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Dr. Sex: The Joys of Safer Sex . . . Continued

May/June 2001

Self-examination is a hard thing to do. Accepting that you have bags under your eyes is a very difficult thing to acknowledge. But of course I'm not talking about myself. Most of us find many faults with our physical appearance. Inside of our heads we say such things as "I'm not muscular enough." "I'm too fat." "I'm losing my hair." or "My hips are too wide." Yes ladies, men notice their wide hips and big butts, too.

I wasn't happy with my appearance and because I wasn't happy with my appearance, I didn't feel good about myself. And because I didn't feel good about myself, I took unnecessary chances in my sexual encounters. Sound familiar? It's called low self-esteem.

Let me explain myself. I needed to have physical sexual contact because it was the only thing that made me feel alive. I didn't care if it was just a one night stand. I didn't stop to think if a casual encounter would be good for me. I didn't care about my future. I only knew that I felt hurt and I felt lonely. I needed to feel needed, if only for just that moment.

With reckless abandon, I searched and did things that later I professed was due to drinking too much. You've heard that line before. Even when I had achieved my goal and had consumed the person sexually, I still felt horrible. I was an emotional wreck. Low self-esteem clouded my judgement and made me feel that I wasn't desirable or lovable. I'm sure many of you understand and can relate to this scenario.

There were times when I felt overwhelmed with everything in my life. I felt like a failure, lacked assertiveness, and avoided anything new. I was more dependent on other people than myself. I dwelt in the negative. I was always putting myself down.

I made the classic mistake of internalizing the negative messages that I had heard all of my life. "You'll never be worth anything." "You can't do anything right." "Why do you mess up the simplest things?" "You're not smart enough." "You're so lazy."

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself, your self-confidence, self-respect, pride in your self, your independence and your self-reliance. These were all of the things that I needed, but lacked, to believe in myself.

My first step was accepting myself for the person who I am. In part, accepting yourself means that you are willing to act in your own best interest. From there it was possible to consider modifying my sexual behaviors. That's exactly what I did.

I took a good look at my body and I made changes. One day when I was "Home Alone," I took off my clothes. I took the large mirror off the wall and placed it on the floor, so I could see myself. Remember, I was still into self-examination.

I began to touch myself . . . to feel my entire body. I realized that I would never be a great safer sex partner if I weren't in touch with my own feelings; if I didn't know or understand the things that aroused me. I once read somewhere that we don't like looking at ourselves in mirrors. I would like to take that a step further and say we don't enjoy touching ourselves, either. In safer sex, foreplay is an important part of the sexual experience. A lot of sexual foreplay involves touching, grabbing, holding, scratching, tickling, licking, spanking and massaging.

Eventually I needed help with my self-exploration, so I asked an intimate friend to come over and help out. I mean there are certain parts of the body that I just can't reach. I'm not that flexible. Finally, my company arrived. I made it crystal clear that I wanted us to have fun, to just experience each other without getting into the serious sex. My companion was also aroused at the thought of us just touching and exploring each other's body.

Once we both were fully naked I held on tightly. I closed my eyes and felt a smile spread through my whole body. That hug felt like a lifetime.

I reflected upon something that my therapist once said and it rang true to me in this special moment. "Let the child in you play, and just have fun and you will experience a joy from the past right in the present." I was happy to have created an opportunity to not only learn something about myself but to put into practice my new safer sex skills. We took turns massaging the body and finding those erotic spots that make you giggle.

As we lay on the bed playing with the large mirror and several small ones, I remembered the many safer sex presentations I had previously attended and realized they were so sterile, compared to real life. Those presentations give you the basics, but to really enjoy safer sex one has to let one's imagination run wild.

Later, I was feeling kind of hungry, so got up and went into the kitchen. As I grabbed snacks, I thought, "How many ways can you use cheese whiz on a body?"

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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
See Also
Fact Sheet: HIV/AIDS and Young Men Who Have Sex With Men
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More Personal Views on HIV Prevention for Gay Men


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