Friday, February 18

A Scolding

Richard Cohen gives gays a stern talking-to about promiscuity and unsafe sex in today's WaPo. The recent bad news of an extremely virulent new strain of HIV, spread by gay men who have unprotected sex while on crystal meth, has turned Cohen from defender to critic. (Others, of course, have had even harsher reactions.)

What is interesting to me about Cohen's piece is how he feels obligated to justify his strong words and couch them in lots of pro-gay (and anti-Republican) sentiment, lest he be derided as a homophobe. Having established his bona fides, Cohen launches in:

But while gays clearly have their enemies, that should not mean they are immune from criticism. The fact remains that a portion of the gay population -- maybe 20 percent, [Charles] Kaiser estimates -- conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless but just plain disgusting. Unprotected, promiscuous sex in bathhouses and at parties and using drugs such as crystal meth to prolong both desire and performance are practices that should be no more acceptable for gays than for heterosexuals. Gays don't get some sort of pass just because they're gay.

Chris and I have discussed this topic recently. He attributes much of this bad behavior to societal pressures that engender low self-esteem that leads to self-destruction. No doubt he's partially right. But consider: gays have actually faced substantially less social opprobrium in recents years -- that's a plain cultural fact despite the increasing shrillness of the bigot brigade and their proxies in the White House -- yet the incidence of HIV infection has stayed almost constant.

So I think I'm more or less with Cohen on this one. Victimology is no reason to give anyone a pass -- least of all from the rest of us homos who grew up with the same pressures but somehow avoided turning ourselves into efficient vectors for the plague that decimated our forebears.