We may be having sex, but are we getting the sex we want?
by John Francis Leonard
Well, I’ve finally managed to do it. After several years of prospective partners I’ve met online, I’ve finally connected with a viable, for me and my high standards, man who lives locally. Fresh off of waiting almost two years for a reluctant, in the end, overworked and stressed executive in Canada whose favorite sport was to make promises he never kept, someone else turned up seemingly out of the blue. He possesses all the qualities I’ve found wanting in my small city’s even smaller cache of men, at least the ones I’ve come up against. He’s sophisticated, urbane, and educated. He has a great job that he loves and seems to be really taking it to the next level. An unexpected turn, his age. He’s twenty-six-years-old to my forty-eight but his last partner was fifty-six, so I’m definitely his type. And, admittedly, when I was his age and younger, most of my partners, both casual and long-term, were my age now. So, this is not a new concept for me; I just find myself on the other end of the equation. And did I mention that he’s very cute? Not the most important thing, but it definitely works in his already considerable favor.
Where did we meet? Online of course. Both his photograph and his thoughtful profile captured my interest quickly. We texted back and forth for a couple of weeks before our first date. It wasn’t long before I felt it necessary to divulge the two things that are sometimes roadblocks in my potential liaisons. First and foremost, I divulged the fact that I was positive, including that one detail that is still new to many of us, that undetectable equals untransmittable. He thanked me for being forthright, and we left it at that. I did expect there to be further dialogue about this forthcoming, but we had gotten beyond it successfully for the moment. Secondly, I informed him that, although stable and under effective treatment, I am in fact bipolar as well. Not a bump in the road.
I knew that we should talk more about my HIV status and what it means for us sexually, but didn’t take the chance before things proceeded the way they tend to do in the bedroom. Penetration was off the table for the moment; we were both in agreement that it wasn’t everything and could wait. I am clear about one thing; I am fine with wearing a condom for the time being. Although I’d rather not, I do feel that that is his choice to make. This is yet another question I need to ask, a discussion we need to have.
Another thing didn’t happen when we had sex, one I’m less inclined to leave by the wayside. I performed oral sex on him, which I do love, but the favor was not returned. In fact, I had the feeling it was being avoided for a reason. Perhaps out of fear? I’m not certain. I need to ask. The facts are on my side. Even before we knew that Undetectable = Untransmittable, oral sex was largely considered safe. There’s really nothing to be afraid of and we need to talk about it. It’s come up before in my sexual encounters but this time is different. Before, I’d resented the need to educate a grown gay man on the specifics of what’s safe. This time is different. Without getting ahead of myself, which I am often wont to do, I’m hopeful that this fledgling relationship will move forward. It’s worth the effort.
But, we still haven’t talked about it. The questions have not been asked and answered. What I did do was approach it rather obliquely. Last night we were texting and things took a decidedly sexual turn. I took the opportunity, in the context of what we wanted to do to each other, to introduce the topic. Texting about it, he wasn’t shy about his desire to go down on me at all, so I’m hopeful. But, before we find ourselves having sex again I should, no, I must, take a direct approach. There are two things I was brought up to never discuss, as many of us were. Those two things are sex and money. But, these conversations must happen, especially when it comes to sex, especially when you’re HIV-positive and your partner is not.
John Francis Leonard is an advocate and writer, as well as a voracious reader of literature, which helps to feed his love of the English language. He has been living with HIV for thirteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.