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Partying like it's 1976

Keith Boykin has a post up, Shock and Raw, that really makes you scared and sad. I really don’t know what can be done to stop this kind of pathology.

What do you get when you mix a roomful of horny naked men, flowing drinks and no condoms? A hot mess! If you believe the Evite, that’s what you’ll most likely find Saturday night at a party called “Raw Dukes” in Harlem. According to the party organizer, 54 people showed up at the last raw party. Perhaps it’s just salesmanship on the organizer’s part, but he says the last party was “packed, hot, sweaty and freaky.”

Like many other sex parties, the party starts late. It begins at 11 at night and goes until 6 in the morning. And like many other sex parties, there’s a mandatory clothes check. And although the party organizers will provide lube, there’s one thing they won’t provide or allow: condoms! Yes, you read that correctly. This is a raw sex party. Not only are condoms discouraged, they’re prohibited.

I hope this is all a hoax, but even if it is it’s not the least bit funny. It’s the year 2006, and we’re about to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic next month, and some men are still carrying on like it’s 1976.

Here are the rules of entry:

1. Only call number if u need directions the night of the party!!
2. Anyone caught using jimmies will be asked to leave with no refund given!!
3. Must be in-shape/toned/muscular and black or latin. No fats or big guts!!
4. No wallflowers. Come ready to freak!!
5. Come clean…nuff said!!
6. Smoking allowed only in the chill area!!

Mind you, this is going on within weeks of the 25th “anniversary” of the AIDS epidemic, and we have minority men in complete denial about the risks of bareback sex, and one can only imagine how many of these men are also sleeping with their girlfriends after engaging in this anonymous unsafe sex. These women probably have no idea.

Black gay activists in Harlem are equally appalled. (Newsday):

The invitation arrived in Tokes Osubu’s e-mail inbox on Monday, and the contents astounded him: Black and Latino men were being invited to attend a gay sex party this weekend where condoms would be banned. Show up with a condom, the invitation said, and you’ll be asked to leave.

“I was shocked and disgusted,” said Osubu, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, a Harlem-based nonprofit group battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic among black gay men.

…Nationally, in 2004, the HIV diagnosis rate for black men was seven times the rate for white men; twice the rate for Hispanic men; and nearly twice the rate for black women, the CDC says. Most infections among all men result from gay sex, the CDC says.

Newsweek recently published an excellent article by Ellis Cose about the slow response of leadership in the black community to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and how homophobia in the community is driving sex underground.

The reluctance of some black organizations to engage stems in part from the fact that most so-called black leaders are perpetually overwhelmed. Poor minority communities are assailed from many directions.

…But some of the reluctance also comes from a combination of denial and disgust. For taking on AIDS means openly talking about things that many people, particularly those who are culturally conservative, find exceedingly distasteful or discomforting. Sex, drugs and men having sex with men are “taboo subjects” to many blacks, observes Jatrice Martel Gaiter, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. “I think the black middle class has almost totally rejected this issue—as if they are excluded from it, or embarrassed by these people,” she adds. Tracie Gardner, the director of policy, Women’s Initiative to Stop HIV-NY (WISH-NY) at the Legal Action Center, agrees. Many blacks in leadership positions would prefer that “somebody else … over there” deal with AIDS, she says.

For politicians worried about constituents’ reactions, embracing the AIDS battle can seem fraught with peril—especially today, when political hay is to be made by standing up for so-called traditional values and morality. Many politicians “don’t want to touch the issue” because they fear people will think they are “pro-gay-rights,” says Rep. Artur Davis, Democrat of Alabama.

This is what encourages the proliferation of parties described above. The blindness to the issue of men having sex with men was on full display in BET’s recent documentary The Down Low Exposed. I watched it twice, and one segment struck me — the description of prison sex. You came away with the notion that if there was man-on-man sex, it was always forced — that no real black man would actually participate in same-sex encounters willingly while behind bars. The majority of correctional facilities prohibit condom possession, so prison officials have their heads in the sand as well. From Newsweek:

Harold Atkins, 30, spent just over five years in San Quentin State Prison in California, where he was a peer educator for Centerforce, a group that provides HIV education to inmates. “There was a lot of sex happening in prison,” says Atkins. There was not a lot of clarity about sexuality, however. “The same individual who had unprotected sex with males on the inside Monday through Friday would be in the visiting room with his wife and kids on Saturday and Sunday,” says Atkins, who himself is HIV-negative. The men, who engaged in what Atkins calls “survival sex,” did not consider themselves homosexual, and they didn’t tell anybody on the outside what they were doing. “They’d say, ‘I have sex with men. I’m not gay, they’re gay’.”

What will it take to turn this around?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding