This was written by Wintersong and previously appeared on BarkingShaman.com. It specifically applies to safety issues around play that involves blood product, such as play-piercing and cutting play. Although this writing specifically applies to blood-play scenarios in a BDSM context, sexually active people from all walks of life can benefit from giving it a read. Please keep in mind, there may be different considerations regarding transmission when talking about vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, hand sex or the sharing of toys.
The moral of the story is: Concentrating solely on the transmission of HIV causes us to let our guard down when it comes to preventing other STIs.
As a needle top, I no longer try to avoid contracting or spreading HIV, and I don’t think you should either. Beyond that, I’m going to go one step further and argue that even thinking about HIV makes us, the people we play with, and other people who play in the same spaces as us less safe.
Bet I’ve got your attention now.
Too often I see other tops, or dungeon planners for that matter, cutting corners or engaging in high-risk behaviors that they justify on the basis of HIV’s particular characteristics, especially its renowned frailty. Here is a list of things I have seen just in the past thirty days: Blood drinking between non-fluid bonded partners (“HIV doesn’t live long in saliva or the stomach”), a dungeon not offering stretcher sheets for a blood-play area, a dungeon providing kitchen-grade cleaning wipes for a blood-play area (again based on “HIV is fragile”), simple rubbing alcohol used for a play piercing class (a pet peeve of mine), and a piercing specialist moving a sharps container with his bare hands before unscrewing his water bottle and taking a drink.
Perhaps all these things are acceptable under peoples’ personal concepts of RACK in the context of HIV. However, HIV isn’t the only Big Bad Wolf trying to blow down our house anymore. When it comes to fragility, if HIV is a wheezing asthmatic, Hepatitis C is an opera singer. And Hep C can be one bad motherfucker. (and for other sexual practices add to that: Hep B, Chlamydia, herpes, HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, etc, etc, etc. ~Sunny)
It is exactly because Hep C is so tough that I don’t think HIV should be anywhere in our minds when designing safety protocols for our play anymore. HIV is a distraction. Do not get me wrong. I’m a queer guy who came out in the early 90?s, I remember when the Plague was an imminent death sentence, not a chronic illness, and it’s no walk in the damn park now. HIV scares the crap out of me, and I’m not trying to minimize the pain of anyone who lives with the disease or has lost loved ones to it.
But that doesn’t change my point. Worrying about HIV makes us less safe. Because of HIV’s “frailty,” safety protocols that reduce or prevent the spread of Hep C are completely effective against HIV, but the reverse is not true at all. If we plan for the resilience of Hepatitis C we will better protect ourselves and those we share space with not only from Hep C but also from HIV and other blood born illnesses.
Safer play starts not with a change of technique, but with a change of perspective.
I am a presenter, shaman, magician, sex-positive educator, and activist, with over a decade of experience running rituals and teaching classes ranging from private one-on-one instruction, to workshops at some of the premier events in the United States.
Some of the topics I present on include kink/BDSM techniques, alternative spirituality, magic, queer/LGBT issues, and polyamory. I got my start presenting educational and sensitivity workshops and assemblies on Tourette Syndrome. In comparison to holding the attention of 300+ jr. high school students for an hour, just about anything else is a piece of cake.
My shamanic ritual work is centered around rites of personal transformation as well as the relationship between the living and the honored dead. I am a founder and council member of Clan Tashlin, a magical order built around a unique approach to magic and the relationship between people and the land.
My writing has been in The Bilerico Project, HUGGIN Magazine, and books by leaders of the pagan & neo-classical shamanism communities. Television appearances include documentaries featuring topics such as polyamory, pagan spirituality and genital integrity in both the United States and Great Britain.
Wintersong’s Website: BarkingShaman.com
Contact Wintersong: wintersongt @ gmail dot com
To see a sample of me teaching, you can check out this free video on the anatomy of intact (not circumcised) penises. Link NSFW (nudity)