Monkeypox and the Face of Gay Promiscuity

Monkeypox and the Face of Gay Promiscuity

That’s a pretty horrible picture, innit? It’s a 40-year-old German monkeypox patient whose nose began to rot off after he caught the disease. Turns out that he was HIV-positive and didn’t know, plus was infected with advanced syphilis — also a surprise to him. He told doctors he had never been tested for a sexually transmitted infection. There he was, celebrating diversity like a champ, and now his nose is partially rotted off. Heaven knows who he passed along HIV, syphilis, and monkeypox to along the way.

Meanwhile, New Orleans is so far going ahead with its big Labor Day weekend Southern Decadence festival, an LGBT event that draws 275,000 to the French Quarter for six days of sex, dancing, and debauchery. Decadence was cancelled the past two years because of Covid, but not over monkeypox, though it is certain to be a superspreader event.

I remember being told by the media that gay men were vastly more promiscuous than straight men because society compelled them to be. Normalize homosexuality and grant same-sex marriage, and that would change. I never believed it because I knew perfectly well that gay men were insanely promiscuous not because they were gay, but because they were men. An ordinary male unrestrained by religious or moral scruple, and faced with a wide variety of willing partners who demand no emotional commitment, or even to know one’s name, before having sex — that man will likely behave exactly as most gay men do. Until now, at least, heterosexual men have had to cope with a culture of restraint imposed by women. Randy Shilts, the gay journalist who wrote And The Band Played On (and who later died of AIDS), made this very same point in his book. He said that straight men he’d spoken to expressed envy that gay men could have such a bounty of sexual experiences, because they didn’t live with the restraining factor of women. There was always, always somebody — and usually many somebodys — willing to say “yes” to anything you wanted, any time you wanted.

In the United States, we have had legal same-sex marriage from coast to coast for seven years now. Of course the culture of debauchery has not changed. It never was going to change. And look, if the horrors of AIDS didn’t change it, why should monkeypox?

If all this is normative behavior in the gay male community (note well: I’m not talking about lesbians), then what chance does a young gay male have of not being caught up in it? We live in a culture where, for better or for worse, homosexuality has been largely destigmatized. It seems plausible that if a young gay man wanted to have a normal, “vanilla” lifestyle of dating, courting, and gay marriage, it would be possible. I wonder, though, how likely it is when the cultural norms within the gay male community are so debauched. Seriously, gay male readers, what advice would you give an adolescent gay male if he wanted to avoid falling into that gutter? If you don’t have the ability to use the comments section, email me at rod — at — amconmag — dot — com, and put COMMENT in the subject line.

In the late 1980s, during the height of the AIDS crisis, a New Orleans friend who is very liberal and pro-gay, though a heterosexual woman, told me a story about being out on the streets on Mardi Gras day. She said that she and her boyfriend were crossing lower Bourbon Street, the heart of the city’s gay community, when they saw a teenage boy, couldn’t have been a day over 17, staggering drunk (or drugged) and naked through the crowd of men. He had blood and feces running down his leg from his rectum. He had likely been raped. Nobody in the crowd was trying to help him. He was lost and wandering. He disappeared into the crowd of nearly-naked gay men partying in the street. My friend said the sight of that poor kid, who may well have been infected with HIV that day, upset her so much that she asked her boyfriend to take her home, that her day was done.

We never talk about stuff like that. It violates the Narrative. But it happens. It’s not the whole story about gay male culture here, but it’s a part of the story.

UPDATE: Along these lines, here’s a strong essay by Bridget Phetasy about her regret over being a “slut”. Excerpt:

But if I’m honest with myself, of the dozens of men I’ve been with (at least the ones I remember), I can only think of a handful I don’t regret. The rest I would put in the category of “casual,” which I would define as sex that is either meaningless or mediocre (or both). If I get really honest with myself, I’d say most of these usually drunken encounters left me feeling empty and demoralized. And worthless.

I wouldn’t have said that at the time, though. At the time, I would have told you I was “liberated” even while I tried to drink away the sick feeling of rejection when my most recent hook-up didn’t call me back. At the time, I would have said one-night stands made me feel “emboldened.” But in reality, I was using sex like a drug; trying unsuccessfully to fill a hole inside me with men. (Pun intended.)

I know regretting most of my sexual encounters is not something a sex-positive feminist who used to write a column for Playboy is supposed to admit. And for years, I didn’t. Let me be clear, being a “slut” and sleeping with a lot of men is not the only behavior I regret. Even more damaging was what I told myself in order to justify the fact that I was disposable to these men: I told myself I didn’t care.

I didn’t care when a man ghosted me. I didn’t care when he left in the middle of the night or hinted that he wanted me to leave. The walks of shame. The blackouts. The anxiety.

The lie I told myself for decades was: I’m not in pain—I’m empowered.

Looking back, it isn’t a surprise that I lied to myself. Because from a young age, sex was something I was lied to about.

Yeah, me too. I was never any kind of “slut,” if that word can be applied to men. But it took me a while to work out that what the world (meaning popular culture) told me about sex was a lie. I was not especially sexually active in my pre-Christian years, but that wasn’t for lack of trying. What slowed me down was the misery I felt after doing the deed. Everything was clear after that: the lies I told the women, and myself, about what we were doing. I loved sex, but more than that, I really did want it to be about love, real love. I kept trying to tell myself that it was fine for it to be meaningless, because that’s what I was supposed to think. It was a lie. It was only after my conversion, and learning the value of chastity, that I was able to see the true meaning of sex. It kept me away from surrendering my life to Christ for years, because I thought — I had been told — that it was my birthright to enjoy commitment-free sexual pleasure. Hadn’t we put away the hypocrisy of our parents’ generation? Weren’t we, you know, liberated? I believed that with my mind, but my heart, and my body, said otherwise.

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