Sexual assault reporting is at a record high among Men who have sex with Men (MSM) with almost 5,000 of us seeking Police intervention annually from 2017-2020 according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures relating to Crime and Justice.

Last year 97% of alleged perpetrators across every category of sexual assaults (inclusive of heteronormative cases) were cis-gendered men, tellingly there were no specific figures on MSM other than our reportage rates – how in the hell is this good enough? We desperately need more research conducted in our multifaceted community.

How many *unreported* assaults occur in our community? Who is shining a light for us? What national and international movements are boldly and befittingly breaking down stigma and shame associated with MSM sexual violence?

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In my opinion, having worked and lived within the confines of the LGBTQI community for a number of years in various incarnations, I believe our contemporary gay society is oversaturated with porn-fuelled misnomers and a ‘digital hook-up’ culture that leaves us vulnerable to the core, and gives abusers more avenues to disempower and dehumanise their victims shrouded beneath the grey area of rape and sexual assault laws.

‘He Turned Into A Power-Tripping Snake’

James*, a close friend of mine, has a healthy sexual appetite and has enjoyed casual trysts for years without so much of a hitch.

It was only until he chanced upon a handsome ‘tall glass of water’ at one of Melbourne’s popular same-sex venues and, after a few too many, he went home with his new Romeo only to become ensconced in a rough arrangement without his full consent.

“He just turned into this power-tripping snake who wrapped himself around me like a vice grip and told me what he was going to do with me, whether or not I actually verbally agreed or not.

“He assumed due to my smallish stature and easygoing attitude I was open to whatever he wanted to do, I wasn’t, yet I didn’t try to stop him in fear of a confrontation or worse, actual physical violence if I didn’t ‘comply’ with his aggressively-charged demands.”

It’s important to differentiate between consensual rough and rowdy sexual activity in dom-sub roleplay ‘something which is incredibly common in our MSM community and, arguably, embedded in our cultural DNA) and non-consensual illicit incidents in the aforementioned story of James.

Many of us have, do and will continue to seek out playmates for the purpose of safe roleplay, when the line is crossed (and the boundaries blurred), induced by supercharged gay porn which is now almost exclusively bareback with ideations of frequent sexual degradation of its performers, it’s harbouring an unhealthy play space for our people.

Stealthing Is Not Illegal In Australia

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Kyle* is currently in a ‘throuple’ relationship with two cis-gendered men and admits to being deeply in love with both. He’s been with his first partner for four years and his most recent boyfriend for 18 months.

Only one of the men in the relationship are on PrEP (the latter partner who we’ll label BF #2) and he is the predominant top in the mix. Both Kyle and his longer-term boyfriend (we’ll call him BF #1) have experienced ‘stealthing’ (when the insertive partner removes a condom without the consent and/or knowledge of the receptive partner) from BF #2.

Neither of them have reported the activity to Police or social services because, according to Kyle, they see BF #2’s actions as “playful and part of his personality”.

The act of ‘stealthing’ is not illegal in Australia in itself, but knowingly transmitting an STI is illegal, furthermore it forms a dialogue around domestic violence and of violating the trust and sanctity of another persons’ body. In 2018 the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre found one in five men had reported being ‘stealthed’ by either a casual or committed partner.

Cruise With Respect

Healthy communities need healthy bodies and minds, I cannot speak for many of the letters in the LGBTQI acronym because I do not identify as such, yet hopefully what I’ve touched upon in my article gets people to think about their choices and make better decisions.

I hope it helps guys in the MSM community do everything they can to put themselves in safe situations, to make other men redouble their efforts to cruise for sex with respect at the forefront of their minds. We need more focus on this issue and I pray in earnest we get it.

R. Edward Smith is a Melbourne-based health professional and writer – IG: @Robby_Edward.

 

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

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