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January 28th, 2013

Your Mother Liked It Bareback

Whenever a new study of gay men is released showing that we are having bareback sex, the arbiters of sexual conduct among us clutch their pearls and decry this shameful, shocking, murderous behavior. So you can just imagine runaway pearls showering the floor when a recent survey showed that nearly half the users of the gay phone app Grindr engage in unprotected sex.

I really wish that people would put down their smelling salts and try to understand the reasons why. Instead, every time some half-assed study demonstrates what we already know, they stand there in stunned outrage, frozen in their outdated indignation like they’ve been caught baking bread in Pompeii.

There’s nothing new here, except our seemingly endless fascination with gay men behaving in exactly the same way as nearly every other man on this planet.

Maybe those who find bareback sex distasteful believe they are being politically correct, that their strident judgments about the sex lives of others are in the service of HIV prevention, that criticizing other gay men for acting like human beings will somehow alter instincts that evolution built over millions of years.

Perhaps this is part of our new gay agenda, to demonstrate to straight society that we’re just as good at shaming gay men as they are, that we’ll gladly be neutered for equal rights and be denied the same pleasures they take for granted, that if they only give us gay marriage we won’t talk about the unprotected butt fucking that will happen on the wedding night.

Somehow, we have come to the homophobic conclusion that when gay men engage in the act of intercourse without a barrier we label it psychotic barebacking, but when straight people do it we call it sex.

This double standard is ludicrous. Your mother barebacked. It is a natural and precious act that has been going on, quite literally, since the beginning of mankind. Abraham (barebacked and) begat Isaac; and Isaac (barebacked and) begat Jacob; and Jacob (barebacked and) begat Judas and his brethren (Matthew 1:2).

Maybe you have the uncanny ability to enjoy sex while your penis is wrapped in latex. That is terrific, really. Please continue. You are using a classic prevention tool, a real golden oldie. Or maybe you and your boyfriend are HIV negative and have the good fortune to be in a committed, monogamous relationship in which you are having sex without condoms. Or perhaps, by whatever Olympian discipline you possess, you are capable of using a condom each and every time you have sex, no matter what. You are to be commended, and you are, regrettably, in the minority.

All of these scenarios are valid and worth replicating whenever possible. They do not, however, represent a superior high ground from which to make pronouncements about someone else’s choices.

There was an unspoken agreement that gay men made amongst ourselves during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s. We accepted that we would use condoms – at the time it was the only “safer sex” option that existed – until whatever time the crisis abated. Many of us believed this contract would be in effect for the rest of lives, if only because we thought we would be dead within a few short years. But none of us could have fathomed that, thirty years later, we would still be held to these strict and oppressive guidelines.

Even then, some of us didn’t follow them. One might assume that the cascade of death we experienced would have led to long term behavioral change. In fact, many of us responded to the crisis in a profoundly human way: we found comfort by making love with one another, often without a condom. It was a life affirming gesture, and an enormous “fuck you” to AIDS.

In fact, a 1988 study of gay men showed that almost half of them never used condoms, and most did not use them all of the time. These figures are strikingly similar to the recent Grindr results. Everything old is new again. Or it never went out of style in the first place.

The 1988 study is particularly interesting when you consider how many gay men consider that period a time of great sexual austerity — and some of them are wishing for a return to those times a bit too ardently. Gay men who witnessed the early AIDS carnage will sometimes say, “If only younger men knew what we went through. If they had seen it, they wouldn’t be behaving this way.”

That’s sick. I do not wish young gay men could witness the soul crushing things that I did. I worked in the trenches very, very hard so that they might have the option of being apathetic. I prefer their blissful ignorance to burying them.

And make no mistake about it, the number of gay men in the United States dying from AIDS is a small fraction of what it once was. Cigarettes are now killing more people with HIV than the virus itself. HIV/AIDS has become a dangerous but largely manageable disease, and fear tactics that suggest otherwise are being ignored because they simply are not true. Sex is sex, it is affirming and natural, and anyone who wishes to equate unprotected sex to death and disease really needs to get some therapy.

Condom usage will almost certainly continue to decrease in the future because of new tools that have joined the growing list of HIV prevention options. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – taking medication in advance of sex with an infected person – has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of transmission (and some insurance plans in the United States are covering the cost). Many people living with HIV are limiting sex partners to those who share their HIV status, known as serosorting. Positive gay men have largely dismissed scary fireside stories of the ultimate boogeyman, the reinfection SuperVirus, who has never materialized.

We also know that when those with HIV have an undetectable viral load the risk of transmission is negligible, so “treatment as prevention” efforts have increased (a new British study of straight couples showed that an undetectable viral load is more effective in preventing transmission than condoms, and those researchers believe the same will hold true for gay men).

Gleaming on the horizon are rectal microbicides. These products, currently in development, will come in the form of lubricants or douches that will prevent HIV infection, and they could make the endless debate and judgments about condoms moot, once and for all.

We don’t have to do this anymore. We don’t have to clobber each other with condom fascism, discredit the value of our sex lives, or promote a singular strategy that doesn’t work for everyone. We can accept that gay men are making educated choices to engage in a variety of risk reduction techniques. We can acknowledge that all of these techniques reduce the risk of HIV infection and all of them constitute “safer sex.”

And finally, we can stop pretending that those who remain fixated on condom usage have the moral upper hand.

The emperor has no clothes. And he isn’t wearing a rubber, either.

Mark

—————————–

SEE ALSO:

“Is ‘Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend’ the Most Important Gay Porn Film Ever Made?” This posting dissects the sexual choreography of modern bareback porn, and puts it into historical context with gay porn of the last several decades.

95 Responses to “Your Mother Liked It Bareback”

  1. David Says:

    January 28th, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    awesome!!! thank you so very much

  2. david patient Says:

    January 28th, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    another great and well thought through article…well done Mark…

  3. Russell Chowles Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 4:40 am

    Brilliant piece! and thank you – now it’s time the fascist sex police read this too!

  4. Timothy Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Right now in America 13 – 18 year old men can expect 1/2 to be HIV positive by the time they are 50 years old. That’s a shame we see folks saying safer sex is wrong. Condoms work. And there are lot of men who are with a single partner, serially. all dialog should laud condom use over non condom use.

  5. timotheus Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 6:00 am

    An instant classic. Should be required reading for medical students, health department employees and, really, anyone above the age of 15.

  6. Lola La Louve Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 6:43 am

    You shine !!! Thank you so much from a rainy morning in Brussels :-) !!!

  7. michèle Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 7:05 am

    even as a female- i need to comment:
    thank you for this wonderfull piece! i’m really sick of the repetitive discussion on barebacking among msm and homosexuals. and: i hate how they are always put on stigma-exposure just because scapegoating is something so usefull for all other ones.
    and yes: i love sex without condoms. with men and women. in full responsability and joy.

  8. Gus Cairns Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 7:24 am

    Timothy: Condoms and safer sex are not the same thing. You can have safer sex in all sorts of ways, and we’re trying to make other methods available. Two years ago, the US gay men’s sex survey found that only a minority of men who had anal sex used condoms, but that a mast majority avoid cumming inside their partner/having him cum in them.

    You can serosort: dlsclose HIV status and only bareback with guys your own status. You can seroposition: bottom if you’re HIV+ and top if you’re HIV- because transmission is (at least) 10 times less likely that way. You can avoid anal sex altogether (not an option for most, but about 12% of gay men do). If you are HIV+ you make sure you take treatment and that your viral load is undetectable so you CAN’T infect someone. If you’re HIV-, the option of PrEP is becomnig increasingly available. Oh yes, and you can use condoms if you get on with them: they’re great against other STIs.

    None of the methods,includung condoms, are foolproof, but evidence shows that gay men try to use them, often against the advice of health promotion messages. It’s high time we caught up with what gay men actually do, rather than what we (well, you) think they ought to do.

  9. Russell Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Great PrEP addresses transmission of HIV. Great POZ guys are now discriminating against non POZ guys. Great the topic of transmission of other STIs have been glossed over. Great that the different strains if HIV and the ultimate resistance to other meds is not even brought up.

    I agree, consenting adults(gay, straight, bi, purple, or green) should be allowed to make choices with judgement. But does that me we dismiss the most effective tool, besides self pleasure, in the fight to end the spread especially among our youngest generation a simple condom.

    So sit on your random comparison of cigarette smokers and feel proud. Congrats on not providing the pros and cons and letting your readers make an informed choice. Congrats on all those healthy, sexually fulfilled magnet couples that are examples of how it and be and the love they find.

    With all that, I hope that anyone POZ or negative makes an informed decision. Once we do and promote safe sex, we are truly taking care of our communities future.

    PS I am HIV+

  10. Gene Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I’m just curious, Timothy, how you get that this article is “lauding” non-condom use. That’s your tendentious characterization of its content, not what it actually says. What it says is that it one tool of many. What it says is that we need to end the pearl clutch and moralizing when the word “barebacking” and is used and data shows the “startling” reality that gays are having sex – which is absolutely true. What it says is that it’s strikingly schizophrenic to tell heterosexuals on the one hand that we want to be married and on the other call sex “psychotic” for ourselves, while for them it’s just having sex. Exactly – and I mean this – exactly when does having sex “like God intended,” so to speak, cross the threshold from being “just sex” for one group and “psychotic” for the other – because that is precisely the moral standard that being tossed around among gay men. We tell heterosexuals on the one hand that our sex lives are really none of their business, but if and when other gays learn my boyfriend and I, both of whom are HIV positive and have been for nearly 20 years now and are extremely healthy , choose to have unprotected sex ourselves, suddenly *our* sex lives become the hot topic of internet or real life conversations and we’re painted as insensitive monsters who will destroy the gay community – which strikes me as exactly how the most vociferous opponents of gay rights themselves characterize each and every gay person with respect to the whole of society itself.

  11. Jim Pickett Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Thank you for this excellent piece Mark. If the “royal we” really and truly wants to prevent HIV infections and end the global pandemic – we will embrace all the tools in the toolbox. Condoms, everything Gus Cairns mentions in his comment here, and new tools – like microbicides, long term injectables, vaccines, and things we can’t even imagine yet. It is WAY PAST TIME to stop priveleging condoms and equating them as the sole means of safer sex. That strategy has clearly NOT worked. Human beings, many/most of them. don’t like condoms and don’t use them. Lauding condom use won’t make a difference for the many/most who aren’t listening.

  12. Randy Prophater Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:27 am

    What a shame that dual transmission rates of other STD’s is not brought up. Or the fact that just because you can use PrEP in regards to HIV, the do not address all the other STD’s out there.

    I agree, condoms can be a ‘chore’ and feel unnatural, but i put my personal health and that of others over my that small portion of the act of having sex. Condoms are still the most effective way to prevent the spread of most STDs, with exception of not having sex at all.

    Informed adult conversations, with consenting adults, choices made a personal. I respect that, however to state that ‘bareback’ is the norm and as a result should be accepted at face value, seems to do our community a disservice. (Not to mention our youth.)

  13. Simon Watney Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I can only say that I’m completely unfamiliar with the types of crude moralism, described by Mark Smith on the part of those commentating on levels of unsafe sex amongst gay men. Sadness yes, a keen sense of the predictable consequences of the widespread denial of supportive condom education in schools and everywhere else, yes, but shrill judgmentalism, no. Mark’s argument is in any case very misleading since it pays no account whatsoever of comparative rates of HIV prevalence within different population groups. The epidemiology suggests that one in twenty gay men are HIV+ here in the UK, whilst the overall population rate is 1.5 per thousand. Amongst white heterosexuals, who make up the great majority of the population, that figure is very considerably lower. The risk of HIV infection from unprotected sex is thus vastly greater for gay men than for any other population group, and I cannot see that it helps to wildly & insultingly caricature the position of those who campaign for adequate resources to support the most vulnerable, who in these circumstances should surely be understood to have a particular entitlement to appropriate education? And where does the ahistorical, naturalistic argument about the supposed ‘nature’ of sex end? Are we supposed to go back to child-brides? This I’m afraid is the logic of the Vatican, and it is hardly helpful for those trying in very difficult circumstances to continue to encourage condom use amongst those at demonstrably greatest risk. Setting aside the terrible mortality rates of the 1990′s, I can think of nothing more saddening in the thirty years of my involvement going right back to the days of HTLV3, than the sight of rows of HIV+ gay teenagers in the London clinic that I attend. .

  14. Brent R. Wood Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Talk about the other side of it—the $20,000 per year per person needed for HIV treatment. It’s not worth it. People are free to do what they want, but at the end of the day, gays who are HIV-negative have every right to be as prejudiced as they wish. Unsafe behavior leads to infection, and the harsh judgement is (almost) justified and very understandable. Do you have ironclad health insurance? Access to unlimited bank accounts? Be my guest. Some of the rest of us will choose to be safe. Or at least bareback ONLY within monogamous relationships. I get it…BB is so much more fun, just be willing to pay the price if the worst happens. Yikes. The militant barebacker. My, how times have changed.

  15. Joe Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I guess I am ambivalent about this post. On the one hand, I believe that attempts to prevent the further spread of this disease should be based on the world as it is and not on the world as some think it ought to be. Abstention only sex education is considered less effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies or the spread of STIs because it fails to recognize the natural human desire to engage in sex. Knowing that people (men and women) don’t use condoms regularly (for whatever reason) should be the departure point for all plans that attempt to stem the spread of all STIs.

    It is also good to poke at the sexual hypocrisy of others. When engaging in anal intercourse, I always use a condom. Except of course that one time when I…. The point being that no one is perfect and attempting to shame people into doing things the morally correct way has not really been a fool proof way to get conforming behavior. Additionally, anal intercourse isn’t the only way to transmit the infection. How many of us are near perfect when it comes to condom use and anal intercourse and equally as near perfect when it comes to oral intercourse? And the choir goes silent….

    Yet I take exception to the tone of this article. It seems like you are belittling the apparent minority of gay men who use condoms. My concern about the use of condoms has nothing to do with demonstrating anything to straight society! Instead, my concern stems from the decision to lower the chances of infection from the risky behaviors in which I participate. That I have rejected celibacy is in itself a risky decision, so I shouldn’t preach to others about their decisions. I get it. Should anyone ridicule or dismiss those who do advocate for increased condom usage even when done without the preachy, moralistic undertone?

  16. Justin Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Interesting. Just a couple of things: in a couple of passages, the writer relies on extremes (I wasn’t aware that it requires “Olympian discipline” to wear condoms). Or the inference that all gay sex is a romantic, emotional, and spiritual act. Also, the argument kind of rests on the notion that, because condom usage isn’t working (although the writer himself states: “the number of gay men in the United States dying from AIDS is a small fraction of what it once was. Cigarettes are now killing more people with HIV than the virus itself”) that we should focus on other options. Which we should, but don’t try to negate condom usage itself. Because condom usage does work. It’s like they’re saying “we have other options, let’s say fuck condoms because sex with them is boring and explore these other options, and magically we’ll get rid of HIV/AIDS!” A significant portion of people with HIV don’t even know that they have it, which means they aren’t getting tested. So we can expect that those who don’t use condoms and who don’t take the time to get tested will take PREP or have a meaningful dialogue with their sexual partner about serosorting? (hell, by the time you do all that you could’ve strapped on 3 condoms). To reach for microbosides in the heat of the moment? Or will that take “Olympian discipline” as well? And no mention of other STIs in the article. Because unprotected anal sex can lead to anal warts and rectal cancer. Or you may very well not contract HIV, but syphilis, gonorrhea, etc. It seems to me that in any way we choose to fight HIV/AIDS it comes down to choices. Some people choose to smoke cigarettes, eat fast food, ride in cars without their seatbelts, and have sex without condoms, in light of whatever knowledge that they have, because they want to.

  17. Anti_Intellect (@Anti_Intellect) Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I have been saying this for years. A lot of the anti-raw sex sentiments in the gay community are just another way to dehumanize and pathologize us.

  18. Caribou Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    20 years ago, condoms were all we had. Serosorting gained momentum around 2005, and I have yet to meet ANYONE that is willing or able to fork out the thousands of dollars per year for pre-exposure prophy, and can’t find an insurance company to pay for it. Treatment as prevention (of positive partners) was a recent discovery (2011 I think).

    So really, Mark, can you blame society for a lag time?

    The only safe sex is no sex, which isn’t an option for most people. “Safer sex” is what we all do.

    That said, how often you roll the dice is a personal choice. Yes, people live long lives with HIV- but it’s stil not a picnic. Lipodystrophy that is disfiguring, daily nausea from medication, living your life with nothing- tethered to the state ADAP program every 6 months in constant fear of losing benefits. Hiding medications from your mother. All reality for many people.

    If you, or any other person, wants to roll the dice- it’s your prerogative. There are no bedroom police. But when so much of HIV care falls on the backs of society- it’s difficult to call such dice rolling responsible. We are all human, and sex is human, and I agree that condoms are NOT so human. Mistakes happen “in the heat of the moment”, or more likely, under the influence of drugs and alcohol. But they should still be considered, by definition, MISTAKES.

    Unless you’re planning on making a baby, gay or straight, WEAR CONDOMS.

    If you hate condoms because you don’t like the way they feel– practice jerking off in a condom for a few months to some really hot porn. Once you retrain your brain for a condom to feel like a normal part of sex, you’ll orgasm just fine in one. And masturbation with a condom makes for less clean up:).

    We’re admist a syphilis epidemic too folks, and gonnorhea is now resistant to all but 1 antibiotic. Both of these diseases are highest in gay men.

  19. Abby Tallmer Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    What Simon Watney said. Word for word. Thank you, Simon.

  20. Fraser Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Condomless sex.

  21. Abby Tallmer Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Also, upon further reflection I have to say as a woman I am struck by one thing (besides the irresponsible inferences) in Mark S. King’s article: that anything that in any way mutes or inconveniences or hampers male sexual pleasure is *unnatural* and should be rejected due to the primacy of the primal male sexual urge. Isn’t this the same bullshit straight women have been dealing with for years? (ie, no I won’t wear a condom, it *ruins* it for me, it’s your problem/responsibility to avoid getting pregnant). I hasten to add that I write this as a gay woman who has NEVER had to deal with pregnancy or birth control in my own life, but also as a long-time AIDS & safer sex activist who has seen many too many die otherwise preventable deaths due to lack of condom use. Are condoms ideal? No, far from it. Should other modes of interrupting transmission be funded & researched? Absolutely. Should gay male sex and anal sex in particular be eroticized and honored in our lives and in our safer sex campaigns? Absolutely. But to celebrate the “natural” urge and right of men to take their sexual pleasure is really nothing new; it’s an ages old argument dressed up in new clothing here.

  22. Mallio TheProtest Chaplain Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    It’s easy, for what appears to be, a white dude to say this. Infection rates in the African American community are at epidemic levels in some cities. I get the let’s talk more dynamically about sex part, but dude referencing some future, unknown prevention tools as good reasons to why we should NOT push condom use seems down right negligent to me. And he states that he does NOT want young SGL men to experience what happened in the ’80s? Wow, they already ARE in our community. Ask anyone living with HIV/AIDS how easy and great it is to live taking a cocktail of drugs for the rest if your life. Ask them about the side affects of these wonder drugs on the body. Yeah, the QUEEN has no cloths or cultural sensitivity. We should talk more expansively about the idea of “safe sex” and pleasure and condom use but we should not think pushing condom use as being a bad thing. Hell, condoms are much better than they were 30 yrs ago. Talk about that.

    (Sure. “Condoms are better than they were 30 years ago.” Satisfied? And many gay men are still not using them. Read the post again: I do not criticize condoms. I commend those who use them. I just don’t like the moralizing — or our complete denial of the fact that gay men are turning to other, more user-friendly options.

    These comments are fascinating, in that they focus on what riles them — sometimes even a single word, like “natural” — and ignore my central point. Holler all you want, but condoms aren’t being used by a large portion of gay men and research proves this has always been the case. Don’t shoot the messenger, folks! — Mark)

  23. TedFaigle Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Excellent and Fabulous! Thanks so much for writing this!

  24. Gail Broder Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you Mark! Another beautifully written piece, as I have come to rely on from you. Thanks for calling out the hypocrisy and naming it.

  25. Bradford McIntyre Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    It is a very sad state of affairs when gay people continue to ignore the need to promote the use of condoms in order to save lives and stop the AIDS epidemic?
    While we may not visibly see people dying like the early days of the epidemic, still, in both the United States and around the world, people are dying of AIDS. AIDS has not gone away!
    PreP is not available everywhere, nor can everyone afford it.
    Just because someone tells you they have an undetectable viral load does not mean that their viral load is undetectable. One must adhere to taking medications and often HIV+ individuals opt out of taking their medications for one reason or another (an evening or weekend of partying, stopping med’s when going on vacation).
    Living infected with HIV is lifelong.
    Living infected with HIV, affects every aspect of one’s life. There can be constant health problems and a lifelong commitment to taking antiretroviral medications which can have serious side effects long term.
    It is unfortunate that many in the gay community do not see condom use as a standard practice to avoid infection of HIV and other STD’s. The number of other infections/std’s (herpes, Human papilloma virus, gonorrhea, syphilis and more ) one is susceptible to when not using a condom; makes using a condom a smart choice.

    (Who said I was anti-condom? Certainly not me. I’m simply stating facts about their usage among gay men. You bring up many good reasons why people should use them, and yet, well, many of them, gay and straight, don’t. It’s the moral umbrage that I find so curious and off-putting. — Mark)

  26. Kneelicious Neal Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Bravo Mark for another insightful article pointing out sexualities complexity, beauty and horror. There are ramifications for everything we do, not just sex and all the nay-sayers should consider this the next time they fail to put on their seat belt, speed, eat processed food… We all have choices and we make them based on a HOST of reasons (judge not least ye be judged). Take a moment to stand in the barebackers shoes -see their desire for intimacy, for belonging, for pleasure not just as a irrational (not that all are making irrational choices for some are making functional a functional choice) as much as it is situational.

    More specifically, I agree with your assertion that I do not want young gay men to experience all the funerals, all the grief and all the loss so present when I was first coming out, thus it is contingent upon those of us that survived to give testimony and guidance rather than condemnation and finger-waging.

    Keep it up Mark – we need your voice to be loud and clear for many years to come.

    Neal

  27. Bobby Long Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Well said, my friend. One of your best blog posts yet!?

  28. james Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    I am not surprised that gay men have sex without a condom but I am amazed by the gay men who refuse to have sex with a condom. No one should be shamed for because they have behaved in a way that was responsible for their very existence but neither should people be shamed for wanting to minimize their risk to HIV

  29. Abby Tallmer Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Mark: Just one point-my comments on your post were not aimed only at one word – “natural” – but at a major theme running through your entire post: that men’s sexuality and sexual urges are primal, primary, part of the both the natural order of the world as such and also stemming from supposedly undeniable and unstoppable biological and evolutionary forces that can not and should not be interrupted or muted, ever, and that such refusal to mediate this supposed natural order of things *in any way* is to be celebrated as some kind of new revolutionary action just because Prep exists rather than treated and acknowledged than as the ages old male perogative that it is and always has been honored in our patriarchal culture. You even went back to the bible and cave man years to “bolster up” your essentialist arguments, and though your piece is titled “Your Mother Liked It Bareback” I find it interesting and notable that *not one word* is devoted to women’s sexual urges or pleasure and/or of the negotiating position of the bottom in anal intercourse re: condoms whether male or female and what’s at stake re: HIV transmission & STI prevention for the bottom in this transaction (&, yes, what’s at stake for women ancient and modern the ability to control one’s reproductive capacities) when top/insertive partners celebrate the refusal to use condoms.

  30. TerryR Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    What a rotten thing for young queers to read. I don’t know where all this public shaming of condom-shirkers is that Mark King is talking about. I agree with him that gay/bi men who have sex without condoms should not be demonized or judged, and can make their own decisions, but that is a wholly different thing from advocating the other options as reasonable health care choices, because they are not.

    We have been seeing for years now the longterm effects of HIV drugs, including cancer, dementia and more. The long term effects of PrEP have not been adequately tested and many say they are harmful, aside from being incredibly expensive. And the risk of transmission from undetectable viral loads is far from negligible, but more like 94%, as seminal loads and blood loads vary– see link: http://pivotpdx.org/hivmythbusters/
    The Copenhagen smokers/pwa’s study he cites has nothing to do with longevity, just annual deaths.

    And yes, straight people do have a lot more unsafe sex than gay ones, but they are also at a lower risk: (49% of hiv cases are gay men while 27% are heterosexual. See link: http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/statistics/). Really, this is not homophobic bullying, it’s science. That said, straights too need to get with the program.

    It really bothers me when older guys who have lived for years with HIV mix up their struggle against HIV stigma with the struggle to prevent new seroconversions, and use hack arguments about homo oppression to justify their stance.
    Yes, sexual/emotional pleasure is a terrible thing to have to negotiate or perhaps sacrifice, but I would rather King presented people with adequate science so they can make TRULY educated, adult decisions, as opposed to issuing extremist, immature screeds based on what seem like emotional reactions to perceived criticsm.

    HIV stigma and HIV prevention are TWO DIFFERENT BATTLES that should not be subsumed into the red herring of identity politics, for any reason. In my mind, examining more closely the desire to have risky sex while advocating the obvious, healthier choice so queers live long healthy lives is preferable to living by the dictates of big pharma.

  31. Chantz Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    As a gay youth it is SO REFRESHING to read this. We can no longer focus on condoms as our only means of protection because *Gasp* we aren’t using them. I get so tired of the “If you had seen what we have seen” argument put forth by my elders in the gay community-elders that I very much respect.. I understand I will never know the level of fear and heartache that was the 80s- but I also understand I never got to experience the sexual liberation- the feeling to know what it was like to have sex- and lots of it- however I wanted and with whoever I wanted-condoms be damned. To expect a gay man to live his entire life without ever once succumbing to the urge to feel a skin-to-skin natural connection with a partner- fluids and all- is ludicrous.
    With growing “safer sex” options young gay men are beginning to cast out what has been drilled into our heads since we began to explore our sexuality. The “Wear a condom, everytime, all the time, for everything” message has been fatigued and some of us are tired of listening.
    I think we should continue to educate men about condoms, but we also need to be discussing safer sex methods that DON’T involve barriers. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Mark- and applaud you for saying what is on the mind of so many who have been shamed into not saying it.

  32. Donald Grove Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I don’t disagree with the complaints about getting clobbered by condom fascists. Bossy, angry people who are determined to give themselves a high profile are the norm in the queer advocacy world. And that kind of advocacy has its place, but not when it comes to talking to people about sex.

    I fall firmly into the camp which says that unprotected sex is normal human behavior. Not necessarily optimal, and hardly safe, but normal. If HIV was supposed to “teach us a lesson” then it wasn’t much of a teacher. At least, not yet. In fact, I don’t think the lesson has actually begun. “We can accept that gay men are making educated choices”, except that I don’t think that most guys are thinking in terms of choices. But as far as I can tell, most guys aren’t talking to their partners about HIV at all.

    I don’t think most guys are making informed choices about sex because most guys don’t really know how to talk about it in the first place. We put a lot of energy into having it, and we put a lot of energy into avoiding the kinds of things that will stop us from having it, like dialog about how it’s done.

    The conclusion of the piece gives me mixed feelings. I agree that condoms are not the only option, and that people should be supported for making informed choices from the range of options. But I still don’t feel like most of us have really had an opportunity to explore and make informed choices about the fact of HIV risk. I think most of us are very comfortable with hoping it doesn’t matter that much, and choosing silence is reinforced by the silence of others. “Wouldn’t people be talking about it if it mattered?” Well, no, not when the same people are afraid that breaking the silence might interfere with their ability to have sex.

    And “serosorting” ain’t much of an option, IMO. It’s taking Russian Roulette and calling it gun safety. Stigma and invisibility of HIV positive people have been the norm for 3 decades now, and suddenly it’s this ingenious cultural option for staying negative? I think the whole notion of serosorting as an option is an example of how we take not talking to each other and call it “informed”.

  33. ezky Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    the predictable reponses of seroconversion stats and defense of condoms pretty much demonstrate the point: it’s nearly impossible to have a non-judgmental or intellectual conversation about this topic where people actually listen to what is being said.

  34. Brian Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Sounds virulently condescending for someone who is accusing others of self-righteous fascism.

  35. Charlie Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    The average healthcare cost for a person with HIV is $400,000 over the course of their lifetime. The average cost of a condom is roughly $1.25. Where would you rather spend your money?

    66% of ALL new HIV infections from 2008-2010 are gay and bisexual men — that’s 2/3rds of ALL new infections in the US. We don’t have the luxury of barebacking. Barebacking isn’t shortening the lives of straight men it’s shortening the lives of MSMs. That’s not me being politically correct. This story is incredibly irresponsible and disappointing. Straight people don’t have nearly the same quantity of sex and sexual partners that gay men do. But, by all mean bareback away because you just LOVE the feel of it — but don’t be surprised about all the other STDs you catch in addition to HIV and don’t be surprised when the next new STD decimates the gay male population worse than AIDS. We’re setting the stage for the entrance of a viral or bacterial harbinger of misery with the new gay looseness that’s been ushered in the by the era of smart phone hook-ups and a generation that thinks HIV is just another STD. If we learned nothing from the AIDS holocaust then all of that suffering and death was pointless. Don’t believe me? Read “Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men” by Gabriel Rotello. It WILL open your eyes.

  36. Josh Kruger Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Mark,

    Great piece. Last week, I wrote a similar piece entitled, “Confessions of a Barebacker.” These stories are nothing but implied HIV stigmatization.

    Here’s the link for you or anyone else interested in what it looks like on the ground in Philadelphia as a young HIV+ guy who is a minority simply because he’s OPEN and HONEST about what everyone else is doing.

    http://joshkruger.wordpress.com/2013/01/26/confessions-of-a-barebacker/

  37. Terry Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    I’m always fascinated by this subject. Having had the privilege to answer calls for the GMHC hotline, I feel like I have enough of the information to have a valid opinion. I don’t believe, though, that an opinion is more valid than any other.

    We’re all responsible for our own actions, whether we hold ourselves accountable. These actions include how we address a deadly virus that has no conscience. We are also responsible, however, for how our words impact those who are already dealing with the choices they’ve made.

    Who are we to be judgmental of the very community that, initially, was most ravaged by this affliction? And who are we to judge others who are free to decide for themselves, especially when such judgment can create the sort of self-hatred that is usually at the root of the very behaviors we want – and need – to stop?

    Education. Access to treatment. Emotional support. If we can offer these things to each other, what is the point of identifying with each other as part of one community?

  38. Charlie Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    You actually want us to believe that Dawson’s 12-load weekend is a ” romantic, emotional, spiritual act of intercourse”? and NOT psychotic bare-backing? Bare-backing with a romantic partner is one thing. Taking 12 loads from 12 different strangers is the very definition of psychotic (a loss of contact with reality). Ask your average straight person if they think getting 12 loads dumped into a woman is romantic. That was a nice sleight of hand you pulled there to justify your rant.

  39. Converted Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Thanks, Mark, for blogging something that has provoked such thoughtful discussion. Like Gus Cairns, I am thrilled that the range of risk reduction strategies has increased. Like you, I think it is important that we have an honest conversation amongst us about how we actually behave and how that behavior, on average is evolving.

    Your comparison of condom use data from 1988 and 2012 doesn’t work for me, however. In most OECD countries, condom use amongst gay and bi men didn’t peak until the 1990s, at which point it largely plateaued until fairly recently, when usage began to decline. From 1984 (I was an early adopter!) until 2009, I had anal sex without a condom two or three times out of well over 1,000 partners. It worked for me – I stayed negative. I encouraged others to use condoms but I didn’t condemn those who refused (except for expressing some irritation at a few men who refused to have sex with me unless I bare backed – pressuring someone who wants to use a condom to go bareback instead deserves criticism, as far as I’m concerned).

    Over the last few years, my consistent condom use declined, as I grew increasingly tired of being the one who always seemed to be bringing out the rubbers. Two years ago, despite sero positioning and discussing status and viral load with BB partners, I sero converted.

    My mother liked to bareback but she had sex with one man instead of my thousands. Condoms allowed me to be a responsible slut, for which I will always be thankful. And for all the joy that comes with new prevention technologies, our sexual networks will still be better off if we emphasize that higher rates of condom usage are better for all of us – even if anywhere near 100% just isn’t going to happen.

  40. Ren E Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    This is a socially irresponsible article. Not everyone can afford healthcare to access the life-sustaining medications which afford some gay men the privilege to engage in unprotected sex. Also, I find this article disingenuous given that the number of HIV/AIDS cases is primarily increasing among young queer men of color. This is a very problematic piece…

    (I missed the part is my own article where I encouraged everyone to get infected. This is a “problematic” and complicated issue, Ren. This piece simply outlines some of the reasons why. — Mark)

  41. dylan Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Yeah, I disagree with this article.

    Premise one: If I judge another gay man for having irresponsible bareback sex, I’m somehow trying to prove that, like straight men, I can shame gay men too. That’s such an infurriating claim, I don’t even know how to approach it.

    The straight community in the US wasn’t decimated quite like the gay community by HIV. More straight people may be positive in the world than gay, but not per capita. We still own that one outright by huge margins. Maybe as a factor of anal sex being one of the easiest transmission routes; maybe as a cultural factor that gives men the pat on the back for going and having sex with whomever they want. I’m totally all for that, but don’t tell me I’m wrong because I also make sure to bring a condom along, yes shockingly, every time.

    “Or perhaps, by whatever Olympian discipline you possess, you are capable of using a condom each and every time you have sex, no matter what.”
    Jesus H Christ, this is some of the most apologist BS I’ve ever read. I’m not a christian telling young kids not to have sex and expecting it work–I’m super pro sex! But it’s really not that hard to have some will power to use a condom and to know a few things about safer sex.

    Premise two: Our parents totally bareback. So get over it.
    Sure, and my parents also had me in a time that HIV was literally not a concern. I’m sure my folks got STI’s in their life, but they also used condoms. They’re really from a different age, and this article completely ignores that. My mom is also not on Grinder looking for a new sexual partner three nights out of the week. So sure, she gets the distinctive honor of tossing the rubbers in the garbage can.

    Premise three: I look down on people who don’t use condoms.
    This one is the one that bothers me the most. This is such a defensive article, mostly because it’s somehow a BAD thing, and I’m being a sexual facist. Wow. Because what I’m supposed to say is “Hey, it’s okay if you can’t use a condom because when you’re drunk, it doesn’t feel like anything, and that guy from Scruff was probably clean anyway. We’ll find out in three months.” Enough of my friends shutter when they look back at how they converted.

    No sir. If a friend of mine thinks its okay to get in a car drunk, I tell him what’s up. If a friend of mine thinks screwing around is a god given right and the results are inevitable, I tell him what’s up. And of course if a friend gets into an accident, or comes to me with bad news, I’ll be the first one to open my door and help out. I’m really not the jerk this article makes me into.

    But don’t make me feel like a bad person because I’m able to have sex with a condom every single time. Don’t normalize poor decision making. This article is irresponsible and handing out feel-good faulty justification.

  42. Cleo Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Hmmm, I just wish I felt better about the motives of most of the people I’ve slept with that argued for not using a condom. It seems like much of it is driven by just out right denial. I’ve had partners where we had “the talk” we agreed to use condoms, then somehow he’d “forgotten” his, I pull mine out and then he spends 20 minutes trying to get me hot, thinking I’ll look the other way.

    If it doesn’t matter – then why not use them? What is it that we’ve gotten in our heads that we hate them so much we ignore facts. So many people talk about condom-fascists, and barebacking stigmitization. However, what goes on between you and your partner is private is your business. If you can’t be adults and have the straight up honest conversation where they actually listen – show them the door. Also remember stigmatization only sticks if you let it. A lot of it seems self-imposed.

  43. Charles Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    This seems to be an over simplification of a very complex issue. We should use everything we can in our day and age to protect ourselves. Regardless if the issue is HIV or the broad range of STDs that are out there. Being judgmental either way does not help, and to be honest, two high horses don’t make the perspective on this issue any clearer. Its your choice what to do with your body, and your sex partner’s choice whether or not to participate.

    I think you’re mixing having intimate sex with someone close to you, and having random sex with strangers. I am not sure about yours, but if it was boys or girls my mom would tell me to strap one on till I knew the person better. Gay or straight, its better to be careful (using safe or safer seems to be a misuse of the words in this case) until you know what you’re getting into. I agree with Charlie that a video about a guy cumdumping with his way through Fire Island isn’t about “spiritual connection”, I wouldn’t call it psychotic though, I would call it a fetish. Either way, it’s not the greatest point to help support your stance.

    Past sexual practices are exactly that, in the past, trying to say that it’s just natural is pretty myopic and unaware. We live in a different age, with different things to deal with. So I fail to see how that supports your position either. I do agree we need to get off our Huffy bike and start looking at ourselves honestly. People have sex with and without condoms, it happens all the time, and I doubt it will stop. To try and say we should just act like nothing is out there and that in the end, its all just a wash, seems irresponsible.

  44. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    FANTASTIC piece, Mark!

    i’m delighted that this conversation is beginning in earnest in our community. the angry stridency of your detractors here underlines your central point: reasonable advocates of condom-use have been utterly and irresponsibly lax in countering the often self-serving and malevolent sanctimony of many of their fellow advocates.

    “hey, their hearts are in the right place, so where’s the harm?”
    the harm is in the damage done to HIV prevention messaging…the presumptive pathologization of NATURAL, PRIMORDIAL male homosexual behavior….the emergence of a sexual underground either insulated from prevention messaging OR directly in opposition to it.

    yes, there really are Condom Nazis and Rubber Hitlers running around, beating up on normal gay sexuality and anyone defending same…usually rhetorically, sometimes physically.

    Gus Cairns and Jim Pickett skillfully laid out the field of alternative strategies for reducing sexual risk…in terms of what we know works NOW (seropositioning, PrEP, Treatment As Prevention) and what’s coming in the near future (long term injectables and vaginal gels) and more distantly (rectal gels)…but a number of responses have completely ignored their statements as experts, in favor of beating up on Mark.

    I Am A Militant Barebacker, and have some rebuttals:

    Randy Prophater:
    yes, “barebacking” is the norm, and every indication remains that it ALWAYS will be. neither you nor anyone else here has presented any persuasive argument to the contrary, and all studies consistently bare this out, decade after decade.

    Simon Watney:
    your opening statement is disproven by my own experience and that of hundreds of other men i’ve discussed the matter with over the last decade. among numerous other idiocies, i have been investigated by the FBI after writing about attending an all-HIV+ (!) sex party in 2005, because some nutjob reported me to Homeland Security as “a gay jihadi spreading AIDS to destroy America”. if you have missed the prevalence of this venom, it’s likely because you have not deigned to see it.

    Gay men do indeed face an enhanced sexual-risk profile compared to most other demographics, thus it is ever more imperative to address what is proven to work (condoms, PrEP, TAsP, Seropositioning) and proven to NOT work (condom fascism, plastic orthodoxy, sexual sanctimony, etc)

    “where does the ahistorical, naturalistic argument about the supposed ‘nature’ of sex end?” that’s anyone’s guess. where does it BEGIN? with human anatomy, the human nervous system, the human brain, the human collective. from the very beginning of the argument, condom fascism is doomed.

    Brent:
    the point is that times have changed for THE BETTER. condom usage peaked 25 years ago and has remained level ever since, NOW there are new options for that huge group of people who rarely or never use rubber.

    Joe:
    nowhere does Mark belittle condoms or those who use them. he rightfully belittles those who angrily reject the obvious reality that there ARE other safeR-sex options now…the same people who refused to see that condoms were not being wholly adopted by most even at the darkest hour of the epidemic.

    to be continued…

  45. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    PART 2

    Justin:
    you open with a clear nod to the real subjectivity at hand here…condoms may not require “Olympian” discipline for YOU, but it is now clear that even such exalted adherence is insufficient for billions of others.

    Caribou:
    your post shows much cognitive dissonance, you seem intent on blocking out the Big News: Condoms WORK…but Condom Universality is a gross FAILure. it’s FAILed. it’s NEVER GONNA WORK OUT THAT WAY. your advice for “learning”(self-brainwashing) to enjoy condoms has permanently limited appeal.

    time for more options…WAY past time!

    Abby:
    you’re right, it’s age-old and Eternal. i say this with a respect that may be hard to see, but i and most gay men i’ve ever met have precisely zero interest in feminist critiques about male-on-male sexual pleasure and imperative. here’s a Thought Experiment for you: female circumcision is believed to arise from a Pharaonic tradition of controlling female bisexuality. start from the presumption that such control IS imperative, and then offer a rationally persuasive argument to that effect.

    never mind comparing historic hostility to female sexuality versus gay male sexuality (it’s a wash, frankly), and please for a moment put aside the issue of the permanence of physical mutilation…because the rubber orthodoxy you don’t seem to believe exists essentially demands similar permanence…only the agents of that permanent cauterization of sexual sensation are not the elder (usually female!) relatives of the individual…rather, it is expected of the individual himself. this is what you advocate.

    so, try to justify the female equivalent, just to get a sense of how you sound to many (most?) men.

    in your next post, you make salient points about the particular risk that passive/female/bottom partners face, but again you presume to frame a discussion of gay male sexuality through the prism of Feminism…FAIL, Full Stop.. incidentally, you make no mention at all of the negative impact condoms have on the sexual experience of many women and bottoms.

    Mallo:
    i live in Harlem, and the same issues apply…most of the local men i have BAREBACK(!) sex with advertise themselves as “HIV-, Safe Only, UB2″. a subset identify themselves to me as poz, another subsets asks questions an ultimately finds me credible, and yet another simply never addresses the issue b4, during or after sex.

    most of the condom-alternatives Mark described exist NOW, not in the future…and have been validated by major medical authorities (at last).

    the more you fight the truth of that, and the more you pretend that undue condom stridency doesn’t exist, the more you create a controversy that will inevitably cause some regular and successful users of condoms to wonder what they’ve been missing out on. you are creating the thing you’re ostensibly fighting.

    Bradford McIntyre:
    you open with a straw-man argument, one that inevitably leads to the thing you decry. same as Mallo.

    James:
    consider yourself amazed, i find sex with condoms preposterous, utterly. count me one among many. your next statement is perfectly agreeable.

    TerryR:
    your claims are disgracefully inaccurate. people with undetectable viral loads have a “94%” chance of transmission?! you should be ashamed of yourself for posting that perfect falsehood. luckily, the UK’s Health Authority is only the latest major medical authority to put the lie to you.

    HIV Stigma and Prevention are NOT two different battles, but different fronts of the same war for survival…especially for gay men. before you demand Science, you should demonstrate familiarity with it.

    CONTINUED….

  46. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    continued/.part 3

    Donald Grove:
    it’s a simplification to presume that most gay men don’t think about HIV risk…frankly, it has been a sword hanging over our heads for 3 decades.

    as for “serosorting”, by itself it only works as Prevention in the context of HIV+ couples, due to issues of viral latency and status disclosure….however, in the context of “seropositioning”, (meaning HIV- men only topping with men of HIV+ or unknown status), it is proven to work BETTER than 100% condom usage in preventing HIV. google “seropositioning”.

    ezky:
    WORD, YO!

    Brian:
    actually, here’s what “virulent condescension” REALLY looks like—”i can’t believe there’s still a large group of absolute suckers who sanctimoniously and neurotically intend to go through life rarely or never knowing what REAL SEX feels like! especially since they can do it and NOT contract a deadly illness! what completely ridiculous idiots! AAAHAHAHAHAHAhaaaa”

    to be clear, that’s NOT rhetoric i want to find myself using, but that rhetoric is already out there. you guys asked for it, and when you swarm on nice guys like Mark, you’re asking for less nice guys to make the point less diplomatically.

    letting cooler heads prevail would be advisable, but without concerted effort, no one should hold their breaths for that…unfortunately.

    Charlie:
    condoms are only a good investment when they’re used correctly. the rest of your post is pure disassociation.
    “LALALA mary had a little lamb, Little Lamb, LITTLE LAMB!”

    “son, I AM DISAPPOINT”

    i loved that Gabriel Rotello punchline at the end, great closer. the man and his thoughts are a self-hating boyscout joke.

    Terry:
    GREAT post!

    Charlie:
    Dawson was HIV+ when he made that video, and rightfully unafraid of “SuperAIDS”. Gay men are not heterosexuals, and many of us have no care for heteronorms.

    “psychotic”?
    http://i.qkme.me/3q0mdp.jpg

    Converted:
    I’m sorry you became HIV+. I’m sorry you felt pressured. i’m sorry the prevention community remained almost completely deaf, blind and mute to the real life sex practices of men, facilitating a sociology that lead to you feeling pressured to abandon condoms.

    I’m also sorry you fail to see the connection. condom advocacy is not for everyone IF the goal is maximizing their use…but for some, the goal has clearly been self-aggrandizement of personal aggression and social superiority.

    as for myself in contrast, i will not have sex with condoms…but i make that clear to any prospective partner at the first moment of that prospect, along with mentioning my HIV+ status, my undetectability, and my broad-spectrum chemoprophylaxis (preventing far more than just HIV transmission). i absolutely despise men who assent to my parameters UNTIL they think they have the upper hand, such as when sex is imminent (especially if they’re hosting)…and i absolutely never let myself get pressured.

    i sympathize that you experienced the same thing in reverse, and suffered seroconversion for it. my replies here (to everyone) are written for the purpose of arresting this dynamic with realistic tactics and strategy…i see here no hint from any of Mark’s critics that they even understand this dynamic, let alone having any suggestions for fixing it.

    to be continued again…

  47. Terry Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    @Jeton

    I don’t think anybody has ever told me any of my posts were “great.” I have a tendency to go long and the result is that, usually, I alienate everybody at some point.

    The thing I want everybody to know is that a non-judgmental approach to addressing HIV is likely the only way it will ever be a problem that lives only in the past. I also suggest that those who want to make it a point to judge are doing more to address this epidemic than casting aspersions on those who have a different take on morality, ethical conduct and even what it means to be a human.

    Your opinions might matter but, in my book, you don’t really get to talk about how best to handle the epidemic without having done something tangible to fight the disease instead of debating the victims it has or will claim.

    We ARE all in this together, no matter what we think. Once we start working with instead of against each other, we’ll be on a road to shared wellness, which is very important if we are going to be part of a community that is bigger than any one (or even every one) of us.

  48. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    PART 4

    Ren E:
    your accusation of disingenuousness is odiously disingenuous. drop the other shoe please, just say outright that you feel Mark is advocating for the decimation of MSM-of-color…so that your ridiculousness may stand in better relief. ;-)

    Dylan:
    your Premise ONE is another straw man, Mark is not advocating “irresponsible” bareback, he is demanding the past-due recognition of the fact that “barebacking” IS the default state of human sexuality, and that this default state can now be engaged RESPONSIBLY.

    your closing statement there is a Big Lie. don’t ever presume to tell me that condoms work for me, because they don’t. i don’t care how angry that makes you, except to use your anger to my political advantage.

    your Premise TWO pretends that ingrained human sexuality is mutable by Fiat, by SisBOOMBah, by finger-wagging and sanctimony. thank you for being the Exhibit A Condom Nazi that Mark’s critics are pretending does not exist.

    Premise THREE…alas, Dylan, y’are…Y’ARE!

    as for your closing statement, you’re NOT a “bad person” for being “able to have sex with a condom every single time.” you’re simply a counterproductive jerk for presuming everyone else is like you, and fighting them for not being like you.

    and for presenting really silly Straw Man arguments to justify your emotional conflicts and externalize them onto upstanding, responsible and forward thinking HIV Prevention Activists.

    you should really change THAT part.

    Cleo:
    you’re very correct to say that what goes one between two partners deserves honest communication between them…this is an ancient problem with people and sex. However, your last claim that stigma “comes from within” is almost never wholly true…in fact, more often than not, it’s SO untrue that it undermines your credibility utterly.

    i’ll assume you’re female (“Cleo”), and offer that all the stigma you face as a woman (and whatever other demographics you may represent) is simply a matter of your own self-hatred. you should get over that, stop being so defensive.

    see how easy that was? ;-)

  49. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 29th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    @Terry
    i get to talk about this as much as i like, both by personal diktat AND by the criterion you set. I am an HIV+ man living openly in all settings, advocating medical access, medication adherence, an assortment of safer sex practices, and empowerment for normal human sexuality, especially Queer sexuality. not every Activist gesture generates a web link…in fact, MOSt do not. your riposte is unsustainable.

    otherwise, i actually agree with you. you might have noticed that if you actually read beyond the counter”attacks” here.

    fact check: maintaining a consistently undetectable viral load is a BETTER, MORE EFFECTIVE means of HIV prevention than 100% condom usage. especially after a year of sustained undetectability, when the seminal viral load reliably catches up with blood plasma viral load…putting aside the fact that a higher proportion of seminal viral load consists of inactive viral fragments compared to blood viral load.

    furthermore, a still-better threshold of non-infectiousness and quality-of-life can be reached with ELITE adherence, meaning never missing more than 1 dose out of every 20…this is called “cessation of intracellular replication of HIV”

    THAT is the ky to making “undetectability” truly SAFE! don’t tell me elite adherence isnt realistic for many…i’ve never missed a dose since going on ARV meds in 2004.

  50. RadioGaga Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Why are barebackers so threatened by safe sex messaging? As a pot smoker who occasionally does harder stuff, I’m not threatened by drug warnings, which have been more unrealistic, in-your-face, and moralistic than safe sex messaging has for the past 30 years.

    I know what I might do is risky, but I’m not threatened if somebody warns me about it or declines to participate, etc. But I also don’t wave it around in people’s faces or put it on a pedestal and pretend it’s some magical portal to a higher plane.

    (Why are safe sex messages so threatened by barebackers? We have a variety of options now. — Mark)

  51. TerryR Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:34 am

    @Jeton–You are correct, my sentence “And the risk of transmission from undetectable viral loads is far from negligible, but more like 94%, as seminal loads and blood loads vary” was a typo. I meant to write “The risk of transmission from undetectable viral loads is far from negligible, but more like 6%, as seminal loads and blood loads vary.”
    That is to say, undetectable viral loads are “safe” only 94% of the time. I stand by everything else the link relates.

  52. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 3:42 am

    well Terry, now u have to face the proviso of CONSISTENT undetectability, whereby viral suppression in plasma EVENTUALLY translates to viral suppression in other fluids like semen.

    the results of HPTN052 showed that the only infections occurred among couples where the positive partner had not reach a state of sustained, consistent undetectability…not for even 6 months (the Swiss Statement threshold), let alone the more reliable 12 months (the Danish Statement threshold).

    upshot? CONSISTENTLY UNDETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD = NEAR NEGLIGIBLE TRANSMISSION RISK…especially when adherence to effective HAART is elite, resulting in the cessation of all intracellular replication of HIV.

    QED

  53. andy Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 4:02 am

    You are a vile merchant of death. There are countless natural mechanisms in the world that we tamper with for self preservation. The truth is for self preservation we don’t blindly follow our natural instincts. People like you who bend logic to tell people what they want to hear are despicable, self-indulgent, cowards. Kindly go fuck off asshole!

    (Oh MY. This may be my grandest damnation yet, ladies and gentlemen, and I hardly had to clean up the spelling or punctuation! — Mark)

  54. Gus Cairns Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Simon Watney:
    Well, it’s possible to see Mark’s column as an “ahistorical, naturalistic argument about the supposed ‘nature’ of sex” – that’s his prerogative, he’s an essayist, not a scientist – but the data that informs it isn’t.
    I take “Converted’s” point that condom use peaked in the early 1990s. But if the data shows that since ART appeared in 1997 or so, 100% condom use amongst gay men has been subject to a slow but consistent decline from the 60% region to about the 40% – and I can quote you the references, I supplied them to Mark – then that’s what the data says.
    And if a number of studies show that a lot of gay men DO experience erectile dysfunction with condoms, and that if they do, they often stop using them altogether – again, references supplied – then that’s what the data says.
    And if a couple of recent large studies show that gay men are starting to use other strategies to limit the risk of HIV at leats as often, or more often, than 100% condom use, then that’s what the data says.
    And we know what the data says about ARVs and infectivity.
    We have, I think, begun to realise that if all these things happen despite gay men being about 50x times more likely to get HIV, then it may possibly be that the problem doesn’t lie entirely wirth gay men, or the health messages they receive, but could also lie with condoms. Or with a condoms-alone aproach to HIV prevention.
    And, as a result, like it or not, HIV educators are giving out more nuaunced messages to do with trying to help gay men have “the best sex with the least harm”.
    Look, Simon, I used to be a condom enthusiast. I thought HIV prevention messages were too soft and too nuanced and all what we needed was to hit gay men with a consistent, simple “barebacking is bad for you” message, along the lines of anti-smoking campaigns. It was the data that persuaded me this wouldn’t work (including data that showed that, when it comes to sex, fear-based campaigns actually have a counterproductive effect).
    That, and the opening up of new possibilities.
    As for those gay teenagers: well, I was one once as were you and all I can say is that, for one reason or another, catching syphilis in 1978 didn’t stop me getting HIV in 1984. The reasons were far more to do with guilt about being gay, and being a bit crap about relationships, and therefore preferring the thrill of backroom sex to a steady boyfriend, than they were to do with not hearing sexual health messages. Heck, I worked on Gay Switchboard, and heard them. I could have been an early adopter, and wasn’t.
    I get much more upset about homophobic bullying and the levels of depression and really pretty serious drug addiction and so on amongst gay youth than I do about them getting HIV, which is a shame but these days not the worst thing that could happen to you.
    Maybe new prevention possibilities will at least allow us to go back to the 1980s and continue having the interrupted political discourse about what really would constitue a good gay life, good gay sex, and good gay citizenship, rather than obsess about HIV.

  55. Chuck F Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Oh good more “I’m not the only one too lazy to put a condom on” bullshit from the guy whose strategy to do away with HIV seems to be “try to get the whole world infected.”

  56. NoShamebutNoSex Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Sure I’m not going to judge you if you are barebacking– or if you publicly state it–

    But
    1. I am not having sex with you
    2. It is criminal if you don’t tell your partners that you bareback

    It’s really that simple.

    Now my concern is that most people looks to this sort of article for permission to engage in risky behavior. I get that that is not your intention– but it very well can be an outcome. Your nuances– well– are nuanced but if not very well thought out and articulated- simply diminish the problem with HIV.

    Let’s be realistic about HIV – Until it is truly defeated, until it is defeated in such a way that it won’t simply change stripes and come back…. we should not be held captive BUT we can’t pretend like its not a threat.

    Honestly, yes– I blanch when I hear a friend say they’re barebacking– I don’t say anything anymore than I would tell an overweight friend to lose weight — but don’t expect me to have any less respect for my own life just because you feel ashamed over how you do things.

    (On #2, let’s clarify: it is criminal in some states not to disclose your HIV positive status to partners. Barebacking itself is not criminal. However, since these laws about disclosure discourage testing, further stigmatize people living with HIV as vectors of disease (and putting them in jail for lengthy sentences even when they did NOT bareback and no HIV infection occurred), there is quite a lot of backlash now aginst HIV criminalization, and for good reason. To find out more, visit The SERO Project. — Mark)

  57. Mark Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Nice article, but I agree that some of what is written here is extreme and misleading. (I have never in my life felt that the use of condomes required an “Olympian effort”).

    The truth is, from a public health perspective, barebacking will always be a concern (and your comparison to our mother’s lack of condom use isn’t fully applicable). There will always be studies in the sexual beahavior of those putting themselves at risk for HIV. I think your article is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to that concern, somehow turning it into judgement, shame and bigotry. I have not seen the shock and pearl clutching that you speak of in reaction to the study you mentioned. Even so, there is always judgement, whether overt or internal. We judge people who don’t make the same choices we do. We judge overweight people, we judge smokers, we judge drug users, we judge the too prudent, the promiscuous and the celibate. You seem to see the use of sero-sorting as another means of prevention, but there are others who view that method, particularly the refusal to have sex with those who are HIV positive, as bigoted and descriminatory.

    We’re all about freedom and self-direction, and being pro-sex, and that makes for a healthy sexual psyche. But HIV is not gone and neither are STDs. I happen to belong to that group of people who hope for an HIV free world one day and I think those who are somewhat more selfless, whether HIV negative or positive, keep that in mind when having sex. An undetectable viral load may not be a guaranteed risk free situation as there has been at least one study that says blood viral loads can differ from viral loads in semen.

    In the 80s we were shocked that it took such a long time for Ronald Reagan to actually mention AIDS in a speech; the lack of concern about marginalized populations seemed overtly bigoted. So when we see statistics, whether they have been a steady reality or not, that show how some populations are putting themselves at risk for HIV, wouldn’t it be just as bigoted to not take note or mention it in a public forum? Or should we have the attitude: It’s just gay men having sex, no biggie”? For the record, AIDS is nothing like diabetes, so we shouldn’t pretend it is.

  58. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    lol…reading some of these comments is like watching an exorcism. rabid idiots like Andy and Chuck skitter out of Central Casting, piously oblivious to everything actually written here. this is good, it must be understood that THESE are just one type of the wretched little Rubber Hitlers running around “helping” the Prevention effort.

    they are just the tip of a big black iceberg…all that self-hatred, all that homophobia, all that sanctimony and scapegoating…distilled into a a thick tar, frozen and colossal.

    didn’t take long for the woodwork to get crawly…perhaps the initial pack of critics here who denied that such people exist will take a long look at what Mark’s fishing net has caught. plenty more of these creatures in the online sea.

    yet, i suspect some will conveniently conclude that questioning the Rubber Religion is what forced these creatures to expectorate their venom to begin with.

    wrong. this blog has been fine bait for the self-righteous monsters roaming the Prevention landscape, oozing and spitting and biting, swarming around anyone they think they can take down. denying or minimizing their negative impact is a primary weakness of HIV prevention efforts over the last 30 years.

    it’s NOT because “their hearts are in the right place”, sorry!

  59. Blake Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Interesting article. Very impassioned. What is being overlooked is what happens when people do not have access to the extraordinarily expensive HIV meds that are keep infected people alive.

    This epidemic is still alive and kicking. It is medically controlled. If people lose their insurance and/or public access is denied, it will be the 80s all over again.

    No one is arguing that animal instinct drives us toward bareback sex, but as conscious human beings we can take care of one another by treating and containing HIV and AIDS.

  60. Tyler Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Interesting phrase you used, “condom fascists”. Maybe I’m remembering my history incorrectly, but the last time the world faced down real fascists, it did so with communists and capitalists who used the evils of fascism to distract from their own purges, mass deaths and festering inequalities. It’d be a shame if in your zeal to fight “fascism” you became equally ruthless, supporting serosegregation and half baked prevention pills that lead to more misery and countless deaths. I’m not going to beat around the bush, that’s the direction I’ve seen you heading for quite some time.

  61. Chris Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I don’t get the point of this essay. We’ve all known for decades that a LOT of gay and bi men bareback and that therefore we should talk to people where they’re at and promote harm reduction practices that will actually be put to use.

    Where are these straw men condom fascists? I’m sure they exist somewhere, but they are not the norm. What I experience in my life is the opposite of that — young gay/bi men who don’t think HIV or AIDS is a big deal, and try to coax me out of using condoms. I really think this is a legacy of right-wing attacks on realistic sex education half a generation ago. These young guys literally don’t know anything about HIV or the AIDS crisis.

    And any time we try to balance this ignorance by talking about the harsh realities of long-term HIV, we’re accused of stigmatizing people living with HIV (usually by people who don’t interact with young guys therefore don’t realize that young guys think HIV is way less of a big deal than diabetes). *That’s* what I encounter in my day to day life, not “condom fascists,” whatever that means.

  62. NoShamebutNoSex Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    On criminalizing–

    1) You’re taking me too literally- Criminalizing a sex act is bad – but barebacking and not telling your partner you bareback as you rub semen on his recently shaved face– WHY not just tell him? What is do damned hard about that? That way — both of you know what you are both comfortable with– otherwise IT IS akin to non-consentiual sex.

    2) The logic behind this statement makes no sense–

    “since these laws about disclosure discourage testing, further stigmatize people living with HIV as vectors of disease”

    Knowingly being HIV positive and not disclosing and having unprotected sex is criminal. There is no logic to saying that that is a bad thing or that it is simply immoral and barbaric NOT to disclose your positive status as you come in a guy’s ass– You can call it whatever you want but at the end of the day– it IS criminal to have knowingly engaged in that behavior. IT IS exactly like pouring blood on someone’s open wound.

    The statement that criminalization discourages testing is insulting to us– it infantilizes us as having absolutely NO agency, and being too stupid to be responsible.

    I did not choose for this disease to come in to our lives– but I will choose not to let it into mine.

    And all this business about “Rubber Hitlers”– grow up. What are you 10?

    No one is saying- don’t have sex, don’t eat ass, don’t fist, don’t piss on each other, don’t suck, don’t do all those things–

    THAT IS NOT THE MESSAGE– the message is simple if you don’t know each other’s status and you are going to insert and ejaculate it’s best to put on a rubber. Eat all the ass you want, piss on each other all you want… but if you want to come in each other– know your status– if you don’t- put the rubber on.

    If there are those that are telling you that you basically can’t have sex at all — well that is wrong but to demonize a simple message and in turn make the TRUTH of that message seem inconsequential is just as wicked.

    Words have a huge impact — and while I don’t think you are a vile merchant of death (I reserve that for Ronald Reagan who screwed my generation), you must recognize that our discussions about this need to have full disclosure about simple undeniable truths– Condoms DO prevent HIV exposure. There ARE too much youth out there who have grown used to the idea of HIV infection as an inevitability. How is that healthy? And how is an article that basically minimizes the importance of safer sex making that problem any easier?

    Am I self-hating because I don’t want to get infected? No.

    I do not think anyone here would disagree that there ARE puritans among us — I ain’t one of them simply because I won’t have sex without a rubber or because I won’t have sex with those that bareback– it’s self preservation.

    Does it make it harder to find partners? Only if you rely on Grindr for sex…

    I would also agree that our experiences as gay men are varied.

    Many of us worked through our years of shame and guilt THROUGH behavior that was less than safe. Should we feel bad about that? No. Should we address our deeper problems with shame…. well.. if you’re 40 and you haven’t by now– you really should because reckless behavior will hurt you- be it with HIV or any number of problems that arise from self-destructive behavior.

    This article would make sense and would be powerful (and more productive) had you cited VERY specific instances of condom fascism, which I think you may be confusing with a larger problem of sexual puritanism among some ‘advocates’ and some of our own people. They are NOT the same thing.

  63. Dan Wilson Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    You are out of your mind. Your dementia is progressing.

  64. TerryR Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks Jeton.
    Can you provide a link to the research on ‘consistently undetectable viral load’?
    Also, I think the phrase ‘elite adherance’ to the regimen is a major part of the fallibility of this alternative.
    Provisos from the manufacturer also say consistent condom use and fewer partners are part of the regimen.
    I don’t see practical applications outside of monogamous couples.

  65. TerryR Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Very good discussion here, despite a few ranters.
    I think the upshot is demanding safer, more easy to use prophylaxis from Big Pharma, and demanding much more MENTAL HEALTH/PSYCHOLOGICAL research in the community of men who have sex with men. Otherwise we are just arguing back and forth in a fishbowl over emotional interpretations of various messages, which is useless in the end. Basically, ask the medical community to find solutions that approach this disease from the full panoply of directions–medically, mentally, socially.

  66. Chris Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    What works for me personally is a policy of “condoms or monogamy” — i.e., either we do our best to be monogamous and have very clear channels of communication about any other sexual activity, or we use condoms. And I only stop using condoms when I’ve been monogamous with someone for long enough that I feel I can trust him (probably at least 4 months and a trip to an HIV testing site).

    So that’s what works for me — though to a certain extent I’m trusting my boyfriend with my health. Is that “condom fascism”? I don’t even know what the hell that means, but I certainly do think more young gay guys should use condoms with the randoms they hook up with from the internet (or bars or school or wherever). In my experience, though, it’s the very young guys who are quickest to avoid condoms if we just met and are just having sex for the first time. It’s quite sad how common this pattern is — one kid actually told me that his foreskin was “a natural condom.” Ok, derrrrr lol (drunk as I was, I wasn’t fooled by that line lol). For me personally it’s a turn-off because it suggests they’re kind of stupid, and stupid is not sexy.

  67. Valerie Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    @Jeton
    I fon’t get it. You say to Dylan, “don’t ever presume to tell me that condoms work for me, because they don’t”, and then say to Terry, “don’t tell me elite adherence isnt realistic for many… i’ve never missed a dose since going on ARV meds in 2004.”

    Essentially these are two seemingly conflicting POW (in the context of this discussion). One pro-condom, one pro-prevention through adherence to treatment. So condoms clearly work for some and they don’t want to be told what to think by those who disagree, and adherence clearly works for you, and others, and you don’t want to be told either.

    So why argue? For the sake of the youth that everybody seems to agree will just do what they want when they want with whomever they want despite the “elders’s” best efforts to educate, scare or moralize? Well, wasn’t it always thus? Can’t you just agree to disagree then?

    Because a lot of these posts seem to follow this line.

    Poster A: This is my opinion. This is why. Those who disagree might want to rethink their stance. Let’s have a meaningful, productive debate.
    To which poster B replies:
    I disagree. This is why. Let’s have a meaningful, productive debate.
    Poster A: For the love of God!.. People like B are incapable of having a meaningful, productive debate!!

  68. Jose Says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    I didn’t know some insurance companies actually pay for PreP, governments should force them all to do it, but then they would have to do it for those without insurance. In Canada, where health care is free, they won’t pay because the majority of people would be outraged that they would have to pay through their taxes. It’s a tough sell that they would save money in the long run by reducing future infections. But the reality is that this could be the way to halt this disease as you would need to get a prescription from a doctor that would first have to test you for HIV. In this way those who are infected would be aware and have the choice of going on treatment, and those at high risk would likely get a prescription which would protect them. Sounds ideal but it won’t help everyone but will help most. Real life PreP is not as efficient as the studies show because it never is. But the biggest barrier will be the cost, but the savings in human morbidity and mortality surely over rides Gilead’s greed for profits.

  69. Michael Says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 9:35 am

    What am I missing here? I’m HIV positive and my health is fine. I’ve been on medicine (one pill a day) for the last two years and my virus level is undetectable. My life is completely normal in every way I can imagine. Would I rather be HIV-? Sure. However, being HIV+ has not had any real drawbacks for me that I can ascertain. So what am I missing? What is it exactly that people are so worried about? My guess is the stigma scares people more than the virus itself.

  70. Gus Cairns Says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 9:58 am

    @andy: Thanks, as part of my midlie crisis I was thinking of reforming my old rock band, and have now decided to call them the Vile Merchants of Death. Would you like a credit?

  71. Chriso Says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I’m sorry, you talk about gay men being judgmental about guys who don’t use condoms but then continue on to frame those of us who do as old fashioned, out of date, uptight and even fascistic? How on earth does that contradictory bullshit even gel for you? Seriously. I am all for alternative methods but, at the end of the day, what works for each individual works for each individual! So maybe try a little less hypocrisy when presenting your condom alternatives.

  72. Josh Kruger Says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    As a follow-up to my piece about barebacking, I wrote “Barebacking Right: On Duty of the HIV+” regarding the need to frank, candid talk about the sex lives of the HIV+ in order to combat HIV stigmatization and increase healthy behavior.

    The piece can be found here: http://joshkruger.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/barebackingright

    Thanks, Mark, for being such a strong voice for the HIV+.

    JK

  73. Converted Says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    In my first post, I described my near 100% use of condoms for many years. But that near 100% rate only required about a 65% level of effort – another third of the time, while I might have been drunk or lazy or without a rubber or just aching for skin on skin – I was lucky enough to be with a partner who made sure we were safe, so I didn’t have to. Risk reduction by yourself has always been hard – we need a risk reduction norm in our sexual networks.

    There are indeed new ways to reduce risk (hurrah) so let’s include them in our call for community norms. BUT WE HAVE TO PROMOTE A MESSAGE THAT WE ALL HAVE A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY FOR NEITHER TRANSMITTING NOR ACQUIRING HIV. Yes – that can include BB when genuinely virally suppressed and BB between two people of the same status. But not being a BB top when you have a detectable viral load with a partner of uncertain status.

    As per my relatively recent sero conversion, although I barebacked a few times before that happened, I more or less know who infected me and I know for sure they lied to me. But the notion of criminalizing HIV transmission is absurd – and criminalizing non-disclosure of HIV status whether or not transmission happens is even more ridiculous. This kind of action is exactly the sort of thing that undermines the only strategies that I think will work: we’re all in this together; we all need to make an individual effort; we all need help from others from time to time.

  74. Name Doesn't Matter Says:

    February 1st, 2013 at 11:20 am

    The bottom line fact is –

    1) Those using GPS apps should be reminded that – well in my opinion more than 50% of those using these apps are – well, not using protection.

    2) PrEP, is well, expensive, hard to get and not really easily available to the quick hooker-uper – or do they probably don’t even know about it.

    3) Lets not forget about other sexually transmitted infections. yeah, – something PrEP is not going to help protect you from.

    4) bottom line is lets not deflate the notion that condoms and ‘safe sex’ help to reduce HIV transmission and the transmission of other STI’s – as good as barebacking is, and as much as there is certainly nothing wrong with two consenting adults engaging in any sort of sexual desire, lets not forget that condoms still work, HIV is still infecting others and we should not forget a message that if you want to remain HIV-negative and STI free than condoms are still a proven safer method to engage in sex.

  75. David Says:

    February 2nd, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    This is so wrong. When AIDS first started showing up, gay men spouted the same argument; that the “majority” or “mainstream,” either straight or gay, were merely being oppressive when suggesting gay men use protection. And that’s what this argument is truly about; HIV. But where are those men now? They’re gone. Why is there a huge section of our gay community missing? Not only because of this disease’s prevalence, but also because men ignored the warnings and touted it as an “agenda,” even back then. No one’s trying to shame anyone. Such an approach is naive and hasty. I’m a young gay man. We shouldn’t forget about the epidemic that sprouted in the 80s and is still very much real. So many men died because they didn’t listen; so many men died because they had the same air of indignance that I see in this article. If that’s what you think safe sex advocates are trying to do, to shame people, you’re not looking very hard at their motives. Look back thirty years. The men who thought they were trying to be shamed (and continued having sex without a condom) are dead. Use a condom. It’s not only about that one person who is having bareback sex because we’re not exactly a prudish community (which is awesome), but it’s about everyone else that one person comes into contact with. I don’t exactly trust the men I meet on Grindr, nor should I. All it takes is one time.

    And pulling out does not work! Gheesh.

  76. Joe Villanova Says:

    February 3rd, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Mark.
    Your article was very provocative and made me think but you seem to forget that HIV/AIDS still exists and a person exposed to it will eventually die from it. It is a fact. Yes in 30+ years since its discovery it has become a manageable part of life for many like diabetes but we can’t forget the many that died of it and those that are still living with it day by day and the challenges they face.

    When I came out in the late 1980s, I saw first hand so many guys that were either scared to death or those that had it and the fear in their eyes as they knew they were going to die. By the time I was 21 years old, 3 friends I knew were dead because of this monster called HIV that led to AIDS. They didn’t have a chance.
    I myself was scared and often stayed out of the clubs and circuit crowds thinking that I would be safer. Nope. The discretion and anonymity of meeting guys in cruising areas was just as dangerous if not worse. The older generation seemed almost as ignorant as the younger and often targeted them because of their need for the sense of security. I saw that first hand many many times and even fell for the game until I said fuck you to all of it.
    But the 3 friends I lost to HIV/AIDS left an impression on me. They were human beings no different from anyone else and deserved the same compassion and love. I swore if I ever came across another person I would see them as no different.

    Even though I’ve had my fun and sometimes engaging in risky behavior, I’ve always assumed everyone had it and that often kept me in check. Every 3 to 6 months I would get screened for STDs and HIV and so far to this day I am still negative. I’ve made it while many guys I knew over 20 years ago did not.

    Years later I would become friends with someone where we simply connected, we saw something in each other and went with it. He was very honest with me and told me that part of the reason he did not fuck around was because he was HIV+ and he did not want to risk sero-converting anyone. He made it very clear he had that fear. But when we met, we were intimate. We didn’t do anything dangerous, but I will say he walked away smiling and he did call me the following day letting me know how much he “really enjoyed that” hehehehe. We were never intimate again after that one time even though we were greatly attracted to each other, but it didn’t matter. We became good friends.

    You hear so many stories of people who are HIV+ and how they think differently and I do have friends that if you were to tell them that you are indeed positive, they will want nothing to do with you. You know I don’t get that.
    The man I became friends with he told me how much I made him happy. That each time he saw me he smiled. How much he really enjoyed being around me. Eventually he told me he loved me. I didn’t take it seriously thinking to myself “how could this be? He barely knows me,” so I just blew it off. But over time I got to see how he expressed it and how he grew to trust me letting me into very deep and personal parts of his life.
    He told me how he became infected and how the person that exposed him called to let him know, he simply hung up on him and lived in denial for years until illness caught up and almost killed him.
    As I listened to his story, I asked him if his family knows. He told me only one person in his family does. I asked him if he is close to his immediate family and he told me that he is. I then told him to tell his family. It is the right thing to do. It must of been something in the air that day but he listened to me and sometime later he did. But there were times where he has thought about ending it all. The stress of this thing called HIV can take a toll on anyone. The side effects of the cocktail, the depression, the stigma, the discrimination….that can really eat at you. He’s still here and I’m glad he is.

    Since then we moved on. He’s doing ok and he’s in a loving relationship with someone. As far as I know he’s very happy. And knowing that, I couldn’t be more happier for him.

    But what I’m to say is this : Sex was never without risk whether the person is gay or straight. But for myself, normally I would refrain from doing anything high risk because of HIV/AIDS. Yes I have fucked knowing the dangers and somehow I’ve lucked out. The issue is a lot more complicated. I think it’s about personal choice and preference really between consenting adults. What I did intimately with this man years ago was relatively “low risk” and it didn’t really matter as I made him scream his head off regardless. I didn’t need to fuck him for either one of us to get off. He calling me the following day was proof enough I was good at it.
    The point I’m saying is that yes I’m HIV- and I’m vigilant, responsible, safe, guarded, and wish to remain that way, but I’m also compassionate, understanding, and brutally honest. Yes we have to protect ourselves, but we also need reminding that those that are HIV+ are human beings and fell the same pains, joys, emotions as we that are not.
    I for a brief moment reminded this man that he is gorgeous, that he is beautiful, that he is deserving of love, that he is sexually very desirable, that he matters, that he is wonderful, and that come hell or high water, I would kill and die for him. He’s a human being and my friend. Let’s not forget that.

  77. Gus Cairns Says:

    February 6th, 2013 at 11:18 am

    “You seem to forget that HIV/AIDS still exists and a person exposed to it will eventually die from it. It is a fact.”
    - No, it’s not a fact.
    See http://www.aidsmap.com/Why-we-wont-die-of-AIDS/page/1412202/
    and
    http://www.aidsmap.com/Life-expectancy-in-older-people-with-HIV-could-exceed-the-average-as-long-as-ART-keeps-working/page/2551483/
    Yes, there are both pieces by me, but based on what the data says.
    Gus

  78. Condoms the New Absintence Only: Trojan/Durex Sustaining HIV Infections | Josh Kruger Says:

    February 18th, 2013 at 6:41 am

    [...] against the unrealistic schoolmarming of condom campaigns, most notably Jake Sobo in California, Mark S. King in Georgia, and me here in Philadelphia.  Rather than squander our precious little resources on the corporate [...]

  79. Josh Kruger Says:

    February 18th, 2013 at 7:28 am

    As a bookend to this ongoing discussion regarding the importance of realism in relation to sexual behavior, I write today that condom campaigns are actually sustaining HIV infection rates.

    http://wp.me/s33UKz-condoms

  80. Mark Says:

    February 21st, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Oh my god, Josh, your article is SO misleading!

    You talk about recognizing the fact that “if an HIV+ person is on ARV he has no chance of transmitting HIV…”? You’re totally ok with telling people they are not at risk in such a scenario? Are you familiar with the following studies?:

    Lambert-Niclot and colleagues evaluated 628 paired blood and semen samples collected from 304 HIV-infected men seeking assisted reproductive technology support between 2002 and 2011. Twenty men (6.6%) were found to have detectable HIV RNA in semen at the same time that they had undetectable HIV RNA in plasma, using an assay with a lower limit of detection of 20 to 40 copies RNA/mL. Seminal HIV RNA levels ranged from 135 to 2365 copies/mL. All 20 men had been on continuous suppressive ART for >6 months, and none had a concomitant STI. Sixteen had at least one subsequent concordant result (both samples with undetectable HIV RNA), most while on the same ART regimen as when the discordant result was noted. The prevalence of discordant blood/semen results did not change over time nor did it seem to be related to the specific antiretrovirals being used.

    In a separate study, Politch and colleagues evaluated paired blood and semen samples from 101 HIV-infected men on stable ART, nearly all of whom reported sex with men. Overall, 21 (25%) of the 83 men with undetectable HIV in blood simultaneously had detectable virus in semen — a surprisingly high proportion attributed in part to the presence of STIs or urethritis in 10% of the men and genital inflammation in 24%. Men with STIs or urethritis were 29 times as likely as men without these conditions to have detectable HIV in semen despite undetectable virus in blood. Unprotected insertive anal intercourse and the presence of genital inflammation were also significantly associated with increased likelihood of a discordant blood/semen result.

    And you say condom campaigns are sustaining HIV infections? Unbelievable!

  81. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    February 22nd, 2013 at 6:43 am

    uhm, Mark?

    u do realize that the seminal RNA values u cite r themselves low (2365) to extremely low (135)?? at one point either of those values would count as “undetectable”! and of course u fail to note that seminal viral load has a far higher percentage of inactive virions and viral RNA fragments than plasma viral load…

    perhaps u did not know all that. too bad, that’s the fact of the matter.

    btw, by far the main engine of new infections is the untreated and newly infected. fact.

    the only no-risk sex is no sex at all, and any man that fucks wearing rubber with 100% success is a man that fucks like a paralyzed woman. some risks bring more rewards than others.

    yup, truth…it hurts some people.

  82. Tim Says:

    February 22nd, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I have re-read Mark’s post several times over the last few weeks. Yes, he’s being deliberately provocative (he admits as much), and I must admit to being both fascinated and appalled by many of the comments. I think that it’s clear that whatever messaging about HIV prevention that’s out there now is simply not effective given the statistics (barebacking rates, seroconversion rates, etc.). I think one of the problems may well be education about gay sex in general.

    The gay community is fantastically diverse in its sexual interests, appetites, desires, etc., and yet I see very little acknowledgement of this. Rather, it seems to me that media and messaging focus only on two aspects or types of sexuality: the monogamous “marriage” model and the freewheeling hook-up or “promiscuous” model. There seems precious little discussion of gay intimacy and its variations or how social and psychological factors (e.g., self-esteem, self-respect, responsibility, addiction, etc.) play a significant role in sex and desire. Personally, I find the gay marriage movement to be curiously sexless (perhaps this is politically motivated) and much of hook-up culture (particularly porn & the online community) to be focused too much on (certain kinds of) sex at the expense of the people involved.

    When I first came out, I had to figure it out on my own. I succumbed to peer pressure; I tried everything to fit into my new community; I bought into some stereotypical thinking. Even though gays are much more visible and “acceptable” these days, I’ll bet that gay kids still have a hard time accessing information, finding role models to identify with, etc. Perhaps if we step back a bit and start educating gay young people about gay sex and sexuality in general – with HIV (the multiple means of prevention, discussion of acceptable levels of risk taking, and, yes, how to live with it) being a vital and necessary part of that program, then perhaps we will see better informed people making better informed decisions about their sexual choices across the board, not just about HIV. There aren’t just two kinds of gay sexuality, and HIV is only one of many issues we face.

    I tested positive 5 years ago, and during those years since, I’ve thought more about my sexuality (what I want, don’t want, what’s right for me, etc.) than I did in the 20 sexually active years before becoming positive combined. I wish I’d had the courage and self-confidence to do that a long time ago – it would have saved me a lot of heartache and might well have kept me from getting HIV. Perhaps if we can give kids the tools and information that will allow them to do this, the gay community can be healthier overall. Just something to think about.

  83. safra Says:

    February 27th, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    You act like your some victim of sexually tyranny—give me a fucking break. Condoms work. End of story.

  84. jamesv Says:

    March 2nd, 2013 at 10:42 am

    For an unrepentant HIV+ barebacker to promote a reckless lifestyle of medical Russian Roulette just shows that misery truly loves company.

    No words about the high expensive medical bills, physical, mental, and emotional pain associated with being HIV+ as well as a host of STDs including HPV that leads to anal cancer from gay men practicing barebacking.

    HIV+ men often can’t participate in certain medical research studies, can’t donate or receive blood, nor can they donate or receive organ transplants.

    A few minutes of fun isn’t work a life of doctor visits and a shorter lifespan.

    Just stop having anal sex, it isn’t essential for gay men to do it.

    There are other pleasurable forms of non-penetrative gay sex.

    The disappearance of anal sex is the new 21st Century sexual revolution for gay men.

  85. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    March 3rd, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    hi James, nice to know that the New Self-Haters r little different from the old Self-Haters. Larry Kramer agrees with u, “we must wean gay men off of anal sex…so long as men enjoy anal, they will always pick bareback sex over condoms becuz it feels better. i tell people to go to my friend Bill Weintraub’s website, HeroicHomoSex.com. it’s hot, and it spreads an important message”

    that message is that gay men can be at least as incredibly neurotic and self-hating about sex as any heterosexual. i send straight people to that hilarious demented website whenever i want to point how badly developmentally arrested the sexuality of some gay men can be.

    bluntly: i have the best sex of my life now, by far…no comparison at all. now that i KNOW how much better real sex is compared to rubber sex, i also know that trying to deny it to people is untenable…not when there’s so many ways of engaging in it WITHOUT GETTING HIV. that u refuse to acknowledge that benefits no one.

    THAT is is the Civil War that is emerging in the HIV/Activist community. Mark and others seem to have been avoiding that realization, but i saw long ago that guys like you r far more invested in a domineering social consensus than u r in benefiting the public health in general or gay male health in particular.

    u rubber hitlers r nothing more than a pack of wild dogs dressed up with faux social concern.

    oh, and condoms do NOT (repeat: NOT) prevent HPV. check ur facts…again n again.

  86. Lorenzo Says:

    March 20th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    As a HIV negative I have no problem of having (protected) anal sex with a positive or negative person. Furthermore having had a 7 year relationship with a HIV+ person has shown me that it is NOT a piece of cake to carry this dsease. Yes it is manageable, and some people seem not to have any problems, but for many It comes with a decrease in energy, nauseau, depression etc…

    Due to an increasingly more loose ‘moral’ so to speak, HIV infection is on the rise again. In fact, an overly large percentage of people currently contracting the disease, are very very young. What crap message this article contains for them, just because the author apperently cannot deal with some criticism of his or general sexual behaviour be it gay or non-gay.

    Who cares if gay men get more critique on there sexual behaviour than non-gays. Just deal with the critique instead of playing the victim. How a bit of morals in sex with regard to preventing STD’s has anything to do with homophobia is beyond me.

    Using a condom is still an incredibly effective way of reducing your risk of contracting HIV and a few other nasty STDs. It’s not bad to be moralistic (and I don’t mean hysterical) about that. Having a (moral) standard also doesn’t mean judging people that do not or fail or have failed to meet this standard. But just throwing it overboard is incredibly misinformed and a wrong signal.

  87. Dave P Says:

    April 15th, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Excellent article!! Says what we’ve all bee trying to get through these extremist heads for years! Very well written! I commend you for writing this!

  88. Sébastien Périn GUIMET Says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Excellent article !

  89. Barebacking and “Good Gay Citizenship:” To Gay, Inc., Sex and Morality are Mutually Exclusive | Josh Kruger Says:

    July 15th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    [...] some filmmakers and writers have begun addressing this dearth of accurate, and layered, presentations in media of fringe sexual [...]

  90. John Street Says:

    August 24th, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I’ve been having sex in saunas since the early 1990s and I don’t care what the statistics you quote say – nobody used to want to have bareback sex back then. Now it’s a lot more common.

    Yes, my mother barebacked, but she wasn’t at risk of passing on a killer disease to my father. So you’re comparing apples and oranges. Or the fallacy of false analogy.

    Similarly, just because more people die of smoking than AIDS, that doesn’t mean AIDS isn’t a problem. That’s the fallacy of relative privation.

    Your posting is chock-full of argumentative fallacies. That’s not to say it makes you wrong. Just that you need better arguments. You haven’t convinced me of anything.

    And personally, I believe we should be trying to protect one another from contracting HIV because ultimately it lowers quality of life and eventually kills people.

    Your posting comes across as rather foolish.

  91. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    August 27th, 2013 at 12:40 am

    JOHN, the bulk of your email deals with argumentative fallacies…all of which are belied comically by the obvious logical fallacy you open start your post with. were you being ironic when telling Mark “your posting comes across as rather foolish” at the end?

    your “n=1″ personal anecdote about the rate of raw sex at saunas in the early 90′s is only as influential as your overall argument, since you have no evidence to back your claim up, and what evidence IS available refutes you.

    uhm…what was your argument again? oh yes, that Mark has bullsh1tted his way thru an important topic. your posting to this effect is far more compromised than Mark’s blog entry.

    i mean really…was your penultimate paragraph really necessary? did anyone else here put the issue of “HIV —> BAD/GOOD” in contention?

    no, of course not. you were simply posturing.

    cool, man.

  92. QNetter Says:

    December 3rd, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    TerryR: the RISK of infection with undetectable viral load is not 94%. The risk REDUCTION is, on the average, 94%.

    Charlie: “Ask your average straight person if they think getting 12 loads dumped into a woman is romantic.” Ask the woman who WANTS 12 loads dumped in her from 12 guys. Besides, “romance” in this context is a communal, not a coupled, phenomenon for many of us, and, yes, “sex with men is good — more sex with more men is better” is a homospiritual value for us.

  93. QNetter Says:

    December 3rd, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    TerryR: even your correction — “undetectable viral loads are “safe” only 94% of the time. I stand by everything else the link relates” — is incorrect, because you are already failing to multiply the risk by the already-low risk per incidence of unprotected anal-receptive intercourse, which is itself below 2%. You’re actually looking at a risk of about 1.4% of 6%, or .084%.

  94. cecilia hardwick Says:

    March 21st, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    At the end of the day, if you don’t want to be infected with HIV, always use a condom. That’s simple.

    Articles like yours are frankly boring and without point: the very fact that my mother barebacked has nothing to do with anonymous sex in parks or the sex most gay men probably have. My mother barebacked because she wanted to create life and she knew my father was HIV negative. Men who meet men for anonymous sex in parks, laybys, etc, don’t know the serostatus of each other and it’s a game of Russian roulette.

    I am quite tired of hearing from people such as you that HIV is “no longer a death threat” and that it’s a “long-term manageable condition akin to diabetes and depression”.

    People like you are suddenly re-branding the disease and it’s now most certainly not okay to say “HIV kills people”. How un-PC that is!

    People reading your article need to get real and understand that whilst there are good meds out there to control HIV, there is still no cure and people still die of HIV and HIV-related illnesses.

    The only sound advice, if you give any, is to always use condoms each and every time you have sex with anyone.

    (Gay male sex is about sex in parks? Where have you BEEN the last forty years…? Gay men have boyfriends and husbands these days, and they have sex to celebrate life, if not create it. Our sex lives are as valid as yours, honey. Which is why blithely instructing us to have sex with a barrier for the rest of our lives is so absurd and patronizing. — Mark)

  95. Jeton Ademaj Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Cecilia, the only sound advice for women is to cover up their provocative bodily curves and wait for a good man to come courting them. furthermore, they must resist the temptation to lose their virtue for Earthly pleasure, and realize that such pleasures are only Intended as a reward for the Womanly Duty to bear her husband’s seed to term.

    People like you are suddenly rebranding sex as something women can do for pleasurably creating life…you DO realize that such a decision really belongs to your husband, right?

    You must not go around contradicting sound ancient wisdom. it’s ancient for good reason!!

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