Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bi-fidelity: email from a guy who's hiding something from his wife

At the end of last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I enjoy your writing and powers of analysis and thought it would be therapeutic to write for your comments and comments from your readers.

I've been happily married to my wife for over 30 years. We have children. We have enjoyable sex, although I now need the help of Viagra. Only in the last few years, I've come to enjoy gay male internet porn. I have indulged in mild activities, as you call them, in the sauna at my gym. I've even made a few forays to a bathhouse, where I've topped a few men with gusto. Terrified of STDs, I've never given or received oral sex, because it seems this just isn't done with condoms. Nor have I bottomed for anyone. But I find myself craving these experiences, toying with hookups but always canceling them, and posing on some gay social chat sites as quite the virtual rake.

I don't have the nerve to confess these bi cravings and escapades to my wife. The last thing I want is to lose my marriage and hurt my family by letting this side of me further out of the closet. I just wish I could have it both ways, like an old fashioned Parisian gent, married, but with tacit permission to see (not mistresses or prostitutes) but hunky studs for a good time now and then. Do I just forbear until my sex drive wanes altogether? Indulge in down low forays? Gamble on total honesty? What's a bi guy to do?

It was a couple of days before I saw the email, but as soon as I saw it I sent him a quick reply to say that I thought there were quite a few guys like him around. I also asked him if there was anything that he wanted to add, and within a day he'd sent me a two line email in which he simply said:

I do find the diet of monogamous sex hard to adhere to. But is loosening my self restraint wise, when, all things considered, I have so much to lose?

Initially this reader's story reminded me about the married guy with some gay characteristics who emailed me three years ago. However, although this reader and that guy have both had happy marriages, the reader is going in the opposite direction to the guy from three years ago. So perhaps they don't have much in common after all.

I've been thinking about this guy's situation for a while now, and the thing that I find hard to gauge is the relative strength of his heterosexuality vs his homosexuality. It seems to be that his homosexual side must be at least as strong as his heterosexual side, otherwise I doubt that he'd have felt the need to email me. If his heterosexuality:homosexuality ratio is 50%:50% then he can probably just indulge in occasional clandestine activities with other guys on the side. But if it's more like 5%:95%, or moving to be that way over time, then I'm not sure that strategy would work.

One thing that might tell the guy about the relative strength of his heterosexuality versus his homosexuality is the Viagra that he uses. Does he need Viagra to get an erection when he's watching gay porn or when actually meeting another guy? If the excitement of gay encounters is significantly greater than the excitement of sex with his wife, then perhaps he doesn't need Viagra for gay activities, which would suggest that this homosexuality is a lot stronger than his heterosexuality at the moment. Even it that's true it might still just be a phase that he's going through, like it was for the married guy who emailed me three years ago.

Depending on how much time he spends pursuing his hidden gay life, it's possible that his wife already suspects that something isn't quite right. Over time if he continues to have a lot of secret gay encounters, it way well have a corrosive effect on his relationship anyway, because it's almost impossible to hide absolutely all aspects of this kind of thing. So it could be a mistake to think that the current situation can continue forever.

In this situation a big concern is the reader's wife. A terrible outcome would be if the reader were to contract an STD and pass it on to her. Nonetheless it sounds like his fear of STDs is overdone, because condoms should protect against the worst ones, in particular HIV. Also, I've never heard of anyone catching anything nasty from receiving oral sex.

The only guy that I have activities with at the moment is my boyfriend, but when I used to meet other guys, I always used to ask them if they were clean as well as taking all possible precautions such as using condoms. Of course it's true that guys can lie, but a lot of people are honest so asking the question does reduce risk. I never proceeded to do anything with someone when I didn't get a convincing answer about cleanliness, and I would encourage the reader to pursue a similar strategy.

In all walks of life, new experiences are more exciting than well known ones. Perhaps the most important question for the reader is whether he still enjoys repeating the gay activities that he's already had, or whether it's just the possibility of new experiences that excite him. If it's mostly the new experiences then once he's done everything once, perhaps his need for gay activities will subside. Another thought is the fact that these activites are conducted in secret also makes them more exciting.

In any case, the reader's email suggests an irresitible urge to try the things that he hasn't done yet. It seems to me that he should at least find a way to try bottoming with a condom, and to receive oral sex, before making any decision about being more honest with his family.

It's impossible to give the reader any firm advice because there are so many things to consider, and so many things that are unknown. Nonetheless, I've tried to say some useful things, which will hopefully give the reader some things to think about. Do any other readers have anything to add?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Racism on the rise :-(

Like a lot of other people around the world, I am astounded and deeply upset that the UK voted to leave the European Union last week. As a result, a huge number of things are now going on in British politics, and one can only hope that something happens that somehow keeps us in the EU. Apparently Scotland, where the vote was strongly remain, may have some kind of veto. Also the petition to run another referendum now has well over 3 million signatures.

However, the thing that disturbs me most about the situation is the rise of right wing nationalism and intolerance. The British EU referendum where the leave campaign had the slogan "Take back control" is just one example of this, because it seems to be happening all over the Western world. Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee for US president is another example, as is the fact that Austria almost elected a far right wing president last month.

In the UK, even though the Leave side only won a by slim margin, a side effect of their success is that all the nasty people now feel that their views have some validity. In this context "nasty" means all the racists and fascists, and all the members of the far right wing groups such as the British National Party, Britain First, the English Defence League and so on. The result is a significant rise in incidents of racism :-(.

I even witnessed a very minor incident of racism myself. Travelling back to London from Gatwick airport last Friday, after a trip to France with boyfriend K, all the trains are a bit delayed and taking much longer than usual to reach their destinations. When we get near the London terminus, we stand up to wait near the door so that we can be one of the first off the train, and I get chatting to a man in his mid 30's who's also waiting near the door.

"Another day, another train delay!" he says to me, with a slightly fed up look on his face. He speaks perfect English, but I can tell from his accent that he's European rather than British.

"Any idea what the excuse is this time?" I ask, "perhaps the recent flooding is the problem?"

"I'm not sure," he replies, "but I do this journey every day and there always seems to be one problem or another :-(".

We chat a bit more about the sad state of the train service south of London, but then an older English guy who'd been listening to our conversation decides to join in.

"You must come from a country where the train services are always perfect," he says with a sneer in his voice. The guy that I was talking to looks mildly uncomfortable, but I find a way to continue the conversation in a way that supports him, and luckily the older guy doesn't say anything else.

I've always subscribed to the view that although democracy isn't a perfect political system, it's the least worst. However, being imperfect it delivers results like this that run contrary to common sense, given that all the major British political parties as well as countless other organisations have argued that Brexit is stupid! The electorate seem to think that our current prosperity and freedoms are guaranteed, that the fascist regimes that we saw in Europe in the 1930's are ancient history, that war in Europe is not possible anymore. I disagree profoundly with such short-sighted complacency, and for me the original reason for starting European integration in the 1950's is still completely valid, namely to make war in Europe not merely unthinkable but materially impossible. In my opinion, the economic and security advantages of being in the EU are just the icing on the cake.

It wasn't just ethnic minorities that suffered in Europe during the Second World War, because gay people were also persecuted. I hope that the current move towards right wing politics doesn't get that far, and hopefully goes into reverse soon before anything really bad happens.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Email from a reader about sexually transmitted diseases

A few days ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I've accidentally found your blog and really like the way your mind works. Thank you for the effort you put to blogging and the juicy stories you shared. It becomes my habit to read several posts of your blog every morning :)

Recently I bumped into a problem and would be great if you can give me some advice.

I had a cruising life like you used to, but unfortunately one month ago I got some genital warts in anal. During the treatment, I've been thinking how to avoid this in the future. Perhaps no more top btm thing in sex, but only kissing, hand-job? (Even BJ is risky)

In one of the posts you said you only do anal with "boyfriends", which indicates that you probably avoid this with a random cruising partner.

Can you suggest what kind activities you usually do with the guys met on apps or internet?

Thanks for the help and looking forward to your reply

Have a lovely day,
Your loyal reader

Reading the email made me wonder about anal warts and how they're passed on. In particular, I was wondering whether condoms provide any protection from the infection. Searching the internet, I found a page on the UK's Family Planning Association web site which says that although the virus that causes the warts will not pass through a condom, it can be passed on by skin to skin contact. That means that it is possible get the infection even if a condom is worn, because condoms only cover the shaft of a guy's penis so there's still a lot of other skin that will come into contact with his sex partner.

But of course, the problem isn't just anal warts. There are a large number of sexually transmitted diseases, and ideally one wants to avoid all of them. Unfortunately the only way to do that is to stick with a partner who's clean and who you trust not to shag around!

The reader is right that I almost always avoided anal sex with random guys that I'd only met recently. In my opinion, that reduces the risk of catching anything serious like HIV, although it certainly doesn't eliminate the risk entirely. Regarding anal sex, it's interesting to note that although a lot of people think that gay sex means anal sex, studies such as this paper in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggest otherwise. According to that article which collected data from over 24000 men who have sex with men, only 37% of the guys surveyed participated in anal sex.

Apart from the activities that the reader mentions, there's also frottage. But whatever one does, for me the most important thing is to establish some kind of intimate connection with the other guy. Establishing a connection is to do with the chemistry between the two guys rather than what the activities are. If one doesn't connect with the other guy in some meaningful way, then one may as well just stay at home and have a wank!

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The enigmatic bolster pillow

"So are you going to come out to your mother on this trip?" I ask boyfriend K last month.

We're about to embark on a month long holiday to Asia :-). The plan is to visit several countries, including a couple of weeks in boyfriend K's home country. And as part of the itinerary in boyfriend K's home country, we'll be spending some time with his family.

"Of course not!" answers boyfriend K, with a very defensive tone in his voice.

"Each time I meet your mother, and each time she sees us spending time together, I get even more convinced that she knows anyway," I say, trying to make it seem like less of a hurdle for him.

"Well she doesn't know," replies boyfriend K with a firm tone in his voice. "As you know, I've told my sister, but that's as far as I need to go."

"How can you be so sure that your mother doesn't know?" I ask, as usual feeling slightly perplexed by his certainty on this subject, "she's a smart woman."

"Oh just leave me alone!"

I decide to leave him alone.

I know that coming out as gay to one's family is a very difficult topic for Asian guys. Often it boils down to the fact that they don't want to disappoint their families. However, two of boyfriend K's gay male friends from his home country have managed to come out to their mothers. And in various conversations, they've both told me and boyfriend K that their families accepted the news, and that their lives have been much easier since they came out.

A week later, just after the start of the holiday, and there are eight of us having dinner in a smart Asian-European fusion restaurant in the city where we're staying for a few days. However, the only women at the table are boyfriend K's mother and his sister. In addition to me and boyfriend K, there's boyfriend K's brother, another gay male couple called M and D, and also a single gay man. To my eyes, M and D are quite obviously gay and a quite obviously a couple.

"So how long have you and boyfriend K been together now?" asks M during the meal, oblivious to the fact that boyfriend K's family aren't meant to know that he's gay.

"It'll soon be two and a half years :-)," I answer, glancing sideways at boyfriend K to see whether he's worried about his family overhearing this conversation. But he seems unperturbed. I know why. He's just as convinced that his mother and brother speak no English as he is that they have no idea about his sexuality!

After dinner, I end up chatting a bit to M, out of earshot of the others.

"Did you know that boyfriend K doesn't want his mother or brother to know that he's gay?" I ask.

"What??" replies M, sounding completely amazed, "Of course she knows."

"Mothers always know!" he adds, nodding his head knowingly.

"Well, I tend to agree. Boyfriend K has been in denial about this ever since I've known him."

"Actually, you're very lucky," says M, changing the subject slightly, "because she's warm towards you :-). As you know, I've had various Asian boyfriends. Sometimes I've not even been allowed to meet their mothers."

"I know the feeling," I say, "because I was never allowed to meet ex-boyfriend T's family. In fact, I wasn't even allowed to meet any of his friends :-(".

"Well with one of my ex boyfriends, I sometimes used to meet his mother, and she was always quite cold towards me. But I can see that things are fine for you, with boyfriend K's mother :-)."

A few days later and me and boyfriend K are spending a night in his mother's house, before flying off in the morning to the next country in our itinerary. We're always given the same bedroom whenever we stay in his mother's house, and when I walk into the room, the usual scene greets me. There's a double bed, and dividing the bed into two halves is a bolster pillow:

But this time, I start to wonder what the enigmatic bed bolster signifies. After all, would boyfriend K's mother leave a bolster down the middle of the bed if we were a straight couple? After mulling the situation over in my mind for a while, I decide that there are three interesting possibilities:
  1. I'm wrong and boyfriend K's mother doesn't know that we're a gay couple, or at least she's not sure. So the bolster is to prevent two straight guys from being embarrassed when they share a bed together.
  2. I'm right and boyfriend K's mother does know that we're a gay couple, but she wants to send us a message that she doesn't like the idea of amorous gay activities taking place in her house.
  3. I'm right and boyfriend K's mother does know that we're a gay couple, but she knows that her son thinks that she doesn't know, and she wants to go along with the charade to avoid any difficult moments.
There is of course a fourth possibility, namely that the bed has that bolster on it just because it always does, in which case there's no enigma after all :-(. However, I prefer to think that my third possibility is the truth :-). Boyfriend K's mother was a business woman when she was younger, so there's no doubt that she's very smart.

Looking to the future, it's possible that boyfriend K's mother will make a trip to visit us in London this summer. If so, she'll see that there's no bolster pillow on our bed. I'll also suggest that boyfriend K's mother meets some of my family while she's in the UK. Although I'd much prefer boyfriend K to come out to his family, I'm also mildly curious to see how absurd the situation can become!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

London 2016 Gay Film Festival

Every spring for about two weeks, the British Film Institute puts on a film festival where all the films have a gay, or more precisely a LGBT theme. For some reason they've started calling this film festival Flare, but the nature of the films they show hasn't changed. My blogger friend Close Encounters often invites me to go with him to see a few of the films, and this year I went with him on three occasions and saw:*** plot spoilers follow! ***

Without doubt I enjoyed the full length film Beautiful Something :-). It was a bit dull to start with, with a broke guy going to a quiet gay bar, picking up a guy, going back to his place for activities, nothing special. But one once gets past the first 20 mintues or so and one gets to know the characters, it becomes a great film :-). At the film festival, the director was there to answer some questions after the screening that we saw, and it turns out that a lot of it is based on his own experiences.

The first collection of short films was pretty good too :-). Although I didn't care at all for the first film which was called The love archive, the next one called Dinner with Jeffrey was mildly amusing. In Dinner with Jeffrey a young gay guy has dinner with his gay uncle, ends up in bed with a young male friend of the uncle, with an amusing catch at the end! More interesting was Discretion, where a university professor (aged about 40, married to another man) ends up indulging in activities with one of his young male students. He feels terribly guilty about it afterwards, but should he confess to his husband?

However the collection of six short films that we saw were, on average, much lower quality. They're probably more the sort of thing that one expects to see at a film festival, namely films of relatively little merit that would never see the light of day if it wasn't for film festivals! This was the last thing that I saw with Close Encounters, and afterwards we end up discussing some of them.

"I didn't see the point of some of some of those films," I say, trying to convey my overall view that on average these six short films weren't very good.

"I didn't think they were that bad!" replies Close Encounters, sounding genuinely upbeat about what he'd just seen.

"How would you rate them," he continues, "using a scale of 1 to 10 like does?"

"Perhaps 3/10 for the first film Mother knows best," I start …

"Oh come on," interrupts Close Encounters, "it was better than that :-). I thought that it raised some interesting issues. The parents of the young gay guy were presumably divorced. Gay men are often closer to their mothers than their fathers, so why did the gay guy in the film get on so much better with his father?"

"Well perhaps it was an interesting situation," I answer, "but we didn't really get to see any of it because the whole film is just a single conversation with the mother."

"And honestly," I continue, "The guy from work, that gets 1/10 and I'm being generous!"

"No way, it wasn't that bad!" protests Close Encounters, "I'd probably give it a 3 or a 4".

"So what's the lowest rating that you'd ever give?" I ask, wondering whether film ratings are a bit like ratings that get given for fine wines. Wine review web sites like give scores out of 100, and it's absurd to me that the scale seems to start around 50/100 instead of 0/100 or 1/100!

"Sometimes I do actually log into and give ratings," he answers, "and I think I've given just 3/10 on a few occasions."

"But haven't you've been to a lot of film festivals over the years? Haven't you seen 100's if not 1000's of films? On a scale of 1 to 10, an average film should be rated 5, and the worst films that you've seen should get just 1. Otherwise you're not using a scale of 1 to 10 :-)."

"I'd probably give The orchid an 8/10," continues Close Encounters, ignoring my complaints about his rating scale.

"But it was only 3 minutes long!"

"Yes exactly," he replies, "and it was memorable, even though it was such a short film!"

"What about Sauna the dead," I ask, "Obviously a joke name because it sounds like Shaun of the Dead. Perhaps that gets 3 or 4/10 from me. I hate horror films :-(. It's the kind of film that must have been great fun making, but not so much fun to watch!"

"I'm not a fan of horror either, but short horror like that is fine :-)," responds Close Encounters.

"But how can you have a film that's set in a gay sauna, and not even show a single raunchy buttock of any of the cute actors!"

We continue discussing the films for another ten or fifteen minutes, but with other things to do, eventually we have to go our separate ways.

If any other readers saw any of the films in the gay film festival this year, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought. And if you didn't see any of the films, perhaps you should put a note in your diary to visit London during the gay film festival next year :-). Although some of the films seem worthless to me, every year that I've been I've always seen at least one great film!