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.
Growing up I didn’t have any gay friends. My closest friends were girls and I naturally gravitated towards them. You can imagine my anxiety during those times at school when boys and girls would be separated – school camp, gym class, in the playground etc. Luckily though I did have a few straight boy friends, one who still remains like a brother to me today, who I could rely on during these moment. Overall though, I never felt like one of the boys. My straight male friends were part of a group of other straight boys and even though we all got along well, it was always as if I was on the outside looking in.
In my teens and early 20’s I met some wonderful gay guys and started exploring the gay scene but again, I felt like an outsider looking in. I couldn’t connect with the gay community and never quite found my niche. Because of this I developed a bit of a superiority complex whereby I’d dismiss the gay community, other gay men and the whole scene as a world that I didn’t really want to be a part of. I chose to hang out with straight friends and frequent straight clubs and bars over gay clubs and bars. I wore the fact that I didn’t have many gay friends and that I was an outsider as a badge of honour. In retrospect this was a coping mechanism to compensate for my lack of gay connections.
It was only after I moved to London that I found my group of gays – guys that are supportive, who uplift each other and who share similar values to me.
Recently I’ve realised the importance of having gay friends like these. I love my straight friends dearly but as we’ve grown up, their lives have taken them in a very different direction to me. They’ve married, bought houses and had kids. Their daily concerns and interests are very different to mine – a single, gay man whose only responsibility is himself. As our paths have diverged, I’ve become aware of how important it is to surround yourself with people who can share in your life experience, who can relate to what you’re going through and who can lean on for advice and support.
In the below video I talk about my perspective on gay friendships even further and hope that by sharing my experience, I can inspire other gay men to consider the importance of having gay friendships in their lives.
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.
It has just been announced that Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic German fashion designer, has died. He was a colourful character whose creative vision turned around the fate of fashion house Chanel.
I first became intrigued with Karl when reading a book about his life and the life of another iconic designer, Yves Saint Laurent, during the 1970’s in Paris. ‘The beautiful fall‘ is a story about excess, gay lovers, celebrities and the overall fabulousness of Parisienne living. Many of the people who orbited around Yves and Karl died very young while both designers managed to live long and fruitful lives. They were the heads of rival fashion social groups but shared the fashion spotlight along with sharing friends and gay lovers. The book is a fascinating peek into a time of overt excess and into the celebrity and fashion worlds that were once off limits and existed only behind closed doors and in the clubs of Paris.
While Karl rarely discussed his sexuality, with many asking the question “Is Karl Lagerfeld gay?”, this book gives a glimpse into the relationships of the famous gay designer.
Karl died in Paris on the 19th February after a period of ill health. He had missed two of Chanel’s haute couture shows in Paris on January 22, but the fashion company only said at the time he was feeling tired.
In 1950s Paris, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld were friends, the rising stars of the fashion world. But by the late sixties, the city was invaded by a new mood of liberation and hedonism, and dominated by intrigue, infidelities, addiction and parties. Each designer created his own mesmerizing world, so vivid and seductive that people were drawn to the power, charisma and fame, and it was to make them bitter rivals. “The Beautiful Fall” is a dazzling expose of an era and the story of the two men who were its essence and who remain its most singular survivors. Buy it here.
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.
Growing up gay you’re sexuality is scrutinised by everyone around you. From friends, family, religious leaders, politicians, society, neighbours, teachers, random people on the street everyone seems to have an opinion about your life and they’re not afraid to share it with you. Opinions so often turn to criticism, criticism to bullying and bullying to internalised self belief. It’s hard to shield yourself from the outside voices but its the voice inside yourself that is hardest to hide from.
In this video, I share with you some of the unkind things that I say to myself on a daily basis and explain how I try to overcome them. We need to be conscious of our thoughts and learn to control them in order to prevent negative beliefs from running our lives.
It has taken me a long time to reconcile my feelings towards sex within a culture that overemphasises its importance. Let me preface this article by saying that I love sex and I encourage everyone to have a healthy and enjoyable sex life; my argument is that we need to redefine the importance of sex in modern gay culture. On one hand, I’ve learnt from my environment that being a gay man allows you the freedom to have as much sex as you want but on the other hand, I’ve experienced first-hand how over-sexualisation within gay culture creates anxiety, self-esteem issues and complications with holding down a steady relationship.
Our gay culture is a result of our tumultuous past, a past in which gay sex was overwhelmingly associated with shame, hate and fear. Being gay was seen as a sexual perversion, not as a personal identity. The majority of closeted men had no means by which to express their identity other than through seeking sexual relations with other closeted men. As such the act of sex become intrinsically linked to one’s sexual identity. Until recent history it was unacceptable and more often, illegal, to have a relationship with someone of the same sex so the only outlet for gay men to express themselves was in the bedroom (or any other discrete place). Sex was the means by which one could act on their sexual identity and hence it became one and the same.
As laws changed and society’s acceptance of homosexuality spread, sex was brought outside of the bedroom and into the mainstream. It was used as a rebellious articulation of gay life, a big F U to all those who were already disgusted with the gay ‘lifestyle’. Gay sex even became political. The issue that we now face is that the importance of sex hasn’t evolved. Our modern gay society is at a crossroads, a tension point where we need to take a look at how sex plays into our identities and the importance we place on it within our gay culture. This is so timely as at this very moment people are waking up to the fact that the gender of the person you sleep with need not define your identity. Why then is sex still such a focal point of gay culture?
We’re fed messages of sex through gay media, social media, on posters for parties, in nightclubs and on television. We feel pressured to be having regular, hot sex with many men because as a gay man it’s apparently our privilege. Yet so many of us still feel lonely, disconnected and unable to maintain relationships. I believe that this Grindr culture, built on sexual ‘freedom’ is nothing but an outdated expression of our identity.
The purest form of our confusion around sex can be seen on social media. The most popular InstaGays are the ones who show the most skin or post pictures of themselves with their legs open, asses out, in provocative positions. We support this behaviour by showering them with likes and follows and mimic what they do in the hope that it will be reciprocated. Sex sells, and my God us gays are buying it! It becomes an endless cycle which we cannot escape and social media is making it worse. It upsets me when gay guys on Instagram who I admire for using their social influence for good post shirtless pictures with the hashtag ‘thirstythursdays’. Why does everything have to be reduced to sex? Then again, I’m a hypocrite because I do the exact same thing. The most liked picture that I’ve ever posted on Instagram is one of me shirtless in skimpy shorts. I know that these pictures are going to provoke a response and when I’m feeling in need of attention, I post them. My desire to be wanted sexually, mixed with my need for validation contributes to the cycle.
My personal behaviour and our culture’s obsession with sex has a ripple effect that runs deep – it impacts our self-esteem. In order to be having all the sex we should be having we need to look like people who other people want to have sex with. We strive to look like porn stars, muscled, young and hot and if we don’t, we feel unworthy. Personally, this is something that I’ve struggled with since my teenage years. I’ve spent years trying to unpick the stories I used to tell myself that linked my self-worth to my outward appearance and my attractiveness to other gay men. When I was younger I’d put off dating guys until I felt that my body was ‘good enough’ or I’d get drunk before having sex to mask my insecurities around being naked. I would go to big gay parties and nightclubs and feel anxious because I knew everyone there would be shirtless and that I wouldn’t feel confident enough to take my shirt off. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was sex.
I want to reiterate the point that I do love sex and one of the most fun things about being a gay man is being able to sleep with other men (you should try it…). What I do worry about though is that our approach to sex needs redefining because its importance in our culture is causing loneliness, anxiety and inner personal struggle. I for one have experienced all of these things. Emotionally, I feel that I want to settle down and be happily married yet I find myself behaving in quite the opposite way. I say that I want a boyfriend but I’ll just as readily have casual sex. I see this tension on Grindr when a young gay guy writes in his profile that he’s looking for something serious yet three minutes into the conversation he’s already sent or requested dick pics.
While I’m not advocating that we all stop having sex, I question whether or not we’ve unconsciously inherited a culture that places too much emphasis on the act of sex itself. I’m also concerned that earlier definitions of homosexuality as a mental illness and our own personal shame have caused an unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis to be placed on sex.
It’s not just the way we show ourselves that continues over-sexualisation of everything in gay culture; the way we profile gay celebrities and the way that straight people show their support for equality is rooted in sex. They’ll be topless on the cover of a gay magazine or raising money to fight homophobia in a naked calendar or dancing semi-nude with their sports team in the name of pride. We take someone who is a positive role model, strip them down and sexualise them, which only demeans their message and perpetuates the notion that in the end, it’s only about sex.
Gay Pride Parades are another example of how we overplay sex as a core tenant of our identities. Pride is no longer about protesting for equal rights with banners and chants but rather it’s about working out in the gym for 3-months prior to parade day to look sexy wearing nothing but a g-string. I’m all for homovisibility but when it comes to Pride Parades or Mardi Gras, I find it hard to identity with the majority of people who participate; my expression of my homosexuality isn’t linked to my body or to sex alone yet this is the overwhelming image portrayed during these festivities.
Ultimately the outdated belief that to be gay is just to have sex with men is the unsteady platform on which many opponents of marriage equality stand. They use the argument that gay marriage will lead to the legalisation of incest or bestiality. What they’ve not recognised is that both those things are only related to the act of sex and not to personal identity. A man who has sex with a dog is still likely to be a straight man. His sexual perversion is not a reflection of his personal identify, unless of course he identifies as a dog.
So what is the solution? I propose that we stop making being gay about sex alone and try to skew our focus towards other parts of our identities. Most of us reading this post are lucky enough to live in countries where we can express our personal identity in ways beyond sex. We must continue to celebrate our diversity, our richness of character and our multi-layered identities without reducing everything to sex.
Three seconds into Robyn’s ‘Hang With Me’ and I’m hooked. The electronic beat grabs me by the ears and forces me into alt-pop heaven. 10 seconds later and the distinctive Swedish vocals kick in. I’m melting into a kaleidoscope of juicy sounds that permeate throughout my body, causing the hairs on my arm to stand up. It’s like sucking on the teet of the universe and all I want to do is drink more. I want, nay, I need to dance to this song forever; carelessly throw my arms into the air, close my eyes and let Robyn envelop me. Not many songs have such a visceral effect on my insides but this song is different. It’s a perfectly formed pop-song that takes me on a journey. I’m in a field in Sweden, I’m on a dancefloor in San Francisco, I’m 16 years-old and in my bedroom, I’m having sex with a gorgeous stranger. 3 minutes in and I’m having a full blown ear-ection. Finish me off Robyn. And she does. And the song ends and 3 minutes and 34 seconds later, I’m spent.