Queer Health: Avoiding the Stealth Bomb
Back a few months ago some friends of mine passed around a (not safe for work) blog post titled “Stealth Bomb: What it is, What it isnt, How it Works.” I do recommend clicking that link and reading the post but please be forwarned: The post is definitely not work safe, and it is intensely disturbing. Basically it’s a guy who is into barebacking and tricks his sexual partners into unsafe sexual contact because he truly believes that his own sexual gratification is more important than being a decent human being.
I found this post to be really useful even though it is really upsetting. It gives a good glimpse into the risks taken on by some people participating in anonymous sex. It also gives some really clear indications of things that those same people can do to increase their own safety, and prevent someone from taking advantage of them in the same way.
In describing how he goes about making sure condoms will break, or tricking his sexual partners into not using them in the first place, Mark Bentson has given us a valuable glimpse into the mind of the person who very well might be on the other side of that email exchange, glory hole, or Craigslist post. When we do not know the person we are being sexual with, we have no way of knowing if they value us as human beings or consider us to be nothing more than a vessel in which to deposit an infection.
I don’t want to use this is a place to speak out against anonymous sex, in part because I happen to be a fan of an occasional no-strings-attached encounter, and also because pontificating against it doesn’t actually change people’s behaviors. I think the key lesson here is something else. Early in the post Mark talks about bottoms who will initially say they require condoms, but then don’t actually insist on them once they are in the midst of a sexual act.
The most important thing to have when going into an anonymous sexual encounter is not a condom, lube, gloves, or a ride home (all of which I consider important). The most important thing to have is a willingness to leave. If I go into a sexual encounter knowing that I will leave if the person or people I am interacting with doesn’t respect my boundaries, then I am in a much stronger position to protect myself. The desire for an orgasm is an intense driving force, but if we are willing to delay that orgasm in order to get out of a dangerous situation with someone who isn’t respecting us, we will go a long way towards protecting our health.
Leaving isn’t easy. I have done it (I am not telling people to do something I have not been willing to do myself), and it is awkward and uncomfortable and generally not fun. Sometimes it gets really negative responses, but it’s still worth it. Making excuses and being polite isn’t necessary – generally what is needed is a clear “no” message, and grabbing your pants.
Mark’s post also gives us some other really concrete things we can do to protect ourselves (supply your own condoms, check to make sure they are intact frequently, be very clear and specific when discussing STI status), and those are important messages too. Ultimately though, I think a willingness to exit situations that aren’t going right is one of the best tools we can being to play.