Fuck Your Way Into Confidence

My name is Alexander Cheves. My nickname is Beastly. I write about sex. I wrote a book.

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I’m in my thirties, I’m super fucking gay, and I’ve never been on a date or had sex. Honestly, it makes some sense to me considering my history – spending the better part of your life in the closet AND being so busy with school tends to put a damper on one’s dating life. As I settle into my career and become more interested in dating, I’m finding that there something is holding me back. I don’t feel attractive or sexy or fuckable. It kind of sucks, to be honest. It’s to the point where I can’t imagine myself having sex with men or being seen in a sexual manner. I want to love and be loved, to want and be wanted, to hold and be held, etc. I want to be intimate with someone in a non-platonic way. I want to date. BUT There is a big part of me that feels unworthy of love and intimacy and sex and all that. Honestly, I know why I haven’t dated yet, but I also know why I feel like I can’t now. I don’t feel like other men would want me. I’m so inexperienced… is it too late for me?

My dear,

You’re in your thirties — very young. You are not too late. There are many queer men who stay in the closet, get married, maybe even have kids, get divorced, and come out in their thirties (and forties, and fifties). When they do, they are greener than you are. Unlike them, you have been out of the closet and know something about your culture. You’re not starting from zero.

Finding self-confidence is a challenge for everyone, especially queer men. Gay male culture is an imagist one, very obsessed with looks and status. I’ll let social psychologists explain why that has been so for generations. Queer people are disproportionately affected by mental illness and eating disorders than their straight counterparts, and men are more than three times as likely to die by suicide than women. Men, especially queer men, do not have the mental and emotional support they need.

So you’re not alone. Many queer men reading this feel as you feel. It has taken me a lifetime to build a positive self-image. Even still, one unflattering glance in the mirror can leave me feeling ugly and valueless in a culture that seems to only reward fit bodies and conventional beauty.

In my Advocate slideshow on “switching,” I wrote about “pillars” — a topic I bring up with clients when discussing self-confidence:

We all have pillars, things we ground our identities on. Sometimes my body doesn’t look as I want it to, and when that happens I say, “Ok, that pillar’s down.” I have to prop myself up on something else, on my inner self — my talents, tastes, adventurousness, kindness — or on my writing, or on my ability to communicate in bed. I just need one pillar to keep going. There are days when all my pillars are standing strong, when I feel sexy, accomplished, and so much more. Then there are days when I don’t feel that way at all (breakups, sicknesses, hospital stays), and sometimes all I have to hang onto is the fact that I can write a decent poem — something that will never leave me. You need to know your pillars — a great exercise is writing them down. 

I was in the hospital for eight days earlier this year, during which time I only consumed clear liquids. When I got out, I had lost the muscle and definition that I had worked for years in the gym to get, and I was not allowed to work out for months. It sounds silly and superficial to admit now how much that impacted my mental health, but it did. I grounded much of my confidence on my time in the gym — I still do. The gym is a de-stressor for my anxiety, the endorphin rush from workouts helps with my depression, and the physical results — seeing my body transform — increase my confidence among gay men.

Without the gym ritual, I started to spiral. I felt so unattractive. My “body” pillar was down. But I had other pillars, other parts of myself that could not be taken away by a stay in the hospital. I could write, and my writing gave me a powerful way to engage with the world. I didn’t collapse — I leaned into my non-physical pillars and gave them focus. I wrote the bulk of what would become my book during that time.

When I was physically able to have sex again, I reached out to friends. I wanted them to know I was looking for sex and needed to find people who would understand that I didn’t feel very sexy. I wanted recommendations and support, and for them to know I was struggling and nervous. By just putting out a signal that I was looking, I found the right people and inched my way back into sexual confidence. I found playmates who, like me, did not feel their sexiest but needed sex. We healed each other when we fucked.

Some people might criticize me for saying this, but I believe a person can fuck their way into confidence. I have done so again and again. I’ve heard so many cultural narratives about the people who use sex as a “crutch” or an “escape” or to make themselves feel better: folks generally view such people as hedonistic train-wrecks, weak people who depend on a host of others to feel strong.

Do we not all sometimes need a host of others to feel strong? When I was in college and had no confidence, no experience, and no love for my gangly body, I used sex because it was the only way I could connect with other gay men. In doing so, sex gave me a language and a culture I needed. Through fucking, I found friendships that lasted years. Sex — at times rampant and uninhibited — gave me community and, in time, gave me something to center my confidence on. Fucking my way to confidence worked.

There are far worse ways a person can build themselves up than sex. Our brains and bodies aren’t made for social media, and money has only existed for a fraction of the time we have been on earth; as a result, these things on which many people ground their confidence are ultimately unhealthy and unempowering (there are many lonely and depressed people out there with incredible wealth). In contrast, the brain and body are made to need human contact and to be comforted and healed by it.

There will be periods in all our lives when we feel low, unworthy, and unwanted. We have to do some of the work to prop ourselves up — we have to have non-physical things about ourselves (I call them pillars) we love that we can ground ourselves on. Beyond that, take a cue from my post-surgery playbook: start with baby steps into dating by reaching out to your platonic friends. Tell them you want to date and are looking. Ask for advice and recommendations. Ask for introductions. Meet as many new people as you can. Say yes to all social engagements.

You’ve not had sex yet. You will not feel ready for your first sexual encounter, so you have to simply say “yes” to meeting someone and show up — rip off the proverbial Band-Aid. Enjoy the lessons and messiness of beginner sex. You’ll have some experiences that are unenjoyable, and others that are great. You will make mistakes. You will not feel like you know what you’re doing, because you don’t. You likely won’t feel sexy during your first sexual encounters — few people do. You are inexperienced — that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun. It just means that every encounter, good and bad, is a lesson, and each one is valuable. If I were you, I’d find someone as soon as possible who seems interested and decently cute and just meet him. If you’re open to the idea of hiring a sex worker to ensure that the person you meet is patient and fully focused on you, that’s not a bad idea — meeting a sex worker can be great for first-timers.

You feel inexperienced, probably a little disconnected from your community, and non-sexual, yet you need intimacy. Everyone does. Instead of viewing your feelings as hindrances — things you must first overcome in order to date — see them as a tool to filter your options. Potential candidates for intimacy must understand and empathize with your feelings before they can get close. Your feelings are valid, so use them as criteria: someone must be sensitive — and maybe even share your feelings — in order to get a date. I promise you: there are many queer men out there who feel as you do, and they’re all looking for someone like you.

Love, Beastly

What’s the best place to meet gay men

Legend says they can be found in the dark forest, just after midnight, but only after you sacrifice a lamb and paint yourself with its blood.

But seriously: I get many messages like this. I don’t know a) where you are, b) what you mean by “meet,” c) how open you are about your identity, d) how safe your country is for out gay men, or e) what methods you’ve tried in the past to meet them. So I can’t be much help.

I know places where I can meet gay men — places that many other gay men in America do not have. Tonight, for example, I could wander into Central Park at dusk and probably find a guy to suck my cock. But someone living in a small town in Nebraska doesn’t have that option.

Most cities have at least one gay bar. And everyone with a smartphone has access to hookup apps like Grindr and Scruff, which I imagine is now the most convenient way to meet gay men, if not the “best.” All these are just American options. Grindr and Scruff might not be available in your country, and more importantly, they might not be safe to use in your country. Your country may outlaw visible displays of homosexuality and gay spaces (bars and the like) might be dangerous. I don’t know enough about you to point you in the right direction.

For guys who ask this question: Please include more info — whatever geographic, demographic, cultural, or personal information you feel safe sharing — and know that, as an automatic courtesy to all who message me, I delete surnames and all details that I think would risk exposing your identity. Everyone who sends me a question is guaranteed anonymity on this blog, and I delete all emails once I copy their messages into WordPress (usually within minutes of receiving them). I need more info, and your info is safe with me.

Love, Beastly


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