For one man with lifelong confidence issues, straight cash was the convenient workaround toward sexual intimacy.
Though lately he's reflected on the shortcut.
The reckoning has been filled with shame and confusion, so much that he needed some anonymous advice.
The question was answered by STOYA, who never seems to be at a loss for advice to tough, private questions. In this case, the theme is loneliness deferred.
Content John begins with the mental health backdrop of on an unsustainable, years-long habit of his.
"I am a middle-aged gay man who has always been socially awkward and shy. I have struggled my entire life with dating, always diving into a relationship with pretty much anyone who showed any interest in me at all whether I was really attracted or compatible with them or not."
"This, of course, has not worked out. As I have aged, my self-esteem has deteriorated as well, especially with health issues."
He then gets into the nitty gritty.
"Ever since I was first discovering my attraction to other men in my early teens and 20s, I have actively looked to pay straight men for the chance to have sex with them."
"What this has usually amounted to was me paying them cash to give them oral sex. It's not something that I'm proud of, but it has really been the only consistent way that I've ever been able to have the sex that I desire and need."
"I've simply accepted that this is how I can have sex."
And finally, there was the stay at home induced reckoning.
He's hardly alone in that, to be sure.
"Recently, I spoke to one of my acquaintances about this during a long night of conversation we were both having while self-isolated for the current virus situation."
"She was appalled at me and told me that this was unhealthy for me and exploitative for the guys I deal with. The conversation ended on a frustrating, hostile note on her part."
"I'm just trying to get some impartial reactions or advice on this long-standing practice. Am I being unfair to myself and others getting the sex I need? I've never tried to force anyone to have sex with me, just offered them financial incentives to do so."
STOYA's response was three pronged.
First, she addresses the sex work angle.
"Depending on the laws in your area, you're potentially doing something illegal by paying people to engage in sexual activity with you. Illegal doesn't necessarily mean wrong, but it might mean 'bad idea'."
"In theory, I think all sex work is wonderful. In practice, engaging in some forms of sex work as provider or consumer can be risky and get you in some serious legal trouble."
Second, she addresses his friend's concerns.
"As for your friend, I think she's probably running more tense and sensitive than usual. (Aren't we all running more tense and sensitive than usual right now?)"
"That emotional baseline might be making her more rigid and judgmental on a subject that people already tend toward rigidity and judgment around. It might be worth revisiting the conversation when [the pandemic] has passed, the economy has recovered, and we're all able to be a bit more chill."
STOYA closes with a recommendation for the broader mental health concerns at play.
"A qualified professional—LGBTQ friendly, sex-positive, and kink-aware—should be able to help you tease out what's sexual pleasure and what's self-destruction."
The comment section provided a range of opinions, as always.
The supportive responses took a variety of forms.
Celio Daniel Guarate/Facebook
Alex Kyle-Thundershield Simmons
A few were more negative, though not necessarily toward the practice itself.
It's worth keeping in mind that Content John will in all likelihood be forced to take a break from the practice altogether, provided he follows stay at home orders to stop the spread of the virus.
Not he, nor STOYA, nor anybody else knows what that sudden halt will bring him.