Lisbon, Tourism and Gentrification…

.. or why is it time to move to the country?

One of the questions my friends keep asking me is why I don’t just stay in Lisbon. A good question, and here is an attempt to answer it…..

Without a doubt Lisbon is a great city. If you live here, you can be on the beach in a few minutes, the nightlife is top and great food and cheap drinks are available at every corner. Actually a great city to live, one should think. For me personally, however, there are some very decisive factors that slowly convinced me against living in Lisbon: Firstly, my current life goals. And on the other hand, the impending and very much foreseeable consequences of the increasing gentrification here in Lisbon.

Unfortunately, not a day goes by without another report in the newspaper or the news about the effects of gentrification. That’s a pity, of course, because tourism and investment can, if done right, be really good for a city or region. Of course it’s hard to keep a sustainable and slow-advancing middle ground, especially in a country like Portugal, which needs tourists’ income urgently. On the other hand the mass tourism and the gentrification (I connect the two here, even if they are, of course, somewhat different things) destroy exactly what makes the city so attractive. And it’s happening super fast…  Even in the two years I’ve been here I realise every day how hard it is for the folk here. There are certainly more competent sources that give the full account of the consequences, but I notice how strange (i.e. annoying) it is to live in a house in which there are 14 apartments… but only 2 have people really living in them all year round. And more and more restaurants in the area are replacing traditional cuisine with pre-cooked (and Spanish!?) paella…. and the list could continue for a bit.
Gentrification is something I didn’t like about London, and one of the reasons I decided that London has had its day and it was time to leave. However, the gentrification (and also the hype around the city) there seemed to be progressing at a snail’s pace – at least when compared to the pace here in Lisbon!

On the other hand, of course, my personal priorities also have a decisive influence. As an openly gay man, I quite simply assumed, without further questioning, that life in the countryside is rather complicated. And therefore, life in the big city, with all bars, discos and clubs was actually the only viable alternative. Meanwhile I take a more nuanced view: Of course there are a lot of possibilities to meet other gays in the city (and not only gays, of course). On the other hand, however, I also see that, unfortunately, and especially in cities, many people are totally lonely (not only gays of course). And that’s why I think it would be interesting to try “country life”. We’ll see if it works. But I could at least imagine that in the countryside there are fewer “opportunities” to go out and get to know each other, but that contacts become deeper as a result. We will see how and whether this thesis works.

In short, there are these two big reasons to try it now completely outside my “comfort zone”: out of the city, and off to the countryside….. how will it continue? Don’t forget to check back for more updates – soon!

Change is coming…

About two years ago, I decided to change my life: moving from London to Lisbon and focusing on more on creating a different life all together, from leaving the “rat race” behind to spending more time listening to my inner self. One of the things I kept constant though was the environment in which I live: a fairly big, capital city.

Since being a teenager, I had tacitly accepted the idea that, as a gay man, living your life freely was only possible in a big city. I’m not sure I ever gave this postulate much though, I just accepted it as truth and let it guide some crucial decisions I made: For example, when choosing a place at university, I decided against an offer I had from a really nice university in Wales, and instead opted to study in London. Not so much because I liked the university in London more, or was more into the subject, but simply because I assumed happiness and fulfillment as a gay man was definitely to be found somewhere where the lights of the city sparkled.

Of course, that was then and now is now. And over the last year or so, I have increasingly looked into setting up a place where LGBTQ+ folks can connect on many different levels. Of course, my first intuition was to look for a space somewhere in a big city. Again, the assumption being that, in a big city where queer folk are more numerous, there would be more space to build such a community.
Eventually, however, I looked beyond the gay community and found that alternative living and social communities are not confined to the big cities. Instead, many seem to thrive away from the city, in the very places I would have expected to “outcast them”. On the contrary, with only a few exceptions, many spaces that try and create community beyond commercial interests, seem to struggle in urban environments. Not because there is a scarcity of attempts to create them, but often simple economic realities, such as sky high property prices, make such attempts not viable.
On the other side, even with many places, apps, clubs and other offerings to connect, especially for gay guys, gay loneliness is a big part of reality.  Especially, among gay men living in urban environments. Discussing the many reasons for this phenomenon would probably fill more than a couple of books, but in short, it seems having 200 gay guys in a 500m radius around you looking at their smartphone, twenty gay bars to choose from or even the possibility to attend several “social” groups. Ironically, all this choice seems to make us lonelier.

This thinking let me to develop the idea of the Quinta Project (‘quinta’ is Portuguese for farm). In short, a sort of rural, residential “community centre”.  A place I envisage to be inclusive for all queer folk, where the focus is on creating real, social connections – away from the city. The Quinta Project website contains some more information about it, but I will also come back to some of the thinking behind the project in later posts here.

Of course, this means actually moving to a farm,  transforming the farm into a place where the project events can take place… but also, and importantly, running the farm around the project. In other words, my future plan doesn’t just involve me setting up and running the “community centre”, but also looking after over a thousand olive trees, reviving several currently unused fields, caring for a mature fruit orchard and creating a vegetable “garden” that can supply produce for the Quinta. In short, transiting from the “urban gay” man, with no idea of how to prune a fruit tree, to becoming a “gay farmer”.

How will it all work? Or indeed, will it work at all? I have no idea. At the moment I have more sleepless nights thinking about what it will be like. And other moments, where I just can’t wait to wake up every morning and hear bird, rather than buses. Will it be great? I don’t know. But I know it will definitely be an exciting journey! And I’m really glad that I can share this adventure with you!

 

Six Ideas to make the holidays sexy

If for you the holiday season is often the season of far too much stress and too little fun, here are a few ideas to inject some holiday sexiness into the season. Don’t forget to share your ways of making the season sexy!

  1. Give yourself a sexy treat
    Don’t forget yourself this Christmas and give yourself a big or small sexy treat. New underwear to make you feel sexy? A relax-massage to make you feel as soft as …? A special book full of erotic stories? You probably have a few ideas what what you’d like, now is the opportunity to give it to you!
  2. Give your partner a sexy treat
    It’s great to buy gifts for your partner, but even better if they are home made: Why not give him a special one-off treat, or even make a book full of “sexy tokens” for him. Perfumes, books and socks are nice, but sexy surprises will really make your partner happy!
  3. Go shopping together
    Shopping can be horrible: too many people, too many things. But you can make it fun by going shopping together: not for the usual gifts, of course. Instead, go to a an adult store and see what you can discover together.
  4. Go surprise shopping
    If different family commitments keep you apart, you can always go adult toy shopping alone. Drop some hints about what you have bought – and enjoy the time when you get together to try out your purchases!
  5. Practice the “Art of the Quickie”
    Busy days of rushing from lunch to dinner to …? No worries: make sure you get your partner on track and practice the “Art of the Quickie”.  It’s something couples often forget about, so here is a chance to revive it!
  6. Rediscover your youth
    Visiting family with your partner for the holidays? Revisit your memories – this time with your partner. Introduce him to the place where you first made love, and all the other special places you remember from your youth.

How about you? How do you make the holidays more sexy? Let us know! And have a great holiday season!

Transparent sexual selves

Guest post from zoereei blog. Check out his blog for many more posts about sex and about the constant changing nature of life.

I have the freedom to sexually relate to whoever and however I want to. And yet I often keep myself distant, avoiding to meet up with a guy. I’m afraid of being seen as sexually incompetent; even more so, of seeing myself in that light.

My sexual drive pushes me forward at times, to look for excitement, for a thrill, for touch, intensity, physical pleasure. It pushes me to overstep the socially approved boundary, to go into the extreme, to take myself into a space where I lose all control and am at the whims of another, a space where I can be the bad boy.

Another force within me pushes me towards connection, to living an intimate encounter with another man, where sex expresses that connection and where body shape and deficiencies are respected aspects of the other rather than a reason to move away. Sex more than a fuck. The safe space of love.

And yet another force pulls me back, afraid of trusting the other, afraid of disease, afraid of infections, afraid of being used, afraid of being exposed and vulnerable – physically and emotionally – in front of the other.

Shame kicks in. Fear steps into the room.

I feel as virgin as a young teenager at times, within the body of a mature adult. I have very deep insight on some aspects of life, and am so ignorant in such a simple thing as having sex. I know all the theory. I lack a lot of practice. And these discrepancies between the child and the adult, the wise and the ignorant, feel like I’m being sheared in two. And in the arena of sex these feelings turn into ear-splitting rips.

There is no way of stepping out of this loop apart from stepping out. I need to allow someone in, and to allow myself into someone else. Not as how I should be, but as I am. Easier said than done, because who I am is constantly changing. Who will I be when I meet him: the slutty subservient slave, the controlling Dom, the fuck-now-then-see fun person, the let’s-take-it-slowly-and-grow-together lover? Which one is me? Or are all of these me? Which selves will I show? Which ones will I hide?

The path to freedom doesn’t lie in splitting apart my sexual selves, but in integrating them and allowing myself to be seen transparently for who I am.

Scary as fuck!

Originally published on zoreii blog. Thank you for the permission to repost!

Give the Gift of Tantra

Christmas is the time of giving… but giving just another perfume, more wine or the latest underwear often isn’t as meaningful as something really deep and connected. So, this Christmas, why not give something that no money can buy to the most important person(s) in your life: pure love, sacred intimacy and unconditional pleasure?

If you have already experimented with tantra, you’ll know how the most basic tantric “steps” can bring new levels of intimacy and connectedness to you and your partner. And if you haven’t tried out this powerful way to connect, why not do it right now? The good news: you don’t have to be a tantra master to feel the effects, and you don’t need several hours or many esoteric techniques to get started. Here are a five basic steps for your “Gift of Tatra”:

1) Set the scene and bring some time
Light some nice candles, select some relaxing music – and bring some time for the session. Remember the point of tantra is not a focus on the genitalia (and orgasm), but it is a whole body experience.

2) Begin by making a connection
Tantra is about connecting with the partner: start by breathing together, slowly moving on to touching your partner. Remember to it is about the whole body and about making a connection. Don’t head straight for the cock, balls, and ass… but take your time to explore the magic of touch. To explore  more about making a connection through touch and breathing, see Day 18 of Sexual Discovery.

3) Slowly move towards giving (and receiving)
The emphasis is on slow. Enjoy teasing your partner, gently stroking him, brushing your arm against his erogenous zones etc… and allow him to give back if he wants to!

4) Lingam Massage
Massage his body, feel the connection and slowly move towards the penis (or lingam) as the final act in your “gift of tantra). Lingam massage (find out more here) can be one of the most powerful ways to stimulate your partner, therefore, again remember to play slow and aim to avoid a quick orgasm. See this article for more on how to give multiple orgasms to your partner.

5) Finish where you started
Remember to connect and breathe together after your partner has climaxed. The time immediately after releasing all the powerful sexual energy is the best to really connect and create an intense feeling of intimacy.

The main point: enjoy the experience! And it will definitely be an unforgettable gift for your partner – and yourself!

5 great reasons to practice mindfulness over the holiday season

… not just for gay men 😉

With still a few days to go until the “big days”, here are five great reasons why you should make mindfulness an integral part of your holiday season this year:

1. Holiday time can be stressful – especially for gay guys
Holidays, parents, friends. So much is great about the holiday season, but some can be downright horrible and stressful. The mini-agression from the aunt asking if you still haven’t found the “right woman”, being away from your partner – or being reminded of not having one. It’s just not an easy time for many. And it is ok to admit that not all is glittering joy at this time of the year. Luckily short bursts of mindfulness can centre you again and arm you against the stress and tribulations of navigating this family feast and holiday season.

2. You can connect better, when you are connected to yourself
Even if all of the socialising and family affairs are great news for you, mindfulness can make you more connected. Not just to yourself – but also to others around you. Regular mindfulness training increases your empathy and allows you to connect more intimately to people around you.

3. It’s bleak outside, so be kind to yourself
Unless you are lucky enough to be in the southern hemisphere, you’ll probably already had a few of those days where really the best option was to stay in bed. Rain, drizzle, mist, cold, fog, and a symphony of grey in grey outside. The best method to brighten up your day? Take a short break and treat your mind to a little vacation in a place the sun always shines!

4. Remember? Taking a break makes you more productive!
How many presents do you have to buy? Cards to send? Things to do? If your to-do-list is becoming longer than your Christmas card list it is definitely time to aim for maximum productivity power. Best power up? No, not more coffee… Instead a short, 15-20 minute mindfulness bodyscan will fully recharge your batteries. Try it out!

5. … And it lets you appreciate quiet moments, more!
And don’t forget, while the run up to Christmas and the New Year can be often hectic. The actual days (and sometimes the time immediately after) can be days with lots of opportunities to recover and rest. Sadly, many people are so in stress mode, that they don’t realise. There is a simple trick here though: Actively seek out quiet moments to check in with yourself. Not only will you find more than you probably expect, with a quick mindful “check in” you can enjoy the quiet time even more!

Have a great holiday season all around – and don’t forget to treat yourself to the most special gift of all: a healthy dose of self-love!

Check out more posts about mindfulness from the urbangay blog. And if you want to find out more about practicing some self-love and mindfulness, why not treat yourself to 30 Days of Self-Love, the workshop that transforms your mind and makes you fall in love with yourself again.

Let’s start the week Sex-Positively!

It’s the start of the new week, and also the first Monday of December! What better reason than to check in with ourselves and see if our own mindset isn’t besieged by the popular sex-negative attitude surrounding us in our society today.

What is a sex-positive mindset all about? Here is an exert from Day 5 of my book “Sexual Discovery for Gay Men“:

Day 5
The Sex-Positive Mindset

Today’s objective: Defining sex-positivity

Well, for three days we have been dealing with negative stuff. High time to switch and focus on the positive! So, let’s see what a sex positive mindset looks like. I’m avoiding the term environment here, as sadly the reality is that most societies are simply highly sex negative. But individuals can change their mindset! Hence it seems sensible to focus on the individual at this point.

Sex-positivity in itself is quite a challenge to define, at least in detail.  Basically it is obviously the opposite to sex negativity, which is the space where sex is always subject to judgement by others and manipulated to fit a certain ideal. Hence, sex-positivity is a space where individuals ‘own’ their sex without judgement. It means embracing diverse forms of sex, respecting not only yourself but also others. How does this look in practice? In my own way of looking at it, having a sex positive mindset involves seven principles:

1) Own your sex
First and foremost, having a sex positive mindset is about ‘owning’ your sex: it is yours to give, not theirs to take. And only you know what you want, how you want it, how often you want it. Don’t let your environment dictate what you should have or should not be having.

2) Respect everyone’s choices regarding their sex
Just as you have the right, it is important to extend the same respect to others. This means acknowledging everyone’s right to have the sex they want to have – including their right not have sex. It is not for you to judge others and the sex they own.

3) Consent
Sex between partners must be negotiated. Clear, enthusiastic consent is the basis of all sex positive sex. Your sex is yours. Their sex is theirs. Implied or assumed consent is not enough. Neither one has the right to force or manipulate someone else to have sex they don’t want. But also, neither one has the right to stop anyone from having the sex they want, as long as it is with people who consent to it.

The first three are the core principles of sex-positivity for me. The following four points flow from these three. While the first three are necessities, the next four are rights. That is to say you have the right to do this, but there isn’t an obligation to do them.

4) Exploring your sex freely
You have the right to explore your sex freely, the way you want to. You have the right to challenge sexual role models and you should expect to be encouraged, respected and supported to do this by your partners.

5) Engaging with your fantasies
You have the right to engage and develop your fantasies and express them freely without fear of judgement or disrespect.

6) Learning about sex
You have the right to learn about sex: different types of sex, sexual health, ways of expressing sexuality,… nobody should ever stop you from learning.

7) Communicate
You have the right to communicate freely and honestly about sex, sexual fantasies, experiences and ideas. Of course, this is extremely important in consent seeking. But communication goes beyond this. If you had good sex, make sure you tell your partner. If you had bad sex, and you want to improve it with the same partner, talk to him.

I hope these seven principles make sense to you. Of course, you may choose to define your own way of seeing sex-positivity. In fact, taking the above as an example, I’d like you to write your own sex positive manifesto today. That is to say, don’t make it a few general points which are applicable to everyone. Write a sex positive manifesto just for you.

Take-home message for today: A sex positive is about owning your sex. And respecting the rights of others to do the same.

Want to explore more about a sex-positive life?
My book contains all the materials for the Sexual Discovery for Gay Men workshop and is available from any good bookseller.

ISBN 978-1973779131 (soft cover)   978-1370218707 (eBook)
To order online see bookfinder  or Amazon:   US – UK – CADE – FRIT – IN – JP – BR

Or as a digital PDF download here:

5 Reasons to schedule a long sex session with your partner – right now.

With the nights getting longer, here are five great reasons to make room in your busy schedule for a longer sex session with your partner – right now.

1. Really feel the sex
Spontaneous and quick sex is great, however, it is often over before your mind had time to “arrive”. Scheduling a longer session gives both of you time to prepare, look forward to and really bring your mind with you to feel all the sensations and be present.

2. Create intimacy
Often sex is confused with creating intimacy in a relationship. And while sex is really important in maintaining a relationship, what really counts is not the number of times you have sex – but the intimacy you are creating while having sex. Slow sex really gives time for intimacy feelings to develop, injecting tons of intimacy into your relationship.

3. Feel good afterwards
Long sex is a master in giving you afterglow. Why? It gives time for all the happy hormones you produce during sex to really play their role in your body. The result? A happy smile for hours to come!

4. Connecting beyond your sexual partner
Long lasting sex actually helps you connect to people beyond the ones you are having sex with. Feelings of intimacy with your partner and satisfaction often reflect into other parts of your life, and help you make more friendly and positive connections beyond the person you had sex with!

5. De-stress
Finally, sex is one of the best ways to de-stress. Had a hard day at work? There is an easy way to be more productive again the next day: switch off the TV and bring some real intimacy into your life with your partner.

Ready for some slow sex?
Check out some of the tips of creating long-lasting intimate connections in the Sexual Discovery workshop and book: From connections through touch with your partner – to edging yourself if you don’t have a partner right now. And don’t forget, the Tantric Vibes workshop starts in January!

Three reasons to get active for every gay man

A guest post by Paul, who is the curator for the @urbangay twitter this week, follow him, interact and talk to him on twitter until Sunday!

This week I’m taking over the @urbangay twitter account for a week. My interest is mainly in being healthy and active, and I think it is something really important. Not just because of the obvious and well-known health reasons (and making for better sex!). But there are three more reasons why it is especially important for gay men. Here they are:

1) It’s great to make you feel good
Engaging in sports and eating a healthy diet to help you fuel your activities has an unbelievably great influence on how you feel about yourself and your life. Simply engaging in regular exercise has the same effect on you as taking antidepressants, but with only positive side-effects. With gay men much more likely than straight folks to have mental health issues for many reasons, exercise can be a key to make us happier and healthier. Of course, you don’t have to feel down, or even start an overwhelming exercise program: even small steps will have a great effect, at least when you do them regularly. So start and get active today and within a week you will see how much better you feel!

2) It will improve your body image
Not just your mood and how you feel about yourself and others around you will improve: but your body image will also become much better. Body image problems are endemic in the gay community. I used to hate my body when I was a teenager, and even into my twenties. Only when I started exercising regularly did I start to love me and my body. And I’m not saying this because I became muscular and looking like a sex god (I didn’t!). But because exercise influences how you feel about your body!

3) You can make so many new friends!
Finally, I found that exercise is a big benefit for a great social life. It binds together like nothing else. I love joining in with LGBT-sports groups or events, and I bet you’d love it, too! If you live in or near a bigger city see if there are any gay sports organisations you can join. There are lots of these around and many organisations have something for every taste: from yoga to rugby. And don’t forget outdoor sports away from the big cities like skiing and hiking, too! You won’t believe how it changes your social life!

Let me know what you think about sport, being active and healthy and gay! Tweet to me and follow my tweets @urbangay all this week!

Why do gay men put up with so much mediocre sex?

A guest post by Daniel

Why do we settle for quantity when all we want is quality sex? Click To Tweet

As gay men some of us have lots of sex. And in many places. At least if we want to: we can pick up a guy on the way to work on the train, have sex with guys during our lunch break, at the gym showers in the afternoon and afterwards we can have a threesome with the hot couple from Grindr. Sex is what we are, our favourite hobby and plenty of sex is what we have.

I’m one of these guys who used to have lots of sex. I live in London, so it is easy for me to find the next hook up. From bars, clubs to parks, to apps and fuckbuddies. Last year, my average guy count was somewhere between 10 and 20 guys a week. Many regulars, many not. And I know quite a few guys who easily surpass that number. If this sounds like playing the elysian fields to my straight colleagues, it probably is.

You’d think that all this practice would make “us”, the constantly horny, contantly looking gay guys really good at sex. Yet, time after time, when I just had another Grindr date, changing-room blow job or wank in the park, I remain disappointed. True, I had two or three amazing sessions on the Heath [ed: gay cruising area]. One or two Grindr dates where I felt so satisfied and fulfilled afterwards that I skipped checking out the park on the way home. And I remember the time I had pornable sex in the toilets close to work.

I ask myself, is why are there so few times that I remember? I have cum in the toilets at work thousands of times. Mostly down the drain. I fucked an uncountable number of guys in the park. And I dare not put a number on the number of Grindr dates I had. And off all those times taken together, I remember not much more than a handful. Why? Because the thousands of other times were unremarkable at best, and downright bad most of the times. But the lure of the good ones kept me coming back for more. Hoping, like an addict, that the next guy would be one of the few times I had sex to remember. But in almost all cases, I ended up with just another bad or mediocre episode soon to be forgotten.

I ask myself why aren’t we better at it? With all our experience, shouldn’t we be monumentally good at sex anywhere, anytime? Instead, why do we put up with a quick wank at the urinal, a uninspired suck in the bushes and a lacklustre fuck to round the day off?

Many sexperts will say it is because anonymous and quick sex is simply hollow. And I give them right. But that is hardly a revelation, we all know it. My question remains: why don’t we invest more into learning and improving the sex we have?

I’m ready to admit, I’m as guilty as anyone in this respect. I often put up with what I can find, even if I know there are better ways.

For me, finding this out was during the sexual discovery workshop. I discovered a path to better sex. Not by having more of the same sex, but by thinking about how to make sex better. What was it that I really wanted?

The result of the workshop for me was at first contradictory: Instead of more sex, I have less sex now. But, it is better sex. Sex that is satisfying and leaves me fulfilled. The sort of sex that I remember, and not the sex I want something else five minutes after. I’m not there yet all the time. And while many of my friends laugh at me for no longer being on Grindr 24/7, and think I’m simply becoming old when I politely signal to the hunky guy in the gym showers that I’m not up for it right now. But I know for myself, that once I do have sex nowadays I don’t just forget it afterwards. Instead, I know, I have a good chance of experiencing something actually worth memorising.

To those men out there who are left unsatisfied by just an other understall wank, I have one suggestion to make: Put yourself out of mediocrity and start upgrading your own sex, sexual knowledge and work on finding sex that is worth it. Learn about sex positivity. Embrace sex scene writing. Don’t just settle that quick fuck or the wank that just happens. Because it is the best gift you can make yourself.

Daniel is in his late thirties and lives and works in London. Originally from a small town, he enjoys the big city and embraces the diverse experiences there. He is starting to build his own network of regular guys to have sex with now, while hoping to delete hook-up apps one day. Thank you for contributing!