I remember when I first started sleeping with men. I say sleeping, but I was so confused about what I was doing, I felt awkward and a bit like a ‘prop’ in the bedroom. I knew I was physically attracted to other men, but I was still only twenty. I’d had a girlfriend until a couple of months before, and I just didn’t feel any good at being gay or sex with men.

To make matters worse, the black guys I was meeting were so confident about it all. I, on the other hand, had only just realised that black men could be gay!

It was around the time of AIDS, which made things a bit tricky sexually. People were dying, so everywhere you went, the advice was to “use a condom”. Or better still, abstain from penetrative sex altogether because condoms do break.

Although I progressed to a few long-term sexual relationships with guys over time, the first 10 years of my gay life were limited in terms of ‘actual fucking’.  That would be absolutely unheard of now and totally not the norm. In the years coming out of the AIDS crisis, it definitely wasn’t unusual for guys to meet to have a lot of fun, but not always fuck.

This might explain my appreciation of proper foreplay and sensual exploration in bed, which I’m very grateful for, to be honest. But I also appreciate the actual people I am intimate with and not just their body parts, which is now the prevalent attitude, at least online.

I like to think I’m free thinking sexually, open-minded even, but online apps are actually turning me off sex. Once used as a tool to meet like-minded men, many black men I speak to talk of having to ‘take breaks’ or coming off websites and hook-up apps completely to preserve their mental health. What’s going on?

Sex and roles:

People these days seem obsessed with sexual roles.  I might describe myself as ‘top’ or ‘top vers’ on my online profile, but if someone approaches me with the initial question, ‘Are you Top?’ I will say, ‘No, that’s not my name.’

I guess because I’m looking for a bit more than just ’a bottom’. The greatest sex I’ve had is when there’s been amazing chemistry with the person I’m sexing. So, let’s at least spend a couple of minutes formally introducing ourselves before we jump into the sexual details.

It is always disappointing when you meet or date a guy that ticks all the boxes physically but just really isn’t the right person in the end. There is only so much of the ‘dog in the park’ syndrome I can take.  We have two legs, not four. But that is how dogs do it, isn’t it? They meet, mate, and run to the next without any attachment to their last entanglement.

Complicated controlling sexual behaviour

That hot guy you’ve been talking to who describes himself as top gets really offended and goes off you entirely because you asked to see or made reference to his butt.

‘No, I’m a Top’ (angry sighs stamping of feet).

Yes, we’ve established that…. but you still have an ass – I’m not asking to penetrate it. It’s just nice to know that my man has a nice backside, which I’d quite like to touch without trying to dismantle anybody’s masculinity!

It’s all just a bit limited. For some guys being a ‘top’ directly correlates to their sense of masculinity rather than what’s in their hearts or their general behaviour as men. So, any attention paid to their ass becomes a threat to their manhood. You can’t even touch it. It’s a no-go zone.

You also get the ‘bottom’ guy that gets annoyed or indignant because you’ve described yourself as a top, but you’ve sent them a picture that shows a tiny bit of your rump. “Are you sure you’re a top?” they’ll enquire! I mean, really?

They need a real man, they’ll tell you.  Yawn.

DL or Dickhead:

People can often show you who they are or act out who they are by their attitudes to sex and their self-definitions. Plenty of black guys online actually think DL represents them in some kind of kool, positive and even more masculine light. In my experience, that term often describes someone who may be ‘unusually paranoid’ about being gay. Not exactly a strength.

Sex and the single black gay man

I’ve had a guy turn up at my house and literally run from his car into my flat Beirut-style with his jacket over his head. Then stand near the window, adjusting my blinds, asking for a breakdown of who knows I’m into men. He doesn’t want anybody seeing him going into the house of any known homosexual. You best believe I was showing him the door shortly after that.

To the guys who don’t kiss nor suck nipples, those who just wanna get rammed without foreplay, and if you’re looking for a walk-in dick or have a general fear of intimacy, I’m not feeling you either.  Please note, that’s nothing to do with the sexual act but rather an inability to connect with who you are. 

I marvel at men who describe kissing as ‘too intimate’ but are quite happy to let someone jockey up in their back passage for a couple of hours.

Gay men seem to think they can opt-out of natural human behaviours when it comes to sex because they are gay – or want to detach themselves emotionally, for whatever reason, from the act.

Drugs: Another Control Story!?

While I believe in ‘whatever floats your boat’, I note the proliferation of chemical addiction among many users of gay online apps. Like me, many other men are now clearly stating ‘No HNH’ on their profiles.  I have seen drug use ranging from a severe addiction to people making recreational choices about their sex lives, including drugs.

Not to judge or minimise anyone’s demons with drug use but in general:

  • Do not waste my time chatting to me for an hour before you decide we could never get it together because I don’t do chemicals (boring and insulting)
  • Please do not keep me waiting for 3 hours until you can score drugs so you can then become horny and attracted to me.
  • Please do not make arrangements for me to meet you for some 1 on 1 fun – and open the door to have me step into a drug-fuelled orgy akin to the last days of the Roman Empire!

There is something to be said about getting high to relax and enjoy consenting sexual activity. When it no longer appears to be a choice but a necessity, that’s a red flag and another story.

Sex in conclusion

In general, it seems so much energy in ‘gay life’ is channelled into the procurement of quick disposable sexual encounters. This sadly might not be the case if it were equally acceptable for men to love, make love with and nurture other men in stable relationships across all cultures. 

This love and nurturing might be even more challenging for black men who have to deal with marginalisation across the globe and racism and rampant objectification in the gay world.

While I may not be looking for love and marriage online, the reality of gay online apps is that most men can’t even commit to casual sex friendships. They can also be quite deceptive about their intentions until they get the sex they want and move on.

At this point, we could ask ourselves what constitutes good sex? For many of us single black gay males, good sex is regular mutually satisfying sex with a buddy, friend or partner. Like myself, these are precisely the people being alienated from online dating apps, those who seek to use these platforms to meet people for deeper friendships. Where to now?

We should, of course, be appreciative of the benefits associated with technology. Let’s also be mindful that electronic communication allows us to chat with 100 people at once. This ability to “connect” with countless more people every time we log on has promoted ‘unnatural’ self-serving behaviour that view sex as a quick fix and people and their feelings as expendable and replaceable.

As food for thought, a friend of mine felt quite conflicted recently. He said he needed to return to a well-known mobile dating/sex app to meet people while at the same time knowing that this app was making him extremely unhappy!

You may also like Black Gay Men Must Stop Normalising Sexual Assault.


  1. Mark, this is a great article and while you write from the perspective of a black man having sex with men, much of what you said resonates with me (a white guy) too. A lot of my attitudes were also shaped by the AIDS crisis and from work I did at the AIDS Action Committee in the late 90s. I never thought about how that may have shaped my desire and love of foreplay but I think you might be on to something here. I 100% agree that the best sex I’ve had has been with guys I have a connection with and who are passionate kissers. Without either, I don’t care how handsome a guy is or how impressive his dick or ass might be.

    I’m curious what your thoughts are about men who fetishize races or categorically exclude certain races? Both profiles make me uncomfortable. I regularly see black men on apps who say they only like white men, or white men who say they only like a certain race (often black or Asian). However, the most troubling (for me) is the accounts stating they are not sexually attracted to a specific race. Here I more often see this leveled at Asian men. In 2014, I wrote an article, “Sexual racism: When does your preference become racist?” to articulate my frustrations with these profiles.

    • Hi, thanks for your response. On the face of it, I see nothing wrong with ‘preferences’ when it comes to sex. It is natural for me to generally have sexual relationships with other black men – men who share racial and cultural similarities to myself. However, it doesn’t follow that I should then seek to denigrate, put down or fail to see the physical beauty in any other race. The issue of ‘preference’ cannot be separated from issues around respect, and this is where fetishisation comes into play. The sexual stereotyping of black men is a commonplace and accepted part of gay online culture. These labels are applied in profiles and frankly would not be tolerated to the same degree if used to reference other races. I’m definitely tired of being approached as some kind of sexual ‘savage’ or ‘novelty’. It doesn’t help that a minority of black men buy into these racist tropes – but the culture deems it acceptable.


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