Carl Marshall, the first facilitator of the Married Men’s Group, talks about the group and its history.
How did the group come about?
Well, in 2002, I left my marriage of 20 years as I realised that I was gay. I was very distressed, disoriented, and in need of support, and a friend directed me towards ‘Healthy Gay Life’, the (then) local health provider for the gay community. HGL was helpful to me as a married man. It was clear though that, as a group, some very specific support was needed. The manager who led the unit at that time recognised that I had group management skills and asked me to set up a group for men who were in relationships with women who were also attracted to men.
Why was there a need for a specific group for men in relationships with women?
Acknowledging your ‘gay’ side can be very difficult. Married and cohabiting men who are also attracted to guys have very specific issues. Firstly, in admitting to themselves that they have male attractions. Secondly, the guilt of feeling that they have lied or made a mistake in getting into a relationship with a woman. The next problem is the reaction of people around them, in their family and friendship groups. On top of all that, there is the feeling that they have let down their partners and ruined their futures together, with fears about how it will affect their relationships with their children. All of this adds up to huge psychological pressure and, very often, mental health problems.
How does the group help men?
The group helps men by providing a safe space where guys can share what they are experiencing. Very often, men in this position have had no one in whom they can confide and it’s the first time that they have been able to open up about what they are feeling. The group is non-judgmental and doesn’t offer advice. What it does do is enable men to meet other men who are in the same circumstances, and know that they are not alone. People who come to the group can share what they are experiencing and learn how others have coped with the same situation. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there’s no right or wrong way to deal with male attraction within a heterosexual relationship. Some people come out to their partners, some don’t. What the group does is to share experiences about what has worked – and what hasn’t worked – between the members.
Is there a ‘typical’ person who would come to the group?
Absolutely not! During the years that I facilitated the group, we had attendees who had very basic jobs, to people who were very highly paid business professionals and also senior army officers. We supported a whole range of people from the meek to the macho!
The one thing that I did notice is that a number of men attending were in their forties, and had been married for about twenty years. Reaching forty seemed to be a catalyst – as it was in my case.
What happened to the group?
I and many of the men who attended the group acquired the skills to ‘manage’ their situations or to move on in life. I left the group as I felt that I was becoming stale in the role and that a new broom was needed to give some impetus. The group grew and waned, as groups do, but now it’s functioning with a real impetus.
What would your advice be to men who are in heterosexual relationships who realise that they are attracted to men?
My first words would be ‘you’re not alone’. There are thousands of men in a similar position in the community. Try not to hide your feelings: acknowledge them, and seek some help with how to deal with them. Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t feel ashamed of them. They are part of who you are. The group will help you to do that in a way that is right for you. My key advice is ‘compartmentalise’.
Address both your heterosexual and your gay feelings. They aren’t mutually exclusive and you need to deal with them both to feel strong and whole.
What did the group do for you?
Although I facilitated the group, I also gained a lot from it. Listening to other men’s experiences reassured me that my experiences were not unique and sharing them helped other people too. Most of all, I learned the confidence to move on to function as an openly gay man. Although I left the group a few years ago, I still maintain some good friendships with some of the guys who attended the group.
One couple at the group has been together for ten years, and although that’s not what the group is about, it’s nice to see.
Every best with the newly reinvigorated group! It’s still very much needed as there are still many guys out there facing the same confusion that I was all those years ago.
This blog was written by our Sexual Health Outreach Worker, Chris Dunbar.
Sometimes, having sex in the safe confines of your bedroom just doesn’t cut it. You may be looking for somewhere new, seeking thrill or adventure, or just not be able to have the sex you want within your four walls. You may have heard someone talk about cruising, or have been asked if you want to go, but what does it actually mean?
Let’s have a look together at what it means, the laws, and general safety if you do decide to give it a go.
Cruising is walking or driving about certain areas, called cruising grounds, looking for a sexual partner. These meetings are usually one-off, anonymous encounters.
Cottaging is a term used to describe anonymous sex meetings in public toilets.
Where do the terms come from?
Cruising: The word originated as a gay slang term, sometime in the early 1960s, as a way for people who knew its meaning to arrange sexual meetings. It was a way to plan sexual encounters without attracting the attention of people who may wish to report them to the authorities, or inflict harm. The term is used many countries including the UK, the USA, and Australia.
Cottaging: The term cottaging originated in the early 1960s in the UK. It was used to describe public toilet blocks in public areas that resembled small cottages. Like the word cruising, cottaging was a code word for gay men to plan sex meetings without attracting unwanted attention. The term is only used in UK.
What is the difference between cruising and cottaging?
So, although both terms originated around the same time, and they both describe having sex in a public place, there is one major difference between the two.
There is no law specifically against cruising (having sex outdoors), as long as you are ensuring that you are not visible to other members of the public or causing a nuisance. Cottaging, on the other hand, is a different matter, as it is a criminal offence. Having sex in any public toilet or facility is against the law, even if you are doing it in a closed cubicle. Police or security often patrols these areas. If you are caught then you could be banned from the area or even arrested and potentially charged for sexual offences, which will be on your criminal record and would be flagged any time you have DBS check.
So from now on, we will focus on cruising.
Where do people go cruising?
Some of the most popular cruising sites tend to be in large parks, by canals, and in lay-bys. This is because there are often lots of nice, secluded areas that you can disappear into and not be seen by passers-by.
How do I find cruising sites?
Due to the secluded nature of cruising sites, you are not likely to just stumble upon one. So, if you are thinking you might like to give it a try, it is best to look on certain websites, such as Squirt. You will be able to find a full list of areas local to you, with directions of how to get there, safety advice for each particular site, and a message board to see who else may be going at certain times.
How do I do it?
Once you have found an area you would like to visit and arrived there, what do you need to do? You will often spot other people walking around on their own, maybe looking at their phones, or just slowly looking about. It is unlikely that someone will just walk up to you and announce what they are there for, so it is important to keep a look out for signals, such as eye contact, a nod of the head, or something along those lines. If this happens, it generally means that they are interested and you can approach them.
Making sure you are safe at all times is of the utmost importance. Due to the types of areas you are visiting, it is very unlikely that there will be CCTV in operation, or even lighting. It is advisable to keep all your personal items, such as mobile phones, wallets, and keys, well hidden on your person at all times, or leave them at home if you can. You may not want to tell people that you are going to meet somebody for sex, but it is advisable to tell someone that you are going out and check back in with them when you are home, so that they know you are safe.
The police and cruising
People can often be worried that if they go cruising, the police will be patrolling. This isn’t the case. The police would only tend to visit cruising grounds if someone has reported an annoyance complaint, or if there had been reports of an attack or offence there. The police DO NOT have the right to stop and search you just for being at a cruising ground, unless they have reason to believe you have or are about to commit a crime.
If you were to be arrested due to being seen having sex in a public place that was not secluded, or you had not made an effort not to be seen, you should always ask to speak to a duty solicitor at the police station before being interviewed or accepting a caution.
What do I do if something happens to me whilst cruising?
As with all public places, some areas are safer than others. It is always best to check notice boards on websites before going to a location, to make sure there have been no recent reports of attacks or crimes. Make sure you are going when you are sober, as if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you are less likely to spot signs of danger. Staying close by where other people are cruising is advisable. If something were to happen, you would be able to shout or attract attention from someone else for help. Consent is still highly important, so knowing what you are ‘up for’, or willing to do, and sticking to that is crucial. If you say no, then it means no, and the same goes for if somebody says no to you – then you must not persist and try anyway.
If something were to happen to you whilst cruising, you must ensure that you report it. If you did not wish to talk to the police directly, then you can access support from a third party reporting service, such as Birmingham LGBT, who can offer you support and submit a report for you.
If you want any further advice on cruising, you can contact Birmingham LGBT on 0121 643 0821, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following a successful funding application to Comic Relief’s COVID-19 recovery fund, Birmingham LGBT is proud to announce the addition of a new free therapeutic counselling service to its range of wellbeing and sexual health services, as part of the recovery from the effects of COVID-19. The centre already offers counselling services for members of the trans community, which launched in late 2019, and these new funds will enable the organisation to offer counselling to all members of the LGBT community.
The funding award will enable Birmingham LGBT to offer free counselling sessions for 6 months to support people during the recovery from COVID-19. The organisation is thrilled to be able to offer this new service, particularly in the light of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the mental health of the LGBT community. Isolation, financial hardship, and a lack of family support are just a few of the many issues impacting the community, many of whom relied on community groups at the LGBT centre, and the bars and clubs in Birmingham’s Gay Village, to provide much needed social activity.
Steph Keeble, Director of Birmingham LGBT said ‘I am delighted that Comic Relief have decided to support this application which will enable us to offer free therapeutic counselling to members of the LGBT community for the next 6 months, many of whom have experienced poor mental health and isolation as a result of the pandemic “
The centre has two fully qualified and BACP registered counsellors available, who will be offering person-centred LGBT affirmative therapy. Due to the current situation with COVID-19, Birmingham LGBT Centre is not open to the public – however appointments can be held via Zoom, Skype, or telephone. Full details are available on the website at www.blgbt.org or for more information or to book an appointment please email email@example.com.
As well as enabling the organisation to offer the counselling services over the next 6 months, the funding will also contribute towards essential core costs of running and staffing the centre. Like all charities, Birmingham LGBT has been hit hard by the pandemic, losing income from training, room hire and events. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the centre and the valuable work it does for the LGBT community can find out more on the website at www.blgbt.org/donate/.
This post is written by Chris Dunbar, our Sexual Health Outreach Worker.
When it comes to activity in the bedroom, no one can tell you what you can and can’t do. Trying new things often makes it more exciting and fun, particularly if you are the adventurous type. The important thing is to make sure you do things safely.
So, lets take the plunge, and explore the less commonly talked about act of fisting.
Right, so where do we begin? Just like with fisting, let’s not just dive straight in. Let’s take some time to prepare. Let’s look at some of the history, facts, and risks associated, then we can lube ourselves up and learn some techniques and tips to give it a go.
What is Fisting?
So, as the name suggests, fisting is a sexual activity in which a hand is inserted into the rectum or vagina. Once the hand is inside, the fingers can be clenched into a fist or kept straight, this is down to personal preference or choice. Although commonly practised with a second person, fisting can be performed solo.
Other names may include: handballing, fist fucking, hoofing, fister, giving a Muppet, or the five-finger butt blast, to give just a few.
Although it is believed by Robert Morgan Lawrence, a sexual educator, that the practice may date back thousands of years, it is very sparsely documented until the twentieth century. In general, fisting was more commonly practised among gay males. In the seventies and eighties, the act became more popular, thanks to the world’s most famous fisting club, Catacombs, located in San Francisco.
Some of the Risks
Fisting is often classed as a more extreme sexual act and therefore, of course, it comes with greater risks.
Risks can include:
- Laceration of the rectum, colon or vagina. This can result in serious injury, subsequent infections, and in extreme cases, this can be fatal.
- During fisting of the vagina, air can enter and get trapped. This can lead to something called an air embolism, which is potentially fatal. This risk is even higher during pregnancy.
- Fisting of the anus can cause a risk of colorectal perforation (tearing of the colorectal wall).
- The practice of fisting (or inserting any hard object) into the anus causes traumatisation of the rectal mucosa. This increases the likelihood of infection, including Hepatitis B and HIV.
Right then, with that out of the way, let’s get prepared to start. Although I would say that we are not quite ready to get elbows deep just yet.
As you can imagine, taking a fist is slightly different to taking a penis. It takes time and preparation to get there.
Things you may need:
- Lube (and lots of it)
- Rubber gloves
- Anal training toys (not a necessity)
Lube: choosing the right lube for the job is important. You want to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. There is a wide selection of lubes available specifically created for fisting, so it is worth the investment to reduce the risk of injury.
Below is a link you may find useful for sourcing the right lube:
Rubber gloves: there is no rule to say that you have to wear gloves, but as fisting explores deeper into the anus than most things have gone before, there is higher risk of faeces finding its way under fingernails or similar.
Gloves will also slightly help protect your insides from been scratched by fingernails.
Douche: although this is optional, giving yourself a clean inside will make the experience a lot more pleasant for all those involved.
Douches are readily available online and in certain shops.
Anal training toys: again, these are not a necessity. Using fingers to start, then slowly increasing the amount of the hand inserted can work just as well. However, exploring with toys and gradually increasing the size can make the run up to fisting an enjoyable experience for you (and your partner).
Toys of many shapes and sizes are readily available online and in certain shops.
Right, we’ve been shopping, cleaned ourselves, had a good play (damn, those three fingers felt so good at the time). So let’s look how we take this fist.
It’s probably not going to work too well if you are standing in an upright position. So, you want to make sure you are as comfortable as possible, nice and relaxed.
Solo fisting: it is best to lie on your side with your knees bent so you are comfortable. You then want to reach around and insert a couple of fingers to start, then gradually increase up until you are ready to take the full hand.
Fisting with a partner: you can either lay face down with your legs apart with your partner sat or knelt next to you, or you could arch up or get on all fours with your legs apart and have your partner kneel behind you.
Make sure you are relaxed.
Despite the name, the hand is rarely in a fist-like position. A clenched fist is very unlikely (unless you are experienced in fisting) to enter with ease.
The hand needs to be in a ‘beak-like’ position, keeping all five fingers (yes, I’m calling your thumb a finger) straight and closely held together. Then slowly insert the hand into the rectum.
There is a practice called ‘punchfisting’. This method, as the name suggests, is the insertion of a clenched fist into the rectum, typically thrusting it in and out. In general, this is reserved for those who have engaged in fisting before (a few times) or are experienced taking larger toys.
All I will say is lube, lube, and more lube!
So, your partner (if you are doing this with one) is sat next to you with their hand looking like a duck’s head (though hopefully not going quack quack) – now let’s get it in.
Make sure you use enough lube, and if it gets dry or starts to pull the skin, apply more! This will help reduce the risk of ripping or damaging the soft tissues. Taking a breath and holding it in while the hand is being inserted can help reduce any initial pain that you may feel. Slowly, the hand can be inserted into the rectum, gently thrusting in.
Make sure that you are going at a pace that you are happy with. If you are too fast, it can cause you to clench up and tighten, which will cause pain and increase the risk of damage.
For this sort of sexual act, it is important that you are with someone you trust. Having a safe word, which can be called out at any time you feel you have to stop, may be a good suggestion. If the safe word is called, the act must stop immediately, as consent is no longer given to carry on.
Everything has gone to plan and the hand is in! Enjoy the ride!
That was an enjoyable, but tiring, experience. Time to clean up and relax. Have a shower to wash away any of the nasties and excess lube, followed by a nice, relaxing bath. This can help to relieve any tension and reduce any soreness.
Things to look out for: some minor pain is to be expected (you’re taking something pretty big up a small hole) – taking things slowly, using plenty of lube, and changing the motion used can help relieve this. Taking deep breaths can help as well.
If the pain is more severe, like sharp shooting pains or throbbing, then gently remove the hand and stop. Give yourself a few days to recover. You can always try again once things have settled down, just remember to slowly work your way up again. If you continue to feel pain, then seek medical advice.
A small amount of blood may be visible initially. This should resolve quickly, and shouldn’t be too much to worry about. But if the bleeding continues for more than a couple of minutes or there is a lot of blood, then stop immediately and seek medical advice.
Keep up to date with your sexual health screening – remember there is a higher risk of HIV and Hepatitis B transmission due to the nature of this practice and increased risk of damaging blood vessels.
Whether fisting is for you or it isn’t, trying new things with (or without) a partner can be healthy for a relationship, or for finding confidence within your own skin.
Well, what a journey we have been through together. I hope you have enjoyed this little walk through the act of fisting.
This post was written by our Trans Sexual Health Outreach Worker, Bethanie Browne.
Urolagnia: golden shower, erotic-peeing, wet-sex, uro-sexuality *take a breath* piss play, urophilia, wet-times, pee games, urethral-eroticism, urinism and watersports. Whatever you call it, it’s a thing, and it’s happening all over the world, probably as we speak. Now, I can’t confess to have ever been interested in it myself – however, I can understand why people are attracted to a bit of wet play (not to be confused with the common English definition of ‘wet play’: “It’s raining outside, let’s play indoors”). This is no joke and sexual watersports can be very erotic for many people. As I’ve stated I have not taken part in this activity and this blog isn’t a public invite into my sexual experiments, but I am willing to learn, in a theoretical sense, alongside you.
The facts: the term ‘urolagnia’ originated in Greek language, ‘ouron’ meaning urine, and ‘lagneia’ meaning lust, and is now commonly known as a ‘golden shower’. This form of sexual pleasure involves urinating on someone, being urinated on, and watching someone or being watched whilst urinating. There may be many more that I am unaware of, but let us begin with the basics. As many of our readers know, when sharing any bodily fluids there is a level of risk, and to contradict popular belief, urine is NOT always sterile. Urine can spread disease when the person urinating has a bacterial, fungal or viral infection, often being contracted by the receiver via an open wound or… to be blunt… an open mouth. Generally, a receiver will be safe if they have no cuts or broken skin, as the urine cannot penetrate a person’s skin. Top tip: keep your mouth shut!
Looking on the golden and sparkly side of things, without infection, the act is rather safe and many people find it fun. From what I have read, people seem to get very confused when it comes to watersports and BDSM. Introducing a dash of piss play into your life can be for the most vanilla of people, and doesn’t always represent BDSM. Some people just like the suspense of it all, the thought or the somewhat taboo nature of it. Others enjoy the smell and the warmth of somebody else’s liquid on their body. To ensure the experience is enjoyable for all involved, it is advised that the giver drinks plenty of water at least an hour before the arranged rendezvous.
Long story short: pee games are normal-ish and like any other sexual act, you have just got to be safe. Be open and honest with any sexual partners you have, discuss your boundaries and have fun.