Sunday, April 19, 2009

Email from a Londoner curious about gay sex

About three weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I have been following your blog on and off for about a year. I have always found it entertaining and enlightening.

I am a 23 year old Londoner, born and bred. I'd like to describe myself as relatively normal and down to earth. I don't lead my life by excesses but rather indulge in them from time to time. I keep fit and active and have varied interests including women. I have in recent times become more aware of certain urges that I have felt towards other men which previously I wasn't in touch with. I am intelligent and open minded enough to view these as opportunities for further exploration rather than worrying pathologies but I am faced with a dilemma and wondered whether you might be able to help?

I want to explore sexual activity with other men but I am not prepared to do so in an open and obvious way. Society's obsession with sexuality means that I fear having to commit myself to other people's assumptions about who I am or what I do before I have even had the chance to try anything. From my own investigation I am aware that anonymous or rather impersonal sexual encounters are quite normalised within gay society and this is something that I think I would like to take part in or experience. I don't know quite what to do or where to do it. The idea of a sauna (Chariots etc) seems a bit daunting and Hampstead Heath strikes me as too open and potentially dangerous. The more I read about your experiences in your gym the more I think that the informality and more subtle nature of that environment would suit me... I really don't know.

Can you shed any light? Provide any advice? Even some hints and tips and how and what to do.

Any help is very much welcomed.

Best wishes,

When I received this email I sent the reader an immediate reply, warning him that it would be a few weeks before I'd get round to replying, and asking him if he'd seen the old posting that I did about how gay men cruise gym saunas and steam rooms. Within a day or so I received his reply:

I checked that blog post out and I think that's the kind of thing I am looking for, perhaps it was the inspiration in the first place, in fact it may have come up on a google search and that's how I found your blog ... aah memories. I guess I just have to find the right gym with the right sauna.

Looking forward to the reply. Keep up the good work and thanks again for your help.

Reading this reader's first email in detail, he makes some good points. Even in modern liberal societies like we have in London guys don't grow up wanting to be gay, so it's understandable that this reader doesn't want to be perceived as gay yet, given that he's not sure. But he should bear in mind that straight guys who're confident of their heterosexuality will sometimes adopt things that have become fashionable in the gay community, so there's no need to put a lot of distance between himself and gay culture. Admittedly though, whatever bits of gay culture that move across to the straight world, having sex with other guys won't be one of them!

I've never been a fan of outdoor cruising in places like Hampstead Heath. However if a guy who's looking for anonymous gay sex knows how to identify other gay guys in that kind of situation then it's probably not too dangerous. But as a novice cruiser it would be much harder for him, so since there are other options I'd agree that he should look elsewhere.

It's a pity that he finds the idea of visiting Chariots too daunting, because in many ways places like that are the epitome of anonymous encounters. Walking up to the door and paying the admission fee is probably the hardest bit, but once inside, in the first few rooms it just feels as though one had walked directly into a men's changing room at a gym. They give you a couple of towels as part of the admission fee, so if I ever go I'll keep one of those towels in my locker so that I've got a clean towel to dry myself with when I take a shower just before leaving. When one goes in, one basically strips off and puts all one's clothes and shoes in the locker, and then wanders around with a towel around one's waist. Since the locker rooms are quite open, shy guys will wrap the towel around themselves before removing their undershorts. My recollection is that the locker keys in Chariots are on tough elastic bands, so what a lot of guys will do is wear them around their ankles to avoid losing them. If they wore them around their wrists of course, the keys might end up making a noise if they manage to find interesting things for their hands to do!

One good thing about places like Chariots is that one doesn't need to work out who's gay and who's straight, because it's safe to assume that everyone is gay. The problem with gym saunas and steam rooms is again that novices will find it hard to tell who's interested in a bit of fun. Also, a novice probably won't give off the right signals to any gay guys that are in the sauna, so the novice may be interpreted as a straight guy with the result that activities won't start while he's around. In fact horny gay guys can end up resenting guys that they think are straight if they hang around the sauna, because it prevents them from hooking up with other guys that they have identified as gay!

However, long time readers of this blog can probably guess what my favourite solution to this reader's curiosity is, namely gaydar. Anyone can get a free account (called a guest account) on gaydar, although one needs to give an email address. If the reader doesn't want to use any of his existing email addresses when signing up then he can simply create a new one using a site like gmail or yahoo. I'd recommend having a picture or two to load onto the system, although to preserve anonymity it's quite acceptable to leave one's face out of the pics on one's profile. Again one advantage of this is that one doesn't need to work out who's gay. It's also more comfortable than places like Chariots or gym saunas, because one can meet in the privacy of your home of the other guy's home.

Yet another idea would be to pay an escort. Escorts are available on gaydar, and can also be found in magazines like Gay Times, which is readily available. However I think paying for fun takes a lot of the pleasure out of it. None the less if a guy decides to pursue this option it could all happen very quickly, because the other options all require mutual attraction and finding that can take time.

In summary, my recommendation for guys curious about gay fun would be to use online cruising web sites like gaydar, or visit somewhere like Chariots. However if they want to try activities in a gym sauna, they need to try especially hard to identify the other gay guys, and then not to be seen as a barrier to fun.

Do any other readers have any useful thoughts?


Mike said...

I wonder if your correspondent has any gay friends that can help? If not then I think Gaydar is the right place to start; he can meet guys and 'get to know' them before deciding if anything sexual occurs. I think, if he truly wants to experience sex with men, he'll get into it quite quickly. But Gaydar has the added advantage of allowing you to be on your profile gay, curious, bisexual, open-minded - and explain you're not out - before ever contacting a guy. The only thing left would be your correspondent deciding what 'role' he wants to play...

dannyg said...

Hey GB

Here's a few other online alternatives to gaydar that may interest yr correspondent:

All the best


Anonymous said...

I was in a similar situation when I first came out, in that my only experience had been girls and it didn't even occur to me, growing up, that I might be gay. I had a couple of goes with the opposite sex but it was forced and something was always missing.

I remember having the realisation that I was attracted to men, which hit me like a ton of bricks as it was so unexpected. I decided to explore my feelings and posted an ad on one of the old internet bulletin boards. This was way before the days where people had digital pictures for trade so it was a real crap shoot. It worked, though.

I actually think this is a difficult thing to advise on. There are two aspects to sex: the physical act (which, in itself, is varied) and the emotional/psychological side.

I find it hard to get myself excited about looking at pictures of other guys online or even chatting with them. I'd rather see someone in the flesh before deciding to go up and talk to them. It's that side of things that gets me excited.

So, for myself, if I wanted 100% anonymous sex I'd go to somewhere like Chariots. If I wanted 'anonymous' sex but with someone I wanted to feel was actually another real person then I'd go pick someone up in a bar. Which bar would depend on the type of guy I liked.

Anonymous said...

Gaydar has a strong edge on a sauna in that your first time could be at someone's place in relatively comfortable surroundings as opposed to a tiny cubicle with a lube dispenser and dodgy lighting. The other factor is that you get to know your catch a little before you meet. And - you can still remain anonymous. There are other sites but Gaydar works pretty well.
For a sauna experience to work, especially for your first time, you've got to be pretty horny and confident enough about yes/no with the guys you encounter.

Sir Wobin said...

I'd also recommend a gay bar or club. Unlike tue saunas, there isn't quite as much focus on sex. Try snog a bloke you fancy after a drink or two (some Dutch currage maybe). That should tell you something about yourself without having to get naked but leaves the door open for more should you both choose.

BarCode on Archer Street run a comedy evening on Tuesday nights that is usually a lot of fun. The guys are quite easy on the eye too. :-)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Barcode. If you want a change of scene there's also Rupert St or the Wellington just up the road, which would add variety. And then on to all the bars along Old Compton Street, of course.

I would offer our services but being spit-roasted by a couple of big-fellas might be too much of an experience for a first-timer. I'm kidding. Honestly. Don't be scared :-)

Superchilled said...

I know a lot of guys who've felt more comfortable getting out of their own home town to feel a little freer to trial things new in a relaxed environment. It can be more natural, with more of a chance to discover people you're attracted to and who are attracted to you. It has a greater thrill of the chase that can be a little lacking in an internet or sauna setting. Maybe an overseas weekend away... Paris anyone? Stockholm? Barcelona?

Humming Bird in Hyde said...

Great post.

One observation - I love your use of the word 'one' when referring to activities in Chariots.

I seem to recall Queen Elizabeth II recently commenting in the media: 'One did not ignore Simon Cowell'.

You certainly belong to 'royalty' GB. :P