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Pickett Fences: Slip Sliding Away
The Truth About Safe Sex Among AIDS Activists

By Jim Pickett

January/February 2001

A couple months ago I attended the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Atlanta with over 3,000 other members of royalty known as AIDS, Inc. It was another highlight in my never-ending quest to achieve the rapture -- AIDS starlet-dom.

And it was hot. There were hordes of AIDS activists and advocates, educators and prevention specialists, front line workers, policy wonks and administrators. And tons of gorgeous, beautiful men. Gorgeous, beautiful gay men, sexy HIV-infected men, delicious AIDS-ridden men -- everywhere, crawling out the woodwork and swinging from the chandeliers, and many on the make. Including me.

Recently un-partnered, it was exciting to be horny amidst this randy group, where HIV status was no big deal and would send no one fleeing for the exits. So I worked my voodoo at the opening night function held at City Hall, and met up with a lovely long distance runner and prevention worker from Houston.

While decidedly not being impressed with the food, I bump into him in a chowline. Somehow we just start talking, and somehow I'm saying witty, bright, and clever things, or so he, and the wine, leads me to believe. He laughs easily, giggly like a little boy, huge smile, crinkly eyes, energy just pouring out of his small frame. He's delightful, and he has AIDS, and I am smitten.

I pay him a visit in his room that night. On his wisp of a balcony he shares a joint he's smoking in preparation for his nauseating meds. We get high and silly, he medicates, we get naked and roll around the bed. His body is perfect -- long distance running clearly does very good things. Somehow I don't feel intimidated with my carcass, one that only runs for the train, next to his . . . and on top of his, beneath his.

Soon we're in position. He wants to fuck me, I want him to fuck me.

His dick is pushing at my ass, and it goes in for a hot second, just a little bit. He doesn't have a rubber on, and for a hot second, an interminably long, hot second I want to do it just that way. I want to feel his naked dick all the way inside me.

In the same second -- like I said it was very long -- I think about these 6 things concurrently, in no order:

  1. Here we are, two boys working it for AIDS Inc., both "specializing in prevention" at the U.S. Fucking Conference on AIDS, and we're about to have "unsafe sex." We're gonna "bareback."

  2. But, so? We're both already infected.

  3. So? But we may have different strains.

  4. So? He has AIDS and I don't yet.

  5. So? We've both done a lot of meds -- I don't wanna be resistant to his before I even use them, I don't want that possibility for him.

  6. But God it feels good. God it's gonna feel good. God I wanna do it.

And we do . . . with a condom. The second passes, I ask, and he doesn't hesitate. He's got plenty lying around -- so many free samples doncha know -- and when it's on, and he's in me, it's incredible.

Looking back I kind of freaked out that I had come so close to doing the verboten. I was simply caught up in the moment. My fears that surface with negative men were simply not there. And it wasn't just the fear of harming somebody, infecting somebody with this awful crap, that was missing. It was somehow the fear of judgment also. Mine, and his. Its absence, and the lack of shame, was as tangible and fulfilling as his body in mine. I didn't feel dirty and diseased and unworthy with him -- I did feel the deep, unspoken understanding we have from being in a war together. We're different in many ways, but there, in his Hyatt king-sized, we were equals.

Upon returning to Chicago, I decided to finally catch the wave and put a profile on AOL to chase boys around the schoolyard and chat rooms with. I wanted to meet boys and not have to drink five slushies to do it. I had always made wicked, condescending fun of people who click-clicked for dick, and now I was gonna be one of them. If you can't beat'em, fuck'em.

In my profile, I have made it very clear that I am HIV-positive, and consequently, many other positive men have responded. And to my rather naive surprise, I discovered that most want to have sex without latex. They're looking for other positives expressly for that purpose.

Even though I like to think I was never one to demonize the so-called "barebackers" it again kind of freaked me out. It felt naughty, it felt wrong, and I was not comfortable doing something that has been pounded into me as being a deadly sin. I was not going to do the thing that got me here in the first place.

But guess what? I did. I have recently succumbed to temptation with two different positive men, and fucked, and got fucked, without a condom. And I loved it. And I'm gonna do it again.

My two boundaries are -- never doing this with a negative man, and no one coming inside anyone else -- other than that, with me and another consenting positive man, it's slip sliding away. While many will justify this behavior by proclaiming it's a way to be more connected with the person, to be more intimate, to share in some deep spirituality, I say no such thing. Being intimate with someone has nothing to do with or without a latex barrier. This condom-free zone is about the physical feeling for me, not about falling in love for a second or forever, but about the wonderful way it feels. And yes, though we are encouraged not to say so, it feels fantastic and liberated to fuck without a condom -- plain and simple. It is hotter, and juicier, and let's face it, more natural. The act is not so much about brotherhood for me as it is about animal.

Condoms suck -- I think we need to say that. Many of us feel that way, and many of us, both positive and negative, in fact, don't use them on a regular basis, though we're not likely to talk too loudly about it. Until we have effective microbicides, condoms are what we are left with to protect ourselves when it comes to fucking. We need to be honest about why we do and don't use them, and we need to push for other methods of prevention so we can have the natural, animal sex we all want to have (and do) and still contain, and halt, the epidemic.

The epidemic will never end unless we are very clear and communicate about what we like and don't like, and what our actual behaviors are, not what they "should" be.

Got a comment on this article? Write to Jim at jimberlypickett@aol.com.

To read more of Jim Pickett's columns, click here.




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