For over two decades a pumped-up beefcake has been my constant companion and helped me make a house a home. I’ve never seen his face and he never lends a hand when I move, but I love him just the same as he faithfully adorns the fridge wherever I choose to nest. Other magnets surround him, bringing back happy memories of places I’ve been, but he reminds me of a much more fundamental aspect of my journey through life: that fact that men alone can float my boat. Standing there in his birthday suit, looking every bit as good as he did when I first laid hands on him, the only thing that covers his modesty is the text “All I want is a naked man to call my own.” Ain’t that the truth!
Like so many other gay men and lesbian women I wasn’t always at ease with being same-sex attracted, or what my mum calls “being a man-man” (she hates the word ‘homo’ that is typically used in Dutch). Coming to terms with being homosexual was a slow and arduous path for me, which surprises people: “But you’re Dutch! The Dutch are so open-minded!” I tend not to disclose how at various points I’ve found myself teetering on cliff edges, longing for release, the shame and fear nearly pushing me over.
I can still recall that piercing feeling running through me when I realised I was having my first ever-sexual thought about a guy. I was about 16, innocently daydreaming about a guy from school. I always got so clumsy and shy around him, simultaneously intimidated and attracted in a way I didn’t understand. In my fantasies there was no such awkwardness; I could float invisibly near the ceiling in his bedroom, picturing him fresh out the shower with a towel round his waist, observing his every move. As my daydream unfolded, so did his towel. And then something happened I had never experienced before nor could have anticipated at the time – I felt an unfamiliar and unabashed urge to swoop down on his dick. It came out of nowhere and it was just as instant as the rebuke that followed it. “NO!”, I said to myself, “You did NOT just think that, OK?! That is DISGUSTING!” The next day at school I could not bear to look at him.
…on a recent feminist webinar I’d been invited to (as long as I promised not to actively participate), someone left the following comment in the chat: “That’s the difference you see – lesbians build communities, gay men are on their knees at the glory hole.”
Shortly after I wrote a poem called ‘Paradox’. It goes: “When I think of you, I dream away and we have meetings that will never be / In places that do not exist, where I touch you, where I kiss you. And I slowly search your body / Until I awake with a shock. Because I see that you’re the same.” I had it published anonymously in the school paper, hoping he would read it and somehow magically understand what I was trying to tell him in a way lovelorn teenagers who spend too much time alone in their room are wont to do. Alas, he was too busy flicking through porn at the back of the classroom. Like Janis Ian, I too learned the truth at 17.
That was 1994. I have since found the joy of both the carnal pleasures (bye Janis, hello George Michael) and the transcendent intimacy of being with a man, and the freedom to celebrate same-sex desire in ways only men can understand. Last year I had a chat with Posie Parker in a pub about some research I had done into men giving men non-reciprocal blowjobs. I mentioned how these encounters can be very rich from an experiential point of view, even though an outsider might look at them as superficial, empty and disconnected. “I just don’t get it”, she said. Similarly, on a recent feminist webinar I’d been invited to (as long as I promised not to actively participate), someone left the following comment in the chat: “That’s the difference you see – lesbians build communities, gay men are on their knees at the glory hole.” I realised the point she was making, but also sniggered as not-so misty watercolour memories instantly lit the corners of my mind.
But my fridge magnet reminds me that the desire for ‘a naked man’ is not only about the purely physical side of sex – as primal and exhilarating as it can be – it’s also about finding and offering a home that can only be made of a man’s arms.
Perhaps as men we are led more by our sexual instincts than women, a testosterone-driven need to spread our seed both literally and metaphorically, the thrill of the hunt, and the ease men afford one another to get their rocks off (a number of female friends have expressed their envy to me of the freedom with which gay men can act out their sexuality). But my fridge magnet reminds me that the desire for ‘a naked man’ is not only about the purely physical side of sex – as primal and exhilarating as it can be – it’s also about finding and offering a home that can only be made of a man’s arms.
I think about a recent moment where I’m collapsed on a lover’s back, the nape of his neck the perfect resting place for my head, my arms stretched out on top of his, our fingers interlaced and clasping at each other tightly. I’m still deep inside him, both of us breathing heavily and not wanting to let go, my dick still doing that slow post-orgasmic throb as he squeezes his sphincter to make sure he gets every last drop. A moment free of shame, far from the cliff edges, full of unadulterated Spice Girls ‘2-become-1’-ness. Coincidentally, his physique is quite similar to the pumped-up beefcake on my fridge, but this time I know his face, his voice, his laughter, and what he likes. Whether our moment becomes a mere mental fridge magnet or whether he becomes more of a constant companion remains to be seen, but as we were lying there at least for a little while I felt like I was blissfully at home with a naked man to call my own.
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