Toronto
3 min

Just for fun?

Guys tell why they bareback

EXPOSED TO THE ELEMENTS. Some men decide not to use condoms, and some just end up not using them. Credit: Stop AIDS Kanagawa

Many people told me that I shouldn’t do a piece on barebacking. It might encourage it and cause an increase in the infection rate.



But if we don’t talk about guys having sex without condoms, how can we address it?



I spoke to men from several cities across North America who were willing to talk about barebacking (I’ve changed the names to protect their identities). I wanted to find out how they came to have sex without condoms.



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John and Mo have been together for years. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s they got involved in raising money and volunteering for home care and hospice programs. Though monogamous and HIV-negative, they never stopped using condoms until recently.



“I’d never really thought about it until Mo asked me how many condoms we thought we’d used,” says John. “There was a survey or statistic somewhere that suggested how many condoms the average person uses in a lifetime.”



Says Mo: “Then we realized the environmental impact, which combined with the fact that we’re monogamous, made our using condoms kind of redundant.”



“It wasn’t easy for us to get used to using them to begin with. Learning not to use them was hard, too,” says John. “We were angst-ridden about our choice…. We went to our doctor, we got tested, and we went to the doctor again…. We essentially had to learn how to have that part of sex again.”



***



Jerome, who is HIV-positive, has a very different story.



“I’m really tired of fucking with rubbers. Sometimes I tell guys. It hasn’t scared too many of them away. Sometimes it makes them want it more, rough, raw and hard. It isn’t my problem, it’s theirs.



“These days anyone who doesn’t know what they are getting into shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not worried about other people’s choices. Everyone for themselves. I’m tired of explaining. I’m tired of mothering…. If that makes me an AIDS breeder, then fine, I am. I just want to enjoy my life.”



***



For Sven, things aren’t so clear cut.



“I don’t know what my status is. I mean, how can you really ever know, because like the virus takes time, right?” he says.



“Maybe I am too trusting. It could mean so much, but I try to put [using condoms] out of my mind and just enjoy myself. Sometimes I’m too high to know. Lots of people like to get messed and screw. It is just about enjoying the body.



“I usually think about condoms, like most of the time when I plan sex. But sometimes it just happens. I have a lot of things to worry about. I don’t have time for stress about this. It helps me relax, and it isn’t like I’ll actually see most of these other guys again anyway.”



***



“If the guy I fuck wants me to use a condom, that’s his problem,” Rob says. “I’d always used a condom before and I’m positive now. I have to spend my life taking pills that make me sick, not knowing who to believe, and not knowing that happened.



“I’m really fucking pissed, I had lots of great sex with lots of people, and I don’t know how this happened, but eventually I’ll have fucked the guy who fucked up my life again. Anyone who doesn’t know better deserves what they get.”



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Colin is a teenager.



“I didn’t really have time to choose,” he says. “Suddenly we were just in each other…. I was a bit stoned, but there were these men and they were having this hot group thing going. I couldn’t see really, but I thought it was like hot foreplay or something. I just joined in. Soon I was in the middle. I lost my erection when I realized my cock was in a guy’s ass and another was in mine.



“I have always used condoms…. It just happened, and rather quick…. I know that they were naked and really getting it on, but they should have at least asked if I liked it that way. They just kept on going. I get my test results tomorrow, on the six month anniversary of my coming out.”



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Yan is a healthy-looking man who usually has sex with men who are also HIV-positive.



“I’m positive and I don’t want to deal with the responsibility of talking to people, educating them every time when we’re having sex,” Yan says. “Sometimes I use rubbers. Sometimes I don’t. So I try to stick with other men who are positive. It is just less stress.



“When disclosing, it is… well, it sucks. Guys either run or want to be my therapist. I’m fine, thanks, let’s just have fun.



“With other positive men I don’t have that problem. We know what we are,” Yan says. “I don’t talk about it with every man. How many people really talk about sex anyway? Let’s be fair. When people talk about AIDS, it is rarely a happy conversation.”