Ivan is 23 year old gay man, university student and works in a gay bar.
He’s sitting in front of you because he caught an STI at the sauna on the weekend, and the sexual health nurse identified some issues that might be addressed in therapy.
Issues identified by nurse;
- Chems use dangers
- Potential “risky” sexual behaviour, (including HIV risk)
- Consent issues (seemingly perpetrator and victim)
- Boundary issues
- Possible relationship issues?
- ‘Out of character’ behaviour (thieving of drugs)
Ivan spends 30 hours in a bathhouse or sauna.
During these 30 hours, he experiences a variety of moments. Passing moments. Life moments.
Some... involve the best sex he’s ever had.
Some… just awful. :)
But some… really awesome. It’s possible the disinhibition of chems helped with this. But really great connection and sensuality and freedom. He’ll remember it for a long time.
He’ll seek it again.
He also spent some moments naked with other men, drinking coca-cola at the bar. It helped him appreciate that not all sexy bodies look like the ones he sees in porn. Some are very normal, imperfect, and very sexy.
He made a great friend. They chatted in a cubicle for 2 hours when the sex wasn’t really working; and so they connected differently. They’ll never see each other again, but it was a good experience of friendship and intimacy, albeit brief.
There were other moments too; moments when he was rejected cruelly by a slammed cubicle door in his face, or a phrase that hurt.
It might have been about his face, or his body which isn’t a porn star body. It might have been because he was too drunk, or too high; it might have been because he was too sober.
It might have been because of the colour of his skin, or the way his hair grows, or the shape of his eyes, or because of the 2 scars he has on his chest.
It might have had nothing to with him. It might have just been a slammed door, but he took it personally, he’s had doors slammed before. In all kinds of environments.
I'm speaking metaphorically of course.
There were those guys he shared a few hours with in a cubicle; the guys that weren’t so kind. They said all these things that made him feel good; they told him he was hot, that he was sexy. They chose him over some other hot guys who tried to join them (the door was slammed rudely in their faces), and it made him feel good to be on the nicer side of that slammed door.
They were bossy, just a bit, and that relieved him of responsibility, because he was a bit nervous with these guys really. But they were very sexy. And they rejected the ugly ones - but not him, not this time.
So he stayed and smiled, and made all the right sex noises when in fact, it hurt a bit, and they were a bit bossy.
When they used those slurs that were offensive and unacceptable in normal life, but completely normal on Grindr, he stayed. He stayed then, because it’s ok to say those things during sex, right? There were no rules here, right?
He stayed, he participated, he performed; because it was kind of fun, kind of sexy, even if it was offensive and a bit bullyish. It was kinda fun (and better than being on the other side of that slammed door.)
This was his sauna weekend. This was how it worked.
He’d learnt most of his gay sex life stuff from people in saunas, from his mates (who didn’t know a great deal themselves) and from porn. From a lot of one night stands. A lot of these one night stands were on chems, but a lot weren’t.
He had a good time in the sauna. He was treated like a sexy man, and that’s important to him. He felt included and wanted, and these are important things to any person.
There was also rejection. (But he felt he deserved that. Because of the way he looked, and because of the doors he’d had slammed in his face growing up.) There was also some unkind treatment. (But he didn’t know any better.) There were some times when he felt a little uncomfortable with what was happening, but he didn’t have the concept of self worth to apply boundaries, or any frame of reference for boundaries and appropriateness for this sexual environment.
There might have been gay elders, wise big gay brothers, who could have handed down some kindness, wisdom and experience from their own lived experiences.
But too many of them died in the AIDS epidemic.
They simply weren’t there.
A lot of the gay elders that did survive, are a little traumatised by that epidemic. Perhaps managing that trauma, perhaps not always present and available to help this younger man, this younger generation, with sex stuff, boundaries and self worth in a sexy community, a sexy environment.
It’s Monday morning.
Our guy spent most of the weekend in a bathhouse, having a myriad of experiences, good and bad.
It’s a lot to process on this lonely Monday morning.
It’s probably a good idea to get tested too, a sexual health screen. This much he does know.
So he does. The nurse only has 15 minutes with him (busy clinic), but does suggest he has a chat with YOU.
And so; you find yourself with an hour to discuss things with Ivan.
What will you discuss?
What are the priorities?
Who can help you with this care pathway?