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"I fuck with friends because somewhere in my life history I was able to shed the hang-ups, misinformation, and societal limits imposed by family, church, school, and state. I think that doing so has set me free to learn who I am and then to be that real person."

Fucking With Friends
by Jack Rinella

SIn 1984 I was in the "candy store" days of my coming out. I had been divorced and on my own for less than six months and was taking advantage of my newly gained freedom to meet men, make new friends, and have sex whenever possible. It was the early days of my leather explorations, full of experimentation, research, and learning. I was a wide-eyed novice in a incredible world of sexual delight.

AIDS was still, at least in a city like Fort Wayne, an unknown, mysterious, but not yet threatening disease. Nevertheless, since my job afforded me a great deal of travel, I was aware of the risks and took appropriate precautions. Thank my guardian angels that I did. Just out of curiosity I kept track of the number of sexual encounters I had that year. By December 31st, I had had sex more than 250 times with 84 different men.

I don't keep score anymore but I still play safely. Safety works. The semi-yearly tests I get at the Howard Brown Clinic show that I'm still HIV negative. AIDS doesn't mean the end of sex, just the end of unsafe sex.

In a recent survey that I completed for Advocate magazine, sexual activity was defined, for the purposes of the study, as any action that included an orgasm. Now I will grant that a great deal of sexual activity doesn't include orgasm but their definition presents a good basis for discussion.

Perhaps you'd prefer to use insertion as a criterion or genital contact. No matter, you get my point. Sexual activity involves some kind of sex. What is surprising is that it only rarely involves friends.

As I look around at my list of friends, I see that I met a large number of them under circumstances that included sexual activity during our first meeting. I can think of tricks I met a bar, or ones I cruised on the computer boards, that have become close friends. Soon after our first meeting or more usually during, we had sex and then moved on to a platonic relationship that has lasted for several or many years.

I still have occasional sex with friends, but it is a rare occurrence. Why is it that sexual activity is so often between lovers or strangers? Why not among friends?

In my interviewing an older man last week for my oral history project, he admitted to having a "formula" for a successful leather party. According to his rules of invitation, at least half of the men invited had to be first timers to the party and a quarter of the guests had to be unknown to anyone else in attendance. He had great parties, I hear.

On the other hand, I've noticed that my parties have grown sedate. I invite my friends, who by now know each other fairly well. They show up, get into deeply esoteric conversations, stay well-clothed, and leave in time to go to the bars before they're closed. At least it seems that way to me.

Now leather, of course, doesn't need to include sexual activity. Especially in the hetero-leather arena, there is a great deal of play without sex. This is often to avoid the charge of prostitution, since a surprising number of submissive, straight men pay dominatrices for their services.

I think that laws against prostitution are an infringement on my civil rights, a contradiction to free enterprise, and another way to drive good business people into illegal activity. I'd much prefer to legalize hooking and tax it. That would make it safer, less expensive, and help balance the deficit at the same time. But I digress.

I fuck with friends because somewhere in my life history I was able to shed the hang-ups, misinformation, and societal limits imposed by family, church, school, and state. I think that doing so has set me free to learn who I am and then to be that real person. Others might say that I'm deluding myself. No matter, I enjoy life.

Society has invested sexual activity with baggage that has become un-necessary, especially within the context of homosexual relationships. After all, we're not going to create children that will be dependent upon us for the next twenty years. Neither is the spread of disease a foregone conclusion.

There remain emotional issues that are important. If you don't want to fuck with friends, that is your decision and your prerogative. There certainly are people who are one-man men or one-woman women. It is recognizing and honoring variety of desire and interests that protects the freedom of each of us to choose.

Leather has been part of that freeing process for me. There have been other events and situations that have liberated my consciousness as well, including college, my spiritual journey, and the vacillations in my career. My early same sex encounters did much to show me that homosexuality didn't deserve the bad rap it got from those who taught me otherwise.

And sex doesn't deserve a bad rap either.

Why do you feel about sex the way you do? Is your emotional response to the idea of fucking with friends based on a clear vision of yourself, of your friend, and of sex? Or is it perchance loaded with guilt, with repression, with expectations and disappointments?

I speak the way I do because I distinguish between sex and romance. I know sex to be a natural activity that is good for me and good to do. It balances my feelings, calms my body, increases my knowledge of self and of my partner. It is pleasurable and there's nothing wrong with pleasure.

Ah, there's the rub. Too many of our beliefs are based on false premises. Rooted in our common psyche are credos that say that matter is evil (spiritual is better), pleasure is sinful (penance and suffering are good), and intimacy is dangerous (getting close means I'll get hurt).

In their day, such systems may have worked. I'm not sure they ever worked well, but they were the accepted world views: the world was flat, man was highest in the order of creation, children were chattel, women without souls or rights. How much of that crap do we still subconsciously believe?

What premises rule your sex life, control your selection of sex partners, flood your consciousness with limitations, prohibitions, or happily liberate your true self for fulfillment? Our actions are based on many forces, not the least of which is our own self image. Know who you are and then be that person.

That's not always an easy process. Discarding the should's, the expectations, the barriers placed on self-realization is a life-long undertaking. Not every prohibition is hurtful, not every impulse desirable in the long run. The answer, of course, is to gain clarity, to see the credos that determine our decisions and to accept or change them to reflect our real natures.

There are criteria for doing so. Respect for self and for others is paramount. Christ said to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Therein lies the key: love yourself, embrace, affirm, respect, and cherish who you are. Be free to shed the layers that bear down on you, making you to appear as someone else.

I find myself a leather man. I've discovered my sadistic streak, my masochistic tendencies, my need for rugged masculinity, for a radical approach to family. I continue to discover, to find more layers, more barriers and burdens and to struggle to bring the real me to life.

I don't fuck with all my friends. In fact I find that I fuck with fewer and fewer of them as the days go by. I have friends with whom I've never fucked. No matter, in each case, only one thing is necessary: to thine own self be true.

Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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