Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the bareback conundrum...

This is not a post that would normally end up on both my blogs, because one is dedicated to my religious/spiritual/philosophical explorations and the other to matters of gayness, but in this case, the two have crossed paths.

I am currently exploring the domain of Aphrodite, of love and sex, of sensuality and sexuality, of beauty and pleasure. So, of course, questions about sex and the dangers of sex are bound to arise, and this week I found out that a very good friend of mine has become HIV positive, or rather, that he has been HIV positive for a long time but has continued to indulge in dangerous behaviors. Behaviors that are dangerous both to him and to his partners.

As a man with HIV, his immune system is in danger. True, drug therapies today can make a big difference, keeping people from converting to full blown AIDS status, but the immune system is still in potential danger, and exposing oneself to diseases that can be, and often are, very dangerous is not a smart thing to do even when you are not already infected with a virus that targets and destroys the immune system.

It bothers me that he, like many out there, are buying into the denial that HIV is not what the government tells us it is. These conspiracy theorist deniers who will stop at nothing to indulge their fantasy that HIV is caused by drugs rather than an actual virus, or that AIDS does not exist, are so unwilling to face facts that they are taking themselves down, and with them, others who they are indoctrinating into their fantasy.

At a spiritual and philosophical level, I have to ask myself, is sex, sexuality, pleasure, and the beauty inherent in these acts more holy if it is 100% natural? Are these people indulging in a natural and beautiful thing untainted by latex? Or are they ignoring the aspect of our spirituality, as human beings, that demands we be moderate in our thinking?

I am a Hellenistos, and I struggle with one of the “commandments” of Apollo (Not really Commandments, but we can get into that some other time) which demands that we do nothing to excess. In other words, that we be moderate in our actions, our thinking, and our indulgences in the domains of the Gods.

There is wisdom to be applied here. No matter what religion you are, the Gods have always demanded that we think. That we look at things and keep in mind that overindulgence in anything, be it food, sex, or morality, can lead to disaster. It is all about balance.

But for these people, I have a sense of fear and yet I almost envy that they can live in such denial. Not that I could live this way. I need to jump into most things with my eyes open, even if not always wide open. I wonder if it is possible for me to enjoy sexuality to its fullest if I am bound by the rational in such a way that I have to behave responsibly, and I always have to answer yes, because in the end, I get to live another day to explore and enjoy the possibilities and joys of love, sex, and desire.

Be smart, people, condoms are cheap, and they are easy to use. USE THEM!

3 comments:

mamiel said...

I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing. I think some people need to be authentic to their true nature. If that true nature dictates that you have to be barebacking, then so be it (though you should inform your partner of your status clearly). I mean some people climb Mt Everest because they just have to, fully aware they might die.

More often than that though, you have people acting out of sexual compulsion, meaning they really wish they could modify their sexual behavior but really can't. The consequenses usually aren't deadly, I've been there. But if some one is acting compulsively in ways that can kill them, it makes me wonder how friends, lovers, society, therapists, communities can help. I don't have the answer and this is a question vexing the public health community forever now, basically.

My feelings about those people who think HIV is a conspiracy and therefore refuse retroviral treatments is that they are nuts. Many activists in this "cause" have died. So sad.

H├ęctor said...

And I am caught square in the middle of it. The community I live in is out here in the Midwest, land of denial and Christian conservatism, where people are forced into hiding and the drive to simply conform to the rigid underlying lies of Christianity force people to take risks, to do things they might not otherwise do out of a desperate need to express something deep and meaningful.

I disagree, however, that people are acting on compulsions they cannot control. Compulsions may be real, but they are not uncontrollable.

We Americans are too quick to assign inevitability and uncontrollability to things. We are too quick to label everything a disease, giving people the justification they need to act as they will and simply claim they cannot help it.

I want us, as a people, to discard these silly Christian Puritanical ideas that stop us from educating our public, and maybe learn that giving people the tools they need to act properly is the only way to assure they do.

mamiel said...

Yes, I believe that being closeted and or shamed and living in a conservative environment that is hostile to public health and open discussion are all contributing to the problem. Let's not forget another problem, IMO, alcohol, meth, and other substances really lower inhibitions and reinforce risky behaviors.

I have seen other things at work in HIV conversion. I have a friend that barebacked like 200 guys one summer. Sure enough, he tested + at the end of the season, but I think for some reason he just kind of "wanted" to be +. Why? No idea. Survivor's guilt? I have counseled people in a HIV clinic, and have had to literally console people who tested - and were disappointed. These were really poor, addicted people who were hoping to get housing and benefits if they got HIV status. Go figure. Crazy, right?

You are probably right about compulsive behaviors. When you are doing them you "feel" like you can't stop, but if you can't control yourself then who else can? I say this as a person who has acted in a sexually compulsive way on occasion. I felt like I was unable to control myself but I think deep down I probably could have.