Content Warning: homophobia & the early AIDS crisis, STDs, blood, nonconsensual sex, and really just a bunch of lewd sexual stuff in general.
Up until about a month ago I was forced to live in the same town (and, even worse, in the same house) as my parents through lockdown. Alone on a desolate island devoid of gay men to hit on for a full year and a half, waking up every day with the panic that I might have, against all odds, contracted THE VIRUS:
SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19, “Coronovirus”, or “the coof”.
If there was any benefit at all to this forced period of complete chastity, it was that it was an opportunity for a brief reprieve from obsessing over that other virus: whether I was going to get it, how I definitely had it. Rehearsing how I might break the news to my mother while waiting for test results, wondering if the result was a false negative. Calculating in extreme detail the exact odds that a particular sexual encounter had resulted in my infection, never comforted by the fact that the number always ended up being something like 1 in 100 million.
I did not take advantage of this opportunity in any way. Instead, for fun, I decided to comb through an unabridged timeline of the HIV epidemic as it unfolded, to see if it might shed some light on our current situation.
The universal problem with plays and movies about the AIDS crisis is that they were all (definitionally) made somewhat after the fact: conveniently narrativized into easy-to-follow stories. Even an unabridged timeline, just by virtue of highlighting what we now know to be “important” events, cannot truly reflect the fog of war as it was experienced on an individual level. I was not there, but it’s still worth trying to piece it together:
When HIV first showed up, it is safe to say that people really did not know what the fuck was going on. In retrospect, we have discovered likely cases of HIV in its modern form from as early as the 1960s, but it was not until 1980 that a wave of gay men suddenly began to die en masse from a weird variety of rare diseases. Cancers, fungal infections: things that anybody with a functioning immune system would normally fight off easily.
There was plenty of disagreement over what might be causing it, if it was transmissible from person to person, or even if there was a real connection between these cases at all. The first article ever published about the phenomenon—in the May 18, 1981 issue of the queer newspaper New York Native—was simply to debunk it: “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded”. This rhymes nicely with my recollection of the early reporting about Coronavirus, questions of whether “Racism is the Real Virus” notwithstanding.
Also weirdly present, and apparently hated at the time, was Dr. Anthony Fauci: the current Chief Medical Advisor to the President and primary establishment spokesperson about the Covid-19 crisis. Early AIDS activist Larry Kramer’s 1988 piece “An Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci” begins:
“Anthony Fauci, you are a murderer and should not be the guest of honor at any
event that reflects on the past decade of the AIDS crisis. Your refusal to hear the screams of AIDS activists early in the crisis resulted in the deaths of thousands of Queers. Your present inaction is causing today’s increase in HIV infection outside of the Queer community.”
(For completeness I should also mention that Kramer and Fauci went on to be friends after this!)
There was also a raft of conspiracy theories about how the virus was man-made (or an intentional act of god) to target the enemies of the conservative “moral majority”: gay men, drug addicts, and ethnic minorities.
Despite these interesting parallels, however, the fact that AIDS only affected these already stigmatized groups meant that the Reagan administration felt comfortable basically treating it as a joke and ignoring it. Whether or not you think the response to Covid-19 was as effective as it could have been, it was at least taken seriously and not allowed to spread unchecked for a number of years.
In addition to the horrifying effects of the disease, early HIV-positive people were also treated very poorly by the society around them. Images of these desperate, gaunt, dying men spread into the public consciousness—not unlike those grim early pandemic Covid-19 hospital ward videos—and went on to shape the upcoming decades of sexual practices and sex education in America, providing ammunition for the brewing cultural backlash against the free-love sexual revolution of the 60s.
Today, the management of HIV in industrialized countries is well under control. The number of cases, and the transmission rates from person-to-person, are lower than they’ve ever been. The life expectancy of people who are living with HIV is now apparently longer than people without it (presumably due to the additional medical attention they receive). With the modern antiretroviral drugs, the vast majority of people living with HIV become “undetectable”: which means that the number of HIV virus particles in their bloodstream is so low that even our most sensitive tests cannot detect any traces. A person who is undetectable cannot transmit the virus to another person sexually (that actually requires a fairly high viral load), so people on treatment for HIV now are at almost no risk of transmitting the virus to anybody.
...unless they really wanted to 👀.
Another interesting development over lockdown was when several porn sites generously decided to give away free one-month memberships. I personally am a sucker for a good deal, so naturally, I decided to see how the other half…
(the other “half” being the tiny minority of people with enough disposable income and lack of catholic guilt such that they are able to justify paying for their porn)
…lives. I liked a few videos to give the algorithm a sense of what my preferences are, and after a few weeks of regular use, it decided that what it wanted to show me—almost exclusively—was a solid wall of “Pozzing” videos.
Um, excuse me… what the fuck?
Pozzing of course, as we all know, is a kink where people try to get themselves infected with HIV. Hyper masculine HIV-positive men sport “biohazard” (☣️) tattoos, and say things like:
“Yeah, you like that? Ready to take my charged load? No turning back now”
To which the bottom (or “receptive partner”) replies, in kind:
“Yes, *moans*, I’m ready. Fill me with your toxic cum”
Which... uh… at least this is consensual. But another closely related genre is “cut condoms”, wherein the sex starts out safe, but the top (or “insertive partner”) busts out a pair of scissors to intentionally break the condom without the bottom’s knowledge, with a sly wink towards the camera.
The intentional spread of HIV has long been an important talking point: one of the early super-spreaders of the virus was a Quebecois flight attendant named Gaëtan Dugas, who after sleeping with over 2500 men managed to spread the virus to a number of other people. There were other people studied with similar numbers of partners (the 70s were apparently wild), but because of Gaëtan’s distinctive name they were more easily able to trace his contacts to provide some of the first evidence of person-to-person transmission. However he was labeled “patient zero” by the media (mostly due to a typographical error—the study authors meant to call him “O” as in “out of state”), and he was falsely portrayed as a reckless sociopath who infected people intentionally, responsible for kickstarting the entire pandemic. None of that is true, though: he was just a fun-loving slutty young guy, caught up in an unprecedented situation. Not the first, and certainly not the last, whose life was cut short by this disease.
In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine published a feature on the pozzing kink subculture that brought the term “bugchasing” to the mainstream consciousness, claiming that 25% of all new HIV infections could be attributed to it. This would be quite a shocking figure… if it weren’t complete bullshit. But to arrive at that figure they had to lump in all bareback (condomless) sex. To say that a large portion of new HIV infections come from unprotected sex is almost a tautology, and to make the assumption that the only motivation for not using a condom is that you must want to be infected is extremely disingenuous.
On the other hand, some scholars apparently dispute that the subculture even exists at all. But I think this is probably mostly driven by the fact that their existence was politically inconvenient to the early “GLBT” coalition. The proof is in the pudding (or in easily discoverable videos on the internet, at least).
The reality here is that—unless they have a literal death wish—these HIV+ men are on medication that very effectively stops them from transmitting the virus to anybody through sex. And, even if they were extremely committed to the bit, the chances of them transmitting the virus in the course of one sex act is only as high as 1 in 50. So to the extent that it’s not staged entirely, it’s really pretty much just LARPing. And even if not, it’s basically just a version of russian roulette where the bullet is by all accounts an extremely manageable disease.
So in order for us to try to be empathetic (and I for one aspire to be an empath), it’s worth considering what might attract people to this sort of roleplay:
I took a lot of sex education classes growing up in the Canadian school system, but there was zero content about how gay sex works outside of the context of STDs. I learned that STDs are very very bad, unspeakably shameful even, and HIV is a death sentence. But you can take responsibility for your safety by using condoms: here’s how to put a condom on, let’s practice it hundreds of times. Always use condoms, because if you don’t then you’re responsible for what happens to you.
These teachers instilled terror in me because they grew up in a time where they were, with good reason, terrified themselves. Whenever it occurs to me that I might be at any theoretical risk for having an STD the color drains from my face, my palms begin to sweat, and I start reading research papers 😨.
Similarly, when I was a child my germaphobic father used to scream at me if my hands were ever dirty. I was disgusting. I was covered in filth. For a long time I had a fear of putting my hand into other people’s bags of chips when they offered: forcing them to dump it into my hands instead and risk spilling the crumbs everywhere.
Unlike most diseases—even in comparison to other STDs—there is a lot of guilt and judgement around the transmission of HIV. If you become infected, you were reckless and irresponsible, and nobody is ever going to love you again; if you infect somebody, you are an evil sociopath. How could you give in to sinful temptation, and fail to protect yourself and others? You deserve this disease as a divine punishment.
Imagine, then, the perverse sort of pleasure one might find instead in becoming a “donor”, of a generous “gift”.
I have no idea why these videos were shown to me. But just because they ruin my day, far be it from me to question the accuracy of the algorithm.
In Carolyn Elliott's book “Existential Kink” she suggests that things that horrify you and make you uncomfortable might have a seed of desire somewhere in your subconscious, and sometimes in order to move past your obsession you have to “eat your shadow” and let yourself indulge in the fantasy of this desire. This I think is normal kink logic, but her book is about extending the concept to all areas of your life: to address your fears about being poor, fears of being not worthy or not able to take care of yourself, patterns of putting yourself in situations where you end up victimized, etc.
However, I uh... I regret to inform you that I will not be eating this part of my shadow. It seems extremely unpalatable and, frankly, I have a sensitive stomach. This shit is just too stressful for me man, I’m here to jerk off not address my unresolved trauma.
Pozzing porn takes its place next to r*pe porn and incest porn as an almost entirely simulated niche genre, rather than any sort of actual reflection on the vast majority of gay sex practices. But in a world where there’s even a chance that a small group of people are actually running around cutting condoms (yikes 👀), it is impossible to be certain that you are not being exposed to the virus by following traditional safe sex advice.
Luckily, as of 2012 or so, you can just pop a pill.
Preparing for anything
PReP, or “pre-exposure prophylaxis”, is a single once-daily pill made up of the same medications that are used to treat HIV. When HIV-negative people take it, it prevents the virus from taking hold. While there have been an extremely small number of “breakthrough” HIV infections, from a statistical standpoint it is as or more effective than proper condom use.
People list whether they are on PrEP on their gay hookup app profiles next to their sex preferences (top, bottom, vers), what they’re looking for (friends, dating, ‘no strings attached’), and more recently, whether they’ve been vaccinated for Covid-19.
The widespread adoption of PReP has cut HIV transmission rates in the gay community dramatically: one Australian study shows that new infections there are down something like 92%. But one unanticipated side effect is the age of expected condom use in the gay community is now over. Not that they’ve disappeared completely or anything, but what was previously a default assumption has become somewhat of an ongoing negotiation.
Here is the logic, as it has been presented to me:
If I am HIV- and on PReP, and you’re HIV- and on PReP, then there’s virtually no chance of either of us getting infected.
Medical guidelines for PReP prescriptions require regular STD testing, usually on a 3-month interval, so if either of us changed status we would know quickly.
Even if we did somehow get HIV, the treatment is just to continue taking the same class of medications we’re already taking every day. Anyone who is diagnosed HIV+ taking these medications is undetectable, and cannot transmit the virus.
Every other STD you can get is preventable with vaccines (Hepatitis, HPV), practically unavoidable (~50% of gay men already have genital herpes, and condoms don’t help), or basically just requires a shot in the ass with penicillin.
It’s hard to look past the 40-year backlog of pro-“safer sex” messaging to find the reasons why condoms are apparently so universally despised. My suspicion though is that anal sex has a number of factors that reduce sensitivity for insertive partners, and getting rid of condoms is an obvious win on that front. So as they become no longer strictly necessary, people are inevitably going to want to stop using them.
I have also been informed that “condoms are homophobic”, which is… something else to take into consideration I suppose 😆. But even if you still want to use them anyway, just in case, not being on PReP is a risky decision.
There’s always PeP, or “post-exposure prophylaxis”, as a backup plan: a much nastier month-long course of pills that you start asap (but best within 24 hours) after a potential exposure event. I took it once after a “safe sex encounter” turned unsafe against my wishes. But I had to wait in the hospital for over 8 hours to get it, the doctors were extremely judgemental and rude to me about it, and they repeatedly tried to guilt me out of taking it because they didn’t want to deal with the paperwork.
I was put into that situation again a few years later, but by then I had learned my lesson and was on PReP. It can be hard to stand up for yourself in the heat of the moment, not everybody truly respects the boundaries of consent, and people are selfish assholes.
I get all of the arguments in favor of ditching condoms, but I personally am still planning on using them for the foreseeable future. No judgment here honestly, you do you folks, but I have my own reasons to be cautious.
As a slight detour away from the virus at hand, I should mention that in 2015 or so I was diagnosed with a genetic disease called hemochromatosis: which is a blood disorder where your body can’t get rid of iron. In most men (and “people who don’t menstruate” in general) this leads to a slow accumulation of the metal in their bloodstream, which has almost no discernable effect on their life whatsoever until they hit their mid-50s, where it suddenly begins to damage their organs and they die a slow painful death from liver failure.
Historically doctors would mostly just write these deaths off as alcoholism, and it is only very recently that it has been noted how common this disease is in white people (around 1 in 170). Luckily, in the age of 23andMe, I can see that I have the genes for this disease dramatically earlier than when it might have become a problem. It is also very simple to treat: the primary, super effective treatment for this disease is one of the oldest tools of the medical profession.
That blood, that must be drained out of my veins in regular intervals, is otherwise perfectly fine. Most Hemochromatosis patients choose to donate it: this is widely regarded as a win-win for everybody, but in certain jurisdictions medical “““ethicists””” try to stop it from happening. It is, apparently, unethical to pay people for blood donations, and phlebotomies (the treatment of draining blood from the body) cost money, so therefore letting people with hemochromatosis donate blood is unethical because it counts as payment.
In response to this, some patients apparently choose to practice selective amnesia about having a diagnosis for it: “Hemochromatosis? I've never heard of such a thing ;) ;)”
According to my calculations, if I donated blood once every 56 days starting now for the rest of my life, not only would I add ~30 years to my own lifespan, but I also would be able to fill the needs of ~90 other patients. If you need blood in the hospital it is a life or death situation, so this roughly counts as saving 90 lives. (Or, you know, we could always go by the official healthcare messaging and say I’d be saving up to 3 lives per donation but that number (864) seems a little optimistic lol.)
This is all well and good, but before you give me the key to the city: they still don’t want my blood. Even though I know for a fact that I personally am HIV-negative, I am part of a risky “class” of people, and for their purposes it’s probably better to pour 288 pints of my blood down the drain just to be safe.
(288 pints of blood are worth about 40 – 70 thousand dollars on the blood markets btw, as an interesting point of reference.)
There is still the option of going along with the common informal practice: “Gay Sex? I've never heard of it ;) ;)”, but for me, frankly, having to lie feels very undignified. And it’s honestly extremely dangerous to normalize lying in this situation in general, which is why I choose not to donate.
Sorry to those 90 people I could have saved, I guess you’re kind of on your own here…
In 1984 a teenager named Ryan White was diagnosed with HIV after receiving a contaminated blood donation. His case rose to national prominence after he was temporarily prevented from attending school by outraged parents, and he became the “humanizing” poster child for the epidemic due to how innocent he was, and how he didn’t do anything wrong. Donations from at-risk communities—gay men, drug abusers, and people from the country of Haiti—were swiftly stopped. The full blanket ban on Haitians, though, only lasted one year: the one for gay men still remains to this day.
These bans do seem to be getting progressively less restrictive over time, though. Here in Canada, they moved from a lifetime ban for anyone who has had gay sex even once, to a “5 year deferral period” in 2013 (as in, if you haven’t had sex with a man in 5 years then you become eligible again). In 2016 that dropped down to 1 year. In 2019, it became 3 months.
Now, finally, Health Canada is currently considering a proposal to remove the deferral period entirely and move to behavior-based screening instead (where they would ask everyone, regardless of persuasion, whether they had been engaging in risky behaviors).
But even when that goes through, if I want my blood to go on to do something useful in the world, I’ll probably still need to consider ways that I can avoid the risk of HIV without relying on PReP. PReP is something like 99.9% effective, but that’s obviously still not enough on a population level for them to risk potentially contaminating the blood supply.
Realistically, if I were really serious, I don’t really have many options other than to practice… extreme caution 😳.
Something worth singing about
In my ongoing ambivalent and fundamentally unserious study of the HIV pandemic as it unfolded, I was curious how people used to approach this problem.
(Also, fair warning: I am not sure that most of this history is really fully recorded anywhere, and I was not there, so you can assume that 90% of the following is basically made up bullshit lol)
The Body Electric School was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1984 after the wave of mass AIDS hysteria was in full force, and long before the invention of treatments. These gay men, under the weight of extreme social stigma and out of mortal fear, watching friends around them wither to nothing and with no reliable way to tell if they were infected themselves (this was a full year before the first test was released), retreated to the safety of extreme safe sex practices and swore off of penetrative sex altogether. Rather than embracing celibacy they, like the Walt Whitman poem the school is named after, wanted to “sing the body electric”: to feel a connection with other people through touch.
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
These young men, many in their 20s and 30s, were cut off from the rest of the world. They didn’t know how much time they had left as they watched friends around them die every week: sneaking into their houses to get rid of their porn stashes before their families came to collect their belongings (I know this part is true because I saw it in a TikTok).
They wanted something to live for, to be close to each other, and to enjoy whatever time they had left.
The practice as taught by the school was more or less just massage, but unlike the asexual world of massage therapy (“happy ending” parlors aside), they allowed themselves to blur that strictly maintained boundary and to celebrate the whole body in its fullness: you know, by like… jerking each other off and stuff.
You might be unsurprised to learn that this is not without precedent in the history of humanity. They drew lessons from tantric massage, yoga, “bioenergetics” (which I guess concerns itself with the flow of energy through the body), and Taoist traditions—traditions which apparently include knowledge of a so-called “million-gold-piece point” that is named after what it would cost you for a Taoist monk to teach you its exact location (on the perineum just before the anus), and techniques for separating the male orgasm from the act of ejaculation that allow men to experience multiple orgasms in one session in the same way that women do (this is supposedly borne out in studies of these so-called “multi-orgasmic men”, fwiw).
This provided a completely safe outlet for these men to express their sexuality at the dawn of that unfolding plague, and is probably responsible for saving a number of lives (if not from infection then from, well, suicide). But as a more accurate understanding of the virus spread, and the condom-based approach proved satisfactory, this model failed to take over as a mainstream approach to safe sex in the world of gay men. Instead, in the 90s they expanded their model to include all women and mixed gender workshops, and established a niche as part of the west-coast hippie scene: helping people overcome their shame and trauma around sex.
The Body Electric school itself appears to still be chugging along, but the original founder, Joseph Kramer, has moved on. He’s now an advisor for the Institute of Somatic Sexology (and at least 3 other similarly named schools around the world), which run training programs that prepare people to enter an emerging field called “Sexological Bodywork” and/or “Somatic Sexual Education”. These practitioners—if my understanding is correct—basically give people sex lessons?
It is apparently a mix between regular sex therapy and a more hands-on approach that involves:
Directly stimulating their client’s genitals to help them pick apart what they do and do not enjoy (“Genital mapping”)
Teaching people how to masturbate properly
Teaching people about the boundaries of consent and how to ask for what they want (big fans of the wheel of consent)
Helping people recognize where their sexual functioning might be shaped or limited by trauma, and to overcome shame.
Helping people overcome specific intimacy issues like impotence, premature ejaculation, and inability to orgasm (with some specific emphasis on helping post-surgery trans people regain sexual function).
This practice was recently showcased in Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Sex, Love, and Goop” Netflix series—to only very mild, manageable controversy—and it seems obvious to me that these people perform some useful functions. But where I think this really splits sharply from the original Body Electric practice is that they follow a set of strict ethical guidelines that include the requirement of gloved hands, an emphasis on “one-way touch”, and an oath to never have sex with clients.
It is interesting to note that the commercialization of these practices, in order to operate legally and maintain “professionalism”, basically requires a sort of distancing that precludes any opportunity for the real, deep, two-way connection that the Body Electric students were seeking to find through touch. It is, in other words, not supposed to be a replacement for sex.
This emotional distance is the reason why your masseuse is not your lover, your therapist is not your friend, and your sexological bodyworker, even as they stroke your genitals, is simply trying to make a living.
Sex as an opportunity for meaning
While we were living together this past year, my father presented me with the following axioms:
Love is pointless
Sex (at least the kind of sex that I have) is disgusting
I should give it up and embrace a life of celibacy
Now, I am no stranger to these sorts of games, so after this opening gambit I made a lateral move: shifting the conversation towards Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Despite the song’s enormous popularity (especially in the wake of its prominence in the Shrek soundtrack), people don’t really understand the importance of sex in the song:
There was a time you’d let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah
The song, I think, is about seeking a deeper connection with someone, and how opening up yourself to that experience can be devastating. How sometimes love and sex and religion fail to live up to their promises, but we still find ourselves coming back to it, despite the danger to ourselves, in search of something holy.
The idea that there could be something holy about sex had its intended effect of pissing my dad off. He yelled in my face and told me that the song was distasteful, and that I was sick for bringing it up. That sex is something base. It’s what animals do.
For some people the concept of holiness and purity are interchangeable: purity being the absence of filth and disease. It is related to our disgust response, something that we have understood on a visceral level long before the invention of modern germ theory. Sex can be filthy, and can lead to disease, so the only conclusion to be made is that outside of *procreation* purposes (an area where gay sex certainly falls outside of) sex is unholy. For a lot of religious people in the 80s and 90s, AIDS was the perfect proof that God wanted gay men to die for their sinful ways.
I think that I am very lucky among gay people that I am relatively free of religious trauma, but it is a subject that I know to be sensitive about bringing up. I know people who have been forced to go to conversion camps, who have been disowned in the name of religion. I am very familiar with how many gay men associate their sexuality with a liberation from the repressive politic of religion, and find joy in sex with many partners as a defiant act of protest.
A friend told me recently that back in his 20’s he had sex with over a hundred people in a three-year period. It’s a far cry from Gaëtan Dugas to be sure, but the sheer logistical effort it would take to arrange that number of hookups (especially in the early 2000s pre-Grindr era) is impressive. While he doesn’t seem to regret this phase of his life by any means, he told me that he eventually got tired of it and I don’t blame him for moving on. One of his big takeaways was that “people don’t give a fuck about you”, which is a sad thing to think about even if the sex itself is good.
Even outside of pissing off my dad, I really do think that there’s something holy that can be found in taking the risk of truly connecting with somebody—physically, spiritually, emotionally—that sex can be in service of. To open yourself up to caring about another person, even if they might go on to disappoint you. It’s something that I missed terribly over the lockdown, and it’s something that I will probably come to miss again if we end up locking down again.
The end of an era
As the war on Covid-19 rages on, Moderna’s mRNA technology is set to revolutionize the treatment of a variety of other diseases: in particular, an mRNA HIV vaccine is currently undergoing phase 1 trials with some early signs of success. There’s even a real chance that a few years down the line, this type of “vaccine” could double as a functional cure for the disease by enabling the body to maintain undetectable status on its own without medications.
The days of the herpes viruses (HSV-1 & 2) seem similarly numbered as well, and we may be headed towards the end of incurable STDs altogether. It will be interesting to see what effects that this might have on the politics of sex in our culture: will they throw a massive orgy in the middle of Times Square to celebrate?
On the other hand, as Default Friend points out, there are already early signs of a brewing backlash against the “sex positivity” movement. Many young people are taking to TikTok to express that they feel victimized from the pervasive cultural expectation to engage in meaningless impersonal sex, sometimes before they are ready.
I think it’s currently impossible to predict how this might all shake out in practice, but I also think it’s worth pointing out that a
RETVRN to the 1950s is not the only historical model we can turn towards for context:
In ancient Egypt, members of the upper class gathered every year for a “festival of drunkenness” to honor the warrior goddess Sekhmet. This involved a bacchanal of frenzied dancing, singing, binge drinking (with a special focus on throwing up), and a wild orgy. After passing out, they were awoken in the early hours of the morning by drummers to commune with the goddess and to make their divine requests. This ritualized group sex was far from “meaningless” to its participants, and the children inevitably conceived in this way were highly respected (enough for them to brag about it in their epitaphs).
In the European middle ages on the other hand, while still in keeping with the Judeo-Christian shame-based understanding of sex to which we are accustomed, too much and too little sex were both considered bad for your health. People who had taken vows of celibacy ate special diets to try to protect themselves from its deleterious effects, but sometimes they would be persuaded by the people around them to take a lover—for health reasons, of course.
So while we wait for the future to write itself, without the benefit of post-hoc narrativization to guide us, let me propose a toast: to our health, and the pursuit of meaning and holiness in this life, wherever we may find it.
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