Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sex positive

Last week, Close Encounters suggested a trip to the National Film Theatre to see a documentary called Sex Positive, which was showing as part of the London film festival. I hadn't seen Close Encounters since before my recent holiday, so being keen to catch up with him, I readily accepted the invitation.

The film was about a guy called Richard Berkowitz who was living in New York in the early 1980's when the Aids epidemic began. Richard was perhaps the first guy to advocate what we now call safe sex, however at the start of the epidemic it wasn't a message that most gay guys wanted to hear. According to the film, some guys felt that the freedom to have sex with other guys had been a difficult battle to win. Consequently they felt that Richard Berkowitz must have a very negative attitude towards gay sex, because he was saying that guys needed to change their sex lives if they wanted to avoid infection.

It turns out that Richard Berkowitz has quite an interesting background, because as well as being a writer he was also an S&M hustler. It seems that he was quite successful as a hustler, and had a big clientele. When a session was starting with a client, if there was something a guy told him not to do (e.g. "I don't want to get fucked") then that was the one thing that he made sure he ended up doing! On top of that he also went through a phase where he was addicted to crack cocaine. But although Richard Berkowitz is an interesting guy, the main reason that the film was made was to try and set the record straight and give Richard Berkowitz credit for delivering what was an unpopular message in the early 1980's, namely that gay guys needed to start having safe sex.

Thinking back about the film now however, one thing occurs to me. I could be wrong, but I think that Richard Berkowitz has got quite an annoying personality. He reminds me a lot of a guy that I knew when I was at university, and if this guy was wrong about something he'd never admit it, and if he was right about something he'd never let you forget it. So if Richard Berkowitz is indeed like that guy that I knew, perhaps that goes some way to explaining why people didn't want to give him the credit that he deserves!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I still have a banking job, for now ...

While I was on holiday, the financial markets have been quite 'unsettled'. The fact that the UK's banking system has now been partially nationalised seems incredible . Lots of job losses are predicted in the banking sector, on top of the job losses which have already occurred. However, for now at least, I still have my job.

A couple of days ago while walking in the street, I bump into an ex-colleague who works for one of the newly partially nationalised British banks, so I ask him how things are going:

"It was scary GB," he says, "the day our share price plummeted the dealing room went completely quiet. Everyone was scared. The clients stopped calling, apart for one or two who phoned up wanting to cancel old deals."

"So I guess you were all expecting to survive without becoming government employees!"

"Well yes," he replies, "things must have been a lot worse than we were led to believe. We've got lots of good businesses, but we've been brought down by a few bad ones and irresponsible management. Now we're all tarred by the same brush :-(. There's a lot of resentment. When it was announced that the chairman and chief executive were quitting, a huge cheer went up in the dealing room!"

But an old university friend who I met the following day, and who works for an asset management firm, was more up upbeat.

"These banking stocks are so cheap now," he tells me, "so I bought some! It'll all recover eventually :-). And if you ask me, I think the government is playing a mug's game by buying those bank preference shares. Preference shares give you all the risk but no control ..."

Hopefully this partial nationalisation of the banking system coupled with government guarantees for bank debt will be the low point of this crisis. It's a bold plan which in my opinion tackles the problem in exactly the right way. But if things go wrong now, with governments having already made their move to shore up the banking system, it's not clear that there'll be anyone left to prevent a very deep global recession.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Email from a young guy with a concern about HIV

When I woke up this morning, I lay in bed for a few minutes cuddling up to boyfriend P, but wondering what I should post on my blog today. So later when I found an email in my inbox from a reader wanting some advice, it seemed like an ideal choice. The email was as follows:

Dear GB,

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled upon your blog, however that is irrelevant, as it has been revolutionary for me. As a 19 year old closeted student I hadn't indulged in any form of intimate contact with men till a few months ago as I wasn’t 100% sure. It was your site that persuaded me to use Gaydar, and it has been so emancipating. Thank you.

After finding several people my age, amongst the waves of old men offering to bottom, I decided to meet with one guy. One thing led to another and, well, I ended up staying at his and we had a fun time. We have since met up several times and engaged in all but full blown sex. However I am fearful he is HIV positive. The reasons are:
  • I have suggested anal sex several times, and he refuses to bottom as "he likes being in control" – ok that’s fair enough;
  • I am happy to try bottoming and he always seems so nervous about doing so, and uses the excuse he is too tired;
  • He's very slim;
  • I nosed around in his medical cabinet nothing there, but he went to his studio to get medication; and was very coy about it;
  • He’s asthmatic.
Since writing the above I feel somewhat pathetic coming to the conclusion I have, but I still have this underlying fear. So should I ask him, if so how? Would you still engage in oral sex if he was positive (very personal don’t worry about answering)?

Many thanks,

Doing anything in life carries some level of risk, from walking down the stairs in the morning, to participation in dangerous sports. Having sex with another guy carries a risk which lies somewhere in between those two extremes, because it's possible to pick up quite a variety of infections and diseases including HIV. These days HIV seems to be a manageable condition, however just because it isn't the assured death sentence that it was twenty five years ago doesn't mean it should be ignored. On the contrary, it's still incurable so it's important to avoid being infected if possible. For this reason, as I said a few months ago, when meeting guys for the first time I always ask about their HIV status.

Reading the reader's email, none of the reasons that he gives indicate that the guy is HIV positive. I reckon the only real suspicion arises from the fact that the guy is on medication for something that he hasn't disclosed, but of course he could be on medication for absolutely anything including his asthma if he gets it badly.

As the reader suggests, since they've now met up several times, if they're going to continue seeing each other I think it's reasonable to ask about HIV status. But the reader shouldn't make a big issue about it. Perhaps asking along the lines "By the way, I know you're taking medication for something, so I've been wondering about your HIV status … ?" would work without seeming unnecessarily intrusive.

Even if the guy thinks that he's HIV negative though, there's a possibility that he's actually HIV positive and doesn't know it. Apparently after being infected it can take up to three months for an HIV test to produce a positive result. So whatever the guy's apparent status, if the two of them start having full anal sex the reader should make sure that they always use condoms.

Regarding oral sex, although HIV transmission in that situation is much less likely than with anal sex, it's still possible especially if the guy doing the sucking has bad oral hygiene or bleeding gums. So I wouldn't advise sucking a guy who's definitely HIV positive, because I think the pre-cum of an infected guy does contain some HIV.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Asia holiday 2008 - Bali and Shanghai

Having spent a few days in Singapore, myself and boyfriend P headed to Bali in Indonesia to chill out for a few days. The following sunset pic was taken at Ku De Ta (Coup d'Etat?), which is one of Bali's best known beach barsThe following pic shows some of the rice fields that seem to occupy much of the Balinese landAfter Bali, we stayed in Shanghai for a few days. The following pic shows Shanghai's Pudong district (and co-incidentally also shows the hotel where I stayed in 2002 and had a bit of fun with a guy called H)Below shows a street in Shanghai's old town which feels very Chinese, although our guess was that none of the buildings are actually very old!The last two pics show "The Bund", which is probably the most prestigious address in the Shanghai, dating back to colonial times at the start of the 20th century. It was interesting to see that almost all the buildings on the Bund were flying the red flag of communist China!While I've been away on this holiday, the financial markets have been a bit "unsettled". So on my return to London next week, it'll be interesting to find out whether I've still got a job or not!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Email from a bi-curious guy in his 20's

About a week and a half ago the following email popped into my inbox:

Dear GB,

Long-time reader of your excellent blog, and long-time dreamer about having gay sex. I'm 26, I'm white, I'm straight (probably bi curious) but I cannot help wondering what it would be like to be with a man. I play with, and adore, dildos, and cannot wait to have my first time with a man.

I don't want this email to turn into a plead for advice, though that is exactly what I need! I've looked at Gaydar's chat sections, but although there are an absolute tonne of people there, they all seem to just be "advertising" their needs, and none of them responds. What is the best way to go about it on Gaydar? Perhaps it might be a useful post for sex-seeking people like me, new to the whole thing? Though, judging by your last post, cruising for a hot guy is exactly what you *don't* need to be doing at the moment!

Anyway, GB, I find your blog a revelation. You're clearly educated and write very well, and long may it continue. My only wish? That you'd go into a little more detail about your encounters. We want to read whether you were top, bottom, how it went and so on! And I think you'd doubtlessly be turned on writing it...

All the best, XXX

Honestly, I don't know, isn't a guy allowed to have a few secrets, especially when it comes to the bedroom? Why do people always want to know all the intimate details about exactly who did what to whom? I can actually remember writing my first ever post, and in the original draft there were the kind of details that this reader is interested in. However when I read it prior to posting, I thought that it all sounded very cheap, so sitting in the BA lounge at Singapore's Changi airport back in Feb-05 I made the decision to try and elevate my blog-to-be above such smuttiness! I edited out all the unnecessary details, and before boarding my flight back to the UK I pressed the button to publish my first post. I've never looked back :-).

But the question about how best to use online cruising web sites like gaydar is a good one :-). Both gaydar and (recently revamped) have chat rooms in which there's two ways of communicating. There's the Open Channel, where everyone in the room can see what everyone else says, but there's also private conversations between two guys where only the guys involved can see what's being said. So people advertise what they're looking for on the Open Channel, hoping to attract a private conversation from a guy who's interested.

So what's the best way of finding a guy for a few activities? The first thing to do is to create your profile. Most of important of all, try and include some kind of photo. These days there seems to be more openness than there used to be, with more guys showing pics which include their face, however I myself still don't have a face pic on my gaydar profile. But any pic is better than no pic. Some guys will show pics of their equipment, although I always think that that makes them look very crude and one-dimensional. I think leaving some things to the other guy's imagination works better, but putting up a pic in swimming trunks for example is a nice compromise :-). Note that guys who want maximum privacy can make their profile 'private' which means that it gets excluded from all searches. That means it's highly unlikely that anyone would find the profile by accident if the profile owner isn't logged in.

Having got one's pic, the next thing is to fill out the rest of the profile. On gaydar there are two main sections to write, one where you say something about yourself, and another where you say what kind of guy you'd like to find. Some guys just write things like "Ask me" in these sections which doesn't give a good impression, after all, do you want to go to bed with a lazy guy? However, although you should write something I would suggest keeping it short, because guys who write long essays here always give me the impression of being high maintenance and self-centered. There are other sections to fill out too, again put something there, but I don't see the point of saying too much. Looking at other guy's profiles on gaydar is a good way of getting an idea of what works.

Before entering the chat system, I would suggest using the GPS (Gaydar Positioning Service!!). With GPS, you enter your full postcode or zip code of where you are, and then when you're looking at profiles of other guys who've done the same you can both see how far away you are from each other. Guys who are new to online gay cruising may be suspicions of this, because they'll probably be keen to avoid been identified on the system, but no other users will ever see your postcode and it's hugely useful. I'm certainly more likely to start chatting to someone if I can see that they're not too many miles from where I am.

Although I think the chat system is best, gaydar also has the online message system which operates outside the chat system. These messages can be sent to users who're not even logged in, and they'll pick them up the next time they log in. Some users will use the search facilities and then send these online messages to guys that they like the look of, instead of using the chat system. One advantage of these messages is that one can tell whether the guy at the other end has read them, because one can ask to be notified when the other guy receives the message. A problem with the chat system is that one can't tell whether the guy is there or not, because he may have left himself logged in and gone out.

In the chat system itself, before actually entering a chat room one can enter a short bio line, which one does from the main chat window. Although this is optional, I think it's a good idea to say something, even if it's only "feeling horny"! One useful thing to do is to say where you are, e.g. "Chelsea", although guys will often give an impression of what they're after, e.g. "Chelsea top 4 bttm". Saying something useful here helps to save time and cuts down on wasted conversations. You'll still sometimes see things like "pvt ok" at the end of this bio line, meaning that the guy doesn't mind being sent private messages. Before gaydar existed, I recall that that was a very common thing to say on your bio line in the original chat rooms, but these days I think everyone assumes that private messages are OK unless the bio line says otherwise. Some guys will say "please read profile before pvt" which seems fair enough.

If you've got a reasonable profile with a pic, if you've entered your postcode into GPS, and if you've got a sensible bio line, then if you go into a busy chat room other guys will probably contact you. There's also nothing to stop you contacting other guys yourself, if you like the look of their profile. You can also put a brief advert onto the Open Channel, but doing that works best if you've only just entered the chat room. The reason for that is that one of the long standing problems with the system is that if you see a message from a guy on the Open Channel and you're interested in it, it can be hard to find the guy in the list of chat room users to start a private conversation with him. But because lots of guys are monitoring the new guys that are entering the room whose names are all listed at the bottom of the list, the thing to do is to exit the chat room, then re-enter and immediately put your advert onto the Open Channel so that you'll be easy to find.

Lastly, a warning and a request. Many guys are incredibly rude when cruising online. They'll ignore you, just stop talking to you for no apparent reason even if things seemed to be going well, they'll be self-centered so they'll just ask loads of questions without any thought that you may need similar questions answered, and so on. So the request is for a bit of politeness, because it doesn't cost anything. If you're focusing on a conversation with one guy, it doesn't take long to reply "soz m8 busy at mom" if you get sent a message from a different guy. And if you don't like the look of a guy for whatever reason, "soz m8 but ur not my type" or even "soz m8 but ur not what I'm looking for at mom" is sufficiently polite and will be appreciated at the other end, because the guy won't then waste his time waiting for you to reply.

Do any other readers have any thoughts on the best way to use online cruising web sites?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My mobile phone

Early one evening last week, we're sitting in the bar of a top hotel in Singapore and my new mobile phone is out on the table.

"Why's my picture on your phone, GB?" asks boyfriend P.

"It's my new HTC phone :-)," I answer, "and it lets me set up all the most important guys in my life on that contacts page. When I need to phone one of them, I just choose the right picture and it'll make the call. So of course your picture is on that page!"

"Sounds cool :-)," says boyfriend P smiling at me, "let me see."

I pass the phone over to him to let him have a look. But as I turn to our Mexican friend N to ask her what she'd been doing that day, he interrupts me.

"I KNEW IT!" exclaims boyfriend P with exasperation in his voice.

"What's the matter?" I ask calmly, even though I think I know! He's bound to have spotted ex-boyfriend S's picture there too, and given that he'd prefer me to sever all contact with him, it's presumably that picture that he's objecting to.

"That's M isn't it!!" says boyfriend P taking me by surprise, and holding up my phone so that both me and N can see the pic that he's referring to. Although I'd told him I'd been seeing a guy called M, this must be the first time that he'd seen his photo.

"Errr, yes, ..." I say sheepishly,

"Wow, he's HOT GB!!" interrupts N, while I'm trying to work out how to play the situation, "who is he?"

"Oh, he's just a work colleague," I reply casually, telling the truth, even if I'm not telling the whole truth!

"And how come he's BEFORE me in the contacts list?" says boyfriend P.

"The phone orders names alphabetically," I reply, being completely honest now, "and 'M' is before 'P' in the alphabet!"

"How old is he?" asks N, continuing her interrogation.

I tell her what his age is, and she looks at me quizzically.

"So GB," she says with the tone of a prosecuting barrister about to clinch a conviction, "what's a guy like you doing with one of his cute young colleagues in the quick contact list on his mobile phone?"

"Well ..."

"Let me just say this, guys that age, they're all TROUBLE!"

"I wouldn't let P here date a guy that young," she continues, "and you're older than P!"

"But surely I could meet a guy like that for a bit of *fun* every now and then?" says boyfriend P, grinning now.

"Well maybe," she says, "I suppose they're good for that, but not for serious dating. Take it from me honey, I know, they're just TROUBLE!!"

I hadn't thought about it before, but I suddenly realise that the husband that N was having all the trouble with is about the same age as M.

The conversation gradually drifts onto other topics as we down our Singapore Slings. But overall, I feel satisfied with the conclusion. Boyfriend P definitely knows now that he's not the only dish on the menu!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Catching up with DL

Spending few days in Singapore recently allowed me to catch up with fellow blogger DL, who I met in London last summer. Admittedly DL's blog has been a bit *quiet* this year, however I know from the emails that he's sent me that there's been a lot going on in his life, so it's understandable. Comparing our diaries, it turned out that the best mutually convenient time was a weekday lunch, so after a few emails and txt msgs the date was set.

"So what are you going to do about boyfriend P and ex-boyfriend S," asks DL, once we'd been shown to a table in a smart restaurant near where he works, "do you think that you'll get the two of them to meet?"

"I mentioned in the posting that ex-boyfriend S had other emotional issues in his life at the moment," I reply, "and I think recent developments there mean that it's going to be a bad time to arrange such a meeting from his point of view :-(."

"Actually, straight guys like me would probably just ignore the issue!"

"So what would happen if one accidently meets in the street or something," I ask, "surely a planned introduction is better? In my case that's not an insignificant possibility, because ex-boyfriend S's house is only a short walk from mine, and boyfriend P will be staying with me!"

"I guess if I was in the same situation and we all bumped into one another, it'd just be a quick 'Oh hi, catch u later' or something!"

We spend a pleasant hour chatting to with each other, and DL tells me about some of the things going on in his life too. When the bill comes, DL insists on paying for me, which was very kind and much appreciated :-). With the banking system in crisis and my job under threat, I'm not going to say no to a free lunch!

Monday, October 06, 2008

A gay paradise?

Today I visited Singapore's National Museum with boyfriend P and our female Mexican friend who also happened to be in Singapore. I was amazed by one particular fact that I discovered there. As late at 1860 the male:female ratio in the city was 10:1, because it was a place that men came to work, leaving their families behind in their home countries! My immediate thoughts were, in one sense at least, it must have been a gay paradise :-).

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The gay bachelor lifestyle

Although I'm not single, since ex-boyfriend S moved out I've been living alone so it's very much a gay bachelor lifestyle. In many ways I miss having him around, but in other ways I'm glad that we've separated like this. It's only a brisk ten minute walk to his house, so we've been seeing each other about twice a week which is nice. I'm still convinced that this split was the right thing to do, so I'm now looking forward to our future friendship, rather than back at the reasons for the split.

Having to do all the household chores myself comes as a bit of a shock though! I've finally found a new cleaner who did her first day yesterday, and I can already tell that she's going to be brilliant :-). Although myself and ex-boyfriend S employed a cleaner for many years, she was finding it harder and harder to climb the stairs in the house and do a good job at everything, so with ex-boyfriend S moving out it seemed like the right time to let her retire. With more to do around the house, together with all the other things in my life, unfortunately I've had less time for blogging.

As I've said before though, I do find it hard to sleep at night without a nice guy to cuddle up to. Although I haven't found any time to blog about it, I've gradually been getting closer to M who I met a couple of months ago, but as yet we haven't slept with each other overnight. He knows about both boyfriend P and ex-boyfriend S so it could be that he's a bit cautious about getting close to someone like me with all these relationships in his background. Another complication is that although we met online, by some bizarre coincidence it turns out that we both work for the same bank in FSA regulated roles, so if we do get closer we may have an obligation to be open about our association with our employer!

However, I reckon the biggest problem with living alone is web sites like gaydar! Without anyone living with me to keep me under control, I find that I waste too much time cruising online. "Hmmm, I wonder if there's a nice guy nearby for a quickie?" I'll think as I'm climbing the stairs for bed. When I lived with ex-boyfriend S I'd spend time blogging about it instead, which is a much more productive occupation :-). Luckily my work hasn't suffered yet. However, my overall conclusion is that I do need to find a new live-in boyfriend to keep my natural urges in check!