Sex & Dating: The sex ed you never got

Gay Sex 101

By Steven Igarashi

In my time at AID Atlanta, I have had the opportunity to observe a large array of gay relationships. I’ve seen everything from serial hookups to fairytale romance. I’ve seen monogamy, polyamory, and everything in between.

While there is no “textbook” gay relationship, one thing has become increasingly clear to me – we need gay sexual role models. It’s no secret that sex education in our school systems is devastatingly lacking, and even the most liberal and supportive parents aren’t providing their sons with a birds and bees talk on “how to be a better gay lover.”

So, here is some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from my work with the gay community, my own relationships, and playing arm-chair Oprah to countless friends.

There is no such thing as a “typical” gay relationship.

Part of the beauty of our community is the diversity. For many, that diversity includes freely defining what a relationship is for you and those involved.  Whether it’s committed monogamy and vanilla sex or polyamory and kink, relationships are what you make of them. Don’t be defined by someone else’s guidelines. Find what works for you.

Knowledge is power.

Before we can have someone meet our needs, we have to know what those needs are: What do you want in a relationship? Know yourself, and it will make finding Mr. Right that much easier. Know your boundaries and your deal breakers.

Also, take the time to get to know who you’re with, and what they’re all about. This includes knowing the little things – like your partner’s name (GRINDR, I’m talking to you!). Take your time – if he’s into you, he’s not going anywhere.

We are greater than tops and bottoms.

Labels are great for handbags and shoes, but people don’t all fall into neat categories. Porn would have us believe that relationships have two roles — tops and bottoms. The truth is that gay men enjoy a variety of sexual activities and not all of it surrounds these two roles. Do what you’re comfortable with, and not what you feel is expected of you. Set your own boundaries.

Everyone loves a gentleman.

Tops, bottoms, twinks, bears: Everyone wants to be swept off their feet. Just because we’re men, doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate courtesy and kindness. Open a door, pick up a tab, and remember your manners. After all, this is the South.

Confidence is sexy.

If you saw this year’s hit “The Help,” you know that “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” We’d all do well to remember these things when you’re on the dating scene. Why do we let other single gay men intimidate us so much? We’re all looking for the same things – let’s take down our defenses and just go talk to that guy across the bar. And fellas, if you’re not interested, just take it as a compliment and move on.

Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.

We all know the Golden Rule, and this is especially apropos in the gay dating scene. Everyone knows each other and most people are connected in a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” kind of way. Treat others kindly, and you won’t have to hear about yourself at the bar.

Be prepared.

In dating, and in sex, you need to be prepared. Be emotionally prepared for what a relationship and intimacy can demand of you. Be physically prepared – and I’m not just talking about your time on the treadmill.

Take the time to groom yourself, and prep yourself for any sex play. Get tested regularly for HIV and STDs, and be prepared with a variety of condoms and lube. Your partner will appreciate your Boy Scout skills, and you may even earn that merit badge.

There’s something for everyone.

My work has definitely shown me that no man is an island. Whatever your interest or personal preference, there is someone willing to accommodate you. Haven’t found them yet? Don’t give up hope – just broaden your search!

Friends are critical to good relationships.

You need more than just you and Mr. Right to make it work. Friends often help us see our own flaws, and they are more likely to see traits we may be blind to in our partner. There’d be no Carrie and Big were it not for the assistance of Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda.

Know when to speak and when to listen.

It sounds trite, but the number one key to any relationship is open communication. We have to be willing to voice our wants and needs, and to hear them from our partner. Likewise, we need to be willing to be honest. If we’re not interested, say so (in a nice way). In the long run, you’ll be helping out you and your partner.

Lesbian Sex 101

By Glenda Corwin, Ph.D.

Valentine’s Day can bring up longing for sexual intimacy, but many of us are single, or living in a long-term, non-sexual relationship. We don’t know how to create or sustain sexuality.

Here are some tips that may help. Please think of how these can apply to you, regardless of your relationship status. Single or partnered, you have feelings about sex!

Start with yourself.

What do you want most, and fear most, in a sexual relationship? Where do you feel most vulnerable? How do you handle being vulnerable? If you acknowledge your own challenges, you can work through these with a partner. There’s a great emotional connection that happens when you can be vulnerable, and it starts with being honest about your own sexual concerns.

Let yourself enjoy masturbation.

Research shows that women who masturbate more are more orgasmic and report greater sexual satisfaction with a partner. Masturbation is also the best way to develop arousal and orgasm pathways that increase pleasure with a partner, if one is available. It’s good for your sexual health!

Remember that the best aphrodisiac is responsiveness.

It’s a real turn-on to feel someone responding to you, and a turn-off to feel no response at all. Socially responsive behaviors, like smiling and eye contact, make people more appealing and attractive. So focus less on how you look, and more on how you respond to her.

Tell; don’t make her ask.

If you’ve met someone you want to have sex with, please don’t make her have to ask you if you have any STIs (sexually transmitted infections, such as Herpes). Volunteer this information yourself!  The most cautious approach is to present a copy of STI test results and ask her to do the same, or go together for testing. Or you can start with simply telling her if you do or don’t have any STIs. If she doesn’t return the courtesy of self-disclosure, be concerned.

The First Time is fraught with peril; big excitement, big anxiety.

Go slow, and talk as much as you need to. Many women say they feel very awkward, or vulnerable about getting undressed, or too nervous to have an orgasm with a new partner.

Getting comfortable enough to enjoy sexual intimacy with another person takes some time and experience, neither of which can be rushed.

Initiation is important.

It’s tough for many women to do, but someone has to if you want to have a sex life.

Ideally you can share the responsibility for keeping your sex life alive. But it isn’t fair to expect one person to do it all the time. If you want to sustain sexual intimacy, you have to do your part.

Some partners do have definite roles of initiating or responding. This is perfectly valid, and works well when it’s explicit and agreed upon.

Focus on 24-hour foreplay.

This is the activities that happen a day or two before, and that build up emotional and sexual feelings that lead to making love. Think about how you acted when you were first dating. You were sweet and attentive, and you did meticulous planning — where to go, what to wear, how to create a sensual ambience.
You and your partner set the stage for passion — and it all felt spontaneous, except you planned it for days! You were actually incredibly intentional, and you can do that again if you want to sustain ongoing sexual intimacy. It’s all about the foreplay!

Don’t compare or complain.

Never, ever ridicule your partner, compare her to previous lovers, or complain about your sex life to mutual friends. You wouldn’t want her to do it to you, and you can’t un-do the damage.

Be curious, but never judgmental.

Keep an open mind about your partners’ feelings about sex. People are different! You need to understand her likes and dislikes, and her beliefs about sex. Non-judgmental curiosity can help her open up to you. Disapproval or unsolicited advice will shut her down immediately.

Connection isn’t just sexual.

Emotional connection leads to good sex, and good sex leads to more emotional connection. Listen to each other’s feelings. That’s the way to feel less distracted and numb, and more loving, present, and passionate.