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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sticky Keyboards

You are of course reading this online. Which is where I, and many of us, spend an increasing amount of our time now. In fact, I spend way too much time here. Apart from reading my favourite blogs, overseas newspapers, local ones, & checking youtube, there's Facebook to update and play on, (stop buying all my pets! You know who you are!) Livejournal for a slightly different set of friends around the world, gaynz, and of course, all those fantastic gay sex dating sites. And have you checked out!?!? And think how much poorer our lives would be without access to lolcats?

Not to mention the more legitimate uses, such as doing academic research through databases. And I should make it clear I'm really writing about the world I know, gay men online, not the other segments of the queer world.

Even though I had net access at uni, my introduction to the online world really began in 2001 and I went online at home, when kind friends passed on their old PC to me. I was hooked. One-handed typing had its attractions, but I don't know why, I no longer find cyber interesting.

gay .com, or as other friends called it, gay.dum was my main social site at first. And I met quite a few hot men there, quite a few good men, and sometimes they even were combined. Also met some two-faced lying bastards but hey ... that's another blog. I'd sit down and chat, in the old days before photos and so on were easily available (the net was steam-powered back then) . Just chat for ages to all sorts of people all over the place.

Hours slipped past - not for nothing is the net called a timesink. It is easy to watch it all just disappear in a day. In fact at times it seemed that talking online was better than talking in real time. Now that's odd when you think about it.

Here in NZ it seems to me that men looking to hook up with guys for whatever reason, have taken to the net with a passion. I leave nzdating on in the background nearly every time I log on, and gaydar too (not at work boss, honest...) . More often it's just to swap messages with friends than to do the deed it seems, but hey, you never know your luck. Planetromeo is great too, but used too little here to be much fun. In fact I've been registered on so many different sites I've forgotten a good number of them now. every now and then I get an email from some site I joined ages ago and forgot about, but I can rarely be bothered to go back to them. If they didn't grab me in the first few weeks, they're not going to now.

But what happens to us and our social lives when we interact so much on line? There has been a lot of talk about how the net has changed, some say almost killed, gay society. Bars and clubs certainly seem to find it harder to keep a crowd. And sex. Well, why go and pay a sauna or fuck-club when you can place your order online? I order my pizza online, why not my fucks as well?

The downside to it is that all the convenience of online life tends to isolate us even more. Instead of meeting mates in bars, or of striking up conversations with strangers, whose preferences we don't know, instead of learning those social skills, such as how to confidently talk to a stranger in a bar or club, we now automatically filter out all sorts of social interaction.
In the past you didn't necessarily know what that guy you were eyeing up in the bar was into. Were you in his age-range? Were you his type? Into the same things sexually? You had to actually communicate with each other and figure these things out, and this also meant you got to talk to and meet a wider range of guys. Now, when we go online, we can typically see exactly what the other guy is into, and whether or not we fall into his set of ideal parameters. Instead of talking to a stranger, or perhaps a friend of a friend, and discovering some common ground, negotiating our lust and possible love, we now see exactly what is and isn't desired.

Hairiness/height/ethnicity/age/weight/role/ - it's all there on the screen in front of you.

We filter, they filter, and people get excluded. And the exclusion is not just sexual, it's social as well. And this is not, I suspect, a good thing for our gay world. Where we used to physically congregate, we now sit in our homes alone and chat.

I love the net, don't get me wrong, I don't want to see it end. But I guess it's like all technologies, good and bad. And the social consequences for groups like gay men have yet to be fully worked out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hi, My Name is Michael and I'm a Diseased Pariah

Well, it happened again. Met a guy online, chatted a bit, figured out that the filthy, perverted, friendly things we enjoyed would complement each other's need for perversion and filth nicely. Agreed to safe sex, naturally. Met up in a neutral space so we could each back out with dignity if the reality didn't quite match up to what life online had conjured up. We both fitted our descriptions and agreed we still wanted to do filthy things to each other.
Then I told him I was HIV+.
Fear, confusion, doubt and... "Look", I said, "if it makes you uncomfortable then hey, let's forget it - no point trying to pretend." He was grateful for the chance I gave him and he left.
I didn't have to tell him - and I don't always tell everyone I get naked with. That's why we do safe sex guys - so we won't catch it or pass it on. In fact, I can remember about 7 or 8 years ago at a bar being told off by a guy for telling him my HIV status - as he said "We're all supposed to look after each other and ourselves - if you have it or not isn't an issue if we use rubbers" (or words to that effect). And that was part of the original basis of safe sex, this idea that we should all look after each other, and using rubber meant you could still be a filthy slutty sex-pig and stay safe from either getting it or giving it.
But guys today don't seem to have that understanding, or so it seems to me. There seems to be an assumption that those who have HIV have a duty to disclose and according to some guys we shouldn't even consider having sex.
FYI - Legally, in this country, we don't have to tell anyone, so long as we keep our partners safe.
The thing is, when you meet someone either online or in a venue, and you agree to safe sex, then why the hell does finding out that the other guy is poz make such a difference? Don't men believe that safe sex works? Or do they really hope to be able to rip off the rubbers halfway through in the heat of the moment? Or do we in fact remind them of the possibility that they too may have it, but they just don't want to face that: That safe-sex something these guys only pay lip service to, and they are in fact being confronted with the fear that by their other actions they might already have exposed themselves to HIV? I think that is the case for many guys.
I sort of understand, but then, I don't. We know condoms work at stopping transmission of HIV. Fact. And after all we gay men invented safe sex as a way to keep on enjoying ourselves and stay safe at the same time. We were practical that way - we didn't want to have to give up all the fun and freedom we'd fought so hard to win.
And let's face it, it can get pretty bruising to the ego to get knocked back this way. I'm pretty used to how guys can react, so I think it doesn't affect me a much as others I know, but it still isn't much fun I have to say. I used to just include it on my on line profiles so I could avoid having to go through it all, but that just seemed to be the kiss of death (ha!) so now I wait till we meet and then decide whether or not I feel like I need to say anything.
But you know, it really shouldn't be an issue, if we just follow the steps we all know about. I suspect it's more of an issue here in NZ than in other countries with larger gay populations. Fewer guys around today have actually had anything to do with HIV and there is probably more of a sense of fear and mystery - and HIV does bring sex and death together in a particularly volatile way.
Luckily for me, not everyone reacts this way. There are still hot sexy men who don't miss a beat when I tell them and keep on being filthy friendly perverts as we step out of our clothes.