Saturday, December 29, 2012

The BEST of Lifelube - "When Barebacking is Noble: The Ongoing Controversy around Serosorting" From Friday, April 6, 2007

Before you get to the article, a note on language. At the LGBTI Health Summit in Philly last month, I learned a great new term called "sero-adaptation" which was coined by this very cool, edgy Parisian HIV prevention group called The Warning"

Sero-adaptation includes, but is not limited to, the idea of "sero-sorting." It refers to a selection of harm reduction strategies that do not involve the use of condoms. These strategies may reduce the risk of HIV transmission, but are not a guarantee and require a clear-headed risk analysis, weighing the good, the bad and the ugly and making a decision around the amount of risk you and your partners are comfortable with.

So, what are some examples of sero-adaptation?

Sero-sorting - having condom-free sex with guys who share the same HIV status

Strategic positioning - determining who does what based on HIV status. For instance, the neg guys fucks the poz guy, which is less risky than the other way around.

Dipping - just sticking the dick inside a little bit and for a brief amount of time

Pulling out - kinda like the "rhythm method" of the 50"s, meaning withdrawal before cumming. Lot's of people become parents like this, and this is exactly how I myself tested poz, but it is less risky than actually allowing cum inside.

Lube - using a generous amount of the slippery stuff reduces friciton in one's tender, delicate anus/rectum and therby reduces the risk of HIV being offered a pathway in.

And of course, there are other sexual activities that can be done by people with same or different HIV statuses that do not involve fucking - sucking, rimming, water sports, JO, fisting, massage...

By the way, just for a moment of clarity, none of the above can be taken to offer complete or partial protection from other types of sexual transmitted infections...


So here is that article already..

"When Barebacking is Noble..."

By Christopher Murray
[From the current issue of Circuit Noize, with thanks to the Gay Men's Health Listserv for posting...]

Last month, a virtual Vesuvius erupted when the popular New York gossip blog,Gawker , posted a link and then the next day an interview with a twenty-something gay guy in Manhattan who gets off on fucking guys without condoms.Confessions of a Bareback Top, his site, details his unapologetic adventures and is whack off material for some guys and proof of the end of civilization for others. The kink with the blogger, and those who identify with him, is the thrill we get when we break the taboo of safer sex.
The undeniable point of Mr. Bareback Top, is that while many gay men mouth lip service to safer sex practices, when push comes to shoving it in, so to speak, it's a different story. The bareback top loudly proclaims both his negative status and his assertion that it takes two to tango and that even if discussions before and during sex with his partners revolved around intentions to practice safe sex, once they acquiesce during the act, then they are just as responsible for what happens as he is, no matter how much they or others cry victim.
A storm of disapprobation not surprisingly followed the boost in the bareback blogger's profile. Gawker's comments file was crammed with postings suggesting he be put on the next train to Dachau, other gay men's health listserves picked up the drumbeat of dismay and disgust. But this controversy is only the latest concerning the practice of serosorting.
Defined as guys choosing only to have unsafe sex with others of the same HIV-status, serosorting has been ade facto reality in gay men's lives since the AIDS epidemic started, and before, if you count guys choosing not have sex with others they knew to have an STD or saying fuck it , if they knew they both had herpes, or whatever.

Serosorting, however, is a concept that is exclusive to considerations of HIV prevention. It's based on the premise that men need to know their status and that if they do, and then limit their unsafe behavior to only others of the same status, that HIV infections will fall. This assumes of course that people take steps to learn their status, that their status stays the same, that they are honest about their status, and that others are too. It is true, by the way, that people are more likely to have safer sex if they know they are positive. This is part of the innate civic-mindedness and altruism of gay men, we'll come back to that later.

Serosorting has recently been picked up by some advocates and taken out of the realm of decisions that gay men make on their own and promoted as a serious prevention strategy to be encouraged. Last fall, the San Francisco Department of Public Health launched their "disclosure" campaign that links knowing your status and talking about it with potential sexual partners to intentionally choosing partners of the same status. And Robert Brandon Sandor, the organizer ofBrandon's Poz Parties, a longstanding occasional sex club event for poz guys in New York, took up the charge, hosting a forum at the gay center in Manhattan on serosorting a month later. Brandon has run afoul of some local public health advocates for his championing of serosorting, as they claim his promotion of the concept is overly simplistic.
For Brandon, serosorting means, if you are poz, and only fuck without condoms with other poz guys, HIV won't be transmitted and will eventually burn itself out. Critics note that the world is more complicated then this with people not sticking to the system, assuming things about other people's status, and remaining vulnerable to other STDS.
This also lays the burden on poz guys to have unsafe sex – or maybe by extention of the argument sex, period – only with other positive guys, but also for negative guys or guys of unknown status to continue to have sex only with condoms.
It's easy to fall into a moralistic discussion about sexual ethics when considering serosorting. But in fact the issue is really one that has been around forever and complicated forever: assessing risk. A noted HIV researcher once told me about a guy in Los Angeles he spoke to who would have unprotected sex if his partner had clean matching socks on. The reasoning went that if he was a nice, clean enough guy to have nice, clean enough socks, they it's likely he wasn't a skank and therefore HIV-negative. Sounds pretty silly, but it's a risk assessment strategy, albeit a poor one.
We are all responsible for making decisions about how much risk we can tolerate. Just about any sex can lead to the transmission of an STD; bottoming for anyone carries some risk of exposure to HIV, no matter how minimal if we choose to engage in sex, a major part of being alive, then we are taking risk. If we have sex with people we don't know, or with people we do know, but whose status we can't be 100 percent sure of, we are taking a risk.

While serosorting is a strategy that attempts to lower that risk, as Bareback Top makes clear, sometimes, for whatever reason, we are likely to be taking risk with less than complete information. 
Like we do when we are drunk, or high, or deeply in love, or deeply in lust, or inexperienced, or desperate, or stupid or lonely. How much risk we are willing to take is a combination of our mind's intelligent assessment and our hearts over-riding blindness to circumstance based on our desire in the moment. That leads back to the altruism issue. What alternately upsets and turns people on about Bareback Top is that he puts his needs for sexual satisfaction and thrill above others. He turns other people into objects, his playthings, and gets a kick out of when their intentions to protect themselves and others are undermined by their desire for hot sex and closeness with another human being. 

In his most recent posting, Bareback Top describes fucking a young guy without a condom and his assumption that it's the first time the kid has been fucked, He says that the kid was clearly in pain. But he did what he wanted and took care of his own needs, popping a nut up the guy's tender ass. Did he give the young man HIV? Probably not, presuming he's still correct that he doesn't have HIV. Did he give the kid any other STD, who knows? Did he use another human being for his own pleasure at the cost of his own and the other person's humanity? Sounds like. That occurs with a cost that Bareback Top has yet to become aware of. You pay for such cavalier games with a little piece of your soul.

Most of us have probably used other people at some time or another for our own gratification. That's called exploitation. The lucky among us learn to regret it.

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