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13 comments | Thursday, June 02, 2011




Image: Lonnell Williams


Our latest article appearing in Miami's mPower Magazine.


As the winter months disappear and summer approaches, the change in weather provides the perfect opportunity to strip off all the layers and wear as little as possible as you revel in the compliments of both male and female admirers as they fawn over your chiseled physique. There’s a list of beach parties, cookouts, and annual events on your calendar and none of it will start until you arrive. Your biggest dilemma is making sure your chosen wardrobe for the weekend will turn heads the minute you step out of your hotel room-pardon me-your suite. You’re black, gay, single, sexy, and free and you have a plethora of choices, from the breathtaking beaches of Miami and the sexy men of Sizzle, to the sinful allure of Tempted 2 Touch in Las Vegas, to the exotic island of the Dominican Republic, home of Inferno DR. Everything you could possibly want in a vacation experience and more is at your fingertips; men, sex, drugs, alcohol and HIV, an undesirable party favor but available nonetheless.


Black gay circuit parties have long held a reputation for offering more than is appropriate to be placed on advertisements. The organized and costly events taking place during the day may be a draw for some, but the prospect of experiencing multiple sexual encounters over the course of the weekend is at the top of the “to do list” for many attendees. It should be understood that with any large gathering of people the opportunity to engage in sexual intercourse is always present, besides we are sexual beings with a desire to connect on an intimate level. But with every unprotected sexual encounter there’s a risk of being infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and in the case of black gay men who are heavily impacted by HIV, circuit parties catering to this population can easily become a hotbed for transmission. Well, at least that’s one theory.


“Information about safe sex is ubiquitous now…having fun does not equal risking your life,” says Atlanta resident Jon Rico.





Access to accurate information about HIV transmission may be easier to find thirty years into the epidemic, but when you add condom fatigue, complacency, and an environment conducive to a more relaxed approach towards safe sex the results can be detrimental.


“People need to take responsibility for their own actions and protect themselves,” says long-time Sizzle attendee Daniel Hudson. “Circuit organizers should not be held responsible for the promiscuity of their patrons.” But there is also a point of view held by an increasingly growing number of people who believe promoters should take as much of an interest in prevention as they do their bottom line.


Dwight Powell, CEO of Sizzle Miami, the largest circuit party catering to black gay and bisexual men annually over Memorial Day Weekend, rejects the idea that promoters should play dual roles as party planners and prevention specialists.


“I realized a long time ago that it’s difficult to not only take on the much needed task of HIV prevention at Sizzle, but also to do it well. I have resolved to the fact that this important task should be taken on by agencies that do this type of work all day every day,” says Powell.


“Sizzle Miami has always partnered with Empower U, a non-profit agency here in Miami steadily at work in the fight against the disease,” Powell adds.





While efforts to curb new infections across the board are imperative and should continue until a cure is found, a flaw of human beings to blame external forces for what plagues us is perhaps more of a distraction than the solution we so desperately need.


Michael Slaughter, CEO of Inclusivity Inc., a Georgia based company that provides outdoor retreats for gay men of color shares a similar mindset. “Circuit parties just concentrate the existing issues in one place making it appear to be a source when in fact it’s not. Individual fear of rejection and starvation for affection are more likely to cause individuals to make unsafe choices than circuit parties themselves.”


This is a theory that is worth exploring. It’s been said that a barrier towards reducing new HIV infections in black gay men revolves around the issue of self-worth. If one isn’t strong enough to reject the negative messages spewed from the heterosexual black community of gays as hell-bound abominations, chances are that individual will be less likely to use a condom consistently, if at all, since he believes his life had little or no value to begin with. Therein lies the root of the problem that is often overlooked when discussing the effects of circuit parties on HIV. The latter appears to only be a symptom of the more widespread diseases of homophobia and low self- esteem, which drives black gay men to engage in self-destructive behavior in spite of the risks.


As cliché’ as it sounds we are our brother’s keeper. And while it shouldn’t be expected to make personal decisions for adults regarding their individual sexual health, we must begin to love each other and ourselves past fleeting orgasms and meaningless sexual encounters. The euphoria of circuit parties is only temporary, but the decisions we make in the heat of the moment are permanent. Will you be able to live with your decision once the party ends?

13 Comments:

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

These events themselves merely concentrate a nexus of people in one place who are all afflicted by the same problem; a sense of isolation and loneliness coupled with a desire for love and connection, undermined by low self-esteem and low-self-worth.

What is sooooo sorely lacking in our community are healthy ways for us to meet, value one another, and form meaningful relationships that don't focus solely on sex. I don't believe it's about trying to stop circuit parties (cuz THAT AIN'T GON' HAPP'N) but rather about creating serious alternatives, in communities all over the country.

June 02, 2011 8:06 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

It's almost like blaming McDonalds for someone having a heart attack- no one at Mickey d's forces any of us to gobble down big macs and large fries. as Newtons 3rd law suggests- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The issue isn't the parties, the issue is people feel they are invincible and "it can't happen to me." at this point all we can do is inundate the scene with condoms and information.

~purposedriven29

June 02, 2011 8:29 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

The title of this article is sensational as hell and has no baring on the contents of the article which lists not a SINGLE statistic verifying the allegations of the title. This article is nothing more than conjecture and a few quotes from people who THINK this or FEEL that, but where are the facts? The cold hard evidence? This is a dangerous piece of stigmatization and I am pissed that this appears on a blog that I respect. I guess its too much to ask black gay men to support events for and about us without references to us being hot beds of HIV and AIDS.

June 02, 2011 8:33 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I think it would be cool if an anonymous survey was conducted to see if those who attend these events are anymore active than those who go out on a daily basis in their respective cities.

~purposedriven29

June 02, 2011 8:41 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Of course, ALL circuit parties help to facilitate high risk sexual behavior. But they aren't the culprit here. I personally think that the black gay "elders" need to be more pro active in educating, mentoring, and connecting with the younger kids.

There is such a divide between the old school kids who witnessed AIDS at its worst and the new kids who are somewhat delusional about the seriousness of this disease. These kids have low self-esteem because they're misguided and are too caught up in the shallow immediate gratification of beautiful people and sex.

This year alone I have heard of over 4 young black gay men under the age of 30 who have DIED from AIDS related illnesses because they didn't know their status or didn't seek help soon enough.

We have to bring pride back into the fold. Years ago there was much more hatred and intolerance of gays and low self-esteem didn't break that generation. So we cannot allow it to break this one.

June 02, 2011 11:25 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

You are so right. It's also funny that you can have thousands flock to these parties, but they can't support postive things like movies or books in the SGL Community. Let's do better people.(in my Bill Cosby voice

June 02, 2011 11:51 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I think the same things you can get from someone/people at a Circuit party you can catch from someone you met at church or at a local gas station. If you're fast, you're fast. I think Circuit parties have become the new scapegoat b/c most of us knows what takes place in some of the hotel rooms or parties that goes on.

June 02, 2011 11:52 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I've never been to one, but, would assume they are, as they say STD'S zoom up in just about any city they have them in, and, in some places, more drug overdoses than usual during these events, sad.

June 02, 2011 11:52 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

It's interesting that this topic has come up. My partner and I were just on vacation with our teenage son and nephew and had more fun thatn we've had at any of the circuit parties over the years. Whenever people would find out we were together 10+ years they would just walk away and not try to talk to us anymore. It was very sad to see how even though we were together longer than most, we were not interesting enough to talk to because we were'nt looking to hook up. We've decided not to go to anymore of them. We'll stick with the family vacations and romantic getaways from now on. Btw, we will have our 20th anniversary 6/10, yeaaa!!!

June 02, 2011 11:52 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Darryl that is very unfortunate because there has been a lack of visible M2M long term monogamous relationships and one would think that there would be more of an appreciation for it. However, look at it as a blessing, you wouldn't want a messy queen in your face who is secretly plotting a threesome or to have one of you anyway. No one needs that energy. On the flipside, I did see ALOT of couples at Sizzle the few years I went and it was refreshing to see an abundance of gay couples mingling b/c they're often not visible. Personally I love it.

June 02, 2011 11:53 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

Circuit parties are just that in my opinion. Sizzle did have Authors there at the event. But just because they were there doesn't mean people will attend. That is up to the individual to determine what is best for self. Yes it would be nice if would could take the time out and educate and stimulate one self but not happening. I remember being in ATL at their pride and they were begging folks to test. You should have seen the reaction. I think the best thing right now is what is self worth. Know your status and act as if everyone has some STD. Be careful and maintain a healthy sex life. It would be nice to have a partner but not everyone is cut out to be in love with one person. So to me the event itself is not the issue. It's the individual mindset.

June 02, 2011 11:53 PM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

My friend and I have come back from the 5th Annual Blatino Oasis 2011 (May 13th - 15th. Their centerpiece is a celebration of gay/bi sexual men of African & Latino descent, celebrating “our sexuality and adult erotica”. It's held every year in Palm Springs California at one of the clothing-optional hotels. Some folk even walk around nude while others in swimwear, shorts and an open shirt or shirtless. Of course you had to have the male strippers. There was also a live sex show in the secret garden featuring porn stars (pics are all over the Net now so it's no secret.)

Beyond the Blatino Erotic Award Show (awarding a number of gay Black & Latino adult film stars) strip shows, boxers & briefs after parties every night they had a white party one night where they honored a couple of organizations promoting HIV prevention. Former Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden, California's first openly gay African-American Mayor was honored at this event. Also Palm Springs City Government honored Blatino Oasis with a city proclamation. They also had a private dance party at the hotel club and a nice Sunday jazz brunch in a elegant restaurant.

I'm sure if anyone wanted to have a sexual experience in various hotel rooms it was available but not by the promoter. What we didn't experience was any pressure to participate in any sexual acts by the organizer, although plenty of sexual energy was in your face. My point is no matter what circuit parties are promoting or not promoting it always lands on the individual to promote their own safe sex. No one is forced to have sex without a condom. The bottom-line is there will be those who will not put on a condom and those who will allow someone to penetrate them without a condom. The circuit party promoter doesn't have a responsibility to police them.

June 04, 2011 10:29 AM

 
<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 05, 2011 5:44 PM

 

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