Corrupted: One Gay American’s Story of Breaking Bad on PrEP
by Joey Wagner
Review by John Francis Leonard
It would be easy when reading this brief, frank memoir about one young gay man’s sexual odyssey for some readers to slut-shame its author; men on PrEP so often are stigmatized in this way. But that would miss a valuable point. It would also be easy for its targeted gay male audience to read of Wagner’s series of sexual adventures and see it as a sexy piece of erotica, which in some ways it is. But don’t sell the author, or his first attempt at writing a book, short. Wagner has an important tale to tell about a young man who knew he was taking too many risks with his health sexually and decided to go on PrEP—he was one type of individual for which the drug was intended. He does his homework, providing valuable and well-researched information about the prevention tool to others like him—gay men still on the fence about a medication that has a very high success rate in preventing HIV in men who don’t always use condoms, among others.
Joey visits all the places where modern gay men go for uninhibited sex: Southern Decadence, San Francisco’s leather street fairs, bathhouses, or the back rooms of European bars. He’s perfectly honest and forthright about his sexual choices, some of them extreme. There’s no shame here, nor should there be. Too often stigma and shame prevent sexually active gay men from seeking testing and treatment and this story of someone who despite their very active sex life, often on the fringe, can bring others out into the light and compel them to seek that treatment, get tested, and use one of the best protection tools we now have available. Joey Wagner is a highly educated and successful military veteran and he avoids a lot of the pitfalls of self-publishing. He not only writes of a series of sexual encounters in a rather vivid diary, he develops a narrative. My only criticism is that the book’s ending did not wrap up that narrative with any important conclusions. But it’s a fun, sexy, and informative read nonetheless.
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 fifteen years and he is currently at work on his first novel, Fools Rush In. His fiction has been published in the ImageOutWrite literary journal and he is a literary critic for Lambda Literary. Follow him on Twitter @JohnFrancisleo2.