Friday, February 26, 2010

Safe sex, gay banking and all that hooplah

Last week, a new reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I've only started to read your blog over the past few days so apologies if you've already answered this; I'm a twenty-year-old from Manchester.

I don't condemn your activities at all (in fact, I'd say they're probably the most healthiest [mentally] that any couple should have); however I do still wonder about how you tackle (pardon the ... er ... pun) the issue of safe sex, HIV etc?

I presume in sauna-type circumstances condoms are unlikely to be drawn from between the pursuers butt cheeks.

Do you get regular testings?

Feel free to post this on the site, but I'd appreciate if you left it anonymous.

Kind Regards,

The title of the email was "Safe sex, gay banking and all that hooplah" which I thought was a great title, so I've borrowed it for this posting!

Since I became a blogger, I have done a few postings about HIV and safe sex, for example here and here and here. None the less, the last posting on this subject was well over a year ago, so I thought that it would be worth airing the issues again because it's an important subject.

Anyone who asks the kind of questions that this reader is asking presumably knows the basic rule, namely that one should avoid getting the other guy's cum in one's orifices. Hence one should use condoms, so that when the other guy cums, his cum stays in the condom to be thrown away later.

I like the reader's idea that in a gay sauna, a guy with tight butt cheeks could keep a condom held there, in case he needed it :-). In reality, condoms are usually available in gay saunas. At the very least, condoms are often found in the lockers where one leaves one's clothes. However, I've also been in saunas where condoms are available in the private cubicles, which has the advantage that they don't need to carried around. Additionally, rather than needing to rely on keeping one's buttocks clenched, I can recall that in one sauna that I've been to there was a tiny pouch attached to the locker key. The pouch was intended to carry a condom and lube, and since one has to carry the key anyway, carrying the condom too was no extra hassle.

It's actually been a while since I visited a gay sauna. I think the last time was probably just before Christmas 2008, when I had a bit of time to kill before meeting lapsed blogger HBH for a Christmas meal at Oxo Tower in the evening. So after work, I went to relax at Pleasuredrome, because it's less than ten minutes walk from there to Oxo Tower. It had also been quite a while since my previous visit, so while I was getting changed, I was amused to see that they'd introduced a system to try and help guys find the right kind of partner. Some posters in the changing rooms explained the system:
Can't find what you're looking for? Let us help you cruise! Pleasuredome Cruising Bands. Is he Arthur, Martha, or piggy in the middle?
and on the poster where three designs of cruising bands. The 'Arthurs' were meant to carry a light blue cruising band, the 'Marthas' were meant to carry a yellow cruising band, and for the 'piggies in the middle' there were bands with blue and yellow stripes! I don't remember seeing many guys using the bands though, so I'm not sure it caught on.

Another thing that the reader mentions is HIV testing. I blogged about one of my visits to a sexual health clinic back in 2005. I definitely think it's good to get regular checkups, and the more guys that one meets for fun, the more regular I think the checkups should be. Which reminds me, it's been just over two years since my last visit so I'm definitely going to make an appointment at my local clinic in the very near future!

Do any other readers have any thoughts that could help this young reader?


Volodya/Vlad said...

My only advice to the reader is: don't presume. People who are after safe sex always have an option to be safe, and it's never happens in a condom-less desert, really.

Anonymous said...

Semen isn't the only method of transmission. Blood and anal mucus are other ones. Whilst cum and pre-cum are likely suspects, they're not the only ones.

All risks are relative though. Best to look at transmission probabilities for different sex acts. Also, there's a geographic aspect which brings into play the question of how many guys in each town are positive.

Best advice, particularly in saunas, is to assume everyone is positive and act accordingly. Ultimately, whatever you choose to do it's a question of how much personal risk you're willing to accept. No sex is truly safe and HIV isn't the only nasty out there.

Finally, for great, speedy service, try out the soho clinic (Dean St I think)

Anonymous said...

You know I actually meant 'saunas' being the places in gyms, not specifically sauna-saunas.