Dear Dr Ren,
I’m a 23-year-old gay man who might be called a late bloomer. I didn’t date in high school and have had only a couple of boyfriends. Recently, I went to a bathhouse so I could have sex without worrying about getting all anxious. I really connected with a man there and we had great sex. We have continued to see each other.
The problem is that we’ve never had sex again. I don’t know if I’m not being direct enough or if he doesn’t see me as boyfriend material. But we started off so hot! How can I find out what’s keeping us from being lovers?
— Tired of Waiting
Dear Tired of Waiting,
Maybe this an obvious question, but have you thought of asking him directly?
You say you “really connected” and you continue to see each other. But there are significant elements you aren’t telling me. What are you doing when you get together? Do you touch when you greet one another? Are you touching at all?
Possibly you are both feeling socially anxious and are each waiting for the other to take the lead. You went to the bathhouse to avoid the responsibility of social pressure. Perhaps he did as well. If no one initiates, nothing happens.
Another possibility, however, may be that your new guy makes a clear distinction between those he fucks and those he befriends, and he may well assume you do the same. Casual, anonymous sex may be his preference, and without telling him your intentions, why would he assume you feel differently?
When you met, you were strangers sharing nothing but quickie sex. You didn’t have to bother with social niceties, with getting-to-know-you anxieties. You were surprised and delighted when you thought you found an encounter of a more intimate variety, and you hoped you could eliminate the need for the tough business of speaking honestly. As you are learning, there are no shortcuts for clear communication.
Something else may be happening as well. It could be that your new friend’s sexual appetite is much different from yours. Maybe he goes to the bathhouse every few months because that’s how often he craves sexual release, and you just happened to catch him on one of those occasions. He may be thrilled that he’s found someone with the same sexual appetite. Remember, with no clarifying conversation, assumptions appear to be truth.
You now know that you can short-circuit your social anxiety with anonymous sex, but you cannot get to know someone without conversation. Despite your reservations, you must express your intent if you are to establish the relationships you want.
You also know that, desire-driven, you can overcome your social anxiety in a sexually permissive environment like a bathhouse. Transfer that skill to less blatantly sexual — though equally gay-friendly — atmospheres and make it your goal to talk to at least one new person. You’ll quickly gain ease in this situation. The distraction of a steady stream of new men will lessen your dependence on your seemingly unattainable guy. Choice is good.
When you are meeting new people, think about what you have to offer and advance your good qualities. Decide what characteristics you seek in a boyfriend and look for them. Then let nature take its course.
Your bathhouse buddy may be waiting for a signal from you. Give him one. If that’s a dead end, move on. There are lots of fish in the sea. Toss in your line.
Please indulge me these last few words to pay tribute to my lion-hearted hero, Jim Deva, too soon gone. He created a safe place before many of us could even imagine the possibility. Let’s support his loving legacy, the LOUD Scholarship Foundation, at loudbusiness.com