Hey, Woody!

As a former sexual health writer who wrote a bunch of “safe sex” pamphlets and who now works for an organization that promotes condom use I just want to commend you for your honesty throughout the years.

I attended an NIH conference once on condoms.  There were rubber experts, human behaviorists, AIDS activists and virologists galore—but after all the talk about rubber’s elasticity, it all came down to truths no one was brave enough to utter: Sexual intimacy and condoms are incompatible.

Because like herpes and lung cancer, diseases resulting from human behavior, particularly sexual behavior, are “blame diseases.”   We can blame somebody for their “risky,” “irresponsible,” “inconsiderate”, and downright unpatriotic behavior.  As if sexual desire were a choice.  As if it’s all about “self control.”  Anyway, this isn’t a question, just a pat on your back for a job well done.

—  With you, babe

Dear Babe:

I was with you, GOD, I was with you, until you made that asinine “self-control” statement.

Of course, it’s about “self-control.” There’s never been a disease this awful whose transmission is almost completely dependent on the victim’s behavior.

You can’t catch HIV from contaminated food like you can with hepatitis or polio.  You can’t catch HIV from another person’s cough or sneeze like you can with the flu.  You can only catch HIV from consciously performing unsafe sex acts or willfully injecting drugs with a contaminated needle.  There are exceptions, but the vast majority of infections occur because of personal behavior not impersonal circumstance.

While it *is* about self-control, few people acknowledge the near impossibility of total self-control in something as meaningful as sex.  Condoms may be vacuum-sealed but emotions leak into them.  Sex isn’t logical, so the decision to wear something that prevents you from experiencing the totality of sex won’t be either.  We know we should be wearing them but a lot of us still don’t, or don’t all the time.  Not when we’re lonely and want a more meaningful communion with another guy, not when drives and feelings and moods meet facts, and figures and stats.

And forget about that “blame” bulls–t.  When emergency workers pull out dead or injured people out of car accidents do they “blame” the victim for not wearing a seat belt that could have saved their lives?  If you don’t wear a seat belt and you’re seriously injured in a car wreck, does that make you unworthy of being helped?

Condoms are like seatbelts –if you don’t use them you’re taking a big chance of getting seriously hurt by an a–hole that plows into you.  But like car wreck victims, HIV victims shouldn’t be accused of malfeasance.  It’s not a matter of blame; it’s a matter of suffering the consequences.  And believe me, if you contract HIV because you didn’t wear a rubber, “blame” will be the least of your problems.

Just because wearing condoms are difficult doesn’t mean “self-control” isn’t the answer.  In fact, “self-control” is the only path to staying healthy.   The answer is always in the question:  “What risk am I willing to take with this particular person in this particular situation at this particular time?”

If you keep asking yourself that question, you’ll find yourself using condoms more and more or simply finding more satisfaction in f–kless sex.  As a sex advisor it may be impolitic to say that I don’t use condoms all the time, but in my mind that makes me worth listening to because I’m not in some Ivory Tower lording it over you heathens who can’t control yourselves.

I may not use condoms all the time but I use them about 90% of the time and I’m working on the other 10%.  Yes, I’m suffering from safe sex fatigue, but you know what?  I’m also suffering from plague fatigue and that’s a whole lot harder on me than the pressure of putting on a rubber.


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