred. The closer that we became as group of friends, the further the boundaries of sexual identity were pushed until one sexually charged evening changed everything indefinitely….

(Part two coming soon)

Image by Sebastian Faena 

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MY GREATEST FEAR HAS ME CRIPPLED

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It’s been so long since my last post. 92 days to be exact and the longest time since I first started this site. While I wish I could blame it on writer’s block, this is certainly not the case – I’ve had so much that I’ve wanted to share with you. On the surface I blame my job for my lack of writing as it consumes so much of my time and energy but this isn’t the cause either. What I’ve come to realise is much deeper than effort or inspiration, it is something that has affected me throughout my life and permeates all facets of my being. What I’m referring to is vulnerability and the repercussions of not giving into it.

Vulnerability is the ability to put yourself out there, wholeheartedly, in the scary big world, for all to see, and without control of the outcome. It’s the strength to forfeit expectations and honestly live in the moment. I’m certainly not the first to discuss this topic, researcher Brené Brown does a far more eloquent job at explaining the concept in this widely watched Ted Talk, but this is the first time that I’ve realised how debilitating the fear of vulnerability can be.

But first, how does this impact on writing? Well, my writing can almost be seen as a metaphor for my life. When I write I ruminate over every word and every sentence, making sure the end product is perfect. If I don’t think that the final product is perfect, particularly in the eyes of others, then I won’t push publish on WordPress. If only you could see the unfinished posts that are sitting in my drafts. This translates into the real world too. I can’t start a project or move towards a goal until I know that everything is in faultless alignment. Such obsession with perfection is evident in my personality traits whereby I do my best to portray the well put together image of someone who has their life together, who is successful, confident, unfazed by other’s opinions and certain of his future. How far from the truth the reality. Like a vicious circle this in turn influences my writing because a post about how I’m afraid of vulnerability will shatter the illusion that I’ve worked so hard to create. Herein lies the power of this particular article.

I work in the communications industry, a profession where my day-to-day task is to control ‘messages’ that brands want their customers to receive. I’m great at my job and skilled at creating the right perception for my clients amongst the public, probably because I’m so good at doing it for myself. Using these same skills, I have crafted a life that avoids vulnerability at all costs. I’ll dismiss people before I’ve had a chance to properly meet them to avoid them doing the same to me first. I’ll do the same to guys I find attractive. I’ll create stories about how I shouldn’t approach them because they’re probably stupid or an asshole and I’m better than that anyway when in actuality it’s fear of rejection which in turn is avoidance of vulnerability. I’l be loud and boisterous amongst people who I don’t find intimidating but when I’m in a crowd of people I deem ‘superior’ in popularity or status I’ll purposely ostracise myself. As I’ve become more aware of this concept of vulnerability I’ve also become more aware of how it affects others, particularly gay guys. Have you ever noticed how some gay men love to tear each other down? How they’ll look at someone else’s success or someone else’s relationship and pick at all the flaws? “Oh he makes a lot of money but I bet his boyfriend is cheating on him”. Why do we do this? Because we’re jealous and too afraid to admit that we feel less successful in comparison or worse, that we fee we are not worthy of being loved.

This particular post is a personal first step towards vulnerability, a step closer to honesty and wholehearted living. I want to share more with you, dear reader, in the hope that we can overcome our shame together. You see, shame is a component of vulnerability. Avoiding vulnerability is a protective mechanism against exposing one’s shame. If I’m not open then you can’t see the darkness inside of me. Both Brown and Alan Downs, author of The Velvet Rage have explored this concept of shame. Downs looks at shame particularly in the gay context and how it affects ours lives. Personally I think you need not even open a book to understand the by-product of shame in the gay community. In my opinion, many mainstream gay mega parties are a perfect example of shame avoidance. These gatherings are a coming together of men who are hiding from their shame (either consciously or subconsciously). They mask their vulnerability behind hard bodies of muscle and supress their emotions through excessive drug taking and sex. In my eyes, the act of taking off of one’s shirt in this environment or similarly in a gay club is an overt expression of vulnerability avoidance. The act says, ‘don’t try know me for me but judge me only on what you can see of me on the surface’. Of course I am generalising and I’m sure I’ll be accused of stereotyping or internalised homophobia but I only offer these observations and musings as my own opinion. Whether or not you agree with me or Downs or Brown is not the point, the point is that we are open enough with ourselves and each other to discuss our shortcomings. That is what vulnerability is truly about.

I hope that I can continue to write stories and post articles that you find thought provoking. Perhaps some will be inspiring, while others purely entertaining. You may agree with what I say or my words may have no resonance. Either way my intention is to be more open so that you and I can share strength and embrace vulnerability together.

Image by Giuseppe Attanasio 

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THE BEST SEX TIP YOU WILL EVER LEARN

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Sex – there is probably no other three-letter word in the English language that simultaneously conjures up both excitement and anxiety in gay men. S-E-X, three letters combined that spell out pleasure, lust, love, passion, yearning and often, confusion. So what’s the one thing that you can do to improve your sex life and to eliminate the confusion? I’ll share that with you in a moment, but first let me discuss my sexual education.

When I first learnt about the mechanics of gay sex at the age of fourteen I was completely mortified. Mortification led to confusion and confusion led to fear. I had so many questions and concerns but nobody to talk to. When parents sit down with their children to give them “the talk”, it rarely covers topics such as anal sex, douching and blowjobs. Sexual education for gay teens at school is no better. So how then are meant to learn how to have gay sex?

My straight male friends learnt about sex from their older brothers and from each other. They would compare notes, share tips and boast about their experiences. Not having any gay friends growing up meant that when it came to my first time I didn’t have a cache of stories from which to inspire tricks and tips. It was completely unchartered waters. While I had had sex with girls before, the differing anatomy meant that my sex skills (and a use the term “skills” loosely) were non-transferable. I compare it to playing tennis and then attempting to play golf. Although both sports involve balls and swinging, the techniques employed are different. Just because you can get a little ball in a hole in one sport doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to serve an ace in another.

So my knowledge of gay sex was formed through porn. But gay porn made it seem that your first sexual experience would be easy. You, the virgin, make eyes with your baseball coach in the locker room and the next minute you’re in the throes of passion. Expertly and seamlessly, you move through a series of positions that border on Olympic gymnastics and in forty-five minutes you both climax, shower and the credits begin to role. Easy. Although in reality, it’s nothing quite like that. In real life you spend years stressing over finding the right guy for your first time. When you finally find that guy and make it to his bedroom you quietly fumble through a series of uncomfortable positions, things often get messy, he gets awkward, someone climaxes in seven minutes, someone doesn’t climax at all and then it’s all over before you can say “but-Sean-Cody-makes-it-look-so-much-sexier-than-that”.

Which brings me to the best sex tip you will ever learn. When it comes to sex, particularly gay sex, which can take a few attempts to get right, the most important thing is communication. Forget all the other tips you’ve read or been told about how to improve your sex life, if you can’t communicate with your partner then nothing else is going to work. What do you like? Do you like it when I do this? Which position is best for you? How about we try this? Does this hurt? Can we change positions? These are the types of questions and conversations you need to have to enhance your sexual enjoyment. Communicating with your partner, whether they are a one-night stand or a long-term lover will enhance the experience for both of you. Sex is meant to be fun and it’s meant to be pleasurable so if it’s painful or uncomfortable or if you’re doing something that you are not enjoying then something should be said. Younger, more inexperienced guys often tell me that they’ve been left traumatized after their first sexual experience because it was just too painful and they were too scared to tell their partner. Without getting into the anatomy of it all, the truth is that if done properly, sex should not be painful. If approached slowly, at the right angle and with verbal guiding from both partners then sex should be amazing. This can only be achieved through talking. It doesn’t matter which position you take in the bedroom, top, bottom, left or right, it’s important to be open about what you like and what you don’t like to ensure that you are both having fun.

While there may not be a manual for gay sex, if you adopt an open-communication approach in the bedroom then you and your partner will be able to teach each other a thing or two and perfect the art of sex. Oh, and remember that practice makes perfect so if it’s your first or second time, don’t expect it to be flawless. It’s messy, it’s sweaty, it’s exhausting but man it’s wonderful!

Image by ChuanDo & Frey for L’Officiel Hommes Singapore.

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