sex sells

Do These Sexy HIV Advocacy Ads Send the Wrong Message About AIDS?

How do you get folks excited about the 2010 Minnesota AIDS Walk? By getting hot guys to pose nearly naked for a new ad campaign, duh. Except, um, might that send the wrong message about AIDS?

The new ad campaign, which debuts Dec. 1, falls back on the advertising industry’s golden rule: sex sells. But the campaign — which, to be sure, promotes a good cause — already has its critics. Like Christian-Philippe Quilici, a Twin Cities resident and the events manager for Minnesota culture site, who wonders aloud, “Does the continued hypersexualization of young and healthy gay men in the name of AIDS awareness make any meaningful contributions to the discourse on the current state of affairs vis-a-vis HIV/AIDS in Minnesota? … These barely legal pied pipers are, I’m guessing, supposed to encourage the public to join the team and join the fight against AIDS and raise money for the (truly) important work that the MN AIDS Project does.”

But at what cost? Quilici:


Does advertising like this recent campaign from MN AIDS Project tell you anything about the 23,000 North Americans and 2.2 million globally who died in 2007 from AIDS?

Does advertising like this recent campaign from MN AIDS Project tell you anything about the 54,000 NEW infections of HIV in North America? Does this campaign (and others like it) constitute a whitewashing of what continues to be a GLOBAL EPIDEMIC? Does this, effectively, contribute to the ballooning ignorance among young gay men as to the real dangers of this disease? What part does this play vis-a-vis the rampant rise in bareback sex? Pre-1999 AIDS awareness campaigns were raw, in-your-face and downright activist. The past 10 years have shown that message evolve into the sex-positive sloganeering and unnecessarily provocative/suggestive media we are surrounded with today.*** How many leukemia campaigns have you seen recently that feature hot shirtless guys? Muscular dystrophy? Jerry’s kids have NOTHING on these studs.

No, these spots don’t tell you anything about HIV.

But this ad campaign isn’t exactly about HIV awareness, like promoting HIV testing, safe sex, and preventative programs in schools. It’s about getting people to sign up for an event that generates cash for the Minnesota AIDS Project, which says that “in partnership with over 1,000 volunteers, we provide compassionate, confidential and non-discriminatory services, including practical, emotional and social support.”

By sexing up “the cause,” the organization can raise more cash to perform commendable work.

We don’t have a problem with “sexing up” any form of advocacy. If feeding the homeless gets you hot and bothered, great! If that’s what it takes for you to volunteer and raise cash for good causes, so be it. Because we all know what gets people’s attention: skin.

But it’s a difficult arena to play in when the very thing you’re advocating for — fighting HIV — is inexorably intertwined around the very thing you’re promoting: sex.

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  • Mike in Brooklyn

    What “wrong message”?

    Is it wrong that: that young attractive gay guys promote the notion that young attractive gay men are concerned about HIV/AIDS too;

    that young attractive gay guys help raise money for HIV/AIDS services;

    that young attractive gay guys believe HIV/AIDS is a cause deserving of time and financial support.

    What is wrong is dismissing the efforts of those who offer their time, money and heart to their community.

  • Joe

    I can understand why someone would find it problematic to use sex and unrealistic beauty standards in advertising, but if that’s the problem, then your beef is with the advertising industry in general.

    To say that this ad in particular is problematic because HIV “is inexorably intertwined around the very thing you’re promoting: sex” — is offensive to me.

    It implies that poz guys don’t have sex, shouldn’t have sex, and can’t be viewed as sexual or attractive people.

    It implies that HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns need to be colder, more sterile, and more depressing than other advertising.

  • Mary

    Glad to see someone gets it.

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)

    Good Ad!

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    If the MN AIDS Project is attempting to get more non-gays involved, that’s a fair and admirable goal. However, in doing so in such a fashion, they’re perpetuating the stereotype of shirtless gay party boys living life with an unfortunate and increasingly inconsequential problem… which happens to be AIDS and which happens to be continually decimating our population and terrorizing our existence.

    In a climate where fewer and fewer people seem to be paying attention to this issue, I merely contend that it is our responsibility to find a better balance in our cause-related marketing between fun and impactful. Between poignant and sensational. Between eye-catching and exploitative. Between thoughtful and cheap.

    And as a gay man… dammit, aren’t we BETTER than this by now?

  • vilnus

    Delicious ad. What an ass!

    But I want to point out that if it weren’t for HIV awareness and education, there would be millions more people living with this disease. This ad is but one of many which raises awareness and/or funds.

  • Lee S

    Living in Minnesota where the videos were made, I am very proud of those young men taking the risk to promote safe sex and raise money for people with HIV & AIDS. Go MAP!

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    And it’s for that reason, I wish it every success in the world and hope it shatters expectations for fundraising.

    I challenge the Marketing Community in the Twin Cities (Minneadpolis, right), however, to try and aim a little higher than this.

  • David Folkens

    Replying today on behalf of the Minnesota AIDS Project and thank you all for your thoughts thus far. There isn’t any doubt that we felt like this approach would play on a visual element of attractive men to attract attention to a critical issue in our state, and in particular within the gay community.

    The facts are that the number of young gay men infected in the Twin Cities is on pace to double last year’s rate. It is clear that prevention education needs more attention and, frankly, this audience of young gay men needs to stop and find out more about the disease and their risk. We’re working to reach a generation that didn’t live through the 1980’s and 90’s when there were too many funerals and good people lost to this virus.

    There is no magic bullet to prevention and we believe different messages resonate with different people. We can, and do, discuss the real challenges that people with HIV face in our work, including the fact that too many still die from this disease. We also profile success stories of some who are indeed doing well in managing their lives and remaining in good health while living with HIV.

    Because of the nature of HIV, we will raise the issue of sex, sexuality, and hopefully communications around sex because it is critical in getting HIV prevention into the open and removing stigma around this disease. The fact that this discussion is taking place means that people are at least thinking about HIV…and that’s a good thing.

    I appreciate your comments, concerns, and constructive criticism. All of these are good discussions to engage in so we can collectively meet the needs of a wide variety of communities that all have to understand that HIV remains a very real part of our world.

    -David Folkens
    Director of Communications
    Minnesota AIDS Project

  • MplsHomie

    Hmmm. An advocacy ad is attracted viewers and even generating discussion in the community – the very target audience most likely to attend the event it’s advertising.

    Isn’t that what ads are supposed to do?

    Sure – it’s a stereotype. But it’s also a reality: gay men like to look at pretty pictures. I’m a gay man, and I certainly do. I also donate thousands of dollars a year to gay-related causes and serve on 2 gay-related Boards here in the Twin Cities.

    On Mad Men, was Don’s innuendo-laden London Fog ad a failure because it didn’t explain barometric pressure and long-term precipitation patterns? Hardly. There is clearly a role for deeper discussion of the issue – in any number of other media.

    I got the same feeling reading this article that I get when I read about the far right’s complaining that gay content has no role in broadcast TV – personal discomfort masked by self-righteousness. Yuck.

    Let’s leave the ads to the people who create them and the events to the event managers, shall we?

  • Pozguy

    I live in Minnesota, as well, and its not like this is the only form of advertising or promotion the agency does to promote the walk. Any campaign needs to be multifaceted because there is not one singular message that speaks to all people. It’s merely one of many messages out there. Maybe Mr. Quilici should look at some of their other promotional materials before saying a promotional campaign isn’t balanced.

  • jason

    AIDS is not a gay condition. So why are we carrying on like it is? Aren’t we demonizing ourselves?

  • Maria

    AIDS is not a gay disease, but this ad is obviously catered to the gay community. What is so difficult to understand about that?

    Other ads will more appropriately cater to other groups this disease affects. The reality is that rate of HIV in Minnesota is increasing most rapidly among young gay men. So, it may not be a gay condition but it most definitely is a problem in the gay community! Kudos to MAP for having the tenacity to forget being politically correct for a second and get to the point! This part of the community is missing something and needs to wake up!

  • Keith Kimmel

    No, Queerty. I disagree. You’re [wrongly] assuming that the idea is to get them laid. Its not. Even if it was, there is nothing wrong with that. I have said before I have no qualms about having sex with positive guys, though I know that makes some people’s skin crawl. I imagine part of the subliminal message they want to convey is that POZGUYS are just like you and I and they are not lepers.

    Let us not forget there is still a huge stigma attached to it. I’m glad to see that someone is willing to do something cutting edge and provocative still. In a world gone soft, someone has got to be hard. Oh wait, thats the slogan for Mikes Hard Lemonade. hehe

  • alan brickman

    Safe sex is promoted..whats the problem?…sounds like critics are jealous…

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    It was never my intent was to suggest that HIV+ people can’t be physically fit or attractive. My (perhaps insensitive) allusion to the models being HIV- stems from my knowing said information about certain models because I am acquainted with them.

    My problem is with the pandering and with exploiting sexuality to boost awareness for what is still, primarily, a sexually-transmitted disease.

    A colleague of mine likened this to (in an extreme): using naked or semi-nude children to advocate against child pornography.

    I found that jarring and more than a little fitting.

  • Trish Sharp

    I’m more concerned with the terrible sound in that first video.

  • Quake

    Well isn’t promiscuity the reason why AIDS/HIV is rampant? Promoting sex with HIV is just a bad mix in my opinion. Especially with the already promiscuous gay community. I can get a lay in 2 seconds right now if I wanted to. Thats really sad in a way, cause gay men are so easy to give it up.

  • Pete

    I think that it looks stupid to have almost naked men on the tube in freezing Minnesota winter. This kind of ad should be reserved for the gay channel on cable television. It make gays look vapid.

  • romeo

    @ Quake #19: You’re doin’ a little braggin’ there aren’t you, buddy? LOL

    The vast majority of gay guys are very careful in my observation. There’s always going to be a percentage of reckless or clueless guys, but most of us get laid safely.

    As for your getting laid in 2 seconds, you must be pretty hot, cause it’s a lot harder than that here in LA. And we’re all pretty hot here. LOL

  • mark

    It catches the eye of the audience….without doing that, it doesn’t matter what the ad is about, it won’t get seen.

    and since when don’t attractive men have AIDS?

  • David

    For all the critics of the campaign, I’d like to ask you a few questions:
    #1. Did you talk about, donate to, or walk in the 2009 MN AIDS Walk?
    #2. Are you in the target demographic of this campaign, and did it accomplish the goal of capturing your attention (either for better or for worse)?
    #3. Are you planning to attend the MN AIDS Walk kickoff at the Mall of America at 6pm on December 1 (World AIDS Day)…or are you planning to register at when the site launches?

  • tim

    it’s sleazy and bougie and totally unsurprising. the mn aids project is the sketchiest hiv/aids organization in minnesota. because they can afford to be, with government funding.

    and pride alive, a mn aids project group is for gay men only… non-discriminatory?

    that said, i know one of these guys and he’s amazing, and does support the cause, and it’s really fucking unfair to get him caught up in this.

  • Quake

    @ Romeo

    I consider myself a regular guy and I get lots of hook ups in LA. What planet are you on?

  • Rob Moore

    What wrong message do these prudish folks think is being sent? If it is that young gay men have sex as much as possible, then that is pretty accurate. When I was a young gay man, I had sex as often as possible and that was quite a few years before advertising was directed at us. In the 80s, we were dying at such a rapid pace it was frightening. Here I am in my 50s. If I was two or three decades younger, I would be copulating as much as possible except this time, I would not take the risk if I found that there no more condoms in the box.

    I would still be marching in the annual AIDS walk and hoping a big hole would appear under the Mormon’s big temple in Salt Lake City, the Vatican would be swallowed by the appearance of a new volcano, that a meteor would take out Mecca, and Jerusalem went the way of the Lost City of Atlantis.

  • Lee B.

    I agree with Mark #22. It catches the eye. Gets a point across. Nuff said.

  • Hyhybt

    Naked, Minnesota, winter. Someone please make a frostbite joke; it needs doing, and I’m too sleepy.

  • jimg

    This is a great, fun, sexy ad campaign, which is already doing it’s job based on the comments.

    Keep up the great work MAP!

  • hardmannyc

    Tempest in a teapot. If hot male bodies are now used to sell everything from electronics to cars, why not an AIDS charity-participation event?

  • Brent from Minneapolis

    As someone who has worked in marketing and attended workshops on the use of youtube and facebook and other forms of social media, I understand the particular demographic this particular section of the campaign is trying to reach, and that I fall within it. It tends to be true that most under25ers read fewer newspapers and spend more time online. The statement, however, that this snipit is only a portion of the campaign as an attempt to justify this particular spectacularizaiton of young gay men, begs the question: What does MAP really think of the under 25ers? It appears from David’s statement that this sexed-up version was the best way to get “our” attention. How trivial. How insulting. This campaign is becoming more and more problematic

  • Spike

    I’m a marketing volunteer for Columbus AIDS Task Force and your right, it’s a fine line that you have to walk when promoting the cause. The young generation won’t pay attention to anything that’s not provocative, but at the same time, you don’t want to promote promiscuity, since that’s so often the reason that any sexually transmitted disease is, well, transmitted. But there *are* other ways to make your message provocative while at the same time raising awareness and money. Yes, on many levels sex sells in today’s society, no one can deny that, however there has to be a balance and it can’t be the main message, since there has to be an integrity established. Sure, it’ll get them to watch or pay attention to the message, but like hot/sexy beer commercials, will they remember what the ad is for?

  • Matt

    Well, MAP did thier job….. This is a great sexy ad that is getting the attention that HIV/AIDS campaingns need. If Hot gay or stright(who’s to say all of the models are gay) males half naked helps raise more money then hats of to the team that thought of it. Look at the Broadway BARES event…. same concept which helped raise over $800,000. I attend this event and the entire Roseland Ballroom is packed. Let’s face it…you want to look at it to!

  • The Milkman

    The guys in these ads are hardly representing an unattainable sex-god aesthetic. It’s also not a particularly salacious ad… you’d see just as much skin around a swimming pool. I like that these are normal, fit guys who live in the community and who volunteered to participate. I think that the people who are getting their panties all bunched up over a few guys with their shirts off need to unclench. It’s not like MAP is selling bareback porn to pay the bills, right? I loved living in Minneapolis, but there was definitely a pervasive scandihoovian tight-assed vibe when it came to anything remotely sexy. It’s just part of the culture… people are very polite, but are a little more reserved up there.

    Y’all should take your righteous indignation and apply its considerable energy to efforts and issues that will produce more tangible benefit to your community.

  • MplsHomie

    Fascinating to read the evolution of Mr. Quilici’s argument: It’s meandered from
    – “it’s not telling the full story” in the article, to
    – “people with AIDS don’t look like that” in his first semi-sanctimonious retort, to
    – “these hot, shirtless gay men” are undignified representations of the gay community,” and finally to
    – “OMG they’re linking discussion of a (largely) sexually-transmitted disease to sexual content!”

    The single unifying thread has been “as a gay man it makes me uncomfortable being represented by hot guys.”

    Just sayin’.

    Good job on the ads, MAP.

  • Ken Darling

    I agree with Christian-Philippe Quilici: As a gay man I DEMAND that MAP end this campaign for being anti-lesbian and anti-trans and anti-handicapped and anti-asexaul and racist!! I demand that the elite white male power structure at MAP produce ads that feature lesbians, people in wheel chairs and our elders doing things our community can be PROUD of, like gardening and shopping at the Coop and reducing the harmful effects of greenhouse gases, and show our trans brother/sisters and sister/brothers in a positive light like maybe helping an old person with her crutches. And don’t forget about the asexual community; just because they have sworn off sex doesn’t mean they can’t be sexy in an a-positive way and teach those “perfect” gay boys a thing or two about safe sex! I mean if these guys were under 18 this would be child pornography! And may I point out that just because MAP featured an Asian guy and an African American guy, they both were “young” and “beautiful” and were being exploited by a white man behind the scenes. That’s not diversity!

  • Mike in Brooklyn

    When I posted my comment about this article, No. 1, I was annoyed enough to send in my thoughts. Well, after coming back and checking the other posts, now I’m pissed off!

    Its been 25 years or so, but back then I was one of those who volunteered to do a PR campaign for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation — one of 4 “Rubber Men.” We looked very much like the young men in these AIDS Walk ads. And, I admit, I got a big kick when guys at the gym asked me about it.

    And, I volunteered for Friends of Oscar, now known as Academy of Friends, that has raised several million dollars for AIDS service organizations; tended to sick friends; and raised private money for sick and dying friends; and attended protests; and volunteered more; and gave my own contributions; and gave home and shelter to friends in need. (And gave money and time to marriage equality beginning with Hawaii, supported OutFest, and all sorts of gay/lesbian causes including breast cancer awareness long before pink ribbons).


    If you want to bitch about AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention campaigns, bitch to the Republican Party for their forward thinking abstinence only programs (that are still being continued under the Democrats). If you want to bitch about, lets see, gardening, shopping at Coop, greenhouse gases, transggender rights, handicapped rights, well fine, but bitch to those are fucking up the world. Oh, and Ken (No. 36) darling, the white man behind the scenes appears to be a woman with the camera and a woman who runs the organization.

  • Ken Darling

    Mike in Brooklyn, All I have to say is that these innocent boys, who are clearly to young to understand what they are doing, are being exploited by the corporate interests at MAP who have brainwashed a woman into exploiting young gay men with her camera. I bet she was hypnotized or something. I want to publicly state that if any or all of these young men are feeling exploited, I would happily consult with them free of charge on a one-to-one basis in the very comforting surroundings of my hot tub. If they feel comfortable wearing the same swimwear featured in the ads in this more appropriate setting or if they are supporters of nature-embracing nudity, I will support that decision.

  • McShane

    No. 36 · Ken Darling Your diversity poit is sort of pointless: what does AIDS have to do particuklArly with asexual, transgender, lesbian etc. people. HIV is a sexualy transmitted disease, particularly with men.

    Unfortunatelty Minnespotas have never had a great genious for Creative anything, yet advertizing. That is a criticism that can come friom anywhere. If the target audience is so simple that skin is all that gets their attention, they could at least have a condom over the models’ heads. Gay people were at one time and at other places at the forefront of effective advertizing. Safe sex should be encouraged but this is just kind of naive up front.

  • Russell

    Does it really matter how someone choose to advertise their organization? Should they show a casket and say “Please donate”? What all you people need to do is stop bitching about the ads themselves and actually go be productive and do something worthwhile.

  • Ryan

    I generally don’t comment on public forums like this, because of the comments like #37… but it is possible to criticize an ad campaign without denouncing the entire mission of an organization. I respect wholeheartedly everything that the Minnesota AIDS Project does. As a young gay man living with HIV here in the Twin Cities, I’ve devoted my entire professional life to working in treatment & prevention of HIV/AIDS. I consider many of the people involved in this campaign to be my friends, and yet, I still don’t like it.

    MAP has introduced these posters as their “GLBT marketing” project. It’s not their entire marketing campaign for the AIDS Walk, but it is a major part of their marketing strategy. And yet it features a very narrow segment of the gay male community. No women, no transgender individuals (who are hit hard by HIV), no older men. You can still market sex without excluding a huge chunk of your target market. To have a half-dozen people featured in this campaign and have hardly any diversity is a real shame.

    I’m less concerned about the use of sex to get people interested in preventing a (primarily) sexually-transmitted disease. Sure, it’s lowest-common-denominator stuff, but it’s what needs to be done to attract attention. Some commenters have pointed out that throwing in words like “bare” in the ad copy seems to be, well, counter-productive.

    If the aim of this campaign was to generate buzz and discussion, then clearly, it’s worked. It’ll be a few months before we know if it’s done it’s primary goal–raising money for the AIDS Walk.

    And to those who say that people should “stop bitching about the ads themselves and actually go be productive and do something worthwhile,” I can quite easily do both: offer criticism of a marketing campaign and still work to end AIDS in Minnesota.

  • mplspoz

    I cant help but feel that Mr. Quilici wouldn’t have such issues with this campaign if it was driving the same amount of attention to the publication by which he is employed – a publication whose ads target a similar market as this MAP campaign, but whose purpose is to funnel the funds of the market to bars, to nightclubs and to malls instead of credible organizations that serve communities and those in need.

    That people tend to be so eager to tear something good apart, yet reluctant to make a real effort to promote a cause that matters or can make a difference – a difference other than the width of their wallets, that is – never seems to surprise me.

    Keep up the good work, MAP.

  • David

    For those who are concerned that this ad campaign does not feature enough L or T presence, please note that the goal of these ads is to encourage gay men to raise funds for the MN AIDS Walk 2010. Although HIV is not a disease exclusive to gay men, the gay male community has been savagely impacted by it. Gay men also happen to have been the captains of six of the top ten MN AIDS Walk teams in 2009.

    We recognize that some gay men will prefer our mainstream campaign, which launches on December 1 and features a diverse range of races, ages, body types, genders, and sexual orientations. Like any group of people, no single message will resonate with everyone.

    I am delighted that there are so many people passionate about the fight against HIV actively engaged in a discussion about messaging. Please be sure to follow-up on that devotion to the cause by registering, raising funds, and Walking on May 16, 2010. And feel free to keep posting your ideas for next year’s campaign. I’d love to hear what it will take to increase donations, because every dollar we raise is used to help stop HIV in Minnesota.

    Thanks to everyone for reading, watching, and posting!

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    My views do not reflect the publication for which I simply happen to be employed. I posted my thoughts as a member of the public onto a public forum. I will not get into an argument about the dearth of relevant LGBT media in this market and as to whose intentions are more or less honorable.

    I didn’t fully appreciate the consequences of straddling the third rail of LGBT politics (which is “Hands off ANYTHING AIDS-related”) so my surprise – that my fairly harmless (nor terribly offensive or derogatory towards MAP) rant has inflamed so many to attack me personally and insult my intentions only inflates my disappointment – is genuine.

    I don’t position myself as an expert nor am I employed in an editorial capacity. I simply wanted to raise certain uncomfortable questions I had regarding this campaign which I maintain is inelegant (in concept… the execution is superb) and even, in certain aspects, irrelevant.

    While I’ve been disheartened by the handful of vitriolic dissidents spouting confusing platitudes, I’ve also been amused by those who can find humour while trying to sustain a healthy dialogue and I’ve even been heartwarmed by the numerous e-mails and responses that have been overwhelmingly positive. My intentions were never personal so I refuse to acknowledge those who insist upon attacking me personally.

    It all comes back to: Dammit, aren’t we better than this?

  • Ken Darling

    All you sex-crazed people have no right to be so mean to Christian-Philippe Quilici! (God I love that name; it’s like from a romance novel or something!!)

    All he is trying to do is get you to think at a higher level and not be so obsessed with lean, muscular young men, their perfect bodies caressed by an uncaring camera, exploited in a form of near-pornography that presents them as sexual fantasies just inches from your grasp, some of them smooth and hairless, like innocent virgins who long for the touch of a man, others hairy and masculine but still so young and vulnerable…anyway, you’re all just a bunch of pervs and we PROUD GAY MEN, are better than that! Well I am at least.

  • Ken Darling

    All you sex-crazed people have no right to be so mean to Christian-Philippe Quilici! (God I love that name; it’s like from a romance novel or something!!)

    All he is trying to do is get you to think at a higher level and not be so obsessed with lean, muscular young men, their perfect bodies caressed by an uncaring camera, exploited in a form of near-pornography that presents them as sexual fantasies just inches from your grasp, some of them smooth and hairless, like innocent virgins who long for the touch of a man, others hairy and masculine but still so young and vulnerable…anyway, you’re all just a bunch of pervs and we PROUD GAY MEN are better than that! Well I am at least.

  • Joe

    Maybe all of this wouldn’t be so bad if the little leprechaun that directed the campaign wasn’t so flippant with his comments. The picture of “him” (on Facebook) as the person who directed the campaign is from years ago. And his comment about Adam being “…1/11 Japanese (for those who say we need more diversity, you’re welcome…” is exactly the reason this is getting out of control. I think MAP should put a muzzle on him.

  • seanboy

    naked guys promoting a gay event??!?! shock of shocks. it has been done so many times that most gays don’t even notice it. if you really wanted to get attention they should have tried a little harder than to imply use near naked guys. in the “community” that is as standard as air. ho hum. zzzzzzz.

  • Paul S

    As someone that lives with HIV every day and was one of many in my age group who stopped hearing all of the safer sex messages for over a decade, let me just say that I am absolutely supportive of MN Aids Project approach to changing the message. You can only hear, ‘don’t have sex or you are gonna die’ so many times before the message wears off and like me, you stop listening to it. Perhaps if these ads were out 6-7 years ago before I was infected, it would have made me think a little more about my sexual activity – or maybe it wouldn’t. Regardless, I applaud MAP for a new approach.

    A few years ago, when Queer As Folk was big, critics bemoaned some of the straight-up characters (like Brian) because he was a ‘bad characterization of the LGBT community’. Well I have news for you, pretty much every character in that case was dead on accurate. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of diversity in our community and we should never hide from that. When we hide from our true selves, THAT is the time for us to be ashamed…not now. Not this case.

  • Keith Kimmel

    No. 48 · Paul Skrbec

    “A few years ago, when Queer As Folk was big, critics bemoaned some of the straight-up characters (like Brian) because he was a ‘bad characterization of the LGBT community’. Well I have news for you, pretty much every character in that case was dead on accurate. There is a TREMENDOUS amount of diversity in our community and we should never hide from that. When we hide from our true selves, THAT is the time for us to be ashamed…not now. Not this case.”

    Yep, remember that real well. There are plenty who would be quite happy to continue to present homos as these skinny, happy go lucky people with limp wrists, outragious haircuts and sense of fashion who are always funny and thats it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I still refuse to fly the 6 bar rainbow flag because I disagre with the decision to remove the hot pink (sexuality) bar. Sex is a BIG part of being gay. It always has been and it always will be. Attempts to strip that away from the discussion or hide it are intellectually dishonest and deserving of nothing but scorn.

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    I’m not suggesting we HIDE our sexuality. I’m begging that we start doing more inventive things with it or at least acknowledging that there’s more to gay life than our sex.

    I’m going to paste here my response to Ken Darling who asked me yesterday, when not playing the maniac here on Queerty, to “lighten up.” Please note that Ken’s Facebook profile listed his birthdate as 1928 so my assumption that he was in his 80s was an honest mistake on my part. He is, some sources confirm, closer to 50.


    I’m one of the funniest and most light-hearted dudes you’ll ever meet but you know what? Gay dudes could use with a little more gravitas in their lives. Here we are in 2009 and HIV is on the rise and safe sex is going the way of the Walkman. When my ex-lover here in Mpls tells me he’s just discovered he’s positive and is relieved because, well, you know, now he can have all the anonymous sex he wants and AIDS is no big deal, well, my brain explodes. We’re not invincible and when the messaging from the Minnesota AIDS Project, that which is supposed to EMPOWER us when it comes to HIV/AIDS awareness, has devolved into a campaign featuring shirtless dudes imploring us to do more than the “bare” minimum, go “harder,” “deeper,” faster,” I realize that we’ve pretty much lost the plot. It’s tacky and it’s lame and we’re better than that. I love staring at hot shirtless dudes more than the next guy, but, Jesus Christ, come on. It’s played out.

    I thought it was the job of YOUR generation to impart the wisdom upon us to make better choices… but if you wanna ridicule me for being politically correct (I can’t BELIEVE that’s used as a slur in our community these days), you’ve lost the right to impart anything upon me. I don’t know you from Adam, but folks tell me you’re something of an “activist” round these parts. How does needling someone 50 years your junior who’s earnestly passionate about the LGBT community (even though maybe you disagree in places) set any kind of example?

    Lighten up? Why don’t you suck it up and support a fellow proud and outspoken gay man?

    – Christian-Philippe Quilici

    P.S. You can thank my parents for my name. I’ve always found it cumbersome and overwhelmingly French. Much like my father.”

  • Scott

    I don’t like the sentiment that HIV is inexorably linked to sex. You can get HIV from a transfusion as well as sharing dirty needles. Sex is not the problem rather it’s unsafe practices. Some people can get pregnant from sex but you have to play safe. To be safe you have to: wear condoms, oversee the blood supply with enforced regulations, and refuse to share used needles. Guns don’t kill, it’s fools with guns who kill. Sex doesn’t get you HIV, it’s fools who are unsafe who get HIV. In order to get people to change their practices you have to talk about the behaviors. If sex gets the attention of the people that’s great. For each one who doesn’t listen I’m sure there are plenty more who do.

  • Mike in Brooklyn

    Ken Darling, I think I’m in love….

    I just read C-P Q’s latest post, No. 51, and realized that I needed to reread your posts. Okay, I turn 50 later this week so my old brain aint what it used to be, I missed the satire. Sorry.

    And to C-P Q, two points: first, after rereading your posts, and then checking really closely to the printed portion of the ads, I am agreeing that the ads editor could do a better job crafting the ad. The double entendre of “How much will you raise?” is sufficient; Coco Chanel’s rule, remove the last two items you put on, or, in this case, the “bare minimum” “harder” “deeper” puns distract from the message — obviously, with the various negative comments posted here.

    But, secondly, C-P Q, no one is, or at least should be, against efforts you want to make to bring fresh ideas about marketing to the gay community. Show us, inspire us. But, in the meantime, I still feel that you are the one attacking fellow proud and outspoken gay men who have volunteered to model for the AIDS walk promotion, and those who put the efforts together.


  • schlukitz

    Mike in Brooklyn, naysayers will always be what they are…naysayers, no matter how worthy or glorious the cause.

    It is their own laziness and unwillingness to get up off their lazy butts and make a meaningful contribution of their own, that prompts their need to put down the caring efforts of others and marginalize them.

    We just treated to a splendid example of this with the Equality March on Washington as the arm chair critics took a dump on those willing to travel long distances to be there, march and make their voices heard…in addition to using the Internet as a valuable and tool in getting our message out there.

    For people of this ilk, nothing other people do will ever be good enough for them.

    Bottom line…who really gives a flying f–k what they think?

  • Ryan

    I think that there’s a huge difference between criticizing a campaign and criticizing the models involved. I’m proud to count some of the models as my friends; they really are passionate about the cause they believe in, and I, for one, am not in anyway criticizing their involvement. I’m just suggesting that the overall campaign strategy could have been more thought-out.

    And to those who have nothing to add to the conversation besides personal attacks, please get over yourselves. Criticism of a campaign doesn’t mean that we’re not involved in the cause… just that we have an opinion about the campaign that we felt needed to be shared.

    It’s very possible to be a critic and participant at the same time.

  • Ken Darling

    I’m starting to think that Christian-Philippe Quilici is a better satirist than I since he is doing such a brilliant job of fulfilling every satirical stereotype of the shrill little PC prude that is so easy to mock; it’s like I’m back in a 1990s Foucault seminar at some middling state college meeting a freshly minted gay boy on fire from his first exposure to modern feminism. Christian-Phillippe (SNL couldn’t come up with a better name for such a pardody, by the way!) please tell us this is all a ruse.

  • Mike in Brooklyn

    Well now I know its true, Ken I love you……

  • schlukitz

    @ No. 45 Ken Darling:

    From what pulpit on high, at what church did you issue that scathing condemnation of the gay community?

    you’re all just a bunch of pervs

    Spoken just like a Republican, self-righteous, religious asshat. A veritable paragon of pomposity.

    we PROUD GAY MEN are better than that! Well I am at least.

    Perhaps you’d care to share with us, just how long you have been locked into your Walter Goethals heavy-duty, metal chastity belt?

    Obviously a pair of simple magical Mormon undies would fail the test in retaining your self-imposed virtuousness.

  • paul Sabby

    Any ad that generate this sort of buzz about an upcoming event that will raise a large amount of money in the battle against HIV, is, I think a good thing. Beauty sells and if even part of the message is that no one is immune from STDs that is a worthwhile message. I think, however, that it would be a good thing to use other people who are not so buff to deliver the same message so that the critics of these ads can be assuaged. That’s why there’s radio.

  • Ken Darling

    Hey Schluklunk, not only all am I an Asshat Republican, I eat Irish babies, too!

  • Brent from Minneapolis

    things i am: a critic, a gay man, a young gay man, a proud young gay man, a gay man who enjoys thinking critically, a gay man who enjoys looking at men’s bodies (tends to be what makes me gay, no?)

    things i am not: a republican, conservative, impressed with this ad campaign, impressed with the direction of this conversation, impressed with David from MAP’s response, jealous of the models.

    It is more than possible to think critically of an ad campaign and still support the cause.

    If this ad campaign had come out years ago, perhaps it would’ve been considered provocative, subversive, even radical. Instead, in our current historical context where a stick of gum (read orbitz) is sold by a tanorexic blonde in in a mini skirt (albeit she is wearing clothes, but she’s still a sex icon) this ad feeds into the stereotypical, problematic marketing model that sex sells. Because of shows like Queer as Folk, Will and Grace, characters on MTV’s the Real World, the stereotypes have been established, reinforced, and hardened for some years. Let’s, as Christian suggests, work above this, began to deviate a little from the “homonormative”. There can be integrity in nudity, there can be anti-racist marketing, there can be something for more than “shock value”‘s or in this case “shock/sex value”‘s sake. I don’t have any answers so i apologize. I don’t like marketing, especially after working in it, but there really must be something more provocative, more subversive, more substantial than this.

  • dontblamemeivotedforhillary

    Why won’t Queerty include the NY Mag article on Aging with AIDS?

  • schlukitz

    Ken Darling said on post no. 60 I eat Irish babies, too?

    Obviously, I was all wrong about you. :)

  • MplsHomie

    Wow! We’re still going! Exciting!
    So where do we stand?
    – a ton of people are talking about the ads
    – pretty much everyone seems to agree that they’re effective
    – a very vocal minority bemoaning the approach (that we as a community haven’t risen above using sex as an enticement)
    – broad agreement that the problem spans gays and straight communications
    – some discussion on whether ‘PC’ is boring or vital these days

    … and not a soul even pretending that they themselves could conceptualize and create a more effective ad.

    Anyone else reminded of the health care debate?

  • metalguru

    The videos are pretty well-produced, but that ad looks like a $6-cover-club-night poster with decent photography and type treatment.

    The point of a double-entendre is subtlety and wit. ALL-CAPSing those keywords (dripping down Peter’s delicious thigh) indicates the creator doesn’t think you are smart enough to notice or get-the-joke. (HA HA, right? Oh, AIDS!)

    People actually respond to and remember advertising when they are encouraged to solve a simple puzzle.

    I like the color palette… but what happened to his feet? Or his fore-arm? Is that the puzzle?

  • schlukitz

    @ No. 64, MplsHomie:

    No doubt, you heard of the adage “Talk is cheap”. ;)

  • Ken Darling

    Hey Schulukitz, Re: No 63, glad you got the Swiftian reference…skimming and satire don’t always work together but we are besties! ;)

    You’re cute and quick response, complete with a smile, contrasts to the never-ending ALL CAPS sanctimony of the PC crowd. We have no problem smiling at each other; they can do nothing but wag their fingers and get more shrill with each comment. I guess I can hardly blame you for thinking the most obvious parody is actually something this crowd would argue with complete earnestness.

  • JoshC0122

    As far as I can see…the ad is definitely working. Obviously from all the comments I’ve read it has definitely brought out views and opinions not only about the ad and the walk, but HIV/AIDS.

  • Keith Kimmel

    No. 52 · Christian-Philippe Quilici

    “I’m begging that we start doing more inventive things with it or at least acknowledging that there’s more to gay life than our sex.”

    No one has said thats all there is to it. There are seven OTHER bars on the Pride flag. Obviously, sex is only part of it.

    No. 55 · schlukitz

    “Mike in Brooklyn, naysayers will always be what they are…naysayers, no matter how worthy or glorious the cause.

    It is their own laziness and unwillingness to get up off their lazy butts and make a meaningful contribution of their own, that prompts their need to put down the caring efforts of others and marginalize them.

    We just treated to a splendid example of this with the Equality March on Washington as the arm chair critics took a dump on those willing to travel long distances to be there, march and make their voices heard…in addition to using the Internet as a valuable and tool in getting our message out there.

    For people of this ilk, nothing other people do will ever be good enough for them.

    Bottom line…who really gives a flying f–k what they think?”

    Had me going until you started with the EAA stuff. I agree with everything you said up to that point. Overall, you make a good point. I got an e-mail from someone in Mississippi who is trying to organize something and is hitting the same brick walls I hit. People who never want to be a part but always have loads of free advice.

    Yesterday, I started organizing a picket of Sarah Palin’s only planned appearance in the state of Oklahoma for her book tour. Immediately, I started getting messages saying how it was a bad idea, wouldn’t accomplish anything, blah, blah, blah. I’m working on a blog post on Facebook on that subject now, but it basically goes something along the lines: if you don’t support it, then don’t come, or start your own movement. But please, shut up and stop sending me messages about how you don’t support what I am doing because I don’t give a damn.

    I have the right to criticize people because unlike many, I have put myself out there and I spend a large amount of time working on issues and actually show up to events rather than bitch about them at home. Last night, I was helping with a fundraiser (well, ok, I also went for the food… which was to die for!!) to get Brittany Novotny elected. You know, the transwoman who is running against Sally Kern.

    From that standpoint, I can tell you that some of the criticism of Equality Across America is warranted. I supported the march, but the people behind it are such arrogant assholes it makes it hard to love them. I get tired of them constantly coming on here (and everywhere else) and telling me how Dallas is so much better than the rest of the gay world. They seem to forget that I live next to the damn thing and go there once a month at least. Its not. Of course, this is the typical of Texans, they always think their shit doesn’t stink.

  • schlukitz

    Hi Ken Darling. Re: No. 68.

    The way I see it, anyone who has read Gulliver’s Travels or A Modest Proposal, can’t be all bad. ;)

    Actually, I want to thank you for your kind and understanding reply. You’re one cool dude. I fully retract my unkind comments from post no. 59, which were based on my inability to recognize that you were making the joke. Huh huh huh, if you will forgive my feeble attempts at mimicking Maurice Chevalier. ;)

    I could not agree more with your assessment of the self-righteous, shrill, all caps, PC crowd. They can be very tiring. I honestly believe that when we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves and start taking everything too seriously, especially satire and parody, then further meaningful dialogue and communication is lost.

    I am reminded of the line from The King and I in the song A Puzzlement wherein he muses…

    “And it puzzle me to learn
    That tho’ a man may be in doubt of what he know,
    Very quickly he will fight…
    He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!”

    It’s a distinct pleasure exchanging dialogue with you, Ken.

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    While Ken Darling (and his ilk) are choosing to subscribe to the Rush Limbaugh school of barking madness (I’m informed they share more than a few physical characteristics as well so… inevitable?), I love that this dialogue continues!

    I have a question regarding the age divide here because I’ve noticed that the vast majority of letters of support and encouragement I’ve received have come from the 30 and under set (with the odd beacon of inspiration from our older friends) while the criticism has come largely from those in their 40s through 60s.

    The younger participants bemoan the “been there, done that” aspects of this campaign while our older friends applaud the campaign for being so “courageous,” “bold” and “visionary.” What explains this disconnect?

    After all, I have to write a paper for my middling liberal arts college seminar on feminism or whatever.

    (Let the record show, actually, I hold my liberal arts degree from Harvard and have supplemental academic coursework done at St Catherine’s College in Oxford and YES, queer theory and feminist theory were involved)

  • MplsHomie

    I too love that this dialogue continues – ’cause that last post LITERALLY had me laughing out loud.

    So much for the “I refuse to engage in personal attack” school of socratic dialogue, Mr. Quilici!

    Very amusing that as the thread seems to be settling into a “some people talk” and “some people do” pattern, the true barking dog in this crowd actually threw his theoretical academic bona fides – and the Harvard/Oxford cards to boot!- into the ring.

    You can’t make this crap up!

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    Yeah, the high road gets exhausting sometimes.

    And this inference that because I comment/critique, I therefore must somehow not participate is a real puzzler. It’s baseless and boring. Those who know me know I’ve been passionate and worked for LGBT causes ever since I held a Chair position for the Harvard BGLTSA, worked with AIDS groups up and down the West Coast and now, well, welcome to Minnesota, indeed.

    Also, if we’re on this thread, we all fall into the “some people talk” category. Nobody on here is “doing” much of anything apart from asking questions and shining light on some very real concerns in our community.

    Anyone going to answer my question about the age divide that’s presenting itself here? I’m newly 30 and this campaign bores me. Anyone else?

  • Christian-Philippe Quilici

    And for MplsHomie and all the other “doers” out there, why not reach out and let’s do something constructive. Out of all this yammering, surely we can work together on finding a common ground.

    Your first step can be to use your real name when attempting to ridicule contrasting points of view.

    I’m easy to find… but where are you?

  • MplsHomie

    Delighted you’d ask! Just yesterday I was in downtown Minneapolis, at the sadly under-attended LGBT Equality march. I see, according to the time stamps of yesterday’s comments, you weren’t able to make it.

    That aside, clearly there are any number of ways people can make their voices heard and their actions felt. I clearly hit a nerve needling you for your ivory tower perspective and what I, like a couple of others on here, interpreted as a shrill, almost comical pomposity. By no means was I ridiculing your point of view – I clearly don’t agree with it, but I understand it. So if I belittled your underlying idea or viewpoint, I apologize. I meant to tease you about the tone of your writing – you’re obviously a bright guy, so I don’t think you’d argue that you tend toward the haughty.

    I too, spent many years in academia before pursuing a career as far removed from those personalities as I could find. I fall much more in the camp of “do-ers” but obviously like to banter more than perhaps is healthy.

    And given the online research you yourself seem to have done into others on this chain – I think you’ll understand pretty clearly why I protect my anonymity!

    Thanks for introducing a healthy dialogue, though. I for one, am bowing out because it has veered to far into the personal attack zone. Sorry for my part in contributing to that.

  • MplsHomie

    Crap – make that “too far into…!” Of all places to mangle my grammar!

  • Mike in Brooklyn

    Okay C-P Q, I guess my posts have not resonated, oh well, I tried.

    So, lets see, Ken Darling (real name) swipes at you with satire, satire so dry in wit it took this Cal rhetoric alum a few posts to get, and your retort is that he resembles Rush Limbaugh? That’s the best you’ve got? Hmmm, maybe the Berkeley of the East isn’t?

    Per your age separation notion, I think you are way off. Did you actually listen to the comments by the models in the videos? The models are obviously under 30; yet they each speak about: raising safe sex awareness, raising funds for AIDS services, broadening the reach of the gay community.

    Let me also point out C-P Q, I searched this page for the words “bold” “visionary” and courageous” and not one person used these words once in any post. I, nor Ken, nor Schlukitz, nor anyone wrote that (but you). Besides, the question raised wasn’t whether this was a great, or even good, ad campaign. The question was whether the ad campaign sent the wrong message. In my opinion, its an above average ad that will get the job done. Does it send some sort of wrong message? No. Could the campaign be better, sure; except for Brad Pitt, what doesn’t need improvement?

    And, as for how exhausting the high ground is, well, fuck, get off the cross because others need the wood.

    I’ll repeat my challenge in post No.54, instead of exhausting yourself on complaining about the same old type of promotional, inspire us with new ideas. Perhaps for the 2011 AIDS Walk, you could dummy up concepts that will inspire the community to go even deeper, even harder, burst the bare minimum, raise more –without any naked boys and no sex-related text?

    Years ago I directed an ad for 7th on Sale West Coast featuring a lounge chair, an IV stand, a table cluttered with pill bottles, and 1 adorable but sad Jack Russell terrier looking at the chair, with the caption: “No more empty chairs.” The SF Examiner copied the ad on their front page (part of an article about how the community was supporting this great AIDS fundraiser). Sadly, none of the featured items were props, all were already at my friend’s home.

    Mike Thakar (not in Brooklyn anymore; just had not changed my sign-in, now in Asheville, NC)

  • Hdtex

    Christian-Whatever-Whatever you are NOT winning friends NOR influencing people. You’re coming across as a histrionic church lady. JESUS…STFU already! The works…period.Move on….make suggestions or better yet get a life.

  • pleabody


  • hyhybt

    80! = 7.1569457 × 10^118

  • Ken Darling

    Newsflash: I have strong evidence that Viscount Christian-Phillipe-El Greco or whatever is really a very naughty supporter of MAP who invented this totally transparent stereotype of a shrill PCer to get the rest of us talking…it’s been a battle of the satirists! I mean, no real person, no matter how young and insecure, would revert to fat jokes and name dropping (“I went to Harvard, you know”) to win an argument. Some smart ass dug out his old grad school notes from “Power and Exploitation 101” and took us all on a ride back to trendy 90s academe. It was all a ruse and a very funny one! A French queer studies feminist with three names and a stick up his butt! Too good!

  • latenite1234

    This is spectacular. Really terrific. I am blown away. DK, you amaze me!!!!

  • schlukitz

    @ No. 72 – C.P.Q. Bach, whatever said:

    While Ken Darling (and his ilk) are choosing to subscribe to the Rush Limbaugh school of barking madness (I’m informed they share more than a few physical characteristics as well so… inevitable?), I love that this dialogue continues!

    Since “his ilk” most assuredly includes Mike in Brooklyn (now Mike in Asheville, NC), MplsHomie and me, I too, feel justified in a rebuttal to your not so veiled insinuations and snark.

    1) I am not fat. You’ve never even seen me.

    2) I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Rush Limbaugh.

    3) I am not “Mad”. I’m quite sane, actually.

    4) I do not bark and do, in fact, articulate quite fluently.

    5) I would like to think that I AM doing inventive things with my sexuality, besides cruising, sucking and fucking, not that there is anything inherently wrong with any of those activities.

    6) I am, in fact, “better than this, Dammit”, while at the same time not being ashamed of or apologetic for my love and admiration of the male form and the myriad ways in which we express our sexuality and love for the male form. Read: I am not a prude.

    7) Nor is there for me, even at the age of 73, any “age divide” with respect to my support of and my ongoing fight for full equality for all people.

    There. I feel so much better for having said my piece. Turning the other cheek sucks.

  • schlukitz

    Who is DK, No. 83 – LATENITE1234?

  • The Milkman

    “and YES, queer theory and feminist theory were involved”


  • Mike in Brooklyn

    Well Ken, Schlukitz, and Mlpshomie, I guess 4 gauntlets were too many for even a young Harvard C-P Q.

    Entertaining and educational, not too shabby.

    Cheers all.

  • mplspoz

    I challenge each of you who are posting on this thread to create an AIDS walk team. Everyone engaged in this “conversation” seems very intelligent and compassionate about the cause. Let’s take it to the next level and really contribute the cause.*

    *I admit that my previous post was a bit defensive. But, please do not construe this challenge into an implication that I do not believe you are already socially engaged nor doing your part. Let’s make lemonade!

  • Ken Darling

    I won’t create a team, but anyone on here who walks, I’ll sponsor for $100. Just Facebook friend me, Ken Darling in Golden Valley,MN, or email [email protected]

  • Patrick

    This campain ad is a bad idea.

    It’s tacky.

    Who’s the audience it’s try to reach?

    AIDS is rampant in Africa. How does an Ambercrombie & Fitch-looking gay American even come close to addressing that?

    Bad, bad, bad.

  • MplsHomie

    Turns out this debate was also covered by our Star Tribune: I gotta admit, with all of his braggadocio edited out, our friend the Viscount actually comes across like a reasonable guy!

  • KatrinaWrek

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  • Jaeson Douglas Truesdell

    I think sex sells hiv/aids ads, too! And it should! Most HIVers obviously had sex and are and should be having sex, as everyone has the right to do safely and consensually! If sex is ignored in HIV/AIDS ads, it would be like ignoring the fact that HIVers have sex, too. Kind of like abstinence only education-hello, we know the teens are having sex-so teach them how to do it safely.

  • somunlima

    boy sex male sex i have h i v please help me

  • jason

    These offensive ads will simply reinforce the notion that AIDS is a gay illness. Religious conservatives will love them because it’s a case of self-reinforcement – ie the victims of prejudice (gays) reinforcing their self-inflicted victimhood status.

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