GMFA Sex and the summer holiday By Stuart Haggas | @workofstuart The holidays we take are as varied as we are. They come in many shapes and sizes, from a weekend quickie to something long and indulgent. They can be hot and exotic, or quiet and chilled. Some are active, while others are relaxed and laidback. Some are economical, some cost a fortune. We sometimes wish we could stay forever, and sometimes we can’t wait to return home. So what’s the recipe for the perfect summer holiday? To find out, FS Magazine surveyed over 300 readers, asking about your favourite destinations, as well as your best (and worst) holiday sex. With 87% of respondents to the survey saying they’ve had sex on holiday, and 73% saying they drink more alcohol on holiday, it would appear that sun, sea, sex and sangria are four vital ingredients. “Travel is exciting and uninhibitting,” acknowledges Jamie Tabberer, travel editor of Gay Star News, “and provides the opportunity to meet people you might not otherwise ever meet.” WHERE DO WE GO ON HOLIDAY? We asked our readers about their most visited gay destinations. The top ten holiday spots are (it’s worth noting that many of our readers are from London, which may have skewed the results for the top spot - ed): London - 82% Amsterdam - 58% Barcelona - 57% New York - 48% Berlin - 44% Gran Canaria - 43% Sitges - 31% Ibiza - 29% Madrid - 28% Lisbon and San Francisco - 27% “I think these destinations came out top because they’re tried-and-tested blockbuster destinations for gay men, written about and discussed extensively. Stories about them are passed on through generations!” explains Jamie of Gay Star News. “They’re more or less the ones I would’ve guessed, and I think a lot of my friends would say the same. Visiting the likes of London, San Francisco and Gran Canaria are a rite of passage for many gay and bi men. And they’re every bit as amazing and LGBTI-friendly as they seem, in my experience.” A GAY HOLIDAY The ideal holiday routine for every gay man doesn’t necessarily involve relaxing on a sun lounger in Addicted swim trunks, followed by a gay bar crawl into the early hours. In fact, only 56% of readers have been on what they’d describe as a ‘gay’ holiday. Which means almost half of those surveyed say they’ve never visited popular gay destinations such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Sitges or Gran Canaria, nor have they taken a holiday with a group of gay friends – with the most common reasons being not having the opportunity or the money or not having a large circle of gay friends to go with. “I’ve never had the opportunity,” says Martyn, 30 from north west England. “I used to be too nervous, now I’m too busy, but I really want to go on one.” “Most of my friends are straight,” explains Darragh, 28 from Ireland. “I normally just go on holiday with family and my boyfriend,” adds Jack, 25 from south west England. For some gay men, they’re simply unappealing. “Not for me,” says David, 41 from Ireland. “I prefer a quiet holiday rather than a party one.” “They don’t appeal,” agrees Simon, 31 from south west England, “and the kind of body (I think) you need for it, I don’t have.” “It was OK when I was younger,” says Ryan, 34 from the Midlands. “Now they just seem desperate. Sex is the only motivating factor.” “I get the concept of vacationing in a ‘safe’ environment,” says Zack, 31 from London, “but let’s be real: a resort full of gay men will be totally sleazy.” RAINBOW COCKTAILS So what is the appeal of a gay holiday? It’s fun to let your hair down and not feel that someone is judging you,” says Daniel, from London. “It’s nice and relaxed, easy to hook up with guys,” says Liam, 29 from north west England, “and I don’t feel like I’m the only gay guy there.” “They are a fantastic way of getting your friends together and going to a place you can all be yourself the whole time,” says Mark, 48 from the Midlands. “You can be yourself without worrying about other people,” agrees John, 40 from Northern Ireland. “It is a break from the bigotry of home.” “It’s just a cheap laugh, isn’t it?” says Tom, 32 from London. “Sun, sea, sex, and all the brightly coloured cocktails a boy could want.” GAY CRUISING Thierry Coppens is managing director of The Cruise powered by La Demence. Since 2011, this gay cruise holiday annually takes over 2,000 gay passengers on a voyage around the Mediterranean. Ports include renowned gay destinations such as Ibiza, Mykonos, Athens and Tel Aviv. 73% of the passengers are from Europe, including numerous British gay men. “The Cruise has it all!” Thierry says. “Half of our passengers are couples who enjoy a romantic holiday among other gays, and for those with an open relationship, it also includes sex with others. The singles on board have a perfect setting to find quick sex or a romance. We know about many lasting relationships that met on board. There’s other types of cruising that goes on during a holiday, and it’s no only onboard a cruise ship. “I’ve hooked up onn a beach in Gran Canaria,” says Liam, 48 from London. “I’ve done it in a dark, hot nightclub,” says James, 38 from Ireland, “while you’ve got a tan and are feeling confident, with inhibitions lowered ‘cause you don’t know anybody.” “Rio during Carnival, was a hot one,” says Charlie, 34 from London. “His girlfriend was away, and it was a bit of sneaking around. All very role playing.” SUMMER HOLIDAY SURVEY RESULTS: WE ASKED: Have you ever had sex on holiday? 87% said yes 13% said no. Do you have more sex on holiday than at home? 45% said yes 47% said no 8% said I don’t know. On your last holiday, how many partners would you estimate you had? 34% said one 31% said two to three 14% said four to five 9% said more than eight 9% said none 5% said six to seven. AGAINST THE LAW Although a gay holiday might not be the #1 choice of every gay man, most of us prefer to only visit gay-friendly destinations, with 68% saying they won’t visit a country that has laws discriminating against LGBT people. “I just don’t understand why LGBTI people choose to visit and spend money in places where they could be arrested or even worse for being who they are,” says Andrew, 39 from the Midlands. “I wouldn’t want to risk being arrested/fined for who I am,” says Tom, 32 from London. “Plus I wouldn’t want my money to support regimes who think LGBTQI people are lesser humans.” “It would make me think twice and question my safety,” says Mark, 40 from north west England. “I don’t want to feel uncomfortable with my partner,” adds Gary, 47 from Scotland. “I wouldn’t want to be put in danger or have to pretend that we weren’t a couple,” says Ben 28 from London. “Even making sure we have a proper double room, and not just two beds that we push together – nobody wants to fall down the middle.” Thierry Coppens acknowledges that The Cruise wouldn’t include such countries on one of its itineraries. “We would never do so. If you arrive with more than 2,000 gays in such a port, then you can expect trouble. And even if the local authorities would allow you to dock there, you can expect local people to react against it.” However, 20% said this wouldn’t influence their choice of holiday destination, and 12% were unsure. “As long as I’m aware of the laws or behaviour towards gay people, I can act appropriately in public to make sure I stay safe,” explains Darragh, 28. And there are some who believe that visiting such countries as a gay tourist can have a positive effect. “It does not help the LGBT people in that country to ignore their plight,” says Ant, 35 from London. “Fight from within.” “It’s a completely personal decision and I don’t judge anyone on this,” adds Jamie of Gay Star News. “There are arguments on both sides. I would say that donating to worthy causes to help the plight of LGBTI people in the country you’re visiting, if local laws and customs leave a lot to be desired, might be worth thinking about. Then, of course, you should always research your destination completely before travelling, by visiting the Foreign Office’s website for example, and be respectful of the culture while you’re there.” HOLIDAY SEX Regardless of where we go or what type of holiday we choose, certain survey findings stand out. 87% of readers say they’ve had sex while on holiday, with approximately half saying they have more sex on holiday than they do at home. 73% of those surveyed say they drink more alcohol on holiday. However, only 10% say they take more drugs on holiday. So what is the appeal of holiday sex? NEW AND EXCITING “The unpredictable nature of it makes it exciting,” explains Luke, 29 from London. ”Like the guy I met naked on this beach in Brazil, or the guy in Thailand who snuck me into the hotel he worked in then proceeded to cum hands-free from me fucking him.” “I once was walking along a beach in Tenerife, and I locked eyes with a guy, says James, 24 from Scotland. “We both started kissing without any chat. We had sex on the beach. We then went back to his hotel. I banged him and left. Ian Howley, Chief Executive of Health Equality and Rights Organisation (HERO) said, “Many gay and bisexual men change their habits while on holiday and it’s understandable. You’re in a new country, you don’t know anyone, nobody will judge you. So it’s quite understandable that you will engage in sexual activities that you don’t do back home. But while it’s important to enjoy the sex you are having you should also have boundaries of what you are and are not willing to participate in. If an orgy is your red line then it’s best to stick to it. It will stop you from having any regrets on the plane home.” SUMMER HOLIDAY SURVEY RESULTS cont... WE ASKED: Have you ever had holiday romance? 40% said yes 58% said no 2% said they didn’t know. If yes, did it ever last beyond the holiday? 36% said yes 64% said no. Do you drink more alcohol on holiday? 73% said yes 18% said no 4% said they didn’t know 6% said they don’t drink If a country has laws discriminating against LGBT people, does it stop you from visiting? 69% said yes 20% said no 11% said they weren’t sure. WISH YOU WEREN’T HERE Holiday sex isn’t always a ‘Wish You Were Here’ moment, because sex in foreign and far away places can sometimes be unforgettable for the wrong reasons. “I went home with a guy in Peru late when I was drunk,” says Darragh, 28 from Ireland, “and had to walk 5km to get home as there were no taxis. His place was horrible and I felt very unsafe going home.” “I got locked in an apartment by a guy in Gran Canaria who wanted to pretend to be a cat,” says Mark, 48 from the Midlands, “and he wasn’t going to let me out until I spilt my milk (cum) on the floor for him to lap up! Scary as fuck!” “When I was young I met a guy in a club in Budapest who fucked me in the toilet,” says Luke, 29 from London. “He was really rough, took the condom off mid-fuck without telling me, and made me bleed.” “I’ve been too wasted a few times to really enjoy what was going on, or to take the necessary safety precautions,” admits Daniel, 32 from Ireland. SICK OF SEX Vomiting features in several ‘worst holiday sex’ responses, reinforcing that sex and alcohol don’t always go together. “In Thailand, I met a really hot guy, took him back to my hotel room, and just as we were getting physical he vomited all over the bed,” says Daniel, 41 from London. “He’d had way too much beer to drink earlier.” “I was being given a blowjob in a darkroom,” says John, 39 from London. “The guy giving me a blowjob was also being fucked. The guy who fucked him threw up on his back.” HOLIDAY STIS More sex and more sexual partners (combined with increased alcohol consumption which lowers inhibitions) can increase the likelihood of catching an STI. “I was free of STIs before I went on holiday but when I tested on my return I had gonorrhoea,” says Richard, 44 from London. “I got chlamydia in throat from giving head,” says James, 30 from London. “I used a condom but still picked up the infection, probably from getting head,” says Chris, 27 from Ireland. “I got tested and treated at home after, and informed the guy by messaging him on Grindr.” “I did have to go on a course of PEP once after taking it bareback in a club in Brighton whilst drunk,” admits Andy, 45 from London. “Thank fuck I was in the UK where I knew what to do and where to go.” Thierry of The Cruise explains how his onboard team are ready to handle sexual health issues. “We do have a safe sex team of three persons on board, who assist passengers with questions, e.g. where can they buy HIV medication in each port of call (should passengers lose their medication or forget to pack enough). We offer free condoms and lube inside the cabins and at the darkrooms and cruising areas. We also organise to have sufficient PEP in the ship’s hospital.” POST-HOLIDAY CHECK-UP The risk of catching an STI while on holiday is something the majority of us are conscious of: 53% of those surveyed say they’re more likely to get a sexual health/HIV check-up after taking a holiday. “Because there are more unknowns,” explains Mark, 40 from north west England. “It’s more anonymous, and you’re less likely to be contacted if a holiday partner subsequently finds something.” “It feels more risky to have sex with strangers in another country,” says Chris, 27 from Ireland. “Increased sex equals increased risks,” says Mark, 43 from London. “So to be on the safe side I get checked out.” PASSPORT, TICKETS, PrEP With some gay men now on PrEP, plus the option for others to take PrEP just for a holiday, has this changed the way some of us approach sex on holiday? “It has made me a bit more confident and relaxed. I don;t think I have more sex than I did before, but I don’t have the same anxiety the morning after,” says Andy, 45 from London. “ I still use condoms but less than I use to and I definitely bareback more.” “I started taking PrEP very recently and I’m more willing to get fucked bareback by strangers,” admits Rich, 36 from London. “We also recommend that if you plan to have sex while on holiday, and you are HIV-negative, that you look into PrEP”, says Ian of HERO. “PrEP is a drug that can stop you from becoming HIV-positive. Lots of gay men go on a ‘Holiday PrEP’ programme where they take the pill regularly before they go on holiday, while on holiday and for a period after they return home. This strategy works to stop men, who engage in riskier sex while abroad from contracting the virus.” HOLIDAY ROMANCE When we hook-up for sex on holiday, it’s not always an anonymous fuck in a darkroom or amidst the dunes of a gay beach. 40% of gay and bi men who completed our survey admit they’ve had a holiday romance. “I met a boy in a hostel in São Paulo. He was Brazilian but on holiday from Rio,” says Luke, 29 from London. “After a day of eying each other up around the common areas we got chatting and then got making out. We spent a week together going round the city and having fun (illicitly having sex in the hostel showers and once, quietly, with the curtain drawn on my dorm bed). When I went to Rio a week or two later I saw him again but he was cold and distant. He told me later he was worried about falling for someone who would be leaving in a few days, which I understand.” “Met a sweet and funny guy at a bar during my second night in San Francisco,” says Andy, 45 from London. “We had so much fun and the sex was amazing. I was there for three weeks but we both knew it wasn’t going to last the trip back to London.” “I hitchhiked my way from Hungary to Belgium once for a techno festival,” says Daniel, 32 from Ireland. “I was too broke to return, so I started washing dishes in a restaurant. The bartender put me up for two weeks, and we kept it long-distance after. He visited me some months later for the New Year. It ended around February.” “Met a sweet guy on holiday in Sitges years ago. We fucked every night and met a couple of times after the holiday. We still keep in touch,” says Jim, 53 from the east of England. “He became my first boyfriend and we were together for two years,” says Tim, 39 from the Midlands. “We met while he was working in Spain and I was on holiday at a place he was the rep. When the season ended, we lived about an hour away from each other here in the UK so it was fairly easy to keep it going.” Some holiday romances are however doomed from the start. “We met, kissed, made love, spent two weeks having an amazing time,“ says Ant, 24 from London, “then he went home to his wife.” WHERE WILL YOU GO NEXT? 36% of the men surveyed say that the availability of sex is a factor that influences their choice of holiday destination. “I went to Mardi Gras in Sydney for the ease of picking up guys, as well as for the spectacle of being there,” acknowledges Tim, 39 from the Midlands. “I like having sex on holiday,” says Nick, 42 from Wales. “I wouldn’t go somewhere only for sex, but it’s a factor.” “Sex is a fun part of life – just as much as clubbing or hiking or swimming or anything else people go on holiday to do,” says Tom, 23 from London. “I have more time and I’m not tired from work,” explains Mark, 48 from the Midlands, “and holidays are for enjoying yourself.” “It’s easier to have anonymous sex abroad,” adds Colin, 50 from north west England. “It’s just get laid and move on, without reams of text messages before and after.” “I’m quite broad minded and I always have fantasies of holiday flings and group sex,” says Liam, 29 from north west England. “Where better to try them out than on holiday with a bunch of people you’ll never see again?” Should you fancy going on a gay holiday, there’s a whole world of choices. Other destinations our readers recommend include Brighton, Bangkok, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Prague, Provincetown, Key West and Torremolinos. Just remember to send us a postcard.