The second half of my spring 2010 college semester (April and May) was characterized by shame. Shame: A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. After two shots at “gay dating” failed, I began to wonder what would be the best way to proceed in my evolution as a gay individual:
Should I take a leave of absence and go ‘asexual’ for a while? Should I stop dating all together? Maybe I should try to meet guys in a different way, perhaps, without the assistance of the internet. Or, maybe I should flirt, but not follow through.
I think my actions were fueled by two desires – my desire for attention and my desire to act on my sexual inclination toward men. I had been living alone since August, 2009 and I did not have any close friends at my university. It was already March, 2010, so in my mind making friends would not be worthwhile because I’d be returning home in only two short months. At the same time, I longed to experience the same sense of social well being that I had developed at my previous university. Because of my ignorance toward forming physical friendships so late in the academic year, I decided to continue using Chatroulette and Omegle to interact with people on a virtual level (note: never in a sexual manner). And, I would soon discover that my aspiration for sexual exploration could also be fulfilled via internet dating sites, at least for the time being. Looking back, I blame my fleeting thought processes on the absence of something more in my life. I didn’t have friends, I was lonely, I was so caught up in myself that I had lost interest in some of my more tedious coursework, and I had stopped going to church all together.
In March I had joined a dating website called Just Guys, where I met and dated a guy for about a month (though we only saw each other 4 times throughout that month). Our dates were not sexual – we’d meet in coffee shops and fast food restaurants to chat. We only kissed once (on April 7th). In the final days of our time in communication, I met another guy on the site who I only spoke to for a few days.
We met only once, when he came to my apartment to meet me. I was nervous because, although we had spoken on Skype the day before, it was almost 2 AM and I didn’t want to go outside alone. A suspect had recently been convicted in the homicide of a gay man whom he lured out into the street at night and shot him in the head. In one of many dangerous lapses of judgment, I took a knife from my kitchen and hid it in my coat pocket before creeping outside to wait for his car. He stopped a block away from my house and shut his lights off. I insisted through text messages that he move forward, closer to my house, and that he come out of the car prior to meeting him. I wanted to ensure that he was the same person I had spoken with on Skype, and that it was safe to approach him. In the end everything was fine. I trumped him with my 6’8”, as he was barely 5’4” tall. When we kissed, I could taste the alcohol on his breath, but at the time I didn’t know what it was (I don’t drink…). After an hour of speaking he left and I went to bed. We never saw each other again.
I met three other people on the site – two of which were strictly Skype/text message based interactions with guys who lived hundreds of miles away. The other one is a long and complex story. You can read it here if you want to.
On April 12th, I discovered another site while reading a local gay news publication in D.C. I met two people on this site. At first I thought this site was very inappropriate. I didn’t even use my own photos or information when registering because I couldn’t mentally stoop myself to a level where I could comfortably use the site without judgment. I never meant to meet anyone from this site. To me this site acted as a gallery of fantasy, if you wish. I looked, but I never touched. I used it to see what was out there. I’d chat with guys, but I’d never go to meet them, even if they asked. As much as I was tempted to do so, I had enough self-respect not to pursue their sexual advances. On April 14th I created my own profile, and on the same day I met with the first guy. I didn’t mean to meet him in person. He was a student, one year younger than myself. (Up until him, everyone I had met in person was my same age or 2-3 years older.) He was attending a class at the law school of my university and he sent me a text message asking to meet.
Out of shock and surprise I told him that I could not meet because I was at work. He told me that he would wait until my shift was over, but I was hesitant. I did not want to see him, but at the same time, I did not want seem shy or innocent. I had spent my entire high school career lurking the halls of my high school with no self-confidence or ability to interact socially with others outside of my small group of friends. I thought that if I said no, he would stop talking to me all together, and that was something that I didn’t want to happen. Instead, I said yes, but that I was bringing two of my friends along to meet him as well.
Although he was a year younger than me, he claimed to already be in graduate school. I could tell by the way he spoke to me that he was very intelligent. His diction was up to par with that of my international relations professors in the School of International Service. After we met, my friends left and I took a walk with him. He told me that he had an open relationship with a guy who was studying at an ivy league school, hundreds of miles outside of D.C. This was a turn off. Although I was entranced by his intelligence, I would never even think about becoming sexually involved in someone else’s relationship. I told him that we couldn’t speak anymore, and we went our separate ways.
Later that night, however, he texted me and asked me to meet him for coffee. I repeated what I had told him about not wanting to get involved with his relationship, whether it be open or closed. He agreed, but we still met. One thing led to another and before he left at the end of the night we ended up making out. I saw him again on the 18th. However, the 18th was different. There was no sexual contact. He took me to dinner at a fancy Japanese restaurant. At the dinner he spoke about nothing other than international relations and policy. I began to feel as though I was in my world politics class – a class I hated during my first semester in D.C. As he was rambling on about the conflict between North and South Korea, I began to think about the situation I had gotten myself into. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. I knew this wasn’t for me, and that it was wrong. I didn’t want to be someone’s substitute-boyfriend while the real thing was studying at an ivy league school hundreds of miles away. To top it all off, I wasn’t the least bit attracted to him.
After dinner I thanked him for the meal (he paid), and took the bus to go home, alone. We never saw each other again. I deleted my account on both websites, and decided to call it quits and focus on my school work. The semester was going to be over on April 28th. The remainder of the semester was nearly flawless. I studied hard and scored well on my final exams. I had one last final exam, a paper due on May 3rd. I had finished it on May 2nd. My parents weren’t coming to pick me up until the 3rd.
Out of pure boredom and curiosity, I reactivated my account on the gay hookup site. Still, I did not have any intentions of meeting anyone face-to-face. Around 2 AM on May 3rd I got a message from one of the guys on the site. He was 26 years old. After some casual conversation, which eventually moved from the site’s chat platform to AOL Instant Messenger, he asked if I wanted to come to his house to watch Avatar. He wanted to watch a movie. I was surprised. I kindly rejected his invitation. It was late and I wasn’t about to get all dressed up to go out on a Sunday night. He continued to flirt with me, insisting that I had to come over to see what all the hype was about in James Cameron’s latest movie. As a major Titanic fan, I was tempted to take him up on his offer, but in the same moment I was beginning to sense that he wanted more than to just watch a movie with me. After all, there weren’t too many people like me on the site, using it just to look around, with no intentions to hookup.
I told him about what I had been through with the other guys, and that I wasn’t ready to jump back into things with a new guy. He continued to sweet talk me and assure me that THAT wasn’t what he was looking for. I decided to go. I know that this was stupid thing to do. On Facebook, he and I had two mutual friends which I knew very well, and he was friends with several other people who attended my university. In my mind, this alone was enough to justify the serious risk of transitioning from keys to kisses (if that were to be the case) in a possible face-to-face encounter. I was excruciatingly nervous. Every time I dialed the number to call the cab, I’d think again and shut off my phone. It wasn’t until an hour and a half later that I finally placed the order.
I took my contact case and my glasses, just in case I’d want to take them out after the movie was over, so that I could go right to bed as soon as I got back to my apartment. The cab arrived and I began to make my way into the trenches of Dupont Circle, D.C.’s “gaybourhood” (gay neighborhood).
Along the way I began to question my intentions. “What if he isn’t there to pay for the cab?” “What happens if he doesn’t like me and he tells me to leave…How would I get home?” These are the kinds of things I was thinking about. Maybe it was because I was so caught up in the situation, but “What if he tries to kill me?” or “What if I’m kidnapped” were thoughts that never crossed my mind. I guess knowing that we had mutual friends on Facebook made it easier for me to place some sort of trust in the situation, and in him.
We met. We did watch avatar, but as expected, he initiated sexual contact, and we did other things as well. However, once again, I did NOT have sex. I took the metro back to my apartment, turned in my paper, and went home with my dad. May 3rd, 2010.
Sorry to confuse readers, but back on April 18th, prior to deleting my profile on Just Guys, I met another guy with whom I formed a unique friendship. He was also gay, but closeted. He was one year older than me. He was from the Mid-West. What was unique about our friendship was that he too was Catholic. After talking for about a month, I had helped him come out to his family. Knowing that I had already passed through the uncomfortable “coming out” phase of my sexuality, a friendship with someone who had not, gave me a stronger sense of self-confidence – power, in a way. Our friendship was never sexual. We spoke about the Church and how our sexuality influenced our faith in God. The friendship, however, was by no means mature. He had become infatuated with the idea of meeting someone who was interested in maintaining a close relationship with God, and in the process, I was able to think about my place in the Catholic community as well.
He wanted to come and meet me in DC. Of course I agreed. He bought his plane ticket on May 3rd, the same day that I met the other guy to watch Avatar at his apartment in Dupont Circle. To me, this was perfectly fine. After all, we were just friends. I returned to DC on Sunday, May 16th on a Greyhound bus. He was to arrive on the 17th at BWI airport. When I arrived in DC, however, I found out that he wasn’t coming. Apparently his mother did not trust him coming all the way from the Mid-West to meet me in DC. I couldn’t blame her. After all, who was I to her? In frustration, I purchased another bus ticket to return to Pennsylvania the following day.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was anxious to get back to PA after this failed attempt to connect with my first gay Catholic friend. After a while I took out my computer and logged into the hookup site again. Maybe it was around 3 AM. I ended up staying on the site until 7 AM, doing nothing but browsing guys, having meaningless conversations, looking for someone to meet face-to-face (though I didn’t have the courage to go and meet them).
I will always remember one particular conversation that I had on the site that morning. It was around 6:30 AM. I could hear songs of the waking birds outside beneath the cool morning sun. I had messaged a guy, hoping to spark up a conversation. He was physically fit and tanned – the kind of guy girls and the gays would drool over. To my surprise, he accepted my chat request.
“What are you doing here?” he said to me.
“Just looking around…” I said.
“No one is just looking around, here,” he said.
“Haha… I know…” I replied.
“How many guys have you hooked up with tonight?” he asked.
“…zero.” I replied out of embarrassment.
“Well, maybe that could change,” he teased.
I was floored. I never imagined someone like him ever being remotely interested in a scrawny guy like me.
“What are you into?” he questioned.
I was never sure how to answer this question. It was frequently asked, but I usually just made up generic responses that the others guys would say to me. I just decided to tell him the truth and see what it would get me.
“Well, I’m not really sure,” I said, fingers crossed that he wouldn’t leave the conversation.
“Well, what all have you done? Do you f**k?” he asked.
All I could think of was kissing, innocent touching, failed attempts at oral sex. “I couldn’t possibly tell him this“, I thought to myself.
“?” he typed.
I wasn’t sure what to type. I didn’t want to lie, but at the same time I didn’t want to appear innocent. Again, I just told him the truth.
“Well, I actually haven’t really done anything besides kissing and stuff…”
“Wait.. so you’re a virgin?” he replied.
“Yes.” I said. “Game over.” I thought to myself.
What happened next was completely unexpected.
“What are you doing here?” he said. “Do you have no self-respect?”
I stared at the chat log in disbelief, and my feelings of excitement and anticipation slowly turned into feelings of remorse.
“You’re 20 and you still haven’t had sex. Are you sure you’re willing to just let a stranger take that away from you? I don’t think that this is the best way to lose your virginity. You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to meet guys this way. Go out and meet someone on your own…Maybe start a relationship. If you’ve waited this long, why waste it all on one night?”
I didn’t know what to say. I was so embarrassed by my behavior. I closed the chat window, deleted my account and went to bed. “What have I done with myself?” I thought.
I went home for the remainder of May. My apartment lease ended on May 31st, 2010 so I went back to DC the week of the 24th-28th to pack up my things. The week went well. I packed as much as I could, did some sightseeing, and spent time relaxing and talking to my Catholic friend.
By the time May 27th rolled around, boredom set in, as usual, and I was once again fully submerged, swimming beneath contempt in the lascivious corners of the internet. I rejoined the gay hookup site and relaunched my imaginative search for a connection I would never make. Instead, my satisfaction was derived from the mere contemplation of gay sex, rather than taking part in the act.
Around 2 AM on the 28th, I received an instant message from the Avatar guy, asking me if I wanted to come over to his place to “actually watch” Avatar instead of pretending to. Although I had met him once, I was reluctant to go. After all, my father and I had planned for him to come help me move out of my place at 9 AM. After much consideration and time plotting, I decided to go – partly because I wanted to watch the movie and partly because I had imagined that he and I would interact on a sexual level, just as we had the last time I went to his place.
Just as the last time, he offered to pay for my cab. When I arrived at his place, we sat on his bed and began to watch the movie. Within minutes he began kissing me, and our clothes came off. This time, the sexual tension was heightened and we went much further than the last time I had been with him. There came a point in our fondling where he asked me to penetrate him. I had never been asked to do this before in my life. As a Catholic, I was abstaining from anal sex until I was married, so I said no. He asked again, almost begging me to do it. But, I still denied his request.
As we continued kissing and messing around, he kept trying to sit on my erection. Each time he tried to penetrate himself with it, I’d push him away or shift my position to create some space between my erection and his buttocks. After much pushing and shifting, I eventually gave in and said yes, because if he was going to do it, I wanted it to be protected. He leaned over the side of his bed and took out a condom. Although I had bought them out of curiosity many times before, I had never worn a condom because I was never in a situation where it was necessary. When he tried to put it on me, it wouldn’t fit. He asked if I would do it anyway, without the condom. Obviously, I said no.
Then he asked if he could penetrate me. This made me really nervous because I wasn’t emotionally or physically ready to give up that much control. As to not seem like the innocent religious boy, “saving himself” for marriage, I told him that all the times I’d had sex in the past, I had been the dominate partner, and that I just wasn’t interested in switching roles. Of course this was a lie. His question reminded me how steadfast I was about remaining a virgin, and not having casual intercourse with another man until marriage.
We continued our play without the sex, but every so often he would ask again if I would let him penetrate me, or if I’d penetrate him without a condom. Again and again, I refused his pursuits, inventing what I thought were plausible reasons as to why I wasn’t interested along the way. After a while our interactions had ended and he’d turned on his side to go to sleep. I felt vulnerable, and I wanted to leave. Unfortunately it was only 4:30 AM and I didn’t have enough money to pay for a cab back to my apartment. I had to wait an hour or two before I could take the metro, so I too turned on my side and tried my best to fall asleep.
My next memories all took place in a half awake, half asleep daze. I was laying on my side, spooning him. I had an erection. I remember feeling his hand fondling me, and then feeling the warmth of his skin as he repeatedly tried to place my erection between his buttocks. Every time I pushed his hand away he grabbed my cock once more and continued. I fell asleep again, and the next time I woke up, still in a daze, my condomless erection was inside of him. I didn’t know how to react. I was shocked, but still very much in that half awake, half asleep phase. I pulled out as he turned over and began kissing me. I think I fell asleep once more.
When I woke up, it was around 6:45 AM. Laying there on top of his cold, hard mattress I kept replaying what had happened inside of my head. I began to feel guilty and ashamed at myself for my actions. I was also scared. Dozens of thoughts began racing through my head: “Should I shower?” “I wonder if he has HIV?” “I have to get out of here.” “Why did I let this happen to me?” “I really should take a shower.” “I hope my dad isn’t here yet.” “I probably have HIV now.” “What am I going to tell my father if he arrives at my place and I’m not there?”
At 7 AM he woke up and said that he had to get ready for the day. He was going apartment searching because his lease was almost over. I took this opportunity to leave. I quickly put on my clothes. he walked me out into the street and told me to text him later that day. I said okay, and I began to walk toward the Dupont Circle metro station.
I was only a block away when I took out my phone to text him.
“Do you have HIV?” I wrote.
I got a quick response.
“No. I get tested every month.”
I replied back, “Are you sure?” and he replied twice in a row,
“Yes! I wouldn’t have done it if i were. I have close friends who are positive, this is something I’m very serious about.”
“Also, you were only in me for like 20 seconds.”
This relieved me, yet it didn’t alleviate the emotional drain I felt about what had just happened. I felt as though my virginity had been stolen away from me. I had to tell him.
“That was the first time I’ve ever had sex,” I wrote.
He replied saying that he had no idea. He was under the impression that I was with other people in the past. After all, that was what I led him to believe early on. This made me feel more vulnerable and at fault with my decisions. It was the first time in two months that I truly felt ashamed of my actions. When I arrived at the station, I couldn’t bring myself to board the train. I felt so anxious and jittery. Instead, I remained in the streets and began walking aimlessly.
Although it was only 7:45 in the morning, I tried calling my best friends to tell them what had just happened. Because it was so early, no one was picking up. Luckily, one of my best friends from high school answered her phone. I don’t remember everything that I told her, but I tried to explain what had happened. I remember feeling very embarrassed revealing my mistake to her, especially since we hadn’t spoken much throughout that semester. Our conversation was short. When it had ended I knew that I had to get home as soon as possible so that I would get there before my dad. I made it to the Federal Triangle metro station, boarded the train and headed back to my apartment in North-West, DC.
When I arrived back around 9 AM, I immediately took a shower. After my shower I turned on my computer and tried to find someone that I could to tell what had just happened. I Facebook chatted with the first person I “gay dated,” and left a few voice mails on some of my close friend’s cell phones. One friend, who had been very supportive and understanding as I explored the gay world that semester, called me back and immediately began asking me questions about what had happened. She was the first person to tell me what had happened to me could be considered sexual assault. She asked me if I had taken a shower, and if I had called the police. At the time, I thought she was overreacting because in my mind, I was the one with the sole responsibility for my actions.
When our conversation had ended, I was both confused, and extremely disappointed with myself. “Was I sexually assaulted, or was this my fault?” “How could it be assault if I had wanted to penetrate him earlier that night?” Overcome with emotions, and the impending arrival of my father, I went into the bathroom and began to expunge my life of anything that remotely significant of the sexual crusade I had undertaken over the past two months. From the sex toys and adult films, to unopened boxes of condoms and bottles of lube, i threw everything into a garbage bag and took out the trash. This exhibition of strength was not nearly sufficient to what was needed to help me overcome the remorse, but it was enough to help me contain my feelings and prepare myself for the arrival of my dad, and the four hour drive home.
Three weeks later, I noticed that something wasn’t quite right with myself. After some internet research, I realized that I might have an STD. Once again, my final DC experience had come back to haunt me. Although you may be surprised, my first thought was to tell my parents. If something is wrong with my health, I’ve always wanted them to be the first to know. However, in telling my parents that I thought I had an STD, I’d also have to reveal that I had an unwanted sexual experience, and moreover, that I was not a virgin. This terrified me. The last thing that I wanted was for my parents to get angry with me. I was already angry with myself for what had happened in DC, and their support would have been the best medicine to help restore some sense of self within me.
I don’t remember how I told my parents, but I do remember that I told them individually. Although my mother was a little more sympathetic, both of my parents’ reactions were as to be expected. “What were you doing naked in someone else’s bed in the first place?” and “You’re six foot eight – how could anyone possibly take advantage of you?” Are two of the prominent remarks that I remember clearly. I couldn’t tell if they were just shocked and worried so they reacted that way, or if they truly thought that I had purposely had unprotected sex with a stranger. As much as I tried to dull down the situation, my parents continually asserted their disbelief, insisting that it was my fault. Nevertheless, they supported my going to the health department to receive free HIV/STD testing. And so, I did.
About a week later I received a phone call from the Health Department. “Your test results are in,” she said abruptly. “You’re HIV negative, your Gonorrhea and Syphilis tests are negative, everything else looks fine…Oh but you do have the Chlamydia.” “Wait, what?” I thought to myself just as my mind blanked out. “THE Chlamydia???” I knew that this was coming, but I had hoped that it wouldn’t. Before I could fully process what she had said, the call had ended. I didn’t know what to think, or what to say. For a moment, I just laid there on my bed trying to think things over. But, the only thought that came to mind was my stupidity, my lapse in judgment and my failure to follow through with my own beliefs.
Though I swore that it would never happen, I realized that over two short months, I was beginning to become that guy – the kind of guy that I once saw in the movies, read in books or watched in adult films and loathed because he had given up his sense of self-worth in exchange for self-pleasure; the kind of guy that I once turned my nose up at when I walked past him in the streets at night because I knew he was looking for sex; the kind of guy that, after I’d spoken with him online or interacted with him on campus, I’d once turned away and secretly judged him because I disapproved of his lifestyle choices. In my mind, my Chlamydia diagnosis was an alarm – a sort of wake up call not to become that guy, but to push forward and to try and evolve as my own individual, rather than the product of a stereotype or societal norm.
Certainly part of this mindset came from the realization of my fear of actually having one of those complex sexually transmitted diseases I’d learned about in high school health class thinking “This will never happen to me.” But, I think that the majority of this personal temperament came from the fact that I knew where the disease had come from, and its existence crafted yet another reason for me to feel embarrassed and ashamed – at fault for what had happened that night in May.
With one phone call my private situation had become a very public one in my home. I knew that my mother would unhinge, become extraordinarily upset and think that I was, in some way, going to infect the entire family. On the other hand, I knew that by telling my parents the result of my testing, it would give them yet another reason to think that I was living a life of promiscuity – the stereotypical “gay lifestyle” as it is proclaimed by anti-gay activists and clergy in the Catholic Church.
In a way, my Chlamydia put an end to one era in my life, as I tried to evolve into the person that I truly wanted to be. The summer following my diagnosis and treatment (which only took a week to clear) was rough. Although I was given a clean slate with the ability to finally live as the person that I wanted to be, my parents still had this mindset that I was being sexually active behind their backs. Although my diagnosis and treatment freed me from sexual demons, it also captured me in a parental cage which restricted me from moving on with my life. I never blamed them. If I were in their shoes, I probably would have felt the same need to protect my child from being exposed to any more health risks, but at the time all I wanted was the trust and freedom to prove to myself that I wasn’t a victim of my own immoral crimes.
To be Continued…