At 30, I’m Finally Tackling My Intense Fear Of Sex

AIDS and a battle with body dysmorphia fueled a lifelong avoidance of intimacy.
Publish date:
May 1, 2014
relationships, issues

My introduction to homosexuality, and subsequently gay sex, came by way of death and a slur. Now, I don’t remember a lot about my dead uncle or his funeral. I can recall being six-years-old, walking up to a casket and crying. He was dead and I was a child: you do the math.

The only other thing I distinctly remember about my uncle is the vitriol spewed about him by my drunk, habitually angry father. My father had a habit of disclosing information he otherwise opted to forgo whenever he was in one of his moods, so not only did I discover that my departed uncle was a heroin addict, but also a gay man or “faggot” as he was described.

As an adult in 2014, these bits of information might provide a fairly clear path to an assumed cause of death. But it was not lost on me as a child that AIDS paved the quicker road to death for a gay man in 1990. What’s interesting about this is while I can only give you the major points of the story, it is one that has haunted me for much of my life and fueled such an immense fear of sex that I am only just now beginning to tackle it.

Sex is something I thought about even as a child. Like the Patron Saint of the Butterfly and 8 Count (Janet Jackson) once said in an interview with the now defunct Blender magazine, "As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that I had a very active sexual mind at a very young age. I hope that doesn't sound bad." Oh, Janet, you could never say anything wrong.

Like Saint Damita Jo, I always had “little fantasies” and on many occasions, acting them out with other children – boys and girls alike – during recess and naptime. Once puberty hit, my hormones placed shackles around my – umm, there – and didn’t relinquish control until…ha, any day now. My friends noticed.

In high school, one of my best friends called me “Perv” -- she still does. The very first friend I made in college describes my club activity as follows: “Yeah, Mike, you dance really sexual. Like it’s the first of the month and rent is due.” One of my best friends called me “Hoettie McDaniels” via text the other morning. Yes, I’m blessed with wonderful people in my life.

Be that as it may, it wasn’t until I was 21 when I actually tried to initiate sex, and not until 23 when I did the full act. I’m only now at 30 starting to truly embrace the Lil’ Kim line, “I used to be scared of the d*ck, now I throw lips to the sh*t.” The way the Lord intended.

To be fair, there was a nice battle with body dysmorphia that helped push this fear of intimacy. But even after my body shifted from Theodore Seville to Alvin, I could get it up, but I couldn’t follow through. In my mind, if I was going to have sex, it needed to be with someone I loved. Someone essentially “worth the risk.”

The problem with that logic laid in the unfortunate reality that I am a magnet for unattainable men and unhealthy emotional attachments. That sentence just described 90 percent of my 20s, and the two men I wasted an entire decade chasing in vain.

In my frustration with each, I ended up engaging in the very sort of activity that would lead me to a shortened life full of way too many pills. This would include literally pulling a virtual stranger off the street in anger. We did go get condoms, but that ended in abrupt dismissal all the same. Two years later, I ended up having sex with a friend of a man I had just shaded out of rage over finding out he had had sex with another guy.

What did having drunk, angry sex in public accomplish? Absolutely nothing besides wasting what was supposed to be a special moment. For the next couple of years, I would initiate acts and then abruptly stop -- again and again. It was like “The Mr. Blue Balls Show World Tour.”

Then around 2011 two separate doctors told me that I had syphilis and Hepatitis C. I was under a lot of stress and might’ve been drinking more than I should have been. The stress resulted in migraines and weird body rashes. When a dermatologist told me that I might have syphilis, I responded: “You have to have sex to get that, right?” I didn’t have syphilis – this particular doctor happened to be an idiot.

Similarly, the crackpot male doctor who immediately suggested whatever STI he could think of to explain my apparent abnormal liver levels when he found out my sexual preference was outtie versus innie. For three days I had to think about whether or not my life would be shortened over having Hep C. I also had to seek comfort in my mother, who to this day is likely trying to pray my gay away. That doctor ultimately said I was Hepatitis C free and that he was merely “exploring all options” and that “I gave you no reason to have any real fear.” Screw him forever.

I wish this was the part where I said: “And it was then that I decided that my libido has been left in the ice box for far too long and it is time to overcome my fears and set it free.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until last fall that I stopped in the middle of the day and said to myself, “Why aren’t you having sex?” I already knew the answer – I’m mortified – but that suddenly wasn’t good enough anymore.

I moved to New York last year to lead the life that I think I deserve. Where I am fulfilled professionally, personally, and yes, sexually. I was doing the work in every facet but that one, and it suddenly hit me to stop denying myself pleasure simply because I was afraid of dying. I’m not currently out having sex with every person I see, but what I am doing is trying to date, open up, and if I feel that connection, let it do what it do…with lube.

I also think I might have found someone that I am pretty sure I love. We haven’t done that yet, but we’ve done enough for me to conclude that we will soon. When it does, I might be somewhat worried, but I’m more afraid of what the rest of my life will be like if I let fear control it. I am in the #Beyhive. I have to really feel the line, “Turn that cherry out, right?” Yes, the answer is yes.

So though there may not be a happy ending to this story, there is a beginning. Better late than never.