WARNING: EXPLICIT IMAGERY & COLLOQUIAL LANGUAGE
"i believe you" : Show Me Your Life, Sexwork
these are the people... we do not exist familiar in any room/ as long as we remain invisible, you never have to look at our little black books/ at who our tricks were (in some cases still are)/ their husbands and their fathers and their brothers and their girlfriend’s husband, too, and their ministers and their doctors and their stockbrokers and their cops and their politicians and their bosses and their co-workers and their colleagues and their priests and the people they tell their secrets to/ these are the people who pay to fuck us/
Unisex Analsex: "They're in complete denial"
There is a common misconception that anal sex is practiced almost exclusively by gay men. This is certainly not the case. In absolute numbers far more heterosexual couples practice anal sex than homosexual couples; simply because there are more of them. Heterosexual presenting married men also practice anal sex with other men, as well as with boys and girls.
"Heterosexual Anal Sex: An Under-recognised Risk Factor for HIV Transmission," by Zoe Duby (Doctoral Research Fellow, Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town South Africa). First presented at: XVIII International AIDS Conference - Vienna, 18-23 July 2010.
Unprotected anal intercourse is the most efficient method of sexual transmission of HIV. Anal sex may account for a higher proportion of HIV transmission to women than commonly believed, and needs to be specifically addressed in prevention messages. Unprotected anal intercourse has been underestimated as contributing to HIV transmission. Only scant qualitative and quantitative data are currently available on prevalence and practice of, and attitudes towards heterosexual anal intercourse. This is vital to inform HIV prevention and treatment programmes, and sexual and reproductive health policy. Health care providers are ill-equipped to deal with anal STIs and ill-prepared to discuss anal sex (both heterosexual and homosexual). Non-judgemental and non-discriminatory service provision addressing anal health is largely unavailable. The risk of HIV transmission during unprotected anal intercourse is estimated to be as much as 18 times higher than during unprotected vaginal sex.
Reasons for heterosexual anal sex are various and include pleasure, adventure-seeking, greater physical intimacy, peer pressure, female submission, contraception, virginity maintenance, menstruation, pregnancy and money. Anal sex is often not considered to be "real sex" and many young girls choose to engage in anal intercourse in order to maintain 'technical virginity' and as a form of contraception. Commercial sex workers receive higher prices for anal intercourse than vaginal intercourse, especially without a condom. Due to a lack of information, people are choosing to practice unprotected anal sex as a form of "safe sex" and evidence shows that condom use for anal sex is universally lower than for penile-vaginal sex.
"Why Am I Sharing My Story Today?" Junior Mayema (Law Student, Democratic Republic of Congo, South African refugee)
"I was born on the 30th of July 1987 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have always really liked the fact my zodiac sign is Leo. What do they say about Leo's? Leos tend to be dignified and strong. Ummm. The thought has always inspired me; and given me the courage to share my story with you today...
I absolutely knew I was GAY when I was fourteen years old. My friends called me "pede" (queer), because I preferred to play with girls and I looked, and felt, effeminate. Although homosexuality is not illegal within my country, it is also, and most certainly, not embraced or welcomed. So in an attempt to change my mind and my sexual orientation, my family intervened with the punitive practice of 'corrective rape.' To this day I still feel mystified as to how such a ridiculous idea transformed itself into a daily practice and belief within my community.
What I know clearly, though, is that my uncle and my brother's friends never used a condom as they repeatedly raped me, and that their actions left me feeling humiliated, terrified and brutally hurt - physically and psychologically.
Why am I sharing my story today? Because thousands of homosexual, and heterosexual, people have become infected with HIV in my home country, as a direct result of not believing that HIV can be transmitted through anal intercourse. This belief has left me today grieving for too many friends.
HIV is a virus. It does not discriminate between how it enters a human body, nor whose body it enters. Any opening in any body is good enough for this invisible virus.
Be careful my friends - be very careful."
“Slave (awakening)” (for tomb of Pope Julius II) by Michelangelo Buonarrotti 1519-36
Sexual abuse survivors are more likely to participate in activities that increase their risk for unintended pregnancy (self and partner) and infection with HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Youth who run away or are forced out of the home are especially vulnerable because of their participation in survival sex, prostitution and/or drug use. Several studies indicate more than half of all sex workers are sexual abuse survivors. Sexual abuse survivors and those infected with HIV / AIDS are at risk for suicide. Each year, up to 20 million people worldwide attempt to commit suicide, with about a million of these completing the act... In our own species, suicide usually means deliberately trying to end our psychological existence—or at least this particular psychological existence ( Jesse Bering Oct 11, 2010). Individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS have been found to have increased risk for suicide... (niv.gov)
"Boy leading a horse" by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973; MoMA)
in the end identity is like a reflection in still water –
it is only clearly visible, until you reach out and try to grasp it in your hand
“Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci (c.1487)
Real Stories would like to thank the contemporary Video Artist Raymond Fils, who despite his youth (19 years old), has chosen not to remain silent and has taken much personal risk in sharing his story today with complete strangers. He has chosen, with extreme thought and skill, to begin to unpin the blindfold of fear associated with HIV and the sexual human body. With much sensitivity and compassion, Raymond is intelligently questioning the creation, experiences and consequences of boys and girls surviving in the communities surrounding him.
Raymond Fils (Cinematheque Films; Show Me Your Life, peer mentor): Tim Barrus and I were looking for ways to create video shorts that would give kids in Show Me Your Life ideas and options as to what they might do in video to create visual metaphors of their lives. But Tim has taught me that if your ideas take over while you are filming, then you have to follow them to see what artistic shadows they are about because they are the images that tell the story of our lives. This is almost nine minutes long where the shorts we were originally going to do would have been a minute at the most. But once you get the camera in your hands, you have to at least try to understand what it is trying to tell you. I know that HIV has put my life at risk for a lot of things. But sometimes I forget that HIV is happening to a body. I am a human being whose story is about times, and places, and other people, and I am more than just a body. Human beings have layered stories. We are more than one story at a time. Our stories unfold on top of one another and within one another. We are different people to different people. HIV or no HIV, I am still someone who is in the world.
- a note from Tim Barrus (Director, Show Me Your Life; Founder, Cinemateque Films)
Raymond was mentoring the first student in Show Me Your Life, Moise, a young adolescent boy who lived in the République Démocratique du Congo who was subject to a machete attack by Ugandan soldiers. Moise would die from his wounds. He might have lived, but his HIV status rendered him at-risk for infection. There were no antibiotics available that might have been able to deal with the infections. Moise and Raymond did not manage to get much video out that went to Moise showing us his life. I was the censor on that one and the images I deleted were of a young girl being raped by the same soldiers who would kill Moise.
And yet these images, difficult to look at, are part of the story of their lives.
Show Me Your Life is not a rendering of children into Disneyfied images that have no relationship to the reality of how most children live in the real world. That world is one of extraordinary bullying, warfare, sexwork, HIV, malaria, a workweek of eighty hours in a sweatshop, addiction, starvation, and abuse. None of these issues can be divorced from any of the others. This IS how children live their lives. I have grown weary of deleting scenes that might upset those who would erase us and our stories if they could.
Raymond was deeply affected by the death of Moise. I did not think we would end up with short-minute video clips that would give insight into how to make a video. That is not really what we do. We are struggling to tell children to show us their lives and then when they do the subsequent screaming of outrage by adults who should know better ensues.
I am learning, too. What is important to show. What is important to construct as metaphor. What is important not to show.
Show me your life.
The epidemic will never end, unless we are very clear and communicate what we like and don't like. And what our actual behaviors are. Not what they "should" be.
"Let's Be Real" by Tim Barrus, 2011
One of the issues that we are constantly dealing with at Cinematheque, and much of this dialogue finds its way to Show Me Your Life as film/art/video, has to do with adolescent males who have been sex workers or continue to do sexwork; finding ways to deal upfront with their sexuality as human beings while at the same time attempting to integrate sexual paradigms into their lives that are life-giving versus self-defeating.
Let’s be real. No one is going to and no one is suggesting that anyone give up sex. What we are doing is exploring the different ways we can explore the story of change in what we make as art. We do this fully aware that some people will see what we do as pornography. That is their problem. With photoshoots, we’ve been experimenting with how breaking a photograph up into four collaged pieces (or more) can tell a story that a simple eight-by-ten glossy can never do.
To wit: the photographer here is saying something about porn’s use of primary colors and lighting to make its point. But the artist is interfering in the gynecological focus in order to create MOMENTS that move. The eye follows the sections as separate stories with a narrative thread unfolding. We move from the hole to the fist that holds the legs apart. The self-sucking and the vulnerability juxtaposed against a background that suggests a sexual liquidity. For the HIV adolescent, an entire panorama of emotion is unleashed that includes elements of eroticism itself juxtaposed against the idea of containment. The virus is contained within the same body, and the plastic, too, contains as well as illuminates.
Where does the idea of guilt fit into this.
Boyz, so talk to me, write to me; send me anything that you want to bounce off of where you are experimenting with how these images make you feel.
I want to post this to SMYL because the dialogues we create among ourselves are not confined to us. ANYONE who has done sexwork and especially porn would be able to identify the ideas of containment and guilt.
It might put some people off.
I am reaching SEX WORKERS here, not Sunday school teachers.
Where ELSE are sexworkers allowed to show us their lives. If we are going to take HIV out of the closet and put it into a public context, how do we do that and conveniently avoid the issue of sex and that life does not stop with an HIV diagnosis. One of the barriers to testing is the sexworker who doesn’t want to know because it will mean they will have to give up their sexuality. CHANGE is not necessarily a giving up, and ART is an animal of enormous change. Huh, Florence.
Resurgence in Bareback Sex
(**Bareback is a slang term to describe acts of unprotected sex (i.e. sexual penetration without the use of a condom). The origin of the term is by an analogy to riding a horse without a saddle, instead making direct contact with it; The Body.com, 2000).
"There's a false sense of security from the medications," says Dr. Timothy Fishback, M.D. He feels the myth that AIDS is no longer fatal, along with destructive behaviors caused by self-loathing, are responsible for a resurgence of bareback sex. The West Hollywood psychiatrist, who counts many HIV-positive men and sexual compulsives among his patients, says honesty is as scarce as bright light in sex clubs and bathhouses. "I have the good fortune to be in a private situation where people are assured of confidentiality and they tell me the truth," says Fishback. "The majority of my patients say they're not telling the truth about their HIV status. Or they are telling the truth and engaging in unsafe sex anyway. "There's no one reason. Someone could be irresponsible, someone could be sociopathic and not care about anybody. Someone could be going through a phase where they're really angry, and it's misdirected anger at a stranger." The tall, youthful doctor looks away and shakes his head slowly. "I have patients who have an open relationship, or maybe one is cheating on the other, and they're not talking about it, they're not being tested, they don't want to talk about it. They're in complete denial."
"Pickett Fences: Slip Sliding Away : The Truth about Safe Sex among AIDS Activists" by © Jim Pickett (2001)
Condoms suck -- I think we need to say that. Many of us feel that way, and many of us, both positive and negative, in fact, don't use them on a regular basis, though we're not likely to talk too loudly about it. The epidemic will never end unless we are very clear and communicate about what we like and don't like, and what our actual behaviors are, not what they "should" be.
A couple months ago I attended the U.S. Conference on AIDS in Atlanta with over 3,000 other members of royalty known as AIDS, Inc. It was another highlight in my never-ending quest to achieve the rapture -- AIDS starlet-dom.
And it was hot. There were hordes of AIDS activists and advocates, educators and prevention specialists, front line workers, policy wonks and administrators. And tons of gorgeous, beautiful men. Gorgeous, beautiful gay men, sexy HIV-infected men, delicious AIDS-ridden men -- everywhere, crawling out the woodwork and swinging from the chandeliers, and many on the make. Including me.
Recently un-partnered, it was exciting to be horny amidst this randy group, where HIV status was no big deal and would send no one fleeing for the exits. So I worked my voodoo at the opening night function held at City Hall, and met up with a lovely long distance runner and prevention worker from Houston.
While decidedly not being impressed with the food, I bump into him in a chowline. Somehow we just start talking, and somehow I'm saying witty, bright, and clever things, or so he, and the wine, leads me to believe. He laughs easily, giggly like a little boy, huge smile, crinkly eyes, energy just pouring out of his small frame. He's delightful, and he has AIDS, and I am smitten.
I pay him a visit in his room that night. On his wisp of a balcony he shares a joint he's smoking in preparation for his nauseating meds. We get high and silly, he medicates, we get naked and roll around the bed. His body is perfect -- long distance running clearly does very good things. Somehow I don't feel intimidated with my carcass, one that only runs for the train, next to his . . . and on top of his, beneath his.
Soon we're in position. He wants to fuck me, I want him to fuck me.
His dick is pushing at my ass, and it goes in for a hot second, just a little bit. He doesn't have a rubber on, and for a hot second, an interminably long, hot second I want to do it just that way. I want to feel his naked dick all the way inside me.
In the same second -- like I said it was very long -- I think about these 6 things concurrently, in no order:
1. Here we are, two boys working it for AIDS Inc., both "specializing in prevention" at the U.S. Fucking Conference on AIDS, and we're about to have "unsafe sex." We're gonna "bareback."
2. But, so? We're both already infected.
3. So? But we may have different strains.
4. So? He has AIDS and I don't yet.
5. So? We've both done a lot of meds -- I don't wanna be resistant to his before I even use them, I don't want that possibility for him.
6. But God it feels good. God it's gonna feel good. God I wanna do it.
And we do . . . with a condom. The second passes, I ask, and he doesn't hesitate. He's got plenty lying around -- so many free samples doncha know -- and when it's on, and he's in me, it's incredible.
Looking back I kind of freaked out that I had come so close to doing the verboten. I was simply caught up in the moment. My fears that surface with negative men were simply not there. And it wasn't just the fear of harming somebody, infecting somebody with this awful crap that was missing. It was somehow the fear of judgment also. Mine and his. Its absence, and the lack of shame, was as tangible and fulfilling as his body in mine. I didn't feel dirty and diseased and unworthy with him -- I did feel the deep, unspoken understanding we have from being in a war together. We're different in many ways, but there, in his Hyatt king-sized, we were equals.
Upon returning to Chicago, I decided to finally catch the wave and put a profile on AOL to chase boys around the schoolyard and chat rooms with. I wanted to meet boys and not have to drink five slushies to do it. I had always made wicked, condescending fun of people who click-clicked for dick, and now I was gonna be one of them. If you can't beat'em, fuck'em.
In my profile, I have made it very clear that I am HIV-positive, and consequently, many other positive men have responded. And to my rather naive surprise, I discovered that most want to have sex without latex. They're looking for other positives expressly for that purpose.
Even though I like to think I was never one to demonize the so-called "barebackers" it again kind of freaked me out. It felt naughty, it felt wrong, and I was not comfortable doing something that has been pounded into me as being a deadly sin. I was not going to do the thing that got me here in the first place.
But guess what? I did. I have recently succumbed to temptation with two different positive men, and fucked, and got fucked, without a condom. And I loved it. And I'm gonna do it again.
My two boundaries are -- never doing this with a negative man, and no one coming inside anyone else -- other than that, with me and another consenting positive man, it's slip sliding away. While many will justify this behavior by proclaiming it's a way to be more connected with the person, to be more intimate, to share in some deep spirituality, I say no such thing. Being intimate with someone has nothing to do with or without a latex barrier. This condom-free zone is about the physical feeling for me, not about falling in love for a second or forever, but about the wonderful way it feels. And yes, though we are encouraged not to say so, it feels fantastic and liberated to fuck without a condom -- plain and simple. It is hotter, and juicier, and let's face it, more natural. The act is not so much about brotherhood for me as it is about animal.
Condoms suck -- I think we need to say that. Many of us feel that way, and many of us, both positive and negative, in fact, don't use them on a regular basis, though we're not likely to talk too loudly about it. Until we have effective microbicides, condoms are what we are left with to protect ourselves when it comes to fucking. We need to be honest about why we do and don't use them, and we need to push for other methods of prevention so we can have the natural, animal sex we all want to have (and do) and still contain, and halt, the epidemic.
The epidemic will never end unless we are very clear and communicate about what we like and don't like, and what our actual behaviors are, not what they "should" be.