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6 min

Let them down gently

A player's guide to rejecting & getting rejected

HOW TO SAY NO. Don't haul out a list of reasons why you're not going to bone the guy -- unless he asks. Credit: (RJ Martin)

That bestseller by the Sex And The City scribe says it best: He’s Just Not That Into You.

When it comes to man-on-man sex, there’s no simpler way to explain the reasons guys reject guys. Maybe once he rode you like he owned you, while these days it feels more like he’s renting you. Or maybe you didn’t even get that far with him — how could you when he ignores all the messages you send him on the various on-line sex hookup websites? Or your sly winks at the bar? Or your frantic gesturing from within the naked masses at a sex party?

The reality is that sexual rejection is no fun regardless of which end of it you’re on. Making matters worse, while some fags don’t take rejection well, some don’t give it well, either.

Like the other afternoon when, feeling whorish, I checked into a local bathhouse. Having spotted a target — a hot muscle pig — I sat on my bed, door open, ready to meet ‘n’ greet.

A figure which wasn’t my oinker filled the doorway; I was uninterested.

“No, thank you,” I smiled.

My gentleman caller stared. He breathed. But he did not leave. I shook my head. He remained in the doorway. “I’m not into it,” I said. He began rubbing a withered crotch through his towel. I shut my eyes, counting to five before opening them. He was still there, like a stubborn cold sore. I looked away, studying the bottle of poppers next to my bed. Into my room he came, reaching for my bare leg.

“Touch me and I’ll break your hand off.”

He left.

That incident made me realize how quickly sexually rejecting someone can go from polite to unpleasant. I assembled an advisory team (names have been changed) to find out how others manage the ethics of sexual rejection.

My team is unanimous that being as non-offensive as possible was always the best first option, though all concede that stronger tactics are sometimes needed. Dan, 41, says being on the receiving end of the rejection requires a grace that is at least equal to that hopefully employed by the giver.

“Ideally, people should understand and accept sexual rejection, which is how I handle it. You shrug your shoulders and move on. There’s lots more cock out there.”

My advisors also concurred that good rejection strategies differ, depending on the location.

“Sexual rejection is hardest when you’re face-to-face,” says Gilles, 56. “Turning someone down at a bar or at the tubs is way trickier than rejecting someone from the safety of your computer or over a phone hookup line. At the bars or baths you will always meet someone who won’t take no for an answer no matter how many ways you say it.”

Mitch, 33, is baffled over guys who can’t take a hint, recalling a drunken encounter at a bar that had unwanted hands running up and down the inside of his shirt, despite his protestations. “I wonder about people who don’t get the clue when I push their hands away. I don’t know what to say.”

These awkward situations could be one of the myriad reasons why websites are now such a popular cruising choice. In cyberspace flirting is hands-off, somewhat-to-completely anonymous; virtual sexual rejection seems to make life easier for everyone.

If my friend Hugo, 37, receives an e-mail from someone he’s not into, he just ignores it. While ignoring a virtual flirt sure beats coming up with excuses to get your point across in person, is there no room for even a polite “no thanks”? Not from Hugo.

“It feels better to be ignored than to have someone send you back a message to actually say they aren’t interested,” he says. “Even if you say, ‘You sound really hot, but…,’ a compliment doesn’t mean anything if there’s rejection within it. To me it’s better being ignored and not knowing.”

Hugo is quick to admonish on-line players who are rude when they respond negatively to his advances. “Like the ones who respond back saying, ‘Did you not read my ad? I’m not looking for your type.’ Those are the rude ones and those are the ones I hate. I write back: ‘Stop being so fucking rude,’ and then I block them right away so I get the last word.”

Like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, many on-line cruisers will not be ignored. Obnoxious or even stalker-esque e-mails can swamp a busy cruiser. While easier to handle than an inebriated octopus at a bar, cyber-persistence is still a pain in the inbox.

Dan employs the popular “block” feature found on most phone lines and web hookup sites.

“The mystery of no reply is way less harmful to our fragile egos than rejection,” Dan says. “But some people don’t accept this, and you’ll get the occasional pus-spitting poison puff adder response from some guy who takes personal affront that you ignored their communication. Those definitely get blocked.”

If sexual hookup missions are successful, man and man will shortly get face-to-face physical; it might not be until then that someone realizes it ain’t gonna work.

“I just try to level with the person,” says Mitch. “‘Hey, you know what? This just isn’t working for me.’ Not in an accusatory way. As casually as we came across each other, whether it’s a hookup line or a bathhouse, that’s as casually as we should be able to go our separate ways.”

Ideally, sure, but there’s always going to be that guy who demands to know exactly why, which brings us to the ickiest question on the ethics of sexual rejection. Is it better to be direct? Offer helpful advice if need be? Or is it better to save on any hurt feelings or embarrassment? Here, the pros are divided.

“My big line is: ‘It’s not you, it’s me,'” Hugo says. “Or I’ll say that I’m not feeling well, or that the poppers made me lose my hard-on.”

“I can think of an instance playing with my boyfriend and another guy in Florida at a bathhouse,” Mitch recalls. “The closer we got to this guy’s butt, the less I wanted to be there. My boyfriend and I gave each other a look and whenever one of us does that, the rule is — we’re going. The guy did ask why, and I just told him it was nothing personal, just the way I was feeling.”

You don’t tell him, “Your hoo-hoo is a little poo-poo”?

“I don’t think I’ve ever rejected a person by pointing out a flaw of theirs,” says Mitch. “Maybe someone with stinky breath or a stinky butt needs to know, but I don’t think it’s my job to tell them that.”

Gilles does see it as his responsibility.

“Whether it’s our chemistry or whether it’s something like bad hygiene, I figure we’re all part of the community and if someone knows better then everyone will have a better time the next time.”

My panel is more comfortable being explicit with someone who is being dishonest.

“A while ago I hooked up with a guy on the Internet,” says Dan. “When I answered the door, the guy was a good 15 to 20 years older than the guy in the ad. I said, ‘Sorry, those aren’t your photos in your ad,’ and promptly shut the door.”

Rejection on the basis of HIV status is another tricky one.

“These days you have to tell your status,” says Mitch, who is HIV-positive. “One guy I disclosed to wouldn’t let me fuck him and wouldn’t suck my dick, but he would let me suck his. So I was rejected from certain sexual activities. I also know people who reject others if they assume a poz status because of something like lipodystrophy [when fat is distributed abnormally in the face and body]. I guess that’s their right, as long as they’re nice about it and are respectful.”

The terrain of fuckbuddies, friends and romantic partners — and all the landscape combinations they form — is another rough road to drive.

Gilles says he makes the boundaries clear from the beginning — and doesn’t allow a fuckbuddy to get ideas that they’ll be getting intimate in other ways. Which is no guarantee. Mitch and his boyfriend enjoyed a boy-toy together for many months. But what began as pure sexual fun grew into more complex emotional feelings. They decided to end it.

“When we did reject him, I levelled with him and said we weren’t feeling it the same way and we had to take some time apart,” says Mitch. “We stopped making plans. He was so cool with it. He had his own life. He was still seeing other guys and going to the tubs.”

Mitch and his boyfriend remain friends with their former trick, which highlights what could be the golden rule: being cool starts with a kind no-thank-you, given and accepted with dignity. There should be no other motives or imagined slights read into the rejection; both parties should behave as if the conversation never happened.

As for rejecting strangers, no matter where you meet them, it’s just as simple: treat them as you would a friend. Unless, of course, your persistent pursuer makes you feel like you want to break his hand.