It feels like slut-sham­ing

CityPress - - Voices -

Ben van Heer­den via email I’m writ­ing in re­sponse to an ar­ti­cle pub­lished on Sun­day, March 5 2017, head­lined Play­ing with Fire.

The ar­ti­cle is about “reck­less sex­ual be­hav­iour among gay teens and men who are in­creas­ingly ditch­ing their con­doms, be­liev­ing their pre­ven­tive HIV med­i­ca­tion will pro­tect them”. There are sev­eral is­sues with the ar­ti­cle: 1. There are not enough peo­ple on pre­ex­po­sure pro­phy­laxis (PrEP) to draw the con­clu­sion that its use en­cour­ages promis­cu­ity. The ev­i­dence pre­sented is anec­do­tal.

2. Even as­sum­ing PrEP use does en­cour­age promis­cu­ity, it’s il­log­i­cal to ar­gue that its use in­creases the risk ex­po­sure of users. By its very de­sign, PrEP re­duces the risk of HIV. Of course, there are other ways of re­duc­ing risk, like ab­stain­ing al­to­gether.

But se­ri­ously, this is like ar­gu­ing that the use of seat belts in cars en­cour­ages more driv­ing, thereby in­creas­ing risk ex­po­sure.

Seat belts, like PrEP, are de­signed to re­duce risk, not in­crease it. Sure, you can elect to walk (or mas­tur­bate), but what about peo­ple who want to drive/have sex?

Since there is no logic in this ar­gu­ment, I think it’s com­ing from a po­si­tion of moral su­pe­ri­or­ity, as if there is some­thing in­her­ently im­moral about pro­mis­cu­ous sex.

It’s sex be­tween two con­sent­ing adults, who are tak­ing ac­tive steps to re­duce their risk ex­po­sure. There’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing im­moral about this.

3. Lastly, PrEP users are tak­ing ac­tive steps to man­age their sex lives and their risk ex­po­sure. The easy/stupid thing to do would be to sim­ply have un­pro­tected sex with­out PrEP. It’s cruel to judge peo­ple who are tak­ing ac­tive con­trol in this way. It feels a lot like slut-sham­ing.

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