Brave New World
by Corey Saucier
My boyfriend likes to give, and I like to receive, so it’s kind of perfect—if perfect is something two people can be. We’re the classic top-and-bottom relationship, and it’s kind of amazing. We’ve been dating for three months and things are going really well. We laugh at each other’s silly jokes; we stay up late watching Scandal on Netflix in our underwear; and we have deep, winding conversations about life, religion, and love while eating pizza and French fries. It’s the kind of relationship I have always hoped for… But though we seem compatible in more ways than most, we have had sex only three times. Three times in three months! For me, that is a problem! Sex is kind of a big deal. Now, normally, I would have a long exhausting conversation about how “I need to be emotionally validated by sexual intimacy,” and how “I expect our physical relationship to involve more than just kissing and handholding in the park,” but the situation is a little different this time because I’m HIV-positive and he is HIV-negative.
We are serodiscordant. Having different viral statuses makes sexual interaction a little more complicated—but it’s 2014 and we are both adults, so we know the drill: Condoms are the answer (at least that’s what they tell us). Now, to be honest, I’m thirty-seven years old and I’ve been HIV-positive since I was twenty-one. And because I usually only date other positive guys, it’s been at least ten years since I’ve had to use a condom. He’s fifty-one and only puts his penis in people who he says “I love you” to, which greatly reduces his number of sexual partners, so he hasn’t had to use a condom in just as many years. So needless to say, our first attempt was a royal flop! We fumbled with the little rubber instruments like we were monkeys doing math problems! It was frustrating and sad. The condoms kept slipping off, neither of us could maintain an erection, and we spilled lube everywhere! It was a disaster. But we were determined to be good boyfriends, so the next week we buckled down and tried again. We got the lube ready, bought some fancy extra-thin, extra-sensitive, extra-expensive Trojans that were guaranteed to feel “Just like skin,” and it worked (kind of).
We got it in quickly, finished even quicker, and high-fived each other that we had done the impossible! It was efficient, practiced, and safe. We were very proud of ourselves.
Now, this is when it gets interesting. By the third time we were professionals! We had discussed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)—and the fact that I was undetectable and that he was a top, and that we were partnered, monogamous, and in love (because love is kind of a big deal). We began negotiating risk in a way that had not been possible just two years before! By the third time we had read articles and shared the results of research studies that found that serodiscordant couples where the bottom was HIV-positive and the top was HIV-negative were at low risk, and if the HIV-negative partner was on PrEP it reduced their risk to an even lower level than the use of condoms could, and the most promising said that if the HIV-positive partner had fewer than 200 copies of the virus in his system, the risk was reduced to a nearly zero-percent probability of transmission. We were living in a brave new world! And that night we had sex without a condom, and it was perfect and amazing! It was musical and rhythmic and intimate, and the air in the room was alive with our laughter and our moaning and the friction of our skin. And it was beautiful. We fell asleep in each other’s arms dreaming of a wonderful future together.
But in the morning he was afraid. In the morning he asked me if he had been exposed. And even though the new science says that he is safe, and that what we did is less risky than using condoms, I still felt guilty and ashamed for not using one, so I told him to go see his doctor.
He’s been on PEP for three weeks now, and we haven’t had sex since.
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently penning his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Non-sense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.