Condom Excuses

You know the facts. You’re aware that new HIV infections are on the rise, and the old fashioned, low-tech condom is still the best way to protect yourself and your partner(s).

The thing is, knowledge isn’t always enough.

In the heat of the moment – especially when sex is combined with alcohol, drugs, and/or an insanely hot partner – it’s easy to throw caution to the winds.

If you want to use a condom every time, you’re likely to run into some of these arguments:

He says: “I’m negative.” (Or, “My viral load is undetectable.”)

The reality: Serosorting (using HIV status as a decision-making point in sexual behavior) doesn’t always work, especially with an anonymous partner. He may be lying; or he may be mistaken (or not even know) about his status. It takes about three months of waiting after your last risk of exposure to HIV before you can be pretty sure you’re really negative. During those three months is when a lot of new infections happen. Condoms take the guesswork out of the equation – and they protect you from a slew of other STIs as well!

What you can say: “That’s great, and I still want to use a rubber.”

He says: “It’s a mood killer.”

The reality: It is if you let it be. The release and capture can be playful and sexy. It can also be fast. Like a boy scout, be prepared: have that condom ready, whip it out, and get it on. Practice makes perfect. Think about ways to make condom use a part of foreplay.

What you can say: “For me, sex without a condom is a mood-killer because I can’t relax.”

He says: “I can’t stay hard with those things.”

The reality: It’s true: guys sometimes lose their erections when the glove goes on. You can always get him hard again once he’s suited up. Try adding a drop of silicone lube to the inside of the condom or the head of the penis to increase sensation. And experiment with different brands of rubbers, sometimes fit can be an issue.

What you can say: “I can help with that.”

He says: “I’m too big.”

The reality: Condoms come in all sizes, including jumbo. Find one that’s tight enough so it won’t slip off, without being uncomfortable. Condom size is determined by the diameter, so make sure you are accounting for girth when choosing the correct size condom!

What you can say: “Try one of these.”

He says: “I’m on PReP”

The reality: Most men who go on a daily ARV drug (like Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine) don’t stop using condoms. If you’re both on PReP, or if one of you is negative and on PReP, then you’re in good shape. If he’s on it and you’re not, you aren’t protected.

What you can say: “That’s great. I still feel more comfortable using a rubber.”

He says: “I’m allergic to latex.”

The reality: There are condoms made out of polyurethane (plastic) that protect against HIV and other STIs. There’s also a hypoallergenic synthetic latex called Polyisoprene, which some guys prefer. Look for condoms which are labeled “non-latex.”

What you can say: “This one’s latex-free.”

He says: “We already barebacked once.”

The reality: That doesn’t mean you can’t still swap infections. Maybe one of you has an STI, but didn’t pass it on during that first hookup. Maybe he’s had other partners since you guys last had sex (or you have.)

What you can say: “Yeah, and it was a mistake. I want to use a rubber every time.”

He says: “It’s not that big of a deal.”

The reality: There are guys who don’t see HIV as a serious issue. Your partner may think it’s an out-of-date problem, like a mangled cassette tape, or else an inconvenience that can be handled with a few pills. He may think contracting HIV is inevitable, so why worry. Or he may believe that condoms don’t protect anyone anyway.

What you can say: “It’s a big deal to me. I don’t want to put either of us at risk.”

Behind every one of these arguments is the same message: “I want to talk you into having unsafe sex with me.”

Your guy is expecting you to make a judgment call at a moment when you’re probably not too rational. He’s also expecting you to trust him. That’s just not reasonable if you don’t know each other. Have hot sex with the guy, but don’t be putting your life into his hands.

Think about the issues ahead of time, and decide what kind of sex you’re comfortable with. If you want to use a condom every time, make that a serious pledge to yourself. Stock up and be ready.

Then, when you’re out and about and getting it on, remember to honor that commitment to your own life and health.

Condom Excuses

The Condom Controversy

There is a lot of debate when it comes to talking about safe sex today. With many medical advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, some feel like condoms no longer need to be one of the only options to protect against the transmission of STI’s and HIV. Especially when some feel like this option is continuously targeted at men who have sex with men (MSM). While others think it is irresponsible to not continue the push for condoms in schools, prevention service organizations, and even in pornography. Like any argument there are a lot of opinions and views, and while we cannot cover each one, we will be examining some of the different extremes.

A fan of a popular gay pornography site, SeanCody.com, wrote a letter to express his disappointment in the company’s decision to make condom-less videos. As a long-term viewer, he felt like this decision was irresponsible to younger more vulnerable audiences.

“A lot of men of all ages no longer understand how dangerous HIV remains, but particularly young men who have not seen AIDS kill. They see HIV-positive friends (and even some porn models) thriving with treatment. And that’s good. But HIV still damages your body, and the treatment can be toxic over the long term.”

- Jon Patton (distraught fan writing letter to SeanCody.com)

While Patton admits that it is not Sean Cody’s responsibility to be the “watch dog” of the gay community he believes they should care about their customers by promoting condom use in their porn, like they used to.

Then we have the very outspoken voice of Treasure Island Media (a studio that only shoots bareback porn) owner, Paul Morris, who believes that promoting condom use in porn is not only impractical but also hypocritical. He decided to film the kind of sex that men were actually having without judgment.

Morris says that movies depicting men using condoms only keeps stigmas high and reinforces the label that men having sex with men should always wear condoms. Morris believes that “advances in medications have made HIV virtually a non-issue.” However, others within the gay community think Morris’ message is dangerous.

While the disease of HIV has evolved from a fatal illness to a chronic one, it is definitely still an issue. The advances in HIV prevention and care have only come about, because of it being kept at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Morris brings up an interesting point, however, that condom usage in porn is somehow sex shaming.

Condoms are consistently promoted as prevention messaging to gay and bi men, and this messaging is primarily being promoted by heterosexuals. Not because gay and bi men don’t work in HIV prevention, but health workers overall are a majority heterosexual – because the population in general is primarily heterosexual. Sometimes condom use is even suggested to those gay and bi men in committed relationships. Would we tell heterosexual couples to use condoms if they were in committed relationships? Probably not. Therefore you could understand how any gay or bi man would view this messaging as hypocritical. You want me to wear a condom, but you don’t need to wear one?

While, I don’t completely agree with Morris’ statement, I do think there is something to be said about not shaming sex practices of MSM. Filming sex depicting a variety of sexual preferences without judgment is great! We all have preferences; we all look for depictions of ourselves in media.

Do I think that porn ever depicts how people are actually having sex? No. But porn is not about how we have sex, but about exploring our sexuality – whether homosexual or heterosexual or bisexual, etc. Therefore, a decision to not use condoms in porn should be left to the choice of the studio and the film they are shooting. I don’t think using the porn industry as our moral compass would get us very far.

Citations

An Open Letter To Sean Cody From A Distraught Fan Over Barebacking In Porn. (n.d.). Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.queerty.com/an-open-letter-to-sean-cody-from-a-distraught-fan-over-barebacking-in-porn-20131031

Damewood, A. (2013, May 29). Coming Unwrapped: Syphilis is spreading among gay men who don’t use condoms. Retrieved November 25, 2014, from http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-20715-coming_unwrapped.html

The Condom Controversy

PrEP: A Personal Experience

It takes one moment, one incident to change a lifetime. Whether we would like to acknowledge it or not, these are the moments that make us, shape us, and change us. It is important to realize that life is about risk(s) and it is also about knowing the possible implications that may occur with each given risk. However, as we progress as a society, we can no longer look at risks as mere individual endeavors. Instead, we must look at risks collectively. It is through this collective lens that we garnish awareness and education within society. Furthermore, this collective mentality allows us to unite and become a stronger individual and community.

Recently, we interviewed Miles, a resident of Eugene and a volunteer at the HIV Alliance. Miles allowed us to delve into his intimate and private world. A world, that consists of being a man who has sex with men, often riskily (i.e. partaking in the bareback culture[1]) and also a man who takes pre-measurable steps to reduce his possible HIV risk infection(s). As we spoke, Miles discussed his life (as a child, teenager, and adult) before and after his introduction to Truvada[2].

Miles, originally from Portland, grew up with his mother in an “open minded household”. He was a timid and reclusive child that utilized video games to escape the realities of his everyday life. In high school, writing and reading became his escape and led to his fascination with language and expression. Furthermore, he began to “find out who he was”,  meaning his sexual preference and his sexuality. Once out of high school, Miles began his journey into a world of sex positivism, however he still held misconceptions about HIV transmission and stigmas around the disease.

Moreover, his perceptions of HIV transmission and his stigmatization of HIV changed when one of his best friend (who happened to be HIV positive), began to educate/inform Miles about the disease and the implications of being HIV positive. Furthermore, his friend informed him of an FDA approved drug called Truvada (PrEP[3]). Turvada intrigued Miles; his risky sexual behavior put him at a higher risk of contracting the disease and he did not want to be another “statistic”. Determined to further educate himself on the drug, Miles began his own thorough research on Truvada (i.e. research studies, its efficacy rates and reviews). Once satisfied with the information obtained, he began his search for a doctor with his Oregon Health Plan. Luckily, Miles found Jon White, a doctor with an open mindset and a thorough research ethic. White liked the statistics he found on Truvada and prescribed it. Miles stated, “that only one doctor (Jon White) in Eugene/Springfield will approve it for patients. Not many doctors know about Truvada here or trust the research.” Fortunately for Miles, he was able to get his insurance to cover its cost and began his regimen.

When Miles started Truvada, the side affects and symptoms were mild. He received mild headaches and a bit of nausea; however, once his body adapted, his symptoms alleviated. In terms of dose procedure and regimen, he tries not to miss a dose, but if he does, he’s not too worried due to its half-life. But, if the dose is missed a day, he never takes more than one (the additional potency will make an individual sick). Furthermore, he has phone reminders to keep him aware and alert when to take the dose.

The more we spoke with each other about Truvada, the more it became clear the similarities Truvada had with birth control. Much like birth control (now and its early history), Truvada has garnished a cumbersome misconception. Many individuals fear that if Truvada becomes widely accessible, men[4] will stop using contraceptive, partake in “slutty” behavior and STIs will flourish at an expedited rate. However, like Miles stated, “people fail to realize that with this drug, individuals will not be limited in partner choices. There will be less of a risk of contracting HIV.”

Furthermore, with the awareness and the acknowledgement of the drug (as a whole), individuals can have a more rational debate over its utility and functionality within our society. We can break the stereotypes and idealizations that Gay/Bi/MSM individuals have had to endure (and still do). As Miles stated, “For decades Gay/Bi/MSM have been forced to live with the notions that if a condom is not worn, that they are a risk to society” which has perpetuated a “psychological trauma”. Truvada, in addition, can help continue to dismantle the stigma around HIV as well as spread collective outreach and education. Again, as we progress as a society, we must not look at risk as an individual endeavor, but as a collective one. It is through this collective lens that we can build an acceptance and a united community.

Footnotes

[1] Unprotected anal sex

[2]Helps reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 infection when used together with safer sex practices. This use is only for adults who are at a high risk of getting HIV-1. This includes HIV-negative men who have sex with men and who are at high risk of getting infected with HIV-1 through sex, and male-female sex partners when one partner has HIV-1 and the other does not.

[3]Pre-exposure Prophylaxis

[4] MSM community

PrEP: A Personal Experience

The Eugene Weekly Explores Queer Issues in Eugene

The Eugene Weekly has written a fantastic and insightful review of the queer scene in Eugene, OR and featured it as the cover story. There are several key community member voices who talk about the issues faced by our community, particularly looking at the need for a LGBTQ+ space in town. Cruise on over and take a look, or grab a copy of the Eugene Weekly somewhere about town. Then let us know your thoughts!

20141126cover

http://eugeneweekly.com/20141126/lead-story/queer-conundrum

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