More on bug-chasing

Q: Your recent column about gay “bug-chasers” was boring. No one cares whether gay guys want to infect themselves with AIDS! While you may be gay, most of your readers are not. Write about straight problems! Don’t spend so much time writing about boring gay shit! —Ta Ha & Straight Edge Boy

A: You might want to skip this week’s column, TH & SEB, because it’s all about gay shit. While most of my readers are straight, boys, not everyone who reads this paper is straight, not everyone who sends me questions is straight, and absolutely no one who writes this column is straight. And, shit, if I can devote entire columns to topics that are only of interest to breeders — men who don’t wanna fuck their heavy-with-child wives, for instance — then I should be able to devote the occasional column to those boring gay men who infect themselves and others with HIV. But before we get to the gay shit, I need to get this out of the way ...

Dear Katie, the pettiest Kate in Christendom: I promised to reveal the decision of the Supreme Court of Sex Toy Retailers in the high-profile case of You vs. Me in this week’s column. The Supreme Court has handed down its ruling, I’ve read it, and it’s fair enough. But you’ll just have to wait another week to find out if you’re going to be getting that Hitachi Magic Wand you clearly need so desperately. OK, on to the gay shit.

Q: I read your column on Rolling Stone’s bug-chasing story and AIDS education and felt compelled to respond to this paragraph: “Perhaps it’s time for ... AIDS groups to start telling gay men the truth,” you wrote. “Taking stupid sexual risks — even if risk turns you on — is reckless; anal sex on the first date — even with condoms — is a bad idea; giving someone HIV — even if he wants it — is immoral; being a huge fucking slut — as popular as that might make you — has physical and emotional consequences. And, finally, gay men need to be told that stupid decisions don’t deserve anyone’s respect.”

In one paragraph, you managed to call some gay men “stupid,” “immoral” and “fucking slut[s].” Calling people names isn’t going to solve the problem! The problem is that some people aren’t completely conscious and free of issues. They’re imperfect. They have horrible searing issues from their childhoods that make them do these things. This situation can’t be resolved by the same forces that caused it — judgment, victimization and pain. —Eric

A: Yes, yes: A lot of gay people had seared shit for childhoods, Eric, and so what? Being called a fag in high school, having parents who turned into assholes when you came out, and having to listen to nuns tell you that Jesus loves all the little children except the little gay ones ... none of that gets adult gay men off the hook. Gay or straight, your seared-shit childhood is no excuse for bug-chasing (intentional or not), gift-giving (ditto), beating your spouse, robbing gas stations or Anna Nicole Smith. If you choose to be an asshole because of how you’ve suffered, that’s your right. But assholes don’t have a right to victimize other people without — oh, the horror! — being judged. Or being called assholes. But take comfort, Eric. Your preferred method of dealing with these dumb assholes — “Let’s talk about your issues, you poor baby!” — is the approach taken by AIDS educators everywhere. “No judgment” has been an article of faith among AIDS educators for more than 10 years now, and we’ve got nothing but rising HIV infection rates to show for it.

Q: In your latest column concerning AIDS, you wrote: “The infection rates of HIV and other STDs are soaring and — who knows? — perhaps some unknown STD is gaining a toehold in urban gay scenes, just as HIV did in the ’70s.” The day after I read your column I ran across an article in the Los Angeles Times about extremely painful antibiotic-resistant staph infections occurring in gay men in LA. It may not be an STD per se, but it is still worrisome. —So and So

A: Very worrisome — and not just for gay men in LA. A few days after the LA Times story ran, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that — surprise! — drug-resistant staph infections were appearing in gay men in San Francisco too. Public health officials in San Francisco are assuring people that this isn’t “the equivalent of a new HIV disease,” but this sentence, from the original LA Times story, should sound eerily familiar to anyone over 35: “Although the outbreak seems confined primarily to gay men, doctors say at least one woman contracted the infection, probably from a male sex partner.”

I don’t mean to be hysterical — and I should mention that the number of these staph infections are small, and that it appeared first in babies — but it’s stories like this one, and not the bug-chaser story in Rolling Stone, that have me losing sleep. In the wake of the Rolling Stone article — the story that got this whole bug-chasing media storm roaring — the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, put out an action alert, calling on its members to “protest Rolling Stone’s irresponsible ‘bug-chasing.’” A few days later the New York Times reported that syphilis is up 140 percent in New York over the last two years, “with the increase primarily among gay and bisexual men,” many of whom are already HIV-positive. And how’s this for worrisome: “About 70 percent of the men in the study,” wrote The New York Times, “said they knowingly risked the health of their sex partners.” So, while gay men are busily — and rightly — protesting Rolling Stone’s irresponsible bug-chasing story, howzabout we also take some time to protest the irresponsible actions of some gay men? I’d personally like to see an HRC press release calling bullshit on gay men who “knowingly risked the health of their sex partners.”

Q: Instead of beating people up, I think we have to start a dialogue with bug-chasers so we can identify where their self-destructive tendencies come from and work from there. I know this probably sounds like a lot of New Age bullshit to you, but before you paint a scarlet letter across the chests of all the gay “sluts” in the world, think back to how you met your partner, Dan. If I’m not mistaken, a bathroom stall in a sleazy bar played an important role. —Homosexual Dario

A: Am I suggesting that gay men shouldn’t have slutty moments, HD? Am I suggesting that I haven’t had my share? Do I think gay men should never make out with cute boys in bathroom stalls at sleazy gay bars? No, no, and no. What I am suggesting — oh, shit! We’ve run out of room. More on this subject next week, I’m afraid, which means that Katie will have to wait a bit longer to learn if she’s going to get that Hitachi Magic Wand.

Contact Dan Savage at [email protected]

About The Author

Dan Savage

Dan Savage is a sex-advice columnist, podcaster, and author, and has appeared on numerous television shows. His sex advice column “Savage Love” first appeared in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated across the United States and Canada. He has published six books...
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