Above: An image from the Black Party 2015. See more here.
I once had an intense dream that I’ve never forgotten. I was at a Disney World-style theme park surrounded by kiddie rides and popsicle vendors. Suddenly a tornado appeared in the distance. Everyone started screaming. Parents ran madly with their strollers. An alarm sounded.
In the middle of the park was a giant castle, like Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, only this one looked like it was made of green glass (think Emerald City). Everyone was running there. I looked back and saw a caterpillar ride ripped up from its tracks and snaking through the air. Everything went dark. The wind was incredible. One of the bridges to the castle collapsed and minivans plummeted into the gorge.
I barely made it inside. The castle turned out to be a luxury hotel. Everyone was in the grand ballroom. People were bleeding and huddled in corners under blankets. The power was out. My phone wasn’t working. I started wandering through the hotel. I walked down some stairs and found a massive indoor swimming pool. At the far end of the room, two guys disappeared into a dark doorway, and I followed them.
The room inside had no lights and I couldn’t see anything. I walked in and heard moans and realized two guys were fucking in the corner. There was a doorway to another room, then another, and then there were stairs. I walked down.
At the bottom of the stairs was a red light bulb hanging from the ceiling. A hallway stretched right and left. The only light was the red lightbulb and everything was very dark and red. The hallway was lined with doors opening to little rooms. From the little rooms came the sound of groans and fucking, the slap of skin on skin. The air smelled thick of sweat and sex.
I group of men were clustered at the end of the hallway, standing together. I got closer and saw that they were huddled around a guy on his knees. I could hear the guy gagging and choking. A muscular guy wearing a leather harness turned and looked at me. He nodded to the corner. There was a sling tucked in the shadows. As the other guys started to notice me, I took off my clothes and climbed in. Someone placed a blindfold over my eyes and the dream ended.
Writing this, I’m trembling. The dream went from terrifying to one of the most erotic dreams of my life. It was erotic because I was not expecting it to happen that way — I wandered unintentionally into a sexual place from the world above. The implications of Hell aren’t lost on me. The dream tackles one of my strongest fantasies: Stumbling into sex space without meaning to. Happening across anonymous sex and joining in.
I’ve used that dream to describe a concept I’m currently working through — the “erotic descent.” My sexuality chases the erotic descent. I seek an imagined subworld, a dark netherworld underneath culture and convention in which all rules are thrown out and every shred of the safe world (Disney World) is gone. As one can imagine, the erotic descent quickly leads to dark and unhealthy places — and my desires certainly have.
I know I’m likely to teeter off an edge at which point healthy sexual adventurousness becomes unhealthy and problematic. The underbelly of sex is one filled with drugs and broken lives, and I’ve tasted that place before, and am still tempted by it. It would be easy to toss away my ambitions and goals and surrender to that chase, and I know many people who have — longterm addicts, a pornographer, and a few sex workers who think much like I do and who I could easily see myself emulating. Sometimes I hunger for that place, but I know I can’t pursue it much, or I’ll lose myself.
That’s why I’ve had to define my sexual boundaries — lines I will not cross. I encourage every adventurous sexual thrill-seeker to do the same.
Drugs like crystal meth make sex amazing, and when you’re into the stuff I’m into, guys assume I’m looking to party and play. I’ve had to decide, despite my desires, which drugs I will do and which ones I won’t. Drugs, as fun as they are, have consequences, including short-term and long-term side effects. Now that I’ve experienced meth and seen what kind of sex I can have on it, I’ve had to grapple with it and decide what role it will play in my life, and that’s led me to decide that the long-term effects aren’t worth it. My goal of steering clear of meth means that a lot of guys into a lot of the disgusting sex scenes I enjoy won’t play with me. I’ll be locked out of their intense play by refusing to do Tina. That’s a boundary I’ve had to define for myself, and it’s one of the toughest and most important decisions I’ve made in my life.
I also love tabooed sex and have done ample rape role-play scenes. I’ve gotten too drunk or high and played with people who pushed me too far. I’ve gotten hurt. I enjoy losing control and being unable to say no or even know what’s going on. In doing so, I know I’ve put my life at risk, and risked long-term injury. Is it worth it? If I had a partner that I loved, would I want them doing the things I’ve done, and taking the same risks? Probably not.
When deciding what you will and will not do, you need to be realistic and make allowances where you can. It’s easy to say that you’ll never get so fucked up that you can’t say no, and for me that claim is unrealistic. So, I define it more closely: I’ll try to never get fucked up on meth to the point that I can’t so no and am barely cognizant. If I want to get fucked up on other substances, I’ll do so with harm reduction practices like proper dosing, hydrating properly, and not mixing substances that are lethal when combined. I’ll play with safe words and limits and discuss the things I won’t do ahead of time. Most importantly, I’ll take cognizant risks and be prepared for the possibility that things may go too far. When you’re a devoted slut who likes sexual extremes, these are the decisions you must make.
Yes, I like taboos, but no actual rape or children. Yes, I like restraint and full-body immobilization, but it’s dangerous to play with someone you don’t know and being unable to get free if you absolutely have to. Always have a way out. Always have a free arm. Always have an escape route.
Recognizing the need for boundaries isn’t giving credence to sex-negativity. Quite the opposite — it’s harm reduction and self-care. There is a difference between sex-positivity and self-destruction. Sometimes the difference isn’t extremely clear, especially since many people, myself included, are aroused by certain forms of risk-taking — anonymous bareback sex, bug chasing, and getting infected, to name a few.
Having a crazy sex drive is healthy and normal. It’s not a sign of sickness, trauma, or any kind of pathology. I’m tired of people trying to pathologize those of us who like extreme stuff. The only unhealthy thing we have to worry about is impulse unchecked by reason and education — in other words, playing hard with no thought or awareness of the risks, and trying things without knowing how to do them safely.
I’m writing this because many gay men out there are just like me. We prefer wild over mild. We are adventurous in bed and in life. We have career goals and relationship goals and want to make a positive impact in the world, but we also have disgusting fantasies and are committed to living them out. Chase the erotic descent, but decide how far you will take it, and when you need to stop and reassess, do it. Understanding and defining that line will probably be a lifelong struggle for us — I know it will be for me — but you have to.
Why? Because there’s more to this world than sex. I love when life reminds me why it’s worth living — when the greater, deeper wonders of the world like love and sacrifice and art and intimacy pierce the dark to remind me what’s out there. Sometimes we must go back up into the castle to see the beauty, the couples, the kids, and the families we desperately need. Never forget the upper world is there, and you have a necessary place in it.