Stop worrying about unsafe gay sex

An opinionated roundup of the most interesting stories in the alternative press.

Published April 9, 1999 11:03AM (EDT)

The Stranger, April 8-14
"Barebacking and the New AIDS Hysteria" by Eric Rofes

Critics of gay culture's alleged excesses frequently point to "barebacking," the practice of condom-free anal sex practiced by a large minority of gay men. Not so fast, says Eric Rofes, who argues that we need to move the debate over unsafe gay sex beyond simplistic "good vs. bad" arguments.

In his provocative article, Rofes criticizes what he sees as the hysterical reaction by AIDS organizations and the media to reports of barebacking, arguing that AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was and that unsafe sex is not as widespread as "AIDS Inc." thinks it is. His tacit argument: If gay men want to practice unsafe sex, it's their business -- moralists, butt out. "We don't need more brochures, more programs to improve our supposedly sagging self-esteem, or more sound bites and marketing messages," Rofes writes. "Gay men need a multi-issue, multicultural gay men's health movement."

The Boston Phoenix, April 8
"How to get ahead in science" by Alicia Potter

A close friend of mine once worked as a human tissue delivery boy, and I can never get enough of his stories about toting eyeballs and assorted livers, hearts and colons from A to B. I feel the same way about anything written about the subject: I've devoured articles on eye banks, egg donations centers, Einstein's brain on a road trip. Alicia Potter's article on the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center is full of gross-out adjectives and bubble-gum reporting, which for those of us who fall asleep when the science kicks in, is just fine.

Washington City Paper, April 2-8
"The Coldest War" by Eddie Dean

As the country frets over the fate of three POWs in Kosovo, Eddie Dean reflects on the fate of a group of World War II veterans in a solid story about the plight facing the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home, a rest home for low-ranking veterans in Washington. Hit by military budget cuts and the ever-rising costs of medical care, the 140-year-old institution is losing money and desperately searching for solutions to prevent its demise. Dean has a good mix of anecdote, reporting and historical background.

The L.A. Weekly, April 8
"The myth of solid ground" by David L. Ulin

I've got to wonder how David L. Ulin's piece on the mythology and imperfect science of predicting earthquakes -- from the notion of "earthquake weather" to the use of psychics to seismologists predicting future quakes based on past patterns -- would read if he had a clearly defined thesis. As it is, Ulin can write a pretty sentence and raises many interesting points about the strange ways Californians deal with, or choose to ignore, the unsteady earth below them.

"Hollywood 001100110" by David Chute

Yet one more reason for Luddites to convert: The digital revolution has hit Hollywood. Several organizations have joined a "crusade" to save deteriorating film by preserving it digitally, although they haven't figured out how to make the resulting files manageably small. All in good time.

The Village Voice, April 7-13
"King Pong" by Danny Hakim

Poor Atari. The video game company that created Ms. Pac Man, Centipede, Asteroids and other games that send many of us from a certain generation into a nostalgic swoon no longer exists -- but Danny Hakim is determined to give it its props. Hakim profiles computer engineer Curt Vendel, founder of the Atari Historical Society. An avid collector of Atari relics, Vendel is determined to make the world aware of society's debt to the company that paved the way for such delights as "Busta Groove" and the iMac.

"Speech Therapy" by Jeff Howe

Now that "politically correct" is as insulting a slur as any number of phrases the so-called PC police sought to ban earlier this decade, it should come as no surprise that the PC backlash has finally scaled the walls of the ivory tower. Jeff Howe files an intelligent report on the University of Wisconsin's landmark decision to repeal a long-standing faculty speech code that prohibits professors and administrators from using "offensive speech." Supporters of the repeal now say they are fighting for the right to be offended.

And now for a few quick chuckles:

Disarm the Clueless
Everyone from the local police to "60 Minutes II" fell for the Phoenix New Times April Fools' story on an organization called "Arm the Homeless." This week the New Times publishes a sampling of responses it received, plus the transcript of an interview the faux leader of the made-up group gave with all-too-real CBS News reporter Janet Klein.

From Nerve:
Salon sex columnist Susie Bright reviews the updated "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask."

From the Onion:
"Stoner regales friends with tale of this one bong he saw in Iowa City once."

By Jenn Shreve

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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