I can only imagine the shit blizzard you've been subjected to after ragging on Mr. Watkins of San Francisco. Why anyone would rag on you, as opposed to ragging on Mr. Watkins, is beyond me. I'm a 41-year-old straight woman. If I could get it together after my divorce and learn how to use a goddamned condom after 15 years of monogamy, then certainly Mr. Watkins can do the same. Christ! --Glenda
To be honest, Glenda, the anticipated shit blizzard failed to materialize. Oh, I've received a ton of E-mail from people about Seth "Twilightchild" Watkins, the HIV-positive HIV-prevention educator who sometimes makes "mistakes," but almost all of the mail has been, uh, positive. Like this one...
You're a Moron, Mr. Watkins" was absolutely fantastic! You pretty much nailed exactly how I feel about Mr. Watkins and his ilk. Keep up the fabulous work. --Mark
...and this one...
With regards to your most recent column: thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. You've restored my sagging confidence in my fellow gay men. --Blayne in Philly
...and this one...
You may receive some criticism for your column about Seth Watkins, but you have plenty of support in the gay community. But how about publicizing the name of the organization he works for, so that next time they hit someone up for cash donations, people aren't so ready to open their checkbooks? --Tom & Erik
Believe it or not, Mr. Watkins works for the San Francisco public health department's AIDS office. While SF taxpayers can't avoid making donations to their public health department, taxpayers can share their thoughts on HIV prevention by calling the SF Department of Public Health at 415-554-9000.
Positive responses notwithstanding, we did get some shit flurries here at Savage Love. Like this one...
Could it be that your rant against Seth Watkins, the HIV-positive HIV-prevention educator in San Francisco who sometimes has risky sex, is intended more to promote your own notoriety than to save lives? Throughout the AIDS epidemic, fear-based prevention messages have only been partially effective. They fail to address the complex underlying factors that make people vulnerable to HIV. To understand what makes gay men vulnerable to the HIV infection requires a better awareness of factors that contribute to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Self-righteousness does very little to prevent HIV infection.
British Columbia Persons With AIDS Society
Whenever anyone objects to irresponsible HIV-positive gay men infecting other gay men, the AIDS organizations and professional HIV-positive homos out there always wanna change the subject. We can't talk about the idiotic behavior of some HIV-positive guys, they insist, until after we address all the "complex underlying factors" that make men vulnerable to HIV infection.
With all due respect, Glen, fuck your complex underlying factors--and don't change the subject. I wanna talk about gay men who infect other gay men with HIV. Like a lot of HIV-positive guys, you would no doubt prefer to discuss the foolish risks taken by HIV-negative gay men ("To understand what makes gay men vulnerable to the HIV infection..."). And why wouldn't you? Shifting the focus to stupid negative guys is a good way to get irresponsible positive guys off the hook. But not this week.
If it's any comfort, Glen, all the HIV-prevention educators in North America seem to be in agreement with you. They're not blaming, they're not shaming--and it's not working. HIV infection rates among gay men continue to rise despite the millions of dollars spent every year on blame- and shame-free HIV-prevention campaigns. Perhaps it's time to take a different approach. I'm not advocating prevention campaigns that are fear based, Glen, but truth based: HIV-negative guys who take stupid risks and get infected have only themselves to blame; HIV-positive guys who maliciously infect other gay men ought to be ashamed of themselves.
You know, everyone in the advice biz kicks the crap out of straight guys who say, "Hey, if she lets me fuck her without protection and I get her pregnant, well, that's her problem." From Ann Landers on down to the lowliest high school guidance counselor, we advice givers are always telling young straight girls that these guys are users and losers and assholes. Color me self-righteous, but I don't see much difference between some straight asshole who doesn't care how many girls he knocks up and some HIV-positive gay asshole who doesn't care how many guys he infects. Men who say, "Hey, if he lets me fuck him and I infect him, well, that's his problem," are users and losers and assholes, too, and it's time for responsible gay men, positive and negative, to start calling these assholes on their shit.
I'm sick of listening to gay men's rationalizations and excuses--or rather, I'm sick of listening to gay men discuss their "complex underlying factors." Confront an irresponsible HIV-positive guy about his bad behavior and he whines about his depression and his low self-esteem and his loneliness and his safe-sex fatigue. Well, guess what, guys? Your sob story does not give you the right to infect other guys, and it isn't going to stop me from pointing out what an asshole you are if you do. A depressed, lonely asshole with low self-esteem and safe-sex fatigue is still an asshole.
And can we talk about safe-sex fatigue for a second? That pathetic excuse is really getting on my nerves. Yes, gay men are going to have to worry about HIV for the rest of their lives. Yes, gay men are going to have to continue using condoms with their casual sex partners forever and ever and ever. Boo hoo hoo. Straight people have had to worry about pregnancy since the dawn of time and you don't hear them whining about birth-control fatigue. Lifelong condom usage during casual and/or anonymous sexual encounters is not some horrible burden that gay men alone have to bear--it's a fact of life for all responsible sexually active adults, gay and straight. And even after there's a vaccine against HIV or a cure for AIDS, smart people will continue to protect themselves from all the other bugs out there, known and unknown.
Finally, Glen, I'm not trying to save any lives: HIV infection is no longer a death sentence in North America. And if I wanted to "promote [my] own notoriety," I wouldn't bore my mostly straight readership to death with these long, involved debates about gay male stupidity, would I? I would stick to fart jokes.
Next week in Savage Love: A little something for everyone. For the homos, Seth Watkins on Seth Watkins. And for the breeders, straight guys on why they make so much friggin' noise when they piss.