I need to get honest with you about sex.
Because I love it, and believe that celebrating mindful, “conscious sex” is essential for gay men’s dignity.
My last "Being A Man," or BAM, episode was about moving from oppression to celebration; and I barely mentioned sex at all.
After a long discussion with my boyfriend regarding my struggle writing that episode, I realized that I had let my socialized, American, fear about sex, launch me into a clumsy, diatribe about fear itself, and my fear of just talking about what I really want.
So let’s talk about the sex we have and the reasons we can celebrate it.
After all, it just makes sense for a podcast “for gay men” to address the one and only thing that all gay men have in common, the urge to merge, the passion that surges in our balls, our gut, our brains, and our hearts, to seek out and touch other men, intimately.
We talked about:
Mentioned in this episode
Episode full transcript:
Mike Gerle 0:00
The moment you realized you were a gay man, you were forced onto the path of the other. So you know oppression inside and out. the calling of otherness has led you on your own hero's journey. And that journey has prepared you for greatness. You were a man answering the call to Brother head to conscious sex into heart centered connection. Welcome home, brother.
Mike Gerle 0:25
I need to get honest with you about sex, because I love it. And I believe that celebrating mindful, conscious sex is essential for gay man's dignity. My last BAM episode was about men moving from oppression into celebration and I barely mentioned sex at all. Then after a long discussion with my boyfriend regarding my struggle of writing that episode, I realized that I'd let my socialized American fear about sex launch me into a clumsy diatribe about fear itself and my fear of just talking about what I really want to talk about. Then instead of talking about what I want to really talk about, I launched into a lengthy diatribe about my community's inability to celebrate itself. Isn't that ironic? I didn't talk about what I really want, which is for gay men to embrace our love of sex, and how that spark of connection can cause instant joy, camaraderie, family and community. So let's talk about the sex we have and then the reasons we can celebrate it, okay? After all, it just makes sense for a podcast for gay men to address the one and only thing that all gay men have in common. The urge to merge, the passion that surges in our balls, our gut, our brains and our hearts, to seek out and touch other men intimately, because let's face it, we don't have anything else universally speaking, in common. That may sound harsh, but it's true. Yes, our otherness has created similarities with other gay men and other others. And those attributes are beautiful. But not all gay men, as a collective have any other single characteristic in common. I know making that statement creates an unpleasant charge of emotion for a lot of people, especially gay men. If that's how it's landing for you right now, I invite you to embrace that discomfort. Really get a feel for where it lives in your body, study it and ask yourself where that discomfort is coming from. Is it a judgment you've come up with on your own? Or is it one you have been programmed with, through societies irrational of all things sexual. If sex equals bad in our minds, then we are doomed as a cultural subset because the very definition of our community is delineated by the sex we have. By the variable Definition of our group of gay men, the only thing that qualifies a person, as a member of that group is one man's desire to have sex with another man. If you don't have that desire, then you're not a gay man. And yet, it's usually the last thing we want to talk about when we talk about ourselves as a, quote, "gay community", which is weird, because it's probably the only thing our group has in common. Like I said, you know, we're not all liberals, we are not all gym boys. We are not all creative. We are not all fierce, fabulous and fun. We are as diverse as the non gay population. But we do have one incredibly rich area of commonality. And that thing is sexual in nature. And there is a lot to celebrate. Sex brings us together. Sex causes us to cooperate. It causes relationships to form, it sparks love. It bonds groups, it mitigates racism. It allows us to share transcendent energy. It's creative and generative. Ram Dass, the American spiritual teacher and author of "Be Here Now", said that the union surrounding orgasm is a glimpse of the source or of touching God. And yes, sex can cause harm. But I'd argue most of that pain is not from embracing sex. It's from societal judgments and the torture that ensues when we internalize those judgments. So let's talk about sex and how awesome it is. Let's talk about good sex, what constitutes good sex? So first, I want to share something my friend and mentor Guy Baldwin told me about what constitutes good sex, affirmative sex, generative sex, the kind of sex we should all be striving to have. It's a way to measure every single sexual experience we ever have.
Mike Gerle 4:59
It applies Equally to random hookups sex, sex with a monogamous partner. sex with your husband, sex at a giant sex party, backroom sex, sex and bath houses, sex in toilets, sex on trains, planes and automobiles, sex in abandoned stairwells, gym locker rooms, corners of bars and outdoor areas on the deck deck of a cruise ship and sex on the third date after you've met his parents. And yes, I'm speaking from experience. Good sex is when both people, or all the people involved, walk away from the scene feeling better about themselves. That's it. It's not any more complicated than that. Again, good sex is when both people or all the people involved walk away from the scene feeling better about themselves. The smile that comes from the inside out from everybody involve means we both or we all just had good sex. This requires us to have conscious sex. It requires us to be in touch with our feelings and the feelings of the other person or people. It requires us to be aware of our surroundings, including scenes where you might be having sex that other people can witness. Those who can see your sex need to feel better about themselves too. But now I'm jumping ahead. Let's talk about consent. It's the first and most important ingredient to good sex. Without consent. At best, someone is not going to have a good time. At worst, someone is going to be assaulted, and that is freaking serious. It's literally a crime. Even in a bondage and discipline, sadomasochistic scene consent is required. BDSM is a big complicated topic, but I bring it up here to illustrate that nearly anything is possible. I was international Mr. Leather in 2007. Which means I was selected to be the spokesperson for the leather kinky community for a year, I had the opportunity to discuss navigating consent all over the US and Europe. And trust me, the kinky community is fantastic at navigating highly complex, diverse appetites, to the delight of everybody involved. I can get exactly what I want, you can get exactly what you want. I just need to be willing to communicate with you. And I need to be willing to hear No and respect to your No, if that's the message I receive. In the kink world. I learned that getting to the Yes of consent can be a very sexy part of the sexual process. It's a negotiation covering the sexual menu items that might delight or repulse, the man I'm negotiating with, I've learned that it's much easier to get to consent if I know what I want and then listening with as much interest Standing as possible to what he wants. Good sex and consent is much easier to achieve when I'm clear on what I want. So let's talk about that for a bit and then get back into consent.
Mike Gerle 8:12
So knowing what I want, defining what I want, covers the sexual acts that I'm into, the sexual acts that I'm definitely not into, sometimes known as limits, and the energetic roles that get me off like topping and bottoming or being a Dom or so. It's also perfectly acceptable to know that you don't know what you want. Maybe you're inexperienced and still have no idea what you want. When I was young and inexperienced, barely pubescent, I had no idea what I wanted. I just knew that I wanted to be with another man. I wanted to be in Captain Kirk's quarters when you had a shirt off. At that point in my sexual development that was the only thing I knew I wanted. I didn't know about second deck or fucking ass and I certainly didn't know about the power dynamics of Dom-Sub relationships. The reason I bring this up is twofold. Number one, I want you to know that it's okay to not know every tiny detail about what you want. And number two, I want you to know what you know and to honor that. Maybe you just want to see another man naked, no touching. That's perfectly fine. That's knowing what you want. That's knowing your limits. Maybe you want a hyper complicated scene involving role playing, specific gear to be warned, specific toys, specific settings, multiple players with generalized and specific duties to perform on a schedule for all those involved in the activity. Maybe you just want a classic date. Maybe you want an anonymous five minute Fuck, all those things are knowing what you want. But while you're making your list, just remember what my previous guest Dr. Frankie said about relationships. And yes, this is a relationship, even if it only lasts for five minutes. Remember what Dr. Frankie said, the longer the list of deal breakers, the longer you're going to be sitting on the sidelines. Now back to consent.
Mike Gerle 10:10
Now you're in a better position for the dance of consent. Verbal consent is like asking someone to two step in a gay country western bar. This is the way it works for me. First, I need to have the guts to ask that man if he's willing to dance with me. It's pretty straightforward question, Would you like to dance? But to be honest, it's always hard for me, I might get rejected. But if I want to dance, I've got to ask I just can't drag some guy out on the dance floor and just force him to dance with me. If he says yes, then I need to ask him what he wants and be prepared to tell him what I want something like I'm a great follow. Would you like to lead, you know, if he says I prefer to follow then I need to consider whether or not leading will still leave me with the feeling that dancing with him was better than not having danced with him at all. Then I make a decision and act accordingly. Consent is negotiating differently in different settings, I'll do a whole separate BAM, on cruising. Right now I'm just talking about celebrating gay sex and the need for consent to be part of every encounter. In the grocery store, consent most likely starts with a glance, with eye contact, it may lead to extended eye contact, that's a signal that you may proceed, which allows you to then speak to him, which allows you to ask if you'd like to hang out, which allows you to ask for what you want and then to actively listen to what he wants. And this is the important part, you proceed in a manner that fully respects what he wants or doesn't want. If your wants match up, great. If not, thank you for the conversation. And then back off this actual conversation. Don't bring up sex again, unless he comes back to you to tell you he's changed his mind. You know, and consent is totally different at a sex party, you know, but it's still required. Even in a big random sex party. More often than not, it will be negotiated non verbally at a big sex party. To get consent, I put myself in the sight line of the guy I'm interested in and consciously taking his reaction. If he physically reaches out to me, like moves towards me, or if we're close enough and he leaves like reach out with his hand. Awesome. That's consent to proceed. I might touch his as his chest, his dick. His physical response will guide me. If he ever uses his hand to move my hand away from him. Or if he walks away that's a no and I'm pursuing him unless he comes back to me. I could probably do an entire episode on the topic of consent to but this conversation is about celebrating gay sex. I spent this much time on consent, because I don't want anyone thinking it's okay to force his ideas of sexual liberation, his ideas on celebrating gay sex into another man's body without actual consent. See, each man gets to decide what kind of sexual activity he will participate in. My last thought for now on consent is to emphasize that consent requires getting a yes. This may get me into trouble but non verbal consent is given in many ways. If you're not sure you've received consent, stop and ask verbally. This is what I've seen. Consent is given when he puts his hand on yours moves it to an erogenous area like his nipple or crotch or his ass. It's given when he locks eyes on yours from across the room and squeezes his crotch and nods. You get the idea. See, I told you get into the yes of consent can be sexy.
Mike Gerle 14:21
Now let's talk about sex and relationships. Because it's my experience that each and every sexual encounter is a relationship. You know, our community is dripping with a white lies we tell our parents and employers about how we met our partners, our boyfriends and our husbands. We say that we met at the beach, at a party at the gym or through friends when in fact, a lot of us, like me, met during random hookups through Grindr, or at a naked Pool Party, or a fetish fair or the steam room at the gym. I'm not advising men to tell their employers that they met their husbands on BBRT. That's bareback real time. But I am absolutely advising men to be honest with their peers. Celebrating who we are is a dignified act. We have all kinds of relationships built on sex, we have cruising encounters. These are much more rare today than they were before hookup apps, but they still occur. These happen when two men see each other in real life, a spark happened and they end up getting off immediately. And this used to happen when I lived in a particularly cruisy area of West Hollywood, with body language and a few words, we ended up in an apartment in a stairwell a laundry room, maybe in an elevator. Well, maybe once that happened. And with these encounters, good sex rules still apply. Without an app or text, the negotiation needs to happen in real time. For this to be an affirming experience, both men need to work work towards making the other man's fantasy come true. Expressing a heartfelt thank you can result in smiles on both men's faces that lasts all day. There will always be a thread of connection between these two men after that kind of event. And now we have hookup apps and the connections that come from those. This is a tech assisted cruising, and the same type of connection is possible. But even though the apps give us the opportunity to negotiate in more detail before sex, this artificial environment distorts our interpersonal communication. And it's important to remember that like since 93% of communication is nonverbal. The fantasy created when the profile on the app on the phone in my hand is sometimes vastly different from the reality of the chemistry that happens when we meet and share real space together. This is when contentious sex is imperative to good sex. When we meet in person over an app, it may be necessary to renegotiate very quickly. I need to assess whether or not this fits my wants and whether or not my hookup buddy is responding to me with the same intensity I imagined was there on the app on the phone in my hand, even with the pole of my crotch telling me to just do it. I may need to say something very difficult. Like, I'm sorry, but this isn't working out for me. It's important to do that when it's true. That's how I keep from adding my own shame to the shame our sex phobic society is relentlessly pushing on us. But when the connection is there, the same affirming experience that happens from a cruising encounter can happen again.
Mike Gerle 17:53
Now let's talk about fuck buddies. These are repeat customers. We've already negotiated our wants and fantasies and can count on our buddy to deliver, he can count on us to deliver. These are men, we may meet through a hookup app, a party, at the gym or in the street. These are relationships where I believe conscious sex can have a huge healing effect on the entire community. Even the community outside the gay community. We may not know his name, but we know his passion, his scent, his needs, his ecstasy, his humor and his intensity. We are dance partners who have developed a satisfying routine. These connections can remain this way for years, they may develop into something else, and they may not. You know, in my judgment, both scenarios are acceptable and encouraged. These are ongoing relationships that make each man feel better about himself. I imagine this makes these men feel like I do. empowered, relaxed and agreeable.
That's what happens after a great sexual connection. And when that happens It's good for all the other encounters I'll be having that day. Encounters with my coworkers, retail clerks, family members, everybody benefits, then you know, that casual fuck buddy thing may turn into friends with benefits. These are friends who are also available to us sexually, sexual encounters with these men move us deeper into a heart centered connection, because we know more about the man we're having sex with. When done consciously with a goal of following the good sex criteria, that, you know, we'll both be smiling afterwards, when it's done with that attitude of bonding camaraderie emerges that would not have been there without the sex. And so this is all a bunch of random stuff. What about sex with boyfriends and husbands? You know, it may seem strange to bring that up but the concept of conscious sex and good sex applies to our ongoing and long term relationships as well. It can be easy to take our partners for granted and stop paying attention to their sexual wants and needs as they evolve over time.
Staying present in each sexual experience with an attitude of expressing our wants, while helping him fulfill his sexual fantasies is key to awesome sex and a deeply bonded relationship. And then if you want the master course in complication, poly relationships, I've been in a couple poly relationships, all of the same guidelines apply. However, this requires a massive amounts of empathy and honesty, while everyone involved presents what they want. For individuals in a formally negotiated polygroup. This can cause a euphoric effect caused by the multi layered connection of sex, love, family, and brotherhood. I believe that sexual connections occurring between single men, open relationships, open polyclues are happening now unconsciously. And if we were more conscious about these connections, we'd feel better off as a community. When we start celebrating our sexual connections, especially those that have been elevated to caring relationships, the beauty of those heart centered connections will fortify our community. That is why I make the claim that sex brings us together, that it causes us to cooperate, that it causes relationships to form, that it sparks love, bonds groups and mitigates racism. Many of my closest friends started as sexual partners. I've been involved in weddings with men I met through anonymous hookups. The first black man, I got to know as a real human being in the very white states of Wyoming and Idaho. You know, were through gay groups, although racism is still an ugly truth in gay culture. It is. We, because of our desire to eat and sleep with each other have always been on the leading edge of dialogue with regard to social justice. I'd like to thank our sexual appetites helped open our hearts and minds to the delights of diversity. Now, Today is July 8th 2020, and COVID-19 has shut down our sexual playgrounds. It's been four months, and that very real void of connection with my tribe is painfully acute. Yes, social interactions like playing games, having parties and going out together are missing too, but even those activities, sometimes maybe usually lead to bonding through sex. Taking sex out of the gay community has removed our primary reason for bonding as a group.
As the oppression daemon suffer continues to lessen there is very little to hold us together as a community, other than sex. We can bond on providing services for our oppressed gay youth, in our struggling seniors, but that work will be more difficult without the bonding that occurs through good sexual encounters. I'm not saying that those of us who help youth and seniors are having sex with those two people. What I'm saying is the history of sex will help support the bonding. Let me tell a story. I found out about senior gay housing in Los Angeles at a Thanksgiving dinner. The man enjoying the housing, had been invited to dinner by his ex boyfriend. They were together 20 years before this particular Thanksgiving dinner, and they hadn't been together for like 19 years, it was only a year relationship. But a sexual connection that started back then has led to a lifelong friendship for those two. A friendship started by but no longer, including sex. When it's safe to breathe the same air as the people around us or we have found ways to mitigate that threat. Like the ways we found to mitigate the threat of HIV, we will once again have the opportunity to bond sexually. And when that happens, it's my hope. it's my want, that we will drop the shame around sex and use the powerful force to celebrate our love for one another. This will require us to know what we really want individually. It will require us to be brave enough to ask a man what he wants. It will require us to listen, really listen, to men like they are our brothers, who we care about. When all that happens. We will not only have smiles on our faces for hours and days at a time, we will also have brotherhood family and heart centered connection.
Mike Gerle 24:48
Thanks for listening to the show my friend. Now stay connected by subscribing to GerleMen podcast and sharing with your friends on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere else podcasts can be found. Visit the web page at Gerlemen.com. Sign up for the newsletter and find more details about each episode. Let's make this a conversation because I'd really like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook at GerleMen. Submit your questions, suggest topics or just chat with your brothers. Want to add your own two cents? Use the voice memo feature on your smartphone, ask a question or say anything. We just might play it on the podcast. Email the file to [email protected] Until next time.