Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Sex and Sensibility

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Sex and Sensibility

Article excerpt

For the first time in years, LARRY KRAMER, America's angriest and most powerful critic of how the world responded to the greatest health catastrophe of the 20th century, takes on the, new AIDS crisis and shows us the only way out: ourselves

In his terribly important new book, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, Gabriel Rotello makes the definitive, airtight case that AIDS in the gay male population is not going to go away. We've changed, but we haven't changed enough, and because we haven't changed enough, the infection rate continues to be unrelentingly high. All our efforts at education, "safe sex," and behavior modification have been insufficient to keep the gay population from continuing to be destroyed.

Gabriel's book also makes the airtight case--still considered controversial, unfortunately, rather than undeniable--that we brought AIDS upon ourselves by a way of living that welcomed it. You cannot fuck indiscriminately with multiple partners, who are also doing the same, without spreading disease, a disease that has for many years also carried death. Nature always extracts a price for sexual promiscuity.

None of this is new or should be new.

Tragically, not enough of us have responded to this information maturely and responsibly. Too many of us have used almost every conceivable excuse not to face this plague squarely and honestly. We think we know what's safe and unsafe, know all about condoms, know all about these new drugs we've put our faith in so quickly, and we get very irate when the word promiscuity is used.

But nobody is out there saying loud and clear and nonstop: Stop acting like assholes. Start acting like adults. Even in the best of times, an adult does not play Russian roulette with cocks.

It's been particularly distressing to me as a writer, as someone who tries very hard to believe he's an artist, to see how almost every other gay writer--as well as journalists, essayists, poets, playwrights, painters, photographers, filmmakers, what have you--has, to my mind, ignored the primary job of being an artist: telling the truth.

What is this truth?

We must create a new culture that is not confined and centered so tragically on our obsession with our penises and what we do with them.

Instead our "artists" just continue to perpetuate what got us into all this trouble and death in the first place. If I am going to single out Edmund White, it is because he's considered our most distinguished gay writer.

In his forthcoming novel The Farewell Symphony, Edmund perplexes me even more than he has in the past. (To cowrite The Joy of Gay Sex, extolling the virtues of fist fucking on the eve of a plague, is bad timing enough.) Now he's given us an autobiographical diary, couched as a novel, in which, almost night by night and day by day, he parades before the reader what seems to be every trick he's ever sucked, fucked, rimmed, tied up, pissed on, or been sucked by, fucked by, rimmed by, tied up by--you get the idea. There are so many faceless, indistinguishable pieces of flesh that litter these 500 pages that reading them becomes, for any reasonably sentient human being, at first a heartless experience and finally a boring one. It is bizarre, to say the least, to read the publisher's description of this as "the great novel about the last 30 years of gay life."

Surely life was more than this, even for--especially for--Edmund White. He did not spend 30 years with a nonstop erection and an asshole busier than his toilet.

Is it not incumbent, particularly in the time of a plague that has been spread by our own callous indifference to ending it, that those of us who are read and listened to perceive of ourselves as fuller human beings and capable of writing about far more than just what sex we had night after night for 30 years? It is impossible for me to believe that this book embodies what AIDS really represents to Edmund or that this is the kind of tribute he wishes to leave to all his dead friends and lovers or, indeed, that this is all that becoming our most esteemed and respected writer has meant to him. …

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