Black Gay Men’s Blog peeks into the world of raw sex (aka bareback sex), black gay men and HIV. You can’t mention HIV and AIDS without thinking about gay men, who have been the hardest hit by the virus, and you can’t discuss the disproportionate number of black people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, without talking about black gay men, bisexuals and MSM. It has been brought up in other blog posts and comments, but the purpose of this article is for us to start asking ourselves why we are having so much raw sex. Before some of you rush to comment, I am not saying ALL black gay men are having raw sex, nor am I saying we are having more raw sex than the heterosexual black community, or gay men of any other race. However, the focus of this article is on black gay men, bisexuals and MSM. The percentage of black gay men, who are HIV positive and the rate at which black men are seroconverting(becoming HIV positive) in the USA, means that there is quite a lot of unprotected sex going on, even though there are other factors, which come into play when it comes to the high rate of HIV in the black community (higher rate of STDs, poverty, poor access to health care, homophobia etc). We might not want to hear it, but sooner or later, we are going to have to stop living in denial and at least start talking about it. Maybe, then, we can start taking a bit more responsibility for our actions and the effect those actions have on our community.
Recently, I started engaging friends, associates and blog readers in honest, non-judgmental conversations about black gay men, HIV and unprotected sex. Most were initially quick to deny any raw sex within the last year, but as they got more comfortable, the truth started coming out. These were not one-off “slip ups” or sex in stable, loving, committed relationships. No, many of us are having casual, unprotected sex with people, whose last names we don’t even know. I am not here to judge anyone having bareback sex, nor am I here to say black gay men in loving relationships shouldn’t have raw sex. I would just like us to ask ourselves why so many of us are having unprotected sex with strangers. There is no discussion about HIV (and I don’t expect there to be with casual hook-ups. That’s not likely to happen amongst men of any race, in any great numbers), but when did we get to the place ,where there was no discussion about condoms and why? In any major city tonight, there will be countless sexual encounters amongst black gay men, where the only thing required will be lube, lotion or Vaseline (neither oil based lotion nor Vaseline are condom-friendly), an erect penis and a willing receptacle.
In some circles, it has been suggested that gay men, in general, have reached condom fatigue. Is this what has happened among black gay men? I don’t know, because I’m wondering if we REALLY used them long enough to get fatigued. Of course, there is also the fact that safer-sex education never really reached, or was delivered effectively to certain communities. Could this be the reason and does it still apply, in this digital age, when most of us are online? A handful of people I have spoken to admitted that (deep down) they were tired of constantly worrying about contracting HIV and AIDS. Subconsciously, maybe they wanted to seroconvert, so they could stop worrying and be free to have more relaxed sex. Have black gay men also become “bug-chasers” (those who willingly seek to be infected with the HIV virus) – a phenomenon I, maybe naievly, thought wasn’t that prevalent in our society? Or is it as simple as the fact that bareback sex feels good? I find that argument a bit too simplistic, given all we know about HIV and AIDS. Prison sex and bareback porn(which will be addressed in another article) have also been blamed, is this true for you? Some say the success of treatment with antiretrovirals (HIV meds) has led to people being less afraid of contracting the virus. Is this the reason for all this raw sex, have we just become reckless and carefree? What happened to the assumption that everybody was HIV positive, so you protected yourself?
More than likely, it is a combination of some of the above, mixed in with that ole friend of ours, low self-esteem and the desperate desire a lot of black men have to connect with another male(that’s another blog post) and, if we could admit it to ourselves, to be loved. Sex is the closest a lot of us get to any real connection and is the only way many men express their feelings. I also think making bareback sex such a taboo has backfired. It is like anything else, if you make it dangerous and evil enough, without any balanced information, people will want to try it. That’s just my own little theory. I have always thought we should educate about the risks of raw sex and living with HIV and AIDS, without making everyone (even committed gay couples) feel like they can’t admit to the fact that they have or have had raw sex. Give people the facts, let them know HIV and AIDS is still very real and is no walk in the park. Yes, you can live longer these days, but it can still kill you and the earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can start meds, which you may or may not tolerate very well. There was a dance tune from the 90s, called “Men Adore a Whore”. I say men adore anything made to seem dirty, filthy and nasty, especially when it comes to sex. We have to find a way to give the facts, without making bareback sex more enticing, by turning it into this forbidden fruit. A little controversial, I know and many don’t get this concept, but so far the safer-sex message has failed, so what are we to do next?
What are your views? Denying the reality of raw sex in the black gay community, is like denying the reality of absent fathers and raw sex in the black community at large (you don’t have 3 or 4 baby daddies if you have protected sex). I know some of you will be ready to lash out and say “We are not all freaks, we are not all having raw sex etc etc”. Again, I know that and never said that, but I am sure if you are not having raw sex, you have a friend who is. Try some honest, non-judgmental conversation with your friends – obviously, if you make them feel like filthy freaks, you won’t get anywhere. I just want to hear from you guys, so we can start a dialog and try to figure out why black gay men are having so much raw sex. If you only practice safer-sex, or are in a committed relationship, let’s hear from you too. What have your experiences been like, how difficult, or easy has it been sticking to your decision not to have raw sex, have you ever been tempted? Those in relationships, when did you decide to go raw, were you tested first, do you still get tested, or are you both HIV positive? Let’s bounce ideas around and let’s see how honest we can get. I don’t have the answers and I’m not pretending I do, because if I did, I would patent them. This is a topic that often stomps me. All I have are ideas ( just like you) and statistics, as far as the rate of HIV infection and number of AIDS cases amongst black gay men and black people, in general, are concerned. If you are one of those, still living in denial, do yourself a favor and try a little social experiment. Go on a hook-up site, like A4A, and change your profile (or set up a new one), stating clearly that you are into raw sex(especially if you make that profile a well-endowed top) and see just how many black men(bottoms, tops, vers, total tops it doesn’t matter) hit you up. The same people might have ignored you before, but are lured in by the promise of raw, unprotected, bareback sex. A few of us have conducted these social experiments, all with similar results, and a young college student has been busy collecting some data, which I believe will be released on Black Gay Men’s Blog. Not that we need experiments or data, but if it helps drive the point home, then so be it.
If you are single (or creeping) and sexually active, try being honest. Think long and hard about your last 10 – 20 hook-ups (most of you don’t even have think that far back) – did he pull out a condom, did you, was it used and if not, why not? If you pulled out the condom, think back, do you think he would have pulled one out? Was Vaseline(or regular lotion) his choice of lube? Thirty years into the HIV and AIDS epidemic, black gay men and MSM top the list, when it comes to gay men, MSM and HIV infections. If we can’t talk about it, who will? There will be a couple of AIDS service organizations reading this article, so let’s not turn it into an unnecessary debate, but rather try and have honest dialog and share thoughts and experiences. Our honesty and participation can help others, so if you have never commented on the blog before, maybe this could be your first time. With all we know, our lack of access to quality health care and all the other socio-economic factors, not in our favor(which put us at higher risk and certainly don’t help, should we become HIV positive), why are we, black gay men, having unprotected, bareback, raw sex?
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