Sex, sex and more sex. It seems that sex is everywhere; from ads depicting scantily clothed men and women as a marketing ploy, to debates on the importance of abstaining from pre-marital sex. Sex is a (taboo) topic we all like to talk about.

However, talking about sex does not always mean that we thoroughly explore the meaning of sex. This is because sex has been gendered so that men talk about the number of partners while women talk about the emotional experience of sex. It appears that, to ‘become a man’, one has to have as many sexual conquests as possible. It is very rare for men to talk about the non-physical aspects of sex, such as emotions and relationships. Some men may fear that they will be emasculated if they talk about these issues with their peers following the persistence of rigid hegemonic masculinity in our society.

Gay men are not immune from this. A lot of gay men brag about their latest sexual conquests. It seems that gay sexual culture praises those who are sexually active and/or have multiple sexual partners. Like men in general, not many gay men feel comfortable talking about the emotional side of sex. Moreover, some gay men may feel pressured to have multiple sexual partners when, in reality, they are looking for intimacy and a fulfilling relationship.

Talking about sex is usually not followed by conversations on sexual health. Some gay men may be afraid to be labelled as prudes if they wish to establish conversation about maintaining good sexual health. Some may be afraid of being labelled if they ‘catch’ an STI or HIV or if they initiate a discussion about sexual health. This cone of silence can result in some men not being properly informed about sexual health and/or not knowing how to talk about safe sex with their sexual partners.

In short, talking about numbers is more prevalent than talking about reducing the risk of STI and HIV transmission and negotiating safe sex.

Can we really talk about sex?

Men should not fear associating sex with intimacy, yet the social norm of masculinity often prohibits such connection. Normalising conversation about the emotional side of sex as well as sexual health can facilitate a thorough discussion about sex. Through such dialogue, peers explore the non-physical aspect of sex as well as challenging some myths around sex, emotions and sexual health. It can also expand the current understanding of masculinity, encouraging men to view sex holistically.

By BUDI SUDARTO, Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre

The Relationships workshop offered by the Victorian AIDS Council/ Gay Men’s Health Centre provides an opportunity for men to talk about relationships, sex and sexual health. Contact 9865 6700 or [email protected] or visit our website

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