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My consent and I: Why expressing my sexuality isn’t an invitation

© Will Dube @iamwilldube

I giggle and I squirm. I look to my watch to check the time, and I wonder where my phone is. I cover my face while uncomfortably figuring out what to say and how to deal with yet another crossed boundary.

“May I ask you a question?” said the photographer. “Sure” I replied, assuming it be relevant to the four-hour shoot we just finished in one of Spain’s most prestigious studios. “May I touch your penis?” he asked, with innocent abandon. My eyes dart away from him immediately, I timidly laugh, and I shrug while saying “probably not”. He says “OK” and I rush, in slow motion, to collect my belongings from the studio, while nervously muttering to myself in a way that distracts my thought process from the sheer awkwardness of the moment.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it definitely won’t be the last. For the past several years I have celebrated my body in photographs and films, in an unrestricted, and unapologetic way. I explore my life and sexuality through the art of the self portrait, in both photographs and film.

Being fearlessly nude is a way for me to own my sexuality as a gay man. I like to project sensitivity, while also evoking sensuality. Celebrating my feminine side within my masculine shell. I like to inspire younger gay men who may feel insecure about projecting a proud sense of sexuality, in their life or work.

© Will Dube @iamwilldube

I love collaborating, and have shot with hundreds of photographers all over the world. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my work, the lines between professionalism, nudity, sex, and consent can be very blurred, and I’ve found myself in some very dangerous, and uncomfortable situations.

I recently wrote a memoir about my experiences of sexual assault and harassment by gay men. These situations have involved photographers, prolific magazine editors, and other gay men I’ve met along the way. I have been sexually blackmailed, assaulted, verbally harassed, and raped.

I’m sad to say that I’m so used to being sexual assaulted by powerful gay men, that I can read the signs before it’s about to happen, and it feels like I almost mentally record every experience now just for research.

Sometimes I want to share an exposé, or upload a screenshot, but, like the millions of women who are scared to speak out, I am also scared that my reputation could be destroyed, or I could be sued for libel.

Often people ask me why I would want to continue pursuing these situations if I’m aware of the dangers, and my answer is this: I create art with my body, I do what I do to inspire thousands of gay men around the world that don’t have the freedom to do what I do. I am lucky that I feel strong enough to quickly process these encounters whenever they happen, discuss each one with my friends and family, and move on.

© Will Dube @iamwilldube

Yes, there’s an epidemic of creatives in this world that believe their talent and power gives them the opportunity to act in a goods and services transaction with a model they find on Instagram, but this doesn’t speak for all. I’ve worked with many inspiring gay men who are respectful, encouraging, and fearless. They inspire me to continue to live the life I choose to, while being in control of my own body.

Ninety per cent of the images and films I put online are created in the safe space of my own environment. My body, my rules, and my self expression. I use my artistic licence to show people you can proudly sexualise yourself as a gay man without shame, under your own set rules and consent.

Society has conditioned us to believe that gay sex is shameful, and male nudity should only be celebrated if it’s possessing two shiny pectorals on a 190 lb frame.

You can choose to believe that what I do is art, and you can choose to believe that it’s pornographic. That is the beauty of subjectiveness, but it doesn’t mean that you get to disrespect my sexual consent.

If someone chooses to exploit me, and their position of power to gain sexual gratification, then that’s their demon, but I’ll never allow it to possess me.

I will continue to express myself artistically through pride in my sexuality, in the face of sexual assault, to prove that the most powerful thing that we all carry, is consent.

You can follow Sam Morris on Instagram at @justsammorris

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