With recent news stories of porn suicides, drug overdoses and rises in the numbers of gay men testing HIV positive, I’ve een thinking that now more than ever we need to be there for each other.As individuals what can we do? Well, we can look at how we value ourselves. What does this mean? What’s your price tag? What price are you willing to pay for a horny shag? A good night out? Acceptance from other gay men? Having fun in whatever form it takes is good, however not if the price is too high. Are you not able to function at work, or are you phoning in sick as you’ve over done it the night before? Have you got so wasted that you forget what you’ve done, who you have had sex with and what you did?
Maybe you had the sex you didn’t want because you may not have had the chance of sex if you didn’t? So what is a healthy price tag? For me, it’s valuing your physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual health over anything else, and having clear boundaries on what you will or won’t do. It’s about being able to claim these as much as you can, and get support when you feel you can’t. Do you drop your standards in order to feel sexy or attractive? Often when people feel low they may do things and take risks (especially sexual ones) that they wouldn’t normally, and this is increased further if drugs and/or alcohol are involved. Even when you’re in a good space and you’ve overdone the alcohol or the drugs, you can go too far and put yourself at risk.
As gay and bisexual men it can seem we’re not really supported within our own communities to talk about these issues and often anyone seen as having a difficult time emotionally is seen as having “baggage” or “damaged goods”. Well I’ve got news for you – at some time we’ve all had to wrestle with these issues and with better support from each other then maybe incidents of suicide, self harm, drug overdoses will start to come down. Talking to someone is key here, to get the support you deserve to raise your price tag and develop a healthier sense of self and self esteem.
In addition to this is the issue of regular testing for STI’s and HIV. If you have an existing STI (and don’t forget, some carry no symptoms) you’re more at risk of HIV if you fuck without condoms. Recent research has indicated 8/10 new HIV infections are through men who didn’t know their HIV status, so regular testing is also key to setting a healthy price tag on yourself, as well as asking for help and support when you need rather than engaging in risky behaviour.