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The Beauty and Splendor of Being a Slut

I would estimate that I've slept with up to 3,500 men. But sex, whether at random or not, always represents a human connection—and that can always be beautiful.

Jeff Leavell

Jeff Leavell

The author, his husband, and his boyfriend. Photo by the author

The author, his husband and his boyfriend. Photo by the author

It was when I read an opinion piece by a British writer Dylan Jones that I learned I was a slut—an actual, world-class slut.

In his piece, Dylan describes being called a slut when, after the topic of one's sexual headcount came up as party banter, he estimated that he'd slept with 400 guys. Which, to me, is low. What was worse were the comments on an article which aggregated Dylan's essay, attributing his number to low standards and self-esteem, even supposed "mental health issues," as if one's worth lowers with each dick or ass you take. Sex-positive commenters emerged as well, praising his honesty while dismissing the puritans. But I can only imagine what those closed-minded moralists would say to me.

Sleeping with 400 men means sleeping with 40 each year for ten years. My husband Alex and I probably fucked 40 guys over the course of our five week honeymoon in Europe.

I had my first three-way when I was 14, with two neighborhood boys. I've been having sex regularly since I was 16. I have been having sex for 32 years—32 times 40 makes 1280. And that's a low estimate. The real number of men I've slept with, as far as I can figure, is somewhere between that and 3500.

I've had a lot of sex, and for that, I feel lucky.

What matters is the quality of the time we share together, whatever the duration of that time may be. I remind myself daily to remember that each man I make love to is a human being, and that I can love them for precious few minutes.

Sex isn't just about getting off. It's about connection and intimacy. Even in the most anonymous of hookups, there's something magical to be found; blowing a stranger in a bathroom can be as intimate and mind-blowing as any sex. Sex is transcendental and beautiful, even if that stranger pushes you away, zips up, and leaves. Even if you never see your partner again. Sometimes, especially if you never see them again.

I spent teenage weekends at my best friend's apartment on Central Park West. We would spend our Saturdays watching the Robin Byrd Show while I sucked him off. Eventually, I'd head out alone to Central Park. I was probably 16. I didn't have a community. I didn't know what it meant to be gay. And while I was a horny teenager, I wasn't just going to the park to fuck. I was looking for a place to belong, and people who were like me.

In the late 90s, I left New York for Los Angeles, and found myself alone in a new city. I had just read John Rechy's Numbers, a veritable cruising bible, and soon found myself stalking the shadows of Griffith Park, devouring whatever and whomever I found. I know now that what I searched for, beyond sex, was friendship, and a way to be intimate with another, even if just for a precious few seconds. I spent hours kissing, fucking, holding others' hands while they masturbated, whispering things into strange ears, sharing moments lost but for my memories.

There is real beauty to be found in holding someone while deep inside them, feeling their heartbeat and hearing their shallow breaths. Sometimes it's enough to share that feeling and nothing else. Occasionally, within moments of loneliness, self-hatred, and desperation, we find each other, and for a few minutes can anchor one another in a dark and isolating world.

I feel no shame for any of it. I have fucked amazing people, people I now care for and love, who would do anything for me and I for them in turn.

"That guy," I once overheard one man say about another, "has fucked so many people, his sex can't have meaning anymore. He's an addict." But sex has retained meaning to me. With some guys, it still feels magical, like something truly important is happening.

I refuse to shame anyone for their choices, even if they aren't choices I would make. For 12 years of my life, I was a daily heroin user. I have been an escort. I have slept with men for a line of coke. I've held men I loved while they died in my arms. I've stolen from people who meant the world to me. I have been selfish, unkind and petty. I have lied, I have cheated, and I've found redemption—a way to really like who I am, to forgive myself, and to seek out those I hurt and make amends.

We are broken beings living in a harsh world. Why shouldn't we be good to one another? Why shouldn't we fuck, support, cherish, and love one another? I want as many people to love and be loved in turn as possible in this world. I sincerely want my husband to fall in love and fuck as much as he can in this lifetime, and I want the same for our boyfriend, too. I want it for every guy I make love to, now and in the future...

What matters is the quality of the time we share together, whatever the duration of that time may be. I remind myself daily to remember that each man I make love to is a human being, and that I can love them for precious few minutes. I can hold them and protect them. That is the worth of who we are, and the value we can offer.

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