CAMPsafe: "Facts of Pleasure" Revealed at Retreat
"Besides the obvious, what parts of your body give you pleasure when your partner plays with them?" Scott Carroll asked the men attending the first-ever CAMPsafe Men's Retreat at the Renegade Resort this month.
Responses came quickly from throughout the room. "I like to have my arm pits licked," "toes tickled," "nipples pinched," "ears nibbled," "thighs massaged."
With each answer, Scott used a strip of tape to mark the spot on the body of his seminar co-leader Larry Villegas. Before long, Larry was practically wrapped in tape. "No, don't seal up my mouth!" he cried after someone cited "lips" as a sensual favorite. "I have a lot to say today."
With a combination of gentle humor and hard information, the workshop leaders from Washington's Whitman-Walker Clinic presented a picture of the male anatomy that demonstrated how many techniques there are to give and receive pleasurewithout resorting to risky sexual practices.
On a beautiful autumn Saturday afternoon, men from all over Delaware and beyond came indoors to the Renegade's cabaret room to swap personal experiences and learn new approaches to the subject, "The Anatomy of Pleasure." It was the first seminar in the two-day retreat sponsored by CAMPsafe, an HIV outreach project of CAMP Rehoboth, in association with the Renegade and the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
Both workshop leaders are highly skilled in facilitating such groups. Scott Carroll, who began his HIV prevention efforts with the Berkeley Free Clinic in California, currently works with Whitman-Walker's G-Net, a gay wellness program. He also serves as administrative coordinator for the AIDS Vaccine Coordinating Committee. Larry Villegas, a nurse and the director of Latino Services at Whitman-Walker, chairs the Needs Assessment Committee for the HIV Community Planning Committee of the District of Columbia.
The two facilitators stressed that the types of body play listed by workshop participants need not be considered mere foreplay. "Touching can be warm and affectionate or erotic and exciting," Larry said. He explained that body rubbing and mutual masturbation not only can be satisfying but also are usually safe, as long as no cuts or sores on the skin come in contact with a partner's semen.
At Sunday's seminar on dating and relationships, Scott suggested that "we each set personal limits on how much risk we're willing to take with a new partner, and stick to those limits. I might decide that I am willing to 'make out' with a guy on the first encounter, explore some massage on the second, have oral sex on the third. By staying within my parameters, I get to know my partner better. We both become more comfortable with each other, and we have time to work out our mutual boundaries and address our safety concerns."
"Don't worry about turning someone off," Larry added. "Many men find it an attractive quality that you care enough about yourselfand about himto take things slowly."
During Saturday's seminar, the participants were given the opportunity to practice opening and unrolling condoms. Several men immediately used their teeth to rip open the packagesa no-no because of the possibility of puncturing the condom. Likewise, it's important not to let sharp fingernails dig into a condom while it is being unrolled. The facilitators passed out a wide array of styles and brands, ribbed and non-ribbed, lighter and heavier weight, each of which creates different physical sensations.
"You have a lot of choices in what kind of condom you prefer," Scott noted. "But there is no smart choice except to use a condom if you're going to have anal sex."
With the weather perfect, Sunday's session moved outdoors to the Renegade's palm-tree lined deck for a freewheeling discussion on how to find and keep a man. At one point, the facilitators asked each participant to write a classified ad describing themselves and what they seek in a partner. While many of the conferees focused only on their best attributes, Scott suggested that we be totally honest in describing ourselves.
"I once decided to place an ad that included a lot of my flaws," he said. "At the time I wore thick glasses, and I admitted it. I said I had a lot of freckles and was usually pale. I was surprised how many good responses I got from men who love freckles, pale skin or glasses."
Being honest, whether in an ad or in person, whether the subject is what you want out of a relationship or your HIV status, is the best policy. By avoiding games of deceit right from the start, you're more likely to find yourself in a relationship with real staying power. The same goes for men in long term relationships. The group agreed that an occasional indiscretion is no reason to bail out on your partner, but that parameters should be established as to the limits of outside sexual behavior and that safety must be pledged. "If something risky does occur," Scott said, "you and your steady partner must be willing to begin using condoms immediately and both get tested regularly."
New friendships were one immediate result of the retreat. Many of the participants attended Saturday night's dance at the Renegade, where they had an opportunity to get to know one another socially. "It's been a treat," said one conferee. "I've seen some of these men around town in the past, but we had never spoken. Suddenly, we're all dancing together, laughing and buying each other drinks. This weekend has made me feel that I'm more a part of a community."
Thanks to Wayne Hodge and the community-minded staff and management of the Renegade for opening their facilities to the CAMPsafe Retreat and for providing complimentary dance passes to all our registrants. Thanks also to Beth Beck of the Speaker's Bureau at Whitman-Walker for selecting such fine facilitators. Finally, a special note of gratitude to Scott and Larry: you both have made a lot of new friends at the beach. Come back soon.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 14, Oct. 15, 1999