My therapist says I’m a very moral person, and he doesn’t mean that as a compliment. What he means is that I’m judgemental and self-critical and that I should give myself a break. He doesn’t have a problem with me having loads of phone sex, talking to guys (strangers) about fucking their Rottweilers and shitting on each other. My therapist is from Belgium and English is not his first language – Flemish is – so I think what he means when he says “moral” is “moralistic”.
I’m a judgemental and critical person. In my twenties I turned my nose up when friends spoke about the hard drugs they’d been taking and the sex they’d been having in saunas. When I look back, I see myself as being prudish, taking some high moral ground, pissing on people’s parade. Granted, my “opinions” came out of a mixture of self-loathing and a genuine belief in deep and meaningful intimacy between men. Conversation – the exchange of histories and the articulating of our desires – has always been an important part of sex for me. I thought that drugs and anonymous sex were the antithesis to real connections of respect. (Don’t leave now, it’s going to get more debauched.) Having said all that, I loved picking up guys in parks, especially late at night, work around there after work, sitting on benches and waiting for someone to approach, and I smoked a lot of weed for a long time. But they seemed different… I loved the conversations with men in those open spaces, particularly in the summer, amongst the trees and the bushes, overlooking the sea. And weed and hash were natural, not dangerous (I told myself) like cocaine and LSD, even mushrooms. I’ve probably missed out on some profound experiences.
Okay, so now I’m having sex in baths and sex clubs around the world. That’s changed. I don’t do drugs anymore, except for a bit of weed some months ago in Europe, and I’ve still never taken the Class A stuff. Not even E. Alcohol happens about five times a year. In the past, for many years in my twenties and early thirties, I drank just about every day. Amongst some people in my family, this was considered a good thing.
Now I judge men who bareback. I can’t watch bareback porn. It disturbs me. I’m uncomfortable with the complete abandon, the fucking in the face of death and illness. I know that what disturbs me about it is that these men are doing exactly what they want, without shame or apology, every orifice open and accepting. In the years that I worked for an HIV/AIDS organisation I often used to insist that safe sex wasn’t just about condoms, it was about caring for oneself and for others. I set up projects that put the focus on that, on respect, on caring, nurturing. All that hippy stuff.
This afternoon I discovered Liam Cole’s porn movies. I came across them by chance. I’d been looking at some of his sketches on The Sword, a website that believes that porn stars are heroes (their words, not mine), and I’d followed a link. I loved his sketches, the way the bodies seemed to merge into each other, feed off each other. I loved their raunchiness, their humour, their honesty. I love that combination, and it’s a combination I strive for in my own writing. He was doing something unique in his drawings and I admired that. His porn, too, is clearly original. There’s something genuinely depraved about it, and I’m aware that depravity is in the eye of the beholder; I’m sure there are millions who’d consider what I do (in life, and on this blog) depraved.
But I want to be honest. Warding off the virus is exhausting. It takes its toll. If you’re sexually active and you like to fuck around a lot, and you like having your cock in the arses of other men, then sometimes you don’t want to worry about condoms and getting ill. You just, as I wanted to do last night when this cute German guy came over (for the third time this month), you just want to slide it in, effortlessly, naturally. In the past, I’ve done that. Slid in. And I think I might have done that last night if I liked the guy more, if I thought I’d want something more from him than just his body. As if barebacking is the ultimate intimate act.It’s foolish, I know. The times that I’ve done it in the past – twice – I don’t regret, although one of the guys, P, is now HIV+ and has been really ill. He told me that he’d fucked this HIV- guy that he was dating, though he couldn’t understand why the guy didn’t want to see him ever again after he found out that P had the virus.
The reason I came across Liam Cole’s drawings is that I’d just found out about Reply to This Post, a beautiful series of drawings inspired by man-loving ads on craigstlist. Someone on Facebook who’d seen my sketches put me in touch with the artist. I love the tenderness and the humour of the sketches. If I hadn’t been at my computer all day and if it wasn’t almost 1am, I’d probably say something about raunchiness and the line, the way the artist puts the line on the page, and whether you need two people in a picture to make it raunchy. And whether line drawings are what I’m more comfortable with at the moment, especially when I’m exposing myself, because there’s so much more you can hide with single lines. Maybe it has something to do with how much you leave to the imagination. Liam Cole leaves less to the imagination, and yet they are still tender, his drawings. What is left to the imagination is the playing out of the scenario in real life, and that happens in his films. Enough for now. Go to bed.