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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • May 03, 2006


    Response to Gay Cultural Denials

    This post is in response to an ongoing discussion which has been occurring in the comments section of Bent Collective, one of my favorite blogs that devotes to a personal and cultural critique with perspectives from experience. The post has to do with justification for HIV+ men engaging in unsafe sex and blame for the ethical issue of negative men who become infected without the knowledge of a partner status.

    While everyone, gay or straight, positive or negative, should take responsibility of his own life and take full ownership of his decisions, prevention campaign should shift from denial or prohibition to acknowledgement. Cracking down bathhouses and saunas only gives the sense of identifying the problem, but it is not a satisfying solution. The problem is not that people have the opportunity for unsafe sex, but that they have the desire and the strong will for it. When the bathhouse doors are padlocked, do you think these people will stop having sex? They take it to the bedroom where there will be no monitor's flashlight. The closing of public venues not only fails to nail the problem, it creates a climate of alienation that increases the risk of infection because it takes away an accessible sexual culture that could be an important resource to decimate the message of safe sex.

    Al mentions about an overwhelming trend in which gay men over 40 who have lived through the past 25 years and have remained negative are testing positive in record number. Taking chances in sex might have been innocent enough in the early '80s, when nobody knew better. But now surely people have no excuse. Are these men simply beyond the pale of reason? Is this just mere sexual libertarianism? Or plain indifference?Have they contracted HIV of their own free will? The dynamics of shame sheds light in the continuing rates of infection. Shame and stigma give risk much of its appeal and make it hard for individual to reflect on that risk. Talk of the disease and infection vanish because silence has buried that shame.

    Even when new medical advances make it possible to curb the spread of HIV dramatically, the politics of stigma continues to distort prevention efforts: most of the progress that people take for granted could be deceptive. Many of the minimal prevention efforts that were formerly in place at the peak of epidemic have vanished, as public and private funding evaporate in response to media coverage of treatment breakthroughs. People are under the deception that AIDS is over. The culture of safer sex which was established in response to public policy in the beginning is now in the danger to collapsing.

    As to the younger gay men who do not use condoms, I can only attribute such behavior to issues of intimacy, trust, and sharing risk. So much as sex lies at the limits of consciousness and will, the pursuit of unsafe sex might not be dismissed as thrill seeking or self-destruction. In many cases it may represent deep and most unconscious. I'm not here to justify unsafe sex but there has to be some deep, inner issue that make people continuing the unsafe practice, and this could very much be the fact that one might have an unconscious to admit doing self-destructive things without feeling guilty. In other words, shame again is in play, full swing.

    Mutual responsibility is key. Everybody should take first and at most ethical responsibility for practicing safe sex and letting the partner know the status. The disease is not talked about enough, and so are our contradictory desires. The shame, the despair, the fear, and the conflict will simply not dissolve unless the disease talk is laid out on the table. Prevention effort should quit the vague euphemisms and offer ways of thinking about about practical and real situation. We need a campaign of HIV prevention that is backed by full public resources in order to combat isolation and shame.


    Blogger matty said...

    My first boyfriend advised me to treat any potential lover as if he were negative. And, I've always done that and have remained negative.

    I think there are so many factors that play into why someone opts to not play safe. From as extreme as these silly HIV/AIDS meds which are marketed as if they allow everyone with HIV/AIDS to scale mtns and look gorgeous and feel great to low self-esteem to guilt to some guys just being so lonely that the throw in the towel on safety.

    In the end, I've always felt that a lot of this has to tie in with all the shame that society attaches to sex. It is so shamed that it in itself becomes a fetish to some. The forbidden. The danger. The unknown. The risk -- the stupidity. Seems like it can all be traced to the unhealthy and non-logical view imposed by the "powers that be" ---

    So sad and so very frustrating.

    wow -- your blog is so serious. mine just prattles on about nigtmares involving carol channing on the deeper context of Liza With A Z. ...Am I the gayest person on the planet?, I guess that's Ricky Martin.

    5/03/2006 6:33 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    The politics of shame and stigma is the crux of the whole problem. Prevention efforts unfortunately in the United States focus on curbing the sex - how can you stop someone from having sex? Sex in a sense is very sublime, and sublimity can be dangerous. Sex is associated with our consciousness and will so there is no way of thinking people would stop engaging in sex. Prevention should be targetting at the fear, the shame, and the deception that the disease is over. Some are follish enough to think that they could be put on medication if they become positive. But these protease inhibitors are not only expensive but also they willot work for everyone.

    My blog is serious? Well maybe I'm a very serious person! When I first started it about 4 months ago, I had no idea where this gonna go. I try to incorporate my interests into it. :)

    5/04/2006 6:10 AM  
    Blogger Jef said...

    I've always found sharks to be beautiful and efficient creatures, even though most people consider them fearsom man-eaters.

    In many ways, HIV is like a shark. It's a virus that takes advantage of low self-esteem and embarrassment in discussing and negotiating sexual situations.

    Humans are dynamic creatures and our vulnerabilities shift and change over time. In the beginning, the thrill of not using a condom may be that we feel it implies showing true love. After a painful break-up, we might be so afraid of someone going home if we press the use of a condom, that we relent and have unprotected sex. Unfortunately, being in a bad space and choosing not to use a condom does not always grant a second chance. HIV is unforgiving.

    I would never attempt to glamorize those who are HIV+, but I have seen some individuals whose diagnosis gave them permission to come into full expression and finally live each day as if it were the last. I guess that proves the point that no situation is necessarily good or bad, it's what you make of it, but isn't it easer to find a way to learn that without becoming infected?

    5/04/2006 12:32 PM  
    Blogger Greg said...

    The new advances towards curbing the effects of HIV and AIDS seem to be giving some younger gay men the impression that HIV is controllable much like diabetes. That seems to take away the perceived threat of the disease. Growing up, I remember all the vivid images, the plays, the movies, the graphic stories that put the scare into me. Perhaps that wasn't the best way to approach it, but we are an in-your-face kind of society; those drastic images are needed to get the point across.

    5/04/2006 2:12 PM  
    Blogger Robert said...

    Y'know Matt, to be frank, I think our society is kinda screwed. I see madness! Sometimes I watch television, I read magazines, I see people, and they all speak chaos to me! It's like we're consuming ourselves in our own fire. But even in the midst of all this, I still see light, and this certain beauty in the madness.

    If I were to say one thing, I would say for all of us to be more aware of ourselves. Most times we tend to go on our daily life doing this and that, without truly realizing what we're actually doing. To be more aware of our environment and surroundings, of our motives, our gestures, our language, our thoughts, our actions, our breaths, our innermost self... It's a start... and when we finally do, may it be 'good' or 'bad', every thing will fall into its rightful place. Whether someone's status is negative or positive, right now, to be aware, one can have a beautiful beginning... if he wants it.

    I'm forever trying. Sorry Matt, I might have spoken too much.

    5/04/2006 3:15 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Jef, it's a sad situation because we're in a society where people still make the distinction between the "unfortunate" infection victims and those who get infected homosexually, or seroconvertedly. You do make a good point about how one might be sincerely, fully within the pale of reason to engage in unprotected (I don't like the word bareback) sex to show true affection and love - it's a vow that one would never leave the infected partner. But I'm also worried for those who are infected and solicitor for sex. No pain no gain: I hope nobody would have to experience this kind of pain to learn a simple lesson as to use a condom and practice safe sex.

    5/04/2006 4:47 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Greg, it reminds me of the posted bills all over metro subway here in San Francisco that says "HIV Vaccine, San Francisco is Ready." What does such a vaccine promise but to further the overly optimistic deception of which HIV is treatable like diabetes or hypertension. This worries me.

    5/04/2006 4:49 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    You make perfect sense Robert. We must take responsibility to protect ourselves.

    5/04/2006 4:50 PM  
    Blogger matty said...

    I like what Robert said.

    The SF vacine adverts always confuse me. Further pressure that I have to have sex on the first date???? LOL! I just go with the flow -- and am always safe. Of course, I've not gone with the flow for so long that I think I have forgotten how to ride the bike.

    And, Matt, I never meant to imply that being serious was a bad thing. I was trying to say I wish mine were hitting on more important topics than the silly things I tend to write about. This is ineresting. My blog is a bit shallow. I think. But, I am not. I think.

    5/04/2006 6:10 PM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Your blog is not shallow because you take time and effort to compose the posts. As long as you enjoy writing your posts, who is to judge whether it's shallow or not. :)

    I used to post book reviews on Amazon (I still do, but not as often now) until the quasi orthodox, self-righteous editorial team decided that it has so much time on the hand and started censorizing my reviews. Amazon would truncate some of the sentences and insert "..." or used words (without my prior consent or knowledge) to replace "homosexual", "gay", etc.

    I want my blog to reflect who I am, what I do, what I read, what I think of the stuffs I read. So there you go. When I was out of the country, it is an instrument with which I keep in touch with my friends. :)

    5/05/2006 8:54 AM  

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