Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sex positive

Last week, Close Encounters suggested a trip to the National Film Theatre to see a documentary called Sex Positive, which was showing as part of the London film festival. I hadn't seen Close Encounters since before my recent holiday, so being keen to catch up with him, I readily accepted the invitation.

The film was about a guy called Richard Berkowitz who was living in New York in the early 1980's when the Aids epidemic began. Richard was perhaps the first guy to advocate what we now call safe sex, however at the start of the epidemic it wasn't a message that most gay guys wanted to hear. According to the film, some guys felt that the freedom to have sex with other guys had been a difficult battle to win. Consequently they felt that Richard Berkowitz must have a very negative attitude towards gay sex, because he was saying that guys needed to change their sex lives if they wanted to avoid infection.

It turns out that Richard Berkowitz has quite an interesting background, because as well as being a writer he was also an S&M hustler. It seems that he was quite successful as a hustler, and had a big clientele. When a session was starting with a client, if there was something a guy told him not to do (e.g. "I don't want to get fucked") then that was the one thing that he made sure he ended up doing! On top of that he also went through a phase where he was addicted to crack cocaine. But although Richard Berkowitz is an interesting guy, the main reason that the film was made was to try and set the record straight and give Richard Berkowitz credit for delivering what was an unpopular message in the early 1980's, namely that gay guys needed to start having safe sex.

Thinking back about the film now however, one thing occurs to me. I could be wrong, but I think that Richard Berkowitz has got quite an annoying personality. He reminds me a lot of a guy that I knew when I was at university, and if this guy was wrong about something he'd never admit it, and if he was right about something he'd never let you forget it. So if Richard Berkowitz is indeed like that guy that I knew, perhaps that goes some way to explaining why people didn't want to give him the credit that he deserves!

2 comments:

Jay said...

Ahahaha......I live with one!

Richard Berkowitz said...

It may have been the filmmaker's intent to get me credit for my contribution to the invention of safe sex, but my only goal was to get a new generation to learn how much has been lost in not knowing how and why safe sex began. I could be very "annoying" or arrogant when I was in my 20s; that was 25 years ago. But thinking for oneself and not being afraid to go against the herd may also explain why I survived AIDS when many of my generation didn't. In matters of life & death, its probably better to be right than popular. And, I'm always glad when SEX POSITIVE sparks discussion and debate.