Every so often a really stupid idea infiltrates the gay community and takes on a lethal life of its own. For example, I don't quite understand how crystal methamphetamine, a.k.a. "Tina", became the club drug of choice. When did staying up for a week without sleep and listening to droning music without lyrics become fun?
Another really dumb idea someone ginned up - probably while tweaking on Tina - is "barebacking," which is glamorizing sex without condoms. "Hey, let's make HIV infection sound like a night at the rodeo!"
The latest harebrain notion to toxically slither into the gay vernacular is "condom fatigue." This is the theory that the rules for safer sex have to be reinvented because people are fed up with using prophylactics. Proponents say that a "Just Say No" approach to unprotected sex is impractical. "I think in reality, people don't like using condoms, and we don't talk about this a lot," Atlanta HIV educator Malik Williams told Southern Voice.
Well, I don't particularly like stopping for red lights either because it tends to slow me down. Nor, do I like pausing at crosswalks for rumbling trucks. Let's not forget seatbelts - they totally suck. And riding a motorcycle with a helmet keeps the wind from freely blowing through my hair. I'm also over the gym and would prefer that the government declare TV watching an aerobics sport and cheese fries a food group.
Unfortunately, there are laws of nature and common sense that can't be defied no matter how annoying or cumbersome. However, this hasn't stopped some well-intentioned prevention experts from trying.
Williams went on to tell the Blade that if someone has unprotected anal sex five times a week and then chooses to replace one sexual encounter each week with oral sex, "this is a success story."
I'm sure Williams is trying to do the right thing and should be commended for working to find innovative solutions from a place of care and compassion. I'm not convinced, however, that playing Russian roulette with one bullet instead of two will lower the HIV infection rate. This idea that we can run every other red light will weaken the overall prevention message and allow people to justify potentially deadly transgressions.
There are those who would argue that my approach isn't realistic because the HIV rate is not significantly going down, even though we've known how the virus is transmitted for more than two decades. I respond by pointing out that the glass isn't half empty. The condom message has reached tens of millions of people who do practice safe sex.
Instead of promoting irresponsible strategies that will compound the epidemic, here are a few practical steps that will reduce HIV:
Repetition: People need to be constantly reminded that wearing condoms is the norm and the expectation. Advertising should be ubiquitous with the message: "No Bag, No Shag." Positive reinforcement is crucial to limiting new infections.
Availability: It isn't the 70's anymore and most people go to the bar to meet-up with friends, not hook-up with strangers. So, when connections are made they are often spontaneous and neither partner has emergency gear. This is why bars and clubs - gay and straight - should make condoms and lubrication widely available. Easy access helps people make the right decisions and protect themselves.
Stop Lying: Sex does feel better without a condom. One-night stands can be really pleasurable and emotionally satisfying. Drugs can sometimes enhance sexual pleasure. Telling people that they didn't have as much fun as they know they did is remarkably counterproductive. When we lie about these simple truths, we undermine our credibility and become part of the problem. The message should be: Yes, these activities are fun, but they can also be fatal. Is it really worth your life or the aggravation of drug cocktails? If we talk to people like adults, they often act like adults.
Have A Plan: Take a moment to create a safe sex strategy. Think about sexual boundaries. For example, if you can't handle your alcohol, make a rule that you won't go home with someone if boozing. Having such boundaries is key because negotiating them during the heat of passion often leads to bad decisions.
Trust: Don't trust the guy you just met on the Internet. If he lied about his penis size, what makes you think he's telling the truth about his HIV status? People are human and will make mistakes. None of us are immune to letting our guard down.
Instead of complaining about condom fatigue, we should put on fatigues and declare war on unsafe sex. Where the rubber meets the road, there is still no safer alternative for sexually active people than condoms.
Stop being the sex police! In America, we should be free to do Tina and bareback. Stop picking on those of us who hate condoms. Dude, rubbers ruin sex.
With wreckless, criminal behavior such as this, its no wonder its getting harder to gain our equal rights. Its just the kind of ammunition the right wing and others need to justify denying us our equality, among other things. It makes it bad for the majority of us who don't engage in life-threatening practices. People who knowingly have unprotected sex and are HIV positive in particular deserve prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Its nothing but premeditated murder. Good article, Wayne.
Don't you think that you are opening Pandora's box here? While I agree and understand your sense of frustration because of what is happening with drugs and condoms, moralizing doesn't help anyone, as Mr. Chelsea boy try to state it.
I am a man in recovery, and yes, I see often these chelse boys comming to the rooms crying "I tested positive and I don't even know how that happened!" well, there is a short answer for your concerns regarding glamorizing drugs and unsafe sex, it is called ADICTION.
The drug adiction problem in our communities, particularly in big cities (as supposed to rural towns, were Tina was born)obbey to the whole "skinny is pretty" attitude. Self love is still a problem in our communities and because the lack of venues in which we can vent about our struggle with acceptance and respect-comming from different spheres of society- many gay men look for acceptance at any coast, even if it implies barebacking in order to be "popular". I am not justifaying what is happening, and I recognize that tina and barebacking are a huge problem, but hey, looking down on people, rather to come together as a community can help better.
I agree with Wayne and Robert. Although I like to think most of the gay community act like responsible adults, it's the puerile, self-destructive percentage like Matt who give the rest of us a bad name and makes our acceptance an uphill battle. One of the sickest things I've ever heard of are those HIV "conversion parties". Matt if you had a monogamous, healthy partner, you wouldnt need condoms anyway; and anyone who uses 'Tina' is particulary foolish. It's nothing more than slow suicide. Gary (NJ)
posted by Anonymous, at
12/13/2005 11:32 AM
Condom Fatigue!? Have we, the collective Gay community lost our minds? I cannot believe in 2005 about to be 2006 this is even given substance or legitimacy.
We just celebrated the anniversary of the HIV Cocktail ... Can it be we've become complacent because the miracle drugs - albeit no Cure, have spared us (and especially the youngsers) the horrors of the '80s and early '90s when our friends were dying all around us?
The horror is something that shook us into action and we countered AIDs in the face of adversity. Wayne, you are absolutely correct - we cannot stop preaching "responsible" behavior! ... and most importantly the concept of taking responsibility for one's own actions.
Something sorely missing today! The poor young man in Atlanta is doing prison time because he exposed his sex partners to HIV -- but his partners IMHO were just as guilty as he was for not practicing safe sex! You never Know! Never.
What really bother me is that some people, rather than looking at the bigger picture and seen it as a problem of our community, are trying to finger point and accuse "younger people because they didn't see their friends dying", I have news for you, the practice of unsafe sex is not a problem of the young only... look at the bear communities all over the conuntry and see all the bareback parties in which they get involved, counting among them a lot of men wellover 40 and 50 (who knew about the AIDS epidemic). or, have you see the statistics about Gay men over 50 newly infected? have you seen the co-relationship with depression because of low self immage? Believe me, no side give me hope, neither the guys in drugs and barebacking nor the "righteous" super gay men who critizise them just as jerry fallwell do to all of us
posted by Anonymous, at
12/13/2005 12:03 PM
Wayne, you made an excellent point with your "Stop Lying" paragraph. Sex without condoms does feel better. Sex on drugs, expecially crystal also feels better. Is it worth dying for? Sadly, it is for too many men.
And that's what we need to address. Why do some gay men think that having a couple of nights of hot sex is worth a life of dealing with an incurable disease? Why is the self-esteem of these men so low that they're willing to die just for the desperate search of intimacy?
Tina is the perfect drug for these guys. It makes you feel invincible and incredibly happy. No one has low self-esteem with Tina around...at least in the beginning.
And is it any wonder? We have our government using as us as political footballs whenever they need to stir up the red staters. We have religious institutions telling us that we're unworthy, immoral and abominable, just for being who we are.
Hell, we have our own families telling us that we don't have the same worth our straight brothers and sisters do.
My father told me that all gay men should go to an island, give each other AIDS and die. So here I am on the island of Manhattan with HIV, trying not to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wishing that I'd loved myself enough to protect myself.
What we need is to help these guys before they ever get involved with this dangerous drug. Help them to see that their lives are not worth throwing away just for a few night's worth of pleasure.
posted by RN - NYC, at
12/13/2005 12:37 PM
The problem is - you homosexuals like to sodomize each other and the Lord detests that unnatural sex and debotchery.
Put your dicks in your pants, find Jesus and a good woman and you wouldn't have to worry about AIDS anymore. This isn't hate, but good old Christian LOVE.
Is Red as in "Redneck"? For your information, Good love understand and love, and don't go around calling people names. Is it people like you who give bad name to Christians. Finding a woman don't make anyone less homosexual, and harm women, is it what you are advocating for? Please keep your non sense for yourself, Yes, it is hate, and you are calling Wrath upon you by using the name of Jesus for your evil purposes so SHut up!
posted by Anonymous, at
12/13/2005 1:16 PM
Red from Tulsa, for your information, heterosexuals get AIDS too from vaginal sex and intravenous drug use by sharing needles, you moron. Last time I checked World Health Organization figures, it is heterosexuals in Africa and other emerging nations that are contracting this disease, so what are you going to say to them? Heterosexual women now count as the largest group succombing to HIV in the United States alone according to recent data supplied by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. What do you say to the hetero men who give it to them?
What is with all of the whining and crying about self-esteem and the right to use drugs and have endless sex orgies?
Do you really think this is new? The majority of homosexual men that are now dead and gone lived through the sexual revolution of the '60s - '70s when it was free sex and lottsa drugs all of the time. This ain't new ground!
What did change in the '80s and '90s was the attitude that free for all unprotected sex and indiscriminate drug use leaves a person exposed to the risk of STDs - primarily AIDS.
This lesson has been lost in the mix ... I contend it goes back to the fact that getting AIDS is no longer the Death sentence that it used to be ... and now living with the "bug" has in some sort of twisted perverse way become a badge of honor.
It ain't and after watching the devastation and working tirelessly on AIDs Fund raising and awareness I find it utterly appalling that our community would argue for the right to practice unsafe sex under any circumstances while STDs and AIDS are not cureable! Now I do agree we should work to educate and also -- Look at comments on the Post regarding the EX-Gay advertisements and my subsequent comments ... maybe if our community spent more time building one-another up ... rather than tearing one another apart ... it might, just might create a happy, healthier community for us all.
Stand up and lets retool ... AIDs is NOT a battle won. Congress is about to recess - WITHOUT REFUNDING THE RYAN WHITE fund under the NEOCONs.
Matt in Chelsea - if you are going to be so incredibly reckless, you better damn well be completely honest with all of your partners, you better damn well be testing yourself for STI's regularly, and you better damn well be providing your hapless partners with that information.
Everything Wayne said was just common sense. It's got nothing to do with the stupid right wing - they will hate us whether we "behave well" or not, so stop kidding yourselves that we should give a hoot what they think, or that anything we do provides them with "ammunition" - hello! They hate EVERYTHING we do!
For all of you HIV negative people, who bitch about HIV+ people engaging in bareback sex, let me quote Bart Simpson to stay polite: Eat my shorts!
You have no idea what it is like to live with HIV and be sexually bound by rules. Sexuality is the purest form of intimacy. Now listen; I DO NOT ENCOURAGE UNSAFE SEX AND DRUG USE. But putting all the responsabilities of safe sex on POZ (HIV+) people is totally fictitious! Everyone is responsible for their own well being. When I see some guy lying back in a sling in a bath house or sex party, letting anyone penetrate them without a condom, how should this be my problem?
I have had unprotected sex with HIV- people who knew I was HIV+ and actually had bouts of depression because of it, blaming myself for MAYBE infecting them. I even had to break up with some guys because they wanted to have unprotected sex and it made me feel guilty. And before someone sends the police over, from what I know, they are still HIV-.
No one here can argue that sex without a condom is 1 000 000 times better then with. For those of us who are HIV+, we are being told that we can never have this type of intimacy ever again as there is a chance of co or super infection. although the recorded cases of these types of infection is very very low (we are talking 12 or something cases in the WORLD).
For HIV- people, after a while of being with someone, when you trust your partner (what a freaking joke!) will engage in unprotected sex, know the intimacie of being close to someone without a barrier of latex. I know alot of my friends of where infected just with this frame of mind.
And about telling a future sexual partner about your status??? Are you kidding me? Look at the prevention advertisements circulating. Pictures of coffins, images of death. When you are in a bar and cruising someone and you tell them you are HIV+, they take one look at those poster and start running away in the other direction! What??? we should keep only to our own??? Put us on an Island and leave us there to die with our own kind that way we don't take the chance to infect anyone else??? Should we also sit in the back of the bus??? Have our own water fountains??? Clubs??? restaurants??? Ho wait, that would be segregation and that's illegal!!!
If you can get your hands on a very controversial book called "Serial Fucker: Journal d'un Barebacker" by Erik Remes (www.erikremes.net) , you might have a glimpse of what life is like for HIV+ people. Although some of the writting actually turned my stomach, it opened my eyes to the fact that each is responsable for their own well being and that prevention needs to be re-adressed for the new millenium. Society changes and homosexuals are tired of being told that we are "bad gays" if we have unprotected sex.
posted by Anonymous, at
12/15/2005 12:55 PM
ok Mr. granted what you say... there are two to Tango, unfortunatelly, when any of us know that there is a danger to pass the virus to another person, then is not a matter of thinking selfishly and about our own pleasure. We need to feel a level of compassion for the reckless behavior of others, aside from the fact that -as we saw it with the guy from Atalnta- there are irresponsible people eager to take advantage of teh situation, so it is also self preservation.
we need to start breaking what I call the Ophra cycle, blaming the positive individual, like in the case of the so called "down low" but, how are we going to do this if we don't take care of one another.
Believe me, the attitude of some people who responded before to this post from Wayne was very much like the one comming from the fundamentalist Christians, and I think that as Gay community is our duty to do better than them, since they have learned NOTHING about the teachings of Jesus.
One more, please do not assume that, because someone advocate condoms, is not HIV+. To assume that a individual can take a particular stance only because is not the subject of opression is plain wrong, and that is dangerous.
Sex is an spiritual experience that help us to experience God. Let's not destroy the expereince by inflicting fear in others, that unfortunatelly have listened to the fubdamentalist Christians, that with their false doctrin try to make people believe that God is not love.
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