Staying Negative aims to emotionally engage, inspire and facilitate imagination in sexual health practices. The campaign profiles the real life stories of gay, bisexual and trans men who have sex with men (MSM). Men talk about all aspects of their life from coming out, relationships, sexuality and a broad range of other topics. While HIV and safe sex is an important part of all stories, it is not the exclusive focus.
Prior HIV prevention campaigns have traditionally focused on providing gay men with information that will encourage them to adopt safe sex behaviours. In reality, safe sex practices are influenced by a whole range of environmental and cultural factors. The campaign also provides an opportunity for HIV positive men to talk about their lives and discuss how their strategies to staying HIV negative were not successful. We understand that there is more than one way practice safe sex and adopt healthcare seeking behaviours, so let's be creative about it!
There are no real criteria for participants other than that they are MSM and happy to have their stories appear as part of the campaign. In addition to the personal stories, the website provides information on HIV/AIDS, sexual health, relationships and broad of the other relevant topics including domestic violence, drugs and alcohol and depression.
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I’m 33. I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula and I was there until I was 18. I went to a Tech school that was only ten minutes from Sunnyside beach and I didn’t even realise that most of Melbourne’s gay population go down there.
We moved to Bendigo when I was 18 and I was in love with this girl; we were there for about a year. I finished my VCE. I was with her for about six months and it was almost written in the history books that I’d be stuck with her because she had a two-year-old son and I really loved him as well and I got this family thing happening. However, because I was from Melbourne we kept coming back to Melbourne for the weekend, so I always had this break from her. And one day, when we came back down to Melbourne for Christmas holidays, I went out to the Peel.
“He told me about this gay nightclub...”
I had no idea that these gay places existed. I was on my own coming from Bendigo to Melbourne and I went to an adult bookshop. I’d never been to one before but because I was 18 I thought I can just go in and have a look. I was attracted to the gay section, which I really didn’t know about, and I thought ‘Wow’, you know?
The guy that worked there noticed me and he must have been gay as well. He made me feel very comfortable - because I was very nervous. He told me about this gay nightclub to go to if you wanted a bit more... you know... and so I made a bee-line for the Peel and I was there in about 20 minutes!
I was just gobsmacked because I never knew these places existed. I was as nervous as hell at first, just sitting in a dark corner hoping no-one would recognise me.
There were guys dancing together and stuff. I love music and dancing but I’d only been to straight nightclubs - straight men don’t dance, you know, so I’d be the one dancing with all the girls, but I’d be trying to act straight by dancing daggy!
‘I just can’t forget this guy..’
Anyway, it didn’t take long for someone to notice me sitting in the corner, because I was in a spot where I could see the dancefloor. I just can’t forget this guy. It was like a total fantasy. He was a really built guy, about six foot or something, with dark hair, but really short, and he had a leather jacket with nothing on underneath. And he just had this look and I was just instantly attracted to him. He just walked straight up to me and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and he was really nice.
I was just nervous as hell and he sat with me and started touching me and stuff and I didn’t know what was going on. He said, ‘Would you like to come and dance?’ and I said OK and he grabbed my hand and dragged me on to the dancefloor. He had these really strong hands and the next minute I was just dancing with him. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Then he got my hand and put it under his jacket and started rubbing it against his body and then in two minutes flat we were on the way to his apartment.
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It all happened so quickly and I was meant to be at my Aunty’s house, because I was on the way there from Bendigo! I rang her up and told her I’d bumped into friends and that I’d see her tomorrow. It was just wild. It was the wildest night, I just had no inhibitions at all. He just had this power and he could do anything to me and I trusted him. That was my first time with a guy. I loved it. I was in heaven.
I was in so much pain, you know, because it was the first time I’d been fucked. I didn’t know what was going on, but he was in control all the way. The pain turned into so much pleasure. Because the first time he fucked me it was really painful and I was crying, I was biting the pillow, you know. And then he fucked me again after that and it just got easier. It just felt better and he was just so nice, because he knew it was my first time. Yeah, he used condoms. He was so nice. He just treated me so well. I’ll never forget that experience.
‘I’ve never ever seen him again..’
I think I was at his place for about twelve hours. He was about late twenties. I’ve never ever seen him again to this day. Through the course of the night I think I told him I had a girlfriend and that I was supposed to see my family for Christmas and that sort of thing. It was a one-night-stand but I wasn’t heartbroken or anything. It was just like a dream at that time and I just went back to my daily life for a while. Then one day my Mum and Dad got transferred back to Frankston, so I moved back to Melbourne again about three months after that Christmas.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that experience. I wasn’t in the position to move out with my girlfriend and I was taken aback by my newfound sexuality. Yeah, I had sex with my girlfriend. Once. I just wanted to make her feel happy and that made me feel happy as well. But I had to tell my girlfriend that my family had to move to Frankston. We stayed together for another six months or so, trying out this long-term relationship, but I was in no position to move in with her. I had no job. I’d just finished high school. I was studying Accounting at TAFE but the relationship only lasted another six months because I was down here and I was close to the Peel and stuff and I just had to go back.
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I moved out of home and I was on my own, so I felt more independent and I had more guts. On my weekends I went back to the Peel. I was still in that experimental stage. I started having lots of casual sex. It took a long time to feel more confident. After about a year I started going to saunas - I never knew they existed either. It took me years to realise, ‘Oh, there’s gay saunas; there’s gay dance parties’, you know, a whole gay world.
I felt comfortable in saunas. I went by myself, so no-one knew me. I thought it would be a good way to meet people and to experiment with my sexuality. I started making these rules that I didn’t want to fuck anyone or get fucked, even with a condom, because I knew about HIV and AIDS from high school. I guess I was in about Year 9 when I learned about AIDS. We had classes. We were told that even condoms weren’t 100% safe, so I thought one way to be 100% safe is not to have any intercourse at all - but I know you can still get it from oral sex, though the chances are really small.
‘I had this rule..’
So I had this rule, but when I was at the saunas all these guys wanted to fuck me, or they wanted me to fuck them, and I felt uncomfortable and I think that’s why it took me a while to adjust to coming out. I’d tell them my rule and then they’d basically say goodbye, like that was the one thing they wanted, you know? But I couldn’t understand, because to me there was so much more than anal sex, so much more.
I wanted to stick to my rule and eventually I started feeling more confident about it. But I guess I was surprised that even gay guys just had this one thing on their mind, whereas I guess I had this experience with my girlfriend about making her happy and it was so much more than just fucking. I was more into foreplay and that sort of thing - and dinners and socialising. I was hoping to meet someone.
‘I let this guy fuck me..’
I’d been single for a couple of years and I still kept to my rules about not having anal sex. But I got to know this guy – a Greek guy – and it was the first time I was in something serious. I started to rethink my rules, because I was thinking back to when I’d first had sex with that guy at the Peel and how I’d really enjoyed it. So I let this guy fuck me, but with condoms. That was my other rule – that if I trusted someone in a relationship we could have anal sex with a condom; and I trusted him.
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There are three significant relationships that I’ve had. My first was when I first came out. I was out for a couple of years and my Mum knew about me but no-one else did. It was the Greek guy. We saw each other for six weeks. We met at The Market - it was called 3 Faces them. He was very good sexually. He did everything! He was little and cute. He just made all these funny faces at me and that sort of thing and we mucked around together. But because he was Greek his family was very against it. The things we did to try to sleep together!
He was living at home and I was living at my home. We’d go out at night and I lived too far out – at Frankston – so we’d go to his house, which was a bit closer – but we’d have to be so quiet because his father was there at the time. His mother knew, but she was trying to help us and she was really nice. Eventually I met the father and he was fine. He didn’t know I slept there - I’d sleep there and then nick off in the morning. I’d wait until he’d gone to work and the house was empty and then I’d leave the bedroom. It was nerve-racking – but it was exciting at the same time.
He worked in a hospital as a cleaner. He used to work the night shift and he’d be the only one on the whole ward, so he’d call me to come to the hospital and we’d do stuff at the hospital because no-one was there – but there were cameras and everything! We had sex in the wards... it was wild!
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It finished because of trust. There were things about him that he never told me. They were personal things that I wouldn’t have cared about if he’d told me, but he didn’t. He was trying to cover up things so I wouldn’t know - things about himself that he didn’t like. Like, he used to wear contact lenses because he was really image-conscious. He had brown eyes but he wore these lenses to make it look like he had blue eyes. He didn’t want me to know that he had brown eyes!
It wasn’t just contact lenses, he also wore a toupee. I found out eventually. I couldn’t tell until this one night we were having sex. He had his toupee on and I could see this line... I’d had sex with him before that but he also used to wear baseball caps alot. One day I was looking into his eyes and I realised he had contact lenses as well... We’d been together for months and I thought we told each other everything.
I was monogamous in this relationship, but then I found out he was seeing someone else. He said he was really sorry and I suppose I was being young and stupid but I just said, “It’s over”. I said we should just be friends.
My Second Boyfriend
I went to Sydney for a year and a half. It was about 1994, 1995. I was working in a café in St Kilda and I loved it. It was the first time I was independent and had my own job. Anyway, I went to Sydney for my holidays over Christmas and I was there for New Year’s Eve. I went to a dance party. I was having the wildest time. It was the wee hours of New Year’s Day and I saw this guy and it was just instant and we had the best time. We danced together and then I went back to his house. We didn’t have anal sex and that was the first time I felt comfortable saying I don’t have anal sex. He felt fine with that and I thought, ‘Oh, OK, here’s someone who’s OK with it’. We got along really well.
I met him again before I went back to Melbourne. We couldn’t stop thinking about each other and within three weeks I was back in Sydney and we were living together in this tiny bachelor flat. He was a bit older than me. They’re always a bit older than me. He really looked after me well too. I’ve always been with older guys because they’re more experienced and they keep me on the straight and narrow!
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I just think mature people know what they’re doing. And I don’t? No, not really. I don’t have much self-confidence. I’ve always been shy as a kid. I was always quiet. I didn’t have a high self-esteem at school. Being with an older guy makes me feel more secure and more protected. I’ve never talked about it until now – it’s just subconscious. Now that I think about it I can see that there’s a pattern. I didn’t sit down and think, ‘I want to be with older men’, it just happened that way.
My second relationship was monogamous as well, but then my feelings began to change. I guess because I was living in a new city – I wanted to get out and explore and make new friends and stuff like that. And my boyfriend was being too possessive. So I started to rebel and it was causing trouble in the relationship big time. I had to break up with him and come back to Melbourne.
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The relationship I’m in now has been open from the start and that’s because of good communication. We met at the Market about three years ago. We didn’t instantly fall in love, I suppose. Jealousy played a little part, especially in the beginning of the relationship. I still had this monogamy thing, part of me still wanted to be monogamous but I thought, hang on, don’t deny your own feelings. I’ll be a hypocrite if I tell him I want a monogamous relationship and then be out at the saunas the next week. I used to go to saunas every so often and I’d tell him.
He likes to go out to nightclubs and flirt and I used to get jealous when I saw him kissing other guys and I had these preconceived ideas about what a relationship should be, but that was just fantasy because in reality I was doing things too. We sorted it out - I suppose because he’s older - he explained to me, he basically said to me, “Paul, I love you, I’m not going to go away anywhere. Just know that.” and that’s all that I need to know. I trust him and we just talk about everything. I’m over jealousy now: I wouldn’t bat an eyelid now if he went up and kissed a guy in front of me because I think it’s a turn on.
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We’ve both been tested for HIV, but not together. It was so long before we had anal sex together. The last time I’d had anal sex was with my other boyfriend in Sydney. We used condoms and I got tested then and I was negative. But I’ve had anal sex so few times that I’ve only had a few tests. I know I was HIV negative when I met my boyfriend. He told me he was negative and I believed him. It was over a year before we had anal sex together and then it was with a condom.
When we went on a trip to Singapore we had unprotected sex together. I trusted him with my life basically, because he’s a nurse and he’s a wonderful guy. I haven’t really had any worries about HIV because I know what I’m doing basically, I think about myself first. And I know there’s so much more than anal sex because I’m in an open relationship now. I mean you can have so much fun with other guys...
‘We tell each other everything..’
The only rule we have is that we tell each other everything. I think that’s what’s making our relationship so good. He tells me about his experiences and I tell him about mine. He travels around the world alot, so we’re apart - and its better to give him consent than doing it behind each other’s back.
We don’t have anal sex with other people at all; only with each other and that’s without condoms, but we’ve only had anal sex about three times. We have hot sex a lot and I think most of the time we’re so excited we just come before we’ve got that far. We do so much other stuff to help keep our relationship healthy sexually, like we tell each other our fetishes.
I’ve got an underwear fetish. We went to a dance party a month ago and we both had jockstraps and we were bonking like mad when we got home, you know.
‘Someone to lean on..’
I think honesty has made this relationship work, being honest with everything that we do. Communication; like just telling each other everything that happens and everything that’s on your mind, what your thoughts are. Even if initially it might be hard to take, because we have fights and stuff, we get upset about things, but you look back and think, God, you’re just so happy, because you’re learning about things and it’s just so good to have someone to lean on.
I like things like porn and other fetishes like exhibitionism, voyeurism – things that are kinky and fantasy-playing I like. And he’s made me feel so comfortable with my sexuality that I can still continue to love porn and stuff - I don’t have to hide it or anything. I suppose that because I was sexually abused I find it hard talking about sex openly - sexual positions and things like that.
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I was sexually abused when I was little. By an older guy, so that’s probably got lots to do with why I don’t fuck and stuff. He never had anal sex with me, I know that much. So that’s the one thing that I could give that wasn’t violated... I don’t know.
It’s got nothing to do with HIV/AIDS, but anal sex for me is about trust. It’s like, I don’t have a lot to own – I don’t have many assets and stuff – so anal sex for me is a sacred thing, very sacred, and I only give that to people that I really trust – and I’ve been right in that all along. The bottom line is that when I got taught about HIV that made it concrete. I’ve built all my rules around HIV...
I’ve told all my boyfriends about the abuse, because I’ve had to let them know why I’m frigid – is that what you say? Frigid? All the way through high school I felt really frigid. I couldn’t relate to people; I felt like an outcast all the time. I was going through puberty at the time and it was hard.
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I blame everything like that on the sexual abuse and I don’t know if that’s right, because every time I get depressed or feel down I blame that and that’s not right. I’m thinking now that I’m not as successful as I should be because I don’t fully believe in myself. I do now, but I have to be careful with people and it affects me a lot at work. I kind of float away... and it’s not drugs! That’s another rule; I don’t take any drugs whatsoever.
The fact is that when I was sexually abused I was never actually physically hurt or in pain. I think I used to like it. It’s funny saying that, but because I was so young I trusted this guy alot - like 200% - and to me he could have done whatever he wanted to me because he was older, he was an example to me. That was my thinking, you know. So I kept letting him do it.
It’s confusing. I used to go and see a counsellor every week. It helped me alot. I got it out. I suppose I got to a point where I was going for six months or so and I thought; I want to get on with the rest of my life, so get over it and move on.
I don’t plan a lot. I just love life and I live it day by day and take it as it comes.
Paul grew up down on the Mornington Peninsula.
When Paul was 18 his family moved to Bendigo and he finished his VCE.
After a sexual experience at The Peel, Paul moved to Melbourne.
Paul moved to Sydney for a while, but moved back to Melbourne after a relationship ended.