A variety of gay men give their opinions on issues ranging from anonymous sex to monogamy and ageing. A well-informed presenter regularly interjects with various facts and figures that either support or challenge these men’s assertions.
What’s particularly pertinent about this discussion, however, is the year that it was broadcast – 1981. AIDS was not yet on our radar (the first US case reported in June of that year, the first UK case in December.) So it is interesting to speculate how this might have impacted on the discussion if the programme had been broadcast a year later.
The discussions would, undoubtedly, have been different because in the early years of the AIDS crisis we didn’t know what caused it. That ignorance was the cause of much fear in our communities and it would have been a brave person who would have continued to advocate multiple sexual partners.
But then we gradually did begin to develop the notion of ‘safe sex’ and I think that would have changed the discussion again. But this time it wouldn’t just have been about ‘the facts’; it would also have been about attitudes. Gay men and gay sex had been very much vilified by a homophobic media. It would have been interesting to see how much we had internalised that demonisation and what it meant in terms of our attitudes towards sex.
And, of course, as the crisis grew, there were very few of us who did not know someone who was sick with, or who had died of, AIDS. How did that affect our view of sex?
It would be misleading to suggest that the AIDS crisis is over but we are, at least, better informed (hopefully). Or is there a new kind of ignorance – this time fulled by complacency? There’s a greater fluidity around sexuality and gender – which is great. But what does that mean in terms of HIV and AIDS?
In many ways this is a discussion that is just as valid today.