My Journey Through Sex, Intimacy & Internalized Homophobia in Queer Culture
It’s the fourth day of constant snow in Berlin and I am, once again, alone in my apartment. With nothing else to do, the tiny, seemingly irrelevant particles of past and present trauma collect right in front of my door and – just like snow – could collapse onto me at any second.
These collective times of isolation have caused many of us to face our inner demons and trauma we managed to push aside in our pre-corona lives and daily routines. Now, with no parties, get-togethers nor dates, fleeing from my inner negativity has become much more difficult, if not impossible.
In honor of LGBT History Month, I couldn’t help but wonder:
How can our community use these difficult times to self-reflect and grow, both individually and collectively, instead of giving into hedonism or self-loathing?
As a result, I wrote this article, a personal summary of the negative patterns that I decided to challenge this past year. I think our current time when we can’t be together should be used to work on the nasty bits in our community culture and ourselves that otherwise tend to be overlooked or ignored. It is now our chance to reflect, self-improve and become healthier and more resilient for the time we can come together again. Let’s dive in, I’ll go first!
Growing Up & Crashing Down
Getting to know my Berlin girlfriends in my early twenties, I encountered a phenomenon unknown to a lot of gay men like myself: Having a hard time differentiating physical and emotional intimacy. They told me sex often led them to quickly develop genuine feelings for the other person. To the degree that casual sex rarely appeared to be a lucrative option when meeting someone new. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having several kinds of intimacy come in one package and looking for a person (or several) to fulfil that wish.
Fucking and actually caring for the other person were completely separate things in my books, however. Moving to Berlin in my late teens gave me exactly two seconds to leave my childlike teen identity behind and grow into a fully sexually awakened adult. Given that I was the only openly queer kid in every school I went to, my dating or sex experience had been precisely non-existent until I decided to go to the big city. Needless to say, my home town peers had me know to not feel ok being myself from the age of four. Thus growing up, the only window into queer culture was the very few online series depicting non-straight characters and mainstream gay pornography stripped of any interpersonal depth or authenticity.
Even years later, dating with its pleasurable pains of emotional connection and sex existed in such a disconnected state I never consciously questioned it. I wouldn’t have known how to intertwine the two, had they been delivered in a surprise two-for-one special right in front of the door to my confused, closed-off heart anyway. I mean, how could anyone become sufficient within the Berlin dating scene when all you’ve ever known about sex and relationships has been taught to you through bullying and sean-cody-esque porn full of white, muscular and masculine guys fucking for 10 hours?
Mainstream Porn vs Real-Life Sex
Pornography is everywhere. And it’s rarely the kind you should grow up with. We are just starting to break the taboo and actually talk about pornography while developing a consciousness for how mainstream porn shapes the way we view ourselves and our sexualities. Porn is not just a short clip to jerk off to, especially in the amount it is being consumed.
For gay men specifically, it very much constructs the ideal form our bodies should have and how they should behave. And it violates you, if they’re not lean and muscular or at least fit the characteristics of an available Grindr tribe. Pornography can turn sex into the quickest satisfaction-oriented and meaningless transaction. Accepting that there is a true demand for hardcore emotionless porn does not erase the fact that porn platforms are over-flooded with this kind of content, which influences and controls the expectations we have towards real-life sexual encounters.
The problem is: most online porn is pretty much the same and thereby creates norms that shouldn’t exist. Sex on screen can actually be a powerful and exciting way to display and encourage the exploration of your own body and those of others. Luckily, queer producers such as Noel Alejandro or studios like Himeros TV are creating and pushing a new narrative of what porn can be. Seeing men in their clip thumbnails, who actually kiss, is an unusual experience when it shouldn’t be. Off-screen sex involves different varieties of bodies, contact and intimacy, in addition to good old fashioned fucking. Which is why porn should do the same and show more diversity and fun
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For us queer people, porn was often the very first interaction with our sexuality since a lot of us couldn’t act on it at the same age our straight peers could. Being so deeply influenced by a glossy fake world of sex is one of the reasons why I believe my queer peers face additional hardship in their dating and romantic pursuits. And it strengthens the case for the new kind of porn creating a more humane approach to the depiction of various kinds of sexuality. The more variety in porn, the better for all of us.
Picking the Wrong People to Date as yet another form of Internalised Homophobia
Have you ever talked to a friend and they tell you about the person they’re currently seeing and they can already pinpoint 10 different things they dislike about that significant other? I know I’ve heard those stories many times and I also know I’ve been that friend. Deep inside you want to be in a loving relationship and you just can’t seem to find the perfect fit out there. Well, have you considered this:
As long as it’s clear you won’t last with the person you’re dating, you remain in control and won’t catch any unnecessary feelings and thus pain. However, the chance of being rejected by your date also increases drastically due to the fact that you cannot bring anything emotionally substantial to the dinner-and-a-movie table. Still, being dumped may not feel as bad. Unfortunately, your feeling of loneliness will surely grow.
But, and I think this possibility is even scarier, you may pick the wrong people because you believe you are not worthy of love and genuine affection. What sounds like a lame affirmation from a self-help book might actually be true, though. At least my personal several years of therapy are talking here. And have you ever taken this thought into consideration?
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with my not allowing a potentially good partner into my life.
It hurts to be honest with yourself at first but it also allows you to outgrow your former destructive behavior.
Queer People Can Be Homophobic, Too.
“I’m not like other gays”, “Thank god I’m not super gay like that” or “I only have straight friends, I don’t like gay people that much.” These are all catchphrases I used to say in my early insecure twenties when talking about my community. Though it is so painfully obvious now that I was just your average mean gay twink with self-confidence issues, I still encounter people my own age or older today, who consider themselves different and thus better from the queer people around them. Of course, this diagnosis is first all sad. But it also becomes quite dangerous as it functions as a weapon of self-destruction within queer culture, especially among gay men. I’m talking about, you guessed it, internalized homophobia.
And, spoiler alert: it’s a losing game from the start.
Just like straight or straight acting homophobes (studies show that a lot of homophobic guys are actually gay), many gays are also triggered by the sight of visibly queer individuals on the street, at the club or on a date. The fear of being associated with this other person runs so deep that it is not only limiting one’s own liberty to explore sexuality freely but also creates a toxic environment of violent straight fetishization. Highlights on many dating platforms therefore include: “straight-acting guys only” “no fags, no femmes” or “not into fairies”. And these, ladies, gentlemen and non-binary folks, are statements written by homosexual men looking to fuck other men online. The audacity, the hypocrisy, the drag of it all!
The fetishization of straight-performing masculinity is quite evident and prominent in queer culture and it is not allowing a lot of people to find true happiness or intimacy. The mentioned type of lingo can also be found in mainstream porn by the way, it even has its own categories.
Chasing an ideal that’s a fucking paradox, having gay sex with straight guys, is harmful to the individual just as much as our collective as queer people. Tackling the same issue, Drag queen Trixie Mattel once so perfectly said, “Call me crazy, but I wanna fuck someone who wants to fuck me.”
Sex vs Intimacy in Queer Relationships
I don’t know if you ever had this problem. But loving and having sex with someone can be quite difficult. At least from my own personal experience I can say that I struggled and am still struggling to connect emotional and physical intimacy. Maybe it’s due to the over-sexualization of male gay culture, the “wrong” porn I watched when I was a teenager or maybe it’s the hyper romanticized idea of heterosexual love all of us grow up with.
Suddenly, as an adult, you’re expected to perform fully functional in the dating, sex and love game. But the reality is – allowing your body and mind to truly connect with someone can be challenging. Allowing a sex partner to also enter you emotionally or, vice versa, maintaining a sexual connection with the person you care for and love, is harder than it seems.
Being in a loving relationship for over 4 years now, I am still developing a healthy attitude towards my feelings, identity and sexuality. What I’ve learned is that it is ok to have trauma that impairs your current mindset. You can’t change what happened. But it is your task to face the trauma and grow. It is not ok to turn your personal trauma into aggression towards your peers.
Why We Need Better Porn & More Emotional Availability
Thankfully, we live in a time where the Gen Z begins to rule and homophobia appears to become a thing of the past. It’s also a time where alternative forms of erotic and sexual content are being produced, offering more room to explore sexuality and intimacy. For us millennials and those before us, it is also a time of more than enough undealt with trauma we need to address.
Explore whether you have some internalized grudge towards yourself and others and try to work through it.
Pick your partner, not because they cater to a harmful fetish of yours (“I’m totally into jerks”), but because they are good for you.
Join a self-help group, search for a therapist or just open up to a friend. It’s more rewarding than you might think.
And, finally, switch up your old porn habits and enjoy sustainable content that doesn’t kill off your natural drive to explore and enjoy yourself and others.