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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The first time I fell in love I was 16 going on 17 and there was a girl I had been friends with. It was really good while we were in school. Then she went off to university in Sydney and it went a bit ugly after that. While I was on a rebound from her I lost my virginity to the next girl, who I was going out with for two months. This happened a couple of months before my 19th birthday.
We used a condom; It would have been silly not to, I suppose. I could tell the relationship was going in that direction so I carried some with me. We were just thinking about contraception. She had been with guys before but she had not been with anyone for six months and it was my first time, so we were very certain there was no STI risk.
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The first time I had sex with a man I was 23. It was just a one-off. I met him through the internet in a chat room. It was 1997. I had been married for a year at the time. That was fine; the marriage was good. We have always had a good relationship. However, I started thinking about blokes.
I went looking. I decided I wanted to try it out, and I went to a chat room. I had been going there for a little while. He lived a couple of blocks away; it was really convenient. I went and met up with him.
Physically it was alright, nothing really special – and there was no penetration, so there was no need for a condom. But emotionally it was really bad. It left me feeling really upset. Basically, once it finished he just kicked me out. I was really distraught. It was my first time, so I felt really betrayed.
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I kept it to myself for couple of days. And eventually I broke down and told my wife. She was so good about it. She was mainly worried about how upset I was. We had a good talk about it. The experience I had was so bad that I decided I was straight. I was so upset that I thought it just wasn’t meant to be.
But about a year later I was thinking about it again - and thinking that maybe it was just a bad experience. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea after all. I met up with another bloke in a chat room and went to his house. He was wonderful. He was really nice, a really nice guy. And that was very good. It left me feeling very positive.
One of the things I was most ashamed of is that I didn’t tell my wife for about two weeks. I finally told her. She was angry that I didn’t tell her for so long. But apart from that she was fine. Because it was actually good this time we talked about it a lot: I would probably end up doing it again, so how are we going deal with this?
That second time there was penetration and we did use a condom. This bloke was older than me and more experienced. He was bottom. I was topping. When we got to that point he just said, "Right, condom on" and I went, "OK". It wasn’t my decision. I’m sure I would have anyway but he was leading the way. He just went, "Condom on and off you go". I didn’t have any problem with it.
I never have any objection to condoms. My wife and I lived together for two years before we got married. The first three years that we were together we were completely monogamous. We were using condoms for a while as contraception, but then she started taking the pill so we just stopped using condoms and we’ve never used them with each other since.
That’s part of an agreement we have, that we never have to use condoms between the two of us, because we know that I will always use them with other people. I always practice safe sex outside the marriage. That was one of the rules.
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Looking back on it there were signs that I was bisexual throughout my teenage years, but it wasn’t something that I recognised at the time. When I was a kid I always found that male and female nudity were equally interesting to me. I wasn’t, "Oh my god, look at that woman!" To me both of them were interesting. In a way male nudity was more interesting because it was so rare. It was so unusual to see a naked man on TV or in a movie or magazine.
When I was in my early twenties I got on the internet and found pornography - porn on the internet; who knew?!
Just out of curiosity I found some gay porn and I went, ‘Oh, this is strange; I actually like this. What’s going on here?’ I found myself looking at it alot and masturbating. I thought about it and I figured I must be bi.
I don’t remember having any problem with it or having to do any soul searching about it. I just went, ‘OK, I’m bi; fair enough.’ Then I decided I was going to do something about it - and I did. That’s I when I started looking for blokes. I do regret that I didn’t talk to my wife about it before I did anything.
When I did tell her, she was fine, but she was surprised. She never expected it of me. She always thought that I seemed really straight. She never picked up any hints that I may be interested in blokes at all.
She is bi-curious herself. I knew that before we married. She told me. She said at the time that it’s not something she’s actively seeking out or anything but she expects that at some point in the future she would end up having sex with a girl at least once. If that happens it’s fine with me. I’m cool with that.
She just said that it would really hypocritical of her to be upset about it, because she knew that she has that capacity within herself as well. For her to be angry about me having feelings like that would be a double standard, so she said it was fine by her.
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We just talked and talked and talked about it in great length over many years. It was a few years before we were really comfortable with it and could really talk about it in any great detail. Early on especially, she didn’t really want to know. She sometimes asked about the gruesome details and I would be really shy, but occasionally she got shy when I actually told her. So we sort of avoided talking about that kind of thing.
If I did go off and play around with a guy she didn’t necessarily want to know beforehand, but she wanted to be told as soon afterward as possible. The first time I told her I was really, really upset - I was bawling. I felt quite sure that she was going to want a divorce, that she wouldn’t love me any more, that she’d think I was disgusting and all these things.
At the time her primary concern was that I was so upset. She wanted to calm me down; she didn’t like to see me upset. She said she doesn’t think she would have been angry anyway, but even if she had potentially felt anger it would have been counteracted by her concern for me because I was so upset.
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It’s a complicated situation and we have our set of rules. The rules need to be evaluated and updated now and then. We just need to talk about it all the time because for us our relationship is the most important thing. We came up with these rules to protect me individually, but also to protect our relationship, to protect our marriage. The number one overriding rule is that our marriage is the most important thing and nothing can threaten that.
All the other rules basically come from that and from preserving our sexual health. We had rules like: I won’t go off and play around with guys if it’s time I should be spending with Bec. Playing around wasn’t that big a part of my life at that point, in the first five years after the first incident. I only saw three guys in the space of three to four years anyway.
The initial rules were: safe sex only; condoms always outside marriage. If I’m going to meet a stranger, on the internet for example, I have to leave his name, phone number, and address behind, so if I happen to meet a lunatic there’ll be information about where I’ve gone.
For the same reason, I couldn’t go off to meet a guy if Bec was out of town; she goes interstate for work alot. That’s just because if something goes bad there won’t be anyone around to notice that I’m missing. We also had a rule about not playing around in our bed, although that has changed due to pure necessity, and because we realised it’s no longer an issue. They were the initial rules. Oh, and I had to tell her immediately afterwards if I met up with someone.
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I was clinically depressive for the better part of a decade. I was going up and down, going in and out of jobs and getting sacked from jobs or quitting them. So finding people to have sex with seemed a pretty minor and unimportant thing. When you’re dealing with horrible feelings of self-loathing and feeling like life is a big disaster, the whole question of sexuality takes a bit of a back seat.
Things happened occasionally. I met my first three guys through the internet over a period of three to four years. Then there was a very long drought for about two to three years. Then everything suddenly started accelerating after I got treatment for my depression. I started to see a really good psychiatrist and started on anti-depression medications and my whole life suddenly changed. It was an amazing transformation to my life. I finished my university degree. I visited the US. All of a sudden my life was a lot more positive.
My wife and I joined Bi-Victoria, a bisexual social and support group. We made lots of friends through that. It’s really good. We now have people who we can talk to about our sexuality; people who have been to the places we have and who have had the same problems and issues to deal with.
Regular Male Partners
I have not met sex partners through the internet for many years now. I actually have had two regular male partners now in the past year. I met both of them through Bi-Victoria. They are both single men.
One of them I met through a personal mailing list on Bi-Victoria. This guy posted and I thought, ‘He sounds alright’. So we got chatting through e-mails. We talked on line for a few months, got to know each other a bit and we finally met up in person. He came over.
It went really well from start. The sex was really good. I introduced him to my wife a week or two after I met him and they got on really well.
That went really for about three months. Then he got a new girlfriend and decided to be monogamous with her, so that ended. I wanted to stay friends with him, but he sort of drifted away.
He was a guy I hadn’t known for all that long so it would have been pretty silly if I hadn’t used condoms. I knew that he had just finished a five-year relationship with a woman and had only been with one bloke before, so the disease risk was really low. But even so, it would be silly to risk it. The first time we had sex, when we got to that point we just reached for a condom. It was just a silent agreement that we’d use one.
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If I was in a long-term relationship with a bloke and we sat down with my wife and had a good talk, we may agree to have some sort of no-condoms rule between us. But we’d have to sit down and talk about it. I’d probably want to insist on getting a test for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) first. I’m pretty certain I don’t have anything, and Bec doesn’t, but it would be good to have that bit of paper to say so. A no-condoms arrangement is something I would only enter with a guy who I really trust and knew for a long time. I may be at that point with my current male partner.
I met my current male partner at a Bi-Victoria party. He’s an older guy. He just came out, came to his bi senses! He only identified himself as bi about a month or two earlier. He came on to the Bi-Victoria mailing list and started reading then he came along to a party. I happened to meet him and start chatting with him. He’s a really nice guy.
There was no real sexual intention at first, we were just chatting away and being friendly. My wife and I invited him over for dinner one night. He came over and had a chat. My wife went to bed and things happened between him and me. It was good. It wasn’t planned at all; it just happened.
We’ve been seeing each other regularly for about eight months now and we’re at that point where I’d like to talk to him about the no condoms rule, if he is willing. But I don’t know whether he would or not. It’s just a matter of having a chat and seeing how he feels about it, and how Bec feels about it. I’m not one of these people who think condoms spoil the experience or anything; they’re fine.
Condom-wise I found that I had to try a number of different brands to find one that is comfortable, that I like and that fits me well. But I think stopping using condoms is really an intimacy issue, as this bloke and I are getting closer and the feeling for each other is getting deeper. I just found that condoms are almost an emotional barrier.
I don’t care that much. But I think that if we could come to a ‘no condoms’ agreement between the two of us, it would really be a step-up of intimacy. But if he’s not willing, that’s fine too.
In all the eight years, on and off, that I have been seeing blokes I have never had penetrative male-to-male sex without a condom. It’s not an issue, especially when it’s a one-off thing with a stranger. In fact I would think it’s crazy not to use a condom in that situation. I don’t know these guys; they can have anything for all I know. But when you know someone really well I think it’s a potential step forward in a relationship.
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I have only recently begun having sex with other women as well. That happened only because through Bi-Victoria we’ve become involved with a polyamory group. About a year ago I suggested to my wife that she have sex with a bloke I knew she was attracted to. She had not found a girl that she liked and trusted enough with whom to have her first time with a girl. I was feeling guilty; I was off having fun with my guys and she hadn’t had anything. I sort of felt bad. There was a guy that I knew she liked, so I said, ‘If you want to pursue something with him, you can’.
She did, but she hasn’t managed to get him yet. He is really reluctant. He obviously wants her but he says, ‘No, you’re married, you’re married!’ Yes, we are married but we’re polyamorous! It’s something that he can’t get past. Which is a pity. She really likes him. Bec has been pursuing this bloke for a year now. She’s still trying. She hasn’t given up on him yet.
There was a girl at Bi-Victoria who liked me a lot. Bec said it would be unfair for her to say I couldn’t see her, since I had suggested she pursue this guy, so she said, ‘If you want to, go ahead’. So she and I had sex three times in the past two or three months, just a casual thing. We’re more friends than anything. We’re basically friends who have sex now and then. Again, condoms every time.
I first heard about AIDS in primary school. I grow up in a country town. AIDS seemed like a city thing or American thing. It didn’t seem like something it could happen in a little country town where I lived. I didn’t really have an impact on my life at that age.
My parents are Catholic and they didn’t tell me anything. They were hopeless. I remember when AIDS became a really serious problem, if there were things about it on TV they stopped me seeing it by changing the channel. They were of the understanding that if you were talking to kids about sex you were encouraging them to do it - as opposed to the school of thought where they are going to do it anyway, so you should teach them to do it safely. But they didn’t want to think about it. They didn’t want me thinking about it.
I learned about sex at school. I did a bit of reading on my own. I spent lots of time at a library at a kid. I remembered sneaking around very embarrassed looking at books. But also we did a little bit of sex education at school in year 11 or 12. It was basically Catholic propaganda. They were saying there are these contraceptive methods but they are all dangerous or bad. They were saying that nothing really works properly anyway, so, you shouldn’t have sex.
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The first few men I met were just one-offs I met on the internet. I’d meet random strangers and go into their houses, which had an element of risk to it. Once I passed that experimental stage and stopped having sex with strangers, the risk part of having sex started to disappear. So the rules about having to leave names and addresses and not doing stuff with guys when Bec is away all vanished.
Now that I have had two regular male partners the ‘not in our marriage bed’ rule also changed. We realised that it was a product of us not being together for very long. The symbolism of the marriage bed doesn’t matter to us any more. We were fine with that.
One of the initial rules was having same-sex partners only outside the marriage. So no girls for me, but if she wants to pursue girls she is free to do so. But she never did. She is really shy, very much an introvert. But if she wanted to, she could - and the same rules would apply to her.
I am free to have sex with guys if I want to, but if meet a girl who I want to have sex with then we have to negotiate that. We have to sit down and talk about it. Bec has to meet the girl and basically has to like her. She has to trust this person to treat her husband well. It’s complicated but it works! It’s weirdly formal, having a little meeting to discuss the idea of you having sex with my husband.
‘Why do you want to have sex with my husband?’
We’ve actually done that once. This girl came around for tea. The three of us sat down and Bec said, "So, why do you want to have sex with my husband? What are you going to get out of it? Emotionally, what’s in it for you?" It was weird but it worked out. It was necessary. Bec wanted to understand this person. She wondered about the whole situation. She wanted to know why I wanted to do it and she wanted to know why this girl wanted to do it.
The situation required a lot of trust. It seems to be going alright so far –it’s the first time we’ve done anything like this.
Initially, when I first started seeing guys, I said to Bec, "I want to go outside our marriage and do this; what sort of rules do I need to adhere to so you can be happy with this?" It’s a matter of trust. We talked about it and we agreed on some rules. The rules were what she needed in order for her to feel comfortable with me doing that. That was fine; I understood that because above all I want her to be happy and I want our relationship to be strong and healthy. They were the sort of things I would have suggested anyway.
We share everything. We don’t keep secrets from each other. Even if it hurts. Even if you really want to keep it a secret. We just have to force ourselves not to. So, negotiating new rules or changing old rules for us is fairly easy.
With the rules, if we see something is not really working we just ask ourselves, 'How are we going to fix this?' and we just talk about it and come up with something. We try that out and, ‘Yep, that works fine now’, and we go with that. Or if it’s not really working for one or both of us we just try something else.
We have always communicated really well; we are really lucky in that way. We understand each other quite well and we don’t argue much. We do argue now and then, but we rarely fight.
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We started going to a polyamory discussion group, because we have been experimenting a bit with polyamory. Polyamory is related to open relationships and swinging but it’s a different animal. There are overlaps between the three things but they are different. Polyamory literally means ‘to love more than one’.
Polyamory, as I understand it, is basically having a full and real loving relationship with more than one person at the time. It’s something I started to get into when I started to see and get regular male partners. We found that emotionally I was getting attached to him more than I expected to.
I always thought I’m a bit of a Kinsey 1 or Kinsey 2.
I’m sexually attracted to men. I can be friends with men but I never thought I could love them. I never thought I could have a romantic relationship with a man, but I have surprised myself recently and found I actually can.
I discovered that for the first time with my first regular male partner. I didn’t think I was in love with him but the feeling I had for him went beyond friendship and sex. I started to feel more deeply for him. When he got his new girlfriend and decided to be monogamous with her, at least at the early stage in their relationship, it hurt me a lot more than I thought it would. I was surprised by the depth of the feeling that I had.
That really got me thinking about it. I was talking to Bec about it and saying, ‘I think I was actually in love with him’. We were talking to a Bi-Victoria friend of ours who is into polyamory. She runs a polyamory discussion group. She said, ‘You’re poly!’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘You have a serious relationship with more than one person at once, don’t you?’
So, we started going to the polyamory group, and I told Bec it’s OK for her to pursue this other bloke. That was not just a frivolous thing; she genuinely loves him. She has really deep feelings for him. She loves him and she loves me in a very similar way. So, we started going to the group to talk about it and find out how people deal with it.
It’s actually not that uncommon. There is lots of terminology for it, like ‘V relationships’. A ‘V’ is one person with two others. We actually know people who have been in a V relationship for six or eight years and have kids.
We were surprised to find out it really can last and work well. People in V relationships can be really happy. Polyamory and bisexuality are closely linked because, to be emotionally fulfilled, some bisexuals need to have relationship with a man and a woman. It may just be one solid monogamous relationship with a man and one with a woman. But they need both to be happy. And they end up having a long-term relationship with both.
I’d like to find myself a job, a career that I can enjoy and feel happy and comfortable with and be financially secure.
Also, I want Bec to have a bit of luck with her relationship pursuits outside our marriage. I’d really like for Bec to get a chance to explore her sexuality. She has really dodgy luck. She found a girl who she really likes and we are good friends with her. But she eventually told us that emotionally she needs a person who is just hers - a married woman doesn’t cut it for her. So she had to tell Bec that it couldn’t happen. That girl has now found herself a wonderful monogamous girlfriend and we are really happy for her.
Bec and I always have good sex but I can’t give her a girl experience because I’m not a girl. But things are looking up; there is a really nice friend she met through Bi-Victoria and things are developing.
My third wish follows on from the first one. We have wanted kids for a long time but the money situation has been shocking. We’ve never felt financially secure enough to have kids. Now we’re at a point where we’d like to. I’d really like to have kids. It would be the next step for us together to be parents.