“So… this was fun”, you say, leaning seductively against the entrance to the porter’s lodge. You’re trying to look like Sandra Bullock on the poster of a rom-com: effortless, provocative, stunning.
“Yeah” he replies, absent-mindedly checking his phone.
“Well… see you, then.” You’re expecting him to kiss you. How could he resist? You’re Sandra Bullock! If Sandra Bullock reeked of gin and poppers.
He couldn’t stay for breakfast because he has a tutorial (on a Sunday, apparently?!), which is a good thing because all you had to offer were the remnants of a bottle of wine from the previous night, a pack of cigarettes and some half-baked discourse on UK politics.
He doesn’t kiss you. He leaves. You stare into the middle distance and give a lustful sigh, before exchanging a knowing look with your non-existent audience. Life, eh?
You wait a few moments, before whipping out your phone to perform the mother of all Facebook stalks. 7 ½ minutes later, you know his college, his friendship group, his A-Level results and the name of his dead dog (RIP Tigs). You send a cheeky friend request and think nothing of it. You’re not looking for anything serious, you reason, but he seemed nice and you’d like some more gay friends.
A few hours pass and you haven’t received anything from him. Maybe the tutorial overran? Maybe his phone died? Maybe he doesn’t use Facebook that often? Classy.
A day goes by, then two, then a week. And then it dawns on you: he didn’t accept your friend request. You go to the same university, you’re both gay, you gave him (amazing) head last night. And yet, he decided that you did not deserve a place among his 648 Internet friends. His second cousin once removed made the cut, as did the horse girl from his primary school. But not you.
You see him around Oxford a few times. You smile. He looks at you awkwardly, gives you a stiff nod and later sends you a “You up?” message on Grindr at 2am. You down a can of G&T, dowse yourself in Febreze and head over to his place. You tell him you’ve just come from a “really cool houseparty in Jericho.’ Kate Bush’s son was there. You were passing through the area. You wouldn’t have come otherwise. He shrugs.
You have sex with him, and the vicious cycle starts again.
You convince yourself that it’s ok. “It’s just sex!’ you tell yourself, “all the greats do it!” You are so pleased with yourself to be finally having casual sex that you don’t stop to consider the nature of this sex. Because the thing is, you’re not just having casual sex with this man, you’re having anonymous sex with him – sex with someone who refuses to acknowledge your presence in person, someone who barely knows your name, let alone what you study, what your favourite drink is, or what you did last Tuesday.
I am all for casual sex between consenting adults; I don’t think we should apply old-fashioned and heteronormative limitations to our sex life. It’s reductive and pointless. But I do think that, as a community, we ignore the potentially harmful implications of anonymous sex. It harks back to a time when gay men were forced to engage in sexual intercourse in secret, when any kind of sexual activity between two men was laced with shame. Times have changed, but this shame has remained.
I’m aware that for many people, societal or familial circumstances makes it impossible for them to be public and open about their sexuality. In these situations, I more than understand a decision to keep schtum about their sexual partners. But for people who don’t have to worry about their life or livelihood, who have the privilege to live a life without fear of judgement or persecution, what are you doing?
It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re being sex positive as we grind up against a stranger in time with the latest Gaga song or tap on a torso pic that reads “FUCK N GO”. But if you can’t acknowledge that person the next day, smile at them when you see them in the street, recognise the fact that YOU HAD SEX, can you truly call yourself a sex positive person? Or are you still carrying the shame of your forefathers? It’s time to break the cycle, to leave your baggage at the door, to love with an open heart and fuck with an open mind. So I implore you to accept that friend request, to post a friendly message on that person’s birthday, to buy them a drink next time you see them in the club as you reminisce about the time you had fumbling, awkward, wonderful sex.