MY DEEP, DARK, HIDDEN SECRET
by Kevin Smith
I am a happily married, professionally-successful guy who carried around a deep, dark, hidden secret for many years, a secret I was so ashamed of that I didn’t think I could tell anyone about it. My secret? I had an insatiable and inexplicable need to be held by other men. It was as though somehow my skin was “touch hungry. ” While being held would sometimes produce an erotic response in my body, it was not sex that I was seeking. In fact, several times when hugging would turn into sex, I went home deeply disappointed and even more ashamed.
So about seven years ago, I summoned up the courage to place an ad on Craigslist to see if there were other guys like me out there. I was too ashamed to use my real name, so I got myself a new email account. I tried to use the name John Doe, but the system wouldn’t allow that. So, at random, I chose the pseudonym Kevin Smith, set up my new, secret email account, and posted an ad. I asked if there were any guys out there interested in hugging, just hugging, for an hour or so, and I also asked that there be a promise that it not turn into sex of any kind, but simply enjoy and explore hugging.
RITUAL INTO PRACTICE
I thought perhaps there might be one or two guys in my city who were interested, but instead, I got sixty responses from that first ad. And over the following year I proceeded to meet with many of those people who had responded. One of the earliest problems was that some of the people interested in holding me were also interested in giving me a blow job, and so I had to learn how to negotiate and establish boundaries so that I could get what I wanted, without getting what I didn’t want. And I did that; I learned how to establish and hold clear boundaries, fiercely but with kindness, with gentle strength, both for myself and others. And over time, I developed a technique for doing that, and the technique turned into a ritual, a practice.
About the same time as things crystallized into ritual form, my practice partners began to say to me, ’Wow, you know, this is great, whatever this is. What do you call this? You should write a book about this. Do you teach classes on this? You need to tell other people about this. This was really good for me.” I became aware that there were hundreds of men out there who wanted and needed this, and that I could help them.
So, ironically, just about the time that I started to feel like my need to be held was satisfied, I noticed that I was doing good for others, having done good for myself. I became interested in sharing my practice with others and teaching about it. At this point I have held hundreds of men. I have offered workshops on it at retreat centers all around the country. I continue to teach about this in groups, several times each year.
So what started in some sense as a ’selfish’ project has turned into a gift that I can give to others looking for whatever it is that I set out to find, and it is my goal to give this back to those who seek it, so that they may feel happy in their bodies the way I have come to feel happy in mine.
While I am no longer ashamed of what I do (I am quite proud of this work!) I keep the fictitious identity of “Kevin Smith” alive, partly to protect my privacy on the internet, but primarily to honor my own journey from shame to well-being, and to invite others out of the shadows.