Hey cowboys, vixens, and sluts across the gender spectrum. My name is Alexander Cheves, but lovers call me Beastly. I am an author, essayist, and sex columnist. My fetish memoir My Love Is a Beast: Confessions is available everywhere books are sold.
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I’m deaf, gay, in my late twenties, and into various kinks. I read that you’re partially deaf. Could you share more about how you’ve navigated that aspect of yourself in queer settings (kink or otherwise)? Do you tell people you’re going to hook up with or have met at sex parties that you’re partially deaf? I’m deaf enough that I can’t “pass” as hearing for very long, and I never know when to tell people I’ve just met in person. I tend to avoid gay bars, and I’d like to go to some kink events like MAL or Fist Fest, but I have anxiety about communicating effectively with other people or being rejected for being deaf. I hate the apps, but they are what I usually use because it’s easier to start off with a text-based conversation and weed out people who have an issue with me being deaf, but I know I’m missing out by not going to in-person events.
On a related but slightly different note, have you found ways to incorporate your deafness into kink play? For instance, I’m friends with one dom guy who will type sexual commands on his phone instead of speaking, and while it started out as an accommodation, it’s become a pretty hot thing that I think we both enjoy.
Thanks for doing all that you do.
I was born with no audial nerve on my right side, so I am half-deaf. I have been asked to say “hard of hearing” over “half-deaf” for hard-of-hearing folks. That makes sense to me: “hard of hearing” is a full identity, while being half of anything suggests incompleteness. Still, being halfway feels true to my life.
A Deaf person once reprimanded me: I cannot call myself Deaf with a capital “d” because that is for fully deaf folks. I have been scolded and dismissed by Deaf people for being hard of hearing yet not knowing sign language. In a gay bar recently, a Deaf guy asked why I was “desperate” to not be one of them, as if I have any say in my disability or the tribes associated with it. My hearing parents did not send me to a Deaf school — none were available in Zambia — and did not teach me sign language. It seems I am not incapacitated enough to be included in Deafness, nor am I a hearing person. My remaining hearing is going faster than it should; as I age, conversation in quiet places, once so easy, grows ever harder. I do not know how much I miss, but I miss more now.
I feel halfway between two communities and unwelcome in both. Hearing people forget that hard-of-hearing folks exist and act surprised and annoyed when they interact with us. They make our lives tougher with every loud, drunk laugh. I do not know how many restaurants I have sat in, unable to hear my friends, reading the menu to avoid looking lost and confused — all because someone wants to blast music over the room at max volume.
Like you, I cannot pass. I turn my head and cup my ear when someone speaks. But I am not trying to: being half-deaf has shaped all of me, and I like how I am. I love music, a diminishing commodity in my life. Partial deafness created my voice: as a child, I talked at a volume I could hear, too loud for others. After adults repeatedly told me to lower my voice, I started artificially dropping it. Now I have a low voice that many find sexy. My hearing shaped my sex life: in social situations, I must constantly focus on what others say. When I grow tired of this, I slip into a disconnected, drone-like headspace; I fall back on gesture and touch, great for a sex club. Talk strains my attention, so it’s nice to check out.
I don’t like apps. In-person events work better for me. When I use apps, I never tell hookups I am half-deaf. So far, no one has taken issue with it. But I recognize that half-deaf is different from Deaf. If I was Deaf, my experience might be different. Still, I think people should lead with what they fear being rejected for: put the things you cannot compromise on at the fore and weed out the trash with as little work as possible.
I am overly transparent about my HIV status so that people who will reject me because of it see it first. I don’t want to fuck them and would rather they block me. Use your deafness the same way. That is not to say you should see it as an illness: that is not what I mean. See it as something you cannot hide or apologise for. You are Deafness, personified. I am HIV. These are not afflictions: they are us. When someone rejects us for these things, they reject us as people; they deny our personhood by reducing us to features, things we cannot change, that they find unpleasant. We don’t fuck people like that.
I cannot navigate in-person events as effectively as a hearing person. All the events you listed are loud. In most social settings, I wear an earplug to protect my good ear. With just the one, I suffer from auditory overstimulation: too much sound makes me lose balance. Plugging it helps me stay steady. Even so, I like in-person events because they are real. Apps are a facsimile of being sociable: in-person is the truth. In real life, risks are higher — you can’t put your best face (picture) forward as you can on an app — but the rewards are deeper, the connections richer. You are forced to navigate a crowd of animals, all with different bodies and abilities, with every tool in your arsenal: your mind, your body, some luck, and that special elixir called charisma. My ear, I learned, is not my biggest hurdle: it is just one part of me. I have many other parts, all best experienced in person.
You are not alone. There are so many Deaf and hard-of-hearing folks in kink — enough to suggest we might be drawn to its ritual, its clear communication. I think fetish attracts neurodivergent folks (like me, also) similarly: it provides a space in which written commands, passed like love notes from dominant to submissive, work beautifully.
I love kink for many reasons, the least of which is because I am kinky. There is no ability (or disability) qualifier, no prerequisite, and no gate: if you want to be one of us, you already are. Welcome home.
P.S. If you want to read a longer, more sexually graphic essay about my hard-of-hearing experience, pick up The Experiment Will Not Be Bound, available now from Unbound Edition Press.
I just discovered your recent post about the Orange Hanky. I read your post after being shamed for not knowing what the orange color meant. Though this intrigued me when I realized this wasn’t a one-off thing. I enjoy writing and research through social science in culture and communication. As I am just a recent college graduate with a BA in Communications. As someone who also likes to express reason in different magnitude variances between cybernetics and symbiotics. What is a good blog to start?
I do have a sex question. I’m sure you have heard that “porn has killed sex.” This is common in the heterosexual world however, I feel it weighs the same amount. Do you believe this theory to be true?
Another question I have is, what do you think 2021 would look like without gay hookup sites? Do you think the gay community would have evolved as it has, or would we be stuck in the 1960s using hanky codes that only gay men were aware of in public? I would love to hear your idea or narrative of what life would be like if there was no Grindr, Scruff, or Tinder.
I am not sure I understand the first part of your question. Are you asking what kind of blog I think you should write? If so, my answer is simple. Write what you love, not what you know. I started this blog knowing little about sex. I wanted sex — I loved it. Knowledge came later.
People place outsized importance on knowledge and credibility in writing, which is a mistake. Good writing is its own credibility — it justifies itself. If you can write well, you can run a good blog. Unfortunately, writing is also pass-fail: bad writing, even from a brilliant mind with all the textbook knowledge, fails. Bad writing renders both itself and the mind behind it uncredible and untrustworthy. That’s harsh, but that’s how we read. Write well about something that fires your passion, and you will write something worth reading.
No, I don’t think porn has killed sex. I don’t think sex can be killed.
I try not to speculate on alternate histories. They break my heart. What if AIDS had not come along? Without hard drugs — which have destroyed countless lives — we would not have rock ‘n’ roll, techno clubs, fisting, David Bowie, and many other wonderful things. I think it’s too easy to say these apps have been ruinous and corrosive. They have, at the very least, changed, or perhaps defined, queer culture, but queer culture was never static: it has always changed, shifted by geopolitical forces, new technologies, and popular media. Without television, ACT UP’s fight to make America aware of AIDS would not have worked, at least not so effectively. In a world without Grindr, something else would have come to make us seek sex differently, and more things will come. Best not to hold any version of queer culture as the ideal: in ten years, the next generation will have their own, and it will be just as exciting and necessary as ours.
I am often told to never give up. However, at 57, I am beginning to give up hope of ever having partner sex. While I did attempt to top a couple of times, I was unable to penetrate their anus. I assume it is because of my penis size of 4-5” erect. I was like to experience bottoming, but I am not into douching, so it isn’t likely to happen. If sex work was legal, I would go that route. Should I throw in the towel of having sexual experiences?
You will not find answers to Big Life Questions here. And that is what your message is. Do I continue this business, life? Do I keep labouring for a goal that has so far been unreachable? Is there hope for me?
We find answers to these questions in ourselves, not on blogs. I have met people more physically handicapped than I am — people who are unable to have penetrative sex — who have more hope than I do. They are hungry for life. They have sad days, as we all do, but they keep the fire burning. For them, there is hope: they have it.
I joke that the moment I teeter into old age — the instant my body inconveniences me more than it does now — I’m out. Goodbye, all. It’s not really a joke. I am a healthy person blessed with many privileges and gifts — I have lived a great life. Still, my personal hold on life, my fire, is not so robust. I could be here, or I could not. I see death as a starry adventure into which I will someday jump. With all we know (or think we know) about the elasticity of time and quantum mechanics, I can say that I am here and not here — I am already stardust, already dead. I have fought depression all my life and made peace with a short run on Earth. Though my life circumstances give me ample cause for hope, I know I have limited stores of that magical stuff that keeps some people going strong.
Growing up in Africa, I was surrounded by hopeful people. Most of them lived in poverty by American standards, yet they had joy. Lives plagued by suffering and disease should be harder to want, yet I have known so many who fight for theirs even when addled by affliction and pain. Meanwhile, billionaires with every luxury at their fingertips commit suicide. Some people just have a softer grip on being: I’m one and always have been. During the few times I was truly suicidal, I realised what every philosopher knows: life does not justify itself. It offers no reason to live. You have to come up with those. Sex is one thing I stick around for. I want more tattoos. I have another book coming. I have work. But if my ability to fuck as I like to fuck was seriously impeded, I would really think about staying or going. In a world of wonders — great art, beautiful meals, incredible books — I still pin life, callously, on fucking. That might be tragic and childish, but I don’t care. I appreciate that my appetite for pleasure keeps me around. I am insatiable.
Perhaps you wanted encouragement — a hardy “Don’t give up” or “Keep going!” I won’t patronise you with that, and you deserve better than that. Most encouragement downplays the struggle, and I won’t downplay yours. Sex is hard. Growing older is hard and unfair. Youth is truly wasted on the young. Douching is a chore no one likes. Learning sex is a challenge every sexually active person must face or choose to live without. There are no shortcuts to sexual competence; confident sex requires years of practice. A sex worker would greatly help you and be great for you, but you must be comfortable doing something illegal in hiring one. Every sentence of your message is valid. I hear them, and as someone with my own struggles, I feel them. It would be meaningless for me, a stranger, to say, “Hey, don’t throw in the towel!”
I can only offer my take on living: forget the higher philosophic purposes of life. We are animals who feed and fuck. Sex is not the only pleasure; I have had conversations more stimulating than sex and desserts that taste better. I have seen films that made me weep and heard music that made my heart orgasm. Beyond the moralisms and Divine Decrees, humans live for pleasure — the pleasure of loving others, the pleasure of community, the pleasure of a good pair of shoes. To give up on sex is to give up on one stream of pleasure people live for. You are free to do so, and if you do, I hope you will explore the physical pleasures of life found elsewhere. But if you choose to keep trying sex and undertake the labour of seeking it, the reward — good sex — will be among your best, most life-defining moments. Sex is worth the work. It still is for me, even after many failures and defeats. I choose to keep at it. You can too.
This story from your dead /hard of hearing kinskter speaks to me in many levers .
Am a partially left ear kinskter and I thought you summed up the issue exceptionally well . I don’t bring my deafness to the table on hook ups rather all of me . I guys have a problem with that I make a joke of it . None have in my 25 out years
We should be even more accommodating and inclusive to everyone and see the person (all of them) when we hook up