Alexander Cheves isn’t entirely comfortable being called a sex advisor because he lacks a formal clinical education or sex therapy certification. But for the thousands of young gay men who know him as The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend he’s a touchstone for understanding their kinks and desires from the explosion in popularity of “pup play” to, well, use your imagination.
Cheves started writing about his own experiences and everything has sprung from that. “A college class required me to start a blog and maintain it the entire semester. At the end of the class, I was graded on content, use of media, and so on. I loved it so much that I continued blogging. The blog was filled with personal confessions and stories about my sex life and my gay identity. People working at a digital queer magazine in Chicago found the blog and asked me to be a columnist, and the rest is history. That blog has morphed into a sex advice blog, and I still get questions every week from readers.”
Cheves’ advice is sage and de-stigmatizing for someone who’s only 26.
As a recent profile of Cheves in Plus magazine said, “The gay Georgia native dives deep into the role that sex and sexuality plays in LGBTQ history. An enthusiastic member of the kink and leather communities, Cheves also dispenses guides for newcomers that are helpful and humanizing for those in these subcultures. His pieces that address the hanky code, cruising grounds, or “public displays of affection that straight people take for granted,” educate readers about how queer people have been persecuted — and yet have managed to still find each other and maintain vibrant communities.”
Cheves confesses that he had some messy relationships in college, which was the catalyst for him writing about his own experiences. “I dated a guy who was pretty judgy and slut-shamed me for my past promiscuity. I cheated on him, of course, and lost all my friends, because they were his friends. He spread some rumors about me, or maybe his friends did, and that made me mad. I was proud of my sex. I decided I had to own the slut label.”
Cheves came to the realization that he couldn’t let someone shame him for something he wasn’t ashamed of himself.
That started Cheves on a journey of self discovery.
“Before that, my whole life was shame, particularly shame around sex, as it is for most queer men. I grew up on a farm in the middle of Georgia with very religious Southern Baptist parents. I’d memorized scripture and hated myself for my desires, and it took a bad breakup in college to reject all that shame, and I had to write about that. I began reading about non-monogamy and queer sex culture and worked through the great sex writers like Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller, and that’s when I realized I wanted to be the Anaïs Nin of my generation.”
In the few years Cheves has been writing, queer media has changed and become somewhat less friendly to provocateurs and smut, and that makes him uncomfortable. “Early on, I knew I would have to wear the label of ‘sex educator’ before I could be a ‘smutty provocateur,’ but the reality is that I collect vintage dirty gay rags like Drummer and Honcho and STH and that’s the caliber of work I aspire to. When I really get in a rut, I remember something Cate Blanchett said in an interview a couple years ago in W Magazine, which is the closest thing to an “a-ha” moment I’ve had and one I have over and over: Art is meant to provoke, not instruct.”
Cheves hit his stride doing what he loves best working for the sex toy company Fort Troff.
A couple of years ago, he wrote a slideshow piece, 39 Sex Toys Every Gay Man Should Try, for Sexy Beast, his digital sex and relationships column on The Advocate. “Some of those toys I wrote about were Fort Troff toys. Someone at the company, which is based in Atlanta, noticed hits coming from the site, contacted my editor, and asked about me. Coincidentally, I had just moved back to Georgia from L.A. and was looking for a job. They took me on as copywriter and director of social media.”
The stigmas around kink and BDSM stem from the same place most stigmas do — shame, religion, and lack of education Cheves says. “I’m an anti-theist partly because religion has played such a devastating role throughout history in the development — or lack thereof — of human sexuality. The Abrahamic faiths generally consider sexual excess and sex outside specific religious confines to be among the greatest sins a person can commit. That unhealthy view of sex and pleasure pervades nearly every world culture and is a cornerstone of patriarchy. My work is intended to combat that. If sex and pleasure are relegated to sin and temptation, I’m the devil. “
Cheves adds “I saw Towleroad reported on the University of Michigan study that LGBTQ people are more likely to have problems with smoking and drinking. I have a problem with certain substances, and substance abuse is something I want to talk more about. I try hard not to pathologize queerness, and I don’t think being gay or lesbian or bisexual makes you inherently more problem-prone, but queer culture is pretty druggy. We’ve always had a drug culture and some awesome things — awesome music, designers, and artists — have come out of it. But some less-awesome things have come out of it too, and that’s something we need to talk about. If we’re going to popularize the fun parts of our culture, we also need to popularize the language of care and harm reduction and create a stigma-free zone in which anyone can ask for help without getting shamed.”
Lastly Cheves laughs when I ask why ‘pup play’ seems to have exploded in recent years.
“What you and I call puppy play is a mild, modern iteration of an older, more intense fetish practice — dog play — and it’s the most accessible scene to people discovering kink for the first time,” says Cheves, “If I was taking a beginner on a tour of kink, I’d start with puppy play. I started with punch fisting and it didn’t go so well.”