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‘Gay Sex: A Raw Conversation’ Presents a Much-Needed Discussion to New Yorkers

Hornet, the world’s premier gay social network, is preparing to host an insightful and provocative conversation on what sex without condoms means to gay men. The panel will take place at Therapy in New York City on Wednesday, March 22.

Large numbers of gay men engage in sex without condoms. PrEP and undetectable levels have radically changed the current sexual landscape. But what does all this mean for our community?

Hornet Senior Health Innovation Strategist Alex Garner will moderate this diverse panel among five thought leaders, each offering unique perspectives drawn from their lived experiences and years of work within the queer community.

Panelists include:

Jesus Barrios, MPH, Supervisor, Prevention and Outreach, Callen Lorde
Demetre Daskalakis, MD, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Noel Gordon, Senior Program Specialist, HIV Prevention and Health Equity, Human Rights Campaign
Jeremiah Johnson, HIV Prevention Research and Policy Coordinator, Treatment Action Group
Boomer Banks, fashion designer, adult film performer and sexual health advocate

Here Garner tells us more about the event and what attendees can expect from the discussion.

How has stigma surrounding sex without condoms evolved over the past 35 years?

Much of the stigma associated with condomless sex came from public health and our own community. The safe-sex movement was like a theology with the mantra “always use a condom.” Men who didn’t use condoms were seen as bad, stupid or irresponsible and were accused of betraying all that our community had worked and died for. I certainly faced that reaction when I tested positive at 23 in 1996.

In the late ’90s, HIV-positive men began to speak openly and honestly about the value of sex without condoms — the pleasure and the intimacy. The word ‘bareback’ became popularized and a whole cultural phenomenon happened.

Now we have ‘undetectable’ and PrEP, and once again the entire sexual landscape has changed. More and more organizations are trying to be sex-positive and address the real issues gay men encounter around sex, such as the L.A. Center’s great campaign “F*ck Without Fear.” Gay men have a right to sex that is pleasurable, intimate and free of fear.

gay sex: a raw conversation truvada PrEP

How do you think gay men’s perception of sex without condoms has changed over the last five years?

We know that the majority of gay men don’t always use condoms, but many would never publicly admit it. Now that we understand that if one is undetectable it’s virtually impossible to transmit the virus, we better understand the risks. Additionally, PrEP has changed everything for the negative man. Many of them didn’t regularly use condoms and were tormented with guilt, fear and shame, and now they can be free of all that. The relationships between positive and negative men has evolved, and more of us are connecting with each other, which is always good for our community.

What are some challenges still facing gay men today when it comes to intimacy and the topic of “raw sex”?

Gay men still have lots of issues surrounding gay sex in general. It was just in the past 15 years that anti-sodomy laws were declared unconstitutional. We all grew up being told that our sex and our desires were bad and abnormal and dirty. Add to that we’ve been told that our sex can kill us, and our sex has always been intimately connected to disease. We as a community must prioritize gay sex in our movement and work to ensure that gay men can determine their own sexuality.

Why is it important for us to be asking these questions and having these discussions?

Sex is a key part of any LGBT movement, and the ability to determine what to do with your body and how to express your sexuality is a fundamental human right. Those thought to be on the fringe are the most vulnerable — young people, people or color, sex-workers, trans folks — and we must always ensure they are part of our movement.

The bodies of people of color have been criminalized, our queer sex has been pathologized and we exist in a world that is outright hostile to us. To be able to find pleasure and intimacy in the midst of all that is a demonstration of resiliency.

What do you hope attendees take away from “Gay Sex: A Raw Conversation”?

The discussion should be thought of as just the beginning. Gay men want to talk about our sex, but they often just need an opportunity and a judgment-free space to do it. We must all do better to create more of those spaces and initiate more of those conversations. When gay men talk openly and honestly about our sex, we all win.

RSVP to “Gay Sex: A Raw Conversation” here.