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 can’t remember not having sex with men; I think I was five when I had my first encounter with another guy, that was the boy next door scenario, really just kids mucking around... Right through my schooling there were friends that I played with, and I guessed most of that until my early teens was just mucking around. Each time it was me actively pursuing a sexual encounter, it wasn’t something that I felt was wrong until I was about fourteen.
Once you get to that age you realise that others around you are having girlfriends. My sexual encounters were always with other boys. I didn’t acknowledge it as being gay, it was just me being sexual. It was basically just sucking and playing and mucking around and certainly wasn’t anything involving anal sex. I had girlfriends, a couple, but it wasn’t until I met my first boyfriend that I acknowledged that I was gay.
My first condom experience was at the age of seven; we had a trip to Tasmania and at the airport I put 20c in a slot machine, turned the handle and out popped this little packet with this little green thing inside. I came out of the toilet and went straight up to my mum and said “What’s this? Do you eat it?” She laughed and laughed and laughed and said keep it, and one day you’ll find out what it is... It wasn’t until I was about thirteen or fourteen and I found out what it was, and I was stunned. But I did keep it all that time!
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I came out when I was 20. The first person I came out to was myself. When I met my first boyfriend, I realised where I was at. I was nineteen. It was a rollout thereafter, of people close to me including family and friends. Acknowledging it myself was a big thing. I was from country Victoria and I’d come to Melbourne to study at uni, and I think it was with my close associates at uni, followed shortly after with my mother, and my father by default.
That was a horrible experience. My parents were in the throes of getting a divorce and I phoned my mother from Melbourne one evening and she was distraught, she’d just hung up on a screaming match with my father on the phone, and she relayed to me this story that my father had said “That fucking poof son of yours” and I said “Mum, I’ll call you back in ten minutes. Bye!” I phoned him and gave him this barrage of abuse that went “If you have any concerns about my sexuality you are to discuss them with me, they weren’t any business of anyone else, you should have the guts to confront me about it...” After 20 minutes he said “Have you finished? Whether you like it or not you, are my only eldest son, and I am your only father, we’re stuck on the planet together. It’s important for you to know that whatever your sexuality, I love you no matter what.” He was the one that I had feared the most, and held off from telling, but as far as our relationship went, it was the best thing that could ever have happened! It was the first time he had ever said “I love you.”
My mother on the other hand... We sat down one evening and we started talking about the weather, and three hours later, when we were still talking about fluff, I finally gathered up the courage to say “Mum, I’m gay.” Her instant response was to say “That’s alright darling, we all go through these phases in life...”
I said, “No mum, I’ve tried both sides of the fence, and I know which side I’m on.” The fact that I’d tried sex was a greater shock to her than the fact that I was gay! I thought she would be fine, but it took her a long time to come around to the fact that I was the same person. My parents’ best friends were a gay couple when I was growing up and they were in a LTR, but that didn’t make it any easier for me to come out. Those that I felt emotionally connected to, who I saw as my closest friends, were the hardest to come out to. Coming out to those who I didn’t have that emotional or close connection with was easier, because if they rejected me, it didn’t matter as much.
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I was with my first boyfriend for about two years. We moved in together, in an apartment in lovely Moorabbin, where we did the whole two rooms routine. He was Greek, from a traditional Mediterranean family, and whenever they came over, my room was the very neat room. His parents knew we were together... it was never discussed, it was never an issue, I was “his best friend”, but if he ever went over the visit them and I wasn’t with him, his mother would say “Where’s Dean? Have you two had a fight or something? What’s going on?” So that was kinda cute... I was witness at his brother’s wedding, I was very much part of the family, I went to Greek Easters.
Until I met him, the idea of anal sex was certainly there but it wasn’t something I engaged in. Then sex with him was with condoms, at first. We went through 'The Process', getting tested, regularly, waiting til the time was right and then it was celebrated by having unprotected sex.
He was certainly more sexually aware than I was, in some ways... He had spent some time as a working boy on the streets when he was about fourteen, so I guess he had a greater understanding of sex with men than I did. I’d had encounters with men but I didn’t really see that as gay sex, it was just me being sexual.
We met at a beat, so while we went through moments of monogamy, I have always been able to separate the physical act of sex and love. That has its own issues, like not understanding (until my early thirties) the concept of intimacy.
It was a recurring theme in all of the relationships that I’d had of this lack of intimacy in which I always said to my partners, “What the hell do you want, you want more sex? My god, don’t we have enough sex?”
The distinction between sex and intimacy was only defined for me after the breakup of my last relationship. We broke up and then lived together for another six months, and during that six months of living together in separate rooms, we had more one-on-one sex than we’d had during the fifteen months of our relationship. Most of the sex had been group sex, that I had initiated but he certainly enjoyed along the way.
But during that last six months I connected with him on a totally different level. I opened up to him and allowed myself to be vulnerable and we shared what I now know as intimacy. It was then reinforced when he met his new partner – in some way I got to share and enjoy, as an observer, the love that was growing between them, and the intimacy they shared together. All three of us continue to enjoy an amazing friendship and love for each other.
How we met is a fabulous story. My partner of the time drove to Sydney to spend New Year in Jervis Bay with his friends. We had been going through some tough times and it was clearly on the rocks, and one night he came home as I was having sex with his mate who we were staying with. So the next morning I was on the plane back to Melbourne.
He had my house keys, car keys, new car and I arrived in Melbourne with not enough money to get home from the airport. Two or three days later was NYE. All the party tix for Magnitude had sold out. I had no money for pills or even to buy myself a drink, I was almost out on the street! Friends of mine rallied around, they got me a party ticket, put $200 in my pocket and enough things to enjoy myself for the evening...
It was about 4AM. Everything was kicking in beautifully, I was getting a bit wobbly-legged, I was looking out across the dancefloor, I didn’t want to stand up, didn’t want to sit down, didn’t want to dance – it was one of those things. As I looked over to the dancefloor, silhouetted against the laserlights were these amazing shoulders, this sexy vision, and I threw my arms around him and just draped myself over his shoulders... He thought it was his friend, from behind, and when he turned to look he went “who the fuck are you!?” I said “it’s alright mate, I’ll fuck off when I’m bored...!”
And if you’d said to me at the time you are going to meet an HIV+ man who is 11 years your senior and fall in love with him, I would have said, you’re mad.
Not long before that I had an experience where three of my fuckbuddies all seroconverted (became HIV positive) within ten days of each other. I’d had unprotected sex with all of them; they’d been fuck buddies for a number of years, and we had close connections. I know that we’d all had unprotected sex with each other within a month of their seroconversions. Out of the four of them, I’m the only one who stayed negative, and I don’t know why, because I’m a very hungry-arsed bottom, and two of them were tops. I was unbelievably lucky.
Unprotected sex was just one of those drug-fucked stupid decisions that kinda happened.
There certainly wasn’t any blowing up my butt, by any of them, but like I said it was just in a drug-fucked stupor that it happened – we were on E’s and Speed. We played with heaps of others. I went through three months of hell after that, getting tested and ensuring that I was clear, knowing that all of them had seroconverted.
I’d like to say I was overly cautious about sex thereafter, but I wasn’t... I’d never shied away from having sex with positive guys, that wasn’t an issue, but to fall in love and be in a relationship with one? Previously, I would not have entertained the idea as being possible. Only because I would not have allowed myself to emotionally connect with someone who was positive. I guess it was a lack of understanding that a positive and a negative relationship could be truly fulfilling on all levels; truly satisfying, on all levels; and long-term.
I have heaps of positive friends. There’s a couple of guys in Sydney who were in a pos-neg relationship – they were in a long-term relationship – and I kinda had idolised them not only for being beautiful, wonderful friends, but I’d placed them on a pedestal because they were able to have a loving, fulfilling relationship in a pos-neg combination. But I certainly thought it was beyond my capabilities... and then I met this beautiful guy on a dancefloor, draped myself on him, and said I’ll fuck off when I get bored!
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The first time we had sex, which was on NYD, he blew in my mouth, and that was that. Second time we had sex, during foreplay, he said there’s something I need to tell you. I said yeah yeah yeah sure, and he said “I’m positive.” My initial reaction was twofold: one was “Omigod I swallowed his cum yesterday,” and the other was “Well, that’s been and gone, that’s already happened, I can’t change that.” Because we were in the throes of foreplay, I thought “Well I’ve got a choice here, I can either allow it to get in the way of me enjoying this guy’s company, or, acknowledge it, and enjoy the sex.”, and that’s what I did.
For me, from that moment on, sex with him was fan-fucking-tastic. Having a HIV-positive partner who you had regular sex with, there was no middle ground – no ‘maybe let’s just slip the knob in’ or whatever, no ‘let’s just muck around and push the boundaries a little bit further’ – it was very clear. I had some clarity.
He was positive and a top, I was negative and a bottom, we had sex with condoms. And boy, did we have fabulous sex with condoms.
And that was when I realised you can have very good sex with condoms!
He was very good at it! And so was I. I reckon if you’re good at sex, you can be very good with condoms. If you take pride in your work, like all things, the end result can be very very fulfilling. If you’re half-hearted about it, you’re only gonna be second-rate. If you’re bloody good at it then take pride in what you’re doing.
Getting good at it
When I was 22 I was working on the scene, partying hard every weekend, working full time as well, and going to Porter St every night after work at 3Faces. One of those nights I met a guy in his thirties, and I didn’t know it at the time, but he became the first guy I ever fisted. He became like a sexual mentor for me. He was positive, he was fucking sexy and he was your all-Australian blonde Aussie sexy bloke. He made me realise that your sexuality should be celebrated – it is not something that is wrong or bad, it’s something that is intrinsically you, and he gave me the freedom to be sexually true to myself.
He certainly taught me the wilder side of sex. He taught me elements of leather sex, how to fist, we had wonderful fun with video cameras, other people and all sorts of stuff... and we enjoyed each other’s company, on and off, including with his partner, for three or four years, before sadly he committed suicide.
I guess for a lot of people the wilder side of sex comes from a dark space – they use words like bad, naughty, whatever. For me, it’s all from a good space – it’s all good – and it’s very much to be celebrated. Fisting and watersports are my main things. Watersports are pretty much safe. Fisting is all about trust, body awareness, connection, it’s very very sexual, very very masculine, there is nothing ‘soft’ or mince-y about the sex that I have with other men. My sexuality and my sex with other men is all very masculine.
Gloves On, Gloves Off
You don’t have to be a sixty year old hairy chested leather man to be into fisting. There’s a lot of mysticism and mythology and incorrect crap floating around about fisting and I think part of that is because people aren’t prepared to talk openly about it. Part of it is because, particularly from the older practitioners of the ancient art, they don’t share their experiences about it. I know that when I was going through my 9 years of trying to get there, I searched high and low for information and understanding – and this was before my access to the Internet, though there’s a lot of crap on that about fisting too – and I got very little quality information.
Fisting can be as safe or unsafe as you want it to be, gloves on, gloves off, just like anal sex.
Being fisted took me nine years to achieve, yet I’ve been with people who managed to get there first time – and what a disappointment that made me feel!
The trick to safer fisting is using lots of lube. Use J-lube, not ordinary lube; it’s a veterinary lube, so it’s great for sticking your fist up cows – or people! It’s super-slippery, it creates an aquafilm between the surface of the arse and somebody’s hand, so there’s a water layer between two surfaces – as opposed to silicone where, while slippery, the two surfaces are very much in contact. With fisting, there are Hep C concerns, open cuts, and so forth.
Nowadays I hold Fisting information classes at Eagle Leather. I went to one of Eagle Leather’s educational classes and the two guys who were giving the lesson had certainly done it before but it wasn’t their thing, and when it’s not your thing you can’t talk passionately about it. So I see it as my responsibility to share my knowledge with others, so that they don’t stuff things up, and so it comes to them from a good space, rather than as self harm or for negative reasons.
I don’t like the terms active/passive, there are plenty of tops out there who are totally passive, and plenty of bottoms who are very very active! I think it’s the bottom’s responsibility to ensure that they know their own capabilities, their own strengths and weaknesses, to have an awareness of their own body, and that they have a connection with the top. If you take responsibility for your own actions, and you have that connection, then trust can start to build. I get tested religiously – every two and a half or three months. I have a straight doctor, who I have always gone to for my tests. I am totally honest about my sexual activities.
God, I can remember having my first test, and also that time when all those fuckbuddies seroconverted, and a couple of times when silly things have happened like condoms breaking... I’ve found that if I lock it in to have a regular test, it takes a lot of that fear away, not like having it once every three years cos each time you go you’re not gonna know. If you go systematically, for me anyway, it makes it a lot easier.
STI’s are an issue – I’ve had plenty of them. It bothers me that they might expose me to the risk of contracting other things. Does it bother me that I’ve contracted an STI? No, it’s already happened. It bothers me if I’ve passed it onto someone else but I take responsibility and make sure to let them know. In most cases two or three weeks down the track something has shown up, or I’ve got a phone call from a sexual partner and off I’ve trundled to the doctor and got it checked out... Other than hepatitis and HIV, if you are healthy and fit and conscious of your body and your activities, then a shot of antibiotics will fix it up!
As I get older, I acknowledge more and more that I am responsible for my own actions, I am responsible for my own health, during my younger years I didn’t admit that so much.
I think that no matter how drugfucked you are, unless you’re in a coma, you’re responsible for yourself. Just make it very clear from the outset that you are a person that has sex with condoms...
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One time I was at a fuck club in Sydney, with my former partner, there were three or four other guys in the room with us, and I was in the sling. He was always “my eyes” – if I was “messy” he would look out for me. So when somebody came up to the sling and went to fuck me without a condom, even while he was in the throes of fucking somebody else, he yelled out “OY!” When we broke up, it took me quite a while to realise that my eyes weren’t there any more, and that I had to take responsibility for what was going on sexually. It meant that I haven’t got as fucked up since.
There have been times in my life when I’ve just felt, “Everyone is positive. So I’m a freak.” It’s not the case of course, but there have been times when it just seemed like everyone was positive. It kind of felt like I was the odd one out. Now I think it’s very important for me to stay negative, and it’s just part of my general wellbeing like eating well and sleeping well – and while I stuff those up on a weekly basis, partying too hard, it’s important to acknowledge that we’ve got one go at this planet and we’re here to enjoy it. So I celebrate my sexuality and I celebrate having sex, and I celebrate the fact that I’m negative, but I don’t let it influence my attitudes towards other people.
Discrimination is for Dicks!
More recently, again in Sydney, I went over to an apartment where five guys were having an orgy. We’d connected through Gaydar. I packed my bag with toys, and J-Lube, and condoms, and DVD’s, and off I went. I got there and there before me were five of the most stunning-looking, hottest muscle guys, with the biggest cocks that you could possibly imagine, and I thought I am in heaven. And we started getting into it, and I made it clear that I only had sex with condoms.
About fifteen minutes later the host said “Would you mind leaving?” I asked why, “What’s the issue?” and he replied that “It’s just that y’know, we all bareback and you don’t, and the other guys are feeling really uncomfortable, and would you mind leaving.” And that’s the first time I’ve been rejected for insisting on condom use. I know there are a lot of HIV+ guys who are rejected because they’re honest with their sexual partners about their status, and I know there is discrimination on that level. I’ve never discriminated on that level, so it was one hell of a shock and a rude awakening for that to have occurred. I felt ostracised.
That awakened me to the narrow-mindedness of humans, period, really. I know that a lot of positive guys are discriminated against and I’ve never shied away from having sex with positive guys, so it disappointed me. Like I said, you can have bloody good sex with condoms, if you’re good at what you do. It’s like all things in life – practice practice practice, and pride! Take pride in it and yourself – the outcome is fantastic.
Dean grew up in country Victoria, and moved to Melbourne to study after he finished school.