It's not very often that dialogue happens around the consequences of unprotected sex in an environment that is non-judgemental and conducive for those involved to form a different perspective, but New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis may have pulled off the near impossible during a panel discussion on raw sex earlier this month.
Intentionally choosing not to use the popular term "barebacking" (to describe anal sex without the use of condoms) which GMHC believes unfairly stigmatizes gay men who have unprotected sex, the term "raw" was chosen.
Boston's gay publication Edge was present and reports during the August 13th panel discussion that brought out over 100 members of the black & latino gay communities along with seven panelists involved in HIV/AIDS and/or social justice.
GMHC Board of Directors Co-Chair Odell Mays moderated the event, each panelist had five minutes to assert his particular point of view around the issue of stigma and unprotected sex.
• Chris Cochrane (Assistant Director, David Geffen Center for HIV Prevention and Health Education at GMHC) spoke of the "common themes I’ve heard in the last nine years." These included "not being able to stop myself or define limits; getting infected on purpose because there are more benefits if I’m HIV positive; the validation received by anonymous drug-fueled hook-ups" and fucking raw "to feel a sense of belonging."
• Damon Humes (Executive Director of Men of Color Health Awareness Project) talked about the House and Ball communities. He also articulated a problem among men of color who have sex with men: unprotected sex as one of the many consequences of a psychological storm resulting from "not being ourselves. If I don’t love me, why would I wrap it up?"
• Derrick L. Briggs (Actor and Executive Producer of ADTV; Attention Deficit Television) observed that in terms of education and outreach, "We have to go where the gays are." Briggs created his 10-minute YouTube show with short attention spans in mind and asked what toll lack of focus and impatience takes upon safe sex efforts when one or both partners bring to the table the attitude that "the moment is ruined when I have to go across the room to get a condom."
Audience members also animatedly discussed generational differences concerning attitudes towards safe sex; the need for acknowledgement by blood relatives (and the search for creating one’s own family within the community); and overcoming any destructive or debilitating effects of stigma by facing the fact that gay men will be stigmatized for years to come, whether they use condoms or not.
Are you having raw sex despite knowing the consequences of doing so? Does any of the above descriptions describe your situation? Let's talk about it.