Pope Francis

Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church I learned and about the depth of God’s love and how he made each and every one of us the way he intended. When I realized that I’m gay, it felt right, and I knew that this is how God meant for me to be. I hope one day I will meet the love of my life and that we will have the opportunity to get married in a Church, and I hope some time in the future more Catholics will open up their hearts and minds and realize the true meaning of God’s love for all of us. We might all be “sinners,” but being gay is not a sin, it’s a natural way of life embedded within ourselves at birth…

Boyfriends, Breakups and New Beginnings

 

2012 was a roller coaster of a year.  I came home from studying abroad in South America.  I struggled with my failing relationship.  I lost a cousin.  I returned to South America.  I continued to struggle with my relationship.  I lost a lover.  I gained a friend.  I experienced sexual rejuvenation.  I learned to be myself again, and I struggled with who that was.  I excelled academically and I graduated from college.  Although the apocalypse didn’t occur as the Mayan’s had predicted, at times I felt as though the end of the world would bring better resolve than anything I could do to see the year through.

Despite my ups and downs I made it to 2013, and although many consider 13 to be an unlucky number, I’m hoping for the best.  Before I can fully submit to the marvels this year will bring, I must first relieve myself of a weight last year left on my shoulders: the end of my two year relationship.  NotPukingRainbows seemed like the best place to do just that.

In October, 2009 I came out to my cousin and then to my father, six months after I had come out to my Catholic priest, and nine months after I had come out to my best friends.  Between March and June, 2010 I came out to my mother, siblings, high school friends and extended family.  Although I finally had the opportunity to live comfortably in my own skin, transitioning from a 20-year-run as a heterosexual to a predominately homosexual college student was a challenging process, especially because I had no close friends at my new university.  My second semester was particularly rough, not because of the demanding coursework, but because of my inner struggle to discover who I was and how I fit into the gay community.  I sought attention, masked by an eagerness for friendship, masked by a craving for sexual contact with other males.  My desire to be noticed among the crowd of confident, flamboyant and sexy gay men somewhat triumphed my academic studies, social development and emotional well being.

At the start of the summer of 2010 I had reached a certain point of clarity that I had never experienced before.  I finally felt an extreme sense of self-confidence, much of which came from an online friendship I had formed with a closeted boy from the Mid West.  I regretted the path that I took to become comfortable with myself, but I was equally satisfied with my new found state of mind and the idea that I could use it to help others through their coming out struggles.  This bold mentality followed me throughout that summer as I dated a guy from my hometown, and again in the fall as I returned to my university with a confident stride.

For the first time in over a year I began to actually make friends and develop interpersonal relationships outside the realm of cyberspace.  I met and flirted with boys without the comfort of a “Next” button, photoshopped “face pics” or partially embellished “stats.”  Life was good, but it wasn’t free of hardships.  I still experienced the occasional heartbreak, academic challenges, physical illness, friendship drama, etc; but my pride in being my own person outweighed the bulk of my misfortunes.

In October, 2010 I met a guy who changed my life.  Despite my “real world” advancements, he and I met online.  However, unlike countless others I’d met via internet, he actually attended my university and just happened to live in the residence hall adjacent to mine.  He was a South American exchange student studying in the United States for a year.  Maybe it was his Latino charm, or perhaps the way his eyes lit up when he smiled, but we connected rather quickly.  The chemistry was vibrant, we were inseparable and soon we fell deeply in love.  Once we became a couple, my sense of identity rapidly shifted from an omnipotent me to an overarching us.  Of course I was okay with this.  After all, he was my first boyfriend and I was wonder-struck by the excitement, the seemingly endless possibilities and my shot at love.

We remained together for nearly two years – the first eight months in America, seven in his home country and four separated by nearly 8,000 miles.  In July, 2012, after a series of difficult realizations, heart wrenching confessions and unfortunate realities, my Latino lover broke it off and I was once again a single, disillusioned gay man.

I should say right off the bat that we didn’t break up because of the distance.  Long distance relationships are hard to maintain, and although the distance may have played a microscopic role, it didn’t determine our fate.

For me, the months between October, 2010 and January, 2012 were some of the best months of my life.  My boyfriend and I had a great relationship.  The chemistry was unlike anything I had ever felt before.  Yes, in some ways we were like acid and alkalis, but these imbalances never deterred the bond shared between us.  In August, 2011 I went to South America to visit him and to study abroad for a semester in a neighboring country.  The experience was incredible, and when I returned to the States in January, 2012 I had high expectations about what the year would bring.

Yes, I knew it would be tough — we’d have to find a way to see each other between school and work, without the benefit of student exchange programs — but I was up for the challenge.  I had always assumed that he would be too.

I hadn’t even been back in the States for a month when I realized that he wasn’t the same.  He was distant; cold.  He rarely made an effort to communicate with me outside of our nightly 15 minute Skype sessions, which consisted of us chatting about our daily routines while he browsed Facebook and texted his other friends.

I slowly began to grow jealous of his co-workers.  It seemed as though he was interested in spending more time with them than he was with me.  If I didn’t try to communicate with him throughout the day, the only time we’d speak would be on Skype before bed.  This took a toll on my self-confidence, and I began to wonder whether or not he was being faithful to me.

Outside of our lack of communication and his emotional withdraw, we rarely had cybersex.  Maybe twice a month if I was lucky, I could get him in the mood to become intimate.  During the final month I was abroad I noticed that he was rarely interested in sexual contact, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.  He was busy with work and that took a toll on his stamina.  Now that we were apart, the lack of intimacy increased substantially.  This might seem superficial, but all I wanted was for my boyfriend to tell me how sexy he thought I was and how much he longed to take me, stark naked at the foot of his bed, my erect cock, a palpable apple persuading his lips to appease their hunger.  It almost wasn’t worth it to fantasize about my longing for intimacy.  Nothing was going to happen.  I tried everything – sexting, dirty pictures, suggestive emails, quasi-fictional gay erotica.  Nothing peaked his interest. “What else am I supposed to do?” I thought to myself?  Our love alone was capable of overpowering the 8,000 miles that separated us, but without intimacy he felt worlds away.

For the first time in my life I understood what could lead someone in a committed relationship to consciously cheat on the one he loves.  In that moment I felt so alone and unwanted — sexually neglected by the man I was so undeniably in love with.  I wasn’t proud of my revelation, it hurt, but it was the truth.  I remembered what a friend had told me in October, 2009 when I came out of the closet to him, claiming to be bisexual.  “It’s all about who you want to screw,” he said, refuting my claim that I could somehow be sexually attracted to guys, yet emotionally attached to girls.  Despite society’s obsession with a Nicholas Sparks’ fairy tale style romance, I had come to believe that in committed, long term relationships love is secondary — it’s the glue that holds the two people together.  Sex is what keeps them going.  In 2009 I refused to believe that love could be demoted in the name of sex, but now (in January 2012) I understood where my friend was coming from.  I loved my boyfriend with all my heart, but he didn’t seem interested in me anymore and I didn’t know what to do.

I spend a lot of time lost within myself, daydreaming about how marvelous the future could be, that I sometimes forget how to feel in the present.  Throughout the first year and a half my boyfriend and I had been together I never once felt sad as a result of something he had done to me.  To feel that kind of emotion — a deep seeded pain in my chest — was one of the most deafening, yet equally awakening blows to my conscious.  I felt estranged to the couple I thought we were, and unavoidably vulnerable to the couple we would become.

To be continued… (pero, no me voy a escribir mas como eso.)

Do You Support Gay Rights? Vote For Equality This Election

Every Tuesday I wake up around 6:30 a.m., tired and woozy after a long night of endless studying, article writing, last minute interviews and fact checking, occasionally falling asleep by 2 o’clock.  I drag myself out of bed, pull myself together a bit and go to the bathroom where I complete my daily routine – toilet, teeth, face, contact lenses.  On a good day, by 6:45 I’m ready to go to the gym where I run four miles and lift hundred pound weights (to no avail) hoping to transform my scrawny arms into something more appealing.  By 7:45 I give up, return to the communal bathroom in my residence hall, take a shower and get dressed for the day.  Around 8:30 I go to breakfast and prepare for my 8:55 class – cultural diplomacy and international education.  I’m feeling tired, but generally I’m in a good mood – Tuesdays are relatively short days for me.

This Tuesday morning, however, will be somewhat different.  I’ll still wake up around 6:30, but I probably won’t follow my normal routine.  As you (should) know, Tuesday, 6 November is Election Day, and instead of going to the gym, eating breakfast and preparing for my 8:55 class I will most likely be sitting at my desk reviewing last minute state and national polls, reading the predictions of political strategists and meticulously calculating the various ways in which some candidates could win or lose to others.

At 7 a.m., millions of Americans will begin heading to their local polling places and casting their ballots to elect our country’s next leaders.  This election is important to the future of our country – not only because of the war in Afghanistan, healthcare, education and the economy, but also because of the underlying social issues that are on the line.  This Tuesday is arguably the most important Election Day in history for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.  Because of this I am extremely nervous about its outcome.

Knowing that some of Washington’s most powerful players are supportive of equal rights for LGBT Americans, I’ve felt nearly 100 percent comfortable living as a gay American over these past four years.  For the first time in my life I’ve felt confident that our government will finally recognize LGBT Americans by making changes that are long overdue.

Many Americans (including some of my good friends) do not understand how it feels to be continuously reprimanded by elected officials who believe that it is wrong to be gay, that it is a choice, or that it will somehow corrupt the basic outline of a civil society.  It is hard for me to believe that in 2012 a majority of our senators and representatives, in both legislatures and on the Hill, still view LGBT Americans as less deserving of our country’s freedom.  In the 112th Congress, 60 percent of the House and 65 percent of the Senate stand in opposition to gay rights according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.

As shocking as this may be, it is the truth.  Luckily on Tuesday, 6 November, you have the power to make a difference for LGBT Americans in your state and across the country.

This election is the first ever in which there are presidential tickets (Democratic incumbents, President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden; and Libertarians Gary Johnson and Jim Gray) that openly supports same-sex marriage, among other rights for LGBT Americans.  Additionally, there are dozens of lesbian, gay and ally candidates up for election in both local offices and in Congress.  In my home state of Pennsylvania, for example, there are 35 candidates who support gay rights, including marriage.  In addition to electing officials, there are four states (Maine, Md., Minn. and Wash.) in which voters will have the power to decide marriage equality via referendums.

I can’t fathom the thought of possibly having to live the next 8 years of my life with an administration (Romney/Ryan) that seeks to undermine its own people rather than represent them equally under law.  Some voters forget or ignore the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are denied rights or live in fear simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Others claim there are more important issues (most likely because they aren’t affected by the inequality).  Others are simply unaware of governmental discrimination.

Here are some ways the government discriminates against LGBT Americans:

1.  In 29 states you can legally be fired simply because you identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and in 34 states if you identify as transgender.

CREDIT: The Dallas Voice (2011)

This means that if I had a job in Pennsylvania and my boss found out that I’m gay he could fire me simply because he doesn’t want a gay person working at his office.

2.  Even though there is a shortage in blood supply, especially in times like these (after Hurricane Sandy), it is illegal for gay men to donate blood.

This means that if my father is ever in an accident and needs blood I could not help him merely because I am gay.  It doesn’t matter that he’s my father and that we share the same blood.  I would be refused simply because I am gay.

3.  In some states LGBT persons (as individuals or couples) cannot legally adopt children.

4.  Same-sex marriages are banned in 39 states: 5 states allow civil unions and 6, along with D.C., allow same-sex marriage.  Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even couples who are legally married are denied 1,100 federal benefits that are given to opposite sex couples.  According to the Human Rights Campaign, some of these benefits include joint filing of taxes, the ability to receive spousal benefits from social security, the ability to take unpaid leave when your husband or wife is injured or ill and the ability to sponsor your foreign born spouse for a green card/ U.S. citizenship.

This means that if I were to marry someone who was born outside of the United States he would not be entitled to U.S. citizenship and thus, could only remain in the country on a visa (which expires).

Prior to President Obama taking office, this list was much, much longer.  According to EqualityPa.org, “President Obama is the first sitting President to endorse marriage equality and during his first term, signed the Mathew Shepard Hate Crimes Law, the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, guaranteed hospital visitation rights for same sex couples and instituted a landmark housing non-discrimination regulation for all Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing, among numerous other accomplishments.”

After all of these accomplishments, one can only hope for more; however, this will only happen in an Obama/Biden or Johnson/Gray administration.  Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan support amending the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  Romney also stands in opposition to many of the pro-LGBT advancements made over the past four years.

For those who care more about other issues and feel that President Romney would make better decisions for our country, I’d appreciate if you would just take a moment and put yourself in my shoes as a gay American.  Try to understand where I am coming from and why I believe gay rights are more important than growing the economy, fixing healthcare and bringing peace to the Middle East.

To me this is about much more than just politics.  It’s about my life – my future.  It’s also about the lives and futures of the thousands of LGBT youth who could grow up in a country that either supports them or neglects them.

I grew up in denial of my sexual orientation until I was 20-years-old, but today more than half of LGBT youth are coming out in high school or even in middle school.  Nevertheless, the suicide rate for LGBT youth is four times higher than heterosexual youth.  Much of this has to do with the inability of our elders (government officials included) to understand and accept our sexual orientation or gender identity.

When between 30 and 40% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide, what does this say about our country as a whole?  Do we really want to have a government that tells our youth that they are not worthy of living the same lives as heterosexual youth?  When 90% of LGBT students are harassed or assaulted at school because of their identities, how reassuring is it when your president or your senator or even your local representative publicly denounces homosexuality?

Imagine this:  You have an 11-year-old son.  Unbeknownst to you, your son is gay, bisexual or transgender.  He could be 20-years-old by the time President Romney leaves office.  Those eight or nine years are critical to his social development and emotional growth.  What does he have going for him if the administration which governs his country stands in opposition to his rights?  What kind of message would this send to our children?

In her book, It Takes a Village, Secretary of State Clinton, then U.S. First Lady wrote, “There is probably no more important task parents–and the rest of the village–face than raising children not only to tolerate but to respect the differences among people and to recognize the rewards that come from serving others.  I call this affirmative living — the positive energy we derive from taking pride in who we are, and from having the confidence and moral grounding to reach out to those who are different.”

We need people in our legislatures, the House and Senate, on the Supreme Court and in the Oval Office that will teach affirmative living – telling America’s LGBT youth that it is okay to be gay and that no one could ever devalue their marriage, choice to adopt, decision to serve in the military, or even become an Eagle Scout on the basis of being “different” from others.

Democratic President Barack Obama, Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson and Republican Candidate Mitt Romney

We need leaders who will view all Americans as equal under the law and not discount someone’s opportunity at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Without unabridged freedom for all Americans, what’s the point in having a stable economy, sound foreign relations and a easy access to health insurance?

Mitt Romney has said that spending is “more than just an economic issue,” that it’s a “moral imperative.”  For LGBT and allied Americans, gay rights are not just political issues – gay rights are moral imperatives that must be implemented so that all Americans can indulge in the freedoms that go along with being a citizen of this great country.

Politicians set the standard on what it means to be free in America.  They are the first and last steps in the climb toward equal representation and legal advancement for any misrepresented group in our country.  It is our politicians who introduce bills, engage in debate and sometimes grant the president the ability to sign a bill into law.  Wouldn’t it be nice if these politicians stood on the side of equality?

I want to reelect President Barack Obama not only because he is the right choice for America, but also because he stands on the side of freedom and equality for all Americans despite their sexual orientation or gender identity.  I want to elect candidates like Kathleen Kane, running to become Attorney General of Pennsylvania who believes in equal protection for LGBT Pennsylvanians, and Harriet Ellenberger, a pro-marriage equality politician running for State Representative in Pennsylvania’s 59th District.  I encourage Republicans to consider electing Libertarian Gary Johnson, a lesser known, yet pro-equality presidential candidate if you are apprehensive of a second term under Obama.

I would love to spend more of my time worrying about issues like the economy, the war, easy access to healthcare and education, our children and the elderly, but until I am considered equal under the law I have no choice but to fight for my freedom.  Whether or not you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender, you can help fight for my freedom too.  The most powerful and effective way in which you can do so is by casting your ballot for equality this election.

The LGBT community needs allies in Republicans, Democrats and Independents who will commit to voting for pro-equality candidates despite their party affiliations.  While it may be difficult to set aside divisive, hot button political issues like the economy and healthcare reform, America will be better off in the long run if we can all come together in support of freedom and justice for all.  A lot can be done for LGBT Americans during the next four years.  A lot can also be taken away, that is, if anti-gay candidates find their seats in our legislatures, on Capitol Hill, in the Supreme Court or in the Oval Office.

Before you vote this Tuesday, please, please, please consider what I have said, reflect on it and reevaluate your decisions.  I cannot do this alone.  The future of LGBT America is in our hands, and I need your help.  Are you with me?

To view the full list of pro-LGBT candidates in Pennsylvania visit: www.equalitypa.org
To find your polling place visit:  http://www.canivote.org/

McDonnell: Children of Gay Parents are Incapable of Achieving American Dream

On Tuesday, the Virginia state Senate voted to approve a bill that will allow religious organizations to refuse the consideration of same-sex partners for adoption based on a “conscience clause.” The bill was passed by a vote of 22-18.  Prior to the bill’s passage, adoption by same-sex couples was already illegal in the Old Dominion state.

At the “State Solutions Conference,” a POLITICO sponsored event held Friday in Washington, D.C., Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell expressed his approval of the Senate’s vote.  “Most of the data that I’ve read that the best environment for a child to grow up to be fully capable of achieving the American dream and having the best start at life in an intact two-parent family made up of a man and a woman,”  he said.  “An intact two-parent family is in fact the best for our country. Should be the model, but when it doesn’t work we have safety nets.”

So, Governor McDonnell… I wonder how accurate this data was that you read.  Did it include Zach Wahls,  the 19-year-old University of Iowa student turned YouTube sensation after his video, “Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got,” went viral on the video sharing site?  Because I can assure you, governor, that Mr. Wahl’s has achieved the so-called “American Dream” and this video of his astute testimony to the Congress in opposition of a Joint Resolution to ban gay marriage and civil unions in the state proves it.

What about Vermont’s Evann Orleck-Jetter, who in 2009 at 12-years-old testified in support of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.  The bill passed in April of the same year after both the House and the Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of the legislation.  “I have been studying the civil rights movement in school, and I’ve learned all about the countless acts of bravery that blacks performed to get their rights,” she said.  “But we still haven’t reached the promised land that Martin Luther King wanted us to reach, because although black boys and white boys and black girls and white girls can play together now, we still don’t accept that two people of the same gender can be together, married with kids of their own. We need to reach the promised land.”

Are children with gay parents really incapable of achieving the American dream?  Or are McDonnell’s words just an excuse to justify backwards religious thinking?
Take a look at these gay couples with children, who in my opinion are fully capable of living successful and fulfilling lives.
Neil Patrick Harris et. al.

Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka pose with their twins, Gideon Scott and Harper Grace

Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish with their son, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John

Ellen and Portia DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi at their Wedding in 2008

Although Ellen and Portia DeGeneres do not have children, who is to say that one day they couldn’t raise children in a loving and caring environment, or that their children wouldn’t grow up to be the same as or better than adults with heterosexual parents?

Sorry to burst your conservative Bible thumping bubble, Governor McDonnell, but a 25 year study conducted by the well-known medical journal, Pediatrics, revealed that children with lesbian parents have fewer behavioral problems and greater self-confidence than children who were raised by heterosexual couples.  “The 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts,” the study reports.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Family Project, at least one in three female same-sex couples and one in five male same-sex couples nationwide are raising children.  An estimated 65,000 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent, and an estimated 2 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people are interested in adopting children.  Imagine how many well mannered, intelligent, motivated and self-confident children our country would have if state’s like Virginia didn’t impose laws making it increasingly difficult for well deserving same-sex couples to adopt and raise them.
–Joe Corcoran

Swimming Beneath Contempt PT3: A Sea of Absolution

Sea of Absolution

Writing part one of “Swimming” was rather difficult for me to do. It has been a work in progress since early September, 2010, when I began drafting the the first versions of the post which is currently published on the site. It’s mind tasking to focus a period of your day on something that bothers you, especially when you’re transcribing it from your mind and onto a website for all to see. It is especially challenging if that ‘something that bothers you’ is a past version of yourself.

I must clarify, however, that this does not mean that I have spent hours upon end, over the past year and a half, agonizing over what writing this blog post means to me. It has much rather been an an internal dialogue, present in my mind, but muted until I have the drive to write about it. I had tried several times throughout the past year and a half. At the end of some blog posts I would write about how I had planned on writing something out of the ordinary, dealing with a struggle, but I never followed through.

Specifically, I’m referring to the incident which happened to me that one morning in May, 2010. The summer of 2010 allowed me to distance myself from what had happened, and replace its negativity with positive energy from other sources of happiness. By the time I returned to DC in August of that same year, I had grown accustomed to not thinking about it. When I’d mention it to my friends, it was always as though the shock value of the experience had completely faded from existence. When I’d speak about the past, especially a negative memory, I’d tend to humorize the story, allowing myself to not have to deal with the thoughts directly, but rather as a part of a joke or as one of those “Oops!” situations. Over time, I had subconsciously transformed a moment of fear and vulnerability, into satirical monologue recounting the awkward situations I had often placed myself into. I’d tell my friends about that time I fell asleep while watching Avatar, somehow managing to get a boner in the process and be “sat on” by my concupiscent gay friend.

This worked for the time being, but I slowly began to realize that laughing about it wasn’t always the best thing to do. Some people have reacted in the same way my parents did when I told them that I had been infected with Chlamydia. They’d shake their heads in disbelief and laugh at me, saying things like “Of course THAT would happen to YOU, Joe” or “Something that that would only happen to you!” I’d always try to share in their laughter, but there was always a part of me that shuttered inside, wishing that I could be more straight forward, and approach the situation in a serious light.

Aside from the dark humor, I try to ignore it or pretend like it didn’t happen the way that it did. It’s almost like stretching a truth to fit your comfort zone. Some nights, while trying to put my words down into a blog post, I’d focus on it too much and end up staying awake until the early hours of the morning contemplating the “ifs” and “buts” of the situation. It’s almost like coming out of the closet. I knew that I was gay by the time that I was 19 years old, but I didn’t want it. I repressed my sexuality. I tried to shut it out completely, because shutting it out meant not thinking about it, and not thinking about it was like erasing it from the slate of my life. Try erasing pen with a pencil eraser. The ink might smear, but it will never be removed from the paper’s surface.

I know that I was sexually assaulted. As I am writing this, I still doubt these words. In all honesty, I don’t want “something like that” to be a part of my life, so I deny it and I’ve lived almost two years now without giving it comprehensive thought. When I do think about it, I begin to question the logistics of the situation and look upon it with a certain ambiguity. “How could someone that is 6’8” be ‘forced’ into something by someone smaller?” I’d think to myself. The sympathetic side of me would always kick in and I’d think, “Well it’s not always about height..one can be 6’5” and 200 pounds, but if someone shorter were to pull a gun on him I don’t think that he’d be the one making any heroic moves.” Sometimes one’s mind gets the best of you.

A few days after I had the unwanted sexual encounter, I spoke to my boss at the time about what had happened. I’d often speak to her about the things that I was going through. She was always understanding and full of advice. She suggested that I consider speaking to a counselor on an internet based hotline operated by RAINN – an organization which deals with victims of rape, abuse, sexual assault and incest. I was very apprehensive. “How could I stoop myself to that level?” I thought to myself. “I’m not emotionally damaged like a victim of rape, abuse, sexual assault or incest would be.”

Two weeks ago, I finally became determined to write this three part series, “Swimming Beneath Contempt.” I sat down in the lounge of my apartment building, and tried to organize my thoughts. I had so much to say, yet no matter how hard I tried, every time my fingers touched the keys my mind would blank out. Just for kicks, I decided to check out the RAINN hotline, though I already knew everything that they were going to tell me. “No means No,” “It’s never the victims fault,” “He took advantage of your innocence,” etcetera… etcetera… etcetera…

I opened the chat client and was put in a waiting area for about 20 minutes until a counselor was free. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself, somewhat ashamed for having launched the site in the first place. “I’m just taking up time that the counselor could use to help a REAL victim.” Finally, my chat session was ready. I entered the chat room, and so did Alice, my RAINN counselor. After I explained my story to her (the non humorous version), she began telling me the usual – It’s not my fault, no means no, he took advantage of your innocence.

“No means no.” I’ve always struggled to comprehend this logic, especially in cases like mine. I took the taxi to his place. I took off my clothes. I slept in his bed. I kissed him. I let him play with me. I remained there – lying in his bed – after he “sat on me.” I may have said no to unprotected sex, but didn’t my advances speak otherwise?

What perplexes me even more is what happened Friday 27 August, 2010.It was the first Friday of the semester so everyone was eager to party and stay out late. My friend’s and I went to TOWN Dance Boutique – a gay club in DC. It was the first time that I had ever been to a gay club in the district and I was quite nervous. The night went over well. My friends and I danced together to Rihanna and Britney, Afrojack and David Guetta. Occasionally a random guy (usually attractive, yet quite inebriated) would grind up on me, but I’d slowly teeter away and shoot him that “What the f**k do you think YOU’RE doing?” look. Around 3 AM my friends and I left the club and headed back to campus.

TOWN Dance

Photo Credit: Photography by Alexander

As we were walking through U St, making our way to the metro station, I received a text message:

“You didn’t even say hello! :-(“

It was him. He saw me there, but I hadn’t seen him. At first I was genuinely freaked out. I had deleted his number from my phone months ago, and had to ask who it was that I hadn’t said hello to.

“You deleted my #! :(” he replied after identifying himself.

I didn’t reply. By the time my friends and I arrived back to our university’s metro station, I had received three new text messages – all from him.

“Come over?”
“??”
“????”

Out of all things that he could have said, I wasn’t expecting that. I immediately declined and told my friend what was going on. As the only sober one in the group, the encouraging responses I received weren’t exactly what I was hoping for.

“Oooh! Get that!” They hollered.
“Someone’s eating meat tonight!” another said.

I tried reminding them that it was the infamous guy who “sat” on me. Because we were almost home after a fun night out, they were all caught up in talk about what kind of pizza they were going to order and who danced with the most “hotties.” One of them told me to tell him to sit on it again, while another insisted that I still go because if he was in my shoes he’d “SO” be “D.T.F.”

I stuck to my gut, and when he texted once more to say, “Pleassseeee!! :(” I replied and told him that I had a lot of things to do and that I was too tired.

Yes, I know the most logical thing to do would have been to just ignore the texts, but being confronted by the same guy who deflated my conscious in May made me want to say something to assert my confidence and control over the present situation. I just couldn’t remain silent.

“I’ll just come to you.” he replied.

“What????” I thought to myself. “This is way too much.”

“Uh, no you won’t. I’m going to bed.” I replied.

“Too late, I’m already in cab,” he wrote back.

“Seriously?!” I thought to myself. I should have called the police, or told someone that he was bothering me, but I didn’t. I just assumed that he had been drinking. After all, it was almost 4:30 in the morning. I decided that I would meet him – not to do anything sexual, but to prove to him that I was no longer interested in his company. When he arrived he kissed me. I could smell the vodka on his breath. It reminded me of the last time I had been with him in May, though I could not recognize it at the time because I had never smelled vodka before.

We went up to my dorm room – my roommate was there. We laid on the bed with our clothes on. Every so often he would try to make a move by either kissing me or gently tugging on my belt buckle. With each advance I stopped him and turned away. It was already after 5. I didn’t go to sleep. Instead, I waited it out, hoping he would get up and leave. He did – around 6:30 in the morning. Later that day he texted me again, but I never replied.

After I got some sleep on my own, I woke up feeling depressed – disappointed in myself for what had happened earlier. In my mind, I was the stronger person by not allowing him to do anything sexual, but at the same time I was weak because of giving in to his demands and meeting him at the university. That day, I posted a screenshot of a definition on NotPukingRainbows.

Immature

When I spoke to the RAINN counselor about this, she told me that this happens to most victims of unwanted sexual experiences. After an event in which one has little to no control there is always an element of desire to show that person that you are now in control. It made sense, but I still felt perplexed. The truth is, I see my past decisions as a series of mistakes which I then regretted. And, by labeling that one night in May as ‘sexual assault,’ or an ‘unwanted sexual experience,’ I feel as though I’m making up excuses or ways to justify inappropriate behavior.

I was talking to my boyfriend tonight about my recent posts. He brought up a good point that I thought I should address in this final post of the series. He asked, “Why are you writing about it now?” My answer: “I’m doing it for myself.” His question: “Then why publish it on a blog?” My answer: “It’s just something that I feel like I have to share.”

It’s quite confusing really… much so that I hope that once I’m done writing this post I won’t have to think about it again for quite some time, if not forever. It’s quite therapeutic actually. I guess it just fits with the original purpose of my blog. In June, 2010 I was writing to learn something about myself by analyzing past experiences. I’ve been trying to write about these moments, off and on, for over a and a half. I’ve finally done it. I no longer have to debate whether or not to share it anymore. It’s almost as though a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and thrown into a sea of absolution.

Swimming Beneath Contempt PT2: Coming Up for Air

Wave Crashing

Toward the end of June, I was finally beginning to feel like my own person again. I had moved back into a more relaxed, albeit conservative environment in Pennsylvania, and I was once again able to rekindle my social life by hanging out with my closest friends. I had been with a guy in some way shape or form ever since February, shortly after I came out to my mother. For the first time in four months I was free from the emotional drama and mental stress that meeting guys had brought into my life. Additionally, it was the first time after I had become fully comfortable with my sexuality that I was able to sit down and piece together all of my thoughts since childhood.

On June 25th I published my first post on NotPukingRainbows, a blog which would help me indirectly come out to the remainder of my family and friends. I began to use the blog as a platform on which I would develop an interior dialogue with myself and my past. The positive reactions of my family and friends helped me gain a renewed sense of self. With this new found confidence, I continued to blog about my life, my past relationships and how I came to realize that I was gay.

In July I went to the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force to once again get tested for HIV. (It can take anywhere from 3-6 months for the majority of cases of HIV to show up in a blood sample.) It felt refreshing to be able to walk into an LGBT friendly building and speak openly about my sexuality to a healthcare professional. I was tested using a Rapid HIV test which uses your saliva to test for HIV antibodies in your system. This is a somewhat new technology. Instead of having to wait a week, wondering about your status, the Rapid test provides results in as little as 30 minutes. Although no blood is drawn, this test has a 99.8% accuracy rate according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. My test results came back negative. Once again, I felt relieved. The doctor at the Task Force told me that chances are I was not infected with HIV, but to get tested once more in August (3 months after the incident) just to be on the safe side.

At the end of my test, one of the HIV counselors gave me about five dozen condoms in a brown paper bag. I was kind of excited that someone would give me so many condoms. Maybe he thought I got a lot of boys, when in reality I wasn’t getting anything. (It was for the best!) I put the bag on the floor of my car and drove home. A few days later, while sitting at dinner with my family, my father mentioned that he had found something of mine under the drivers seat of the car. I was perplexed.

Was it a piece of candy?
A dollar bill?
A long lost high school love letter?

No.
It was none of the above.

While I was driving home from the Task Force, one of the condoms just HAD to slip out of the bag and wiggle its way into the darkness, under the seat of the car…

Oops.

“Well, this is great,” I thought to myself. “Just what I need to make my parents believe that I’m not a man whore…”

My entire family was seated at the table. (Yeah…Talk about embarrassing!) But, somehow the awkward situation suddenly turned into an even awkwarder joke… Apparently the men in our family aren’t, how can I put this? Well-endowed…??

*Laughs*

Passion Fruit Tea Lemonade

Photo Credit: Starbucks Coffee

A few days later I met a guy while sitting alone in a cafe. (I’ll refer to him as X9 from here on out). It was a hot July day and I couldn’t drive any longer without pulling over for a cold drink. X9 was different than all of the guys I had met in the past, perhaps because I was meeting him in public rather than through a sketchy gay hookup site. We spoke for a while over coffee and lemonade, before deciding to take a walk together.

I was surprised at how confident I was in talking with X9 on the spot. Perhaps it was time to slowly make my way back into the dating world, with him. We made plans to see each other over the next four days. My family was going on a week long beach vacation the following weekend, and if this was going to work, I wanted to spend as much time as I could getting to know him prior to leaving for a week.

I have to be honest and say that after our second date, the sexual tension between us began to take its toll, and we began to mess around. The difference between X9 and the guys from my past was that our dates weren’t completely built on sexual intimacy. We’d go to museums, parks and historic buildings to talk about history, current events, and tell stories from our pasts. I was satisfied with this way of dating. In some ways it reminded me of the dates I used to have with my ex-girlfriend throughout high school.

Of course, something had to bring a stop to all of this positive energy. I felt very ill after our fourth date. I had chills and I felt light headed. I even had to stop at a gas station on my drive home because of how terrible I felt. The next day my muscles ached and I had a pain in my throat every time I swallowed. The day prior to leaving for the beach, I went to the doctors with a temperature of 108.

After an examination and several tests, the doctor couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Instead she suggested the usual – drink lots of fluids and stay in bed. She even gave me a prescription to help ease the stabbing I felt in my throat. The eight hour drive to the beach was torture, and I spent the first four days of the trip in bed while the rest of my family relaxed on the beaches of Delaware. With no explanation as to what was causing my sickness, I began to question the accuracy of the Rapid HIV test. “Maybe I do have HIV…” I thought to myself as I lied alone in our luxurious home at the shore.

Despite my sickness, I continued to talk to X9 on a regular basis.

On the fifth day of our trip I was finally able to swallow without feeling the pain of a thousand knives in my throat. I went out with my family and enjoyed what I could of our last three days on the Atlantic coast. Having a large family can be difficult at times. With so many people there are so many opinions aching to be heard, and so many arguments waiting to be had. At one point during our trip we were driving to the grocery store and I got into an argument with my parents about wanting to use the car when we got home from our trip. The car that I had been using was broken, so I would have to use the family car to drive downtown.

I understood that my parents were suspicious as to why I had been going out a lot to meet “someone” prior to the vacation (My parents still didn’t know very much about X9…) and that in the process I suddenly became infected with some unexplainable illness. I had told them that I was seeing someone, but because they didn’t know who it was they didn’t trust my actions. Some how the argument turned into a critique of how I was handling my sexuality. My dad was especially apprehensive about my downtown desires, and the way he was arguing with me made me feel as though he thought those desires were full fledged cravings for casual gay sex. I didn’t want my parents to think that I was sleeping around, but with the Chlamydia I had in June, and the illness that I was still recovering from, I felt as though I had no space in which to move around in and try and change their opinion about my lifestyle. I realized that no amount of arguing was going to help me get through to them.

Actions speak louder than words.

When we had returned from the beach, my first thought was to call X9 on the telephone to see when we could meet for the first time after almost two weeks apart. While we were conversing, I heard a familiar noise in the background. It was the sound the chat window made when you received a message on that one gay hookup site. I was taken aback. “What was he doing?!” I thought to myself. I confronted him about it then and there. His response: “I’m just playing around! Don’t worry about it.” Although I was jealous and confused, I shook it off and scheduled the date. “This will fix itself once we start hanging out again,” I reassured myself. We decided to have a dinner and movie night on Monday, the 26 of July. My international friend was going to be visiting on the 27-29th before leaving the U.S. and returning to her East Asian home, so I wanted to catch up with X9 prior to her arrival on Tuesday.

Our Monday date went extremely well. I ended up taking the family car, promising my father that I would be home by 10 PM. We had dinner at Japanese restaurant and went back to his place to watch a gay independent film – a comedy in which drag queens were cast in every role.

[[SIDE NOTE: X9 was the most effeminate guy I had ever been with. He loved drag queens, fashion, and he sometimes wore high heels. He was the first person I had grown close to in the gay community who was fully accepting of all sexualities and gender identities. In a way, X9 forced me to reconsider my negative thoughts toward a side of the gay community I had once ignored. Before meeting X9 I had felt very uncomfortable around drag queens and transsexuals to the point of discrimination. X9’s influence allowed me to reconsider my thoughts and to reverse my prejudice. It was a change I welcomed with an open mind, and tried to rub off onto my friends when I’d discuss X9 with them.]]

The movie was quite interesting. Much so that I lost track of the time. Suddenly my phone went off like the morning buzz of an alarm clock. It was 2 AM. My father had sent me several angry texts asking me where I was, what I was doing and when I was getting home with his car. Before I had time to reply, my phone was ringing with his call. With harsh words, my father demanded that I come home immediately or he would report his car as stolen.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. I knew that I had made a terrible mistake losing track of the time, but at the same time I couldn’t help but think that my father thought I was out having lascivious unprotected sex with multiple partners, begging for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, or even HIV. X9 and I said our goodbyes and he expressed his concern over what had happened. After reassuring him that everything would be fine, I drove home.

Time

When I arrived back at my house it was already 3:30 AM. Before going to bed I wrote my parents a letter apologizing for my indecent behavior and trying to restore some of their confidence in me. Despite the letter, I was banned from using the family car for the time being. My international friend was scheduled to arrive that evening, but she was going to couch surf for one night. (From now on I’ll call her Sweet.) My parents decided to allow me to use the family car to take her around the town for the duration of her trip.

The place where Sweet was staying at downtown was only a five minute drive from X9’s house. So, after spending the first day with her, I asked her if she wanted to meet the guy that I had been dating. Obviously, she said yes. For the next two days we explored every nook and cranny the city – Sweet, X9 and myself.

The following week, I began using the public transportation buses to go downtown to see X9. Although I would have much rather used my car, the bus would have to do. That week, my father began to open up to the possibility that X9 was a good guy rather than a random hookup. “So tell me about this X9 guy..” I remember him asking me. It felt so good to know that my father was reconsidering his former thoughts about my choice to date X9. During the week without the family car, I spent the night at X9’s and went home the following day after my father’s business meeting downtown.

I also made a surprising connection. X9’s best friend was good friends with one of my good friends from my previous college (It’s a small, small world). One night we ate dinner together, I took the bus home. Another night my best friend came downtown to meet X9. I felt so confident being able to publicly introduce a guy to my best friend. She had met guys I dated in the past, but only through Skype video chats. This was a new step for me – a step I was proud to have made.

The end of August was approaching. My college semester was set to begin on August, 23rd. I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving behind the relationship I had formed with X9. He was not my boyfriend, but I had hoped that our connection would deepen and we could become an official couple.

One night while waiting for the bus after a date with X9, he told me that he couldn’t continue our relationship once I went back to school. He told me that he would hurt me by hooking up with other guys while I was away at school, and that I didn’t deserve to be hurt.

X9 told me that he wasn’t in the right place in his life to commit to a relationship, and that he had been hooking up with other guys the entire time that we were dating. I can’t lie — I saw coming, but I chose not to look into it. Ever since that night I heard the instant message sound over the phone, part of me knew that something else was going on. I just chose to brush it off as nothing. Although I was aware, I couldn’t help but react just as I had with guys in the past. I begged him to try to make a change for me — for us. I even tried to reason with him by saying that I’d allow us to have an open relationship (something I would NEVER in a million years agree to do). But, he told me that loneliness was hard to naturally overcome, especially when casual hookups could easily fill that vacant space in his heart. As much as this repulsed me, I knew that he was right. He was still living the life I had fallen into in March-April. There was nothing that I could do besides accept our fate and move on.

That night, I sat up rethinking everything that had occurred over the past month and a half. My curiosity broke, and I created a fake profile on the gay hookup site and searched for X9. There he was, six pack and all, “available” for chat. This was the final straw. My emotions collapsed inside of me. I couldn’t believe it happened again. I seemed to have been ending stages of my life on bad notes. I decided to pick myself up again and to be “Stronger Than Ever,” as Christina Aguilera sang it for me that summer on her most recent album, Bionic.

In the end, the whole ordeal gave me this unconventional reassurance that I wasn’t the kind of person my parents thought I had become. I was no longer “that guy” – the guy that X9 was still struggling to come out of. Against all odds, I had come out with an even stronger sense of self. With the initial uneasiness of my parents against me, traveling downtown granted me a feeling of independence and empowerment that I had never felt before – not even in DC. I was making my own decisions based on my own logic and reasoning. I was living the life I had sought out to live. I had finally come up for air after nearly drowning with ineptitude back in DC. It was finally time to return to DC – a fresh start, I told myself. I was going to be living in a residence hall that year, and I had high hopes for a bright future.

To be continued…

Swimming Beneath Contempt PT1: My Inept Struggle with Gay Promiscuity in DC

Photo taken from MadeInBrazil.com

The second half of my spring 2010 college semester (April and May) was characterized by shame. Shame: A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. After two shots at “gay dating” failed, I began to wonder what would be the best way to proceed in my evolution as a gay individual:

Should I take a leave of absence and go ‘asexual’ for a while? Should I stop dating all together? Maybe I should try to meet guys in a different way, perhaps, without the assistance of the internet. Or, maybe I should flirt, but not follow through.

I think my actions were fueled by two desires – my desire for attention and my desire to act on my sexual inclination toward men. I had been living alone since August, 2009 and I did not have any close friends at my university. It was already March, 2010, so in my mind making friends would not be worthwhile because I’d be returning home in only two short months. At the same time, I longed to experience the same sense of social well being that I had developed at my previous university. Because of my ignorance toward forming physical friendships so late in the academic year, I decided to continue using Chatroulette and Omegle to interact with people on a virtual level (note: never in a sexual manner). And, I would soon discover that my aspiration for sexual exploration could also be fulfilled via internet dating sites, at least for the time being. Looking back, I blame my fleeting thought processes on the absence of something more in my life. I didn’t have friends, I was lonely, I was so caught up in myself that I had lost interest in some of my more tedious coursework, and I had stopped going to church all together.

In March I had joined a dating website called Just Guys, where I met and dated a guy for about a month (though we only saw each other 4 times throughout that month). Our dates were not sexual – we’d meet in coffee shops and fast food restaurants to chat. We only kissed once (on April 7th). In the final days of our time in communication, I met another guy on the site who I only spoke to for a few days.

We met only once, when he came to my apartment to meet me. I was nervous because, although we had spoken on Skype the day before, it was almost 2 AM and I didn’t want to go outside alone. A suspect had recently been convicted in the homicide of a gay man whom he lured out into the street at night and shot him in the head. In one of many dangerous lapses of judgment, I took a knife from my kitchen and hid it in my coat pocket before creeping outside to wait for his car. He stopped a block away from my house and shut his lights off. I insisted through text messages that he move forward, closer to my house, and that he come out of the car prior to meeting him. I wanted to ensure that he was the same person I had spoken with on Skype, and that it was safe to approach him. In the end everything was fine. I trumped him with my 6’8”, as he was barely 5’4” tall. When we kissed, I could taste the alcohol on his breath, but at the time I didn’t know what it was (I don’t drink…). After an hour of speaking he left and I went to bed. We never saw each other again.

I met three other people on the site – two of which were strictly Skype/text message based interactions with guys who lived hundreds of miles away. The other one is a long and complex story. You can read it here if you want to.

On April 12th, I discovered another site while reading a local gay news publication in D.C. I met two people on this site. At first I thought this site was very inappropriate. I didn’t even use my own photos or information when registering because I couldn’t mentally stoop myself to a level where I could comfortably use the site without judgment. I never meant to meet anyone from this site. To me this site acted as a gallery of fantasy, if you wish. I looked, but I never touched. I used it to see what was out there. I’d chat with guys, but I’d never go to meet them, even if they asked. As much as I was tempted to do so, I had enough self-respect not to pursue their sexual advances. On April 14th I created my own profile, and on the same day I met with the first guy. I didn’t mean to meet him in person. He was a student, one year younger than myself. (Up until him, everyone I had met in person was my same age or 2-3 years older.) He was attending a class at the law school of my university and he sent me a text message asking to meet.

Out of shock and surprise I told him that I could not meet because I was at work. He told me that he would wait until my shift was over, but I was hesitant. I did not want to see him, but at the same time, I did not want seem shy or innocent. I had spent my entire high school career lurking the halls of my high school with no self-confidence or ability to interact socially with others outside of my small group of friends. I thought that if I said no, he would stop talking to me all together, and that was something that I didn’t want to happen. Instead, I said yes, but that I was bringing two of my friends along to meet him as well.

Although he was a year younger than me, he claimed to already be in graduate school. I could tell by the way he spoke to me that he was very intelligent. His diction was up to par with that of my international relations professors in the School of International Service. After we met, my friends left and I took a walk with him. He told me that he had an open relationship with a guy who was studying at an ivy league school, hundreds of miles outside of D.C. This was a turn off. Although I was entranced by his intelligence, I would never even think about becoming sexually involved in someone else’s relationship. I told him that we couldn’t speak anymore, and we went our separate ways.

Later that night, however, he texted me and asked me to meet him for coffee. I repeated what I had told him about not wanting to get involved with his relationship, whether it be open or closed. He agreed, but we still met. One thing led to another and before he left at the end of the night we ended up making out. I saw him again on the 18th. However, the 18th was different. There was no sexual contact. He took me to dinner at a fancy Japanese restaurant. At the dinner he spoke about nothing other than international relations and policy. I began to feel as though I was in my world politics class – a class I hated during my first semester in D.C. As he was rambling on about the conflict between North and South Korea, I began to think about the situation I had gotten myself into. “What am I doing here?” I thought to myself. I knew this wasn’t for me, and that it was wrong. I didn’t want to be someone’s substitute-boyfriend while the real thing was studying at an ivy league school hundreds of miles away. To top it all off, I wasn’t the least bit attracted to him.

After dinner I thanked him for the meal (he paid), and took the bus to go home, alone. We never saw each other again. I deleted my account on both websites, and decided to call it quits and focus on my school work. The semester was going to be over on April 28th. The remainder of the semester was nearly flawless. I studied hard and scored well on my final exams. I had one last final exam, a paper due on May 3rd. I had finished it on May 2nd. My parents weren’t coming to pick me up until the 3rd.

Out of pure boredom and curiosity, I reactivated my account on the gay hookup site. Still, I did not have any intentions of meeting anyone face-to-face. Around 2 AM on May 3rd I got a message from one of the guys on the site. He was 26 years old. After some casual conversation, which eventually moved from the site’s chat platform to AOL Instant Messenger, he asked if I wanted to come to his house to watch Avatar. He wanted to watch a movie. I was surprised. I kindly rejected his invitation. It was late and I wasn’t about to get all dressed up to go out on a Sunday night. He continued to flirt with me, insisting that I had to come over to see what all the hype was about in James Cameron’s latest movie. As a major Titanic fan, I was tempted to take him up on his offer, but in the same moment I was beginning to sense that he wanted more than to just watch a movie with me. After all, there weren’t too many people like me on the site, using it just to look around, with no intentions to hookup.

avatar movie screenshot

I told him about what I had been through with the other guys, and that I wasn’t ready to jump back into things with a new guy. He continued to sweet talk me and assure me that THAT wasn’t what he was looking for. I decided to go. I know that this was stupid thing to do. On Facebook, he and I had two mutual friends which I knew very well, and he was friends with several other people who attended my university. In my mind, this alone was enough to justify the serious risk of transitioning from keys to kisses (if that were to be the case) in a possible face-to-face encounter. I was excruciatingly nervous. Every time I dialed the number to call the cab, I’d think again and shut off my phone. It wasn’t until an hour and a half later that I finally placed the order.

I took my contact case and my glasses, just in case I’d want to take them out after the movie was over, so that I could go right to bed as soon as I got back to my apartment. The cab arrived and I began to make my way into the trenches of Dupont Circle, D.C.’s “gaybourhood” (gay neighborhood).

Along the way I began to question my intentions. “What if he isn’t there to pay for the cab?” “What happens if he doesn’t like me and he tells me to leave…How would I get home?” These are the kinds of things I was thinking about. Maybe it was because I was so caught up in the situation, but “What if he tries to kill me?” or “What if I’m kidnapped” were thoughts that never crossed my mind. I guess knowing that we had mutual friends on Facebook made it easier for me to place some sort of trust in the situation, and in him.

We met. We did watch avatar, but as expected, he initiated sexual contact, and we did other things as well. However, once again, I did NOT have sex. I took the metro back to my apartment, turned in my paper, and went home with my dad. May 3rd, 2010.

Sorry to confuse readers, but back on April 18th, prior to deleting my profile on Just Guys, I met another guy with whom I formed a unique friendship. He was also gay, but closeted. He was one year older than me. He was from the Mid-West. What was unique about our friendship was that he too was Catholic. After talking for about a month, I had helped him come out to his family. Knowing that I had already passed through the uncomfortable “coming out” phase of my sexuality, a friendship with someone who had not, gave me a stronger sense of self-confidence – power, in a way. Our friendship was never sexual. We spoke about the Church and how our sexuality influenced our faith in God. The friendship, however, was by no means mature. He had become infatuated with the idea of meeting someone who was interested in maintaining a close relationship with God, and in the process, I was able to think about my place in the Catholic community as well.

He wanted to come and meet me in DC. Of course I agreed. He bought his plane ticket on May 3rd, the same day that I met the other guy to watch Avatar at his apartment in Dupont Circle. To me, this was perfectly fine. After all, we were just friends. I returned to DC on Sunday, May 16th on a Greyhound bus. He was to arrive on the 17th at BWI airport. When I arrived in DC, however, I found out that he wasn’t coming. Apparently his mother did not trust him coming all the way from the Mid-West to meet me in DC. I couldn’t blame her. After all, who was I to her? In frustration, I purchased another bus ticket to return to Pennsylvania the following day.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was anxious to get back to PA after this failed attempt to connect with my first gay Catholic friend. After a while I took out my computer and logged into the hookup site again. Maybe it was around 3 AM. I ended up staying on the site until 7 AM, doing nothing but browsing guys, having meaningless conversations, looking for someone to meet face-to-face (though I didn’t have the courage to go and meet them).

I will always remember one particular conversation that I had on the site that morning. It was around 6:30 AM. I could hear songs of the waking birds outside beneath the cool morning sun. I had messaged a guy, hoping to spark up a conversation. He was physically fit and tanned – the kind of guy girls and the gays would drool over. To my surprise, he accepted my chat request.

“What are you doing here?” he said to me.

“Just looking around…” I said.

“No one is just looking around, here,” he said.

“Haha… I know…” I replied.

“How many guys have you hooked up with tonight?” he asked.

“…zero.” I replied out of embarrassment.

“Well, maybe that could change,” he teased.

I was floored. I never imagined someone like him ever being remotely interested in a scrawny guy like me.

“What are you into?” he questioned.

I was never sure how to answer this question. It was frequently asked, but I usually just made up generic responses that the others guys would say to me. I just decided to tell him the truth and see what it would get me.

“Well, I’m not really sure,” I said, fingers crossed that he wouldn’t leave the conversation.

“Well, what all have you done? Do you f**k?” he asked.

All I could think of was kissing, innocent touching, failed attempts at oral sex. “I couldn’t possibly tell him this“, I thought to myself.

“?” he typed.

I wasn’t sure what to type. I didn’t want to lie, but at the same time I didn’t want to appear innocent. Again, I just told him the truth.

“Well, I actually haven’t really done anything besides kissing and stuff…”

“Wait.. so you’re a virgin?” he replied.

“Yes.” I said. “Game over.” I thought to myself.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

“What are you doing here?” he said. “Do you have no self-respect?”

I stared at the chat log in disbelief, and my feelings of excitement and anticipation slowly turned into feelings of remorse.

“You’re 20 and you still haven’t had sex. Are you sure you’re willing to just let a stranger take that away from you? I don’t think that this is the best way to lose your virginity. You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to meet guys this way. Go out and meet someone on your own…Maybe start a relationship. If you’ve waited this long, why waste it all on one night?”

I didn’t know what to say. I was so embarrassed by my behavior. I closed the chat window, deleted my account and went to bed. “What have I done with myself?” I thought.

I went home for the remainder of May. My apartment lease ended on May 31st, 2010 so I went back to DC the week of the 24th-28th to pack up my things. The week went well. I packed as much as I could, did some sightseeing, and spent time relaxing and talking to my Catholic friend.

By the time May 27th rolled around, boredom set in, as usual, and I was once again fully submerged, swimming beneath contempt in the lascivious corners of the internet. I rejoined the gay hookup site and relaunched my imaginative search for a connection I would never make. Instead, my satisfaction was derived from the mere contemplation of gay sex, rather than taking part in the act.

Around 2 AM on the 28th, I received an instant message from the Avatar guy, asking me if I wanted to come over to his place to “actually watch” Avatar instead of pretending to. Although I had met him once, I was reluctant to go. After all, my father and I had planned for him to come help me move out of my place at 9 AM. After much consideration and time plotting, I decided to go – partly because I wanted to watch the movie and partly because I had imagined that he and I would interact on a sexual level, just as we had the last time I went to his place.

Just as the last time, he offered to pay for my cab. When I arrived at his place, we sat on his bed and began to watch the movie. Within minutes he began kissing me, and our clothes came off. This time, the sexual tension was heightened and we went much further than the last time I had been with him. There came a point in our fondling where he asked me to penetrate him. I had never been asked to do this before in my life. As a Catholic, I was abstaining from anal sex until I was married, so I said no. He asked again, almost begging me to do it. But, I still denied his request.

As we continued kissing and messing around, he kept trying to sit on my erection. Each time he tried to penetrate himself with it, I’d push him away or shift my position to create some space between my erection and his buttocks. After much pushing and shifting, I eventually gave in and said yes, because if he was going to do it, I wanted it to be protected. He leaned over the side of his bed and took out a condom. Although I had bought them out of curiosity many times before, I had never worn a condom because I was never in a situation where it was necessary. When he tried to put it on me, it wouldn’t fit. He asked if I would do it anyway, without the condom. Obviously, I said no.

Then he asked if he could penetrate me. This made me really nervous because I wasn’t emotionally or physically ready to give up that much control. As to not seem like the innocent religious boy, “saving himself” for marriage, I told him that all the times I’d had sex in the past, I had been the dominate partner, and that I just wasn’t interested in switching roles. Of course this was a lie. His question reminded me how steadfast I was about remaining a virgin, and not having casual intercourse with another man until marriage.

We continued our play without the sex, but every so often he would ask again if I would let him penetrate me, or if I’d penetrate him without a condom. Again and again, I refused his pursuits, inventing what I thought were plausible reasons as to why I wasn’t interested along the way. After a while our interactions had ended and he’d turned on his side to go to sleep. I felt vulnerable, and I wanted to leave. Unfortunately it was only 4:30 AM and I didn’t have enough money to pay for a cab back to my apartment. I had to wait an hour or two before I could take the metro, so I too turned on my side and tried my best to fall asleep.

My next memories all took place in a half awake, half asleep daze. I was laying on my side, spooning him. I had an erection. I remember feeling his hand fondling me, and then feeling the warmth of his skin as he repeatedly tried to place my erection between his buttocks. Every time I pushed his hand away he grabbed my cock once more and continued. I fell asleep again, and the next time I woke up, still in a daze, my condomless erection was inside of him. I didn’t know how to react. I was shocked, but still very much in that half awake, half asleep phase. I pulled out as he turned over and began kissing me. I think I fell asleep once more.

When I woke up, it was around 6:45 AM. Laying there on top of his cold, hard mattress I kept replaying what had happened inside of my head. I began to feel guilty and ashamed at myself for my actions. I was also scared. Dozens of thoughts began racing through my head: “Should I shower?” “I wonder if he has HIV?” “I have to get out of here.” “Why did I let this happen to me?” “I really should take a shower.” “I hope my dad isn’t here yet.” “I probably have HIV now.” “What am I going to tell my father if he arrives at my place and I’m not there?”

At 7 AM he woke up and said that he had to get ready for the day. He was going apartment searching because his lease was almost over. I took this opportunity to leave. I quickly put on my clothes. he walked me out into the street and told me to text him later that day. I said okay, and I began to walk toward the Dupont Circle metro station.

I was only a block away when I took out my phone to text him.

“Do you have HIV?” I wrote.

I got a quick response.

“No. I get tested every month.”

I replied back, “Are you sure?” and he replied twice in a row,

“Yes! I wouldn’t have done it if i were. I have close friends who are positive, this is something I’m very serious about.”

“Also, you were only in me for like 20 seconds.”

This relieved me, yet it didn’t alleviate the emotional drain I felt about what had just happened. I felt as though my virginity had been stolen away from me. I had to tell him.

“That was the first time I’ve ever had sex,” I wrote.

He replied saying that he had no idea. He was under the impression that I was with other people in the past. After all, that was what I led him to believe early on. This made me feel more vulnerable and at fault with my decisions. It was the first time in two months that I truly felt ashamed of my actions. When I arrived at the station, I couldn’t bring myself to board the train. I felt so anxious and jittery. Instead, I remained in the streets and began walking aimlessly.

Although it was only 7:45 in the morning, I tried calling my best friends to tell them what had just happened. Because it was so early, no one was picking up. Luckily, one of my best friends from high school answered her phone. I don’t remember everything that I told her, but I tried to explain what had happened. I remember feeling very embarrassed revealing my mistake to her, especially since we hadn’t spoken much throughout that semester. Our conversation was short. When it had ended I knew that I had to get home as soon as possible so that I would get there before my dad. I made it to the Federal Triangle metro station, boarded the train and headed back to my apartment in North-West, DC.

When I arrived back around 9 AM, I immediately took a shower. After my shower I turned on my computer and tried to find someone that I could to tell what had just happened. I Facebook chatted with the first person I “gay dated,” and left a few voice mails on some of my close friend’s cell phones. One friend, who had been very supportive and understanding as I explored the gay world that semester, called me back and immediately began asking me questions about what had happened. She was the first person to tell me what had happened to me could be considered sexual assault. She asked me if I had taken a shower, and if I had called the police. At the time, I thought she was overreacting because in my mind, I was the one with the sole responsibility for my actions.

When our conversation had ended, I was both confused, and extremely disappointed with myself. “Was I sexually assaulted, or was this my fault?” “How could it be assault if I had wanted to penetrate him earlier that night?” Overcome with emotions, and the impending arrival of my father, I went into the bathroom and began to expunge my life of anything that remotely significant of the sexual crusade I had undertaken over the past two months. From the sex toys and adult films, to unopened boxes of condoms and bottles of lube, i threw everything into a garbage bag and took out the trash. This exhibition of strength was not nearly sufficient to what was needed to help me overcome the remorse, but it was enough to help me contain my feelings and prepare myself for the arrival of my dad, and the four hour drive home.

Three weeks later, I noticed that something wasn’t quite right with myself. After some internet research, I realized that I might have an STD. Once again, my final DC experience had come back to haunt me. Although you may be surprised, my first thought was to tell my parents. If something is wrong with my health, I’ve always wanted them to be the first to know. However, in telling my parents that I thought I had an STD, I’d also have to reveal that I had an unwanted sexual experience, and moreover, that I was not a virgin. This terrified me. The last thing that I wanted was for my parents to get angry with me. I was already angry with myself for what had happened in DC, and their support would have been the best medicine to help restore some sense of self within me.

I don’t remember how I told my parents, but I do remember that I told them individually. Although my mother was a little more sympathetic, both of my parents’ reactions were as to be expected. “What were you doing naked in someone else’s bed in the first place?” and “You’re six foot eight – how could anyone possibly take advantage of you?” Are two of the prominent remarks that I remember clearly. I couldn’t tell if they were just shocked and worried so they reacted that way, or if they truly thought that I had purposely had unprotected sex with a stranger. As much as I tried to dull down the situation, my parents continually asserted their disbelief, insisting that it was my fault. Nevertheless, they supported my going to the health department to receive free HIV/STD testing. And so, I did.

About a week later I received a phone call from the Health Department. “Your test results are in,” she said abruptly. “You’re HIV negative, your Gonorrhea and Syphilis tests are negative, everything else looks fine…Oh but you do have the Chlamydia.” “Wait, what?” I thought to myself just as my mind blanked out. “THE Chlamydia???” I knew that this was coming, but I had hoped that it wouldn’t. Before I could fully process what she had said, the call had ended. I didn’t know what to think, or what to say. For a moment, I just laid there on my bed trying to think things over. But, the only thought that came to mind was my stupidity, my lapse in judgment and my failure to follow through with my own beliefs.

Though I swore that it would never happen, I realized that over two short months, I was beginning to become that guy – the kind of guy that I once saw in the movies, read in books or watched in adult films and loathed because he had given up his sense of self-worth in exchange for self-pleasure; the kind of guy that I once turned my nose up at when I walked past him in the streets at night because I knew he was looking for sex; the kind of guy that, after I’d spoken with him online or interacted with him on campus, I’d once turned away and secretly judged him because I disapproved of his lifestyle choices. In my mind, my Chlamydia diagnosis was an alarm – a sort of wake up call not to become that guy, but to push forward and to try and evolve as my own individual, rather than the product of a stereotype or societal norm.

Certainly part of this mindset came from the realization of my fear of actually having one of those complex sexually transmitted diseases I’d learned about in high school health class thinking “This will never happen to me.” But, I think that the majority of this personal temperament came from the fact that I knew where the disease had come from, and its existence crafted yet another reason for me to feel embarrassed and ashamed – at fault for what had happened that night in May.

With one phone call my private situation had become a very public one in my home. I knew that my mother would unhinge, become extraordinarily upset and think that I was, in some way, going to infect the entire family. On the other hand, I knew that by telling my parents the result of my testing, it would give them yet another reason to think that I was living a life of promiscuity – the stereotypical “gay lifestyle” as it is proclaimed by anti-gay activists and clergy in the Catholic Church.

In a way, my Chlamydia put an end to one era in my life, as I tried to evolve into the person that I truly wanted to be. The summer following my diagnosis and treatment (which only took a week to clear) was rough. Although I was given a clean slate with the ability to finally live as the person that I wanted to be, my parents still had this mindset that I was being sexually active behind their backs. Although my diagnosis and treatment freed me from sexual demons, it also captured me in a parental cage which restricted me from moving on with my life. I never blamed them. If I were in their shoes, I probably would have felt the same need to protect my child from being exposed to any more health risks, but at the time all I wanted was the trust and freedom to prove to myself that I wasn’t a victim of my own immoral crimes.

To be Continued…

Komen’s Cancerous Crusade and the Religious Rite

I had trouble sleeping last night.  I’ve been thinking a lot about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the ever-popular breast cancer awareness organization, and its decision to douse funding it provided to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings to low income patients because it is the country’s largest reproductive health services provider (including abortions).

It’s amazing how some organizations can be so influential with their support for humanitarian causes like stopping the spread of cancer, or ending world poverty, yet in an instant they can turn a blind eye on their supporters and lash out, citing asymmetrical religious views as sufficient excuses for radical actions.  In addition to Komen’s depraved actions, Catholic Charities also comes to mind.

In February, 2010 the organization, renowned for its adoption and foster care programs and its efforts to end poverty, threatened to eliminate its foster case and public adoption program in the District due to the impending enactment of the marriage equality bill passed by the council in December, 2009.  Just because it would be forced to consider same-sex couples as possible candidates for adoption or foster care, the organization made the subversive move to cut programs that would give homes to hundreds of deserving children.

However, despite the adversity among Catholic extremists, it is both uplifting and ironic to learn that those practicing the faith are not as committed to the cause as it may seem.

In a statement released Tuesday, noting the media’s positive response to the Obama administration’s move to protect access to affordable birth control for women, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, made note of an interesting fact regarding her organization’s most outspoken opponent – the Catholic Church.  Richard’s cited a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute which reports that 98 percent of sexually experienced Catholic women will have used birth control at some point in their lives.

Although Komen dropped Planned Parenthood due to its pro-abortion stance, 98 percent of Catholic women use contraceptives at some point during their lives.  This trend exhibits a weakening stamina of the Catholic Churches teachings which, surprising or not, have always been on the decline when it comes to the Churches stance on social issues.

In an October, 1980 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ellen Goodman, the Pulitzer prize winning columnist who has always been outspoken about women’s rights and LGBT issues, wrote that “In this country, a full 76.5 percent of Catholic women are using birth control and almost all of them are using a form condemned by the pope.”  In the 31 years since 1980, the amount of Catholic women using some sort of birth control has drastically risen, despite the Catholic Churches teaching.

Goodman continues by referencing a quote from Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco who said that the “impasse on this moral teaching… is harmful to the church.”  The bishop recognizes the apparent problem, yet today next to nothing has been done to counteract what he views as a problem.

The same can be said about same-sex marriage.  A 2011 study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 53 percent of Catholics support same-sex marriages, and fifty-six percent do not believe that gay sexual relations are sinful.  Once again, despite this the Church, along with organizations like the National Organization for Marriage and all of the republican presidential candidates are pushing for what they claim to be ‘traditional’ marriage, between two people of the opposite sex.

MetroWeekly reported yesterday that Komen’s Karen Handel, senior vice-president for public policy, was being lauded by anti-abortion site, LifeNews, for defunding Planned Parenthood.  The LGBT magazine also surfaced an NBC affiliate’s 2010 interview in which Handel asserts that she is also against same-sex marriage and civil unions.  Given Handel’s position, I wonder how Komen stands on the issue of gay rights?

What is mind boggling to me is that although the majority of those who identify as Catholic are often reported by the media as having more progressive points of view than their Vatican counterparts, Catholic leaders are so enticed by their own beliefs that they fail to acknowledge the overwhelming opinions of their own people.  If 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control and 53 percent of Catholics support same-sex marriage or civil unions, why does the Vatican continue to push archaic beliefs?

The Church should consider opening a dialogue with its parishioners who are taking progressive stands while continuing to commit a parts of their lives (and money) to the institution.  I can only imagine how some pro-abortion/lgbt rights Komen supports must feel about the recent news, and I wonder how many other organizations out there hold stances similar to hers.  As much as it pains me to say – I think the Catholic Church is to blame.

UPDATE: The Susan G. Komen foundation’s Board of Directors, as well as its Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker, released a statement today apologizing for their decision to slash its funding of Planned Parenthood.  The foundation has decided to reevaluate and amend its criteria for funding once again, which would allow Planned Parenthood to continue receiving aid. 

“We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives,” the statement reads.  “The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen…Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation.  We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.”

Modern Pornography: Revolutionizing Pleasure in the Age of the Internet

Prior to 1994, adult entertainment venues were abundant throughout Times Square.  Now popular tourist destinations for families, the streets surrounding 42nd and Broadway were once considered the epicenter for adult entertainment industry sales. Today, where parlors once played the latest releases in porn, and XXX stores once rented and sold adult videos, Broadway productions are booming and the Walt Disney Company owns and operates a media production center. From Mickey Ray to Mickey Mouse, where did all the pornography go? Dr. Ronald Moglia, a New York University professor, said it best, “[Pornography] disappeared off the streets, which is a good thing. But I think it’s in a more sophisticated form.” That form – the internet.

The decrease in physical adult film venues soon became evident across America. The invention of the Bulletin Board System [BBS], the “precursor to the World Wide Web”, led to the first pornographic films being downloaded in the late 1970s, early 1980s (Pappas). Today the internet is a multi-billion dollar marketing tool for the adult entertainment industry, grossing “$10 billion to $14 billion in annual sales” (Ackman).

Without a doubt, the expansion of the internet has been extremely beneficial to the exo-Hollywood film industry – it has increased exposure for mainstream studios, resulting in higher profits, it has inspired the creativity of porn producers to create new avenues in adult film, and it has paved the way for amateur porn actors to enter the adult entertainment arena. On the other hand, the growth of the internet has been counter-effective to the industry – user-generated porn sites like XTube, Tube8 and YouPorn are increasing in size and number, eliminating the need to pay for porn, mom-and-pop video stores who once made heavy profits selling their videos are now closing their doors, and the absence of regulation has become problematic, especially when it comes to the illegal production of child pornography.

In order to fully comprehend the research provided in this document, it is first necessary for the reader to understand the meaning of several terms used in the following paragraphs. All definitions originated from the author’s knowledge prior to writing this paper. In reference to porn stars, the terms actor, artist, model and performer will be used. Porn 2.0 is the industry’s version of Web 2.0, or user-generated content.

The internet has been a positive force for adult film industry, opening exposure and ensuing higher profits for the nation’s five largest mainstream porn studios according to Reuters – Wicked Pictures, Vivid Entertainment, New Sensations, Digital Playground/Adam & Eve and Club Jenna.

Four facts summarize how the internet has aided in profiting the adult industry:

  1. An estimated $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second.
  2. Every second 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.
  3. Approximately 372 internet users are searching for adult video using search engines every second.
  4. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.

With these statistics pornographic films seem to be booming on the net.

The internet also inspires creativity within the adult film industry and its consumers. Before adult videos were introduced to the internet the variety of genres available for purchase was slim. The internet provided a safeguard for viewers with the desire to explore deeper into the enclaves of their imaginations as sexual beings, allowing the once clandestine act of fetish sex to make its way toward becoming mainstream. Screenwriters for porn have begun innovating online porn films by creating scripts in categories such as mind control, incest, group sex, erotic hypnosis and bondage, domination, Sadism and Masochism [BDSM].

As early as 1994, consumers took to the net to overstretch their sexual boundaries. A research study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 found that “48 percent of downloads were far outside the sexual mainstream, depicting bestiality, incest and pedophilia. Less than 5 percent of downloads depicted vaginal sex” (Pappas). If nearly half of the adult film downloads in 1994 were of films relating to an alternative sexual behavior, imagine what the numbers would be like today if the study were repeated. Today, porno sites such as “XTube, PornoTube, and YouPorn” are rapidly growing due to a feature which allows the consumer to choose what he/ she views (Attwood). This new development makes it easier for curious heterosexual identifying users to access gay porn (Attwood). Sheffield Hallam University professor, Feona Attwood explains, “[This is] certainly a more comfortable option than doing so under the potentially judgmental eye of an adult video store clerk” (Attwood).

One last positive effect that the internet has on the adult film industry is the ability for amateur actors to post videos and possibly be discovered by a studio and offered a contract. The internet enables the average Joe to gain exposure as a beginning actor in the porn industry. The adult industry has coined the term ProAm for this kind of actor in internet pornography. Just as young actors travel to New York and Hollywood, hoping to make it to the big screen, amateur porn models, as young as 18, publish their videos online hoping to gain a reputable fan base and enter the professional field. “Professionals are assumed to work for financial gain, but amateurs work for pleasure, for ‘the sheer love of it, as its Latin root – amare – denotes.’ Amateurs do what they do for the love of the activity itself, independent of ulterior motives such as financial compensation” (Attwood).

New websites now enable amateur porn actors to make a profit on their work. XTube, once a free user-generated adult film database now charges its audience a small fee to access amateur porn. Amateur actors earn between 25 cents and $1.25 for per view. According to an ABC News article, “Do It Yourself! Amateur Porn Stars Make Bank,” Antoinette, a 25-year-old girl from Baltimore, earns “$500 to $600” for a twenty minute amateur video she submits to the site each month. Not all amateur actors use user-generated content as a way of being discovered. The internet makes it possible for consumers to aspire to become porn models just as one would apply for a job online. In a way, user-generated content plays the same role Facebook or Twitter can for those seeking jobs in the public arena. It acts as one’s online portfolio, paving the way into the unconventional spotlight. ProAm Porn stars Zach Alexander and Josh Slyman applied for jobs during college to pay off loans (“Big Shots,” Slyman). Zach Alexander graduated from college with a medical degree, but pursued porn instead. On his website Josh Slyman, a current university student, enthusiastically writes, “Hoping to pay for college while having a little fun doing porn. Let me know if you’ve seen me in anything!”

Although the internet has aided the adult film industry in the past, there are negatives to the internet and porn films. As stated earlier on, the expansion pornographic films onto the internet brought an increase in amateur actors posting their videos on user-generated content sites. Even though this is a positive on their behalf, it has recently begun hurting the adult film industry because free porn is becoming more and more accessible and desirable by consumers. “In a sense, amateur films, texts, and images have come to connote a ‘better kind of porn’ that is ethical in its principles of production, and somehow more real, raw, and innovative than the products of the mainstream industry” (Attwood). It has become increasingly challenging for the top studios within the adult industry to keep a steady profit. Porn 2.0 sites are marginalizing the mainstream pornographic media. “Online publishing platforms for amateur porn videos, such as the popular YouPorn…have come to challenge commercial porn enterprises featuring professional performers” (Attwood). In an attempt to gain back the lost audience, commercial adult cinema has been forced to think creatively. “With box office revenues in decline, the film industry is once again turning to 3-D as a means of drawing audiences back into theatres” (Hoffman). Just as blockbuster hits like “Titanic” and “The Lion King” have found their way back onto the big screen, within the last year, commercial porn has also begun to be shot in 3-D. Consumers feelings are mixed, but at Erotica LA, a convention for all things related to porn, the three dimensional films were a hit. When asked about his 3-D porn productions Matt Morningwood, a California based pornographer, said, “We have to set ourselves apart from the free stuff that’s out there.” Perhaps 3-D porn is what the industry needs to keep itself afloat.

When the adult industry went digital, small businesses which sold its videos had to make a choice – adapt to the rapidly growing new technology or take a step back and deal with the consequences. Just as mainstream movie stores faltered due to new media supplying technologies, many adult video stores have been forced to close their doors due to a lack of revenue. Tom Holway, former owner of Video Blue, an adult entertainment complex formerly located in Rapid City, South Dakota, cites the internet as the main reason he was forced to sell his family’s business in March, 2010. New laws “forced [Holway’s] shop to close between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. and prohibited on-premise viewing of adult videos in ‘arcades,’ or booths” (Soderlin). With the new laws in place, Holway’s consumers took to the internet and never returned.

Another conflict of pornography merging with the internet is the lack of internet regulation. Tom Holway’s adult store was affected when the government in Rapid City, South Dakota changed the law regulating adult entertainment venues. If Holway had created an online store the government would not have been able to govern what services he offered and at what time because the government has no control over cyberspace. Although the absence of law on the net makes it easier for the adult entertainment industry to survive, it also presents some problems, especially with the production and distribution of child pornography.

In the past there have been two major attempts at overhauling the presence of adult video on the internet. The first, Reno vs. American Civil Liberties Union, was decided on 26 June, 1997 and failed. It aimed to place the Communications Decency Act, which banned pornography from the internet, into law. The second, the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 would have made it “a crime for any person to provide minors access to ‘harmful material’ over the internet. Violators could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to 6 months” (Campbell). In 2007 the law was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Lowell Reed in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. The judge cited that the law would be “too restrictive and [would] violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects free speech” (Campbell). Both of these attempts were to protect children from accessing pornography on the internet. Although there have been unsuccessful attempts at protecting children from viewing pornography, the government has successfully established laws barring children from being subject to pornographic content firsthand. In the United States it is a crime to “knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography” (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).

The evolution of the internet has surely influenced the adult film industry in both positive and negative ways. As an industry which thrives on its consumers’ pleasure, the adult film industry should confront the fact that the ways in which their audiences receive the sexually appeasing responses they yearn for are rapidly changing. The porn industry must adapt to their ever changing moods and find new avenues on which to explore. Modern pornography has come a long way since it sat on the shelves in Times Square. On VHS or DVD, computer screen or iPad, thanks to the continuous revolutions of one of America’s most profitable industries, pornography will always be a prominent entertainment form in America.

Sources

The Impact of Catholic Clergy on the Lives of LGBT Youth

“Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another.”

This post is in response to several posts within the ‘homosexuality’ category of the Q&A section of Disciples Now – an online ministry that offers advice to young Catholics.  The indented paragraphs in this post are excerpts taken from the site.  The original posts can be accessed here.

I’ve read all your answers to questions about homosexuality, but I have one that hasn’t been addressed. Would it be wrong to have a same-sex partner if there was no sexual intimacy? Or if it didn’t go beyond kissing? I’ve been told that the sin in homosexual lifestyle is the fact that sexual intimacy is only meant for heterosexual married couples. I can accept that. But is it wrong for a girl to kiss another girl as long as it doesn’t lead to further action? If boy/girl dating couples aren’t sinning by mild affection (kissing and hugging) even though they aren’t married, why is it considered a sin for a girl to kiss a girl under the same circumstances?

- Feeling the discrimination

Answer:

Signs of affection like hugging are acceptable among any persons who consider themselves friends.  But to take it further, even to the level of kissing, is not something that is acceptable among mere friends.  People engage in that kind of behaviour as part of the “courtship” process, i.e. the process of finding their marriage partner.  Since the Church defines marriage as the sacramental union of a man and a woman for two persons of the same sex to engage in that type of behaviour would be a violation of the nature of that kind of physical expression.  Certainly there is no sin in two homosexual persons sharing a deep friendship.  But they would always have to guard against the temptation to move beyond friendship and the types of affection that are acceptable among friends, to behaviour that would be sinful.

- fr bob

This was awfully disappointing to read.  I shouldn’t be surprised because almost all Catholic priests are closed minded, but there is something about this post that just breaks my heart.  Priests are figures young people of faith are supposed to admire and look up to.  Luckily for me, I’ve learned to accept the ignorance of my Church – the Catholic Church.  Whether they are straight or gay, I know my God would never deny the love shared between two individuals.  Unfortunately, most Catholic youth who are questioning their sexuality are not strong enough to come to this realization until after they have fully accepted themselves for who they are.

This answer is the kind of thing that deepens self-hatred in gay and questioning youth.  It is exactly the kind of message that leads them to doubt their self-worth and to contemplate suicide.   Priests should be ashamed of themselves for offering this kind of “advice” and flaunting it as if they are helping improve the general wellness of our world.  Forgive me for ‘lashing out’ against members of the clergy, but the Catholic Church needs more of its people spreading positive messages to ALL of its young parishioners, not just those who are heterosexual.

I have been in a committed same-sex relationship for over a year now, and the connection that I share with my boyfriend far surpasses those shared between friends.  I do not believe that the love my partner and I share is sinful, and I refuse to believe that God would put my belief up for debate.

Fr. Bob fails to acknowledge that the individual who asked the question was obviously implying a relationship between two women or two men beyond that of a friendship.  While stating that kissing between two people of the same sex is sinful, he implies that kissing between opposite sex couples is not a sin because it is part of a “courtship process” paving the path toward marriage.  It has always been my perception that the Catholic Church believes that any form of sexual interaction outside of marriage whether it be gay or straight is thought to be sinful.  Yet, when it comes to differentiating between what is apparently wrong and what is apparently right, it is okay to twist Biblical “rules” and omit this detail.

The message he is sending here is that it is not okay to be gay.  He is denying God’s creation of those who identify as anything but heterosexual.  Sexuality, whether we like it or not, boils down to who one desires to interact with on a sexual level.  Sexuality is not about love.  It is not about friendship.  It is about sex.  Heterosexuals desire to engage in sexual relations with those of the opposite sex, homosexuals desire to engage in sexual relations with those of the same sex, and bisexuals desire to engage in sexual relations with those of both sexes.  If it is a sin for me to kiss my boyfriend just because our biological sex is identical, then what is the point of accepting our sexuality and forming a relationship because of it in the first place?  By telling someone that even a kiss between two people of the same sex is sinful, Fr. Bob is telling Catholic gay and questioning youth that in order to be without sin they should fight against their sexual desires, hiding them so that they may live in accordance with God.  The message here is harrowing:  Because homosexuality is a sin, and one’s sexuality cannot be changed, what value are gay and questioning youth supposed to see in the continuation of their lives?  What kind of message is this??

Another question:

I am a fifteen-year-old male, and I feel that I might be bisexual. However, while throughout time I switch between feeling homosexual and heterosexual, I feel a lot better when I feel attracted to girls; it seems to me much more real and genuine. Despite this, I know that homosexuality is wrong and abominable in the eyes of God, yet I know that there is little I can do to help myself besides praying and trying to stay out of premarital sex. I have read that many males my age have a homosexual phase in their lives (this started around seventh grade, I’m now in ninth grade) but what they might think to be homosexual desires actually is just “hero worship” or forming the personal identity. I don’t feel that this is just a phase, and I really detest my homosexual attractions, but I just can’t get rid of them. I want to be straight almost more than I want to be able to breathe, because I really don’t want Hell or to offend God. What should I do?

Answer:

Don’t be so quick to rule out this as a phase.  The fact that you experience attraction to girls makes it clear that you aren’t homosexual.  Just because you experience attraction to other males (not an uncommon occurence in adolescence) doesn’t mean you have to act on those attractions.  Most importantly turn to God daily for the help that you need; He will not leave you abandoned!
-Fr Bob

In a 2006 report, published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it is written that “God has created every human person out of love and wishes to grant him or her eternal life in the communion of the Trinity.  All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected.  In keeping with this conviction, the Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

How does one who preaches the word of God consider it respectful, compassionate or sensitive to tell someone that their sexual desires are sinful?  As children we are taught that to sin is to go against God.  With sin one cannot enter heaven.  Thus, we must fear sin.  Sin must be confessed through penance and reconciliation.  Is it respectful, compassionate and sensitive to teach our gay and questioning youth to fear acting on their sexuality by kissing someone of the same sex?  Is it respectful, compassionate and sensitive to tell someone that their innate sexuality is sinful and should be feared if acted upon?

After reading the USCCB’s statement, it would seem that to be respectful, compassionate and sensitive about one’s “homosexual inclination” calls for the acceptance of one’s desire to kiss the one he loves, and for this action to be carried out free of sin.  If this form of interaction cannot be respected because sexual interactions outside of marriage are sinful, then why can’t members of the same sex marry?  It seems to me that a lifelong commitment to one’s partner would solve this problem of “sin”.

As a teenage boy I would have given anything to hear a Catholic priest or parishioner from my Church speak out in support of gay love.  I confessed my sexuality to my priest, fearing the “sin” my body had desired to live ever since I was a young boy.  At the time, he remained neutral, but neutral in a way that I was able to think positively about my sexual attraction toward men.  In my college years I found a Catholic community of priests and parishioners that openly supports gay love.  I am thankful that I did not discover this site when I was struggling with my sexuality and longing for support.

Gay and questioning youth deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity by all people, especially by those who hold religious leadership.  Although this site offers powerful insight into the lives of Catholic youth, I would not recommend it to those struggling with the relationship between faith and sexuality because it does nothing but continue to spread the Vatican’s misconception of God’s word – his truth.  God loves everyone.  God would not have created homosexual, bisexual or even transgendered people if he considered their lives to be sinful.  It’s common sense in my mind.  I just wait for the day that someone in Catholic leadership will be brave enough to admit that it is common sense in their mind as well.