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BrilliantBro: Knowledge Is Sexy - Please Ask, Do Tell

The first time having sex with someone is always an adventure. Exploring uncharted territory with the roadmap of past lovers while looking to discover a touch you’ve never experienced before is quite the thrill.

Sometimes you’re just interested in seeing if the guy you’ve been chatting with online is actually as freaky as he says (or shows) himself to be. Maybe over the last few months you've been mentally stimulated by that blind date and you’re now eager to be physically stimulated.

Regardless of the void, however, the conversation surrounding the health element of sex is still something that is hard to have by most people. With stigma and shame fueled by uneducated attacks and fear, they’ve been unfortunate factors in the spread of STIs just as much as the spread of ignorance. So how do we normalize the conversation surrounding sexual health in the bedroom? How do we make sexual health sexy?

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve been on PrEP. Even before I made the personal decision to start swallowing the daily HIV prophylaxis pill, my personal views on sexual health have been dominant on various social media platforms and campaigns. Given my extremely vocal lifestyle when it comes to what challenges, obstacles, and blessings come my way, it has helped to change the way people operate with me in the bedroom. It’s made the conversation surrounding our HIV status a lot more fluid and easy to have. The very public knowledge that I’m educated in sexual health removes the potential hesitation for a discussion with potential sex partners when it comes to asking the necessary questions before we engage. Knowing what undetectable means and what PrEP is has personally opened the doors for greater sexual experiences. The fear of ignorant rejection is less likely to be burning in the front of our temples. I’ve even been told that being well-versed in sexual health is sexy.

Although I’m pretty educated, I still ask plenty of questions outside of the bedroom. One because it fascinates me, and two because the more I know about something I enjoy, the better. Fortunately, because of the “sex positive” conversation around HIV and other STIs over the last few years, there are more people out there who may not work in the field of HIV and STI prevention who are just as educated as I am. No longer do you have to be a social worker or practicing nurse to know a thing or two about the healthy aspects of the sex we all enjoy. Although it may not be practiced all the time, it’s slowly becoming common knowledge the benefits of asking health questions before a sexual encounter.

Growing up, we had extremely filtered Sex Ed courses that did not even venture into the realm of talking about health elements of same-gender sex. We learned how to make a baby, how not to make a baby, and then we were showed terrifying pictures of STIs and told that the only preventive measure was a condom - whether we liked them or not. Now that I think about it, a majority of what I learned in Sex Ed does not even apply to the sex that I’m having in 2018. It was a beginner’s course for teenagers in the public school system. But it would have been nice to know the basic fundamentals of a variety of potential encounters, regardless of whether or not it made me (or our parents) uncomfortable at the time.

Let’s be honest, the majority of us in our generation grew up in a household where sex was not talked about at the kitchen table. Because of generational Black respectability and the “hush hush” attitudes of our parents, we had to learn what sex was by illegally downloading porn from Napster, Black Planet, or BGC. If there was talk about sex in the household, I’d bet a pretty penny that male-on-male sex was not talked about. We had to figure out how to enjoy our own sex behind closed doors, let alone have an outlet to ask questions or get information about sexual health. That mindset has been carried into our generation and has been negatively impacting our sex lives as fully functioning adults. There is a mountain of fear, ignorance, bullying, miseducation, and internalized homophobia that keep us from getting tested for HIV or STIs, that keeps us from reading up and getting informed until it’s too late. It’s a generational and psychological and social issue blocking a black and white scientific issue that no charts, no graphs, and no chemistry are going to solve.

There isn’t a problem with knowing you are HIV-positive and taking care of yourself just like there’s not a problem being HIV-negative and taking care of yourself. The problem is uneducated people who attack or simply get weirded out by someone's undetectable HIV status. The problem there is misinformed men who have not been tested in three years, yet still actively engage in sex. The problem is the bizarre shame that comes from the stigma of various STIs. People are so afraid to be deemed “dirty” that they do not go to the doctor and get an infection properly treated or maintained.

The truth is you’ve probably already had sex with someone who is HIV-positive and you didn’t even know it.

Calm down. Take a chill pill. Relax.

Because HIV is not something people wear on their sleeves, unless someone discloses their status to you, you would not even know. Despite any Tyler Perry film, HIV does not have a look. There are happy, healthy HIV-positive people who are out there thriving and who are undetectable and you would not have a clue because they’re not even going to pass on the virus to anyone else. 

Being educated is sexy. Being able to have an adult conversation instead of being afraid of something you have nothing to be afraid of is sexy. I’m the first to admit that I personally did not know a lot about sexual health until it directly affected me. From there, I did the work and asked the questions after it was forced to be a priority. Trust me, it has opened up my mind to so much and has improved my sex life mentally, physically, and erotically. Certain hangups I had before no longer exist and I’m able to fully and consciously enjoy the sex I’m having; safely.

Unfortunately, we have decades of stigma, misinformation, and generational socialization issues as men that we need to deconstruct. But we can all lead the charge to the road to sexy. As I mentioned, neither I nor anyone on this planet is 100% well versed in every single thing sex-related. I still ask my doctor questions all the time. And even though I’m on PrEP, I still share my HIV status and ask my sexual partners for theirs. The point is: I ask.

Please ask. Do tell. Get Sexy.