It is pretty astounding how common it is that a lot of gay men subconsciously feel they are not good enough and frequently put themselves down to the point where it has become the norm. The years of being categorized as a mental illness and having to hide one’s sexuality are being left behind as society enters an era of more acceptance and understanding. Yet still there is a sense of solitude and misunderstanding that cuts through the gay male community.
Many have written about the gay male community suffering through post traumatic stress disorder as a result of HIV wiping out an absurd amount of gay men, to me this could not be any more true. Now on top of still struggling with self esteem and self worth issues, there is a constant awareness that the natural sex gay men enjoy can lead to a disease that will destroy your immune system without some form of medication to treat it. When it comes to sex the gay male community has been scrutinized more than anyone else, from judgement for sexual choices and preferences to shame for desiring intimate and barrier-free sex. This scrutiny has not only come from people outside the gay male community but from community members themselves.
It doesn’t help that this country carries a deep seeded stigma towards sex, causing many to revolt and take on the complete extreme side of things by being overly sexual. Hence 1968 Summer of Love and the 70s, which were years of being as sexually free as possible. To be clear, I’m not stating there is anything wrong with that. Hedonism is part of our human nature and the more we embrace it the better we can care for it and not let it run our lives. Like everything else, moderation is key. However, is it really surprising that people have taken extreme measures to express themselves sexually after years of being repressed about it?
The same perspective applies to gay men in response to years of sexual restrictions after HIV hitting the community. It is only normal to crave sex without restrictions and when you create an environment where even talking about that desire is put down and ridiculed, well then it all goes underground where no one openly talks about it and people are less likely to be frank around discussions about HIV, STDs and looking at different options to be safer.
In the past few years I’ve heard some gay men refer to condom free sex as a “kinky” – wow, really? Kinky? That’s how far restriction has taken the notion of sex without condoms, where it is considered a kink or a fetish of sorts…as if it is something that is SO out of the normal range. Let’s be real here, sex with condoms is not natural or normal sex. Sex with condoms is simply a way to be safer and feel more protected. Unfortunately the community has let fear get in the way so much so that it has prevented the ability to just talk about the normal desire for sex without condoms.
In a community that still faces strong issues of insecurity and low self esteem, it is imperative that shame and judgement be removed from dialogue when it comes to sex. When people have low self worth and don’t have a safe outlet to discuss sex beyond condoms, the typical outcome will lead to behaviors that only perpetuate more misunderstanding and solitude.
– Alex Brousset, MFTi