3 min

A pox on safe-sex wusses

How do you get tired of being healthy?

Credit: Xtra files

All week long I’ve been thinking about a white condom drooping from a black ass. The colours aren’t important except insofar as they provide contrast, and you do need contrast just to see where you’re going in some of the darker hallways of Toronto’s bathhouses, which is where I happened to be when I witnessed this riveting tableau.

It was late on a Saturday night and an unknown man crouched beneath a St Andrew’s cross in a dark but public room off a major hallway. He was naked and on all fours with his ass pointed towards the passing parade. The condom hanging from his butt looked saggy and either it was one of those baggy women’s condoms designed for receiving, or it had seen way too much wear and tear. It looked like a limp Mapplethorpe lily or a wilted horn of plenty that had already experienced too much plenty. Probably the latter. In the time I remained in the vicinity, at least three separate gentleman took advantage of his butt.

Hmmm, I thought, as I waited for a Niagara of cum to gush from the guy’s ass, not exactly the best way to protect yourself from the ravages of the plague. Points for effort, but none for technical expertise. Even the best laid condoms will split, tear or spill and none of them is meant to accommodate more than one load at a time. What was this guy thinking?

Cut to the intensive care unit of St Michael’s hospital where my oldest gay friend lies recovering from an eight-hour operation that opened his skull and split his torso from neck to navel. No points for guessing how a still youngish gay man ended up in a place like this. After 20-odd years of battling HIV, his heart gave out.

Best guess has it that my friend contracted HIV in the early 1980s, before the etymology of the disease was fully understood. But his situation makes you reflect on people who have more information but less sense. Today’s generation of gay men is one of the most privileged in history. No group of people has ever had more information about a disease and its prevention, and yet some gay men continue to put that information aside and risk infection, as though death, disease and a long, slow decline were just another lifestyle option to fend off terminal ennui.

Not everyone. My completely unscientific guess is that most Toronto fags continue to use condoms for anal sex. On the same night that I saw Droopy Condom Man, I met another guy who’d brought his sex pack with him, a slim wallet full of condoms and lube. Very chic – the sort of thing you could carry into Holt’s.

But there are still way too many wack-jobs out there who think that fucking without a condom is fun, glamorous, transgressive or, the weirdest one of all, “intimate,” as though signing a private death pact could really buff up your relationship. As a straight guy put it long ago, “The grave’s a fine and private place but none I think do there embrace.”

Just the other day, a friend met someone on the Internet who wanted to fuck without condoms. Rubbers made him lose his erection, said the prospective trick. To which one could only reply: Better you should lose your erection than someone else shouldlose their life.

We all take risks in sex and the risks we take are very different. The one thing I won’t do, and haven’t done in 20 years, is fuck without a condom.

Why would I? Why would anyone? Not only are the little gizmos cheap and easy to use, they work. When men say they’re “tired” of safe sex, you have to wonder if the fatigue is personal or cultural.

Support for safe sex has been softening for years, ever since the introduction of the anti-HIV drug cocktails in 1995, and it has taken a body blow from the media blitz surrounding barebacking.

It’s such a glamorous term, don’t you think? Reading it, you’d think we were talking Lawrence Of Arabia meets Lady Godiva – you know, some hot guy rides a black stallion across the desert at midnight. You’d never know it was about courting death.

Meanwhile, organizations like the AIDS Committee Of Toronto have retreated from a simple, clear message like “Safe sex every time” into either pointless euphemism (“Ride Safely”) or needless complexity (negotiated risk).

ACT’s latest campaign (the one with the bizarre phallic map) doesn’t even mention condom use. Apparently gay men already have enough information. All this campaign does is help gay and bi men explore their sexuality. Like we need a lot of help with that.

It’s possible to change social behaviour, but you need a clear unequivocal message to do it (see the very successful anti-smoking campaign for an example). And that’s the one thing we’re not getting right now. In our attempt to honour all types of sexual expression, the gay community has come perilously close to endorsing unsafe sex.

It’s World AIDS Day on Mon, Dec. 1. Wish somebody a happy day; fuck ’em with a condom.