Gay sex and the city

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By João Perassolo

“Lately, when I bottom, I notice that some tops feel the need for an extra, often unwarned, twist to seal their superiority. Like when I went for a quick cruise to Bar The Web in Amsterdam. A gorgeous 33-year old Egyptian caught my eye and we swiftly moved on to a dimly lit private space. Appropriately aggressive with his moves he quickly turned me on to go down and serve his rock-hard cock.”

Vivid sex descriptions are part of Misha Mamedov’s writing. But who reads Misha M’s words, published monthly in Gay+Night magazine, one of the two main publications targeting the male gay community in the Netherlands and Belgium, can hardly imagine his trajectory – from a child who played the clarinet in the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan to a gay columnist in one of the most liberal cities in the world.

It’s a gray morning in October, and the yellow leaves in the streets make clear that autumn has settled in Amsterdam, the place the 39-year old has been calling home for the last three years. “Having arrived in the fabulous Kingdom of the Netherlands after more than a decade spent in the very conservative Manhattan,” as he puts it, his aim in writing is to help people have better sex, because his perfectionist side, a legacy from his upbringing by a strict mother in a strict former Soviet Republic, wants to have quality sex.

“Sex is an unavoidable thing. I can even quote Samantha Jones, from Sex and the City (the television series): ‘who you are in bed is who you are in life’, and some people just don’t do it properly,” he says over coffee at Drover Dog, a restaurant in the south of Amsterdam. Set in New York, where Misha lived for thirteen years, Sex and the City depicts four friends exploring Manhattan’s dating scene. It was also his inspiration for the title of the column, Gay Sex in the City.

For him, sex is one of the foundations of human interaction, and everyone has it, at one point or another in life. It’s the moment when one person is showing who he/she really is, naked, vulnerable. He explains that staff in Manhattan’s cruising bars used to expel clients for inappropriate behaviour – that is, intercourse in public – but this is definitely not the case in Amsterdam, where clubs such as “Eagle, Drake’s, Dirty Dicks, Cuckoo’s Nest, Web, Church, etc. provide more than enough space and opportunity to fuck around with any type, size and shape of men that one can possibly think of.”

If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
Once upon a time in the 80s, a boy played the clarinet in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, a country that was then part of the former Soviet bloc led by the USSR. It felt right to play an instrument in a family of musicians – his father was a guitarist, his mother a singer, and his uncle a drummer – but small Misha didn’t enjoy it. He was forced to do it by his parents: it was part of the disciplined education.

But the baroque woodwind instrument ended up being a tool in his search for a new life. As time went by, he came to enjoy it and started a degree in music in his hometown, developing hopes of becoming a musician in an orchestra in New York. Around that time he came out as gay to his mother, and no one else: the harsh political conditions in Ashgabat afforded him no sex whatsoever.

At 21, after the third consecutive try, Misha was finally accepted in a scholarship program that took him to the Hartwick College, in Oneonta, a small town upstate New York, to finish his bachelor degree in clarinet. Moving to the United States was also a way to openly explore his sexuality, in a different context. After finishing the bachelor’s, he relocated to the city immortalised by Frank Sinatra in search of the American dream.

However, the land of opportunities didn’t offer him any. “I was having big hopes of becoming a musician and playing in an orchestra, but in New York, unless you’re some kind of prodigy, they will not hire you for any big jobs as a clarinetist. I taught classes here and there, but never made enough to pay the rent.” He started taking jobs as a salesman to make ends meet.

In his personal life, the feeling of solitude was also present: he never got the chance to be in a loving relationship, because gay life in the Big Apple is very competitive and one guy dumps the other easily. “I felt disposable, there was zero appreciation towards me as a person. It was an awful feeling. You might as well not be there,” he describes, showing no trace of sorrow in his voice.

The fabulous Kingdom of the Netherlands
Nonetheless, he endured his years in Manhattan and eventually became an American citizen, which gave him the benefit of being “looked up to” whenever he showed his passport at border control abroad. The new document made possible for him to benefit from a bilateral agreement that allowed Americans to work legally in the Netherlands.

He fell in love with Holland after a holiday trip to Europe, a few years before. Upon returning to the United States, his mind was set on where his new home would be. He then started to study Dutch and, when landing in Amsterdam in November 2013, was already able to speak the language. His aspiration, as when he moved to New York, was to become a musician.

But, once again, the plan didn’t work out. So he dropped “the dream of being rich and famous” for good. Instead, he decided to make good use of his knowledge and appreciation of sex by reaching out to the two main publications for the gay community in the country, Gay News and Gay+Night, pitching the idea for a sex column. Gay News didn’t even respond, but three months later a letter arrived in the mail from Gay+Night, asking him for a test article. He submitted it and had it published. The magazine extended the period for a three-month trial and, finally, gave him a regular column.

Misha is now flattered when a reader recognises him in the street from the profile picture on the magazine page, which runs 75000 copies a month. After all, he’s helping the community to improve their sex lives, and one can’t help but imagine that joy has replaced the disposable feeling he was used to in New York. “I’m the happiest I’ve known myself, here. I like everything, Amsterdam is the place for me. The Netherlands is this fairy tale”, he laughs. There’s a big smile on his face.

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