I've been lucky; being a young gay man in the 21st Century is certainly different to that of fifty, or even ten, years ago. In essence the law is now on my side, I can love another man freely, I can get engaged and have a civil partnership and, should I wish to do so, adopt children. This must seem like utopia compared to Christopher Isherwood's depictions of underground sexual politics in the 1930's. But, this is not utopia, I am not denying we as a group of people have progressed, in Britain at least, to a state of near-equality; but it seems many gay men are trapped in a Genet-styled prison cell of sexual claustrophobia. The popularity of websites and apps such as 'grindr' and 'ladslads' can lay claim to this. But what does this matter, for we are all consenting adults who can choose, if we so desire, to post suggestive (at best) photos of ourselves? It is argued this is a form of normalisation of our sexual orientation, a way to build a community of 'like minded individuals'.
But that, for me, is the point. We are not like minded. We share a sexual attraction but by creating a culture of posting sexually-explicit material on the internet it is this we are normalising - not that two men can fall in love with each other.
As a young gay man I am acutely aware of the pressure there is to join such websites to create the idea of a community 'where you belong'. But often this is just an additional pressure for you when you're realising your sexuality and/or 'coming out'. This leaves many young men vulnerable and isolated, whether they choose to conform to this or not.
But why has this arisen? To me it boils down to the fact that, at its core, many gay men exist as stereotypes of masculine behaviour (or at least subscribe to this idea).
Here's a little personal encounter from just before I 'came out' a few years ago. I attended a gay community group for a private consultation because I was feeling confused about how I felt concerning my sexuality. After a little way into the conversation they asked me if I'd had any sexual encounters with men. I answered 'no', pinning all my trust in these youth leaders. One of the youth leaders responded 'we can do something about that'*
This attitude is suffocating and unhealthy for young gay men to step into. Let's move on from the dimly lit corridors of the past with brief sexual encounters, step out into the open and breathe air not saturated with the smell of sweat and lubrication.
I'm a young gay man, and I believe we need to change.
*Youth leaders are not a reference to the NSPCC