ADVICE from BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they sit around telling each other their life's stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big, hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?

Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around the block a couple of times, please send them to

And in case you're worried that you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the way.

So let me know what's on your mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one), let me have a crack at it. It is, after all, what bears do best.



Dear Max,

I am taking medication that leaves me unable to perform sexually. You've heard the phrase "up and at 'em"? I can't get "up," much less "at 'em." Also, I have a skin condition called prurigo nodularis. which results in scablike nodules on parts of my body. There is no cure for this condition, but it isn't contagious. I would like to meet someone, but don't feel comfortable getting naked, and even if I did, not being able to perform is an issue. It's tough when the ads I read want partners for "endless sex." I hate to be alone, but don't know what alternatives I have.



Dear Scott,

I have to admit that it was difficult coming up with a response that would not seem hollow in light of your situation. A breakthrough moment came when I reread your reference to "endless sex." I wonder if anyone seriously believes that endless sex is an achievable reality, or if it is a substitute for what most of use really want: companionship, communication, love, and sex in doses so realistic that variability in kind and frequency is enormous. A "reasonable" frequency for some guys might not even be what others would consider sex.

But men (especially gay men) seem conditioned to want (or think they should want) some kind of super sex, even though little things like jobs that pay the bills, emotional swings, and even age and disability keep getting in the way of that skewed ideal. I think that it's probably far easier for us to say that we want endless sex than to say that we want something that can include it, but can go deeper. The reality of wanting something deeper is that once we achieve it, sex might play only a featured role, a role that can diminish in time, leaving the core of a relationship that might be what we would have been happier wanting in the first place.

Let me observe that there is more to sex, endless or otherwise, than an erection, and that medical interventions like Viagra might be helpful (although I'm not qualified to say that Viagra would work for you). I could also state that sex can be achieved with clothing on, especially if the clothing enhances a look that excites your partner. But I'm sure that none of this will come as news to you or offer a magic solution when it seems that the core issues involve expectations.

Maybe I have been the odd man out all my life, because cock size and even the inability of a cock to become erect have never got in my way when sizing up a potentially satisfying sexual experience. I'll wager, however, that I am not the only man on the face of the earth who refuses to get hung up on a partner's ability to have sex in the usual way. Maybe that means that one of these days you'll be looking through an ad, or placing one of your own, that's not just about the ability of an organ to swell at the sight of another one. BENT's Direct Discourse, in fact, might be a good place to start looking for what you really need.

When I talk about the value of companionship, I want to insist that that does not necessarily mean putting sex on a back burner. Just as there are more than fifty ways to leave a lover, there are many ways to have sex. Some of them depend on how willing you are to accommodate someone else's needs while taking a more "passive role," which is, in reality, not passive at all since it often means doing most of the hard work. And please keep in mind that the greatest sex organ of all is not the one between your legs, but the one between your ears. Of course, that will also mean convincing others that what we normally view as sex is just one aspect of a very broad spectrum called sexuality.

Sex can be as esoteric as the creative mind lets it be. And who says that esoterotica (my word, thank you) isn't as viable and satisfying as the old in-and-out of whatever cavity turns you on? What I am saying, Scott, is that you face hurdles that make jumping into the sack more of a marathon than it might be for others. Many people will avoid the arduous route that running in place with you might present and take, instead, the shortcut to orgasm that might only leave them wanting more once it's evident that their partners have also gone on to the next race.

In the long run, I believe what most people who have been together for long periods of time come to learn: that having someone in bed next to them who they respect and love is far more important than having that eternal erection that seems more important in the time of life when it is usually granted in an endless supply. Persevere, let people know what you have to offer, then let them decide if they can handle it and make sexual magic with you.

You've made a start by stating who you are and not apologizing for it. Now look for someone realistic enough to know that endless sex might only lead to endless headaches, while companionship is the need of the soul. Good luck, Scott. You deserve it.


© 2004 Max Verga


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MAX VERGA has been an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. His work is featured in "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories," edited by Bob Guter and John R. Killacky (Harrington Park Press, 2003). For more about Max, see his longer biography.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/May 2004