It’s the new year. You’ve decided you need to make some resolutions—get your life back on track.
I feel you. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve had all kinds of readers come out of the woodwork and ask me for advice in framing their declarations for 2015. I don’t blame them for trying. The first of January always brings a fresh new start. A clean slate. A new perspective. Three hundred and sixty-five pristine days ripe with opportunity.
Yet I’m afraid that some of you guys will squander the opportunity by coming up with resolutions that are . . . well. Let’s just say flabby. Underdeveloped, maybe. Every year I hear from guys, “This is the year I intend to improve myself!”
“Fantastic!” I’ll reply. “What are you going to do? Learn a new language? Read that volume of Proust? Take up the banjolele?”
“No,” they’ll say, blinking. “I mean I’m going to take care of myself.”
“Fantastic! So what, you’re going to learn to cook? Start an IRA?”
“Uh, no, dude,” they’ll say, looking at me as if I’ve suddenly sprouted an extra head. “I’m going to go to the gym and work out every day.”
Listen. I’ve got nothing against you guys who enjoy going to the gym. Quite the contrary. I have mounted many a gym bunny over the years. They can be fun. But I’m old enough and wise enough to know that improving yourself is more than just being able to take a better shirtless selfie.
Trust me on that.
Behind all the mania for gym memberships this time of year, for gay and straight men alike, is deep down a conviction that without that perfect body we’ve all seen in porn videos and on magazine covers and in cologne ads, we simply won’t get laid. Physical fitness is grand and the cardiopulmonary benefits are fantastic and the autoimmune response to exercise yadda yadda yadda, but at heart there’s a conviction so many people have this time of year: that nobody’s going to want you in bed if you can’t pose sideways in a mirror, lean back at the perfect angle, and snap a pretty shot of yourself in your best pair of name-brand underwear.
If you think that all you have to bring to the table is a good shirtless selfie for Grindr and maybe a V chiseled at your waistline, son, you are going to have a rude awakening down the road. There’s nothing wrong with being buff. I’m not saying it’s silly or stupid or trite. But unless you’re intending as well to do a little work on your personality, your outlook, and your brain, your chances of getting laid in 2015 are going to be about as much as they were in 2014 . . . and for a lot of you, judging by my email, that’s anywhere between average to dismal.
So here I am to offer up three simple suggestions for self-improvement.
You’re welcome in advance.
1. Try saying ‘yes’ more often. These days I look at profiles online, or at the descriptions of yourselves in the apps all you young whippersnappers are using, and I still shake my head and marvel how some of you manage to get your dicks wet. “No fats, no fems” still appears from time to time (what is this, America Online in 1993?). “No guys older than my dad!” “No blacks!” “No white men!” “No married men!” “No guys in a relationship please!”
And then there are the ‘you must bes.’ “You must take care of yourself.” “You must have a regular job like me.” “You must be HIV-negative.” “You must be all top.” “You must live within 9 miles of me.” They’re just another way of saying no. Of exerting a false sense of control. Of walling yourself off from experience, brick by brick.
Guys, step outside those little comfort zones. You can tell yourself all you want that your preferences are your preferences and that you can’t change them. The truth of the matter, however, is that the nests you’ve made for yourselves are often incredibly small (and small-minded). With every ‘no’ you utter, with every large subset of humanity or experience you reject out of hand, you’re just putting another brick in that wall.
So say yes. Have a date with a guy ten years older than you’d ordinarily consider. There’s no obligation to sleep with him, or to see him again if you’re genuinely not interested. Try topping instead of bottoming sometime—or vice versa—instead of stomping your foot and insisting you’ve got a role and you’re sticking to it. Say yes, you’ll go to that sex party you’ve been interested in attending but haven’t yet gotten the nerve. Say yes, you’ll try something different.
You want real self-improvement? Stop turning up your nose to opportunity and start saying yes to the many fantastic experiences that life has to offer.
2. Stop thinking about the sex you want. Start having it. You know what the problem is with most of you poor motherfuckers? You jack off too much. You pull up a website and watch amateur porn, you swipe on your phone and bring up a movie, you pop in a DVD and you whack off. Pbbbt. Job’s done.
I get it. It’s easier to jack than it is to make human contact. Meeting a guy is tough stuff. You have to clean up (and clean out). You have to get dressed, get in the car or get on the subway, travel. There’s that awkward conversation before and after. The sex might not even be good—it’s a crap shoot sometimes. Your hand and a good fuck flick is a sure thing. You can do it in your sweatpants. Your hand doesn’t care that you haven’t showered or shaved. You don’t feel obligated, while you’re getting dressed after, to ask your flushed palm about whether or not it had a happy childhood or how long it’s lived at its place. Five minutes, and you’re back to watching Netflix while feeling nice and relaxed.
But fuck, guys. If you’re jacking off three, four, seven, ten times a day (you know who you are) and using that as a substitute for any kind of intimacy with another guy, you’ve kind of lost the right to rant and rail against your lack of a real sex life. Masturbation is fine as a quick release valve. I recommend it for girls and boys of all ages. It is, however, a mere Tootsie Roll of sexual nourishment. And none of you muscleheads so intent on improving yourselves would ever make an entire diet of Tootsie Rolls.
So take your hands out of your pants and get the fuck out into the world. You can have the sex you want. In the immortal words of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: don’t dream it. Be it.
3. Get your asses on PrEP. If you’re HIV-negative and want to stay that way, and you’re barebacking, you should be on a prescribed course of Truvada, courtesy of your physician. Full stop.
PrEP, of course, is an abbreviation for pre-exposure prophylaxis, in which men (and women) who have tested as HIV-negative take a pill every day; it contains medicines that prevent HIV from being able to infect someone exposed to it. Its effectiveness is as good as, or better than condoms, depending on what studies you read. No, it doesn’t prevent one from catching other sexually-transmitted diseases, as many will be quick to point out. But you know what? Condoms aren’t totally effective against that, either. And unless you’re using a condom during oral sex—and no one is except for that one solitary weird guy without any photos on Adam4Adam who stridently insists on it in his profile—you can still catch those other diseases during your foreplay.
“But I’m not one of those barebackers,” says the man who does indeed bareback with his boyfriend, but doesn’t know his boyfriend is fucking around behind his back and exposing him to risk. Or, “I’m not one of those awful people who has unsafe sex!” says the fellow with the spotless online profile who has the date of his last test proudly displayed (“NEG AND STAYING THAT WAY!!!” emblazoned beside it) . . . and yet who caves in front of a cock like mine and tells me that although he doesn’t really fuck raw, he’ll make an exception.
Or maybe you’re one of those guys who admits that he barebacks and needs the intimacy and warmth of it from time to time, but thinks you’re doing the right thing by picking the guy on Scruff or Manhunt who has ‘neg’ listed in his profile and asking him to play raw with you. There are an awful lot of you out there, too. I’ve fucked you.
It’s time for some truth-telling. There are all kinds of sneaky little games you guys play with yourselves to enable yourselves to fuck raw, all kinds of voodoo calculations and self-delusions. It’s a new year, though, and we’re writing some resolutions for ourselves, so let’s face up to the facts: we engage in these unhelpful behaviors because we’ve convinced ourselves that barebacking is a bad behavior.
It’s not. People enjoy barebacking. Humans have barebacked for the vast majority of history. They watch bareback porn. They read bareback blogs. In fact, you know who’s barebacked? Your mama.
Guys bareback. You are likely going to bareback. Do-gooders can tsk and chide all we want, but it happens. Take responsibility for your behaviors, if you’re neg and truly intend to stay that way. It’s not up to your parents, or your doctor, or your husband or wife. It’s not up to the guy who fucks you. Admit what you’re doing, take responsibility, see your doctor, and get on PrEP.
But I can’t get on PrEP, I hear you whine. I’m worried about the side effects. You know what? We have all heard way too many god-damned people worrying about the god-damned side effects of god-damned Truvada. I have a friend on Facebook who went on PrEP (and good for him!) but who has, every day since, seen fit to announce to broadcast EVERY DAY the side effects. Not that he’s experienced any, mind you. On day thirteen he had a little bit of digestive trouble but it could have been, he readily admits, the Thai food. But for forty-odd days, now, I’ve been treated to daily recountings of hypochondria that rival Andy Warhol at his most paranoid.
Frankly, when my friends go on Ambien, or anti-depressants, or meds for high cholesterol, or pills for acid reflux, or aspirin, or any of the pills we take on a daily basis, none of them feel compelled to relate the side effects—or even think much about them. Combine side effects with PrEP, though, and suddenly everyone’s all concerned. It’s as if we’re still convinced that we have to pay, somehow, for a pill that might improve our sexual experiences. You know what? Shut up and take the damned pill. If you are the one-in-a-million person who experiences constant flatulence or kidney failure, you have my permission and encouragement to discontinue what is at heart a completely optional drug.
But I can’t get on PrEP, you’re saying. It’s too expensive! Yes. It is expensive. Very fucking expensive, if you ask me. But you know, unless you go to your doctor and discuss Truvada with him or with her—including its cost—you’re not going to know exactly how much out of pocket you may be. Your health insurance may cover a big chunk of it. You may be eligible for a discount from the manufacturer for a healthy portion. The state in which you live may have programs for which you are eligible that will help cover the costs.
Instead of sitting back and deciding for yourself that it’s out of your range, get up and make a few phone calls. Talk to your medical professional. Try your local gay and lesbian community center and ask them about potential programs. Search online. Don’t concede without a fight; do what you can to make it happen. Because you deserve it.
Now, if you’re an HIV-positive guy, you can amend this resolution to read that you’ll keep your asses on your daily antiretroviral regime that’ll keep HIV to an inert level. If anyone reading this is still convinced that their HIV-positive brothers on antiretrovirals are somehow tainted or untouchable because they carry a virus—even though it’s not doing them or anyone else any active harm—you know what’s another virus that stays in your bloodstream for life, virtually inactive, after you’ve been infected with it? German measles. And I don’t see any of you being all self-righteous and proclaiming in your profiles, “GERMAN MEASLES FREE AND STAYING THAT WAY!!!” So get over yourselves.
There. Now you’ve got a start on your resolutions. You can figure out the rest for yourselves. But you know what I’d suggest? Resolve to be kinder to each other. Resolve to be kinder to yourselves. Resolve to be honest, and responsible, and to treat every person in your life in the way you would like to be treated.
If you ask me, that’s improving yourself.
What are my resolutions, you ask? Why, it’s to be even foxier than I was in 2014 . . . Which admittedly is a high bar to set, since I was already pretty damned foxy. What else?