By A. Bradshaw
Nineties America was a prolific time for many reasons. It was the era of the United States of America’s 42nd President, Bill Clinton. The Internet was becoming more widely available in many homes. Sex and the City first premiered on cable TV network Home Box Office (HBO) to an audience of 2.9 million viewers in June 1998. The common theme among these three things…sex.
So, sex—many people would like to have it, have it, or have had it, or will have it.
As a child growing up in the 90s in the US, I would say that I was astute about the graphic nature of sex and sexuality.
Winter of discontent
My mother always wanted me to have a healthy idea of sex. She did not want me to be ignorant or easily susceptible to people’s misguided conceptions of it. She didn’t want my classmates to give me the wrong ideas about it. We had the sex talk when I was around nine years old, and after that, I decided that I should wait till I was mature enough to have sex. I told myself I’d hold off on it until I was 18.
By that time, I would have a boyfriend and we would have been together for a while. Ha! Well, that was delusional. I was such a romantic growing up. Always hoping for a dream boy to come sweep me off my feet. This is what growing up watching Sailor Moon and waiting for your own Tuxedo Mask to come along to save you creates in a young gay boy’s mind. Well, my first sexual encounter didn’t live up to the hype. It was much more “real” than ideal.
I’ve always had what I considered a healthy curiosity about sex. I think mostly because growing up knowing that I was different, I knew that sexually I had to be a bit more open-minded than everyone else around me. I remember the first time I had a crush on a boy. It was in the summer I started playing baseball, going into my third-grade year. He was my teammate, and he was so cute: a bit awkward but I found that endearing. It was also then that I realized I was a sinner.
Not only a sinner but the worst kind of sinner: a boy that likes to kiss boys. Looking back now, I realized that my southern, Christian zealot upbringing was quite an obstacle in my life.
Full disclosure though, growing up southern and gay wasn’t all rodeos and hunting. The number of times I had nightmares about burning in the pits of hell was far more frequent than I would like to admit. It was torture. I remember one day going to Sunday service with my mom, and my grandmother was in the fourth row of the church listening to the preacher’s sermon talking about homosexuality so graphically and with such disdain. My stomach turned, flipped, and knotted. I think I began to sweat, then my mom looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?” I told her it was just my stomach hurting. So, I ran off to the bathroom to try to get some fresh air. It was then I realized I was going straight to hell.
I thought that if I was kind, loving, and gentle enough that I could avoid my fate. Well, according to my Christian fundamentalist pastor, “’Tis the greatest and worst sin to be a homosexual.” So, no hope there.
My mom was painfully unaware of my same-sex attraction well into my teens even though there were several clues. Then at 17 I finally told her. I’m going to spare you the rather graphic exchange we had but let’s just say there were two weeks of us not talking. Then two years of denial on her part and trying to put me on “the right track”. Religion was involved in trying to “steer me straight.” Luckily, she didn’t believe in conversion therapy, and I was too old for it at that point. Eventually, after my first real relationship when I was 21, she finally started to accept me.
Spring of hope
So when, and under what circumstances, did I lose my virginity?
Well, it basically started with a game of truth or dare. I was with my best friend at the time, who we’ll call Tenor. One night during summer break, just before we went off to college, Tenor and I were hanging out. He wanted me to go with him to meet a friend of his, who we’ll call Marlon. Marlon had a friend who was with him named Guy.
We all played a rather sensual game. And no, there was no foursome involved in the game. It was more of us making out with one another or it went as far as a dare to suck one of the guys’ dicks. After that night Marlon and I exchanged numbers because we just really clicked with one another. Fast-forward to three days after meeting Marlon and he and I were just texting back and forth, and in my silly little 18-year-old brain, I thought I was in love with Marlon. Here is where I learned my first lesson in sex.
“Some people can have sex with no emotional attachment.”
One night I snuck out to meet Marlon, went to his home and lost my virginity on his mattress on the floor. This was definitely not the romantic setting I had envisioned.
Three days after our sexual encounter, Marlon just stopped texting me. Then he told my friend that he wanted to get back with his ex-girlfriend. The bastard had ghosted me. Apparently, he said that he wasn’t sure if he was ready to have a relationship with a guy. Marlon was still struggling to accept his sexuality. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 21 and already have a one-year-old son. Also, this should have been a clue for me of what’s to come.
I was heartbroken. At that time when I had wished for my mom to be there for me, to help me through my heartache. She and I weren’t really on good terms. I had just come out and she wasn’t my biggest fan at the time. So, I balled up all my feelings and suppressed them.
When it was time for me to go to college, to be on my own, venturing out to experience higher learning, I also decided it would be time to explore gay dating.
Truth be told, I was a stupid horny teenager. And by that, I mean, there were a couple of times when I should have maybe used a condom, but I didn’t. Also, the way I met these guys wasn’t the best either.
Summer of indulgence
I went to university in 2010. At this time Grindr was around but wasn’t very popular, especially not where I lived – small city in the middle of bumfuck Illinois called Decatur. Options were very limited as far as gay socializing. So how did I meet these guys? Simple, I answered personal ads on Craigslist.
What is Craigslist you may ask? For those who don’t know, it’s a place where people list their old lawnmowers to sell online. Not just lawnmowers but anything: electronics, couches, and for people looking for a job, it was just ads that people posted. It was also my preferred place to hook up with guys.
People who were looking to meet someone would post personal ads describing what they were looking for, like “men seeking women,” “women seeking men,” “women seeking women,” and obviously “men seeking men.” People would respond to those ads if they were interested. You’d copy the ad post’s link then put it into your email, write a short description about yourself, maybe even post a picture. Then wait for the other person to respond. Well, being the horny, desperate, looking-for-love soul I was at the time I answered some of those ads. And that’s when I found out about catfishing.
During the summer before going to university I did meet up with one more guy. He was quite a bit older than me. I believe his post stated he was 31 years old and looking for fun. The ad wasn’t accurate, to say the least. He wasn’t 39 but 49, though he was looking for fun. We met in the park a town over from where I lived where he blew me till he sullied his pants. And I left dry and agitated. It was my first taste of disappointment and self-pity. Sadly, there were more times like that to come.
Fast forward to me at 26 in the spring of 2018. I had been with my boyfriend for almost years and he lived in Dallas. I moved to Austin after getting a job offer at a tech company starting in customer support and as a client specialist. I had only been there for six months, and we had discussed my moving back to Dallas to keep our relationship together, but I liked my newfound independence. I was living with my roommate in a new, vibrant city and I didn’t want to go back to being just someone’s boyfriend. I wanted to be an individual.
I felt as though he was asking me to take it all back to just be his crutch. After some convincing and reluctance, I decided to move back to Dallas. The following weeks proved that I was done with our relationship. I had checked out and I didn’t want to be a “we” anymore. I wanted to be on my own. Unfortunately, I dragged out my relationship with him longer than I should have. We argued for two weeks almost continuously. It finally ended with him sending a rather lengthy email asking if I wanted us to continue being together, to which I finally mustered up the courage to say that I was done.
Soon after the breakup, I decided that I wanted to start looking for jobs somewhere else, outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. I searched all over the country, and got some good offers in Austin and one in Seattle, but it was an email from an education company in China that got my attention. The recruiter told me I’d be perfect for the job and that I’d enjoy the experience. After talking to him and going through the interview process I was sold.
I told my family and friends what I planned to do and went through the process to get a license, then my visa for China. It was pretty quick. In August 2018, I was ready to go and booked my flight to Beijing. In the midst of all of this, my ex-boyfriend and I had reconciled and decided to stay together, at least till I left for China. We had promised that after my one-year contract was up we would see how things were between us and possibly pick up where we left off.
I didn’t realize it then but in the months that followed moving to Beijing, I learned that the best thing I could do for a partner is to promise nothing.
This leads to the beginning of a new chapter of my life. The one as a foreigner in another country. I was ambitious and excited boarding the plane at Dallas-Fort Worth airport and I didn’t know it, but it was to be the start of a rather long and interesting time in my life. Especially regarding my sex life. This is an introduction to a series about my sexual exploration in China.
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