top of page

On Digital Sexual Exploration

Diriye Osman

I have a theory that, as soon as we are toddlers and we become cognizant of the world, we have already been swallowed up by madness. To be alive is to be mad. This is not a bad thing or something to fear. It's about acceptance.

Everyone carries their own heaviness, their own madness from a young age, and life is about connecting with people whose madness correlates with, and complements, your own.

When you meet a potential paramour and you immediately think, 'The vibe ain't right,' it simply means that person's madness does not mesh well with your own.

But what I do know? I'm mad!

I used to be super-experimental sexually when I was younger. But I moved in silence, with twin selves dining out in my subconscious. One was this sweet-natured, almost childlike person, and the other was this blazing entity who, on the low, hoovered up everything and everyone in sight. It was wonderful.

I think young people now are terrified of any intimacy that extends beyond their phones, which is a shame. There are so many radical aspects of the digital revolution as it pertains to sex, and an interesting example is the democratisation of screen-based sex work for men, women and nonbinary folx. I find cam boys - and girls and nonbinary beauties - endlessly fascinating. Using the technology, they're celebrating their bodies, having real orgasms, and getting paid for the privilege. I think that's radical, particularly in the way it breaks down stigmas about questions of attraction and body types. It's such a valuable conversation to be having and I want to talk about it.

The downside of this revolution are the so-called hookup apps. If you're looking to physically connect with someone through digital dating, regardless of your gender, or lack thereof, or race, it's a frustrating experience. Digital bathhouses are cruising grounds that misunderstand the sole purpose of cruising grounds: to get laid with minimal to nonexistent conversation, and then dip. Having to preface your moves with desultory chit chat sends the flies falling into the buttermilk.

In the gay world, Grindr, Scruff, Jack'd and all their variant would-be butch surrogates are apps that treat sex and male intimacy as a rather mundane, even clapped-out gaming experiment. Very few exciting jumpoffs happen in those spaces because we're all too busy worrying about presenting a perfect, ring-lit simulation of ourselves that the reality can never live up to. If you think I look anything like my photos, you're in for a real shock, I can tell you that much.

But the beauty of gay saunas, porn cinemas, even cam sex, is there's no pretence. You have your bit of fun — hopefully safely and discreetly — and bugger off home. It's a thrill as well as a basic human impulse.

What I fear the younger generation of gay men in particular don't get to experience these days is a space for light-hearted exploration and wildness that doesn't require having to perform hours of dreary, soul-depleting conviviality with parochial morons hunched over their phones, hating their bodies.

I know I sound like a tedious fogey, advocating for seemingly outdated forms of sexual expression, but I'm a staunch believer that nothing equates to the human element. Nothing equates to the up-and-down-your-spine electricity you feel when you see a cute guy or a girl or nonbinary beauty strolling down the street, make eye contact, and he, she or they smile and you think, 'Shit, there are no edited lines. No filters. I am here as myself.'

And when they sense your geniality, your warmth and your weirdness, and smile at you, do not be afraid to smile back at them cheekily.

You might be surprised to find that their madness complements your own; and that, to me at least, beloved reader, is the essence of being alive.

With love,



Song of the moment: 'Slow Jams' by QUINCY JONES.

bottom of page