The Historical Importance Of Anonymous Gay Sex

I had sex last night with a stranger. I was falling asleep one moment and the next I was wiping my ass clean. I don’t know the man’s name nor do I know his age. It was just before daybreak. My timing was impeccable. I captured him as the panic of a night’s impending failure was kicking in. You see, the end of the night brings a rush driven by the need for companionship. With each bar, club, dance floor comes a promise; a promise of connection, love, passion… if only for a night.

It is easy to forget that we are born naked, void of the societal expectations we assume to be natural. Throughout our lives, social scripts are imprinted onto our bodies with the subtlety of the greatest of con-artists. The scripts become a part of our being, directing our behavior, mentalities, and actions. Gendered behavior is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of these codes. Indeed, this is what gender theorist Judith Butler calls, Gender Performativity. Gender is entirely socially constructed. To break free of our prescribed gender role is to disturb the social system; it shatters the performance. Just look at the rise of Second Wave Feminism in the 1960s. However, for the most part, we remain oblivious, believing that the behaviors in which we engage are self-determined; that they are naturally rooted in our core being.

He buzzes the doorbell mere moments after I solicit his services. The blue light from the intercom shatters the stillness of my apartment. I wait, closely assessing his frail body through the screen. He is not my type; far removed from the clichéd muscled figure I seek. His body is scrawny. His nose protrudes through tightly worn skin.

Why do we do this? How can we do this? Inviting a stranger into our home in the middle of the night defies logic. It goes against what we have been taught, for it brings forth dangers, both perceived and real. Will a man come alone or will hidden monsters follow in his pursuit? We are immediately vulnerable, exposed, and naked with an individual with no name. Certainly, heterosexuals engage in clandestine behaviors. They too seek hedonistic pleasures aroused by the promise of instant gratification. However, for a gay man, his decision to engage in such behavior runs deeper than mere bodily satisfaction. It is a part of his history and identity. It is his performance. It is a behavior that society has imprinted onto his essence. The media he consumes, the venues he visits, the queer family he has built, all enforcing this behavior.

I put on a shirt, buttoning it to the top and pull on a pair of dirty shorts. Standing naked at his arrival is perhaps too obvious. There is a series of knocks, faint at first, then increasingly obtrusive. I open the door only to be greeted by the nauseating concoction of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. His bulging eyes are eternal oceans of electric red, searing me from the dimly-lit hallway. He walks in and removes his boots and jacket. Buck-teeth pierce through thin purple lips.

Judith Butler writes, “The act that one does, the act that one performs is, in a sense, an act that’s been going on before one arrived on the scene.” Our behaviors exist within a continuum of time, repeated throughout history. Whilst gender and sexuality are distinct traits, Butler’s notions of performativity certainly rings true for homosexual norms. We are actors, subconsciously re-enacting a sexually-charged queer script that has occurred for centuries.

“How was your night?” I ask, my voice shaking with that classic pre-dawn cocktail of arousal and fear.

“Yeah. I was at a bar with friends.” He laughs.

“Was the bar fun?”

“Yeah.”

His voice is uneducated, his breath repulsive, his stature unattractive.

He walks closer, a sickening smile breaks across his pockmarked face.

We should feel no shame when engaging in these behaviors. Rather, we should feel community, camaraderie, and unity.

In days not so far gone, anonymous sex was the only choice we had — ‘coming out’ was loaded with risk. Sex was anonymous by necessity. Times may have changed, yet the behavior remains. Go anywhere, pull out a cellphone, and dozens of men can be found waiting. Waiting in a marketplace facilitated by a thirst for physical connection. The historical parallels are uncanny. It used to happen in bathhouses and theaters, in parks and in subways. Now, it happens from within the confines of our home. The venues have changed yet the performance remains. This is our fairytale, for none other has been written. This is all we know. There is no Prince Charming, no Cinderella to pursue. There are no formalities of courtship, just glory-holes and physical statistics. Sure, in America we can get married and have children; we can get jobs and walk with swagger. However, we continue to strengthen a sexual culture that is unique to our identity because to operate against this is to divorce ourselves from a gay past.

Lips smack, our bodies fighting, biting, clawing. We search for air, our hands dancing around each other. Over the shirt, under shirt; in his pants, up his ass. It is as if he is my lover, my Savior, and I am his. I bite down on his lip, pulling his mouth deeper into mine, tasting the sweetness of cheap alcohol and cigarettes. He pushes me down, my body collapsing onto the IKEA couch my mother helped construct. I pull him on top of me, remove his shirt, and suck on his microscopic nipples. Ingrown hairs fight through his skin, tickling my tongue as it dances over his gaunt torso. Soon I am back at his head, invading his ears and nape with ferocity. I know the joy he is feeling; the tingle electrifying his extremities. I suck hard on his neck, inhaling the scent of pathetic cologne that had once intended to impress.

This is not the first time I have had anonymous sex, nor will it be the last. This is not the first time I have loathed the experience, nor will it be the last. So why continue to engage in this behavior? Why not stop? I am certainly not addicted to sex and I am confident in my ability to settle down. Indeed, I hope to eventually partake in the decidedly heterosexual model of monogamy. However, as a single gay man, casual sex is what I am expected to do. It is the social script written for my people. We run from the prospect of a relationship despite our clandestine longing for romance (if you don’t believe me, read the research of Dr. David M. Frost). Sex is the essence of our being. First dates involve technical discussions of who tops and who bottoms? Countless websites are dedicated to our insatiable appetite for sex. Websites such as Adam4Adam.com have morphed into Grindr and Scruff. Anonymous gay sex has never been so easy. These markets thrive for the gay community for a reason.

I look at the stranger lying naked before meHe moans, his mouth open wide in comic relief. His tongue slides past his teeth like a serpent. He slaps my bottom in a learned act of passionate aggression. I can’t bear to look at him. To see his bulging eyes fixed on my body nauseates me, so I kiss him. Hard. Harder. I ram my body against his. His head bangs against the armrest as the couch scratches against the worn hardwood floor. He moans, pleading me to push harder, to go deeper. He has no idea I am not inside of him.

All too often, we hear that the sexually charged gay man is lonely, self-loathing, and insecure. He needn’t be. He is, knowingly or not, acting as those who came before him and those who will follow. He is, as Butler notes, engaging in an “act that’s been going on before [he] arrived on the scene.” It is historically rooted, reinforced by contemporary stereotypes. As with any culture, differences exist that are born from regionalism and personal preferences but for the most part, causal, anonymous sex is the closest we have to a model of romantic behavior. To wait in purity for our Prince Charming is to welcome certain isolation. Worse, to abstain from this behavior is to sever what little ties connect us to our gay past. This historical narrative is certainly deemed impure, shameful perhaps, by agents of heterosexual society, and it is only natural that we absorb these negativities beliefs. However, gay men inhabit a society far removed from the heteronormative. We should feel no shame when engaging in these behaviors. Rather, we should feel community, camaraderie, and unity. For all the divisions that plague the gay community, casual, anonymous sex is perhaps the one commonality that binds us.

“I’m going to come. You want me to come on you?”

He doesn’t answer but an infantile thirst breaks across on his face.

“Yeah… Oh yeah.”

I remove my underwear, rubbing my penis against his torso.

“Ok, I’m going to come.”

As I do, he sits up, his lips puckering. Buck-teeth clamp around my shaft as I shoot inside his mouth. Sperm leaks from the corners of his face and onto his chest and onto the sofa. I get up and wipe myself. Disgusted. Irritated. Satisfied. Sweaty. Exhausted. He licks residue sperm off his fingers. He touches me, kisses me. My sperm passes from his saliva into my dry mouth.

And then he is gone.