Written by Roman Johnson

Author's Note: Writing this has been difficult. I have been fearful being rejected by family-of-origin —many of whom are homophobic, and wouldn’t welcome my account—for printing my truth. I will not be shamed into silence. Composing this piece was a turning point for me in confronting the lie that my authentic self is not valuable, and that sexuality was all about desirability and not, in part, emotional intimacy for me. I open my mouth, and let truth cut where it may, heal when it wishes.

We live our lives at the crossroads of sexual scripts and streams of soul-touching intimacy.

During my kid days, I heard things like “if you haven’t smashed before, you ain’t a real dude” and “why haven’t you had some, what’s in your pants?” Here, I learned sexuality was transactional, and typically violent; it was about performing your worth as a person through fucking. Long after this, even after I assumed I’d outgrown this way of thinking, I discovered the expectation was still lodged in my breast bone.

Traveling to Morocco, I wanted to find a foreign guy with enough swag and understanding of how imperialism, racism, and patriarchy worked, enough at least to make me want to ask for his number. Last summer, during my travels, I met a Spanish guy in the south of Spain who looked like he was a descendant of the Moors, a morisco. He was beautiful like the slipping skin of a coconut, the fruit peering through. I met him on Grindr, which as usual, made me really nervous. I was nervous because I am what you would call a late sexual bloomer. Before meeting him in person, I imagined connecting with him energetically wise because I knew I was physically attracted to him.

Before I went to meet him, I took a shower. I made sure I was shaved and, when walking, swathing the scent of my favorite “African Musk” roll-on cologne, the kind that you buy from the brother on the street with locks and a kufi on top of his head. As I was getting to the guy’s house, I noticed the old city feel of the area and the Spanish graffiti lining the shops. Seeing the graffiti and the Muslim era aesthetic on the buildings set the ambiance to meeting this person who, hopefully, was more interesting than the very flat and mayonnaise place I was coming from. The place I was seeing sparked romantic feelings in me. Maybe meeting this guy would make me feel like as beautiful as the Arab doors in this city that is several centuries old. I hoped my sex experience would be as deep and intimate as the city as old.   

Finally, I arrived to meet him in a square near a prominent sports arena. We walked to his house, which gave me a chance to show off my intermediate level Spanish, and communicated about our days. His eyes were a beautiful brown. He had an almond shaped head, and was bald, and I had an affinity was bald headed guys because I associated that with emotional comfort. I hoped that all his beauty and the small things I liked about him would add up to him being about to touch something more than physical in me.

But I didn’t feel any spark when we met.

Thinking that sex would change that, I marched on hopeful that I was too much in my head. We got to his apartment and undressed and got right to business, but I couldn’t continue because I just wasn’t feeling anything. It’s almost unexplainable, but when we hugged, I felt no plunge or hike jumps in my stomach, it was just regular. I, shyly, said I couldn’t do it. I was embarrassed because I felt like I should have been able to make myself get aroused because here was this beautiful man. Here I was in Spain, and having a chance to get down with a beautiful man (with protection of course), and I was wasting the opportunity.  I had a conversation with myself that evening as I was walking back to my hotel room. I wrestled with the experience because I wanted to have this experience, could not force my body to do something that my feelings were not quite ready for yet. I had previous experiences where I felt like I had kissed the same thing that made fireflies appear after years gone. These were sex experiences that make my grab my face in fulfillment.  

So, I left his place, and make the fifteen minute stroll to my place that seemed like hours. I kept wringing myself for not having sex. Finally, I arrived at my hotel room, and stare at my phone. I reminded myself that if I don’t feel aroused, I can’t force myself to become aroused. After a couple of hours has transpired, I am still in my bed, and the guy asks me if I wanted to get some beers with him in the evening. Of course, I wanted to do that. I met him in the square and he asked me why I wasn’t more honest with him from the beginning. I disappointed him because he looked forward to our meet-up. I told him I didn’t know. I just had to go with my feeling. We didn’t touch that night, but I appreciate any man who asks me to be transparent, vulnerable.