I went to a gay, jockstrap party last weekend. Here's what I learned..
Yup, so this really happened. And yes there is a message attached to this that will come haha. But let me start from the top though:
So I go over to my friend’s place this past Saturday evening just to hang out. He’s an older guy, a free spirit and artist that resides in Harlem, in all its rich culture and history. When I come over, we usually chat it up, talk about photography, listen to some good music, and connect over what’s been going on in our lives. He’s a photographer himself, and he likes to tell me that I’m his muse-- so naturally, we work together a lot as well. Anywho, he tells me he’s got a friend that’s throwing an underwear themed party and he promised the friend that he would go. I’m already at his place, and in the mood to be social, so I’m open to the idea of getting the night started.
“Look, there’s a facebook event page with a promo video, take a look at it.”
I take a look at it. And it’s a whole lot of hunky dudes in jockstraps. The video flashes messages of “no sex and no nudity.” In my head, I’m thinking “well, if they have to say not to do that, it must be an issue.” Mind you, I don’t have a problem being around gay men, I’ve been to plenty of gay bars/clubs wingmaning for one of my close buddies who had just come out. But because that was the main light I had seen gay men in, I had this stereotype in my mind that gay men love to party; they’re extremely outgoing, confident, and hypersexual.
So I see that video and think: “Oh, it’s that kind of party.” He tells me there’s going to be male strippers there too, so that doesn’t help the image I already had in my mind either!
I told him that I’m good, that he can go and I’ll just go home. Definitely didn’t want to see penises just hanging out like that haha.
But he starts teasing me about being close-minded. “You know, you don’t have to do anything-- just hang out and see what it’s like” he says. I start laughing, “obviously I don’t have to do anything.” And I do begin to think about how far I’ve come. Can’t believe at one point, I was strongly uncomfortable with the idea of a man being into other men, I was definitely homophobic growing up. So I said you know what, this is another experience that’ll help me grow as a person-- and he really wanted to go, so let me compromise and go where he wants to go, before we hit this lounge that I was planning to take him to.
I also figured it may be an underwear party, but hopefully I can keep my clothes on.
We get there. First of all, it’s one of those nights in NY where the weather app says it “Feels like: 5 degrees.” Really not the time for an underwear party, even if it is inside. So I go in first, and the bouncer tells me you have to get down to your underwear, that you can leave your shirt on, and you’ve got to check your phone in with your clothes. I said “whatttt. No no no!” I didn’t want be in my underwear! In my arrogance and discomfort, I thought to myself: “I don’t want to be in my underwear around dudes that are going to have their eyes on me anyway!”
It was so cute though. Even the bouncer and my buddies friend that was organizing the party could tell I was uncomfortable. They tried to tell me that there were girls in the club too (which by the way there weren’t and that I could leave my shirt on). But I was just not having it, so they gave me my cover money back and told me I could think about it. I went outside to tell my friend I couldn’t do it, but I felt bad for making this about me. I could tell I was taking the experience away from him, because he wasn’t going to just leave me outside. I didn’t want him to have to accommodate for my discomfort so I thought about it for a bit and finally said fuck it, I came all the way to the place, I might as well experience this.
And well I figured, if I truly am secure about my sexuality, it won’t matter where I am or what I’m doing!
So I did. I went in. And here comes the big takeaway.
IT WAS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER FUCKING PARTY!
Okay obviously it was a bunch of dudes and we were all in our t-shirts and underwears. But honestly it was exactly how it would’ve been given any other circumstance!
Here’s what I noticed:
"this was just an uncomfortable party for a lot of people that were there to get out of their comfort zone. Isn’t that what I was doing?"
There were guys there of all ages. And given it was an underwear party, people were super uncomfortable and shy to get down to their undies. Obviously you had the outgoing, confident guys with nice bodies that were fine doing their thing, but it was really just like every other party I had been to, except there weren’t any females:
There were the shy guys just hanging by the wall and watching everyone else socialize, drink, and dance. There were the antisocial ones that were sitting in the bar chairs and flipping through their phones. There were the guys that came there by themselves just to be around other people, but not wanting to actually interact with anyone-- they just wanted to have a drink and listen to good music. There were guys that were looking to hookup, there were couples there doing their PDA thing, and sure I was being approached too. Eventually the two male strippers showed up looking extra scandalous, and began hyping everyone up as they got the dance floor going. One of them definitely had a strap on extending his jockstrap into a mighty long-- okay, I couldn’t stop looking, it was a lot haha. I was leaning against the wall observing everything, when someone next to me leaned in and said exactly what I was thinking in my mind: “Man I’m just taking this all in, there’s so much going on, and I definitely didn’t expect this.” And that’s when I also realized, gay or straight, man or woman, this was just an uncomfortable party for a lot of people that were there to get out of their comfort zone. Isn’t that what I was doing? *lightbulb*
Even as we were leaving, a guy outside asked me how it was in there. I told him what it was like, and after thinking about it for a few seconds, he gave me this look of: “Yeah, I’m not ready for that” and thanked me before walking off. Hey, you are where you are.
I’m so glad I went. I met so many nice people in there that just wanted to make sure I was having a good time. They were even sad to see us go when we did. Moral of the story is, I’m sure I sound pretty sheltered and close-minded, but there aren’t many straight men that would put themselves in the situation that I did. And I don’t just mean to point this pattern out in straight men, I think we all have an issue of not putting ourselves in foreign, uncomfortable situations enough. Without feeling threatened, we should be able to embrace one another’s spaces and learn from each other. I walked in purposely making a point that I was different from everyone, but walked out feeling like I was just like everyone else in the room. Why? Because I saw the qualities in everyone there that I’ve seen in myself-- that’s where empathy and true connection come from.
Almost none of my non-Sikh friends have been to the gurdwara (Sikh temple) with me or on their own. I stereotype white men and think that their privilege won’t allow them to be able to relate to me, so I don’t make the effort either. People are hesitant to seek mental help and be prescribed medication for their illnesses because of the taboos that are ingrained in society that tell us that that isn’t normal. We have a lot of ideas made up about groups of people that only create barriers between us. In the end, there isn’t much that separates you from me. Sure we have our preferences and we cope with our issues in different ways, but in the end, there’s way more that we can relate to than that which separates us.
My post on Instagram yesterday was a tribute to MLK Day with that exact message: Let’s connect over what makes us human, rather than create trivial differences between us.
Hope that was an entertaining personal share for ya’ll. Let’s be better and continue to invade each other’s spaces so we can connect!!