That Barebacking Thief-Whore: PrEP and Responsibility

Published: February 6, 2013

I’m fast approaching the four-month anniversary of “My Life on PrEP,” a milestone that I imagine equal parts of you are either thrilled or disgusted to see pass. You’ve made your views about me and my ideas plain, which I have honestly appreciated. One of the wonders of the internet is that guys who would never dare to do so in public don’t hesitate to leave a comment calling me a whore online.

I think that’s great. It exposes the dirty underbelly that we often brush aside because of politeness or political correctness. Go ahead, call me a whore. It gives me fodder for more columns like this one. Feed me.

Rather than take them personally and cry in a corner about how mean some of y’all can be, I think there is much insight to be gained from these accusations and slanderous, mean-spirited comments. While this verbiage came in a variety of ugly packages, perhaps the most common came in the form of questioning my tendency to fuck without condoms. This column isn’t exactly about condoms, or sex without it, per se. I chose to sidestep those debates because gay men spent the past decade or so beating the shit out of each other as if in some kind of perpetual, “Whack-a-Ho” game. What more could be possibly said? How much more anger, shame and frustration could be wasted rehashing such a tired, ridiculous debate?

With that in mind, I began my first column not with a manifesto about the “right” or “natural” way to have sex. I don’t believe any of that hogcock. From where I sit, unless you’re a gay-bashing evangelical, it’s probably not a good idea to put “natural” and “sex” in the same sentence. Instead of making some artificial over-generalization, I began my first column with something I knew readers couldn’t argue with: my experience. Those first few words of my first column were, in a sense, strategic: “Over the past three years, I’ve noticed something about my sex life. For a host of reasons that this column will be exploring, I’d all but stopped using condoms.”

It was my truth. I don’t have to defend that—to you, my lovely reader, or to anybody else for that matter.

Lest anyone think otherwise, my position is clear: If you use condoms regularly, please by all means do not interpret me as judging you or suggesting that the sex that I have is somehow better. I’m sure you have great sex. I hope you have mind-blowing sex. Good for you! Seriously.

I believe that taking precautions against infection is a form of responsibility—not just for yourself, but for your partners and your community. Given recent predictions that over half of gay men will contract HIV by the time they’re 55 (not to mention, over three-quarters of black gay men), every effort to curtail the spread of this virus is a way of caring for your gay/bi/queer brothers.

Guys who herald condom use as the only acceptable prevention strategy often imply that they have the moral upper hand because they’re the real “responsible” ones in the room. But why would this be true? Wouldn’t taking a pill that reduced your risk of infection also imply that you, too, cared about yourself, your partners and your community? And that you, too, wanted to do your part to prevent HIV?

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