Sam Te Kani is a writer, Karangahape Road institution, and our local NZ sexpert. In our new series, Sex with Sam, he explores the far fringes, practicalities, great myths and socio-political struggles of sex in New Zealand. In our first episode, he visits one of Auckland’s last cruise lounges—the old institutions of the gay community that have been eroded over time by the convenience of hookup apps.
VICE: Hey there. Tell me about yourself?
Sam: My name is Samuel Te Kani. I’m 27 years old, from Northland originally but I’ve been living in Auckland for five years now.
How did you get to be VICE NZ’s sexpert?
I had been very casually writing for Vice anyway for a little while. I had written a sex blog a few years ago that did kind of okay—called Grinder Guys. I’m in a relationship now so I’m obviously not doing it anymore, but at the time it was really cool. I was fairly near to the city and I hadn’t used Grindr yet- the app was relatively new at the time. So I was like, I really want to use the app but also I think I wanted [the blog to be] like a psychological prophylactic. Just to monitor my use and see what effect it had on me psychologically, emotionally and behaviourally. Just to make sure I didn’t go too native! But I ended up getting addicted to that anyway because it’s very easy to do.
It was this big thing getting Grindr, it massively changed my behaviour as well. It has its pitfalls, but it’s so liberating to be able to just fuck a stranger whenever you damn feel. I know that K Road as a queer space is like that, where you can go and fuck a stranger, like cruise lounges—where we interviewed the boys at The Basement for Sex With Sam. But there was a lot of contention there actually, between Grindr and the cruise lounges. Grindr has really taken away a lot of the custom and culture from those traditionally queer spaces. People don’t really use them so much anymore so they’re going out of business. It’s quite sad because yes—you get people who now feel like they have a lot more freedom sexually. But on the other hand, you lose some culture and identity by taking the literal place away for those practices.
Do you think Grindr is becoming more popular within the NZ community?
Yeah, it’s massive. When it all started I felt like I was quite late to the party because it would’ve been 2013, when I first made a Grindr profile for myself.
Favourite post on the blog?
Umm, something about anal and grain waves. I can’t remember the exact post, but I think I had like my perfect afternoon, consisting of a lot of grain waves and anal sex.
Why did you stop the blog?
I think I stopped just before I got into a relationship—or at least just before I met my current partner. It’s actually really exhausting, I was getting addicted to the app and I was hooking up with three or four guys a day and that’s like, really normal. It’s very common behaviour when you use the app heavily. And I was vaguely aware of that before I started the blog, that’s kind of why I did it. But yeah, I was less into it, exhausted by it and also I had my partner.
How would you define New Zealanders' approach to sex and sexuality?
I have this preconception that we’re quite a conservative country, and I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s a hangover from being under the Crown for so long or maybe it’s because we have such a miniature populous compared to other countries. But yeah, doing a bunch of interviews for the show, I think we are a lot more permissive than we give ourselves credit for. I just think maybe we talk about it less. So it’s not that we’re less sexual than other countries, but we just talk about what we do less.
Would you say there’s a stigma around sex in New Zealand?
Why do we start the Sex with Sam series in K Rd’s The Basement?
For me, places like The Basement are institutions on K Rd that have been going for decades. I really wanted to hold a light to what I consider to be a really formative culture for queerness in this country. They also represent a queer existence and queer spaces, prior to Grindr. Grindr’s a real shift for queerness in cities. People definitely still use cruise lounges, even with the convenience of the app, but even by other gay guys it’s seen as being ‘dirty’ or ‘dangerous’—and I think that’s a misconception as well. People think that Grindr—even Tinder, removes some of the risk from hooking up with a stranger. But just because you’ve exchanged a post or two with a stranger online doesn’t make them any less of a stranger.
Tell me about your first ever visit to the Basement?
It would’ve been a couple of years ago, and sucked off a couple of dudes in the dark. It was my first time at a cruise lounge—I was at The Basement and didn’t feel up to getting fucked by a stranger. But I went back later on and did that.
What’s the best thing about sex?
Definitely anal. It’s my absolute go to. Love it. I think it’s really funny that there’s a stigma around having your asshole even touched as a heterosexual male. It’s a body part that everyone has, it’s universal. Assholes transcend gender. And the stigma around stimulating the prostate as a heterosexual male is absurd because there’s this whole world of pleasure there.
Monogamy or polygamy?
I’ve played with both. And I think, what I really love is the idea of sexual promiscuity with emotional fidelity. So if you can find someone who’s willing to anchor themselves to you emotionally and build a life with you while you give yourselves freedom outside of that, then that’s cool. Communication is definitely key. So like emotional fidelity, sexual promiscuity and then be discreet with adventures outside of the relationship. But that’s just one way of doing it. Life is long and everyone is different.
What does your mum think of this?
I’ve told mum about it, she’s happy that I’m doing something. I don’t think she’s going to watch it though!