Savage Love: On the swinging lifestyle and the risk of gonorrhea and other STIs
Bisexual female in an open/monogamish relationship with a heterosexual male.
My partner and I have some friends in the swinging lifestyle that invite us to parties and group sex events. They recently picked up gonorrhea at a hotel takeover and did not find out until after hosting 20 people at a sex party. So, the group is now dealing with a gonorrhea outbreak—mostly oral infections, as we are all very diligent about condom usage for PIV.
We are being treated, but I am pretty upset. The thing that bothers me most is how nonchalant they are being about the situation! One person even called this an “inconvenience” and compared it to “the common cold”. (WTF?)
While some STIs are easily treated, gonorrhea is treatment-resistant and something like herpes, HPV, or HIV would obviously be a very big deal and permanent. They don’t plan to retest after getting their shots and are already planning group sex events in the next few weeks, which I find concerning.
I don’t think I’m comfortable engaging with their group if they are not going to take things like an STI outbreak more seriously. So, my questions are:
1. My test came back negative (my partner was positive) but shouldn’t they all retest after treatment? Especially if it is an STI known to be antibiotic resistant?
2. Am I overreacting or being unfair to our friends? Is this just part of the swinging lifestyle territory that we all have to accept?
3. If we decide to not engage with the group because of their attitude towards STIs, how do we get back into the lifestyle? We are afraid we will lose access to events and people in the scene, as these friends have introduced us to everyone we know in the scene and have gotten us access to all the events we’ve been to before.
- Completely Lost About Panicking
1. “Gonorrhea in the throat is the most difficult to treat,” said Dr. Ina Park. “So, folks that have oral sex and end up with gonorrhea of the throat should get a repeat test in two weeks and abstain from oral sex in the meantime. For rectal and genital infections, the cure rates for gonorrhea are still so high that routine retesting after treatment isn’t recommended.”
Dr. Park is a professor in the Department of Family Community Medicine at the University of California: San Francisco, CLAP, and also serves as a medical consultant for the Division of STD Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while she thinks your sex friends who aren’t getting a follow-up test after being treated for oral gonorrhea are making a mistake, she explained that you’re wrong about gonorrhea.
“Gonorrhea can still be easily treated with a single injection of an antibiotic called ceftriaxone, and there is almost no resistance to that drug in North America,” said Dr. Park. Which is not to say gonorrhea is no big deal or that things couldn’t get worse. “Those of us in the business of STI research do worry about an outbreak of multidrug resistant gonorrhea, but luckily it hasn’t yet happened,” said Dr. Park. “The bad news is that over half of the gonorrhea strains circulating in the U.S. are resistant to at least one class of antibiotics, and one-in-five are resistant to two or more classes of antibiotics. We currently only have one antibiotic in the U.S. that can reliably treat gonorrhea. But there is one new antibiotic in late-stage clinical trials, although nothing is immediately available if standard treatment fails.”
Which it hasn’t, CLAP, at least not yet. So, that means you and partner and all your sex friends—if you get treated and tested again in two weeks—can emerge from this experience gonorrhea-free.
2. Your friends are underreacting—gonorrhea shouldn’t be compared to the common cold—but you’re overreacting. While contracting an STI isn’t anyone’s goal at a sex party, whenever you’re having sex outside the bounds of a committed and sexually exclusive relationship, CLAP, you’re running the risk of contracting or spreading an STI. And since people in monogamous relationships cheat, there’s no guarantee you won’t contract an STI in a committed and sexually-exclusive-in-theory-but-not-in-practice relationship either. The only way to eliminate your risk of contracting an STI is to never have sex with anyone ever again, CLAP, including your partner.
If the pleasures of attending sex parties aren’t worth the increased risk of contracting an STI, you shouldn’t attend sex parties. You could still have an open relationship, CLAP, but you’ll have to be a lot choosier and make the other people you fuck jump through a lot of hoops. You can ask all prospective new partners to get screened for STIs, provide you with proof of their negative tests, and then refrain from fucking anyone else for a few weeks before meeting up with you. Not everyone is going to wanna jump through those hoops, CLAP, which means you and your partner will have fewer opportunities to fuck other people.
I regret to inform you that the people you wanna fuck could lie to you about abstaining from fucking other people after testing and before meeting up to fuck you a few weeks later, just like people in monogamous relationships sometimes lie. So, to ensure your other partners aren’t fucking other people during that time, CLAP, you’ll have to lock them in your basement.
3. Swapping hosts—going to sex parties and swinger events organized by people who haven’t already given you gonorrhea—isn’t the magic amulet you seem to think it is. Anyone who regularly goes to sex parties to fuck 20 other people is going to be exposed to HPV on a regular basis and is essentially volunteering to be exposed to and very likely contract herpes. (If you aren’t already vaccinated against HPV, get vaccinated.) If you’re using condoms religiously and correctly, and there’s no man-on-man action at these parties (and there usually isn’t at events organized by and for opposite-sex couples), your risk of contracting HIV is very, very low. You can reduce your risk of contracting gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia orally by using condoms and latex barriers for cunnilingus and anilingus, but STIs that are passed through skin-to-skin contact are almost unavoidable when 20 people pile into a living room with a dozen mattresses spread out on the floor.
If you can’t live with those risks or you’re going to fall to pieces if or when you contract another STI, CLAP, sex parties aren’t for you.
Follow Dr. Ina Park on Instagram @InaParkMD. And, hey, it’s STI Awareness Week! I can’t think of a better way to mark STI Awareness Week than reading Dr. Park’s memoir Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising History of STDs, which is out now in paperback. The New York Times called Dr. Park’s memoir “joyful and funny”, and praised Park for using compassion and humour to “take the stigma out of these infections”. It’s a wonderful book that I would recommend to anyone, but I would
especially recommend it to you, CLAP!
I just moved to New York and moved in with a friend from college. He’s gay; I’m a straight woman. We’re both in our 20s. The apartment is small, and I often overhear him having sex. (I assume he’s overhearing me having sex too.) And again and again, I’ve heard guys call my roommate a “faggot” during sex: “You like that cock, faggot?”
Do gay men just say these sorts of things to each other? I asked him about it and he shrugged and said, “I love it,” and immediately changed the subject. I’ll take him at his word: he loves it. But why would he love it? I don’t get it.
- Concerned Over Name-Calling Eroding Roommate’s Necessary Esteem Daily
It’s not yours to get, CONCERNED, but I’ll try to explain…
When one gay man pulls his cock out of the mouth of his boyfriend or his husband or his Grindr hookup and says, “You’re such a faggot,” it’s not an insult. Like a vaccine with a tiny (and inactive) trace of a deadly virus in it, the word faggot—in the context of two out gay men having consensual sex—obviously has traces of a deeply harmful insult embedded in it. But instead of being terrorized or diminished by the insult, those two gay men are in a sense boosting their immunity to it. Because the word “faggot” not only can’t hurt us when we’re alone together, but it is also ours to use, ours to play with, and ours to enjoy.
At that moment, CONCERNED, the word “faggot” is not an insult. It’s an affirmation.
That said, not all gay men enjoy degrading dirty talk, and the fact that some gay men get off on tossing the word “faggot” around during sex does not give straight people licence to use it. But if you’re hearing the f-word every time your roommate has a guy over, CONCERNED, you can rest assured: it’s not happening by accident. The men calling your roommate a faggot when they’re fucking his face aren’t suddenly blurting that word out. They’re saying it at your roommate’s request.