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photography by Fela Gucci

Thabiso: Gay CBD and the Complexities of Nivea-ness

Thabiso, a lean figure that would rouse rampant suspicion in the skinny-shaming society that lurked outside the shut door, carried a strong face with eyes that danced with miscalculated intensity. My gaze journeyed lazily along the smooth silver landscape where the moonlight licked his skin; his body paralysed by the emasculating failure that lingered like frankincense in the fabric of my sheets – he could not get hard.

He failed dismally at it and, as a result, we decided against the premeditated strictly top/bottom dichotomy that we were comfortably abiding by. It only felt fair for the continuation of that highly desired and aggressively pursued ritual that I penetrate him instead.

I did. And the pressure, coming from all dimensions of the universe, caused me to last only three seconds. I bowed my head behind his hot neck in shame while giving my last thrusts with a depleted dick in desperate denial. He eventually asked me if I had come. My nervous sigh said yes while the wrinkled grape scented latex around me said I was halfway through my second pot of tea already and it was time to leave. A bitter taste became my mouth. I never thought I would ever relate to one of those posters that sell performance enhancers with bold iridescent word art at every street corner.

Emasculated and displaced in our own sexuality, we lay next to each other. We both failed to execute a single one of the pornographic positions that were promised only minutes before in a heated post-badoo WhatsApp thread. How could we?

Thabiso tried to climb on top of me again but his eager pelvis met my defiant foot.

“Stop. No. Can I walk you back to your apartment?” I asked, with my hand gently playing an awkward symphony against his faint ribs while staring at the ceiling which seemed to go on forever in the darkness. “I have experienced violating sexual experiences lately and I’m really not comfortable with having you here anymore. I am sorry, I hope you understand.”

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I finally looked into his eyes that seemed oblivious to the urgency in my glare. Any guy with good manners would be fiddling with his last button by now, I reasoned.  Instead, he just lay there as still as the hot air around us. “It’s 3am” he finally whispered. “The security locks the gate at 12 and I don’t have my phone with me to call him” he insisted after I assured him that it was safe to walk at that time. There was no way out. Once again I was stuck with a stranger in my bed.

I talked myself out of the cry that doesn’t belong to us “men”, just in time to hear words I never thought I’d hear spoken in my bed. I grew up thinking, dreaming and naively pursuing the perfect image of love, the perfect romance, the picture of Lucas and Sammy rolling in the sands of Salem beach, the picture of that well built white male couple from the Gay Pages I secretly paged through but never bought from Exclusive Books as a teenager. Although all those ideals had been in the process of being unlearnt, in that moment they were shattered out of existence and the pieces pierced my inflated Delusions of Grindr. 

“It happened to me too”  He said. “I was 19 and still living in Cape Town. My boyfriend was much older. He invited me over one night, but he didn’t tell me his friends were also going to be there.” His eyes didn’t leave the ceiling.

“The pain….” He choked and I secretly hoped it was because of my strong cologne.

“… I had to go to the doctor the next morning for the bleeding.”

How many others? I kept wondering.

These are not necessarily the things we discuss during/after (a failed attempt at) meaningless sex. These are not necessarily the things we discuss over wine or while waiting to pee at Great Dane. These are not the things we talk about when we are alone with our closest friends. Why? Well, the reasons are probably beyond my comprehension but from where I stand, I have observed a crippling shame attached to any feeling other than the unfazed nivea-ness one is pressured to portray in public spaces as defence. The kind of nivea-ness that makes you ignore the guy you fucked the previous night when you bump into him at Shoprite the following morning; the nivea-ness that will force you to internalise your struggles out of fear that they might be used to moisturise another hoe’s scalp to your disadvantage; the nivea-ness that limits the way we love.

Our own dancefloors, in the clubs that were not designated for us but occupied by us until we could claim them as our own, have started to echo the violent erasure of the queer experience and all its complexity. You cannot even dance if you want dick when the dick wants nothing but the straight-acting serenity of post-mig33 nivea-ness, dipping its tongue into the neck of a Savannah bottle there by the corner.

Imagine if you wanted to talk, if you wanted to be nothing but yourself, to be transparent about the things that bother you: your poverty, your strained love life, the residual trauma of growing up gay in an anti gay world, the trauma of not being able to interrogate your own experience of sexual violence because misogynoir has become an integral part of your existence, a mere gaze that polices your horny, gyrating femme body into undesirable sub-human spaces where “tops” can force themselves into your anus even when you have said no because what else could you be asking for? You are gay. Gays love sex.

My experience with Thabiso made me aware of this ever-spreading rash of unspoken truths hiding beneath dark veil of nightlife in the cbd. It made me cherish the bravery of those who danced, those who walked the streets at night either to the club or to a stranger’s bed, to live the way they wished in a dark city that promised everything. It made me realise the importance of creating safer spaces beyond the frills of our sheets, where we can express our true nature in all its strength and vulnerability without the violence we’re so accustomed to in the daylight. Because everyone on the Buffalo Bills dancefloor, still or mobile, is essentially an adult who was once a child who was probably teased, who probably hated themselves until they found in a deep dark place the courage to fight for the visibility of their true light. It made me realise the importance of loving each other, even if it’s for a night, even after a failed sexual experience that left you feeling worthless and unlovable.

“I love you.” I told Thabiso.

We never saw each other again.

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