One night stands, saunas, sex parties and apps mean sex is widely available to all of us, so has the availability of PrEP allowed us to be even more emotionless when it comes down to getting naked or is it something that’s made sex better than ever? Daniel Warner asks if sex without risk is the sex we should all be having?
We can all choose to have sex with or without protection, be it using a condom, taking PrEP, having sex with a positive guy who’s undetectable or even choosing to have bareback sex with no protection at all.
Hopefully we all get to make those decisions for ourselves but sometimes things don’t go exactly as we planned. A condom can break, we can reach in the bedroom drawer and find we’ve run out of condoms or even sometimes think we can just throw caution (and condoms) to the wind and get on with the business of getting our rocks off.
Great sex is always supposed to be fun, it’s the worrying and guilt about your behaviour after sex that isn’t so much fun.
So two years into the PrEP Impact Trial, what has PrEP done for us as a community? Has it allowed us to connect emotionally and sexually and finally throw off the guilt, the worry and even for some of us the shame of getting rid of a latex barrier that stops us enjoying the feeling of skin against skin?
Certainly our attitudes towards PrEP and those of us who take it are changing. We are now educated enough to know that taking PrEP doesn’t mean you’re any more promiscuous than someone who decides to use a condom. The theory that those of us who use PrEP are probably carriers of every other STD is outdated and offensive. PrEP does not protect you from any other STD but it does mean you have to go for a three monthly check up and sexual health screening. In other words, it makes us that are on it, more aware of the importance of regular check ups.
Now that’s the responsible part dealt with, what about the whole business of sex? How we do negotiate it with a partner? How does it feel to be able to have sex with someone without having to worry about finding and putting on a thin sheath of rubber that has long been associated with being the only barrier against contracting HIV?
PrEP isn’t for everyone, some people even like the feel of a condom. They have been associated with our sex lives for so long that it kind of goes hand in hand (and hand over other places) with the whole business of man on man fun. It is a physical thing that some of us choose to do. The actual putting on of a condom is part of our sex lives. PrEP takes away the idea that in order to be close to someone you have to have a barrier between you. However you think about it, a condom has been ingrained into our mindset as something we must do, and with that comes a pressure and a sense of guilt if we do not use one. PrEP takes this pressure away, and whether you decide to take PrEP everyday or take it in the days leading up to and after you have sex is a personal choice.
As gay men in 2019 we have the choice to play raw or to play safe, it’s a choice we’ve always had but taking PrEP means we’re not taking a chance, we know we are protected against HIV.
The decision to take PrEP is really a decision to take charge of your own sex life. Much like the condom was (and for some still is) a way of feeling secure in the knowledge that you are being responsible and taking the best care of yourself sexually, it is also a way to let go of the inhibitions and guilt that many of us have felt regarding the fear of contracting HIV.
Even if we are not aware of it, the media and attitudes surrounding HIV have contributed to our belief that sex can be a dangerous thing. Associating a (once) deadly disease with sex is something that can destroy anyone’s belief that sex can be an enjoyable, intimate and incredible experience. It is after all, probably the most pleasurable thing that two men can get up to in a bedroom, or any other place you find the will to do it.
For me, the decision to take PrEP was an easy one. It has allowed me to have sex without feelings of guilt or worry that what I was doing was dangerous or somehow wrong.
Great sex should be when we connect with someone physically but also when we can really let go of deep rooted fears about what we should be doing, how we should be doing it and what the consequences of our actions will be.
PrEP is not for everyone, the same as condoms are not for everyone. How we evolve sexually as a community and how our attitudes towards protecting ourselves against HIV evolve has a huge effect on both our physical, emotional and mental well being.
PrEP is a huge step forward in the battle against HIV and also a way forward in allowing ourselves to have real emotionally connected sex without any feelings of guilt, fear or judgement.
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