Writers often fear that they have nothing original to say. I, on the other hand, steadfastly hope that what I`m writing about is not original. I want to know that others have tread the same murky waters of sex in all its glory (and unglory). I don`t want to think I`m alone in my experiences. An isolation like that would be too hard to bear. No, I don`t want to be original. What I do want is dialogue with like-minded travellers on the quest.
This essay describes an embarrassing moment during sex that happened 7 years ago. It forever changed my sexual behaviour, up to the time of this writing. Could I ever tell my family, with whom I confide a great deal, about it? Not on your life. Could I tell my friends, even my closest confidantes? Never have, and probably never will. So it’s down to you Dear Reader. Sorry for burdening you. The irony is that because we don’t know each other, I can be brutally honest. I don’t want to write this essay. And that is why I know I should.
In 1997, I got to know a local gay bar intimately, by working as both the door guy, taking your cover charges, and as the coat check guy, taking your coats for tips. But it was years later that I met Ethan at said bar, around 2003. No longer working there, just a patron, I was wearing a sleeveless T, perfect for showing off the biceps. And it caught the eye of Ethan.
Ahhh, Ethan. Unruly auburn hair, freckled, built, about 25 years old, compared to my 29 or 30 years. He looked jockish. Our eyes locked and I sidled up to where he was seated. Imagine my surprise when this jockish guy told me he was in from another province for a month to attend an opera-singing workshop at the university. He also told me he was imagining what I looked like naked. We kissed and high tailed it out of there, headed in a cab to his place.
He was staying in a non-descript apartment, sharing it with others attending the same opera workshop. In his room, there was just a mattress on the floor and his luggage. I had a soft spot for men just passing through town- no commitments, no fuss, no muss. We two men stumbled into the ecstasy that two men find when the clothes come off and you begin to explore each other. That holy moment of first touch. And coming up for air from between his legs, I looked up at his face. His eyes were closed. He revelled in my touch and I looked at that face and thought: beautiful. I took a mental Polaroid and filed it in a folder in my mind labelled Remember Forever. To me, he was that beautiful.
I wanted my hands to touch every inch of his cock, his bush, his balls, and finally his ass. Eventually, I licked a finger and penetrated his ass. And my finger was blocked by something hard. Yes, there was a train in the tunnel. No sweat, I figured, as I pulled my finger out. We would forego assplay. Ethan seemed unaware and continued to revel in the eroticism of our play.
We connected again a few days later, wandering the woods of my city’s river valley together. And in those woods, he blew his wad on my chin and shirt collar. He was brave and bold, taking my hand as we walked along the street back towards the university, to search for a cab to take me home. In the moonlight, I got in the cab, and turned to look at Ethan. There was the man, smiling at me, whose cum rested on my shirt collar (we’ve come a long way since the 1959 Connie Francis hit “Lipstick on Your Collar”, haven’t we?). We had made plans to meet again at his place in a day or two. I couldn’t wait.
We never know when we are about to face down a game-changing moment, do we? On the way to see Ethan again, I was innocently oblivious to what would amount to a change in my future sexual behaviour.
It was summer time, so it remained light until late. I arrived at his place at around 6pm, and we proceeded to get naked, the sunlight streaming through the window. This time, it was my ass that was played with, and this was no problem – I’d bottomed a fair bit and felt comfortable as Ethan slipped on a condom. He entered me, and it was no more nor no less challenging than any other time. What I loved was looking in his eyes, and feeling that maybe this was the start of something good. Just the fact that we had made it to date three was a near-miracle, given my track record of one night stands that never made it to a second meeting.
But the look in his eyes shifted suddenly. And then the smell hit me. It was the smell of certain humiliation. I evidently wasn’t clean. Dear Reader, in the many times that I had bottomed before, I had never experienced this problem. I was so unsophisticated, that I didn’t even know how to douche. How had I remained so clean while being fucked in the past? Pure, dumb luck. I looked down, and saw my mess had even gotten on his leg. He said “Cum now” and I did and he did, quick and efficient, to put an end to this episode gone wrong.
In the shower, I was speechless. I began with “sorry about....” and he good naturedly said “ Hey, that’s life”. But something had shifted. We didn’t have enough of a foundation to truly process a messy sexual experience, and I instantly became deeply insecure, searching for signs that he forgave me and my body for betraying our desire. I was deeply embarrassed and was not cool about it. For someone else, this may have seemed minor. For me, it verged on catastrophe. I instantly felt betrayed by my body and cursed my ass, as if it should have known better. The stakes felt high – I really liked Ethan, and my brain was screaming at me that my ass had ruined it.
My plumbing was fucked up, and I needed to spend time in the washroom righting myself. When I’d pulled it together, we settled on the couch, and cuddled while making a half-hearted effort to watch a movie. But I was only half present – my other half was obsessively reliving what had happened in the bedroom.
I saw Ethan once more before he headed back to his hometown. But I was now coming at him from a self-defeating angle, sure that I had lost his desire. And indeed the signs were there, though I tried not to see it. He held my hand, but it felt cold. We said goodbye and he gave me his West Coast number.
Fucking synchronicity being what it is, I remember reading Dan Savage’s column “Savage Love” around this time. He casually mentioned that if you have anal sex with a new guy, and you’re not clean, don’t expect to see him again. And so rather than gather what dignity I still felt I had left, and letting it and Ethan go, I lurched forward and called Ethan instead, saying that I was coming out to his city for a vacation. Could we get together? Sure he said, but he had to go, it was dinnertime, his family was calling. Did he call me back? No. Did I take the hint? No. Instead, I bought a ticket with Masochistic Airlines and flew West as the summer (and my ass) was starting to close.
Ethan worked part time at a sports bar in his city’s gay Village, and upon arriving, I went to find him, and find him there I did. Walking down to the beach, we made plans to meet that night and spend the evening together. I remember he kissed me, and took that as a sign that he was into me, into this. I felt I’d been given a second chance to redeem my wounded ego, and went back to the hotel to wait for his call expected at 6pm.
6pm came. So did 7pm. I left him a message – “Hey, just waiting for your call, hope you’re ok and looking forward to tonight”. 8pm came. 9pm came. Finally, reality came. I had been stood up.
I hit the streets, determined to salvage this ill-fated trip by going out, drinking, meeting someone new. But any gay Village is small – I ran into Ethan on the street, completely by chance. I had nothing to say, and was numb to his excuses for not getting back to me. I suggested we not draw this out any further. He agreed and wimpishly asked for a hug. I declined, asking “what for?”, and we parted. But fate loves to rub our nose in it, and we actually passed on the street once more, a day or two later. Our eyes met and we both immediately looked away. This man, to whom I was very attracted, who had cum on me in the woods by a river, who had told me that his friends liked me, who had taken my hand in public, was now to be treated as a stranger.
Another casualty was my ass, now to be treated as a stranger as well.
I recognize that I may have misplaced my anger about what happened with Ethan, but I blamed my ass. Looking at things now, could it be that the same outcome would have occurred with Ethan whether or not my ass cooperated with our anal sex or not? I only topped from that day on. Bottoming left me feeling too vulnerable. I worked on my ass on my own time, thank you very much. I was no stranger to my dildos. So I didn’t completely shut down. But many an hour was spent wondering what it would take to get back on the horse and bottom again. In all honesty, I gave it a shot, once, but abandoned it quickly, still not ready to go there. Topping was easy, no risk. And so while bottoming might be considered by some as the passive or femme or sub position to take, I know the truth – it takes a real man to bottom. Bottoming takes balls. And if memory serves, the rewards are stunning. The prostate should be celebrated yearly by a parade in its honour.
Regarding my ass, I let a mental block form, but now I realize that, as Ethan had said regarding my messy ass, “that’s life”. And I very well may be underestimating Ethan – maybe he truly meant it and hadn’t been shocked by my body’s lack of finesse. In any case, I know how to douche now. So what’s stopping me from giving it another go? Ass, it’s time for you to head out into the world again. Ass, you’ve gone unattended to for too long. This is an ass manifesto. “The End of Bottoming”, my ass! I’m going to get back in the game. Ass, you’ve been so patient. Ass, you need to meet a partner who’s going to honour you and enjoy you.
Am I ready to be that vulnerable again?