Time: 5:00 p.m.
Dating sucks. I hate it and wish I didn't have to participate in it. I realize that no one is forcing me to date, but does it have to be so complicated? Can't we just go out, like each other, find each other attractive, have great safer sex, get tested, get married, have kids, live happily ever after and avoid all the BS that comes with dating?
I guess I don't have to participate in the dating world, but I do enjoy a cute boy's company and if I'm lucky enough to be asked out, I usually take the guy up on his offer. The problem starts when we realize that we are attracted to each other. Of course, the guy knows from the very beginning that I work in HIV because I talk about it and am really proud of all the things that I've done. But I can't tell you how many times people have tried to talk me out of using latex condoms -- it's amazing. Do they think this prevention song and dance is only for the office? Am I going to throw everything I know out the window and act like I'm too good to become infected with HIV?
I am surprised at how surprised men are when I tell them that I won't renegotiate my commitment to preventing HIV. Preventing HIV is something I do on a macro level, but it's also something that I do every time I have sex with a condom. I guess it is possible that some people work in HIV, give prevention messages all day long and then go out and have unprotected sex, but I am not a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of person. I actually practice what I preach. I use latex condoms every time I have sex, but I am amazed at how difficult it can be to get someone to ride that latex train with me.
I have "dated" two guys in the last year. We didn't date in the typical sense of calling each other girlfriend and boyfriend, but we spent time together and the relationships progressed to sex. The first guy I dated willingly pulled out the latex condoms the first time we had sex. I had mentally prepared myself for a conversation but found that it was unnecessary as he grabbed them before I could even begin the dialogue. I was happy to see that he had a healthy supply of latex condoms.
As the "relationship" progressed, he told me that it was time for me to get on birth control so that we didn't have to use condoms anymore. This was despite the fact that I told him that one of my girlfriends had just tested HIV positive. I told him that unprotected sex would not happen anytime soon because I refused to have my vagina become my grave.
The second guy I dated really challenged me. He absolutely would not have sex with me with a condom, so we never had sex. He only wanted to have unprotected sex. We expressed our attraction to one another in other ways, but we never had vaginal-penile sex. You know, it really surprised me when he refused to have protected vaginal-penile sex with me because we have known each other for 20 years and he REALLY knows what I do for a living.
I guess working in HIV doesn't provide me with the out I thought it would. I just assumed that everyone would assume that I would not have unprotected sex with them. Working in HIV doesn't absolve me from having to negotiate safer sex. It doesn't absolve me from the conversation that women around the world have to have every day with their sexual partners. And it doesn't absolve me from having to explain why I absolutely will not put myself at risk. You know, I was hoping that I would get to take the easy way out with this guy -- grab a condom and go at it -- because all I really wanted was to have a passionate latex freak fest with him.
In both situations, I stood my ground. I'm lucky I got to stand my ground, because many women around the world would have had the shit beaten out of them for displaying such independence. Despite this privilege, I can't help feeling a little sad about the situation. It ultimately became a deal breaker that made me realize how little this guy respects himself or me.
So, why don't people want to use latex condoms? I just don't think they're that bad. Of course, I have been using them all of my sexual life so they are normal to me. Honestly, I don't know how I would react to having unprotected sex because I think that WOULD feel abnormal to me.
In the end, I believe that we are all at risk for HIV. Some of us are more at risk than others, but we all have risk. I wonder if there is anyone out there that I can date, have protected sex with and not feel like I'm the freak simply because I want to love in latex. Maybe the date I had in New York last weekend will work out and he will embrace his inner latex love with me. Wouldn't that be great? Two latex freaks in a bed ... mmm ... heaven!
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