2 min

Men lie about sex?!

Who would have thought?

Credit: Xtra files

Two weeks ago, Toronto police arrested a 28-year-old man at the small downtown clothing store where he was working. They charged him with aggravated assault for failing to disclose his HIV status to a woman before they had sex. Police then released the man’s name and photo to the media – as they had done with another HIV-positive man earlier in the summer – urging other sex partners to come forward.

With this arrest comes the chilling suggestion that HIV is containable – and that straight women can proceed to kick up their heels and fuck, unprotected and unfettered – if men simply tell the truth. Ha! Since when have men told the truth about sex? From the size of our dicks to how late we were working at the office, men have a serious credibility problem.

I don’t want to undermine the responsibility of people with HIV to keep it to themselves. But at a press conference, police inferred that the women who had sex with the offending man bore no personal responsibility whatsoever to protect themselves. Insp Bruce Smollet assured that we are not talking about hookers here, but “good, average citizens, hard-working people that have been victimized by someone that chose to keep a secret.” The kind of people, in other words, who shouldn’t have to worry about AIDS.

Police and reporters referred to the women repeatedly as “victims.” Police expressed great sympathy for the stress these women would experience when hearing of the potential risk to their health. Would they extend the same sympathy to a hooker who fucks her johns raw? How about a gay man with his ass in the air at a bathhouse, taking whatever unprotected dong comes his way? I seriously doubt it. Those people are seen as reckless and depraved. Sympathy is reserved for the naïve and deluded.

There’s an underlying assumption that the happy-go-lucky sex lives of nice, normal people can be protected, like gated communities, if we just keep the icky diseased people out.

There is also a grotesquely sexist implication that women ought ordinarily to rely on men to be gentlemanly and take the lead in disclosing their HIV status, so they don’t have to worry their pretty little heads while they’re being whisked off their feet.

When heterosexuals willfully ignore AIDS, it reminds me of the way some Americans view terrorism: It’s something that happens to other people, people not like us, over there. If we just isolate the enemy – say, drop a bomb on bin Laden (or people who we think look vaguely like him), or throw dishonest HIV-positive men in jail – we can continue living in the false comfort of our American dreams, or our prom-queen fantasies.

Here in Toronto’s gay community, we have the opposite problem. No alarm bells are rung over unprotected sex; if they were, we’d all be deaf from the incessant din. Lots of barebacking goes on between men with HIV and men without it, with nary a peep exchanged about who might give what to whom.

A new AIDS education campaign gives voice to this phenomenon. Ads show men pondering their unprotected sexual behaviour, with taglines revealing their unspoken twisted logic: “He came inside me, he must be negative,”or “I came inside him, he must be positive.”

Everyone knows the disease is out there, and gay men tend to take responsibility for their own actions when they contract HIV. So far so good. But we suffer from having absolutely no community expectations of those men with HIV who knowingly administer the noxious substance to others, no questions asked.

Ultimately, though, disclosure is not the answer. Many people simply do not know their HIV status, despite their most optimistic guesswork. And men lie about sex. When having casual sex, always assume that your partners don’t share your HIV status. Then consider your options, carefully.

* David Walberg is Xtra’s publisher.