On Saturdays, I like to respond to reader questions, feedback, and frequent web searches.
Bi Men & AIDS
I recently wrote a piece about homophobia on OKCupid and from bisexual or bi-curious women in general toward bisexual men. The response was overwhelming and overwhelmingly positive. Yet it’s impossible to cover all angle in a single article. Here is a piece of feedback I received from a bisexual male friend:
Kit, the article is good, but you missed what I wager is the #1 reason why females on OKC insta-reject males who admit to ANY homo-erotic contact at all: HIV risk. I realize there is every bit as much ignorance on that attitude as the other two possibilities you mention, and that more likely some combi of the three result in the rejection. Whatever the case, you nail an issue here that is far more widespread in society at large, and that rears its ugly head in nearly every forum. I think, as with so many things, education, exposure, and the bravery of forerunners like yourself is what will bring down these walls in the end. Androgyny is Evolution.
So the question is whether openly bisexual men present a greater risk of HIV. Looking just at the numbers, it’s true that men who have sex with men present a statistically greater risk of being HIV-positive than other groups. There are many complex factors behind this, but to put it simply — unprotected anal sex is a really bad idea when it comes to disease transmission.
So what’s the best way for everyone to protect themselves? How can a woman safely date a bisexual guy? Easy: Honesty. Forcing men to hide their bisexuality does nothing to make it go away, it simply forces them to lie. With an openly bisexual man in an open relationship, you can set guidelines for everyone’s behavior. Guidelines like:
- What kind of protection gets used for what sex acts.
- Frequency of STD testing of your lover and your lover’s lovers.
- Who, when, and how other lovers are selected.
None of these are possible with a man dating on the down low. And the shame and discomfort of having to lie and hide behaviors from loved ones may very well lead to an increase in high risk behaviors because of the resulting low self-image.
It’s also true that there seem to be many men who can enjoy monogamous relationships regardless of whether they are bisexual or straight. Just as many women can have same-sex encounters and then go on to lifelong, monogamous heterosexual commitments it seems like many men are willing to make the same. Of course, this gets us into a whole thorny discussion of fidelity in monogamy for anyone…
When our culture denies their existence, or shames them whether they engage in risky behavior or not, it forces bi men into the closet. An environment where we must lie about our lusts or actions creates more disease risk for everyone. This is just as true for people of all genders and orientations who end up lying or cheating to satisfy unfulfilled kinks or sexual needs because honesty feels impossible.
None of us can change this overnight, but all of us can help — by being Good, Giving and Game; by choosing openness to people regardless of orientation, and by committing more honesty with our lovers and loved ones, regardless of what our desires may be.