Men’s Fashion – Gay Guys or Metrosexual Men?

Recently, one of my good friends was talking about a man she had seen in a bar.´ He was beautiful, perfect. Just too perfect. He was obviously gay, so I didn´t even ask if he was single.´

Sound familiar? In these times of image obsession and hunger for instant fame, the pressure is on everyone (women) and men to look like an extra from a J-Lo video. This however, has not always been the case.

The ´traditional´ stereotype of men was very different sixty years ago, where a bar of soap and a cut throat razor were the men´s two main grooming aids. Industry was different then also. Women were pseudo ´Stepford Wives´ going to the modern offices of the day to use typewriters and take short hand, whilst the men slogged and sweated to earn a hard days crust, many in manual or heavy labour industries.

Now, in the ´good old days´ one thing was a certainty. If you looked different or dressed differently then you were possibly ´ a bit funny.´ This antiquated portrait of openly gay men, who were almost always employed in theatre, fashion or creative industries, was not a positive one. These men also held court to, or encouraged  entourage to an array of accepting and flamboyant female admirers who relished in the camp ceremony of it all, encouraging them to ´be themselves´ and ´be proud.´ Perhaps the only way they felt they could achieve this was to amplify any femininity they felt they possessed. Maybe from insecurity, maybe from a desire to be noticed (from other potential suitors, or to crave the monster of attention.)

Time moved on, so did society. Then, we had revolutions. We had free love and self-expression. This is perhaps why the 1960´s were such a big deal. This was not an emancipation of men and women; it was the liberation of society. With this liberation brought a key, a key to open many locked minds. To try drugs, to experiment with the same sex, to write poetry or whichever snapshot of ´bohemia´ they wished to indulge in. With liberation and education came progression. Many of these men from ´traditional families´ whom were expected to ´get to work´ were now going onto higher education, graduating and leaving factories and overalls for offices and suits. With positions of management came obligations of image maintenance. Men were now starting to get haircuts, visit tailors and pay attention to fingernails.

And so the cycle was initiated. Then, another advent happened. The celebrity status. We have models, movie stars and sports persons thrown into the equation, and, in no other sector is this more obvious than football.  Today´s players are more famous off pitch than on pitch, with their legacy of glamour, style, fame and fortune.  The purpose of them is to not only follow trends, but to set them which constantly lead to moments of classical elegance as well as borderline ridiculous. All in the name of image. The earliest example of this was Liverpool F.C´s ´Spice Boys´ back in the 90´s which saw the advent of the possibly first mainstream metrosexual ´bromance´ unions forming between the likes of Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler and co.

Then, on the other hand there were, and still are Brand Beckham. David and Victoria are still going strong 17 years on. The ultimate style couple, who played with fashion and image to the delight of the nation.

However, you do not have to be linked to your opposite sex ´beau´ to command respect. One of the hottest and most recent partnerships in America is the ´bromance´ which is a close, non-sexual relationship which two men can share. A sort of mutual adoration (stemming from the compound of ´Brother´ and ´Romance.´ One obvious example is Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The exposure to men in fashion these days is overwhelming. From specific fashion week collections (Milan for example hosts two fashion weeks every year, exclusively dedicated to men.) Add to this the boom of male beauty spa´s (sorry, grooming salons) which now integrate seamlessly into the urban sprawl of pretty much every capital city in Europe, if not  the world.) Interestingly enough, the top three treatments are body waxing, eye brow plucking and eye lash tinting. (Don´t worry, I am guilty of having all these three done at some point also, after all it is important to look good, isn’t it?)

As quoted in 2013 by Cosmetics Business, the male beauty industry in the UK is now worth £707.5 million and now one out of every 2.62 men use some form of beauty product, endorsed more frequently by celebrities.

The city boys and young professionals, with generous disposable incomes and exposure to such decadent markets of lifestyle and luxury, promising them looks, love and success if they choose brand X, or spray cologne Y before going to the office.

So, what can we say about ´gay´ men who ´look´ straight (or ´straight´ men who look ´gay´.)  Really, it´s best not to assume. While celebs will sell us their lifestyles and designers will seduce us with new collections and ways to be noticed, metro sexuality in whatever form it takes is not going to go away soon. And fundamentally, whether you ´look´ gay or straight, does it really matter? Inside the exterior image lives a person with a spirit and a soul. Everyone deserves a platform to express themselves and who they are without let or hindrance.

Whatever your view on this story, one thing is for certain. For the male aesthetic, the future´s looking pretty!

13 Solo Sexual Experiences Every Gay Man Needs

Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy are sluts. In The Ethical Slut (a book every gay man should read) they write, “We believe … that the fundamental sexual unit is one person; adding more to that unit may be intimate, fun, and companionable but does not complete anybody.” 

Take heart, single guys. You don’t need anyone else to have sex, although you are certainly free to seek others for fun. Sexuality is a state we live in, not a specific activity for which your clothes come off. This simple concept liberates sex from its cultural conventions — conventions that favor athletic, able bodies and religious-based shame. 

Here’s a list of solo sexual experiences every gay man needs. 

13 Solo Sexual Experiences Every Gay Man Needs

4. Give a performance — for yourself.

Solo role play — whether it’s animal play (puppy play, kitty play, pony play) or some other form of role play — can be intensely erotic. 

There are certain kinks you should not do solo. Bondage, autoerotic asphyxiation, needle play, and knife play are on this list. But nothing is keeping you from crawling on all fours around your apartment and barking like a dog. Read my list of role play fantasies you have to try here. 

I sometimes get into forced feminization scenes, which involve a dominant/alpha forcing me into women’s clothing as a form of erotic degradation and fucking me while hurling insults and derogatory slurs. Because this turns me on, I’ve sometimes played dress-up as a prelude to a good solo toy play session. 

Note: I am not trans, and this kink has nothing to do with being transgender. Being trans has nothing to do with performance, degradation, or sexual interests. Being trans has everything to do with someone’s authentic identity and the expression of their identity. There are many kinky transgender doms and subs who do not share my “forced feminization” kink. (And thankfully, there are some who do.)

4. Give a performance — for yourself.

5. Discover new interests in the wonderful world of porn.

Los Angeles-based sex therapist Chris Donaghue outlines 18 therapeutic uses for porn. His list includes the fact that porn “helps normalize diverse sex acts” and that porn aids masturbation, which “reminds people that solo sex is not controlled by their partner.” 

Chris is a friend and fearless sex-positive crusader. Follow him on Twitter and hear his sex/dating advice on the podcast Loveline with Amber Rose. 

Without porn, I would never have discovered my kinks. My kinky side is a rich and vital part of my life and has fostered my most valuable relationships. Thanks, internet. 

5. Discover new interests in the wonderful world of porn.

7. Get naked in nature.

Sex is an ancient animal activity. We’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been crawling on this rock. Yes, even gay sex. 

Homosexual behavior has been observed in over 1,500 animal species. While we can’t say for sure if these animals are permanently drawn to the same sex — biologists seem to stress the (seemingly arbitrary) difference between “homosexual behavior” and “homosexuality,” since many species of animals don’t exhibit same-sex behavior all the time — we also can’t say that about self-identified gay men, since sexuality is fluid in humans too. 

(Others animals practice this sexual fluidity without labels. Should we follow suit?)

I love getting naked under the stars — when I can. It’s a ritual that reminds me of my place in the natural world, my smallness, and the awesomeness of my ancient sexuality. 

7. Get naked in nature.

9. The first time you tell yourself, “I’m gay.”

This moment is scary for all of us. But coupled with that fear is an eroticism you will never forget. We all come to that moment through desire. 

I was flipping through a book of classical sculpture, learning about “history” and studying marble penises. There in the bookstore, it struck me: I wanted to see a cock. A real cock. That’s when I knew. 

10. Your first erotic image.

I have a theory about the first erotic image. Anecdotally it seems to predict (or perhaps determine) the nature of one’s desires for years to come. 

This isn’t to say that a picture can make you gay — you’re born gay. But you’re not necessarily born a gay man who thinks Alaskan fisherman are absurdly sexy or who gets turned on by the thought of someone licking your feet or the smell of pine. 

I stumbled upon the book by David E. Armstrong — a book of grotesque male photography, with accompanying poetry by Clive Barker — when I was 10 years old. Armstrong’s carnal depictions of men with erect, dripping cocks — positioned in contorted, aggressive poses — often feature devil horns, black tar, and mounted animal heads. Today, my nickname is “Beastly.” 

12. A walk on the beach.

A solo walk on the beach is equal parts erotic and reflective. The beach is always a tease. You see beautiful, half-naked guys in the surf, and you can do nothing with that desire but carry it and reflect on it. 

Years before I came out, I reflected on the notion of being gay one summer with my parents. The whole week I wanted to walk the beach by myself. They didn’t know what was going on, but I did. 

I wanted to look at the beautiful men and ask myself over and over if this hunger was worth it — worth all the fights and crying and hurt that would surely come. By the time we left, I had an answer. 

Before there was Grindr…

Wikipedia defines “cruising” as “walking or driving about a locality in search of a sex partner, usually of the anonymous, casual, one-time variety.” 

This is a fair definition, but some guys would define cruising more loosely: a basic sex hunt, not something you specifically set out to do but rather something you are always doing. We do it on the subway and in the office and anywhere a handsome gentleman might lift his shirt to wipe sweat off his forehead. In our minds, we lift his shirt the rest of the way and tug on the brim of his trousers with our teeth. 

If you make eye contact with him and discover (wordlessly and without complete certainty) that you are both interested, then voila! You’ve cruised. Now all you have to do is work up the courage to talk to him, give him your number, or nod to the exit. The following hookup may happen in your apartment, in a public restroom, or in the alley out back. Wherever you choose, you are engaging in an art that gay and bi men have been perfecting for decades. 

Check out these 24 classic cruising zones, some of which yielded better results in years past and many that are still used today. Happy hunting!

Above: Alex lurking in a park

My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely on my own experiences. As with everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.

Those who are sensitive regarding frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that addresses sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.

For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions for sex and dating topics in the comments.

1. Bathhouses

Before anyone tries to convince you that bathhouses are no fun — that they are filled with creepy onlookers and tweaked-out drug addicts — go to one. Go to Steamworks in Chicago or Berkeley, Club Dallas, or any of the Flex spas across the country. If you are a kink pig looking for slings over saunas, find your nearest Slammer. If these are not options in your city, plan a trip. Big cities like Los Angeles and New York have bathhouses that, depending on the night, may have better crowds than the national chains — North Hollywood Spa, Tampa Men’s Club, Denver Swim Club. 

The Everard Baths in New York City was the most written-about bathhouse in history until it closed in 1986 at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Everard was open for almost 100 years and was visited by such gay luminaries as Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. Today, New York is filled with cruising grounds, but its number of bathhouses has noticeably dwindled. 

There are several reasons for this. Yes, AIDS was a devastating hit, one that made us fear the sexual spaces we used to roam. But other social changes contributed. The closet drew many men to bathhouses where they could cruise freely before returning home to their wives. For them, bathhouses were a necessity — spaces frequented out of need and desire. Gay life has changed since then. 

I have heard some younger gay men — guys closer to my age — say they would never set foot in a bathhouse “because they are filled with old guys.” Let’s face a fact: This is often true. Many of the bathhouses I’ve been to are filled with older men, but this fact neither diminishes the fun to be had in them or takes away from their experience. Let go of your needless ageism and try something new. 

There is something great about being naked in a gay space. Bathhouses are a dichotomy. hey are both erotic and comfortable, foreign and familiar. If you’ve never been to one and are ready to take the plunge, check out my article “10 Tips For Your First Trip To The Bathhouse” on

2. Public Parks

City parks were once the cruising grounds for gay men. In New York in the 1970s, public parks where places where you could not only find a hot guy but bang him in the bushes too. 

Parks are harder to cruise today. Police patrolling has amped up, and there are obvious safety risks to cruising parks at night. 

3. Beaches

Antonio Da Silva has a thing for public cruising. The Portuguese director makes short films that blur the lines between documentary and pornography, art and voyeurism — which means his films are great. His 13-minute explicit film Beach 19 peeks in on the activities at a popular gay beach in Portugal. 

While a trip to Portugal or Limanakia Beach in Greece (another famous gay beach) sounds awesome, outdoor cruising and nature sex can be found in the United States too. Baker Beach in San Francisco, Black’s Beach in San Diego, Maui’s Little Beach, and of course Fire Island Pines, a historic gay dreamland, are still fun places to visit. And while you might not be able to have sex on the beach itself (at least not in the daylight), you can still find a partner to take home. A note on the Pines: Few guys get naked on the beach itself, but many wander to the little “anything goes” coastal forest nearby. 

I must here give a word of caution. Public sex always invites the risk of getting caught by someone other than a voyeur or hot participant. Law enforcement, unsuspecting passersby, and happy children can stumble by. While this risk is totally part of the fun, getting caught can land you in jail. 

The Advocate is not responsible for your incarceration should you choose to participate in “public lewdness” — a funny term invented by lawmakers that we must take seriously. You will find the term “public lewdness” on warnings posted in gay-heavy gyms (“Any public lewdness in the steam room will result in immediate termination of membership and possible legal action”) and cruising hotspots where a manager has caught wind of what’s been going on. In most cases it means anal or oral sex — flashing your junk in areas that are not clothing-optional is called “indecent exposure.” 

4. Piers

A cursory history of gay New York must include the West Side piers — a gay landmark that, for many gay men in the ’70s, was the epicenter of the art and sex movement that happened between Stonewall and the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The piers weren’t much to look at — a series of decaying wood and steel structures jutting into the Hudson River from Christopher Street up to Chelsea — but their location as well as their storied nightly sex spots solidified their place as the most famous gay cruising site in the United States. Take a pilgrimage to see them — it will be bittersweet, considering how many died during the plague years — but save the public cruising for one of New York’s many gay nightclubs. 

Above image: Shelley Seccombe, „Sunbathing on the Edge, Pier 52“ (1977), contemporary archival digital print, source:

5. Gay Bars

Like all other parts of gay culture, gay bars have changed. Many of their playrooms have been converted into well-lit lounges or additional bar space — a fact that makes me die a little. And (you guessed it) hookup apps have all but gutted these spaces of the crowds that used to flock them. But the quintessential gay bar — that tawdry dive with a rainbow flag in the window and a glory hole in the bathroom — is important, because long before chat rooms and mobile apps, gay bars were some of our original cruising zones. Sexual overtones aside, gay bars were places where we could meet, organize, let loose, and foster community.

I haven’t figured out the formula of what makes a gay bar stay open, but I imagine there are many factors: hot bartenders, hot crowds, and the seemingly unavoidable threat of getting priced out. I almost never go to nongay bars, because I give my dollars to spaces that exist for me. Keep our sanctuaries alive! 

6. Discothèques

The birthplace of gay circuit parties, underground discothèques were where gay men danced in the ’70s — and have not stopped since. 

But first, a clarification: “discothèque” is a term rarely used in the United States anymore — most people simply say “club” or “dance club” — but you can still find self-identified discothèques in Europe. 

The beauty of dancing in a room full of gay men (and typically getting high with them) is something I can hardly describe. When I have those nights, I feel part of a gay tradition that started in the pre-AIDS sex reverie, survived a plague, and is still alive today. 

Different scholars, homos, club kids, and gay partiers will argue when dance clubs really came into being, but their significance in gay culture (and gay cruising) is undeniable. Their bathrooms have long been homes to cruising and gay sex. 

10. Gayborhood Streets

If New York’s Christopher Street taught us anything, it is that a street in a gay part of town is the ultimate cruising ground. I applaud the guys who make hookups happen simply from exchanging glances with the men they pass on the sidewalk. Doing so takes game, body-reading skills, improvisation, and guts. I have not mastered the art of street cruising, but I have felt that heightened tension when walking down a sidewalk in a gayborhood — the Castro in San Francisco, the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood — and knowing that I am in cruise territory. The eyes are on you.

11. Gyms

Second to circuit parties, gyms are some of the most erotic places in the world. A place where sweaty guys work out in minimal clothing, strip in front of each other, take showers, and sometimes sit together in a steam room is going to be a gay cruise zone — how could it be anything else?

Some gyms will have a stronger cruising vibe than others, depending on the neighborhood. Gayborhood gyms are almost asking for public sex, while gyms in smaller towns and conservative communities might be higher risk. In general, though, you are bound to face some repercussion if you get caught by a staff member. 

12. Coffee Shops

Many people, myself included, like to people-watch at coffee shops. Coffee shops are places where you can retreat from the bustle of life, read a book, do some work on the computer, and sip your overpriced lavender mocha. A good coffee shop has a feeling of de-stress and coziness. And since I love being around men — their presence automatically makes me feel comfortable, like being in a locker room — I love coffee shops in gay neighborhoods. Cruising comes naturally to these places, since people-watching and cruising are basically the same thing, and what better way to lick the foam off your lips than having someone lick it off for you?

13. Bookstores

My parents suspected I was gay years before I even knew what “gay” meant — maybe all that finger-painting and borrowing my mom’s eyebrow pencil gave something away — and they installed a parental blocker on our Internet that blocked absolutely everything. The blocker restricted sites according to keywords. “Gay,” I later learned, was one of them. 

Internet porn was never an option, so I didn’t grow up missing it. When we went shopping, my parents would leave me in Barnes & Noble for hours while they went with my sister to try on jeans. Parents, if you don’t want your kids to be gay, do not leave them alone in a bookstore. 

Barnes & Noble is a treasure trove of homosexuality. I discovered the seminal book by Charles Silverstein and Edmund White in the LGBT section when I was 10. And the magazines! Unzipped, Attitude, and The Advocate were my first signs of gay life; the first proof I had that others were out there. When I stumbled across , a collection of erotic male photography by David E. Armstrong, my life was changed forever. I grabbed the book and ran to the restroom. I sat in a stall for an hour, turning the pages slowly, trembling. 

Several years later, when I was able to drive to bookstores by myself, I was again sitting in the bathroom of Barnes & Noble, probably looking through a copy of Unzipped magazine, when the guy in the stall next to me said, “Hey…you okay, dude?” And that was the first time I had public sex. 

Bookstores are pits of sin. Visit them as often as you can. Literacy is important. 

15. Cafés and local gay-owned businesses

Gay-owned businesses are not always cruising zones, but LGBT people tend to feel comfortable in them and patronize them, so you are more likely to find an guy who is down-to-fuck in, say, your local gay-owned ice cream shop than Ben & Jerry’s. 

We support these businesses because we assume their workers have workplace protections and/or same-sex partner benefits, and we assume that their environments, if they cater to the public, are at least LGBT-friendly. This is why your local gay-owned café is probably a cruising zone. Maybe it is located in a gayborhood, or maybe it is the one business in your conservative town where you can be yourself. Visit often, be friends with the people who work there, and keep an eye peeled — ready and restless guys are around every corner. 

16. Barbershops

I knew my barber was a keeper the first time I sat in his chair: “I want a typical gay haircut. Zero on the sides.”

“Say no more,” he said. Unlike all the straight barbers I have had in the past, my barber is a 6-foot-tall sweetheart who knows exactly what haircuts gay men are wearing these days (undercuts, fauxhawks, pompadours, high-and-tights). But what he did not know is that his shop is total cruising zone. That is, until I filled him in. 

“Dude, every gay man in town gets haircuts from you,” I said one day while he was trimming my ear line, “and since I can’t move my head, I am literally forced to look at all the guys waiting. I’m practically on display.” 

Many barbershops are cruising zones, especially if they have gay-heavy clientele. As we wait, we are watching men being groomed, knowing that at some point we will be up there, turned and swiveled for the guys to inspect from every angle.

17. Waiting Rooms

Following the logic of the barbershop, any waiting room can be a cruising zone. The waiting area for the health clinic at the Los Angeles LGBT Center was a total cruise fest. You can feel the cruising vibes as soon as you walk in and sign your name — always wear something sexy when you go get blood work done. 

I have never been to a gay AA or CMA (crystal meth) meeting, but I have heard from friends who attend them that these groups are notorious eye wars. The erotic vibe is heightened, they say, from the fact that you’re in a room full of gay men who already know something personal about you. This makes sense to me because I have attended a few HIV support groups, especially after I first tested positive, and the cruising vibes were strong. 

In these cases, however, I am not sure “cruising” is the correct word. People come together and need each other when they are in difficult places, and sometimes sex is part of that. In my lowest moments, I have cruised for sex simply because I needed to be around someone else or forget my problems for a little bit. There is something important about this type of cruising, because while it might not be totally healthy, it is totally human. 

19. Craigslist

Craigslist was launched out of San Francisco in 1995. Almost immediately, people began posting personal ads for sex services, companionship, kink, and to satisfy every fetish you can imagine, from sitting on cakes to voyeurism to some considerably darker fare (minors, cannibalism, you name it). Craigslist changed the game for men seeking men. 

Sites catering exclusively to gay dating and personals came later. launched in 1996, Manhunt in 2001, and Adam4Adam in 2005. Gay sex sites came with them — (colloquially shortened to BBRT by users) and are still my favorites. Gay cruising had found its home on the web, and suddenly we needed to spend more time in front of our computers. 

20. Grindr

In 2009, the fabric of gay life changed again. In the future, we will look back at a massive turning in gay culture — when gay hookup apps, which locate other users through the geolocation devices in your smartphone, hit the market. Joel Simkhai launched Grindr, with its distinct orange skull/hockey mask icon, on March 25. 

In 2012, Grindr had 4 million users in 192 countries across the globe, with 1.1 million users online every day. Based in the United States, the app reported usage as far away as Iraq, Israel, and Kazakhstan. Those numbers have doubtlessly increased today. 

Any mention of Grindr in 2016 will inevitably result in some eye rolls. Tiresome arguments between guys who hate hookup apps and guys who love them continue to rage across gay media outlets. Some say Grindr and other apps have destroyed gay life. Others say they have simply redefined it. Regardless which side you fall on, hookup apps are here to stay. 

I think the success of hookup apps was fairly foreseeable. If you give gay men an effortless way to hunt for sex on-the-go, everywhere they go, all the time, they are going to go for it. We have always have been doing this — Grindr simply made cruising easier. 

21. Scruff

I have to admit my bias here — I’m a Scruff guy. Scruff was launched in 2010, the year after Grindr hit the app store. Scruff is an app that essentially does the same Grindr does, but with different features (unlimited profile text, more in-app search tools) and, some would argue, catered to a slightly different user base. In 2015, Scruff reported 8 million users worldwide. 

I like Scruff’s unlimited profile text — goodness knows I’m long-winded — along with the app’s attention to minority demographics within the gay community like leather guys and HIV-positive guys (both groups I fall into). Read my article about Scruff’s inclusion of PrEP in its list of safe sex practices, which were included in the launch of Scruff 5 last year. 

Today, there are dozens of gay dating apps in addition to these two: Daddyhunt, GROWLr, Jack’d, Hornet, Mr. X, and many others all trying to get in on the action. Take your pick.

23. Circuit Parties

Real Bad. Magnitude. Papa Party. Black Party (The Saint At Large). White Party Miami (the whole week of it). White Party Palm Springs. Black & Blue in Montreal. Purple Party in Dallas. Winter Party Miami. Gay Days Orlando. The Pines Party on Fire Island. Southern Decadence. Fireball. The list goes on, and on, and on. All over the world, from Tel Aviv to Rio de Janeiro, gay circuit parties have turned modern gay life into something global and glamorous — and expensive.

Cruise culture has changed — no doubt about that. Some guys say cruising is dead, simply because it is harder to cruise for sex in public now. Train stations, parks, and public restrooms have more security personnel and fewer cruising patrons — particularly when many guys can just sit at home and hookup on Scruff. 

Cruise culture is alive, but it has been monetized. Circuit parties, which are essentially massive cruising fests, are beautiful, expensive things that cater to gay men with enough disposable income to afford tickets and travel (and clothes, and drugs, and hotel rooms, and harnesses, and all the many other costs that inevitably factor in). 

My impulse is to wag my finger at an industry that caters to the rich — but I also love circuit parties. Why? Because they are evidence that “free love” is back and gay men are celebrating their sex lives again. After the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and after generations of gay men seeing their lifestyles portrayed in ugly ways, the feeling of being in a warehouse filled with gay men celebrating themselves and their sex is radical and life-changing. It is a feeling I think every gay man should experience. 

24. Backrooms

I saved the best for last. The proverbial “playroom,” “dark room,” or “backroom” is a lights-off, “anything goes” space typically used for sex and drugs, and were once common features of gay establishments. 

If you’ve ever been in a gay dance club or leather bar and wondered what that dark hallway across from the bathrooms is used for, this is it. Backrooms are relics of an earlier time, when managers and owners generously created a space where their patrons could do what they needed to do with each other and looked the other way — or perhaps joined in. But gay bars today are now flocked with bridesmaids and visited by health inspectors and must struggle to stay afloat in a world where hookup apps have hurt their business, meaning backrooms have all but disappeared. 

Backrooms are useful when you’re a little fucked up and the guy you’ve been dancing with and rubbing on the dance floor decides to take matters into his own hands. It is true that you don’t really cruise in the backroom. You cruise on the dance floor — backrooms are where the cruising takes you. 

I love backrooms and see them along with public cruising as part of the same picture, one that composes a big part of our history as gay men. Regardless of your views on sex, cruising defined our world at one point. It was how we met each other, how we fell in love, and constituted the whole of our sex lives years before apps and websites would take out all the guesswork (and, for many, all the fun as well). 

Be on the lookout for a cruising zone near you. One is closer than you think.

Magazine spread above from Life, June 26, 1964, photographed by Bill Eppridge.

Fetishes you should know.

Two years ago this month, I was sitting on the sofa in my Sir’s living room. It was my birthday. We were getting ready to go to the gym. But first, he said, I should open my presents. Two packages were in front of me on the coffee table.

[RELATED: „30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know“]

Our relationship had started more than a year earlier with intense monthly BDSM play sessions. After we stopped playing sexually, we continued to go to the gym together and push each other to live healthier. We still go to the gym together, and today I consider him one of my closest friends. He knows what I like — sexually and otherwise — more than most people in my life, so his presents are always top-notch.

Inside the first package was a bottle of twelve-year Glenlivet, one of my favorite single malt whiskies. The second: a Nasty Pig jockstrap. But it was not just any Nasty Pig jock. I sniffed. That distinctly musky, delicious aroma, which can only be found in the playrooms of gay circuit parties and in gyms across the country, lingered in the stitching. “I wore it for a few days,” he said. “You’re welcome.”

You may be asking: What is a fetish, and how is it different from a kink? I clarified these two terms in my list of 30 kinky terms every gay man should know. But I’ll reiterate their distinction here. Kinks are “unconventional” sexual interests, like bondage or paddling. That’s it. Fetishes — also called paraphilias — are objects, materials, features, or articles of clothing, like used jockstraps, that people respond to sexually, and that enhance or facilitate sexual arousal. To clarify: fetish objects are not sexual on their own, like whips or dildos. Fetish objects become sexualized when someone responds to them sexually.

You’ve probably heard of a few obscure fetishes, like high-heeled shoes and rubber duckies. Fetishes are rapidly moving out of their kinky niche and into pop culture. Stay on top of (or under) the trend with this list of 36 fetishes — some well known, others less so — that you need to know about. 

1. Leather

Leather is one of the most commonly fetishized materials, and certainly one of the oldest. Tom of Finland’s 1970s drawings of biker boys, clad in impossibly form-fitting leather, solidified leather as a staple of gay culture. Today, the leather community is global, united by national and international leather competitions that celebrate this fetish at gatherings like the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, and Folsom Berlin.

What does a leather event look like? It looks like throngs of men in leather harnesses, jock straps, jackets, boots, gloves, aprons, fully-body uniforms, and other garb. Since many leather fetishists are into many other fetishes and kinks, the leather community is generally considered synonymous with the kink community as a whole. 

7. Uniforms

People who live in the United States are taught from a young age that uniforms should be viewed with respect, especially police uniforms, military uniforms, and firefighter uniforms. These socio-politics of respect naturally morphed into male strippers dressed as firefighters and cops — evidence that uniforms are heavily fetishized by straight and LGBT people alike. 

17. Amputees

No list of fetishes would be complete without amputees. My ex-boyfriend, in fact, thought guys with amputations, prosthetic legs, and other missing limbs were extremely sexy, and every morning I made sure all my limbs were still intact.

Alex Minksy has more or less made a career from this fetish. The ex-military amputee is a common muse for L.A. photographer Michael Stokes. For the sake of clarity, I should stress that the fetishization of amputees is not the same thing as the kink practice of actually removing limbs for the sake of sexual gratification, which is considered an extreme body-modification kink that is by and large not endorsed by the international kink community. Simply put: you can think amputees are sexy, but don’t go cutting off someone’s leg, or your own. That’s not OK. 

Photo source: Broadway Bares, photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

20. Enemas

Also called klismaphilia, enema fetishes are commonly explored in amateur gay and straight porn. As useful tools for cleaning out the anal cavity, enemas and douches are used by bottom guys and anyone looking to enjoy mess-free anal sex, so naturally they have become part of sex itself. Aside from their usefulness, enemas are generally considered a healthy occasional practice, and have become a sexualized object all on their own. 

28. Beard/Facial Hair Fetish

You know by now that shaving tools and buzzed haircuts have fetishes attached to them. Beards and body hair should be less surprising, especially these days. Beards are so sexually charged and erotically idealized among today’s scruffier populations of gay men that one might forget the fact that beards are still, technically, fetish objects. 

33. Feces

I promised my scat fetishist friend in Dallas that he would be represented on this list. Coprophilia is sexual stimulation from feces, and while the general population’s response to it is bound to be pretty strong, this fetish is more common than you might suspect, particularly among gay pig players, fisting enthusiasts, and kinky leather men. Despite its popularity within a more niche section of the gay male population, it is generally considered an unhygienic fetish to explore, since handling and consuming human fecal matter carries with it certain health risks. In my limited experience, it is also one of the more heavily stigmatized fetishes, even within the kink community. 

34. Sports Gear

Remember those adolescent longings for the high school quarterback? Perhaps you enjoyed varsity baseball for more reasons than you let on. The fetishes surrounding sports gear and sport environments are so common that locker room porn has become its own popular genre. Prominent gay clothing brands like Nasty Pig and Cellblock 13 draw their design inspiration from tried-and-true sports wear, and standard gay circuit attire will always feature a pair of football pants with the front lacing beckoningly open. 

36. Age

Also called chronophilia (and sometimes ageism), the fetishization of age is a hotly debated topic in gay culture. The term swings both ways: this fetish applies when someone older fetishizes the specific age of someone younger, and when someone younger fetishizes the specific age of someone older. The fetish doesn’t require a significant age difference — just the fact that someone’s age itself is a turn-on.

Conceptually, this fetish opens up debate surrounding the fetishization of other characteristics like skin color and body type. Some argue that fetishizing certain physical characteristics like age and weight is no different than feet and hand fetishes, which we generally do not frown upon. Others say that age fetishes, like skin color and body type fetishes, are not fetishes at all, and that the reduction of a person’s features into points of desire (and, by extension, rejection) is dehumanizing and smacks of racism and body-shaming.

Debate rages. Age fetish deserves inclusion on this list for the sheer purpose that it shows how fetishes can cross from the playfully erotic into more culturally profound and impactful subjects. The whole concept of fetish reveals that anything in the world, from pool floats to ice cream, can become sexual objects if someone responds to them that way, and as such they unleash our sexual desires from the narrow confines that our culture tends to place them in.

This being said, fetish exploration is not a free-for-all. There is a trepidatious line between fetishizing balloons and fetishizing blood. That vague line exists throughout the world of kink, which is why the motto “safe, sane, and consensual” should be strictly adhered to as you explore the things that turn you on — which, I must stress, are worth exploring. Your birthdays just got a lot more interesting. 

Photo by Charles Thomas Rogers from the portfolio, Men Over Fifty.

[RELATED: „30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know“]

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