Dear Dr Ren,
I am an older gay man who, when younger, was pretty much a safe-sex slut. Ten years ago I got prostatitis. With the pain that brings to fucking — even just ejaculation sometimes — and my increasingly low sex drive due to anti-anxiety meds, I am quite happy being sexually solo, but damn I miss the cuddling, which I refuse to trade for sex.
There’s another angle to this. Even though I practised safer sex, I worried constantly about HIV. Three of my previous partners died from HIV complications. I want to stay clear of my considerable testing anxiety. No problem there, as my libido is low (I rarely even masturbate) and topping is painful. Plus, I have incredible creative outlets that occupy my life. I am uninterested in getting on the sexual merry-go-round again.
Still, I would love to hold a naked man in my arms again. Because I don’t fuck and have minimal libido, am I doomed to be an artsy old maid?
Only Wants the Sensual
Dear Only Wants the Sensual,
You are certainly perched on the horns of dilemma. On one hand you maintain your adherence to avoiding anxiety and pain, while on the other you bemoan your loss of physical intimacy. How do you maintain both? Can you?
The truth is that without a bit of risk, little changes. You have a number of options for parsing your cost/benefit ratio, however. And you get to change strategies as your situation changes.
For instance, when you are happily involved in your creative endeavours and feeling well-regulated with your meds, you can enjoy the solace of physical touch by getting massages, doing some ballroom dancing or playing with kids.
When your libido peaks and non-sexual touch no longer suffices, you can reassess your drive for emotional safety. Perhaps then you’ll be motivated to test the dating waters again, always keeping in mind your personal goals. Write your profile clearly, defining your desire for primarily intimate connections. Find the sites that cater more to relationship formation than hooking up. Sexual appetites vary enormously. You may be surprised at how many others share your goals. You won’t know, though, until you ask.
Another alternative is to explore the cuddling phenomenon. If you Google Vancouver Cuddle Party you’ll discover our local chapter boasts 84 members. Though their parties won’t provide you with a naked man to wrap in your arms, they will introduce you to many compatriots and send you home bursting with dopamine, which in turn will lower your anxiety and make further social contact easier.
Another route is to examine your complacence with your anxiety. Rather than accepting it, consider addressing its causes and treatment. When was the last time you altered your meds or their dose? Have you contemplated adding therapy to your drug regimen? We know that meds and therapy work better in concert than either alone.
I urge you, as well, to reinvestigate the pain you experience upon ejaculation. Ten years is a long time to suffer the effects of an infection; a urological exam seems in order. You may also want to know that infrequent ejaculation sets up conditions ripe for prostate problems. Welcoming more sexuality into your life may restore your prostate health, leading to your increased comfort with risking erotic connection.
Also, HIV testing has become more streamlined and patient-centred than it was in years past. As your sexual anxiety lessens, you may well feel a sense of security rather than dread in checking your status regularly. Worth considering.
So, you see, there are a number of ways you can feel easier about both your anxiety and your sexual pain. You are stuck only if you do not move.
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