Being a queer dude, this was never hard. At the time, just then an adult in 2000andsomething, most of us thought marriage equality wasn't at all sure to happen in our lifetime; the dominant narrative on gay-identifying men was that we'd sleep around. That was sort of the space society had for us. And it's really hard to know when you're acting how you are because it's how you want to act or when you're acting how you are as a performance, but I like to think it was the former.

Only how I wanted to act was pretty toxic. Merlin told us that power is like money: You can usually get it if you're competent and it's the only thing you want in your life. Same thing with sex. There's this whole narrative about how getting laid is some kind of challenge, but that hasn't been true at least since the advent of the internet. You can always do it. If it's your scoreboard you're interested in, it's free to find a partner. And you can have a good time with that partner. There's nothing wrong with each individual act, and there isn't even anything wrong with them taken together, depending on how you took them together.

But there's something wrong with ignoring your professors because you're browsing Adam4Adam. And maybe sex was just the excuse; maybe today I'd just be browsing reddit or imgur instead of Craigslist. But I knew about E2 back then, and I wasn't browsing E2, even though abstractly I liked it more. Sex is a powerful motivator, an easy ego booster, and the narrative of difficulty surrounding it makes it a hefty shortcut when you've found the tools to make it easy to find. It lets you feel cool. It lets you feel powerful. It lets you feel edgy. And it lets you feel good, in a visceral, physical sense. And it can be dangerous, particularly if you're bad at playing safe, which I particularly was.

This is in no way to denigrate what I guess we call "hookup culture." Not in general. Sex is good; celibacy is bad. But that's like saying "Food is good; starvation is bad." Abstinence is the counterpoint not to a healthy sex life, but to sex addiction. I'm a person for whom sex became an addiction, and the only way I knew to get out of that was to go cold turkey. Just yesterday I opened Adam4Adam again, as I do now and then, as I used to many times a day, and saw some 20-year-old whose profile read, "I'm now HIV+ thanks to a guy I met on here." I shivered. There but for the grace of Eris go I. It can be very empowering, fucking a bunch of strangers. But you need to look after yourself. And in terms of not being inclined to look out for yourself, screwing three strangers a week is on par with doing a line. Feeling empowered disguises powerlessness.