Dirk and I have only one rule in our relationship: “Never bring home anything you don’t want to share.” It works on all sorts of levels. In a having-sex-with-others context, it means we don’t keep anyone to ourselves. If Dirk meets someone he thinks is hot and wants to hook up with him, I’m always invited to join them… or I can feel free to say “No thanks, but you boys have fun.” I’m extended the same courtesy. It fosters a sexual openness that is both liberating and exhilarating; as long as I feel included, I’m not jealous at all, and neither is Dirk.
There’s more to the One Rule, though, and it pertains to sexually-transmitted diseases. We have what some people might term an “open relationship,” and on top of that we both work in the adult film industry. The bottom line is that we’re having sex with men other than just ourselves. And accidents happen.
Let me tell you a story. A few years ago I dated an amazing man. We were together for two years and we’re still the best of friends today. We originally met online; he lives in a different city, and we decided to meet in person while I was there on vacation late one summer. We really hit it off. It was the middle of a record heat wave, my hotel room didn’t have air conditioning, and I’d been miserable for the first two days of my visit. He kindly offered to put me up for the remainder of my stay so I checked out of my hotel early and moved my stuff to his place. We were inseparable; our chemistry was great and we had a ton of fun. By the time the week was over, we knew we wanted to try dating (despite the distance). We saw each other every two weeks on average. We had sex… lots of it. He and I had both tested HIV negative, but he’d lost a former partner to AIDS and was adamant about having safe sex. We always used a condom.
Fast forward four months. The holiday season was approaching, and there was a benefit fundraiser in Boston that I was really looking forward to taking him to. Two days before the party I got a very strange voicemail from him. His quivering, quiet voice said, “Hey, it’s me. I can’t come to Boston this weekend. I don’t even know if we can be boyfriends anymore. Anyway, bye.” Needless to say, I freaked. Things had been going great. What could possibly be the problem? I called him back, shaking as I dialed. When I spoke to him, he was choking back tears.
He’d just tested positive for HIV.He said he hadn’t slept with anyone but me since we’d met, and I believe him; he’s a man of unimpeachable character. Nor had I; I’d been focused entirely on him. But about a month before he’d met me, he’d hooked up with a guy who didn’t disclose his status. My boyfriend had used a condom, of course… but as I mentioned earlier, accidents happen. Who knows… maybe the condom leaked or tore (it happened to Dirk once… more on that in a bit), or — and I prefer to think this didn’t happen, but who knows — perhaps the other guy pulled off the condom intentionally at one point and my soon-to-be boyfriend didn’t notice. In any case, he’d unknowingly taken a full load of HIV+ spunk. A month later, he’d gotten tested (as he, and I, always do every three months) and the result came back negative because he was still outside the detection window (HIV tests can take up to 12 weeks to show a positive result). Not having any reason to suspect he was positive, he assumed he was negative.
If you only take away one point from this blog post, make it this: NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING.I love my ex-boyfriend to this day, and I trust him. I had every reason to suspect, for the first four months of our relationship, that he was negative. He wasn’t. And the only reason I’m still negative is that he and I used condoms. Now he’s on medication and undetectable, but the entire experience has been one big headache for him. He experienced tons of nausea and terrifying nightmares while adjusting to the meds, still needs to tweak the dosages once in a while (causing even more discomfort when he does), and pays thousands of dollars a year in medical expenses just to keep the infection at bay. He has to go to the doctor all the time to monitor the medication’s effectiveness and track his T-cell count. And the psychological challenges it posed to him were enormous: He’s encountered tons of AIDS phobia (including people who consider him “unclean”), and on top of that, due to a sense of guilt over having become infected in the first place, he withdrew from the gay community. Our relationship changed; we were nowhere near as social, and he was exhausted a lot of the time because of the nightmares. While our relationship didn’t end because he became HIV positive (when we did break up two years later, it was more a case of the distance between us simply becoming too great a challenge), I can definitely say it was a huge stressor. No one wants that shit.
As I referred to earlier, Dirk had a somewhat similar experience. In December of 2011, a few months after he and I started dating, he was in New York visiting friends. Dirk and I had been open from the very start; our first sexual encounter, in fact, was a threesome with our good friend and fellow actor Dolan Wolf. Anyway, when he was in New York, he hooked up with an old friend of his who’s HIV positive… and the condom broke. It separated at the ring, leaving the balloon wedged up inside my boyfriend along with his friend’s load. Dirk and his friend were both quite upset, but Dirk called me right then and there to tell me the news, and first thing in the morning he went to Callen-Lorde’s Sexual Health Clinic in Chelsea and got himself on post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP. (PEP is essentially a morning-after pill for HIV exposure that you need to take as soon as possible after you’re exposed, and absolutely no later than 72 hours; it’s available from almost any doctor or clinic. You should learn more about it. Now. Go ahead… I’ll wait.) And, sweetheart that he is, he bought me a cool gift tin of different condoms and exotic lubes for us to try. Who needs roses with a gift like that?
So far I’ve only talked about HIV, but there are plenty of other STDs out there, and condoms are our best blanket defense against their transmission. According to the CDC, condoms provide an “essentially impermeable barrier” for such nasties as HPV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. These are all diseases that can be transmitted from skin-to-skin genital contact, so simply not ejaculating inside your partner isn’t enough. And I don’t want to seem alarmist, but there might be all new nasties forming out there that are poised to enter the scene, just like HIV did back in 1981. Condoms are cheap, widely available, and one of our best protections against all of the above. With the addition of PEP in situations when accidents happen, you’re as protected as you can be against HIV and all that other stuff without sacrificing your ability to be a happy, horny, sexually active gay male.
My point here is that you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why Dirk and I always play safe. For my part, if I didn’t, I’d probably be HIV positive right now… and I simply don’t want all that hassle and cost, not to mention the inevitable guilt and anti-HIV stigma that my ex-boyfriend had to endure. It’s just not worth it.
Besides, I don’t want to break the One Rule; an STD is something that Dirk and I definitely do not want to share.