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Savage Love: The Harm in Hiding HIV Status

Case disclosed

I could really use your advice. I recently found my boyfriend’s HIV meds while I was house-sitting for him and went into his cupboard for a multivitamin. We’ve been dating for a year and I had assumed he was negative. I’m negative myself and on PrEP and he is undetectable, so I know there is essentially zero risk of me getting infected, but we agreed to some degree of “openness” at the start of the relationship — having threesomes together — and I recently found a guy we’d like to invite over. I’m trying to get over the feeling of betrayal from the fact that my boyfriend hid his status from me for so long but I’m fine with continuing the relationship knowing his status now. The thing is, he told me that only five people on earth know and his mother, who he talks to almost every day, isn’t one of them. He says being poz has really fucked with his self-esteem and that he has had suicidal thoughts because of his status. Is it unreasonable for me to expect him to disclose his status to guys who join us in bed? What about asking him to share with a therapist or “come out” as poz to his mother? I really love him and just want him to be happy and healthy.
-Wannabe Ethical And Supportive Slut

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Hiding HIV status? (Artwork by Joe Newton)

If you’re worried about HIV at the moment, WEASS, you’re worrying about the wrong virus. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in New Zealand, you and the boyfriend shouldn’t be inviting men over for threesomes right now.
Assuming you do live in New Zealand…

I don’t think your boyfriend is morally obligated to disclose that he’s HIV-positive to a casual sex partner, WEASS, but in some states, he is legally obligated to disclose that fact. While rarely enforced, these HIV disclosure laws almost always have the opposite of their intended effect. Instead of creating a culture of testing and disclosure, these laws disincentivize getting tested — because someone who doesn’t know they’re HIV-positive can’t get in trouble for failing to disclose.

These laws were passed decades ago, back when contracting HIV was perceived — mostly accurately — as a death sentence. But they don’t reflect what it means to have HIV today or to sleep with someone who has HIV today. Having even unprotected sex now with someone who is HIV-positive and has an undetectable viral load is less risky than having protected sex with someone who hasn’t been tested. Condom or no condom, the HIV-positive guy with an undetectable viral load — undetectable thanks to meds like the ones your boyfriend is taking — can’t infect someone with HIV. Undetectable = untransmissible.

But a guy who assumes he’s HIV-negative because he was the last time he got tested or because he’s never been tested? That guy could be HIV-positive and could infect someone with HIV — even if he does use a condom, which could leak or break. (There are lots of other STIs out there we should be using condoms to protect ourselves from, including a nasty strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, but we’re just talking HIV here.)

In answer to your question, WEASS, I think it would unreasonable for you to force your boyfriend to disclose his HIV status to the person you want to invite over for a threesome — but, again, HIV disclosure laws might require your boyfriend to disclose.

Now if the presumably sexually-active, sexually-adventurous gay man you’re thinking about having over to your place in Christchurch isn’t an idiot, WEASS, he’ll know your boyfriend — the guy with the undetectable viral load — presents no threat to him, at least where HIV is concerned. And while you absolutely shouldn’t out your boyfriend, WEASS, you could raise the general subject of sexual safety and see how this guy reacts. If he seems reasonable — particularly if he mentions being on PrEP too — he’s probably not gonna freak out about your boyfriend being HIV-positive for the exact same reason you didn’t: There’s zero chance your boyfriend could infect him with HIV. (We’re both assuming this guy isn’t HIV-positive himself, WEASS, which he might be.) If he seems reasonable you should encourage your boyfriend to disclose to him. Being told it’s no big deal from someone your boyfriend wants to fuck before he fucks him could help your boyfriend feel less insecure about his HIV status.

Finally, you can’t order your boyfriend to come out to his mom about being HIV-positive, WEASS, but you might inspire him to. He obviously worries people will judge him or shame for being HIV-positive; that’s one of the reasons he hid it from you — and, yes, he should have disclosed his HIV status to you sooner. He obviously underestimated you; you didn’t reject him when you stumbled over his meds after tearing apart the cupboards in his absence while you were searching for — what was it again? Oh, right: a multivitamin. (Sure.) Anyway, WEASS, tell your boyfriend he’s most likely underestimating his mother in the same way he underestimated you — then let him make his own decisions about who to tell and when.

I’m a submissive straight guy who finally — FINALLY — met a woman who is open to my main kinks: bondage and cuckolding. I’m into handcuffs and leg irons, so the bondage part was easy (she didn’t have to learn to do shibari), but the cuckolding part is a lot trickier to realize during a pandemic. She ended a longstanding FWB arrangement with a coworker when we began to get serious a year ago. Her former FWB is a safe choice, emotionally-speaking since there was no romantic interest on either side, and he’s safe where COVID-19 is concerned since they are in a “pod” at work. (And they’ll both be vaccinated soon!) She keeps saying he’s the perfect bull but he’s not right for me — which is a weird thing for me to say, since I’m not the one who’ll be sleeping with him. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I’m much better looking than he is and I’m also better hung. My cuckold fantasies revolve around my girlfriend fucking a guy who’s hotter than me and better hung than I am. I worked with a therapist for a long time — not to “cure” me of my kinks, but to better understand them. And what I came to is this: It’s both deeply threatening (in an erotic way) for my girlfriend to fuck someone who’s “better” than me and deeply reassuring (in an emotional way) when she chooses to be with me when she could be with a “better” man.
-Better Example Than This Erotic Rival

Something about this guy works for your girlfriend — there’s a reason she keeps bringing him up — and if you want to have a future with this woman and you want cuckolding to be a part of that future, BETTER, then going with someone she’s comfortable with the first time/few times she cucks you is a really good idea. And while he may not be better looking than you or have a bigger dick, BETTER, he’s gotta be “better” than you are in some other objective sense — better educated, makes better money, better at eating pussy, etc. Surely there’s something about him your girlfriend can throw in your face that tweaks your insecurities (when she heads off to fuck him) and meets your need for reassurance (when she comes back to you).

And how do you know your dick is bigger than his? Because your girlfriend told you it was. You might want to ask her if she lied about his dick being smaller than yours, BETTER, because that’s definitely the kind of lie women tell new boyfriends about their exes and old FWBs. Given a chance to walk that back, BETTER, your girlfriend very well might — and it might even be true.

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Dan Savage.

While we are discussing the social ramifications, etymologies, synonyms, etc., of ejaculate (noun and verb) and orgasm, can I throw in a request to alter the course of popularity for another word as well? It’s this: “girl.” I cannot stand to see that word used to describe a woman. “I’m seeing this girl…”  Oh, you’re seeing a “girl”? Is she 12? If an individual is seeing a “girl” and that individual is 30, that is pedophilia. Now, if an individual is seeing a woman, and she happens to be approximately the same age (or older or younger within legal parameters) and there is mutual consent, that’s fine. But if an individual is seeing a “girl,” that isn’t right.
-Woman Over Regular Degradation

If an individual is seeing a pre-pubescent minor, that’s pedophilia and child rape. If an individual is seeing a pubescent minor, that’s hebephilia and either child rape or statutory rape. If a person is seeing an adult and casually refers to that adult person as a girl, that’s not pedophilia or hebephilia or child rape or statutory rape. I mean, come on. There’s a huge difference between someone affectionately referring to a new partner as a girl/girlfriend — or a boy/boyfriend — and someone, say, dismissively and intentionally infantilizing adult female coworkers or political leaders. Just as I wouldn’t hear “girl’s night out” and assume that meant underage drinking, I wouldn’t assume someone who said they were seeing a girl — or dating a boy — was sleeping with a 12-year-old child. But that’s just me.

mail@savagelove.net; Follow Dan on Twitter; On the Savage LovecastDan and Diana Adams discuss asking friends for sperm; Read past Savage Love columns here


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