Is Unprotected Anal Sex Ever OK?
Last Wednesday, the CDC published a report noting that barebacking, or unprotected anal sex between men, is on the rise, increasing almost 20 percent between 2005 and 2011. The news prompted a concerned outcry from public-health experts and a dismayed finger wagging from veterans of the AIDS crisis, who warn of “a new AIDS epidemic.” (Who knew the old one was over?) These responses are understandable—but their alarmist tone is unwise and unwarranted. I’ll grant that barebacking is, generally, a problem. But it’s a problem that outmoded scare tactics can only exacerbate.
Here’s the paradox at the root of the drift toward barebacking: As HIV becomes more treatable, it becomes less scary—and as it becomes less scary, more people will contract it. The syllogism is simple. Traumatic memories of the 1980s are quickly fading from generational memory. Those horror stories and haunting images convinced a generation of gay men to use condoms, but today the landscape is immutably altered. In developed countries, HIV is no longer a death sentence, just a chronic disease. Plus, antiretroviral drugs vastly reduce the risk of HIV transmission between positive and negative partners, opening up a broader margin of error. With the odds seemingly stacked against infection, the question is no longer “why risk it?”—it’s “why not risk it?”
The Battle of amfAR: How Elizabeth Taylor and Mathilde Krim Fought AIDS
As yet another World AIDS Day passes, HBO brings to the screen another documentary about HIV/AIDS. Produced by fashion designer Kenneth Cole, The Battle of amfAR, which premieres Monday, Dec. 2, is in a minor key compared with deep, rich offerings such as 2012’s Oscar-nominated How to Survive a Plague (coming to PBS at the end of the year) and the legendary And the Band Played On. If you need schooling on how HIV/AIDS took hold, and on the long and often maddening battle to bring the disease to heel and the public to action, start with those two canonical works. But this little film is worth your time, too.
Cole, who’s also the chairman of amfAR’s board, wanted to shine a harsh spotlight on how society’s fear, and the need to believe that HIV infection wasn’t a real threat to anyone but oversexed gay men and the occasional hemophiliac, impeded research and public education. To those ends, the film enlists a major star: Elizabeth Taylor. Along with the story of amfAR co-founder Mathilde Krim, Taylor’s involvement in the early days of the AIDS crisis drives the narrative of The Battle of amfAR.
A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 6: Things We Say When You’re Not There
You can read about the origins of this series in the first entry. Today, a few more words that may come up when there’s friction between members of the sexual majority and the various minorities.
A term coined by gays to refer to heteronormative straights. At least a little bit derogatory, though it can sometimes be used affectionately. See also, white-bread (as an adjective), and picket-fencer.
We Can End AIDS Without a Cure
This Dec. 1, as we mark yet another World AIDS Day without a cure, a vaccine, or an intelligently interdependent global response to the crisis, I’d like to propose a thought experiment based on a radical—yet commonsense—proposition: We can end AIDS without a cure for AIDS.
After all, we have learned ways to prevent transmission between mother and child, discovered drugs that bring the viral load down to undetectable levels, and placed a critical understanding of sexual health in the hands of (some of) those who need it most. With proper funding and political will, these advantages can be replicated in every population, in every country, in every corner of the globe. Incurable is not unbeatable—as we already know from polio and smallpox.
A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 5: Default Settings
You can read about the origins of this series in the first entry. Today, a few terms that describe most people, and are understood by most cultures as default conditions.
straight or het
Everyone knows these, right? The most common, or vanilla, orientation of physical sex attraction. Gays and lesbians are attracted to the same sex; bisexuals to both. For those who see sexual types and attractions as fluid or non-binary, there are terms like pansexual or queer.
A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 4: Kink & Co.
This term can mean a lot of things, depending on context, but at root it’s about enjoying, or even requiring, sexual practices that differ from traditional expectations. This could be as tame as a foot fetish (being intensely aroused by looking at and touching a partner’s feet, or having a partner caress and stimulate your feet), or it could be as elaborate as rope suspension, which requires equipment, planning, and safety measures. The kink community helps people meet others who share their erotic fantasies, through web forums, munches (gatherings at restaurants or cafes where people catch up with friends and meet new people but no one expects to actually do anything kinky or sexual), and clubs. It gives people affordable access to equipment and training on how to use it as safely as possible.
Bound 3 Should Make You Cringe, Not Laugh
Did you catch this week’s Internet explosion? On Monday, James Franco and Seth Rogen released a parody of Kanye’s latest video, “Bound 2,” a ludicrous festival of kitsch complete with horses, sunsets, and Kanye dry-humping a topless Kim Kardashian on a motorcycle. In “Bound 3,” Franco replaces Kanye and Rogen, naturally, replaces Kardashian. Due to the stream of superlatives being awarded to the parody—epic, viral, winning the Internet, destroying the Internet—I sat down to watch it with high expectations. But after thirty seconds, I cringed and turned it off, free of the temptation to add my “OMG #WINNING” tweet to the cascade. The gag is just too familiar: a guy kissing a guy (instead of a lady), with a little wink of knowingness to let itself off the hook.
How Queer Is American Horror Story? Midseason Recap
Curses! The warmth and good cheer of the Thanksgiving holiday is apparently too much for our favorite witches ... despite their penchant for a skin-crackling fire. There is no new episode this week. However, in lieu of our regular discussion of the queerness of AHS, delightfully queer Internet personality Mike Diamond is here with a highly measured and informative midseason recap. Feast on it!
How to Come Out on Thanksgiving
National Coming Out Day is long past, but America’s unofficial coming out day—Thanksgiving—is just around the corner. Strong anecdotal evidence and imprecise surveys suggest that the Thanksgiving dinner table is, tactically, the ideal place to drop the news. With its focus on gratitude, love, and eating your emotions, the holiday is existentially geared toward candor and acceptance. But that doesn’t make coming out a breeze; navigating its eternally choppy straits still requires tact and diplomacy. To facilitate smoother sailing, then, Outward has compiled a list of the top strategies for coming out on Thanksgiving.
A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 3: More Poly Neologisms
You can read about the origins of this series in the first entry. Today, a few more words that poly folks have invented in order to talk with each other about what we’re doing and how we feel about each other.
metamour or metamor
Your partner’s partner, with whom you are not directly involved romantically or sexually.