A possible consequence of slut-shaming

A recent article on Medical News Today reports that there’s a certain class of young gay men who are particularly susceptible to HIV infection right now:

Gay young men in serious relationships are six times more likely to have
unprotected sex than those who hook up with casual partners, according
to new Northwestern Medicine research.

The article goes on to explain how this tendency, combined with the fact that young men often don’t get tested frequently enough, makes those in serious relationships vulnerable to HIV infection.

I’ve seen this in action.  To some degree*, I’ve even been guilty of it.  It’s far too easy to fall into the belief that HIV is a problem that mostly — or even only — affects those gay men who visit bath houses or goes cruising in parks.  It’s easy to tell ourselves that as long as we tend towards serious relationships and only have a few partners — all serially, of course — and only get involved with men who do the same, we’ll be safe.  And to be honest, given the way some of us — even those of who know better and are careful even when we’re in a monogamous relationship — reinforce this idea, it’s not surprising.

How do we reinforce this idea?  By the way we talk about and treat those men who do visit bath houses or go cruising.  I’ve seen so many gay men call these “promiscuous” men irresponsible** and automatically accuse them of getting and spreading STD’s.  And I’ve seen many gay men assume that if a guy happens to be HIV+ or have any other STD, he must have been “promiscuous.”

And that’s how you get young men who assume that HIV and STD’s are a problem for men who cruise or hook up.  Because the rest of us send them that message by our words and actions, even if it’s unintentional.  Those young men don’t hear — at least not as loudly — that they don’t have to have hundreds of sex partners to get HIV or any other STD.  People who only have two or three partners*** can become infected, especially if one of those partners hasn’t been tested because he figures he’s HIV- and STD-free simply because he has only had one or two partners who seemed to be STD-free at the time.

Let’s quite pretending that being HIV+ or having an STD is a sign of “promiscuity.”  It’s unfair to everyone and especially harmful to young men who assume they must be safe if they can still count the number of partners they’ve had on one hand.

h/t Edge on the Net

* Though as a rule, I still used protection.

** Some of them may well be irresponsible, but it’s still an assumption made without evedence.

*** Let’s face it, the likelihood of any of us meeting our perfect life-partner the first time and never having sex again is low.

Leave a Reply