As a Woman With HIV, I Make My Sex Partners Sign a Disclosure Contract: Here's Why
It all seems so sexy in movies: A submissive signs her name on an erotic dotted line consenting to sexual acts -- from anal to water sports, soft and hard boundaries, safe words and lace -- all so fun and all so easy. Right?
Nope. Not for my life.
My contracts, though they pave the way to sex and fun, were created not out of my own preferences but birthed from ignorant prejudice, old-school rhetoric, and criminal laws that I've needed to navigate while living with HIV.
Body autonomy? What is that?
Anyways, back to the contract: It's a blunt and tactful way to keep my vagina safe. Though each person needs to be sure a contract would be legally valid where they live, and we all know that there's sometimes no guarantee of equal justice under the law, I hope that mine shows other women that we still have some sort of control of our pussies. Although the laws are starting to change, we know that change is slow --and in the meantime, this is at least something. And it is something that says:
We are worthy of nice hot nights of bliss, despite laws that put women at harm.
This contract is, in essence, an act of rebellion against the law, the ignorant, the hate-parade folks who think it's acceptable to police my body under the notion of keeping the public safe.
This contract, from top to bottom, contains formal code words for the following:
- My partner consents to eating my box and fiddling my violin with the understanding that I am, and have been for the past 25 years, living with HIV.
- My partner signs their name acknowledging they were not heavily medicated or coerced in any manner by me or anyone else to swap spit and maybe blood with me. (Did I mention I love kink?)
- My partner signs on the dotted line with understanding that I, let's repeat it one more time for the nonbelievers, have a positive punnany.
- For another rebellious act, I note that I am undetectable.
This "contract" -- written at 2 a.m. after reading up on another HIV criminalization case -- should not lead you to believe that I am indeed afraid of my sexuality or that my other positive sisters need fear their orgasms. Nah.
Let it be known that many, many people, be they men, women, cis, trans, non-binary, black, Latinx and/or others, have in fact tasted the juices squirted out of my body, well-aware of my sexy positive status. YES!
This contract is a permanent staple of my distaste for laws that reject and destroy my right to disclose or to sexual fulfillment. This contract also goes to show you the injustice I may have to face. Will my contracts have my blood-stained fingerprints on them? Will they carry the salt-laced aftermath of my tears? What if all poz folks created their own contracts and we made a contract quilt?
I, my friends, will NOT stop enjoying condomless sex or sex with condoms, whichever I want, simply based on "laws" that were created without thinking of Tiffany ... a baby named Tiffany, who happened to be born with HIV, who is now 26 and has the potential to face a felony charge in her state if there is even a whisper that she had sex. Tiffany, who can disclose in a coffee shop and hours later be found dead in a back alley.
These contracts mean that I, legally, potentially did my due diligence in disclosure -- but it doesn't mean that I am safe from the micro-aggressions that occur.
This is what prompts me to be more transparent about why I made my contract: I made it to stand in my truth.
And now I want to share just how I use it to create a discussion around the next thing the world is wondering: How does Tiffany do this thing in real life? This next part is not for the weak-hearted or those who don't particularly care for graphic details, but I have realized that storytelling is the most effective way to get my point across.
So, it's 9 p.m., and I look like a delicious cup of your favorite coffee on a nice chilly day. My go-to fave for any outfit is to wear the least amount of clothing, so: tights, no undies, and a purple tank top (no bra) that shows my belly button. Hair is European straight, and I smell like freshly penetrated pussy in the back of a Victoria's Secret. I take my HIV meds before I head out on a full tummy, and the night begins.
NOW, in my contract, I do not state whether I have or have not been drinking because I likely will be -- you try to be a cute 26 year old and live in complete isolation, and then realize that being tipsy is OK despite the slut-shaming culture you've been violently brought up in ... but I digress, again.
I order a vodka cranberry, my drink of choice, and so I find my next object ... sorry, boy (in this case, a cis-straight white boy), and I work my magic.
I, as usual, get his full attention, and he is basically eating out of my hand. It begins with him launching into the same small talk, the white cis heteronormative discussion, that I am a pro at navigating:
"Honestly, you're the cutest thing out here; I am tired of going out. I am a [insert false career as pick up gimmick]" -- and this is where the make-or-break part comes in.
My lines for spaces like this are: "Yeah I am social worker. I make it my life's work to educate the world on HIV/AIDS since I was born positive, and millennials need to know I hold space."
In this scenario, he is just intrigued because I became an HIV 101 educator and let him know I still want his penis. Usual replies are: "WOW you're fucking sexy though" and/or "so what does that mean?"
I have a one-time explanation rule: I only educate my potential sex partners once. If they chose to go along, cool. If not, oh well, too bad for them.
I remind myself that, in this scenario, if he isn't educated on HIV, it isn't my place or job to make sure he gets it. This is my self-care time; this is my celebration for survival. What I will not ever do is overexert myself to get people to agree with me or to agree with science.
In this case, let's say he is on board. He goes back to my place -- and at this point, my mentors and friends know my location and, if something goes down, what to do. He agrees, and we decide that condoms are going to get used!! WOOOT, I am getting dick!
So, I straddle him and make sure he is showing me how he is oh-so-ready for fun, making a typical, "Is that a gun in your pants?" joke. I get him to drink some water and tell him in real-time terms:
Positive women don't have privilege to just fuck and go. We are under the law supposed to disclose to our partners our positive HIV status. The issue of burden of proof falls on me, and I will not go to jail for anyone. When you sign this document, I suck your dick and we begin. IF NOT, you leave.
This is said clearly, intently, and as close as I can get to his face. He signs his names and initials. And it's party time!
The follow up afterwards is that I take a picture of him or get one from social media and attach it to my document.
I think what makes this somewhat easy for me is that I don't have shame about HIV. I don't hold grudges if men don't want me. The system has failed them and continues to fail me.
I know it, so, I look for ways to still hold space. The only positive side to a contract is that it forces a black woman to communicate to her partners, which I have found is hard in my community. It forces me to take control of the situation and make it safe for me.
And in essence, body autonomy is restored.