Between 2011-2014 I wrote a diary about my experiences in London. It was supposed to be about sex, so it quickly degenerated into “crazy bullshit gay guys do at each other in a big city”. It was an analysis through which I came to realize it wasn’t about me, I was just the canvas their drama was being played out on that week. In 2015 I signed a book deal with a company that promptly went out of business. In 2016 I had a couple of entries published in the Seattle Erotic Art Festival’s Anthology. They are reproduced below.
I’ve been meaning to go to an SM-Gays night since I heard about them two years ago. I’ve never gotten up the nerve. They’re a group in London who run introductory nights at The Hoist with themes like Rope Bondage and Corporal Punishment. You can go in gear or in street clothes, which is a bonus, but the only time I’ve ever been to The Hoist it was quite cliquey and snotty so I’ve not been back. It’s the Christmas Party tonight, and if there’s any time it’s going to be friendly, it’ll be now.
When I get there I’m in two minds about whether to get into my rubber, but I bought it, I may as well use it. Getting changed seems to take forever but the hot porn in the changing room helps distract me from my nerves. I take a look in the store upstairs and then I head into the main arch. There’s a guy on the door handing out name tags. He avoids putting one on my rubber and sticks it to my arm instead.
Inside I take a quick look around – everyone’s wearing Santa hats with their leather and rubber – it’s delightful. There’s not much going on, guys stand around in groups chatting, a few cruise the corridors, about two thirds are in gear and the rest are in jeans and t-shirts. There’s a tall, bearded guy with his tits out who stares at me a little and then ignores me. He’s not particularly buff, but I like his face. Even though the atmosphere is quite relaxed I go and hide up on the balcony so I can watch everything.
A man below looks up at me and crooks his finger. I’m not sure he means me at first, but then he does it again, and I think ‘well, I’m here to get introduced.’ He’s a master, and he’s surrounded by maybe five to eight subs and slaves of varying descriptions and proclivities. Everyone’s in rubber or leather except him – he wears jeans and a black t-shirt. He asks me what I’m doing there and I tell him it’s my first night and that I’ve been meaning to come for years. He introduces me to the guys, whose names go in one ear and out the other, and he asks me what kink I’m interested in. I say, “I don’t really know, I like to switch but I’m more sub than dom, and I’ve tried most things, but not enough times to really feel confident in anything.” He stands so close to me it overwhelms my field of view. I don’t really want to explain why I’m not looking at him, but I am listening. The intensity makes me more shy and less verbal.
The Master introduces me to a guy who he says is very experienced with rope bondage, and asks if I would like to be tied up. It’s not really a turn on in this club situation, but it’s not a turn off either, so I say sure. He binds my wrists first, and then makes me hold my hands under my chin and binds my arms to my chest. It’s the sort of stuff you really do have to learn – the right knots, where to put the ropes – I’d never get the hang of it, but then I’m not excited by the idea of being a rope top. There are other guys getting tied up, other masters and boys watching. The kid from Regulation who gave me advice on my rubber is there, collared, leashed, and worshipping someone called Master John who looks vaguely familiar.
The Master is quite safety conscious whereas I’m a bit blasé about it all. Nothing awful is going to happen on a night like this. Actually it’s part of giving up control – being tied up and having someone else make the decisions is very relaxing. He gets a guy in a spandex hood and leather, Grayson, to lead me around the club, telling him to make sure I don’t lose my balance or slip down the steps. I’m amused but no one bats an eyelid, not that I expect them to. Upstairs Grayson takes my cock out of my jock strap and sucks me off while I’m bound. I like that guys are watching. I find receiving blowjobs interesting for all of 5 minutes, so we stop after a while and head downstairs. My wrists are starting to hurt so I get untied, and The Master tells me to suck some other guys he’s picked up, and gets them to suck me. He asks me if I’d like to call him Sir, I say not until I understand what the implications are. He understands and says once I start I can’t stop. He passes me to another master I’ve seen on Recon who has me suck this young, hot little bound-and-hooded cub he’s rimming. He’s a little guy with a huge dick and it’s a big turn on, but not being able to see his face prevents from me getting very engaged.
The evening winds up, and I just want to stand with The Master and his subs. I want to be part of a group. I don’t know the etiquette, whether I have to ask to keep playing with Grayson or can just touch who I want. The Master tells me the play is over but I can stick around to chat if I want. He is still standing close and I’m not looking at him, and he gets a little annoyed, and I don’t particularly feel like justifying my lack of eye contact to him. He gives me his contact details and gives them to the other new guys he’s picked up, and says he wonders who will bother to contact him. I know I will follow it up.
I get changed having had a good night that made me feel quite confident, and I head to the Eagle. There are a several people there from the Hoist. Master John is playing pool and his leashed boy is sitting on the floor. I ask the boy if I can run my fingers through his hair, and he nods. John sees, and I say I wasn’t sure if I should ask. He points out the collar, and says I should ask the owner, and generally tries to make me feel like shit. It’s all I can do not to roll my eyes at his bruised ego. I stay too long at the Eagle, everyone is cruising and everyone is trying to pick up. I’d like to continue the evening somewhere but I’m not going to compete in the desperation stakes here so I watch patiently, wanting to leave. In the end I just feel rubbish about myself. Someone mentions John works on stage, and now I know where I know him from. We’ve chatted on GrindR, and then he started throwing his weight around and we both lost interest. He doesn’t remember but I do. I say goodnight, and head to my car, and drive home feeling a bit cruddy.
It’s Full Fetish again. It’s at Fire this time which is a really odd place to have it – Fire’s a twink club for the crystal-meth-on-mondays crowd. I get lost in the corridors and end up in a fairly empty side bar where a guy turns around and recognizes me. It’s lucky that I recognize him back – Ted – someone I’ve messaged on Gaydar for years. We have a chat, and a bit of a snog, and then someone sidles up to me awkwardly. I turn and it’s Stewart. He’s making a sheepish face as if he doesn’t think he can avoid me but he wishes he could, and there I am snogging the guy he came with. I ask him how he is and we try and fail to make conversation. I really have nothing to say to him – he can’t hear anything from me without freaking out. It’s like this all evening – us at opposite ends of the same group of guys. Whenever he ends up alone with me he tries to make conversation with anyone passing, and all I want is for him to relax or piss off because I really don’t care about him enough to justify his anxiety.
My mates give me a tour of the maze. Beyond the A-Gays squawking and being seen the men circulate helplessly like blood cells, staring blankly and waiting for the next guy to bump into along the way. There are a lot of couples here having sex separately, or often one guy is having sex and the other one is watching and cultivating passive aggression for later use. The mindlessness starts to get to me. Its fine to have sex with hot random men if that’s what you want (and sometimes it is), but I get the feeling many of these guys don’t – they want more, they just don’t know how to get it, or can’t let themselves stick with it, so this is what they content themselves with. It’s another kind of settling. Henri reckons that most guys don’t have sex because they’re horny any more (they don’t leave it long enough to get horny) – they have sex because they’re bored or they’re lonely. It’s true. In London everyone is used to getting exactly what they want when they want it – hot friends, internet sex in their pockets, posh food, money jobs. It’s all on the table so if the guy isn’t muscly enough, rich enough, young enough, they trade him in. A good-enough reality can never match up to the fantasy of a better deal around the corner.
I turn the corner, the dark room opens up and it’s all going on. There’s a hot Brazilian musclebear getting fucked in a sling. He sees how hard my cock is and he wants me to fuck him, so I oblige. It’s hot until his boyfriend returns and for the bear the scene has served it’s purpose. After that some muscle guy wants to fist me in a sling. It’s one of my fantasies so I agree. He stretches a couple of rubbers over his hand and starts to push into me with guys standing around watching. I want them to watch. He gets up to the knuckles, which is as far as I can go without more time and the right lube, and then he gets bored, and it’s another thing ticked off my list. A Chinese muscle guy sucks me off and rolls a condom onto me. I fuck him in a sling while another guy fucks me from behind, but he’s too short to reach so it doesn’t last.
I don’t find it hard to play safe in clubs – there’s no connection, no intimacy to be enhanced by the absence of condoms, and it’s just stupid not to. Mechanically the sex is hot – all these gym guys who wouldn’t look at me twice with my pants on like my thick dick. I remember the trick with sex clubs – get started with someone, anyone, and people will come over and watch and think you’re desirable and then you can have your pick. It’s hot for five minutes and then the guy gets bored and moves on, or I do, and it’s all utterly meaningless.
Why am I looking for meaning in a sex club? Sex is meaningless. Sex is for itself and nothing else. It’s not a making-love club. I look around and suddenly I realize I’m done here – I’m done with sex clubs, done with the endless shuffle. I’ve grasped what I needed to and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. As I watch all the guys fucking, milling around, searching for something they won’t let themselves find I’m overwhelmed by the undercurrent of loneliness and sadness that’s masked by the novelty. It’s supposed to be intense and exciting but looking around I just don’t believe it any more. It’s a room full of lonely strangers fucking. This isn’t what I want – like the others it’s what I think I can get. There are only so many sex acts to try, only so many highs to chase, only so many distractions before you run out of road, and then you’re stuck dealing with yourself and your existential pain or you blow your mind out with drugs, sex, booze, whatever. We are all of us alone here, we live, sleep and die alone. No one and no thing can heal that pain, you bear it or you get an addiction.
When I bought my rubber gear I wanted to be one of those guys who went to fetish nights and knew people, had hot sex with guys in leather and was desired, cool. Now, because of my scene photography I know what it is to be ‘known’ – people here recognize me and say hello. By accident I know what it is to be one of the cheerleaders – it’s very, very lonely. Everyone wants a piece of you and no one really knows you, and it’s all driven by the mutual terror that you’ll lose that desirability. I can keep using sex casually, like it is meaningless, or I can hold out for something more meaningful. It’s simple supply and demand. Of course I’ll have more casual sex when I’m horny enough, and I’m a pragmatic, non-monogamous guy, but I can skip this magazine culture of consolation prizes. If I had someone I’m not even sure I’d want to bring him to a party like this. That’s a bit of a reversal of my hopes and my politics. Maybe I’m growing up? Maybe I’m getting old? Maybe I’m just giving up on the idea that I can do anything to improve my chances of finding someone compatible – no one wants to be compatible.
Whatever. I chatted to a mate, got sucked off in the beer garden in front of sociology researchers holding clipboards, and then I called it quits and drove to Brighton to hang out with friends I actually talk to. It was awesome.