This article was first published two years ago following the conviction of rapist Reynhard Sinaga. Now, with the release of Four Lives starring Stephen Merchant and Sheridan Smith, which looks at the bungled police investigation into the dreadful crimes of Stephen Port, it couldn’t be more relevant.
Ten years ago, on a warm summer’s afternoon I am in a well-known clothes rental store getting a kilt for a Scottish friend’s wedding (I have since bought one) laughing and chatting with the lady who’s serving me. She is about to measure me up when a male assistant interrupts.
“Oh, I can see what size he is, I’ll pop down and get a couple for him to try.”
There is nothing unusual here and the lady shuffles off. Minutes later the man returns and ushers me to the changing room. “Try that one on first” – and he leaves me. Barely seconds before I have it on, he is back. This time he has tape measure in hand. “Oh, that’s too loose, let me double check the measurements.”
Are you gay?
To be honest, I really loathe trying clothes on in shops, so my thought was, at this point, that was what that girl was doing before you interrupted. Before I know it, he has the tape measure around me and as he releases it his hand goes up the kilt and he grabs the Crown Jewels. “Sorry, it slipped, I’ll get you the right size.”
Now I feel like a rabbit in the headlights. “Did that just happen?”
If I am left in any doubt, he returns with a third kilt in hand and whispers,
“Are you gay?”
I lie and say no!!! Taking the kilt I close the curtains on him and just stand there thinking “What the fuck?” Funnily enough, the lady who was originally serving me checks me out while he is nowhere to be seen.
Anyone reading this may well say, “The man doth protest too much.” But unless you have been sexually assaulted, you have no idea how you will react.
My first thought was, what did I do to encourage that behaviour? Second, if I complain, it is going to be, “You’re a gay man, you must have encouraged it.” If you were that traumatised you should have run out of the shop.”
My gay friends were not any help either. “Lucky you, dear, you’re no chicken but the boys keep coming”, one laughed. “It can only happen to you,” said another. “Do you have his number?”
This is not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me. I don’t want to sound like a victim but I always blame myself. Much as I have been out since 15 and a spokesperson for LGBTQ and Walk with Pride, due to various experiences there is still some shame and trauma around my sexuality. But I built a wall around myself so nobody can tell.
This experience is common to so many gay men I have spoken to who have been sexually abused or raped. “We must have done something to deserve this.” Trust me, this is not unusual. There are men, gay and straight, walking around who have been raped and are terrified anyone finds out.
My heart goes go out to the bravery of Sam Thompson. What a man. Sam was raped by two men in Manchester. He has led the way in encouraging reporting and talking about sexual abuse and rape.
Though in macho British society men are raised on the “big boys don’t cry” motto, we are getting better. Talking about feelings is hard for men because society’s labelling of what a man should. It’s almost impossible to live up to.
What really stands out about Sam’s horrific ordeal – he is heterosexual – is there are so many comments claiming that it must have been so much worse for him as he was straight.
This shows a complete lack of understanding. And exactly one of the reasons there is so much shame around reporting being raped among both gay and straight men. It’s as if it was “not as bad” if you’re gay. Almost as if we would take some pleasure in it.
Another human forcing them on you is wrong, no matter what your sexuality is. The fear that you’ll be judged can be as bad as the act itself. Sexual-awareness experts say that probably only nine percent of men raped or sexually abused will report it due to the fear they won’t be seen as “real men” or, perhaps, because of internal homophobia.
In fact, many of the men who commit the act of rape don’t identify as gay. They are not typically to be found on the gay scene, though they may hunt on the periphery for victims.
Who could forget the film “Shawshank Redemption” set in a prison when Andy, the hero, hears that the nicknamed “Sisters” (three men) have taken, “a shine to him”? Andy replies, “I don’t suppose it would help if I told them I am not homosexual?”
Red replies, “Neither are they. You’d have to be human first. They don’t qualify.”
Male rape has been seen as a taboo subject in the media. It only raises its head in the prison genre of movies. It caused shock revelations when the movie “Scum” came out in 1979 (it was set in a boys’ reformatory) due in part to the male-rape scene.
Seventeen years ago, Channel 4’s Hollyoaks tackled the subject with the Luke Morgan storyline. The victim was brilliantly played by Gary Lucy. It remains their most popular storyline to date.
A recent, horrible turn of events has forced the subject of male rape to hit the headlines, with Britain’s worst rapist, Reynhard Sinaga, 36, found guilty of luring 48 men from outside bars and clubs in Manchester back to his flat where he drugged and assaulted them. In many cases he filmed them. The actual number of victims has been estimated to be in the hundreds, but fear, guilt or just not realising what happened meant that many assaults went unreported.
It is so important that these assaults are reported, and that men talk about sexual assault and rape.
I know what the risks are because now I am going to talk about the rape of a 16-year-old boy. Me! And just how easy it is for it to happen.
My home life was a nightmare. I had come out just before my 16th birthday but those details or for another day. Needless to say, I was desperate for some kindness and positive male role models. We had moved from Whitley Bay to what was supposed to be London, but it was Surbiton and I knew no one, let alone having the chance to meet another gay person in suburbia.
There were no apps or dating sites. The rules of my house, apparently there to protect me, actually put me in more danger as I had to be home by a silly time and could never stay out overnight in case the “homosexuals got me”. But it was fine to leave me and go to Spain for two weeks before I came out. Still, we all make mistakes and I am sure my folks meant well. I’m not judging, just giving you a bit of background.
Being a resourceful sort, it did not take long for me to come up with a plan, and I discovered Earl’s Court and a bar called The Coleherne on Brompton Road. Apart from a pint with some of the people at the theatre school in Newcastle I went to when I was 15, I had never really been to a bar, let alone a gay bar. Honestly, it felt like entering the genie’s cave. It was overwhelming – people like me! – and it was exciting. It wasn’t long before a lad a few years older than me approached me and asked, “Where are you going next?” He thought it was hysterical when I said I had a curfew.
“Well lovely, you have time to get down to Catacombs. They don’t sell booze, but we can have boogie and coffee.” He was called Ian and he was going to be my “sister” (gay slang).
Oh god, I fell in love with the Catacombs. The rich music of Grace Jones’ La Vie En Rose came bursting up to greet me as I walked down the stairs into the small, vibrant club. I felt free and safe as I danced and laughed with people that seemed to be like me. Honestly. the music of Donna Summer and the like meant I could not wait to go back the following Saturday. It insulated me from the often-miserable time during the week.
One night, one of the guys running the club, who was older, starting chatting. He told me that hanging out with Ian, I might get myself a reputation. It was a shame as I was “a nice lad”.
“Listen, some of us are going to lunch tomorrow, around one o’clock. Why don’t you come too? Don’t tell your mate though. I’ll fill you in when we chat tomorrow.”
I was getting what seemed to be approval and he seemed so nice. I honestly could not wait to get home that night and then back to Earl’s Court. I arrived a little early to make a good impression and had dressed up. He was a few minutes late and patted me on the back, so smiley.
“Do you mind if we nip down the club? I need to do a bit of cashing up, the others are running late.”
Mind? Of course not. I was actually excited to go. Once in, he popped some music on, and he had some alcohol behind the coffee bar – hidden, as it had no licence.
“Drink?” he said. Who was going to refuse, and he was so interested in me. He was counting money and he eventually topped me up and next thing I feel like I am spinning and in a dream state, and my body was almost limp with the red lights of the club beaming on me. In my hazy recollection there were two men on me.
Luckily, they took me to Ian’s car (worse could have happened). I was being very sick. Ian knew I was a not a big drinker at the time. Honestly, I could hear him going mad and the men saying that too much drink had been consumed.
“That’s not drink,” he screamed. He had to give me saltwater as the sick was black. We got a friend of Ian’s to take me home, but I was in an awful state. I dared not tell anyone what had happened and – to be honest – I was not sure what had happened at the time. But I knew it wasn’t good.
Of course, I stuck to the story that it was drink. However, my parents decided that, on top of me being gay, I was now a drug addict, and mum started calling helplines. This had given them all the ammunition to confirm that everything about being gay was bad. Of course, it was all my fault. It was my fault that in my need for validation from a male, so sadly lacking, I had listened to gossip and not told my friend Ian. My heartfelt apologies went out to him and it was a lesson.
There were other consequences, and luckily Ian helped me see a doctor so I could keep what had happened covered up from family and work. Yet who did I blame. Myself, of course. So, as in other traumatising situations from my childhood, I internalised it and coped.
I moved on and never spoke about it ever again, Of course I apologised for being such a terrible person. Bless my parents, they really were not to know. Still, one of the best things that happened was that I moved out a few months later to Chiswick and was much safer and happier.
But only a month later, one Monday night, was Bangs, the UK’s biggest gay club night, and I managed to persuade my parents that as Tuesday was my day off it would be easier to stay with Ian. Dancing was my escape. I loved it, and quickly I was approached by a young air steward who asked me to a party in the countryside. It was being hosted that Sunday by someone famous who “would love me”.
Well, he was young and nice, and it was different, and it was someone famous.
Gin and tonic
They would even pick me up. Of course, when I got there, and my host greeted me it was straight off to the tennis court. It was only the four of us and we quickly moved into the disco room and drinks flowed.
But in all my excitement and nerves, wanting to please, I got drunk on gin and tonic.
There was no food, but it became clear I was the main course for the host. Only later in life, when my nephew got to 15 -16, I thought never would I do something to a young person and take advantage of them. I honestly don’t think I would be responsible for my actions if anyone touched my nephew. It is funny, the celeb is busy dishing the dirt on so many people. I won’t name him, but according to a celebrity pal of mine her friend says he still has young people shipped in. Trust me, there is another Prince Andrew story out there.
It’s only now I don’t blame myself, but I could not talk about things till now: what happened in the Catacombs club, even my best friend and sister don’t know.
What is so frightening is the rise of chem-sex parties in London, with so many deaths and stories of apparent rape. I have never been to one and I am not judging, but it’s just not what would turn me on. But I guarantee there will be a line crossed and men will leave blaming themselves for just being there or feel they asked for it for just being gay.
GHB, one of the common drugs used at the parties, comes in a clear liquid form and was apparently used by Reynhard Sinaga on his victims (and also by gay serial-killer rapist Stephen Port). Is incredibly dangerous and can either kill the user or invoke a sensation of euphoria. It’s a fine line, though.
With the rise of this drug and the rise in male rapes too, is it possible we can all talk about it and start to make a difference? No means no and it’s never okay to put anything in anyone’s drink.
If you have been raped or sexually abused and would like to talk you can find support below: