Sex Respect: Fifteen Years in the Making
Fifteen years ago, I was fresh meat in the eyes of the gay world. I was a 19-year old, 5 foot 7 inch tall, 120- to 130-pound white boy who drove all the guys wild. Yet if someone who was over the age of 28 tried to talk to me, I would turn them away just because I thought they were "too old." Now I am 34, with the same height and weight as my 19-year old self, and thankfully looking like I am in my early 20s. However, if I list my age or admit that I am 34 to anyone, I get treated the same way that I used to treat guys. Let’s explore that a little…
I remember going into the chat rooms on AOL in late 2001(the summer after graduating high school) looking to meet other guys in Connecticut. At the time I was in my late teens and not “out” to my parents. So after sitting Online all day I would immediately erase the history on the computer; I didn’t want to get caught. AOL had chat rooms for everything. From M4F singles to M4M18, to everything in-between and then some! But I tended to stay in the local chat rooms, which if you didn’t get into early you had to constantly refresh your browser to get into them.
CTM4M was the best room to possibly meet people from the area. When someone logged into the room you would be greeted by the men and usually reply with your age and the town you lived in. The phrase that I used a lot was “19 M Danbury, CT. message me to chat.”
After chatting a bit and finding out a guy’s height, weight and cock size, the questions of condoms and HIV would come up. Being new to the scene I was never tested for STDs or HIV. In fact, the first time I had something was when I was 21. I went to the town doctor (the same doctor who my grandmother saw) and told him that it hurts to pee. So he had me pee in a cup, and then he asked if I was sexually active. When I said “yes,” he told me to contact the girl who I had sex with and to tell her to get checked out because I had a urinary tract infection. He put me on pills that made my urine turn orange; though I was back to normal in two weeks. (In that time, even my cum had a hint of orange in it.)
After that experience I changed my doctor. She was a younger woman who was slightly older than I was expecting, with the hopes that she was more educated; but I was wrong. I ended up switching to Planned Parenthood for my testing after she told me that if I “didn’t choose to be gay I wouldn’t have to get tested all the time.”
The staff at Planned Parenthood taught me the importance of safe sex and all about the STIs that were out there. I was lucky to know the daughter of one of the staff members, so I felt welcome and not afraid to be open with her. I had slip ups when it came to sex, and I ended up getting shots and pills here and there. But whenever I would be in the chat rooms, most people would say safe sex, though I don’t recall seeing many people talk about condomless sex at that time.
Being new to the gay scene and not knowing anyone who was gay, I had to fend for myself. This meant that I kept my guard up a lot of the time. The last thing I wanted to do was meet someone who could overpower me and possibly rape or kill me. So when I met people I would tell them to meet me in a public place, either a commuter lot or at the GNC in the nearby mall because it was on the bottom level and you could see it from the floor above. I also carried a knife with me and always told a friend or two the details of the person I was meeting.
I never had to use the knife, but I was glad to have it because if I felt threatened I knew I was safe in some way. But I was also happy to have my friends on standby because I could send them an S.O.S. if my date was not my cup of tea. That way, my friends would call me with an “emergency.”
I was also lucky to be a volunteer firefighter at the time. In the evening around the time of 6:40, my pager would go off with announcements. If I didn’t want to be with the guy, I would say “Shit, I forgot, I have a meeting tonight!!!” I didn’t have the balls to say “Hey, this isn’t you in the picture!” or “How old were you when you took this?” (I wasn’t quite a bitch yet.)
Now, about 15 years later, I am still Online to meet guys. I haven’t been in a chatroom in a long time, but with the technology these days you really don’t need them. Now we have phone apps that will tell you where the other person is. Most apps allow you to share a lot of information, while other apps restrict you to the bare minimum. Emojis come in very handy when you are restricted on the number of characters that you are allowed to use.
But every app allows and prefers if you upload a face picture. Some people are still closeted, however, so they fear that their “straight” friends will notice that they are on a gay site. (I will usually reply with: “If your friend is on this site he’s not so straight”) If the person doesn’t have a picture then hopefully he will send it during the chat and usually meet up. The other thing that I have noticed is that like 15 years ago people are so caught up with age. I am not going to lie, when I first started off at 19 (yes, I was a late bloomer) the thought of having sex with a 31-year old was out of the question. But now that I am in my early 30’s I think age is just a number. Well, as long as the other person is above 18 and doesn’t look like the “before” photo of a Botox commercial.
When I was 19 the men who were in their 30s and 40s who I turned down because of their age said that it would happen to me -- and they were right. You can find me on Grindr with a picture I took yesterday and “Hello” as my display name. Usually, there’s a number next to the display name indicating age, but I leave mine blank. Instead, I just wait for the person to ask me my age. If the person is in his late 20s or older, I will tell them that I am 34, which most of the time they never believe me because of my good genes. But if the guy is 18 or older and mentions an age cutoff, I will say that I’m 25 and usually get away with it! I lie because when it comes to guys in that age range, I am just looking to have fun; and honestly what they don’t know won’t hurt them. It’s wrong to lie but it is also wrong to judge someone because of his age.
I now work at a clinic that caters to the LGBTQ community and which specializes in infectious diseases. My job is to test anyone who wants to get tested for HIV, and I educate people about all of the new and improved methods of safe sex. Condoms are still a big one, but lately with PrEP being widely available, (the pill that prevents HIV) I have noticed that a lot more people are having bareback sex. I am on PrEP and also don’t wear condoms the way that I used to in the past. These days, if I meet someone I will give him the option for me to put on a condom. If he feels more comfortable using a rubber, I will wear a condom. But if he doesn’t care, then I will have bareback sex and usually not pull out when I cum.
A lot of people have asked me this question: “How can you work for a clinic and not preach safe sex?”
I simply tell them “To each their own.” It’s a guy’s choice to do what they want with a person after they have discussed safe sex options and disclosed their HIV status. I will tell people that if they are having unsafe sex that they should be on PrEP. Or if they aren’t on PrEP then they should wear a condom; but ultimately it’s their choice. Just like it’s mine… I get told all the time by people that PrEP doesn’t prevent STIs. After they finish preaching, I agree with the person and I ask him when he has oral sex with someone whether or not he makes that guy wear a condom. The answer is ALWAYS NO! So I simply say that you can get gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and more just from sucking a dick without a condom. That will usually shut them up.
Another thing that I have noticed that has changed in 15 years is where people are meeting up with each other. Like I stated before, I used to meet in a public area. But now I just tell them my address or I drive to their place. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me to meet them at the mall or in a commuter lot. I refuse to meet guys who refuse to send a face picture or who seem “a little off,” but I have noticed that I haven’t told my friends where I am going anymore. I will still text them and say “trick gone bad,” and they will call with an emergency but even that is rare.
Despite what people think about how I act or who I am, I am still a shy guy. And if I can avoid an altercation with someone, I will. Yes, I hate when I meet someone and they look nothing like the picture that they sent, but I do know that they have feelings, too. I do try to chat with a person a bit before meeting them and I never want them to be upset. So if lying about a friend’s emergency is easier and more comforting than calling out a bad date about his lies and misleading photo, then so be it.
To the people who tell me, “I don’t have bareback sex; that’s nasty!” or “You’ll be sorry one day!” are the same people watching gay porn with guys who are barebacking other guys.
So being the somewhat bitch that I have grown to be, mostly when arguing with a friend, I ask them this: “If you were confronted by the hottest guy and he told you that he was all yours but no condoms, bareback only, would you turn him away or would you play?
I’m sure you can guess the answer.