Category Archives: hookup

Bareback.com?

So perhaps these websites for men interested in bareback sex have been around for a while, but I have been unaware of them.  Recently, a friend informed me of one such site, barebackrt.com, however several more exist.   At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think.   Upon digesting this concept some more, I came to an initial conclusion that perhaps these sites could serve as an online forum for serosorting i.e. a place where HIV+ men could find other HIV+ to have bareback sex with, and where HIV- men could presumably find other HIV- men for bareback anal sex.

Indeed, this is what bareback.com, the “original bareback only site” envisions:

“Now at BareBack.com you know that we are not AIDS Nazis, condom wrappers or fearful fools! What we are is a community of gay men who like the feel of raw nasty sex and want the whole world to be able to spray our holes!

That’s why we embrace a policy of containment. What does that mean – It’s simple. If poz boys stick to poz boys and neg boys stick to neg boys AIDS will be over. It’s just that simple.”

Or is it?  So although the same site site intro states that “The only drugs you should use should come from your doctor! Nothing makes you more likely to fuck up, get sick or be an asshole than poppers, meth or other party drugs.” So, I can say that I have heard negative men, who know they are negative, fucked up by drugs, tell me that they have used this site to search for men, and HIV status was irrelevant – the bottom line was the negative men just wanted bareback sex and such sites were the easiest place to find it.   Then of course there are the men who don’t really know if they are negative since they haven’t been tested (the site encourages people to know their status), but just like to assume that they are negative even though they have had unprotected sex with everyone under the sun, because it is easier for them to personally accept.  Such “negative” men will go onto to have sex with men who truly are negative who utilize the site.  Also, positive men may not always sero sort, and may have sex with negative men who agree to take the risk of having bareback sex with a positive man, simply because they like bareback sex.

While I am not judging anyone’s sexual preferences (I can not with a clear conscience say that plastic up one’s ass is sensual or comfortable), I guess the thing that irks me about such sites as a physician and public health practitioner, is that there are no sites (at least that I know of) promoting dirty needle use  for IV drugs or unsafe blood transfusions.  While I acknowledge men who want to have bareback sex will, and will find any avenue to do so, why must we create an avenue to directly promote this behavior? Why can we not have a “safe only” site? Upon googling I have found nothing.  While mainstream sites such as Grindr and Manhunt allow users to state their safe/bareback preference, are there sites dedicated exclusively to safe sex?

As bareback.com notes, users need to be made aware that not only can HIV be contracted by bareback sex, but other STDs such as gonorrhea and herpes can also be shared between bareback partners.   I just still can’t see the value of such sites from a HIV eradication/prevention standpoint.  Perhaps someone can comment to offer me some insight?  I know the mainstream porn movement has sought to not glamorize bareback pornography, and this is a battle that is still being fought as one can find bareback porn as easily as they can a hookup on Grindr.  In my ideal corner of the earth, I would hope that everyone using such sites was already aware of their HIV status, understood the risks that bareback sex poses, and made an educated choice which would put both them and their partner at the least risk possible.

What is a bathhouse? Do people actually bathe?

So as I made a comment the other day, “Our library is like a bathhouse…all of these little rooms where people can walk around the hall..” it occurred to me that the majority of my class mates probably had no idea what a bath house really was like.  Sure, they have probably heard of it  in the context of HIV probably referenced to the ones that shut down in San Francisco decades ago, but I don’t think they know the true reality of the current state of bath houses, or that they currently still exist all around the world and contribute to the spread of HIV.

Much to my chagrin, the Spartacus Gay Guide still exists.  This was the same guide I used when I was 20 backpacking around Europe almost a decade ago.  Basically, anywhere in the world you go, you can use either the book (or apparently a iPhone app) to locate gay establishments such as bars, restaurants, and of course “saunas”. Most urban meccas in both the US an abroad (including, Europe and Asia) have at least one such bathhouse.  Houston, where I formally came from boasts 2.  One is part of the “Club Baths” franchise.  The Clubs is generally an upscale franchise, consisting of newly renovated saunas, steam rooms, pools and small rooms (I’ll get to this later). Generally such cities that have two bathhouse will usually have a nicer “upper echelon” one that is clean and somewhat hygienic and contains somewhat more upscale clientele, and a gross one that is filthy, skeezy, where you stick to the floor and it’s not advisable to not wear footwear.

Not all bathhouses are gross.  Some are QUITE deluxe.  The one I went to in Bangkok called “Babylon” was probably one of the nicest in the world with 3 bars, a full service restaurant, gardens, outdoor pools.  So the establishment can range from crab infestations to four star service.

So what exactly is a bathhouse? Wikipedia does a good job explaining to the novice in its article “gay bathhouse” (OOOOH and they even have a photo of the Crew Club in DC right near my house on 14th street. Did you really think the nation’s capital wouldn’t have a bathhouse?) especially in the “etiquette” and “layout” sections.  But for those of you that don’t have the patience to sift through such a gem I’ll get down to it briefly.  Basically most bathhouse operate on a “membership only” basis.  They call themselves “health clubs” and many do have a small (some extremely will equipped) weight area that they purport can be used for exercise (although I’ve generally only ever seen one person working out).  Even if a bathhouse boasts exercise equipment, most people come to a bathhouse to fuck.  There are usually also lockers (see below) communal showers, steam areas, sometimes an indoor or outdoor pool, and usually always small individual rooms, varying from simple with one small bed in a corner and minimal other room, to more deluxe, with a bigger bed, and TV playing porn.

Upon entering, you usually have to pay the “membership fee”.  Such fees can be one time only or you can usually get a 6 month membership if you plan on coming back and “working out” a lot.  You then have the option of purchasing either a “locker” or a “room”.   Both are assigned on an hourly basis, and you usually have about 12 hours or so (varies) in your room or locker.   With either option you are given a towel to change into.  Some more upscale places will also give you temporary footwear. If you buy a “locker” the only place to put your items is in your locker.  You will generally wander the hall, looking for someone to have sex with, either in their room, or in the sauna or some other communal place.  If you have a room you will proceed to your room and can leave your items there. See the photo to the left from the Crew Club for a typical price list.

Generally, paying the extra money for the room allows a client a little more privacy and flexibility with their evening.  They can decide who they want to invite in for sex, how they want to attract people for sex, who they want to have sex with etc.  The cheaper locker option, in my opinion limits flexibility.

Many bathhouses have also been places where gay men go to “party and play” or do drugs such as crystal meth and ecstasy and have sex.  Bathhouses have been known for their association with drugs and drug fueled sex, and still are venues where gay men may go to both seek and use drugs and to have sex.  Of course, such activity can lead to unprotected sex.  I know that any ads that the crew club has advertised in DC gay magazines have featured the phrase “No PNP” meaning “no party and play” i.e. no drug use tolerated.  I know they have also been doing much to crack down on bath house drug use.    However, its next to impossible to enforce these rules, as most bath houses have lax security, and given the nature of the establishments, unless you stick an undercover in the scene, its next to impossible to have someone patrolling private small rooms that patrons have sex in.

Then there’s the question of condom use.  Much like in any other sexual encounter,  condom use is up to the two partners involved.  Of course, drug use will lower inhibitions, and perhaps decrease condom use.  Also, since most of the time sex is anonymous it is likely that HIV status will not be discussed or disclosed during bath house encounters, and partners won’t know their true risk.  However, as a gesture, many bath houses provide condoms in common areas, and do all they can to encourage condom use.  However, what goes on between two consenting adults is something beyond their control.

So yes, technically one can bathe at a bathhouse, but more or less its a euphemism.

HIV is hottest at the start

In browsing the web, I cam across a new provocative and racy HIV testing campaign aimed toward MSM in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  The campaign, called “HIV: It’s Hottest at the start”  compares acute early HIV infection to hot early relationship (or hookup?) sex.  Much like sex with a new partner has an element of thrill and spontaneity, the campaign goes on to state that HIV is extremely infectious in the early phases infection, and if one doesn’t know their status in the early phase and has unprotected sex, they can very easily pass the virus to others.  The ads encourage individuals to take a new HIV test (which I must admit I didn’t know existed) designed to detect HIV infection within the last 10 days.  The new test detects the HIV virus, as opposed to the traditional tests which detect antibodies, which may take up to three months after infection to appear.  The ads inform individuals that if they are fucking without condoms during this early “hot” phase of HIV infection it is easy to spread the disease.

The campaign is designed and carried out by HIM, Health Initiative for Men, a community health organization strengthening the health of gay men in Vancouver.

I am not sure how I feel about these ads.   It appears that they are targeted at men who bareback as the ad states ” If you fuck without condoms and aren’t completely sure of your partner’s HIV status, get tested.”   Somewhere deep inside of me (no pun intended) I feel like anyone fucking someone with or without condoms who doesn’t know the other individuals status should get tested.  However, I suppose in order to maximize resources, HIM has chosen to focus on the more risky population: those who bareback in sero-unknown partnerships.  And, the ad does encourage condom use as a means of prevention if you go on to read. I guess part of the idea was to eroticize HIV associating it with carnal sex, rather than stigmatizing it.  “Hey if I have hot wild sex unprotected sex with the man I just met in the elevator or bath house then maybe I should get tested since I (or he) can have HIV and not know it and spread it to others easily in its early phases.  Why not? I’ll know within 10 days of my risky exposure and then can continue the hot affair.”   HIM seems to say that they are promoting sex-affirmative and sex-positive messaging, and that such explicit campaigns have higher message recall.

I’m not against the sexual messages – hell I love hot men engaging in sex acts.  However, I just can’t quite tell what their message is.  Any thoughts?

Manhunt Cares

I know it has been ages.

So here I am in Roatan, Honduras, an island off the coast of Honduras working at a medical clinic.  I have finally encountered what is like to be  gay in a place of no gays, what so many readers experience on a daily basis.  While there are many expats here in Roatan, there is no gay bar or social gathering place.  No frank discussion about sexuality of any sort.  My boyfriend is coming to visit at the end of this month.  He is flying into San Pedro, the second largest city in Honduras after Tegucigalpa.  I am going a day early so I will be there to meet him at the airport the next day.  In an attempt to meet friends to show me around the city, I logged on Manhunt.  While presumably, the majority of people log onto this site for sex, I was hoping to meet a friend to show me around the city when I arrive and make sure that I don’t get mugged.   Although, I must admit, my picture on the site is an unsavory one from the days when I used to troll for sex.

Through my sifting through the weeds of Manhunt, which I just discovered through Wikipedia has over 4 million profiles, I discovered that they have a campaign called “Manhunt” cares.  For all the gross things that happen on the site, I applaud the site for at least taking the effort to provide information on HIV and STDs to such a large audience.  I must admit I couldn’t watch the whole video due to bandwidth issues but it looked like it was pointing individuals in the right direction.  The links to organizations also feature several international locations which is always great to see (although must note Honduras is not on there).

So when you’re busy hunting for men  you can also hunt for places to get tested for HIV!

Sex and HIV in the age of GRINDR

So I must admit I am an Android boy in a committed relationship for the past six years, so I have not had the experience of using the iphone application GRINDR to seek out sex partners.  However, from what I understand, if I wanted to, I could find someone with 300 feet of me to suck my dick and fuck me, and know his exact location, all in the span of about 4 seconds.  According to their website, GRINDR “uses GPS technology in your iPhone or BlackBerry and Wi-Fi in your iPod touch or iPad to determine your exact location and instantly connect you with guys in your area.”

This instant sex is not anything new, as we have had sites like Manhunt, Adam4Adam and gay.com (wow I have not visited those sites until now for several years since my single days; visiting them now provokes an eerie spookiness for multiple reasons).  However, this GRINDR business takes a whole unnecessary chat equation out of play.  I don’t have to ask you your location, as I already know it from the phone.  I don’t have to ask you to send a picture, as I already see your picture.  And much like online chat, when I talk to you on GRINDR, much like when I talk to you on gay.com, I will not ask you about your HIV status. Perhaps I will lie about my status on my GRINDR page, saying I am negative when I am not.   While it’s difficult to say if GRINDR has created additional risk for HIV transmission, perhaps, just perhaps, it brought instant sex to a newer generation who had not stumbled upon or used sites like Manhunt. And with sex with strangers, there is always the risk of HIV transmission, unless 100 percent of the people meeting on GRINDR engage in safe sex with their GRINDR mates 100 % of the time.  And perhaps, just perhaps, if I am looking for multiple sex partners, while doing a drug such as crystal meth, I will find more partners more quickly, with the use of a mobile device as opposed to sitting at my computer.

Then of course, there’s my passion, the global tilt.  According to Wikipedia, GRINDR has been reported activity in countries as far reaching as Iran, Iraq, Israel and Kazakhstan.  In such countries, there is indeed potential for GRINDR to contribute to the HIV epidemic.   In countries where homosexuality is taboo, many times homosexual activity is conducted underground in secret without protection. Individuals who have access to cellular networks, but not the Internet and computers will be able to find immediate sex partners and engage in sex.  

What ever happened to going to the bar to find a nice man and getting to know him before getting in his pants? Ah, technology.