Gay Sex and the Philly City: It’s Not Me, It’s You

My "let me expose all since I have no shame" column on dating and being gay in Philly.

gay couple

I had a therapist about a year ago tell me, “You need to let your hair down when it comes to sex. You need to let loose”

I, quite frankly, took offense to that. I mean, I have been out since I was 16, and if the back seat of my first car (my late grandfather’s white clunker) could talk, well, I’d be labeled a big old whore. (God, the things that happened in the parking lot of the Best Buy store about 20 minutes from my parents’ house …) Yet, my therapist thought I needed to be more playful with the people I dated, or that I needed to show other guys that I could be a fun-loving sexual being.

Perhaps it was because I told him I had more (and better) sex and sexual encounters before I had moved into Center City. I stand by that statement: I’ve lived in the city for just about five years now, and I dated more guys and had more sex when I lived in Southern New Jersey. It baffles the mind: You’d think there’d be a wide variety of tastes for a single, young gay man in Philly, but I haven’t necessarily found that to be true. In fact, as of this publication, the last time I had a sexual encounter with another guy was around November of last year. My hand has been taking care of things since then, thank you very much. (Hey, it’s National Masturbation Month; it’s practically a public service!)

And it wasn’t because I wasn’t willing. I am not one to seek out hook-ups, but have they happened? Of course. I’ve had plenty of “dates” that turn into one-night stands, but I am not comfortable posting a public underwear shot on Grindr and advertising that I’m just looking for a fuck. That never made me comfortable, and I don’t think it will ever feel natural for me.

Yet, I took my therapist’s advice to heart. Maybe I did need to loosen up and be a little more aggressive when it came to physically wanting someone—you know, put all cards on the table.

So, I tried it recently. It didn’t work.

There was someone with whom I had been on a handful of dates with. I was quite attracted to him, and I felt sure he was attracted to me, too. We both had mutual feelings for each other’s looks, our intellect, our interests. We had some rather steamy sexting session: pictures and messages were shared, and I was for sure that it was time to make a physical move.

One Saturday evening, after a long week, I invited him over to my apartment. This was to be the proof that I could “let my hair down,” as my now ex-therapist said. I was going to show that I could not only be a sexual being, but that I could be playful and flirtatious and all of that good stuff. I took a shower, sprayed on some really sexy cologne, threw on a pair of fitted, nicely cut shorts, a tight T-shirt (and good underwear, of course), lit some candles, put on some nice music, and got the contents of my little in-home bar ready for some cocktails. I mean, come on! This was perfect. The scene was set.

He arrived and sat down across from me on a chair. I told him to sit next to me on the sofa. The next two hours were the most awkward, non-sexy hours I’d spent in all of my life.

We kissed, and I tried like hell to get him to get more comfortable, but about as far as I could go was to get him to remove one of three layers of shirts he had on. His shoes wouldn’t come off and I could barely get him to cuddle. He kept scolding me, like I was some sort of shitty puppy that was peeing on the floor (“No. No. No, you can’t do that,” every time I’d try to remove another layer, or try to get him to just, well, relax). It just got so awkward that after a bit, I stopped trying. I was noticeably annoyed, and he left, after a kiss.

I’ve been rejected many a time before in my dating life, but for some reason, this time felt really, really crappy—mostly because I had tried. That was my fault, I’ll admit: I shouldn’t have tried so hard. Yet, I knew that the end result wasn’t my fault. I could tell I could take grievance here, that I could feel rejected and downright pissed about my suitor’s lack of affection. Here I was trying to be playful and let my hair down to someone who was clearly wanting it (at least his text messages suggested so), and I was pretty much thrown to the curb.

I called him on his behavior several days later, and straight up told him that he made me feel like a huge slut trying to get a piece. He apologized, claiming he had “issues,” and we haven’t talked since. Part of that is my doing: I just don’t have the energy or time to deal with that.

But I also learned something really important: Sometimes, it isn’t me. It’s them. Actually, more often than not, it’s them. Take dating and sex out of the picture: Every person that we meet has their own personal baggage, and although there are times that we need to be accountable for our own actions, many times, if someone treats us in a way that we don’t want to be treated, it has nothing to do with us. It’s all about their own personal shit. Something important to keep in mind next time you meet someone new.

So was my therapist right? Maybe, a little. But it’s summer. There will be plenty of other chances to pop open a bottle of wine and put on cologne and be playful.

But until then, at least I’ve got some retrospective to muddle over. And my right hand.