Fantasies have to be expressed, channeled
If I was more inclined to have anal sex more, especially receptively, I would probably be more inclined to do it raw, because of my eroticization of raw sex.
by Charles Stephens
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I am a 29-year-old black gay male and I’m HIV-negative.
Of the group of gay men I came out with, three have died, and I am now one of the few left in my social network that’s still HIV-negative.
I don’t see my being HIV-negative as the result of “good choices,” I’ve made, verses “bad choices,” I’ve avoided. I don’t see being HIV-negative as a prize for good behavior. To me it’s been more a matter of inclination, even if this inclination has produced a kind of “resilience factor,” for me.
I have sought to have a fulfilling, open, and interesting sexual life, and remain HIV-negative along the way. To some degree I think I’ve managed to achieve this, even as I’ve created boundaries for myself. I believe that my being HIV-negative has to do, more than anything else, with my lack of receptive raw anal sex, and my overall ambivalence around anal sex in general. To be more clear, if I was more inclined to have anal sex more, especially receptively, I would probably be more inclined to do it raw, because of my eroticization of raw sex. My lack of engagement with receptive anal sex has more to do with the discomfort it causes me, rather than some moral stance, so the logistics of the act, creates a kind of covert protective factor. But I still eroticize anal sex, particularly raw anal sex, even though I do it infrequently, and have sought ways to channel those desires in a different direction.
I yearn for other HIV-negative gay men to tell their stories, and share their strategies, especially those like me, that don’t like condoms, eroticize semen, exist in high prevalence HIV sexual networks, and develop strategies to remain HIV-negative.
My rule for the most part is to keep semen out of my mouth and ass. And if I choose to indulge in that particular pleasure, I would identify strategies to do so that would reduce my risk along the way. Even though I don’t think sex is ever completely rational, I do believe I can be deliberate and intentional.
I think bareback porn could potentially be an HIV prevention strategy.
Once I was with a guy that wanted to penetrate me condomless. I did not want to do it. Or rather I wanted to do it, but chose not to do it. This has not been the case every time, but was the case this time. We ended up masturbating together, while he narrated to me his fantasy of barebacking with me, ejaculating inside me, feeling the inside of me raw. I found this extremely powerful and the fantasy hot. We were able to engage in a very intense way, our sexual fantasies, without actually doing it, all the way. Our orgasms were powerful, even if his semen was collected on to his bellybutton and not in my rectum. I also watch bareback porn, gay and straight, and find that an effective way to channel my desires. I think bareback porn could potentially be an HIV prevention strategy. Fantasies have to be expressed, channeled. Must be. In the theater of the erotic arts, we have an opportunity to witness visually the sexual archetypes and fetishes that structure our psyches and animate our fantasies. Those are two imperfect strategies that I have found effective for the moment.
The gap that I’ve found in HIV prevention, is the lack of engagement around HIV-negative men that remain negative. Eric Rofes years ago, called for support groups for HIV-negative gay men. Spaces. This still has not happen on a large scale, and I believe strongly that it’s necessary.
Thus, I’m calling for an HIV prevention agenda for gay men that would include three things:
(1) An exploration of how gay men, particularly black gay men, have remained and continue to remain HIV-negative, especially those like me, that have a dissaffinity for condoms. What strategies have they used? Those that has existed in and fucked in sexual networks and contexts with high HIV prevalence that remain negative should be studied and interviewed rigorously. Urgently.
(2) An STI prevention workshop for gay men that like to have raw sex. Not just a list of strategies or tips, but a workshop, that can be replicated within community-based organizations and centers for gay men targeting gay men that bareback.
And (3), spaces for gay men that are HIV-negative that can talk about their ambivalence, their desires, and their challenges in a supportive and affirming environment.
Is there some resilience I have that has guided me, facilitated my remaining HIV-negative? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since the brilliant Walt Senterfitt referenced the notion of resilience to me, and it’s value in thinking about gay men’s sexual health. One thing is for sure, the notion of resilience in gay men’s health, and not just as it relates to sexual health but also mental health and other realms, could provide some really valuable strategies as we map out our collective destiny.
Charles Stephens is an Atlanta-based gay men’s health advocate and writer.