I’m a 37-year-old gay man who just got out of an abusive relationship. We were together five years, moved to Portland, got married three years ago, yada, yada, yada. He suffered a traumatic injury earlier this year, which led to PTSD, which led to a nervous breakdown, which led to our savings being depleted, which led him to leave me in October. He moved back to the other side of the country, and I’m broke and on my own in a strange city. I saw your dirty film festival when it played here, and it made me realize something: At my age, I should still be enjoying myself and evolving sexually. I was unhappy in my marriage for the last two years, but sexually I was unhappy for a long time. Recently, I had a decent one-night stand. It was a drunken, stoned hot mess, but it got the job done—and there was no guilt on my part, which to me signifies that it really is over with my ex. But I can’t help feeling like I’m starting over. Not just dating, but starting over with my sex life and my writing. My ex had me switch from LGBT media—which I am very good at—to copywriting, which sucks but is “steadier.” The point is: I want so much sexually, because I’ve been starved physically and psychologically, but I don’t know where to begin. I feel like my marriage eviscerated me sexually. Not just the sex part of it, or my turn-ons, but the parts of my homosexuality that felt important to my personality. Help. —Grieving And Yearning Man Asking Nicely
You’re not too old to enjoy yourself and evolve sexually, GAYMAN. You’re never too old to enjoy yourself or evolve, sexually or otherwise. But it takes time to bounce back after a committed LTR ends traumatically. So don’t rush yourself. But as soon as you can—sooner than perhaps it feels right—you’ll need to get out there. You’ll need to actively and intentionally reconnect to your homosexuality and the ways in which it shaped and continues to inform your personality, your perspective, and your joy.
And now some random tips…
I’m not being look-ist or body-fascist here—this isn’t about having Instagrammable abs or the best torso Grindr—but join a gym, GAYMAN. Or take up a sport that kicks your ass, cardio-wise. Forcing your body to outrun your brain is a good way to get back in touch with yourself physically, emotionally, and sexually. And exercising—again, I’m not talking abs here—is good for us. It’s a natural antidepressant. It gets blood pumping into our extremities. (Your dick is an extremity.) And it gets us out of our heads. It also creates a social space, if you do it regularly, where you can make friends and connections without booze or drugs or the scourge of dance music.
If the gym isn’t for you, ride a bike. If biking isn’t for you, run. If running isn’t for you, walk. Just get your ass moving.
Go volunteer somewhere, anywhere. Like someone or other once said, it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re making yourself useful. Go volunteer at the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, do some copywriting for an LGBT civil-rights organization, find out what orgs are working with immigrants in your community and ask them what kind of help they need.
Please don’t succumb to meth or any of the other stupid drugs. Pot and alcohol—in moderation—aren’t stupid drugs.
Reach out to friends you lost touch with over the last five years, apologize for letting these relationships go, and ask if they’d like to reconnect. Not all will, GAYMAN—some might be too angry to reconnect right now (you may hear from them later), some might not have any extra friendship bandwidth right now (ditto). Focus on friends who want to reconnect, and don’t be bitter about friends who don’t.
Masturbate. A lot. And don’t use porn every single time. Try using your imagination, flip through the ol’ solodex. Be open to new experiences. Ask yourself where you’ve always wanted to go. Pick a big gay event you’ve always wanted to attend—gay days at Disneyland, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, the World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas—and start setting money aside so you’ll have that trip to look forward to.
Good luck, GAYMAN.—Dan Savage
I’m a 44-year-old married gay male. I recently found out my 30-year-old husband has been sending dick pics to randoms on Grindr. He says he doesn’t remember who he sent pics to, or why, other than I was working late and he was drunk and pissed at me. I want to be mature about this, but I’m really hurt. We’ve been together more than four years and married six months. We have a closed, monogamous relationship. He says he’s been faithful, and I believe him. I’m struggling to trust him, however. Am I overreacting?? —Help Understanding Relationship Trauma
Which would you rather have, HURT: This particular husband (aka the man you married) or a husband (a generic husband) who wouldn’t, couldn’t, and didn’t send dick pics to randoms on Grindr? Given a choice between a perfect, flawless, blameless but imaginary husband and the imperfect, flawed, living, breathing husband you’ve got, which would you pick?
Personally, I recommend choosing actual-and-flawed husbands over perfect-and-imaginary ones. (I’m not telling you to do anything I haven’t done and that my own husband hasn’t done.)
With that said, HURT, and hopefully with that choice made, your husband needs to drop the “I was mad at you for working late” bullshit and take responsibility for his actions. Drinking may have played a role, as booze is the great disinhibitor, but swapping dick pics isn’t something reasonable dick-having people do in response to run-of-the-mill annoyances. Your husband sent those pics because he enjoys showing off the goods. Your husband has an exhibitionistic streak.
So what to do about it? You could forbid it, HURT, but creating a little space in our marriages for pleasures we may not share or fully understand—making accommodations instead of issuing threats—can make our marriages stronger, not weaker, less contentious and therefore less brittle. If swapping pics makes your husband feel desirable, and he plows that sexual energy into you—not only are you not being betrayed, you’re benefiting.
If I were you, HURT, I would grant him this small zone of erotic autonomy. —DS
I’m a Canadian gay man, married eight years to a man with a thing for men spitting in his face. It’s a degradation thing (of course), and I would do it for him but it can’t be me. It can’t be someone he loves, someone who loves him, it has to be someone he doesn’t know, someone who regards him with contempt. He finds guys to do this for him on the hookup apps, and I don’t have a problem with it. I do have a problem leaning in for a kiss when his face reeks of some other man’s spit. He likes the “lingering scent.” I do not. He says I’m kink-shaming him when I recoil and ask him to go wash his face. He’s agreed to abide by your ruling, Dan. Should he wash his damn face? —Smelling Patooey Irks This Spouse
You’ve accommodated your husband’s kink. He needs to return the favor and accommodate your nose. He should wash his damn face—and get his damn flu shot. —DS