Monday, July 18, 2011

Email from a gay guy with a 'Type A' personality

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

Dear GB

I'm 21 years old and I'm gay. I have been out of the closet for almost 3 years now. I'm a full time student in London, but also need to work full time as I have a small but time consuming PR company. I'm a classic type A personality and am 95% extremely satisfied with my life to now.

But I could really do with your advice about sex and sentimentality.

I've tried relationships a few times in the past but they're not for me - they consume too much time and energy and generally I end up resenting and disliking the person I'm dating very quickly.

Cruising, one night stands and plain old sex is way easier and much less complicated. So over the last 3 or so years that's what I've done - and I've tallied up an impressive count of notches on my bed post in doing so.

Up until recently I never minded this - I always maintained that I was simply liberated and could do what I pleased with whom I pleased. However over the last 4 months or so I have started to have severe doubts and insecurities about my sex life.

In some of your earlier posts you talk about hugging and comforting complete strangers with whom you've had sex - the story about the guy whose boyfriend left him to live with the lesbian mother of his child comes to mind. To a lot of people this would seem normal, kind and compassionate. To me it's alien and disconcerting. I don't even like to make eye contact with the person I'm having sex with - it seems way too intimate to me. I can't bear the thought of actually hugging them.

I've been able to have great interactions with people based on sex. Equally I've been able to have great interactions with people based on my sentiment towards them. But I've never experienced them both within the same relationship.

I'm worried that I seem so incapable of forging any connection with a potential suitor other than sexually. Whilst I'm content to sleep around at 21 I doubt I'll be happy to try and do so at 51.

I don't think I'm emotionally closed off or anything - I make new friends very easily and have a very open relationship with them. This is the only thing I just can't seem to get to grips with.

Do you have any advice GB? Am I just reading too much into it? Please don't let me become the guy in the corner of the club who looks like he used to be hot, but now just creeps the fuck out of everyone.


The impression that I get from this reader's email is that he is indeed a 100%++ type A personality. Although I think that the type A versus type B personality theory is too narrow to be taken seriously, it's clear to me from his email that the idea of a type A person was almost designed to describe this reader! The title of the email that he sent me was "sex and sentimentality", a perfect title for what he had to say, and the contents of the email are also perfectly focussed on describing his issue with a view to getting some help. And his last paragraph, painting a picture of what might become of him, was an amusing way to end the email :-).

The first thing to say is that I'm worried in case the reader needs professional help. Although he says that he doesn't think he's emotionally closed off, and that he makes new friends very easily, it could be that a lot of those friendships are quite shallow. Or given his type A personality, perhaps he only makes friends when he thinks that the person will be of some use to him. Indeed, the lack of emotional connection with people that he has sex with seems a bit extreme to me. As a banker, I myself am far more of a type A person than a type B person, but nonetheless I feel emotionally connected with other people far more than this reader does. As a result, I find the reader's behaviour hard to understand. So it's possible that he should talk things through with a psychologist, e.g. it could actually be one of those situations where there's something in his childhood that makes him behave like this. That's all the more true if I'm wrong and that his friendships are not shallow or not usually related to how useful the person may be to him, because that makes his feelings about his sexual partners even harder to understand.

It's true, though, that this lack of a broader interest in one's sexual partners is not exactly unknown when it comes to gay men hooking up with each other. My post titled 'Do you have sex or make love?' discussed that, and pointed out that even before online cruising, guys were still connecting with each other based only on finding another gay guy who could play the right role (e.g. top or bottom, etc). However, as the reader suggests, I'm sure that it is the guys who stay in that mode for too long who end up being the creepy guys in gay bars and clubs.

Maslow's pyramidSome aspects of what I wrote when I got an email from a gay guy who works in the City might be applicable to this reader. Looking at Maslow's pyramid, it seems to me that at the moment this reader is near the bottom of the pyramid, focussing on safety issues. He could be so completely driven to succeed in his studies and with his PR company that he simply has no mental bandwidth for deep emotional connections and relationships. If so, when at some stage he feels secure enough to start trying to move one level up the pyramid to the love/belonging tier, then it's possible that his problem will correct itself. Indeed, perhaps that's the reason that he sent me this email, because he does feel ready and because of his prior focus on career he's not sure how to go about it.

Something else that I said in the post for the gay guy who works in the City was that he should try and become more altruistic. That might help this reader too. If he could force himself to spend time helping other people in some way, then perhaps that may help him develop the emotional and compassionate side of his personality.

Looking at it another way, for the reader to have a PR company when he's only 21 years old and still a student seems quite exceptional to me. Perhaps his problem with relationships is simply the flip side of what he's been able to achieve elsewhere in his life. To some extent the business world where achievement is everything is quite cutthroat and ruthless, so maybe he just finds it hard to turn that side of his personality off when it comes to boyfriends and relationships. To a hard headed businessman it might like seem like a waste of effort putting energy into caring about another person, but as one's life progresses and one suffers occasional setbacks, having a boyfriend who really cares about you and who can help you recover is priceless.

Does anyone else have any thoughts for this reader?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

GMFA's Sexual Health Messaging Service in the UK

A few weeks ago, I got an email from GMFA about a relatively new service that they've introduced to help fight sexually transmitted diseases. The idea is that if a sexual partner from your recent past is diagnosed with something, the service helps you get notified so that you can get tested too. Full details can be found on the GMFA Sexual Health Messaging Service web page.

An interesting part of the service is that you can get these notifications through some of the cruising web sites, in particular fitlads, gaydar, recon and manhunt. However, the first three of those will only send these notification messages if such messages are enabled, so I would suggest that anyone using those web sites should enable the messages right away.

Looking at the list of web sites though, I can't help wondering why ALL the gay dating web sites haven't signed up to this? Grindr and in particular are conspicuous by their absence!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Email from a guy who wants a relationship without sex

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

Dear GB,

First of all, let me say that your blog is really great. It's good to see such advice in one place without all the regular nonsense mixed in. I have been reading through all of your posts, they have helped me a bit, but I have a question I was wondering if you would know more about.

My question to you would be: Is there a way of finding out if a person is interested in a long term relationship without sex?

I'm 20 and I identify as Asexual. I am one of the homoromantic types; I like other guys but not on a sexual attraction, if that makes sense? I like the look of some, and I would like to be in a relationship with one, but I just don't do sex. Masturbation is my limit I guess. My problem is that I meet a guy that I like, but then pretty much every time it ends in a messy way when they find out I do not want to have sex. I have tried so many approaches: I have just gone with the flow (which ends with the person normally getting bored with me), I have told them I am asexual during the initial meetings (most don't know what that is, or just say that I am in denial), I have also tried stating that I do not want sex early on, which never works as it either scares the other person away as it sounds like I think they just want sex when they are not, or they do just want sex and a fling.

I have read through your posts but have seen nothing that helps me in this situation. I have read the post "Is it really possible to be an asexual human being?". Although I'm happy that most that you know have ended up away from asexuality, for me I am living in the present and was wandering if you have any advice for me? Like is there a good way of having the no sex conversation and at what stage? Are there any signs to look out for that show that a person is just after casual sex when seeing them in person? My experience of the gay scene is limited. I have had no good experiences of it unfortunately. I'm also pretty rubbish at spotting a gay person or making it known that I like the look of someone; although what you have written about body language and eye contact has helped! Online attempts at finding someone also do not work for me. I guess I just sound too boring!

I really hope you can offer some advice!

I found this email fascinating because I've never thought about asexuality properly before. The point of the post about asexuality that the reader mentions was that all the people that I knew who seemed asexual were in reality just gay guys who hadn't yet come out. However, this reader doesn't seem to have a problem being gay because he's clearly tried dating other guys, so he's in a different category to the 'asexual' guys that I knew. Furthermore, the way that the email is written leaves me in no doubt that the reader is being sincere.

Unfortunately, I don't have much idea how to help this reader. All the guys that I've ever known who go on dates with other guys have wanted sex to be part of any resulting relationship, and often the sex is all they want! I certainly don't think there's any way of finding out if someone would be happy to be in a relationship without sex without a discussion on the subject, not unless they've said so in e.g. their online profile somewhere. The problem is that for every guy that I've ever known, apart from this reader, sex in a relationship is like breathing and eating. It's a natural part of life, and completely mandatory. My best guess is that there are very few guys in the world who are like this reader :-(.

I asked boyfriend T what he thought, although he wasn't very helpful:

"I've had a reader write to me and ask how he can find a gay relationship that doesn't involve sex," I ask, "do you think that's possible?"

"I've never heard of such a thing," answers boyfriend T, sounding quite surprised, "sex is a basic human need."

"But this reader is sure that he's asexual, apart from wanking on his own. He really does want a relationship without sex."

"If you ask me," replies boyfriend T, "he just hasn't met the right guy yet!"

I can't help wondering whether the reader's asexuality is just some kind of irrational fear, because if so, overcoming it would another solution for the reader. I've had a few irrational fears in my time, the biggest of which was fear of water and drowning, which for many years prevented me from learning how to swim. However, recently with boyfriend T's help I did learn how to swim, although I'm still not particularly comfortable in the water.

My only thought that might help the reader directly would be for him to advertise for an asexual relationship. So if he's looking for guys to date online then he should specify his preference on his profile. He could do the same if he ever uses personal ads in magazines. However, I don't think it's much of a solution for him because most guys want sex, so the most likely result of that strategy is that no one ever contacts him.

Does anyone else have any constructive thoughts that might really help this reader?

Update 3-Jul-2011: At the London gay pride event yesterday, I picked up a leaflet with the following two links that are relevant to Asexuality:
International Asexual Awareness week (facebook page)