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!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

29th February

It's 7pm on a Friday evening, and I'm doing a bit of work at home in my study when boyfriend K comes in to ask me a question:

"We don't have any plans this evening, do we?" he queries.

"Not yet," I reply, "but it's only 36 hours until we leave for the skiing trip, so perhaps we should start packing!"

"Well, we've just been invited round to B and C's for dinner :-)".

C is a friend of boyfriend K who lives in a smart apartment quite close to us. He lives there with his boyfriend who's called B, and they've tried inviting us round to dinner twice this year, but so far we've always been busy.

"OK," I reply, smiling at boyfriend K, "we can do that :-). But let's try and avoid getting back too late, because we've also got that party tomorrow afternoon with those old friends of mine."

Boyfriend K has got a great set of friends, and whenever I join any of them and their partners it's always good fun. They always live very much for the moment, but a consequence of that is that occasionally one wakes up the following afternoon with a horrendous hangover wondering what happened!

We arrive at B and C's about 45 minutes later and it turns out to be quite a select gathering. Apart from boyfriend K, me, B, C, there's just one other person, a female friend of both boyfriend K and C who's called Z. I've met Z on a couple of occasions before, but in the past I've never had much of a conversation with her.

"Where's your boyfriend tonight," I ask Z a little later in the evening, after we've had a few glasses of wine.

"He's with some of his friends tonight, at a Jazz club," she answers, "and if you like we could all go and join them later."

"Maybe," I answer cautiously, "but I've got quite a lot to do tomorrow so I may skip it this time."

"I'll come :-)," chips in boyfriend K, "you don’t mind do you, GB?"

"Of course I don't mind," I reply, but we're only half way through the meal so no one is thinking of leaving just yet.

A little later in the evening, Z starts talking to me about her boyfriend.

"You're British, aren't you GB," she starts.

"Uh, yes indeed :-)," I answer, "why do you ask?"

"I've heard that it's a tradition that women can ask men to marry them on 29th February, the one day in the calendar when it's acceptable", she replies, "Is that right?"

"I think I've heard that before, but I don't think it's a very big tradition. Perhaps it's an idea that comes from America, I'm not sure."

"So can I assume that your boyfriend is British and you want to get married to him?" I ask.

"Yes, I feel it's time," she replies, "but I'm scared of what his answer will be."

"How long have you been together?"

"Around 8 years! We're both in our mid-thirties now, so if we don't do it soon, I don't know when we'll get round to it."

Like boyfriend K, Z isn't a native European, so there's one question that I feel I have to ask.

"You don't have a visa problem staying in the UK do you? That can be one reason to get married."

"No, that's not a problem, and neither of us want children at the moment either. But I love him, and I see some of my friend having their big wedding day, and I think why can't I have a wedding too. I just want my day in a nice white dress and a big party :-)."

Z is a lovely looking girl, with a great bubbly personality too, so as far as I can tell any straight guy would be very lucky to have her.

"Well you should just talk to him," I suggest, "I'm not sure that something as artificial as any 29th February tradition is relevant."

"But don't ask directly," I say, "British people are a bit like the Japanese. Indirect is always much better!"

"How do you mean?" she asks.

"OK, how about this. Say to him something like 'Have you ever thought that one day, I *might* like to get married to you?'"

"That doesn't say you want to get married or you don't want to get married. It just asks him whether he's thinking about it, and whether he's thinking about what you *might* want, at some point in the future!"

"In fact," I continue, "he can't really answer 'yes' or 'no' to that question. 'No' would be a terrible answer because it means that he doesn't think about what you want. And 'Yes' is a ridiculous answer, because from what you've said, he doesn't ever talk about it! But of course, he's not going to give a direct answer to an indirect question anyway :-)."

"All that might be a bit too clever for me, GB," she replies eventually, "but I do see what you mean."

The conversation gradually moves onto other topics, and by the time that boyfriend K, Z and C start to think about moving to the jazz club, it turns out that Z's boyfriend has already left. So a little later, we thank our hosts for all their hospitality and make our way home. Around 1am I climb into bed with boyfriend K, and with our naked bodies touching each other, we fall asleep.

The next day, a bit of research on google suggests that it's an Irish tradition that women can propose to men on 29th February. I don't know what Z is going to do about trying to get a wedding out of her boyfriend, and whether she'll try talking to him on 29th February, but I hope she succeeds in the end. Any excuse for another party sounds good to me :-).