When the queer community went public with concerns over what turned into the Glenn Mills case, it was a pretty brave action.
Let’s face it, the screaming headlines over the next few weeks about “promiscuous” “bisexual” “homo” “raving lunatic” “bummers” – and that was just John Tamihere on RadioLive – had no problem in stereotyping queer men as murderous predators out to destroy the civilised world.
And just who is the target of that kind of bile? Not only Glenn Mills of course, but anyone queer, especially anyone queer and male.
Watching John Tamihere justifying his hate speech would almost be funny if I didn’t know so many queer men who have been beaten up for their beautiful queerness.
So firstly, my hat goes off to GayNZ for exposing Glenn Mills’ actions in what resulted in charges for willfully infecting other people with HIV after knowing he was HIV+.
But I also want to consider Mr Mills actions. One argument is that we should all take personal responsibility for our own sexual safety. If you become infected with an STD, including HIV, even if the other person knew they had the disease, it’s your responsibility, because you didn’t have safe sex.
This would say that Glenn Mills is not responsible for the people he infected with HIV. Because who knows how many other people those infected had had unsafe sex with?
I just can’t buy this argument, even though I do believe we all need to be negotiating safe, hot, consensual sex with our lovers. I believe if I choose to have unsafe sex and I have an STD, it’s like choosing to drive when I know I am pissed or stoned – I take other people’s lives in my hands.
This has got nothing to do with sexuality – and it has everything to do with sexuality. Australian researcher Michael Flood found that straight men don’t like using condoms because:
- It means they have “negotiated” sex with women rather than taken control of sex
- Male sexual pleasure in penetration is supposedly reduced with condom use – and if that’s all you think sex is, and you think your pleasure is most important…..
- The male sex drive is “out of control” – using a condom kills the moment by showing how in control men actually are
- Masculinity is associated with taking risks – safety is women’s work
- You don’t need to take precautions with “good” women, only “bad” women
Michael argues that the best safe (male-female) sex involves men looking critically at their sexual practise:
We have to make consent the absolute bedrock of our sexual practises and relationships. What’s more, this requires explicit verbal negotiation.
For many women in relationships with men, avoiding the pressure to have sex without condoms is a constant battle. Don’t believe me? Try visiting any community health clinic for young people and listen to the stories of the staff. Or talking to women who have sex with men for any length of time.
Now Glenn Mills is dead, on the eve of the court case that would have no doubt been plastered all over every media opportunity in Aotearoa. It’s hard to blame him for that choice at least – who wants their sex life taken apart in court?
For those it seems he infected though, I wonder if it is enough, to know they stopped further infection. The gay community continues to take responsibility for this issue in a responsible way, by offering counselling to those effected by Glenn Mills’ actions.
And the ever-delicious Michael Franti joins Michael Flood in my book as a pro feminist man-who-has-sex-with-women extraordinaire when he asks:
“Was it really all that magic, the times I didn’t use a prophylactic?”