When it comes to the gay community, I feel pretty well versed. For only being out of the closet for the last seven years, I have experienced a lot and not much surprises me anymore. But this past weekend I had a very new and different experience that did surprise and intrigue me. It also made me realize things about myself and who I have become in the last seven years.
I spent the last three days at Sawmill Campgrounds in Dade City, Florida. This is a gay campground (yes, gay camping). Every weekend they have a different theme. This weekend was "All Things Bear." Not the animal, but large, hairy gay men. Yes, I went for bear weekend. I am proclaiming it proudly. We went with two friends (another couple) who are also not bears. The grounds are located in the woods in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the whole drive from Orlando to Sawmill reminded me of Indiana. It was a landscape I don't see very often living in Central Florida. There were small towns, signs about Jesus, trailers, and folks selling produce along the roadside. It was country, but in the middle of that country was Sawmill, which had a very down home (or homo) feel to it.
We rented a cabin and it was pretty much what I expected. I tried to keep my expectations low for the amenities, and I wasn't disappointed. It was basic, but really everything you needed. There was also a clothing optional heated swimming pool, a dance club/bingo hall, a general store, a sex store, a pool bar and restaurant, and lots of wooded areas for dark deeds (or you could just do them right out in the open, but we'll get to that in a minute).
"All Things Bear" was not a joke. The place was full of bears. I've seen and interacted with plenty, but I've never been immersed into bear culture. They are typically just a fraction of the crowd, not the majority. My friends and another non-bear couple that they knew affectionately referred to the pool as "bear soup" and it was. Lots of hair, lots of stomach, and lots of nudity. I really enjoy being naked, so the nudity was no issue for me, and in fact I was thrilled to have the chance to be so open and free in broad daylight. I didn't feel self-conscious as I walked amongst the various men (some well into their 70s with asses to prove it). Instead, I saw a display of acceptance for me and for everyone else.
I write a lot of about the positives of the gay community, because so few people discuss or acknowledge them. Gays are stereotyped as bitchy and judgmental. But I've had countless moments, like this past weekend, where I see nothing but acceptance and openness. Yes, I saw things I would not do myself, but I'm happy to know there's a place that people can go and let it all hang out (yes, all of it). I saw men that probably have very boring everyday jobs or men who most people would never assume were gay, and they were there enjoying themselves. They were there getting away from the world that isn't always so friendly to gay people or to overweight people. I'm clearly not overweight and will probably never be mistaken for a bear, yet these bears accepted me and accepted that I was in their soup and having a good time.
At the pool naked with a drink in my hand, I liked the life of a bear, but then night fell and the bear world exploded (figuratively and literally). The "dance club" was empty (bears don't dance), country music was rocking the courtyard, and pretty much everyone was in the bear den or sex dungeon. On bear weekends, for an extra fee, you can enter into the bear den. Your ten dollar fee gets you all you can drink beer and pretty much all the sex you want to have. Here is where the surprises came. I have seen a lot and I've participated in plenty (just ask Dustin), and I am far from any definition of a prude, but seeing old men fuck in a sling with people gathered around was a little bit (dare I say it?) shocking. It's hard to shock me and maybe shock isn't even the right word, but this was very much on a different level from my other gay experiences.
The dungeon (I feel den sounds too polite) was like a maze of sex with slings, glory holes, mattresses, condoms, and lube. It was dark. The men ranged in age and hairiness. It was a display of pure pleasure and man on man sex. It was eye-opening and something I'm happy to have seen, but may not choose to see again (at least in this context). Bears are nice people and are fun in the daylight of a pool, but are not my preference sexually. I wasn't repulsed, but for as much sex and penis as I saw, I was not that aroused by it, and I did not participate in the dungeon/den (well, voyeurism is participation or as I like to call it research). I did let people touch me, but I had sex in the privacy of my cabin.
Since leaving Sawmill this morning, I've been trying to figure out my reaction to it. Was it just that the men weren't my type? Do I have a type? Before going, I thought of myself as pretty open and willing. I'm a very sexual person, but the full-on freedom and sex romp that Sawmill was, made me see that I might like there to be a little mystery. When you show up to a party wearing only a jockstrap (which I did) and people are having sex within minutes of entering, there is no need to flirt or play the game I typically play in a dance club fully clothed. I realized I like that game. It turns me on and gets me going. Yes, if the guys at Sawmill had been more attractive to me, I might have been more willing, but I also think I simply prefer grinding against someone on a dance floor and imagining their body than just seeing it all out on display from the get go. Yes, I often see their bodies later, but it's different than just getting in a sling and going at it. It's like speed fucking. I like to take the long way around (like an hour or two), which probably still makes me a whore by most people's definition. But in the bear den I was not a whore, and it was a strange feeling.
This post is hard for me to write, because I don't want it to come off in the wrong way. I'm, honestly, not judging what I saw, but I'm happily saying bears in slings are not for me. I'm also admitting that as free as I am, maybe a little piece of me still wants a touch of charm and class. I'm not asking for tuxedos and gloved fingers, but I like a guy to have to reach down my pants to know I'm wearing a jockstrap (things I never thought I'd write).
Sawmill may not be my scene. I prefer my dance clubs and my gay cruises, but it was an experience like no other and I'm happy to have had it. I might try out another themed weekend, maybe a non-bear one, but who knows. I also left with a newfound respect for my bear brothers. They are who they are and they are fabulous and some wild motherfuckers.