The Return of Freedom to Love Without Barriers (Part 1—The Beginning)
Love in the post condom era.
I’ll start out by saying this is going to be a controversial article. I’ll be called irresponsible. The comments will be raging with vitriol on both sides of the argument, but it’s time that someone brought it up.
There is a new drug available since 2012 that has had little fanfare until lately. The reason is there is a lot of controversy surrounding the medication, not because of any particular safety issues, but because its use could turn around 30 years of deeply ingrained sexual practices and bring about a return to a freedom of love without the barriers in place because of the HIV virus.
This is the first in a two-part series addressing the implications of Sex, Love, AIDS, and the beginning of the end of the HIV crisis.
In 1961, there was a beginning of a sexual revolution in the United States. That was the year that Oral Contraception—“the pill”—became available. It was known as the “free love 60s”. Whether it was the free love advocated by the counterculture movement or the beginnings of sex-positive feminism, they both found their way into the history books in the 1960s.
Sex and Love often went together, but they didn’t have to be chained together. An age of sexual enlightenment had begun, fueled by the hippie movement, the musical British Invasion, and a United States caught up in a war in Indochina.
Our world began a revolution that sought to set free the disenchanted youth from the formality of institutional ways and form a new youth-centric culture. A culture based on rock, folk, and blues music, and fashions that stood out against the pastel whitewash of the 50s nuclear family.
We take many things for granted now that were fought for and forged in the free love movement. The right of an unmarried couple to live together legally, opposition to laws that regulate adultery and divorce, as well as the age of consent, birth control, homosexuality, and abortion.
Love as it was known in the 50s had changed. The pill brought about a freedom to indulge in the dynamics, versatility, and sheer enjoyment of a shared act between consenting adults unchained from the fear of pregnancy. Combined with the taboo psychedelic movement, those of us lucky enough to have been rebellious youths experienced a mind expansion unparalleled in history.
There is no doubt that the act of making love between two people is among the most incredible sensations our bodies can experience. We are genetically designed and wired to enjoy sex. It’s the fundamental reason we have persevered as a species to this day. We are genetically compelled to desire sex.
Anyone that has ever been adventurous enough to combine the set and setting of music, candles, and two or more open minded naked human bodies in a sexual way have been rewarded with mind-blowing connections that resonate to your very soul. There is no doubt in our minds that this is an experience that was meant to be shared.
Then in the 80s a change began to take place. Religious groups called it the retribution of God for our sexually sinful ways. Heterosexuals disenchanted by the fact that gay people could have sex without the complications of pregnancy said we were getting our long due “comeuppance." The rest of us just called it a new disease. My God doesn’t fetter me by ever calling sex sinful. I believe that the consensual act of sex between people is always beautiful and worshipful. It is a glimpse of the “true love” that god is in this world, but this new disease showed itself, and its effects re-locked those sexual chains that so many had fought to unbind.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been around almost as long as mankind has been having sex. Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Herpes, and many other sexually transmitted diseases and infections are documented all through recorded history, and though some are incurable, none of them are considered deadly, once recognized and treated.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, changed all of this. We now had a sexually transmitted virus that wasn’t curable and was also lethal. Thus began over 30 years of the condom culture. Sure condoms had been around much longer, but they were used to stop contraception and to lessen the likelihood of STI’s. Now they were the mainstay in keeping our sexually active alive in the wake of HIV and AIDS.
Even armed with this knowledge, condom use wasn’t being used enough to stop this new plague from killing us all over the world. First it was thought to be only affecting homosexuals, and then it was found that it was profoundly affecting populations all over the continent of Africa regardless of their sexual orientation and lastly its effect was seen among heterosexuals the world over. This new disease knew no sexual, racial, or border constraints.
The medical research communities the world over began searching for a cure for this disease, but until a cure could be found, condoms or abstinence were the only way of preventing it. With the homosexual community so hard hit by this epidemic, we became the leading voice in the condom movement.
ACT UP and Silence=Death showed up painted on sidewalks and walls. We realized that if we didn’t take matters into our own hands that there would be little forward movement in fighting this new and deadly disease.
I was sexually active at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. I had experienced years of unfettered sex without condom use, and was regularly tested for STIs and on rare occasions needed treatment for a sexually transmitted disease. Now that we knew the link between shared body fluids and HIV, we recognized the need for condom use.
We bid a tearful goodbye to the era of sexual freedom unhindered by barriers, and for many of us, we rarely invited others into our monogamous, tested, HIV-free, condom-less relationships. I think my generation was the hardest hit by this necessity. After years of not using condoms, the mere act of pulling out a condom made my willy weary enough to hide from view.
For those in the later generation who grew up with the life-saving need for condom use, it was a bit easier. We’d done an excellent job in teaching that generation and following generations that every act of sex needed a condom, and the advertising made it look sexy and fun. We were all well warned that unprotected sex could kill you.
We had all settled into a world where the need for condoms was coupled with a desire to stay alive, and this mindset would be the norm for the next thirty or more years.
In the next part of this two-part article, I’ll share my thoughts on being a part of the “beginning of the end” of the HIV crisis.