Most people spend the final summer of their PhD buried in work. Most people don’t have time for a social life in the closing stages of their PhD. If someone, like me, has effectively spent two of the four years of their PhD doing no study at all, then the final months of their PhD are a storm of busyness.
I’m spending two of the final three months of my PhD working full-time in a foreign country, not spending my evenings and weekends studying. Instead, I’m spending them rediscovering and learning to accept and enjoy my body and my sexuality. I’m doing this by making regular visits to a nude sauna complex in a retail park in the suburbs of Ljubljana and by having a young and hot Slovene man athletically bed me.
It’s been an incredible summer.
When I get home, I’ll only have 24 days to move out of Hall (aaarfh!), to move into my parents’ (oofh!) and to finish my PhD (wurrrgh!) before heading off on my next adventure to Italy. No doubt I’ll regret my Summer of Love then, but in the long run I think I’ll be very grateful.
SaunaLand may be a naked space, but it doesn’t feel sleazy. One of the most common sights there is an elderly naked woman sitting by a pool eating grapes and spitting the seeds from her toothless mouth into her hand. This is not a turn-on for me. Sure, there are very attractive young people there too, and I’ve absolutely enjoyed many of the willies and bottoms I’ve seen in my ten or eleven trips there, but that’s incidental to the experience, rather than central to it.
The only sexual behaviour I have witnessed there was on my very first visit when I accidentally interrupted a young male/female couple who were alone in the whirlpool hot tub and were having a bit more than a cuddle. Other than that, the place has been entirely vanilla. Naked vanilla, but vanilla.
Until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I had made eye contact with a man in his fifties. I didn’t read anything into it. It was just eye contact, though it was a bit longer than your average eye contact. And we were naked. About twenty minutes later, I was having a shower after a session in one of the steam rooms. The man with whom I’d made eye contact sidled up to the shower next to mine, turned in my direction, and started tugging energetically at his doolally.
I didn’t know how to react. The last time I something like this happened to me was in the mid-90s, when I was about 15 or 16 years old and an intellectually disabled man in his twenties stood next to me at the urinals in the Savoy Shopping Centre and started masturbating at me. Nothing at all happened that time. I smiled in a friendly way and left as quickly as I could after having had a good look. I suppose you could call it my first sexual encounter.
Anyway, here I was in the showers in SaunaLand, and this middle-aged man was masturbating at me. Now, I was kind of proud that I’d managed to give off a gay enough vibe to have that happen to me. I often find it very frustrating how few people read me as “gay”. But I didn’t find this man attractive, and I have my gentleman friend, so I had no desire to respond. I didn’t want to discourage him either. He’s a middle-aged man in Slovenia who’s desperate enough to tickle his todger at me. I can only guess that he’s married to a woman and doesn’t get an awful lot of action. So, I smiled encouragingly, not wanting him to think that I thought that he didn’t have a nice tinkerbell, but simultaneously shaking my head firmly to make it clear this wasn’t going to go anywhere.
He didn’t approach me again.
(Note: I do not think it’s OK for men to come onto women by masturbating at them. I think the different power differential and social and cultural context dictates a different opinion about this particular event.)
Since arriving in Slovenia, I have broken one bed and three chairs. I broke one of the chairs while doing a one-to-one tutorial with a student, diminishing the seriousness of the point I was making, as my arse landed on the floor.
This week, I was in the eucalyptus steam room, a peaceful place, designed to look like a temple, filled with starlight, and marble shelves to sit on, and marble columns to hold up the dome at the top of the room. Except I discovered that the columns aren’t marble and don’t actually hold anything up.
When I stood up to leave the steam room, I was slick with sweat and water and I slipped. I grabbed on to one of the “marble” columns. The column turned out to be a hollow plastic tube. And it fell to the ground with me. Oh no! I had broken SaunaLand!
I was fine. And I managed to kind of put the column back in place, though it was clear that it had been moved. Luckily, no one else was in that particular steam room at the time. I haven’t been back to check whether the damage remains obvious since that visit.
I saw God this week.
I was in the outdoor pool at SaunaLand one evening when it started to rain. It rained really heavily, and in no time thunder and lightning started up.
All the women and many of the men who were outside ran indoors. However, three or four men and myself stayed outside.
I stayed in this pool as rain bounced off the pool’s surface. Thunder rolled from one end of the pool to the other. And lightning lit up the water.
The men, including me, roared at the sky. We jumped around. We thumped our chests. We stood by the side of the pool and our naked bodies were pelted with water. The staff and many of the other sauna-goers stayed inside the windows of the complex peering out at us. And we were men.
Not just men.
We were animals. Animals of the night. Animals of the storm.