We’re in the mood for a little Q&A. Think you can keep up?
Your responses are anonymous and not associated with your Grindr account
Choose as many as you like
Choose as many as you like
Finding others who fit your search, hang tight...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Consent Is Sexy AF: Gay Sex Ed

Bobby Box
&
Sex Columnist
April 26, 2023
April 16, 2024
7
min. read
Gay Sex Ed: CONSENT
Table of Contents

Trigger warning: The following content discusses sexual consent, rape and assault.

In my personal experience as a sex writer and educator, the majority of queer men (or men who have sex with men) I speak and consult with acknowledge that they’ve been a victim of some sort of non-consensual sexual circumstance. Because this hypersexual behavior is so common in our community, we have a tendency to shrug it off as a shared experience, and never really address the issue.

Thankfully, this is beginning to change—at least in terms of research. Raymond McKie, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Ottawa, recently published a first of its kind study that shines a light on the oft-ignored subject of sexual consent among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBM).

The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, interviewed 350 men of diverse LGBTQ orientations and found that 78% of the sample reported “various issues” around consent negotiation, and worse, 64% described instances where “some form of unwanted sexual experience” occurred.

Objectively, this means that, while many men in the sample reported no issues at all, the majority of GBM don’t know how to negotiate consent—and that’s a huge problem.

As previous research has already concluded, gay and bisexual men are at higher risk of sexual assault than heterosexual men—experiencing issues at a similar rate to heterosexual women. But, because rape myths and masculinity/gender norms contribute to the false expectation that men should be able to defend themselves against rape, we can experience even more victim blaming after an assault.

According to McKie’s research, there are a number of factors that could possibly contribute to these concerning statistics, including stereotypes (namely, hypersexuality and concepts of masculinity), risk (navigating conversations around STI and HIV status), sexual positioning (the positional politics of what a top, bottom, vers should be), environment (the blurred lines of communication in bathhouses and other sex-positive spaces), the dismissive nature of casual sex, and drug involvement.

Of course, more research will be required before we can fully grasp the nuances of sex in our community. Until then, McKie and I discuss his research and offer suggestions on how consent can be effectively discussed and negotiated.

AIM FOR VERBAL CONSENT

Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, tend to rely on non-verbal cues of sexual consent to negotiate activity—these are things like eye gazing, touching and closeness. While this might be sufficient most of the time, non-verbal cues are subjective and their interpretation varies by individual. For instance, you can let someone grab your ass at a bar, but that doesn’t give them permission to fuck you.

Talking verbally about sexual desires, wants and needs may seem less sexy than non-verbal communication, but talking it out will likely lead to better sex for both/all partners,” Mckie says, adding consent is ideally discussed when all parties are in a lucid state. Mckie makes sure to mention this point since drugs are fairly common among GBM, especially with regards to sex, which presents its own set of issues, as evidenced by Dustin, 53:

“One time I got offered some drugs and he sort of forced me to take some as well. I did take the drugs he gave me before having sex because of him. I am certainly not proud of this time and not knowing what the drug was, but I remember how terrible I felt for days after.”

EXAMINE YOUR MOTIVATIONS

Before committing to sex, look inward; why are you committing to sex right now? If your motivation to have sex is driven by desire—great! Get your fuck on.

But that’s not always the case. It’s not uncommon for GBM to have obligatory sex—which some in the study refer to as “mercy fucks”––these stem from a number of factors, be it an uneven power dynamic, fear of developing a reputation (i.e. a prude or tease), acts being taken further than anticipated, or being catfished.

“There have been a bunch of times I felt like it was hard to say no,” Jose, 29, says in the study. “I think there is a lot of pressure on gay men to be sex addicts, so it’s hard to justify not wanting sex. I’ve often started making out with a guy, but then it progressed beyond where I was comfortable with, and I felt obligated to continue things.”

Even though we would ideally feel comfortable revoking consent instead of obliging somebody else, many said they would divert this uncomfortable energy by pretending to be asleep, making it quick, lessening the sexual act (from anal to oral sex, for example), or intentionally turning the other person off.

{{video-inline-cta}}

ESTABLISH CONSENT THROUGHOUT  

Consent is not only required when initiating a sexual encounter, it is necessary throughout the sexual experience. If somebody feels even slightly uncomfortable during sex, it is their right to express so and back out. We’re looking for enthusiastic consent, meaning everyone involved is personally enthusiastic about the sexual acts taking place.

If someone suddenly becomes quiet or there’s a shift in energy, check in with your partner(s) to make sure that they are still enjoying themselves, and remember that consent can be revoked at any time. This goes for after the sexual encounter as well: just because you had sex once does not mean that consent isn’t required the next time.

ANALYZE THE EXPERIENCE AFTERWARDS

If you’re not feeling particularly great after a hookup, look into why. Ask yourself: Was the experience enjoyable? What would you have changed? What could I have done to better communicate my needs? By evaluating the experience and examining our post-coital feels, you can better identify your needs and increase the likelihood of things going better next time.

“If you’re feeling unhappy about your experience, it is really important to know that this is (sadly) not uncommon and that many others have had similar experiences,” Mckie says, adding that regret often accompanies experiences that are not enthusiastically consensual. “I don’t believe in faulting oneself for a non-consensual or undesirable sexual encounter.”

THE RULES APPLY EVERYWHERE

Sexually driven public settings like bathhouses, cruising sites, and clubs with sex-permitted areas are not as common in heterosexual spaces as they are among queer ones. Because people often frequent these spaces for sex, navigating consent becomes even more complex (maybe “blurred” is the more effective term) but it shouldn’t be that way: your right to revoke (and/or establish) consent is no different.

Unfortunately, not everyone—including law enforcement—sees it that way. “Four guys at a bathhouse raped me, it is the last time I will ever go to [a bathhouse],” Nathan, 30, says in the study. “No one around me helped me and [they] just kind of ignored what was happening. I went to the police and they did nothing. One of them even asked me why I would go to a bathhouse if I didn’t want to have sex. I tried to explain that I did, but not non-consensually. They didn’t really understand and just told me they couldn’t do anything because alcohol was involved and I couldn’t give names. I left feeling really annoyed and ashamed of my sexual orientation and disgusted at what the gay world has become.”

Luis, 21, had a similarly traumatic experience. “I was having sex with this one guy I had my eyes on for a while and withdrew consent because I wasn’t feeling as ‘clean’ as I would have liked for anal play,” he says. “He continuously begged for consent and I kept saying no. Eventually, he told me to shut the fuck up and that I was a tease, he told me that you can’t forgo sex when you go to a bathhouse and told me that he was close to cumming but I was ruining the mood. I just lied back and let it happen until he was finished.”

CONTINUE TO EDUCATE YOURSELF

The reason consent is such an issue among GBM could be that we struggle with identity. In past research, McKie has theorized that many GBM regularly question their identity, seeking answers to things like, “What does it mean to be a gay or bi man?” and “how do I fit into that mold?”

These curiosities can lead some, certainly not all, individuals to rely on stereotypes of what a gay man should be, thus influencing their behaviour and views of the self. Similarly, masculinity and how one views their masculinity as it pertains to sex, can also further complicate our perceptions of identity, which further blurs our perceptions of consent.

“The more consent is talked about openly, the more likely the community can reduce the number of unwanted sexual experiences and increases the kinds of sex that they do want,” says McKie.

As you’ve likely gathered by now, sexual consent is complex and a non-hetero sexual orientation further compounds this already precarious subject. Thankfully, we’re talking about it now. Keep yourself educated, and remember to keep communicating.

SEX + DATINGBLOOP

Share this article

Find & Meet Yours

Get 0 feet away from the queer world around you.
Thank you! Your phone number has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll text you a link to download the app for free.
Table of Contents
Share this article
“A great way to meet up and make new friends.”
- Google Play Store review
Thank you! Your phone number has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
We’ll text you a link to download the app for free.
“A great way to meet up and make new friends.”
- Google Play Store review
Discover, navigate, and get zero feet away from the queer world around you.
Already have an account? Login

Browse bigger, chat faster.

Find friends, dates, hookups, and more

Featured articles

Related articles

Find & Meet Yours

4.6 · 259.4k Raiting