Posted by carmin on December 12, 1997 at 09:31:17:
I like to hear both sides. I hope someone posts Sex Panic's side of this argument. Larry makes great points, but I wonder if Sex Panic would express their views the same way as Larry.
This, just in from the nytimes.com's op ed section...
December 12, 1997
Gay Culture, Redefined
By LARRY KRAMER
The facts: enough gay men are once again having enough unsafe sex that the rates of H.I.V.
infection, gonorrhea and syphilis are returning to frightening heights.
The facts: a small and vocal gay group that calls itself Sex Panic has taken it upon itself to demand "sexual freedom," which its members define as allowing gay men to have sex when and where and how they want to. In other words, this group is an advocate of unsafe sex, if this is what is wanted, and of public sex, if this is what is wanted. It advocates unconditional, unlimited promiscuity.
The facts: public sex means sex in parks, in public restrooms, in bathhouses, in the back rooms of bars and discos, at weekend parties, on beaches -- anywhere men can gather.
The facts: this is the very same debate that occurred in 1981 when the first signs of the AIDS plague were appearing. Few wished to pay attention to the dangers then, preferring to demand the right to have sex in exactly the same ways that Sex Panic is demanding be legitimized again.
The facts: once again, this has become a battle over civil rights rather than an issue of public health.
(A question: why is public sex a civil right? I do not want to see straight people copulating in the park or in public restrooms. And I do not believe that heterosexuals view such acts as theirs by right.)
The facts: shamefully, not one AIDS organization or national gay and lesbian group has been willing to speak out and condemn or even criticize what Sex Panic is saying. There are only a few gay men willing to take on the group -- and we have been vilified by the pro-promiscuity forces for our views.
The truth is, most gay men live calm, orderly lives, often as couples, and they are embarrassed by what Sex Panic espouses. They are ashamed this issue has surfaced again. Many feel that to speak up against Sex Panic only validates its existence, and that if they keep their mouths shut the group will go away. And, as with smoking, they feel that enough information about safe sex is out there -- if people choose to ignore it, that's their business.
Criticism from lesbians, the other half of our movement, is desperately needed as well. Promiscuous gay men must hear the message, "Enough already! Haven't you learned anything from the last 17 years?" Yet lesbian activists, who alongside gay men have fought against AIDS, crawl into shells rather than confront the idiocy of what Sex Panic is demanding. Why are they refusing to speak out, particularly when so many of them have confided that they agree with me?
After all, AIDS has usurped the entire gay movement's agenda, at great cost to lesbian issues. Just when it looked as if there was some breathing space to pay more attention to these issues, AIDS resurges. The message Sex Panic and its supporters are giving to women is tantamount to: we'll come back to our issues some other time.
I cannot understand why lesbians are not furious with their gay male friends.
Without a strong, vocal opposition, Sex Panic is on its way to convincing much of America that all gay men are back to pre-AIDS self-destructive behavior that will wind up costing the taxpayer a lot of extra money. Indeed, what Sex Panic is demanding could easily allow our enemies, as well as many of our straight friends, to deny all gay people what rights we've won or are still fighting for.
Those who do speak out in protest are automatically accused of assimilationist views: we want to be like straights; we want marriage and monogamy and white picket fenced-in homes.
It is particularly moronic that Sex Panic considers these desires so sweepingly offensive. But even gay people who don't want to be like straights, don't want to be assimilated and don't even want to marry or have a relationship still want to live their lives as social equals and responsible citizens.
Fortunately, more and more gay people are beginning to realize that it's time to redefine what it means to be gay. Allowing sex-centrism to remain the sole definition of homosexuality is now coming to be seen as the greatest act of self-destruction. There is a growing understanding that we created a culture that in effect murdered us, and that if we are to remain alive it's time to redefine homosexuality as something far greater than what we do with our genitals. But this redefinition will require nothing less than remaking our culture.
Sex Panic was formed in fury to defeat this call to change. But how will gay men have any future if they continue to die from playing by old rules instead of living by new ones?
Larry Kramer is co-founder of Gay Men's Health Crisis and founder of Act Up and the new Treatment Data Project, which will collect data on the Internet from people with H.I.V.
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