Insert a cliche “let’s talk about sex, baby,” reference here.

Whether you’re straight, gay or anything in between, sex is a controversial topic. Not only are there mixed messages coming from all angles, there’s also extreme pressure to “do it,” whatever that definition may be. And there’s no happy medium – you just can’t win. Too little sex and too much sex both have negative stigmas. So what’s a guy to do? 

Let’s talk about it.

When it comes to guys, there’s definitely pressure that’s never talked about. It seems that guys are “just supposed to know”or be sexual experts from the womb. But the reality is, sex can be scary and worse when societal expectations get thrown into the mix that can elevate the confusion and frustration.

Whether you’ve had these open conversations with your friends, family or not, it’s important to know that you’re not alone in your anxieties. Chances are, every thought you’ve had about sex has been thought by someone else.

To prove it to you, we spoke to 7 ~real guys~ to get their thoughts on how we view sex, the things that scare them, and the questions they still have. 

Max, 21, straight, New York, Fashion Institute of Technology


Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age?

I think there is a sort of pressure to have sex and to always be sexually willing, especially in young men. Western pop culture has definitely portrayed male libido as this always present burning desire and that men should be continuously wanting sex. I think this causes a lot of men to feel ashamed or stressed about the fact that they may not always be interested in sex. As far as societal pressure to engage in sexual activity at such a young age, I don’t find that to be such a large issue. I first had sex at 16, and yes in hindsight it does feel like a young age to me, I have no regrets or qualms with being sexually active at that age. As long as people are well educated in the emotional and physical consequences of sex, good or bad, and have a strong understanding of consent, it seems only natural.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I’m not claiming to know everything, but if a sex expert walked into the room right now I can’t say I would have anything to ask them.

How casually do you view or perceive sex?

In my mind sex is both a casual and deeply powerful experience. No sex is ever the same.

What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you?

As I have been in a long-term monogamous relationship, I really don’t fear much about sex, but sexually transmitted diseases are quite frightening, especially if you are sexually active with many partners.

Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or is there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

 For the most part I find myself comfortable with my sexuality, and don’t fear societal pressure about any kinks or interests. When it comes to sex, there is no such thing as “normal”, and that’s really amazing and a real shame that people don’t feel confident in themselves to explore these pleasures.

Jordan, 18, gay, Florida, Yale University

Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age? 

I do think that there is pressure for straight men to become sexually active early, as if sex somehow marks their transition from a boy to a man. I think this coincides with the ways that society and pop culture objectifies women and makes them into sexual objects, and men are expected to have sex with women to fulfill their social role. As a gay man, and I speak only from my experience, I noticed that as I began coming out to more people, I felt this pressure decline, and in fact I feel as if there is almost an unspoken desire for me to not be sexually active, and I believe this stems from the way that most of society, even those who support queer equality, still seem to view sex between two men as being “disgusting” and as an unpleasant thought.

What do you wish you knew more about?

In terms of sex I do think I know most of what’s going on there so…The meaning of life? Are we alone in the universe? How did Trump manage to get himself in office?

How casually do you view or perceive sex? 

I view sex more casually than I would say the average person does. I’d like to be able to at least consider myself friends with someone before engaging in any sexual acts with them, but I don’t feel as if romantic feelings are necessary.

What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you ?

As a gay guy, STIs are definitely my primary concern in terms of sex as the rate of STIs among queer men is far higher than that of the straight people.

 Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or are there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

I’m pretty open about my sex life, and while I do feel as though some people criticize me, I’ve genuinely grown to just not care and just live my life.

Christian, 22, Gay, New York, Actor

Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age? Why or why not?

As a young gay man, a lot of the channels for meeting other gay men are unfortunately pretty strictly sexual (i.e. Grindr). With that in mind, it’s not so much pressure to have sex as it is pressure to have meaningless sex. We live in a society that isn’t structured on a deep sense of emotionally vulnerable interpersonal connectivity, so I’d say that, coupled with the commoditization of sex, becomes pressure to have sex that isn’t the sex you want or need. I alsothink that because sex is so paradoxically taboo and simultaneously plastered on every billboard and every website, that a lot of young people see it as an effective channel to self validation without understanding the personal, interpersonal and potentially health related consequences.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Before I was sexually active, I honestly wish I knew that sex could be beautiful. You always have this idea in your head that sex can be with someone that you love, but when you’re young and gay and the only vantage point you have for what gay sex is is porn, you begin to internalize a lot of the viewpoints presented there as opposed to forging a meaningful connection with someone. 

How casually do you view or perceive sex? 

Personally, I’m not incredibly casual about it. I think that a fair amount of that stems from feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity.

What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you?

Body image has definitely been a hard one for me. Growing up and seeing these perfectly sculpted men or these twiggy twinks, I look at a body like mine and have had a hard time finding how I find into the picture. I’ve gotten better about understanding and finding beauty in my body, but its still something that I certainly feel self-conscious about.

Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or is there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

I’m currently in the process of bridging the gap between my intellectual vs. emotional understanding of my sex life. Intellectually, I understand that the shame is second hand and that there’s no reason to be ashamed, but through lived experience and societal and cultural messages, I have to learn to soothe those wounds and misconceptions in order to have a more harmonious relationship with my sexuality.

Chase, 18, straight, New Jersey, Princeton Day School

Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age? 
I used to feel pressured, but now I’m not because I’m not a virgin anymore. Basically the entirety of my high school experience involved being pressured to have sex. As a teenager trying to find my own identity, I sought out acceptance, and one way to be accepted was to have more “bodies” or have more sex than your peers.
What do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I could understand why society perceives sex the way it does. Why is that those who don’t have sex are viewed as lame?

How casually do you view or perceive sex?

I’m very confused when it comes to having sex casually. I see my body as temple, and I can’t just invite anybody to my temple. I also feel that one shouldn’t wait until marriage to have sex either. You need to live.
What’s the scariest/ most fearful part about sex for you? 
Currently the most fearful thing for me is a pregnancy scare. I’m in a monogamous relationship, so I’m not too worried about STDs/STIs. Having a baby right now would put the 3 us in a terrible situation, I probably wouldn’t be able to college. Also we wouldn’t be financially independent, and we would be constantly relying on our parents to financially support us.
Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or are there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?
I’m pretty open about my sex life with people I know. There aren’t any stigmas that prevent me from doing so, I’m allowed to be as open as possible without feeling awkward. 

Liam, 21, gay, New York, Fashion Institute of Technology

 Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age?

No, I never felt pressure. If anything, my sexual curiosity was discouraged at a young age. Society as a whole sends a lot of mixed messages to young men… everything is sexualized, particularly women, but then schools preach abstinence. As a kid I got the impression that sex for pleasure was a bad thing, almost like doing drugs, but simultaneously I was seeing sexual images in the media. It’s confusing.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I wish that all of my sex education could have been open and honest. I was lucky enough to get a progressive sex education at my church, but I can’t say the same for my school. At church we had open conversations about masturbation, gay sex, bisexuality, contraception, STDs… everything under the sun. Unfortunately, the cookie-cutter sex education from my school stuck with me more because it was hammered into our brains.

How casually do you view or perceive sex?
Sex can be casual, but for myself, sex is an intimate thing. I’ve always been open to seeing sex as a casual activity, mostly because the majority of gay men see it that way, but it’s never been in my nature.
What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you?
Diseases, illnesses, whatever you want to call it. When you’re intimate with someone you can catch all kinds of things – not just traditional ‘sexually transmitted’ things. I’ve learned to be extremely careful.

Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or are there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

 I’m comfortable with being open about my sex life, but stigmas are alive and well. There is a great deal of shame surrounding gay sex, specifically sex between men. And even more specifically, gay men who are the receiving partner… it’s seen as ‘emasculation.’ It hasn’t been easy, but peeling back these layers of shame has brought me to a better, more open place. ‘Emasculation’ is bullshit, therefore I’m not threatened by it.

 David, 18, straight, New Jersey, Kean University

Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age? 

Now that I’m 18 years old and have experienced sex I think there is still a strong presence of pressure to try and have sex as much as possible to boost my own ego, but also for my friends to look at me and say “oh he’s the man, oh look he got with her and her.” I was pushed to start pursuing sex at a young age because I hung out with my older cousins a lot and they would talk to me about sex and I felt out of the loop, so I began to explore it more. I think nowadays with social media, TV, movies, and celebrities we look up to sex is being pushed to us at younger and younger ages, and I personally don’t like that. I think theres a time for everything and kids should just be kids. I was forced to mature a lot quicker than many of my peers because of the things I lived and experienced, from my family but also from growing up in Trenton, and I sometimes wish I would have had more time to just be a kid.

What do you wish you knew more about?

I think as I’ve grown older I’ve come in contact with more ways to be safe about sex that I wish I had learned earlier in life.

How casually do you view or perceive sex?

For me sex is not really a big deal. I guess it has to do with the fact that I began having sex at an early age and I never viewed it much more than an activity that provides pleasure. I know a lot of friends that view sex as sacred and something that is very private, to me I think of sex as just another thing, and personally I don’t need sex to be happy, I focus on a person’s mind and personality rather than their body. I do not need sex in a relationship, I do not view sex as an essential aspect of my life, where it would be the only thing I look for, or as something that I expect. I am also very understanding on how my view on sex can frighten people or make people look at me weird because growing up in a catholic household I was raised to believe sex is only for the person you
marry and you must wait till marriage, but in my personal view sex is not such a holy thing as I was raised to believe.

What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you?

For me at this age the scariest aspect or consequences that could arise is the idea of getting my partner pregnant. What scares me the most about this is having a child at this age, in the future I do want kids but I want to be financially stable and be able to provide for my kids in all aspects, financially, emotionally, physically be able to be there for them.  I do not want to bring a child into this world until I know I can provide for it, I do not want to bring a new human into a life of poverty and into a world like Trenton filled with crime, drugs, gangs, and violence. I have had pregnancy scares before with some of my previous partners and it has been the most terrifying moment of my life.

Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or are there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

I personally am very open about my sex life and my sexual history and I have had some shaming from friends and people about what I have done. It scares girls to know about my sexual history and my views on sex, it has been a big point of fear and distrust in me. I get viewed as a man whore, excuse my French, and that really is the deal breaker for a lot of women.  It bothers me when what I have done sexually in my past is such a big topic in the present, because the fact that I am very honest about my sex life is a way for me to try and build trust, I like to be a real down to earth person, and although there is a lot of judgement that comes along with that I think being open and honest about my sex life is the best way for me to live my life.

Ian, 21, gay, New York, Fashion Designer

Do you feel pressure to have sex? Do you feel society pressures young men to have sex at a young age? Why or why not?

I don’t feel pressured to have sex. Sex for me happened very organically. I came out when I was 12 and I think being so young left a lot of time for me to explore intimacy on my own terms. The majority of people I grew up with couldn’t relate to my experience as a gay teen so there wasn’t that sense of competition or pressure young men feel to have sex.

What do you wish you knew more about?

Truthfully, I wish I knew more about STDs. There is such stigma associated with them and I wish I had a better understanding of what they all mean and how to properly and effectively discuss/treat them.

How casually do you view or perceive sex?

Personally, I don’t perceive sex casually. I think that being young and living in New York City has made me a lot more comfortable and confident talking about it. The gay community is rooted in ‘hook-up’ culture which is fueled by dozens of LGBT dating/hook up apps that create a nonchalant vibe around sex. Personally, I’ve used those apps, and you can be as casual or deliberate as you want about sex, it’s what you make of it.

What’s the scariest/most fearful part about sex for you?

For sure STIs, specifically HIV/AIDS. I think that constantly getting tested and knowing your status is wildly important.


Do you feel you’re open about your own sex life or is there still stigmas or shame when it comes to that?

I feel fairly open about my sex life. It is always a topic of conversation among my friends and I. However, sex is incredibly personal and there are definitely parts of my sex life I don’t share with others so that my sex life remains personal and intimate.