Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“And The Band Played On,” 21st Century Edition—The Triumph of Sexual Liberation Ideology Over Common Sense & Sometimes Over Life Itself

Former blog readers often send me links to various online discussions going on among African-American women. That’s how I became aware of the controversy surrounding the ideas expressed in this blog post. I don’t see anything that warrants genuine controversy. After all, the normalization of casual sex and promiscuity among African-Americans has created an absolute disaster for the (AA) collective over the past 50 years. I won’t bother to repeat the obvious connection between casual sex, out-of-wedlock childbearing (oow), fatherlessness and the deadly violence that currently exists in the dead AA “community.” Anybody who refuses to see the connections between all of this is choosing to remain deaf, dumb and blind. Which is their free and voluntary choice. God respects free will, and so do I.

Casual sex generally does not work to women’s benefit or long-term interests. Casual sex also generally does not work to the benefit of children who are born as the result of casual sex. The exceptions don’t nullify the rule. As I read various pro-casual sex comments, I had the nagging feeling that I've heard this catastrophic level of foolishness before. But I couldn't immediately remember the context.
And then I remembered where I had heard of such controversies before: this type of Ideology Over Common Sense played a large role in the mass AIDS die-off of American gay men in the 1980s and early 1990s. That's the context in which I had heard of Sexual Liberation Ideology Over Common Sense controversies before. I remembered reading interviews in papers like the Village Voice with the handful of sensible gay male activists who were imploring their fellow gay men to reduce their promiscuity and change some of their sexual practices in order to save their own lives. And these sensible White gay male activists were often viciously condemned by other White gay men as a result.

The ruined AA collective is one of two recent examples of what happens when a group of people disconnect sex from binding commitments to each other. The other example that most folks have forgotten about was the mass die-off of American gay men during the AIDS plague years of the 1980s and early 1990s.
The same way that many new-school AAs refuse to see the connection between casual sex, oow, and the death and destruction in AA areas is the same way many gay men from that era refused to see the connection between their promiscuity and their own deaths from AIDS. Even as their friends and lovers were dropping like flies all around them.

Much of this history (among other things) was discussed in the excellent book And The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts (a gay WM reporter who later on died from complications of AIDS). The book doesn’t emphasize this point, but there were a lot of unnecessary gay male deaths caused by gay male activists who put Sexual Liberation Ideology Over Common Sense.

This (conservative) article gives a concise summary of what happened. Ignore the right-wing talk about Reagan in the article. My point is that the incidents mentioned in the article---instances in which gay male activists put ideology over gay men’s lives---happened. And people paid the ultimate price for that ideology. People paid with their lives. I’m going to repeat a few incidents mentioned by the right-wing article, and give links to the pages in the Randy Shilts book that document these incidents.

The National Gay Task Force and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund threatened to sue Abbott Laboratories to stop them from making the first HIV-screening test available. [And The Band Played On, pg. 521.]
Gay male activists denied the connection between promiscuity and AIDS/HIV infection among the first waves of infected persons:

“Nathan Fain, who wrote in the Advocate in 1984 that“there is no proof that even one of the 3,775 cases of AIDS tallied by the Centers for Disease Control had involved sexual transmission,” rebutted his own argument by appearing on the AIDS Quilt a few years later. [And The Band Played On, pg. 443]

Charles Jurrist’s “In Defense of Promiscuity” in the New York Native posited that sex transmitting the deadly disease was pure conjecture, “that’s all it is—a theory. It is far from scientifically demonstrated. It therefore seems a little premature to be calling for an end to sexual freedom in the name of physical health.” [And The Band Played On, pg. 210] The “theory” withstood Jurrist’s challenge to it. Jurrist did not.
Konstantin Berlandt, co-chair of San Francisco’s gay pride parade, maintained, “I didn’t become a homosexual so I could use condoms.” Berlandt, too, became a martyr of sexual liberation.”

Doesn’t all of this sound similar to the “marriage is just a piece of paper,” “Oow childbearing is not the problem”-type of reality-defying nonsense?
A lot of gay men from that era didn’t survive. During that era, I recall feeling that every time I looked around, some other distant gay male acquaintance or gay male entertainer that I enjoyed watching was dead from AIDS.

Heavily-subsidized, modern-day HIV medications have lulled folks into amnesia about all of that. Who knows how much longer these medications will remain subsidized or affordable for anybody except the rich? Most new-school, young AAs have never seen what HIV/AIDS really looks like without all these modern medications. I was in high school when AIDS/HIV first emerged. I remember the beginnings of this epidemic. Let me tell you: that genuine “AIDS look” is not nice. If you Google photos of AIDS sufferers from that era, you’ll see what I mean.

I'm not just (or even primarily) talking about literal disease and death in this post. There are emotional and assorted other costs to casual sex for most women, and the children born as a result of casual sex.

Fools can repeat history if they want to. If you value yourself, you won’t let any kind of ideology damage your quality of life.