March 23, 2016

SEX ON THURSDAY | Craigslist, or, The Straight Man’s Closet

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For this “Sex on Thursday,” I again refuse silence about “explicit” or even “unnatural” gay sex acts that gays still cannot generally discuss openly.

The one summer where I stayed on campus, I still wasn’t completely out. And I hadn’t turned 21 yet, so I couldn’t go to any bars to meet guys at gay night. Finding little luck without a face pic on Grindr, I posted on Craigslist for casual encounters while buzzed one summer evening. Using an old e-mail address, and having changed the “sender name” to something unrecognizable, I started receiving responses to my ad within minutes. My inbox full of body shots, dick pics and sexual preferences — can you imagine!?

I texted and then called one really hot guy, who emphasized that he was “straight,” and we discussed what we wanted to do. A beautiful guy — “Brad” — showed up at my place about 20 minutes later, since he actually lived just around the corner. Brad’s skin was this beautiful hue of brown, his abs and pecs were chiseled, and his member — the stuff of fantasies! One reason this experience stands out is that Brad was so sensual, taking the time to kiss and make out and explore all the exposed skin that each of us had to offer.

Some of the worst sex I’ve had was with guys who wanted to skip over this fun, preliminary teasing. I wonder if that impatience for the “main event” has to do with the fact that many young gay men I know learned about gay sex completely through porn. Full disclosure: I don’t endorse academic activists like Catherine MacKinnon, who demonize all porn as such. Of course, porn is clearly oppressive when lacking legal consent (to having sex, being filmed or sharing the video).

But I find it truly oppressive that hostile attitudes about gay sex push gay boys to porn for instruction. Beyond my own adolescent realization that men turned me on instead of women, I had nobody to tell me what good, pleasurable gay sex looked like — and I was horrified to ask questions and possibly out myself. Sure, there are probably those “gem in the rough” parents, who openly explain to their adolescents how to have pleasurable, safer, consensual sex, regardless of the child’s sexual identity. Nevertheless, conversations with my gay and straight friends alike make me believe that such parents are rare exceptions to the strictly prude rule in the U.S. So, a little advice from Fuxxxy to any newbs reading this: you and your hookup will have a much easier time getting it up and climaxing if you both take time beforehand to lightly touch, caress and kiss parts of your bodies other than your penises. Afterward, cuddling is an essential act for some, but simply too much contact for others.

Now, it’s impossible to know with certainty that Brad’s development of his fantasies above and beyond porn had led him to think that foreplay made sex way more fun. But after working up a sweat (and waking up my housemates) with some more intense play, we wiped ourselves clean and let the soaked towel fall from my small twin bed to the ground as we held each other closely. Brad had clearly enjoyed himself that evening, and we hung out a few times after that — despite his insistence that he was “straight” and needed to remain “discreet,” especially to his fraternity brothers.

Sometimes when I doubt my commitment to my own sexual liberation, I reread a journal entry that I wrote after this, one of my first positive gay-sex experiences. This early experience of random Craigslist sex with Brad helped me better understand the responsibility of radical uncertainty in all sexual situations. I still find it important to have a “beginner’s mind” whenever I have sex, whether I’m someone’s lover, fuck buddy or both.

Though I have personally grown with experience, there are still a stubbornly high number of guys on Craigslist and Grindr who insist that they are “straight” and thus need to remain “discreet” (or worse yet: “discrete”). Without much skin in the game of gay politics, I used to not care if my hookup was “straight.” But I am now convinced that secret sex between straight men empowers straightness and holds the queers down.

In Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men, Jane Ward argues that homosexual hazing rituals between straight men are not only typical of white heterosexuality — they are also a necessarily secret way of maintaining white-hetero power and privilege. Straight, white men establish and maintain power precisely through elephant walks or the navy’s “line crossing” ritual — and even via (gasp!) secret, random hookups with other straight, white men. Secret sex between “straight” or “discreet” white men reinforces the idea that gays need to stay in the closet — that gays must learn how to fuck in secrecy and then keep all depictions of gay sex (hand jobs, blow jobs, butt sex, to name a few) in the bedroom.

Writing a sex column about finding sex on Craiglist or bottoming in a bathhouse offends straight sensibilities. It disrupts the idea that the gays are “just like” the straights. I’m unhappy because people thought my last column was radical, when it simply deviated from their simpleton images of happy, monogamous gay families. But I take great pleasure in knowing that others are unhappy because I have disrupted their stable idea of desexualized homosexuals.

Fuxxxy Cleopatro is a student at Cornell. Comments may be sent to [email protected]. Cruising Dystopia appears periodically  this semester.