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Wednesday 14 April 2010


The Gay Blade

18th January 2010


Posted by: Michael Stevens

I always loathed PE at school. Anything to do with sports made me shudder.  

Except  of course for the communal showers afterwards. But I hated playing rugby, cricket, going for runs, doing workouts - all of that. I’ve never had a great sporting relationship with my body. But I was lucky, I was able to get by on youth for a while and good genes, although, like so many of us, I never considered myself that handsome or attractive when I was younger. I look back at photos of me in my 20s and realise how mistaken I was. Now, the years are definitely showing, as are the effects of long-term use of HIV meds.

I was having a little pity-party for myself last week. “I’m nearly 50, I’ve got a gut, I have HIV, no-one looks at me and thinks I’m hot or handsome anymore”… that sort of thing. And let’s face it, it’s not that unusual. Hotness and desirability don’t last forever.

But we homos try to make it do that. The birth of gym-culture is at least partially related to the massive growth of baby-boomer city-living homos in the 70s and beyond. All those young gay men, all working out to look hot and stay attractive so they could get each other in the sack. Such effort! When the body will give up anyhow, or so the lazy ones like me thought. I’ve joined a gym at least three times in the last decade, but I never get beyond a few months. To be frank, going to the gym bores me, even if I like looking at the results.

Yes, it’s superficial to put so much emphasis on how we look, I know. But all human societies and  cultures have valued beauty and attractiveness. Why would gay men be any different?

It is good for the ego to be desired, to feel desirable, to feel hot, sexy and attractive. It’s a good feeling when another man shows interest in you that way. And I can remember when men did, when they’d tell me I was hot, I was desirable, and I turned them on. I liked that feeling. And there I was sitting in my office, thinking “Well, that’s gone, that part of my life anyhow. But I’ll manage.”

Then my phone beeped. It was a fuck-buddy I hadn’t seen for a while, asking me what I was doing that evening. He’s ten years younger than me, he’s definitely handsome, great body and basically we didn’t take our hands off each other from when he walked in till when he left about five hours later. He finds me sexy and desirable. We curled up and talked and touched each other between sessions, it was sweet, warm and intimate. And hot. And my HIV doesn’t worry him in the least. As he was pulling his socks on, about to leave, he asked “So, how’s your health? You’re looking great! I don’t understand all the medical stuff but are your blood counts ok?” He is always totally relaxed around the whole thing, which matters.

Because for me, and for a lot of guys I know with HIV, simply having the virus in one’s blood is enough to put up walls about how we see ourselves and how we act sexually. And this can lead to us actually setting the scene so we don’t hear or notice the men who do find us attractive. We don’t believe that we can still be seen that way, or we ignore it or dismiss it when men do tell us.

Why? In part it’s because of the way HIV brings sex and death together. We all know, on a logical level, that condoms stop you getting infected, that safe sex can be great sex,  and that HIV doesn’t equal death in the way it did 20 years ago, but I think a lot of that stigma is still there. In fact I know it is. And often the biggest barriers are the ones we put in place around ourselves. A diagnosis often shakes the sexual confidence of even the most beautiful and gym-buffed men, for a while at least. And trust me, there are some very sexy men out there with HIV, but often after diagnosis it takes us a long time to reclaim that side of ourselves.

I was talking about this the other day with a very handsome young guy I know who is poz, and he said how it is hard to make the first move.  It is for me too, but it didn’t use to be. I put it down to the virus, the whole “I’ve got this potentialy lethal virus in my blood so you probably wouldn’t want to get to know me and sleep with me anyway, so why bother asking?” attitude that is so hard to shake. And as my visitor the other night reminded me, really not that accurate.

A  lot of poz guys I know say they always feel more comfortable fucking with other poz guys if possible. The fear of unwittingly infecting someone is strong for most of us. But here in NZ the population of gay men with HIV is very small, so it’s often not an option.

Being desirable, feeling that one is desirable, is not just about sex. It’s about acknowledgement. It’s about seeing something in the other person, or having that seen in you. It’s good for us.

So it was good for me to be reminded that in fact I don’t know who finds me attractive or who doesn’t. It was good to be reminded that there are gay men out there who are able to have great sex with HIV+ guys like me and not freak out over it, but enjoy it. And it was good to be shown once again, that just when I think I know something , the world can surprise me.

Tags: General

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott // Jan 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Its sad that so many Homosexuals suffer from the peter pan syndrome, never wanting to grow up. Nothing more pathetic than an ageing homo that wants to act like he is 18

  • 2 colin // Jan 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Thanks Scott,
    the world must be a better place now we have had your opinion on how gay men must act. How do you know they are trying to act like 18, maybe they are trying to act 16. Gay men tend to look after themselfs better than straight men, christ who the hell wants to end up looking like their father?
    What is sad is you seem to think every gay man should give up trying after the age of 18. What turns me on is those old buggers who look better than most 18 years olds.
    @ Michael, i think most of us find many reasons to doubt we are every attractive to other men. If we could do it in real time as opposed to years later we could be much happier more often.

  • 3 Scott // Jan 21, 2010 at 2:18 am

    Colin, yes you are right men who have homosexual attractions do tend to try and look after themselves better than other men, I say try because this is dispite the fact that it is often the same guys trying to get fit in the gym that are the same guys that are getting themselves shit faced and having unprotected sex with mulitple partmers.
    The question is why do men with homosexual tendacies want to look good, well pass the time when most men just dont care and are more concerned about putting food on the table and paying the mortage.

  • 4 John // Jan 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Scott, I sense from your poor spelling and virtually non-existent grammar that you lack all semblance of an education. This, I suspect, is something which would explain your callous and wholly unempathetic response to Michael’s article.

    I am left with the impression that you are younger. I too am relatively young. However there is something that age has taught me and that is that exhibiting a deference for those who have gone before us is not only a sign of common courtesy but is also in fact a gateway to a huge privilege - the privilege of knowing the course of another’s life and thereby learning from their past and benefiting from their wisdom.

    I would venture to say that you are not particularly comfortable in your own skin - nay this is the only explanation I can find for your cruel words.

    If there is something wrong with Michael’s reflective article - if you find something uncomfortable in his ability to self-affirm, modest as this self-affirmation is, then I believe you are a sad person.

    I spent so many years thinking I was unattractive. From age 18 till about age 23. All that time men were swooning over me but it took me to learn to love myself to realise that I was a special person. I learnt that self-love from the example of so many beautiful older people in my life. My 92 year old grandmother, a close friend who suffers from HIV and from the example of Michael and others.

    I leave you with a quote from Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

    Young Scott, go and apply your sense of judgement to yourself. See if you can perhaps find something of the good inside you. A sense of contentment like the one that Michael’s article so beautifully conveys.

    To Colin, huge kudos to you for at standing up to this Scott. I myself was tempted but decided that one cannot reason with the irrational. Hopefully Scott proves us wrong and learns from this experience.

  • 5 clasp // Jan 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Love it Michael, honest, raw, and real. But while I can’t speak for the experience of being poz, I still gotta say- It is possible to exercise without becoming a self-loathing body fascist. Getting old (which you will, which is great) doesn’t have to be all down hill.. ;)

  • 6 Scott // Jan 22, 2010 at 12:02 am

    John, I wrote that in the wee small hours so sorry for my spelling.
    I used to be a member of the homosexual community untill a couple of years ago. I grew up after seeing the unhappiness that is in that community a community that preaches tolerance, diversity and inclusion but is anything but. Many men including myself thought they are unattractive its because of the poor me kind of thinking that is part of the homosexual persona, that poor me thinking is derived from a self centeredness which is what the homosexual comes from

  • 7 proudofyou // Jan 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    We taxpayers are so proud of you. We will keep paying tax to fund your horniness, treatment and lifestyle.

  • 8 Scott // Jan 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Proudofyou, you hit it in one, well done

  • 9 colin // Jan 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    These two are just pure comedy. Let me race and get some popcorn before they entertain us with more of their knowledge and humour.

  • 10 kissit // Jan 25, 2010 at 8:37 am

    @proudofyou - and we will keep paying tax to fund your brats’ education and healthcare. Swings and roundabouts, arsehole.

  • 11 Scott // Jan 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Kisset, Thanks for the taxes thats whats needed for a civilised society as opposed to the tax payer funding a lifestyle choice and the risk that go with it

  • 12 Michael Stevens // Jan 25, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I don’t usually comment in here, or edit, but I’ve deleted the final three entries as they were abusive and cowardly. At least Scot, however ill-informed he is, is posting from his own email address.

  • 13 clasp // Jan 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Wow, Michael, who would have guessed you were an anti-doyen for the ex-gay crowd?

  • 14 Cynthia // Feb 17, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thank you for your insiteful article. As a heterosexual woman involved in the adult toy industry, you gave me some insight into the world of gay men and I have to say that your insecurities and desires are no different. We all want to be valued for ourselves (warts and all) and to be desired and wanted. The addition of HIV is tough but I believe that we are still living with the scaremongering from the 1960s. More education on the realities of HIV should remove a lot of the fear and prejudice. Thanks again for being so honest!

    Kind Regards,

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