I’ve wanted to write about this for quite some time, but as you’ll understand as you read, there have been several reasons why it’s taken me so long to get around to it. The topic of this Messy Issues is the often-experienced (I’ve got sources that can corroborate) but a kept-quiet issue of not wanting to have sex. And believe me, the irony of writing about this in a predominantly sex-related magazine is not lost on me. Alas, here we go.
It’s been about half a year since I first started experiencing a loss of horniness, and I can honestly count the sexual partners I’ve had since then on two hands. What first brought this ‘accidental’ abstinence to my attention was an appointment I had at the sexual health clinic. There’s a moment in their standard questionnaire that most sexually active gay men, myself included, dread. “How many sexual partners have you had since your last check-up?”. As you sit there trying to go back in your mind and count each one, you feel the silence in the room get louder and louder. You try not to let the difficulty you’re having remembering show on your face as they stare at you, waiting for the answer. When you can’t bear the glare anymore, you blurt out a rough estimate – knowing fully well that you’ve rounded down to avoid that judgmental eyebrow raise as they type in your answer.
But this time, what took me so long to answer was not the difficulty I had remembering. Instead, it was the difficulty I was having accepting that I had only had sex with that few people. Surely that can’t be right. I’m single; I’m a gay man; I’m OK-looking… So what’s going on? Why have there been that few? The short answer to that question is that I just haven’t been horny. The more interesting question, and the one I’ll be focusing on here, is, ‘Why was I so hesitant to accept that?’
There seems to be some unwritten rule that gay men, especially if they’re single and ‘in the scene’, need to be sexually active. Take my career resume into account, and it’s not unfathomable that the pressure of this unwritten rule felt magnified in my case: a bartender at a gay sauna, a go-go dancer at circuit parties, and a writer for a fetish magazine. Perhaps it’s the fact the media love to frame us as an immorally promiscuous and insatiably sex-driven community. Maybe it’s a way of making up for all the lost time we spent growing up in a family unaccepting of our sexual orientation. Or perhaps it’s this idea that after having only recently (as far as history is concerned) been sexually liberated as a people, it’s no longer just our right but our responsibility to benefit from that hard-won freedom. Whether it’s A, B, C or D: none of the above, the fact remains that I felt like an imposter in the queer and fetish community, simply because I just was not horny.
Initially, I refused to accept this new state of being. I would actively force myself to turn on dating apps and get guys invested so that I could ‘keep them in the bag’ for that horny day I was convincing myself was just around the corner. But that’s not only unfair to me but also to those other people. Or I would force myself to go to cruising spots in hopes that getting fucked would magically kick-start my dormant sex drive back into action. But then I’d find myself in a position I didn’t like: lying next to someone I knew wasn’t right, lying to myself. This feeling was certainly not helped when I felt like (and whether this is true or not is beside the point) nobody wanted to meet the real me. Rather, they only wanted the super-sexualised and naughty persona I insisted on continuing to create on social media, when in reality I was posting those pictures sitting at home with one hand scratching my balls and the other hand plunged deep into a bag of biscuits.
It took an unexpected conversation with a friend who opened up about his similar experience of late for me to realise that I’m not crazy for feeling this way. It made me realise that perhaps this pressure I was feeling wasn’t just a product of my own insecurities and over-analytic brain, but rather something that others in the community were experiencing as well.
And so, just in case any of you reading this are having a similar period of relative celibacy, and you don’t have a friend around that wants to hear about it, let me tell you that you are not alone! Don’t force yourself to want something you don’t want. Don’t chase after a sex life that someone else has. And don’t feel like you’re the only loser in the club whose idea of going home for a “Netflix and chill” on a Saturday night, does not involve getting your hole ploughed whilst Miss Congeniality plays in the background. Because believe me, you are not.