By Simon Sheppard
Shy about sex? There are some overwhelmingly bashful boys – men whose shyness is paralyzing, even pathological, the sort of problem professional counseling can help. But for most of us, shyness is mostly a matter of degree and situation. “I don’t do well trying to pick up guys in bars,” says a sometimes-withdrawn dude. “I can walk in there with the best of intentions, but within minutes, I’ll be hugging the wall, afraid to make the first move – or any move at all. Put me in a one-on-one meeting with a nice guy, though, and I can be really outgoing, even aggressive.”
More often than not, social shyness boils down to fear of rejection. And if sex is at stake, then anxiety can get acute. “We all want to be validated,” says one observer of the scene, “and no one likes to face possible failure. Many of the situations in which we queer men meet each other are so superficial, carrying the threat of instant smack-down, that they almost guarantee a degree of nervousness.”
So what’s a shy guy to do? Many men play to their strengths. “I’m not all that great-looking,” says one. “But I’m a good conversationalist, so I’ve met a lot of men through gay organizations I belong to, and through volunteer work I’ve done.” On the other hand, many a hunky-but-inarticulate dude finds himself getting hit on whenever he hits the gym. It pays to fish where they’re biting. If you are, for example, a bigger guy, try hanging out at clubs or websites where bearishness is beautiful.
In shyness-producing situations, forcing oneself to be outgoing can also reap rewards. As our gay volunteer says, “Most men find self-confidence to be sexy.” Pushing yourself beyond bashfulness can bring benefits: That fellow you thought was out of your league might have been thinking the same about you. Still, a certain amount of restraint is wise, since blowhard self-regard is so rarely a turn-on.
There are ambiguous moments where sex may or may not be on the menu, and at such times, a reluctance to drop one’s drawers may be due to bashfulness, or it might simply be good sense. Shyness that’s specifically sexual may also stem from shame or reluctance to try new things, resulting in a less-than-memorable fuck. Asking for what you deep-down want, or letting yourself be swept away by a partner’s desires, can lead to big fun indeed. “Sure, there are times I’ve stifled myself, for fear I’d reveal too much and turn off my partner,” says one only moderately kinky bear cub. “But what’s the worst that can happen? That I’d end up jacking off alone?”
Then there are patchwork solutions to shyness – overindulging in drink or drugs – that can hurt more than they help, leading to unsafe stuff, muzzy mornings after, or embarrassingly bad performance.
Reluctance may even be a ploy. “I answered this guy’s ad that said he was shy,” recalls one fellow. “When we talked on the phone, he still seemed a little reluctant. But when he came over, he immediately peeled off his shorts and jumped into bed with me. So was he truly shy, or was that just a role to make him seem more attractive to older tops?”
Sure, every time lust looms up, there are daunting, dick-deflating dangers. And gay men are hardly taught by society at large that their sexuality is a cause for self-regard. But a guy need not have brass balls to put himself out there, just a modicum of courage, a readiness to get beyond rejections, and maybe a bit of bravado.
So stop blushing, buddy, and start banging instead.