This article was published on July 1st, 2015
Take a deep breath. The title of this post either excites you or horrifies you. If it excites you, you’re going to be pretty bored. No, it’s not a detailed description of a bareback orgy. If you’re horrified, this post may not change your mind, but hopefully you’ll understand a little more.
Gay men know the risks associated with HIV. This article isn’t about that. Let’s not treat adults like they’re uninformed kids. It’s about why gay men aren’t using condoms outside of committed monogamous relationships, not why they should. Of course it’s not an exhaustive list, everyone who chooses not to use condoms, whether occasionally or all the time, has their own personal reasons. However, here are the most common reasons why gay men are choosing not to use condoms.
Straight men don’t say there isn’t any difference between wearing and not wearing condoms; they know it feels better. Only amongst gay men is there such a large group that insist there is no difference in sensation. Gay men feel the need to state this because of peer pressure; if they say otherwise, the condom police may attack and ostracize them. But rather than get into a debate as to whether or not wearing condoms feels better, start by understanding that some men swear it feels a lot better without a condom. A lot better. Men state the physical sensation is dulled on their cocks when they wear condoms. Even many bottoms will say the sensation in their bums is not as pleasant as without condoms. Sure, this may not be the case for everyone. But if condom use really had no impact on pleasure, why would any man, gay or straight, not use a condom all the time? For some, the difference in sensation is no huge – so they feel fine wearing them. But for others, the difference is just too great to ignore and can outweigh the risk. Every man’s physiology is different. Accept that.
Most gay guys love cum. Actually, men in general like their own cum. It’s not rocket science to understand why. It’s the very thing that passes on our genes. Even if we don’t have a desire to procreate, it still holds a power over our minds. And semen is seen as such a powerful force, religions and cultures have always felt the need to dictate its use, control its power. Spilling it in the Bible results in a curse from God. For men, cum is the culmination of the sexual act and trying to contain it can feel for some the same as trying contain their sexual self. In the end, we’re not purely rational beings, completely divorced from our animal and emotional reality. Which leads to the third reason.
Sex is an intimate act, even when it’s not between a committed couple, even when it’s between multiple anonymous partners. Touch is an integral part in making that human connection with someone. It can be a kiss. The stroke of a cheek. And yes, the feel of a bare cock touching the inside of a bare ass. For many people, touching a condom is not the same as touching a person. It’s a physical barrier. In the minds of some, there is a distinct loss of intimacy when latex or another product is placed in between two people (or three, or four). It’s the reason we kiss without masks and touch one another without gloves. And the feeling can be just too powerful to know that you are fully in them, or that they are fully in you, touching you deep within.
Fuck that virus; fuck that fear. Eventually, many gay men give up on living in fear. It’s too difficult for many men to be constantly vigilant, year after year, decade after decade. Eventually, they feel the need to throw it aside and that entails rejecting condoms. Ironically, it’s not always these supposed young ones who don’t know better that are rejecting condoms. It’s guys in their 30s, their 40s, even those in their 50s who lost so many of their near and dear. No human can continually stand on guard for something. Slip ups begin happening, they begin happening more and more, and eventually, the ability to still maintain that vigilance goes. Rather than live in constant fear, many men choose to forego condoms as a way to liberate themselves from that fear.
Public health organizations and many many gays have relied on shaming and anger towards any notion of not using condoms. Of course it doesn’t work. Infection rates amongst gay men haven’t budged in 15 years. And of course gay men know shaming doesn’t work but they still do it, perhaps to make themselves better for what they feel they’re having to deny themselves. Or maybe it’s just that human trait in needing to judge others. But in the end, people know the risks and no education can get rid of the reasons why men are choosing not to use condoms. So stop judging. Be a bit more sympathetic. And make the choices that you feel are right for you.