This brief op-ed first appeared in The Washington Blade on October 10, 2003.

In 30 years of being an out, proud gay man, including a long relationship with a poz mate, I've never had an STD. It's called frottage.

By Bill Weintraub

RECENTLY A NUMBER of gay luminaries, including none other than Harvey Fierstein, have decried rising HIV infection rates and a gay male culture that celebrates being positive.

Harvey in particular noted that we've had, courtesy of the pharmaceutical companies and gay male media, too many "positive gay role models," and said we needed "negative gay role models" -- that is, guys who are happily gay and healthy and HIV-negative.

Ironically, but seemingly unbeknownst to Harvey and company, there's a plethora of (HIV) negative gay role models, and for the last three years, I've been trying to put them forward as a model for a new gay man.

Why are these guys happily gay and negative? Because they (and that includes me) don't do anal sex.

Instead, we favor phallus-on-phallus sex, for which there are various vernacular terms, but which we usually call "frot" -- rhymes with hot, and short for "frottage."

Frot has a number of advantages over anal.

Unlike anal, it's mutually and simultaneously genital, and highly pleasurable for both partners. And it's very low risk.

I WAS IN a relationship with an HIV-positive man for 13 years, had a passionate skin-on-skin sexual life with my lover which was pure frot, and despite his HIV and eventual death from the disease, I remained HIV negative.

Indeed, in 30 years of being an out, proud, gay man into frot, I've never had an STD. Let me repeat that: Despite losing far too many friends and sexual partners to AIDS, I've never had an STD.

Yet in the last three years of trying to put frot forward as an alternative to anal, one that would keep sex hot while stopping HIV cold, I've encountered a hailstorm of criticism and resistance.

I've been called homophobic and "erotophobic" and a tool of the religious right.

Not so.

My message is intensely gay-sex-positive, celebrating a type of sex that is unique to gay and bi men, in loving, sexually positive, and indeed ecstatic terms. And religious conservatives dislike my message.

Said one leading Catholic conservative in an e-mail: "The recent phenomenon of the 'reasoned and principled' gay activism, arguing that there could be a 'well-ordered' type of sexual activity between men, is in our minds a terrible mistake."

Another conservative, who is a heavy donor to abstinence campaigns, refused to support my work unless I renounced frot and embraced abstinence only.

THE TRUTH IS that you can avoid HIV and most other STDs, without abstaining from sex, or using a condom -- even if your partner is HIV positive -- so long as you don't do anal sex.

Sure, promiscuity spreads STDs, and fidelity is a good idea for many reasons. But the engine that's driving the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men isn't promiscuity per se, but anal sex.

Interestingly, the other part of my message that alarms religious conservatives is one that also seems to bother many gay men: the notion that sex doesn't have to be penetrative.

The religious right is obsessed with "arguments from design." They assert that the penis was designed to penetrate, and that therefore men who are insertive anally, while of course in violation of the Divine Plan, are nevertheless at least using the penis in a way that approximates what God intended.

The idea that sex can be both joyful and healthy while completely outside the penetrative paradigm is as scary to the religious right as it seems to be to many gay men.

For 20 years, ever since men who'd acquired HIV anally were attacked and stigmatized by homophobes, gay men have circled the wagons around anal penetration, and treated any criticism of anal as a betrayal of gay life.

But times change. Sodomy is no longer a crime, and while many conservatives and religious leaders still decry any form of homosexuality, they're also busily off in Africa attempting to help people with AIDS.

So like any other aspect of gay male life, anal sex should be open to criticism. No one's talking about banishing anal intercourse. But it's time gay men begin to make more realistic assessments of sexual pleasure and risk, and to acknowledge that anal sex is not the only, and indeed far from the best, way for two men to be gay.

Bill Weintraub heads The Man2Man Alliance, an organization of men into Frot


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