You remind me of some of the work I did with Act Up in New York City in the 1990s. We knew for sure that sex-negative messages were not helping stop HIV.

Telling young men to stop having sex or to be monogamous was never going to be an effective strategy. Closing sex clubs was never going to have a positive effect.

We had to eroticize safer sex. We had to encourage spaces where men came together for sex and took life-saving precautions together. We knew peer education and peer pressure had to be key.

The political pushback we received was intense. A politician can close a bathhouse and take credit for doing something to fight AIDS, even when the effect is actually counterproductive. Encouraging sex clubs is something a politician has a very hard time explaining to constituents.

Public health experts understood what we were doing and approved of it, but moralizing messages from opposing forces were very difficult to fight. In this instance, Larry Kramer wasn’t much help either. Act Up meetings became very heated over the issue sometimes.

I think in the end our campaigns saved some lives, though not as many as they could have if we’d had full political buy-in.

Speaking of moralizing, I wrote about cruising in park sex last year, though I did not know about the park you write about and I wish I had at the time. I focused on the United States, where gay men are often named and shamed even today for semi-public sex. The phenomenon has even moved to Grindr, with cops in Georgia trumping up prostitution charges in cases where men offered marijuana in a future private sexual encounter.

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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