“I think there’s a tremendous sense of complacency in the LGBT community. AIDS has lost the edge of horror it possessed when it swept through the world in the ’80s. Today’s generation sees it more as something to live with and something to be much less fearful of. And that comes with a sense of, dare I say, laziness. We need to be really vigilant and open about the fact that these drugs are not to be taken to increase our ability to have recreational sex.”
Many (including nearly 100 Queerty commenters) interpreted Zachary’s words as a bit high-horsed. In targeting “recreational sex” as the problem in the equation, some saw the tell-tale signs of slut shaming.
One Queerty commenter, DonW, responded:
Can you imagine if PrEP had been introduced in the ’80s or early ’90s? There would be rejoicing in the streets of WeHo and Chelsea (well, back then the West Village). No one would dream of shaming anyone for taking it.
Zachary, feeling his words were misconstrued, has penned a response on HuffPost titled On The Response to my OUT 100 Interview, in which he asserts that, “my comments were never meant to be incendiary or judgmental.”
He makes it very clear that he supports the LGBT community and yadda yadda, and then goes on to write:
What troubles me — and what I was trying to speak to in my interview — is an attitude among (some of) the younger generation of gay men — that we can let our guard down against this still very real threat to our collective well-being. I have had numerous conversations in my travels with young gay people who see the threat of HIV as diminished to the point of near irrelevance. I have heard too many stories of young people taking PrEP as an insurance policy against their tendency toward unprotected non-monogamous sex. THAT is my only outrage.
A few things trouble us about this attempt at non-judgment.
First, Zachary’s use of the parenthetical in “(some of)” is back-handed. Without the parentheses, it’d just be a way of explaining the subset of people Zachary is referring to — “some of the younger generation” — couldn’t be clearer. But that’s not what he’s doing. Instead it’s as if he means to say “all of the younger generation,” but realizes that would land even worse. We’re guessing some of those young people he’s talked to don’t appreciate being stuffed between two parentheses.
Second, it is Zachary’s opinion that using PrEP as a way of drastically reducing your risk of contracting HIV during “unprotected non-monogamous sex” is an “outrage.” And this is where people differ with his characterization.
The fact is, condom usage as a strategy for combatting HIV/AIDS can only go so far. According to one study in 2012, “one in three acts of anal intercourse between men are condom protected in the U.S.” Those are terrible numbers. So already, we have an environment where “protected sex” in the conventional manner is not doing the trick.
And that’s not to say that PrEP is the golden bullet, either. But if human sexuality can tell us one thing, it’s that we will always be finding avenues for, ahem, mutual release. And they won’t always be “monogamous.” They won’t always be “protected.” To think otherwise is ignoring reality.
Zachary concludes that:
“If what I said — however misconstrued — plays some small part in generating more meaningful informative and passionate conversations — particularly among the younger generation — then I am grateful.”
And we couldn’t agree with him more. We should be talking about this. Communication is our greatest asset in putting an end to this disease that has plagued our community. But a conversation invoking outrage over non-monogamous sex with a less-than-100-percent condom rate isn’t going to get a whole lot done.