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Bad Manners and Good Gossip

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January 21, 2007


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"Produced on the very eve of the AIDS pandemic, it proposes a future in which, following some plague-like visitation, the world's population is either Sex Positive or Sex Negative."


As somebody who is fascinated by the sociological and cultural aspects of the AIDS belief system, this film's themes sound eerily prophetic.

The quote above about the world's population being divided into the sex positive and sex negative has a direct correlation in gay culture at this very moment...

There's a rapidly growing phenomenon known as "barebacking" amongst gay men. There are websites devoted to it. There are literally thousands of ads per even mid-size American cities of men looking for condomless sex with other men.

What's intriguing about this is how many men claim to be "HIV positive".

There's an emerging mentality about "positivity" and barebacking. The mentality is...the worst has already happened, so why bother with condoms?

These gay men are the "sex positive" as well as being the "HIV positive". In their minds, they've paid the highest price. So now they are able to be sexual with each other without the unnecessary burden of condoms.

Most of us who are "negative" still live in incredible fear of "HIV". So, in my opinion, we remain sex-negative. We can talk all we like about being sex-positive, but as long as we remain in mortal fear of real intimicay, true sex-positivity is unattainable. We are both "HIV-negative" and sex-negative.

Elizabeth Ely

You really added something, Dan, because most of the comments on this movie note that it translates backwards: HIV-Positive means Sex-Negative, as in, you can't have sex anymore because you're contaminated. But if now, as you say, HIV-Positive means Sex-Positive with everybody else who "has it," that's an interesting new way to see it. It also validates the way one of the gay men quoted in Lauritsen and Young's book "The AIDS Cult" described the initiation rite of seroconverting. Something like, if you're HIV-negative, "what's the matter, didn't anybody want your tired old ass?" It's cool to lose your "virginity" (explaining a lot about the movie's popularity with college kids in the '80s). You get to join the party, as Rico. "Dance or die" becomes "Dance AND die": Live fast, die young.

By the way, the actor who played Rico, stage name Kevin Jay, is reported to have died of testicular cancer in 1987. It could happen to anyone, but I found it especially sad to read this. Maybe it's having grown up in the nightclub business, where many other Ricos turned out to be mortal -- before there even was an "AIDS."

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