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THE NEXT GENERATION

SEX IS BECOMING AN INCREASINGLY RISKY BUSINESS FOR YOUNG GAYS.

"Alcohol and other drugs are disinhibitors: You get high and forget about safe sex," says Cohn, who notes that the same can be said for heterosexuals. "Many current middle-aged men who lived through the past twelve years have changed their behavior, though not all. But young gay men who are just coming out want to express their sexuality and experiment. Like all young people, they tend to view themselves as invincible; they haven't experienced the epidemic in the same way as older gay men."

Denver's bathhouses--the Midtowne Spa, which used to be the Zuni; the Denver Swim Club, formerly the Empire Spa; and the Community Country Club--have been "extremely cooperative" in helping with his research, Cohn says, as well as in taking the appropriate steps to require customers to practice safe sex.

Tim Coats, Midtowne's assistant manager, says he noticed that younger gays were starting to engage in unsafe sex about two years ago.

"I think it's just being young--the feeling that nothing bad can happen to you," says Coats, who adds that anyone caught practicing unsafe sex at Midtowne is kicked out permanently. "It used to be the guys at the bathhouses had already been through the hassle of being married and all that before they came out. They were older and wiser and better educated.

"The guys now are coming out in their teens, and by the time they can come here, they've only been exposed to everything for a year or two."

Young lovers John and Bob, who declined to give their real names, offered their own explanation as they entered the Denver Swim Club two weeks ago. They have an open relationship that includes other lovers and unsafe sex.

"I mean, we're pretty careful," says John, a thin, blond-haired man with the looks of a model. "Word gets around on who's doing who...and you kind of avoid guys who have `that look'...older guys who were around when the bathhouses were really hot, or who look sick.

"It's not totally safe, but what is? I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Older gays had their time and fucked up. Now we're supposed to wear rubbers or we're stupid?"

Both men agreed the bathhouses are fairly vigilant about asking customers to use condoms or leave. "But where there's a will, there's a way," laughs Bob.

Lance Clem, former director of the Governor's AIDS Council, says he's noticed a philosophical split between his generation of gays--those now in their forties--and the younger generation. It hinges on something as simplistic as facial hair.

"My generation tended to wear little mustaches," Clem says. "The young guys argue that they're clean and free to have sex any way they want to, so long as they stay away from those of us with mustaches.

"They look at us and say, `AIDS is your problem. You created the epidemic, and it's your burden to deal with it.'

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