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March 1st, 2011

Touring an HIV+ gay sex club. Plus: the porn stars that got away.

The idea that HIV positive people still want sex is as old as The Denver Principles, the 1983 manifesto drawn up by gay men with AIDS that demanded “as full and satisfying a sexual and emotional life as anyone else.” The document also stated that people with HIV/AIDS have an ethical responsibility to inform their potential sex partners of their health status.

Fast forward to today, and HIV positive gay men are as open as ever about their status and their sexual preferences (setting aside, if we can for the moment, the increased stigma and discrimination facing HIV positive people of all stripes who disclose their status these days). And those sexual choices may not include HIV negative people at all, thank you very much.

sex club 1Last year I taped a tour of a sex club that hosts a monthly “Poz4Play” party, and sat down to interview Bill, the party’s disarmingly unflappable host. In this video blog (the video, above, is PG rated but the language is explicit), I revisit the tour and get an update from Bill about the strong reaction to the original video, which includes a frank conversation on barebacking, the risk of other STD’s, and serosorting.

Serosorting, or limiting sexual partners to those who share your HIV status, has become the de facto prevention technique for many gay men with HIV. Research indicates that the tactic may have value in containing the spread of HIV, but as you might guess, it isn’t so effective when it comes to HIV negative gay men who attempt to serosort amongst themselves. People who claim to be negative are often wrong, misinformed or simply lying. HIV positive men who claim to be positive are less likely to be wrong about that fact.

On an important side note: is avoiding HIV enough? Research indicates that poz-on-poz sex is much more likely to include barebacking (unprotected sex), and that means the potential of pitting a sometimes compromised immune system against other sexually transmitted diseases. If the idea of catching gonorrhea simply makes you feel nostalgic, what about (the far more dangerous) Hepatitis C? A recent study found that 75 percent of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in HIV-positive men occurred in those with no history of injection drug use (IDU) — the more typical transmission route for HCV. Barebacking is the suspected culprit. In the video, I play devil’s advocate with the sex club’s host about the risks of unprotected sex, and what it means to community and to our personal values.

Everywhere on the gay hook-up radar, positive men are asking, telling, and serosorting. “Disease free, UB2″ in online profiles is being countered by the cheeky “HIV positive and plan to stay that way, UB2.” Meeting sites are engaging in some serosorting of their own by offering poz dating and hookup options.

Treasure-Island-logo-art-red-kissAnd over at the gay bareback porn company Treasure Island Media (TIM), director Paul Morris has named it “the year of living positive (sic),” with a series of videos featuring openly HIV positive actors. While one might appreciate Mr. Morris’ enthusiastic wish that everyone “fuck freely and without fear,” he’s a little light on the real-life implications of such a lifestyle.

I exchanged e-mails with Paul Morris in an attempt to interview a real-life couple he just re-signed to exclusive bareback video naughtiness. The couple includes an HIV negative top and a positive bottom, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to educate gay men by going “behind the scenes” and speaking to these two actors in a way that focused on their real life and didn’t demonize them.

Paul was complimentary of my blog and confident that his actors would communicate with me if I would e-mail my questions to them. I did so, and my queries included: how big an issue was HIV to them? Did one worry for the other’s long term health? Was the positive partner on meds? How did they handle feeling judged by those who disagreed with their bareback porn star habits?

Paul Morris NametagNote to self: do not attempt to “get real” with bareback porn studs or their handlers. I never heard from the actors, or another peep out of Paul Morris. His silence betrays his grandstanding on the topic (his own press release gleefully refers to him as “universally reviled,” which would look great on his name tag at the next Gay Erotic Expo). Or, perhaps Paul Morris really does know his audience, and figures they’re uninterested in his stars once the DVD is back in the sock drawer.

It’s also possible Treasure Island Media is just distracted with appealing their recent $21,000 fine by California OSHA for, among other things, not developing procedures for things as basic as Hepatitis B vaccinations. Maybe the Oscar winning song is right, and it really is hard out there for a pimp… or for a porn empresario.

Please be well,

Mark

UPDATE 2013: Bill has relocated from Atlanta and no longer hosts the POZ4Play parties, and this Poz4Play web site is no longer active.

FOR MORE: My thinking and writing about gay sexual politics have evolved over time. For a much different view of unprotected sex among gay men, check out my more recent post, “Your Mother Liked It Bareback.” For more about bareback sex and its place in gay male culture, check out “Is ‘Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend the Most Important Gay Porn Film Ever Made?
—————————————————–

Chad NoelFor another view of gay men, porn and barebacking, check out my most Googled post of last year, “Did the Bareback Time Machine Kill Chad Noel?“ It is a melancholy epilogue on the brief life of a gay bareback porn star (right) and what his childhood friends remember about him most.

One of my favorite HIV sites, LifeLube, has started an ongoing series called “Andrew’s Anus,” and it’s about sexual health for gay men and the human papillomavirus, or HPV. But wait! The series is written from the point of view of Andrew’s anus! It’s fun and witty and has great information and I hope you’ll check it out.

WendyGrabThere’s a lot in the news about marketing the female condom to gay men. If you’d like a frank demonstration on using the appliance for anal sex, check out my video from AIDS2010 in Vienna with Wendy of The Pleasure Project (right). She leaves no question unanswered, and trust me, I ask them all. Our interview begins at the 4:05 mark.

Mike Barr has returned to the pages of POZ Magazine, or at least to their web site, as a blogger on the topic of Traditional Chinese Medicine and HIV/AIDS. His knowledge on HIV treatment is stellar, so if you have any interest in eastern approaches, his blog would be an excellent start.

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15 Responses to “Touring an HIV+ gay sex club. Plus: the porn stars that got away.”

  1. Eric Lloyd Says:

    March 1st, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I love this video. Leave it up to a gay man to professionalize public orgies. Its so strange to remember how I viewed this sort of thing when I was using and how I view it now. I’m so grateful I don’t have to wade through the dark dungeons of life anymore and I can be happy being in the sunshine and having meaningful encounters. Just my opinion.

  2. Marc-André LeBlanc Says:

    March 1st, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Another great video, Mark. Love following your posts. Presented in a straightforward, honest manner. A nice broad range of issues. Keep them coming!

  3. J.R. in Texas Says:

    March 1st, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Interesting video Mark. I wonder if you might talk more on a subject that you touched on in this video (re-infecting) and maybe the dangers of it and becoming resistant to medications as a result of that? I really don’t think that a lot of hiv positive men know a lot about the dangers of it and continue to bareback or engage in risky behavior without much thought about it. Also, what would be nice is to find a way to get a link to your site out to those that are negative. Truly, had I known then what I know now, I may not be in the situation that I am currently and may never have searched for a site such as yours…. Just a thought. Keep up the good work sir. We are counting on you.

  4. TrueWords Says:

    March 1st, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Hey guys, if you want to watch bareback porn get some from the 70s and just remember that these guys are mostly all dead from AIDS. Condoms should be required in ALL porn because no matter how much “testing” is done; the porn industry is NOT monitoring these men and women day and night.

    What may come up negative one month; can come up positive the next month… has the gay community forgotten that it is can take up to 3-6 months before the body starts producing anti-bodies that will show up on a test.

    The gay community is really backwards: obsessing with “straight” guys and wanting to see unsafe sex. Such a sad statement: is this prevalent voice out there? I know some people say it is a choice but too many gay men DO LEARN their sexual behaviors from porn (yes just like straight men) but the difference is the GREATER risk of HIV and other diseases! The number #1 reasons someone is HIV+ is a deadly combination of trust and ignorance.

  5. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    March 2nd, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    The reason barebacking remains popular in real life and in pornography is because it’s simply the hottest and most satisfying form of sex, by far.

    HIV prevention efforts that ignore or deny that reality will always be less than effective… especially in the long term. there is no lecture, tantrum or conniption any “activist” can manifest to change that. Hence the emergence of full disclosure, serosorting, universal “test-and-treat” approaches… and the growth in the popularity of bareback porn.

    as tools of std-prevention and birth control, condoms have evolved very little since HIV first emerged in the US. until the issues of (most especially) the blunting of tactile sensation, as well as the tensile strength, and variability of fit r addressed, the use of condoms as prevention tools has effectively peaked. one can at least hold out hope for effective microbicidal sexual lubricants will finally be added to the prevention arsenal soon.

    Mark, i think u’ve read too much into ur emails with Paul Morris and the porn couple. quite frankly, if i was in that couple’s position i would consider answering an unsolicited blogger’s email asking such intimate questions to be an utterly optional affair… with a myriad of possible reasons for not doing so.

    here in NYC, it’s a shame we’ve lost Brandon’s Poz Parties as a venue for serosorting… what has emerged since are numerous raw parties of often mixed status. Raw will be here forever, so will men playing in groups. I enjoy it, and will continue to do so… i also know of many thousands of gay men who feel the same way. we’ve heard the arguments, we’re not swayed, we’ve made our decision as adults to take the risks we do. it’s time that public health campaigns addressed this truth honestly and humanely… the current crop of heads-in-the-sand has ignored it to no good effect.

  6. Steve Says:

    March 3rd, 2011 at 4:33 am

    Loved the video. Excellent food for thought, espcially for those who are dieting, hungry or starving.

  7. John Says:

    March 3rd, 2011 at 9:35 am

    TrueWords, rarely does it take SIX months for someone to test positive… 1-3 months is much more likely.

  8. Poz-4-Play Serosorting « POZitive Attitudes Says:

    March 3rd, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    […] Mark King visits a HIV+ gay sex club and interviews the owner. He asks the provocative questions that I would have wanted answered. Are there any questions that you think he should have asked? What is your opinion on this type of club and serosorting in general as an HIV prevention method? […]

  9. mike Says:

    March 7th, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I am positive and I live with it, but guys who have this light casual attitude about it, and still try to live like nothings different make me sick. You have to take 4 pills everyday at the same time, you worry about every pimple, you worry about when the med’s will stop working, you worry about running out and then there is the cost 2,600.00 dollars every 60 days. Just listening to him talk makes me cringe !

  10. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    March 7th, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    to Mike: what exactly gives u the impression this guy is “still trying to live like nothing’s different”? does the idea of hiv+ men enjoying a fulfilling sex life as THEY see fit, while avoiding the transmission of HIV to HIV- men make u cringe?

    as a slut myself, i assure u that i am sympathetic to ur feelings on the matter, but not quite so much that i would allow ur mere indignation to effect my sex life at all. so, besides indignation, what other arguments do u have against what this guy is doing?

    of course many HIV+ gay men become more sexually conservative after they sero-convert, but not all of us do.

  11. thezak Says:

    March 8th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    They’re helping increase the lethality of the virus. There are variants of the AIDS virus. Making opportunities for the stronger variants to survive. If you trade variants then those that are stronger you give more environments to cope with and the stronger more lethal ones gain a stronger foothold. When people with them go out they spread them around making it more lethal. Each of these things are a burden on your immune system. There’s a variant that comes along like the straw that breaks the camel’s back and your immune system collapses because of that little assault. In a perfect world where none of these people had sex with uninfected people it wouldn’t be a problem. But the chances are that’s what happens and we continue to have a self inflicted epidemic like this. Is there some mysterious force? You could say that it’s sexuality. That means you have no control absolutely. We know that cultural conditions can put an end to certain kinds of diseases. That almost seems to be negated by this particular group of people.

  12. Sylvester Says:

    November 12th, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    We so need more clubs like these! HIV+ gay men have so many social barriers: being in an easy-going place like that, which has a caring ownership is most valuable to a population of men who often find themselves at home, stuck wishing for a pipedream on pozpersonals.

    As we age, bathhouses usually don’t work for most of us: and this will remain a problem. In 2011, with poz-parties all over the place, we have the chance to envision places like P4P where men over 50 (or over 60) can get together and “try out” one another – which is what dating eventually leads to, anyway.

    We need to create community and coupling in a safe place. A “regular” bathhouse has no safe place to talk and be free to be HIV+. Bars are noisy and tough. And everything else tends to pretend that we don’t have sex anymore. (well, some of us have given up on sex, largely). There is also a general AIDS Superego that looks down on “unorthodox” sexual activity: and most of us have been there … [I wish I could say, “And here are the gloryholes,” without blushing.]

    I have been through some drug use in clubs (mostly in apartment parties) and I think one can learn to be safe and sober in a “hot” environment: behavioral sensitivity training. Not for everyone, but some of us. All I want to do is visit a place like that long enough to meet a man to cherish for the rest of my days. I’m stuck in NYC, where poz sex is too often fueled by drugs. We could stand an education. Excellent piece. – sylvester

  13. Volttage.com - Mark S. King asks “Is there Pride in being HIV Positive?” Says:

    February 12th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    […] will never be asked. This kind of selective coupling is known as serosorting (check out the video tour of an HIV positive sex club I did last year), and it can be helpful to both peace of mind and HIV infection risk. But of […]

  14. Mark S. King: Is there Pride in being HIV Positive? Says:

    July 2nd, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    […] will never be asked. This kind of selective coupling is known as serosorting (check out the video tour of an HIV positive sex club I did last year), and it can be helpful to both peace of mind and HIV infection risk. But of […]

  15. sonny Says:

    September 13th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I’m just looking for clubs that do poz4poz play..I’m into barebacking … just looking for a connection out in suffolk county.

    (Sorry, this just isn’t that kind of site. Be careful out there. — Mark)

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