Cruising for sex, dating, and looking for guys to meet up with online can sometimes make us say or do things we wouldn’t expect. Being careful about how we treat each other means we’re less likely to cause harm and more likely to have the sex we’re looking for.
Sometimes hooking up and dating can makes us say or do things without thinking them through — things like making assumptions or rude comments, stopping conversations or friendships, suddenly “ghosting”, or not being clear about your intentions. These are small things that can impact how we feel about ourselves and how we treat each other.
Think about how this kind of behavior might be creating a culture where we’re only interested in ourselves, and where we might not be in the best position to look out for each other’s health and safety. Treat other guys the way you’d like to be treated. Here are some things we can all do to contribute to the creation of communities that are better for us and our health:
- Honesty. Being real with each other about what makes us feel good, what’s going on with us, and how we can keep each other healthy can be hard sometimes, but is necessary for a trusting community. And if someone confides in you, respond with respect and care.
- Gratitude. Being honest isn’t easy when it comes to our health or our stories. If somebody tells you they have an STI, they’re doing you a favor by letting you know, so you can get checked and treated and stop the chain of transmission. When someone tells you about what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable in bed, it’s because they want to have the best possible time with you. Saying thanks goes a long way.
- Awareness. There are lots of things that gay guys in particular might be going through or dealing with in their lives, whether it’s mental health, how we’re judged by others, family stuff, how we feel about our bodies, or bumping against some of the nastier attitudes that shape our society today. Being aware of our own stressors is important. So is knowing that our own behavior has the potential to impact other people’s mental and physical health.
- Undoing discrimination. Watching our language on dating and hook-up apps. Learn about sexual racism and how it shows up in cruising, or about the impact of language like “no fats, no femmes.” Not respecting somebody’s identity or pronouns is transphobia, and some language can perpetuate stigma against poz guys like “clean” or “DND free.” This stuff might not seem like a big deal, but it can cause harm and make hook up apps unsafe for some guys. The effects of discrimination can make it difficult to make decisions we feel good about.
- Getting tested, getting treated: Each individual is part of a network of guys having sex with each other. Because we’re all connected, it really matters in the community overall if each of us takes care of our health. Part of this is knowing your HIV status and getting tested regularly for other sexually transmitted infections. By testing regularly and treating quickly, we can lower STIs and HIV in our community, which is good for everyone’s health.
- Getting vaccinated: Staying up-to-date on your vaccines — including HPV and mpox — can help reduce the chances of getting these viruses or passing them on.
- Calling out stigma. Mean, cruel, and ignorant attitudes exist about all sorts of things that guys are dealing with, like HIV status, disability, cultural background, race, different bodies, gender identity and so much more. If you see people acting out of stigma or discrimination, and you feel safe to do it, call it out so people know it’s not okay with you.
- No pressure. Sex is something you share, so it’s better for both (or all) guys when nobody pushes each other into stuff they don’t want to do, like fuck without a condom or try something they’re not ready for.
- Speaking up. We can all find and practice ways to say what we are or are not comfortable with — “I know you’re on PrEP, but it’ll be easier for me to relax if we use a condom.” This can make space for others to do the same.
- Listening and responding. Remember that sex can be a conversation, requiring us to think ahead of time about how to share and how to react. There are lots of things we’ll be telling each other and hearing about HIV status, sexual history, or the things we need from each other to go ahead with a hook up.
- Consent. How can you be sure everyone agrees to what’s going on? It can mean asking permission to do something sexual and backing off when somebody doesn’t respond well, even if they don’t say it aloud. After all, we don’t always speak during sex. It can even be as easy as asking, “You like that?”
- Slow motion. Practicing good consent involves reading body language, and sometimes slowing the action down a little bit to check in and make sure he’s enjoying himself, too.
- Open minds. Holding back judgements or assumptions when somebody talks about what they like to do sexually makes more space for us to be honest about the sex we want. You might not always be turned on by the same things as each other, but there’s no reason to make someone feel bad about what they’re into.
- Space to talk. Make sure there’s some time to ask any questions about sexual health, and to share anything that might be good to know.
- People can speak for themselves, if you let them. Gossiping or talking about other people’s health, tastes, kinks or experiences is not only childish – it can damage our community by undermining trust and care.