By: Rebecca Kling
This is Ecstatic Kling, a sex column for the LGBTQueer community. Written by a queer identified trans* woman, this column will come from a Queer perspective but is open to questions from all. Whomever needs the answer, be it you, your friend, or “your friend.” All bodies, all genders, all sexualities.
I’m a young gay man and will be headed off to my first year of college this fall. I’ve been sexually active for a few months, but only with one person, and plan on ‘thoroughly’ exploring the options that open up to me year. I’ve heard lots of advice for young women to stay safe when they go off to school, but do you know of anything that a young man, specifically a gay one, should know? Partying, drinking, and casual sex (and, to be honest, most sex) will be totally new to me, and I was wondering if you have more advice than the textbook tips I’ve been given before.
If it makes any difference, the university I’m attending is in the heart of a big city, which I live about an hour away from.
Eager, Anxious, and Unaware
Congrats on heading off to college! College can be an exciting place to try new things, explore new communities, and experiment in lots of ways: how you act and present yourself, how you have sex (and with whom), what activities and social groups you attend, and where your academic focus lies. I highly encourage your “thorough” exploration, and am thrilled to hear you’re already thinking about how to conduct such explorations safely.
Most, if not all, of the safety tips out there for women will apply to you, too. Looking at a list of Ten Safety Tips for College Women, I think every single item applies to gay (and straight!) men, too. But that’s pretty standard stuff: designated drivers, safe sex, not walking alone, and so on. Being a gay student, though, adds some additional worries. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but here are some things you should think about:
SOCIALIZING and SUPPORT
Finding a group of friends to act as strong allies is incredibly important for any LGBT person, and can be especially valuable in the crazy life of a college student. This can be through an on-campus group, through local (non-school) organizations or clubs, Facebook groups for LGBT students, or simply going to clubs or activities and meeting other LGBT folks. Allow yourself to cast a wide net, and don’t worry about finding The One Best Friend. That may happen, too, but you should surround yourself with lots of awesome friends, gay and straight.
COMING OUT and BEING OUT
When and how you come out is entirely your choice. You have no moral or ethical obligation to out yourself, and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit. That said, choosing to come out – and being thoughtful about when and where you do so – may make life easier. If you’re living in a dorm, consider whether or not you want to come out to your roommate. If that’s something you’re worried about, find an ally (a friend, your RA, someone at the student health center or campus LGBT group, etc) who can provide support before, during, and after. Hopefully, you can find someone in a position of authority (the RA would be ideal) who can back up you – and your right to be out – if your roommate is an asshole.
In a big-city campus, it’s (hopefully) unlikely that you’ll encounter any overtly homophobic faculty or staff. You can still think through how you would handle it if a professor says something bigoted, and who you can go to for support.
Absolutely use college as an opportunity to go on lots of dates. That does not mean you should feel pressured to date anyone, or explore dating in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Take time to think about what you do and don’t want out of dating someone, and don’t let the person you’re dating pressure you into breaking those limits. Feel free to push your boundaries, but exciting exploration is not the same thing as being pushed to do something physically or emotionally unsafe. There’s a lot of baggage in the gay community around expecting wild and loose sexual behavior (which we’ll get to in a second) but you are NOT any less of a gay man, or any less of a good dating partner, if you have limits on what you’ll do, or how long you want to wait before doing it.
Yay sex! The sex you’re having should make you feel good before, during, and after the actual act. If you don’t think it’s going to meet all three criteria, try and figure out why. (Again, you can totally push your limits. But know when and why you’re doing so, and what you hope to get out of it.) Ideally, sex involves some negotiation: I’m interested in you doing THIS to me. I want to do THAT to you. Some people argue that such negotiation ruins the mood, but I think asking or being asked, “I want to do XYZ. Is that OK?” is super hot. (The caveat is that “no” absolutely has to be an acceptable answer.)
But lets be honest: Hookups happen. Not all sex occurs while stone-cold sober, after a date and getting to know each other. That’s OK, but you should sit down now (and again, every so often) to check in with yourself and think about what you would be willing to do in a hookup, what you wouldn’t, and what might be OK depending on the person. Having explicit limits during a hookup is a really good thing, and can help keep you emotionally and physically safe. If “it” (whatever “it” is) is worth doing, it’s worth doing well; don’t feel pressured or rushed to do something you aren’t quite ready for. I have absolutely asked someone to hook up with me, only to be told, “I want you to ask me again tomorrow, when we’re both sober.” I respected that person immensely for setting her boundaries so well, and was only too happy to oblige.
As a final note, your campus health center should have condoms and lube. Use them! And get tested regularly, if you’re at all sexually active. If you’re doing something for the first time, go slow! There are lots of guides out there on how to give blowjobs, how to have anal sex, and how to do lots of other fun sexy-time activities, so don’t feel awkward about doing some research. The only thing I will say on how to have anal sex is this: anal requires lots of lube, and going slow. More lube than you think you need, and going slower than you think you should, especially if you haven’t done it before.
MAKE SAFE CHOICES
This is a broader topic, and one which applies to any and all college students (and the rest of us, too). What making safe choices means won’t be identical from person to person, so don’t let someone else pressure you simply because they can do ten shots in a row, or feel safe walking home alone late at night, or like to have sex without condoms. (Hint: I’d argue none of those are awesomely safe choices for anyone, but your mileage may vary.) I use this rule of thumb: If I wouldn’t be happy telling my best friend about the choice I’m about to make, I’m probably about to do something unsafe, either emotionally or physically.
Bla bla bla safe sex coming out walking home at night support groups bla bla bla. You should have fun in college! Be conscious of making safe choices, but don’t let it scare you into staying home every night. Push your boundaries and take some risks, just balance that with some moderation. Put another way, I never had fun at a party I didn’t go to, but I’ve also learned when something isn’t for me and I’d be happier at home, alone, reading a good book.
Good luck at school!