At this point we have all heard and read about the #Metoo movement that is sweeping the world and altering the way men think about sexual consent. Created over a decade ago by Black Female Activist Tarana Burke, “Me Too” is a grassroots movement to provide “empowerment through empathy to survivors of sexual abuse, assault, exploitation, and harassment in underprivileged communities who typically don’t have access to rape crisis centers or counselors”.
Contrary to the opinions of some queer bloggers, like Skylar Baker-Jordan, we at GMJ believe that gay males do have a voice in this conversation and have our own stories to tell. In Ms. Burke’s own words, gay males fit the description of the type of people that need support, even if we are not mentioned by name. Rape crisis centers either do not exist for gay males, or like the largest agency in the United States, The Anti-Violence Project in New York City, is headed, managed and run by an all female staff, even though the agency was originally founded to address the needs of gay males, by gay males.
What many writers, journalist and bloggers are missing when it comes to this movement regarding us is that our community is still very young. The rules at play are not only different than for straights, they are still evolving. We are males living in a male-centric environment, surrounded by a hostile heterosexual world. Touch, sex and intimacy with strangers in our own safe spaces is seen as a badge of honour hard won through struggle. If this is correct or not, is not the point right now, what is important is that many gay guys believe that our spaces are zone free of the daily mores at play outside those four walls.
Gay bars and clubs were created for guys to have places of our own, without judgement, where we could be free to express our sexuality, meet, hold hands, kiss and even have sex, without the prying eyes of straights. Touching and feeling your way through a bar became not just a right of passage, but the norm. What we all need to consider is that not every guy wants to be felt up by every guy he passes. Which leads us to a major issue within the gay community: CONSENT.
Ever staying true to our word, GMJ is addressing this issue from the point of our real lives, not what should happen, rather what does happen and how it affects/effects others in our community. We all come from different ethnic, racial, cultural, educational and financial backgrounds that shape our view of being gay and how much privilege we have in bending or breaking the rules. The point of this article is to open a dialogue about consent and give some basic structure to the actions we have witnessed, discussed with other gay males and even have been victims of. We are not trying to make new laws or policies but create a space where guys can think about their actions and the consequences they could have on all involved.
The Dynamics of Touch
We all do it, we all want it. From basic hugs and kisses to sexual intercourse, humans thrive on touch and those denied it show adverse effects for the rest of their lives. Touch can heal, soothe pain and even place us in better moods and ease depression. For a community usually rejected for wanting to touch one of their same gender, these small actions can make all the difference in a man’s life. But we cannot create a “free for all” because then, the very thing we crave for our own personal healing and pleasure quickly can turn into the exact opposite for someone else.
Touching someone means entering into their personal space, crossing physical boundaries and forcing interaction. Without consent, especially between two males, the outcome could go either way.
These are the simple types of physical flirting that many gay males are familiar with and enjoy in bars and clubs. It might be a small tap on the ass as you walk bye or a pat on the back. In some bars, a tug at your cock is just another way of saying “HI”. Something small and not very intrusive that signals that he is interested in you is very common and generally accepted as normal. In crowed spaces with loud music these actions are the fastest, and most effective, way of getting someone’s attention. It should not be a violent, hard slap or aggressive hit. This could cause a fist fight.
If you are on the receiving end of this type of touch, you have a decision to make. Are you interested or not? If you are, you can do whatever makes you feel comfortable in that moment, but if you are not, this is your chance to keep walking or verbally let him know that you are not interested.
If you are the one making this first physical contact, you need to man-up and accept the decision made by the one you are pursuing. He has made his choice and given his consent, or not.
One of the hardest words for any man to hear is “NO” to his advances, but the truth of the matter is rejection is a part of life. We as gay males need to learn to be better at accepting rejection and giving it. This is the other side of the coin of consent.
Flirting alone does not imply consent.
- Rejection does not have to be mean or hurtful. It can be done with a polite thank you for the compliment and a smile.
- Accepting rejection can also be done politely.
- “No” must mean “No”, every time by everyone. Not “maybe”, not “I’m not sure”, not “ask me again later”.
- Everyone must accept “NO” as an answer the very first time.
- Physical rejection does not have to be violent unless truly necessary for self defense
- Non-verbal cues are not rejection; they are confusing. Be clear and firm.
- Karma is a bitch. Be careful how you reject others, you may be on the receiving end of those actions sooner than you think.
This literally is the second touch. Sometimes, especially in a crowd, the first touch could go unnoticed or not attributed to you. A second touch could show an actual interest but it also could get into the creepy phase. Proceed with caution. Maybe your touch was ignored for a reason.
This touch could also come after an initial “yes’ to your first touch but maybe something didn’t click and he changes his mind. Or you change your mind. This is fine. No harm done. Smile, part as friends. If you are on the receiving end of an unwanted second touch, you really must make your lack of interest clear. Use your words baby. “Non verbal cues” do not work!
Drugs and alcohol
Let’s face it, gays drink and do drugs but usage does not mean abuse. Bars and clubs are filled with non-sober people and the consequences of their intake can be unpredictable, to say the least. If you enter into a bar, don’t be surprised that there are drunk guys with grabby hands. It is not church. We all must take our choices of surroundings and location into consideration when interacting with other guys. A bar is not work, and a club is not a sex party. People act differently, and they should, depending on the location. With this being said, drugs, specifically meth has become a huge issue in our community in relationship to consent. Guys so high, for days even, cannot legally consent to sex or sexual touching. This has created a unique problem in large gay meccas like New York and London. GMFA did an extensive piece on this very issue and consent. Check it out!
“We often go to spaces which are explicitly sex-focused to take drugs, have sex with multiple partners, and often meet an assortment of men as they come and go. 5% of our survey respondents said that consent does not apply in such an environment: once you’re in the door, you’re fair game.”
But everyone, no matter the amount of alcohol, G, mephedrone or tina they’ve taken, always retains the right to say no, change their mind, or simply leave. There is no way to waive your right to consent, and you don’t have to be screaming “stop”, for sex to quickly become sexual violence.
If things are going well, touch three is when things can get fun. You both agree to the physical contact and everyone is happy. But this could also be the point when someone refuses to stop touching another guy. Maybe he is following him around the bar, almost stalking him and making him feel uncomfortable no matter how many times he has rejected him. This is not flirting, it is harassment. Know when to cut bait and move on. There are plenty of other fish in this gay sea.
If you are on the receiving end of touch three without your consent, this is a huge red flag. You might need help from bar staff security. A man who won’t take no for an answer will only get worse over time.
Location, location, location
Overall, this piece is about bars and clubs but the issue of consent also goes into public areas like bathhouses, and sex parties but also private areas like someone’s home. We never leave our ability to say “no” at home. But, in all honesty, we must take the location into consideration when deciding if a particular level of touch has gone over the line. For example, bars are social spaces where people go to meet and greet friends, old and new, which is very different from a sex party or sauna where guys are going to get laid. If a guy touches your cock in a bar that is bad, but at a sex party, it is expected. Location does dictate social norms and mores and gay culture has created spaces where sex is free and open. Again, this does not make your body a free for all but it does mean that you have a responsibility to make choices in your best interest before you leave your home. And just because you are at a sex party does not mean that you are the guest of honour and every guy is your personal sex slave.
Parties built around sex are going to be sex focused. Full stop. This means that flirting will be more physical and sexually centered. These are facts. But how you reject someone or receive that rejection can still be civil and civilized. We don’t have to be assholes to each other.
These spaces are in the realm of a sexual dance or mating ritual so the rules are different. Pay attention. Be careful of your own alcohol and drug intake and make sure you are using your words to show consent or rejection. No one is going to be a mind reader when they are trying to get laid.
And finally, the type of sex party or event will dictate what types of touching is deemed appropriate or not. For example Leather and Fetish parties will have different codes of conduct than a standard vanilla house party. CHEM sex parties are going to be higher math for most guys. But even if a guy has his bare ass in the air and taking all loads and comers, does not mean that he is giving his consent to you!
These are crimes. Period.
Everything from assault, battery and even rape fall into this zone. These types of touch can escalate very quickly into the worst night of your life. The shocking part is how fast someone can go from Touch One to Touch Four. It can literally be within seconds. Bars and clubs are perfect spots to get corned and groped by strangers without anyone around knowing what is happening. If you find yourself in this position, physically and verbally fighting back is your best defense. And never let yourself be taken to a second location!
At GMJ we don’t believe in shame, or victim blaming but we do believe in taking care of your own shit. We are gay but we are also men, this means that we can be perpetrators of sexual violence and also victims. We will never know how bad the issue of sex crimes are in our community because the law does not always see us as victims and many are not willing or able to come forward for a host of reasons like homophobia, fear, retaliation and even financial concerns.
According to the Office for National Statistics, around half a million people in England and Wales become survivors of sexual assault each year. Of this number, an estimated 12,000 are men who survive a rape or attempted rape.
The Human Rights Commission Reports
26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men
- 40 percent of gay men and 47 percent of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence other than rape, compared to 21 percent of heterosexual men
The issue of consent must be understood by all men, regardless of sexual orientation. Being homosexual does not make you immune to the laws or mean you are not protected by them. We all have a role to play and this includes:
- Being aware of our surroundings and who we interact with. This includes who we meet on social media apps and go home with.
- Be careful of the amounts of drugs and alcohol we consume. Know when to say when.
- The word “No” is a powerful tool. Use it! Don’t rely on non-verbal cues when your mouth can open and spit out real words with understood meanings.
- Pick and choose where you go wisely. Do your homework and understand that bars and clubs have different rules than sex parties and saunas. If you are unclear…stay home.
- Watch out for the amounts of drugs and alcohol used by those you interact with. Not everyone is a happy drunk.
- Understand that what a man wears, or is not wearing does not give or even imply consent. A guy should be able to walk through a bar totally naked without being raped. This is not rocket science.
- But, if you walk through a gay bar naked do not be surprised that your ass will be smacked, your dick will be pulled and rude comments will be made.
- This is your life, protect it and take care of it.
- Flirt, have fun, dance and laugh like no one is watching, but remember to still keep a sharp eye out for predators, because they are truly watching out for you.
Some real talk for grown folks.
Consent is a gift that can be taken back at any moment. Literally, your dick can be in his ass and he can revoke your penis privileges. From start to finish, either one of you can call the whole thing off, and this is ok. No one has any right to touch someone’s body or force them to have sex. Your gay card will not help you out of jail when he calls the police for rape or sexual battery. And yes, size does matter. Taller and larger guys must understand that some of their physical flirtations can seem aggressive to those smaller in size and stature. Imagine being 5’5″145 lbs and being cornerd by a 6’2″ 230 lbs guy. Being aware of small subtle cues is one part of the dating and mating process but it is not the only one. Use your big head just as much as your little one and all will be well.
Finally, if you fuck up, and trust us, you will, be man enough to admit your mistakes and say your are sorry. That is what an adult would do. Let’s make our safe spaces, safe for all gay guys.