I like sex.
Frankly, sex is dangerous. Relax, don't do it when you want to do it.
I have only had unsafe sex once, like a virgin.
It's not just the concept of unsafe sex but for me, the concept of contracting a disease that alters the freedom of my life. To give blood, to parent children, to fight off the common cold. But I live in Manhattan, what sometimes feels like the epicenter of not just alternative (gay, bi, queer, etc.) sexualities but also a sort of cosmopolitan laissez faire attitude about sex and sexuality. There are advertised barebacking sex parties where one would be thrown out for even taking out a condom. If one casually meets someone, based upon their race and financial status and age, the likelihood of having an STD suddenly becomes a huge part of the calculation. Unfortunately young men of color under 30 are rapidly increasing in HIV rates in NYC and they are mostly hitting on those similar to them: men my color!
Do you really want to hurt me?
I have to consider if a partner (even a casual one) is not only carrying an STD but to some degree pathogically (in my opinion) oblivious to the danger their body could present to mine. I've lead workshops and had discussions with men who report that if a man doesn't suggest a condom they don't use them or won't suggest it themselves. And I counter back with: isn't there a point where I am responsible for my fellow human beings? Even if they aren't being responsible? Would I allow someone to jump in front of a train in front of me? I have pulled back a child not my own from crossing in traffic too soon and I wouldn't have lost a strand of hair had they tumbled into traffic.
But maybe it goes deeper than sex or Fresh Direct.
Do men hate themselves so much they're willing to kill and die with/for sex? Am I the sane minority in an insane growing majority? Having been STD free for all of my sexual activity lifetime I'm sort of pre-disposed to keep it that way. And while I have had "fun" and relationship sex that wasn't always vanilla---my wild side and the new wild side are as impossible, and if forced near as far apart as Monica Lewinski and Hillary Clinton at a dinner party. And yet I am often solicited for sex, unsafe sex, really unsafe sex so often that I am starting to feel like a public service health professional in my own bedroom. I am so avidly safe sex that I often proudly tell people how Trojan Magnum XL condoms are on sale at FreshDirect (an online grocery delivery service) and the silly giggle I get from ordering them in bulk and their delivery next to the spicy arribata sauce. I am a safe sex convert; I simply don't consider sex without condoms....or dental dams.....or the new female condom (which when a man is using it, in my experience turned into a slippery scientific/biological mess that i felt at one point had me injuring my partner---yes, another blog.)
I did some research in my workshops, with my coworkers, from the PSAs at my various jobs and my own independent research into why people practice unsafe sex. There are testimonies of it feeling better, of being allergic to latex (I have several brands of condoms on hand just in case---yes, I'm starting to sound obsessive to even myself), of considering HIV a fallacy, of the inevitability of catching , of a sense of invulnerability, of a sense of being able to tell who is and isn't carrying an STD, of being in love, of God protecting them, of not caring, of already being infected and on and on. I can tell you that the CDC is pretty clear that prevention/safe sex programs don't work as effectively as they would hope but they continue mandating, sponsoring and supporting them in the hopes of those on the fence being swayed. Essentially they've started to manage the affliction because there is no cure: you're either someone who makes it a priority or someone who doesn't. That sounds fatalistic and judgmental but I can tell you, having been in the trenches with men in frank workshops---it's 150% true.
If there's a hell below, do we all have to go?
I've stood in front of a group, some HIV+, their lives kicked through the gutter physically, financially and emotionally by it and they've blithely talked about repeating the behavior. Now you might think they have nothing left to "lose" but in that same group are men who aren't positive, who then chime in that they're going to "try" to practice safe sex but admit not being able to commit 100% to that. And I, the facillitator, personally Mr. Happy Condom and professionally at that moment tied to the Party Line of pushing, cajholing, encouraging safe sex peak over my professional demeanor in terror. Why? These are seemingly sane, educated, capable, from somewhat to extremely attractive men who if I didn't have my professional rules of conduct, I might be involved with sexually---and maybe in a "quantum mechanics an atom can occupy two points in space" kind of way---in my personal life, I am.
The HIV Conspiracy (spooky X-Files soundtrack)
I'm going to entertain one of the conspiracy theories I've heard: that HIV/AIDS was bioengineered to infect and kill off homosexuals, people of color and most importantly, Africa. Let's say that's true. There would have been a psychological design behind that conspiracy---give it to people with distorted identity issues who would develop not only self-destructive tendencies but other-destructive tendencies from the racism and poverty and social alienation and ostracism they've experienced. By doing so---we're now thinning the herd, cleaning house---in fact the target might not even be specifically to eliminate races/sexuality---it might be to eliminate those who for some psychological reason don't, won't or can't practice safe sex: the undereducated, the poor, the unstable, the careless, the often considered waste and drain on the mass society. With approximately 40 to 50 million people worldwide infected that's a small percentage of the 6.7 billion people on the planet. Say a vaccine won't be released for another ten years, run some compounding calculations and what---maybe 100 million? 200 million? A billion folks could be cleared off by HIV and related illnesses if the disease isn't cured in fifty years. Think of the land, the resources, the space it would leave the rest of us.
A conspiracy works out but then what's the individual's excuse for knowingly passing on a disease that will wreak havoc and make another human being a pariah? Have people gotten to the point now where we time delay raping another human being so they wake up in a month, a season, a year irrevocably changed?
Shiny, Happy People....my people?
I will tell you that standing with friends or clients or strangers who discuss not caring if they infect another or not be insistent of safe sex, infected or not, I suddenly considered my comraderie to them, my brotherhood, my community identification, my allegiance, my willingness to let them stay in my life long enough to be around my children. Harsh, yes. But if you passively harm/kill (slowly) another human in pleasure, what might you do to me and mine in rage or greed? Has sex in the city become so dangerous that a condom is no longer a shield but a legal long-term weapon against inconsiderate predators?
Food for Thought and Thought for Food,