I grew up in an environment where it was not acceptable to be sexual with another person unless I was married heterosexually to that same person, preferably for life. When I was fighting to come out, I found myself surprised by a the vastly accelerated sexual time-table of gay male relationships: people were willing to have intercourse on the first or second date! GASP! (I realise now that in many straight communities and spaces, it can be much the same.)
I’ve also encountered a weird double-standard: people are willing to admit that they have less respect for someone who “puts out” on the first date, even though the sex involves mutual informed consent. Why does this happen?
As a single gay Christian man, I’m still figuring out my sexual ethics. But one core conviction of mine is that sexual activity–sexual pleasure and/or orgasm–is a form of “body hospitality.” If I am allowing you into my life and body in this powerful way, I am giving you a profound welcome. Therefore, I must be intentional about it.
I imagine it a bit renting a room in a house. The room is mine. If I post a sign on my door that says, “Anyone is welcome anytime,” and never shut the door, it’s at least possible that I may walk into my own space and someone I don’t know will be there! “Um, hi! Your door was open, and you said anyone was welcome anytime.” (If I didn’t actually say “anyone, anytime” of course, the stranger would be trespassing.) On the other hand, if I don’t let anyone into my space, it’s conceivable that I might be deeply inhospitable–I may be refusing entry more because of fear than love of self. (The “I” here is deliberate–there are people I know who just don’t let people into their rooms because that’s their personal space. And that’s OK.)
Because of several conversations lately, I’m thinking of a convention in fan-fiction writing (yep, I read fan-fiction) called the “slow burn.” In a “slow burn” story, the author and readers usually know the “end-game” (which characters in a given fandom will be permanently twitterpated at the end of the story), but the author and readers enjoy the angst, fluff, and other tensions that slowly build to that inevitable outcome. When sex is included in the story, it usually develops over time, usually after the characters are together.
I wonder if many of the miscommunications, judgments, and troubles gay men have when trying to talk about sex stem from failing to grapple with the hospitality, patience, intimacy and (simmering) playfulness that comes from a “slow burn.” I’m not saying that everyone should reach the same answer, but I am curious. What is the value of a “slow burn” in gay male communities? Can a single sexual interaction be a “slow burn”? How would appreciating the value of a “slow burn” change the way we practice “body hospitality”?
Discuss amongst yourselves, beloved community.
I hope you let me overhear.