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Am I sexual dinosaur because I insist on condoms?

Am I sexual dinosaur because I insist on condoms?

Simon Gage talks condoms and protection

I have saved a life. Many lives. Well, I assume I have. I assume everyone at [the UK-based] Boyz magazine back in the 1990s feels the same due to our absolute zero-tolerance for unsafe sex.

It was the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. I was the editor and we were putting out a magazine high on sexuality that positively encouraged going out, dressing up and having it away with as many people as you found fit (pun acknowledged).

For that reason we were also well aware of our responsibilities to promote safer sex. And we had heads on our shoulders and fully functioning consciences so it wasn’t exactly tricky for us to take that stance.

And bearing in mind, you could have sex with as many men as you liked as long as you put on a condom – and could contract HIV from just one condomless encounter with someone you knew, loved, trusted, lived with, had introduced to your parents – it was a real no-brainer.


Our idea was to make sex without a condom such a taboo that people would instinctively walk away from it. Just like if someone came into a pub and put a gun on the table, most people would get up and leave.

We wanted to make safer sex such an intrinsic part of being a gay man in the 90s that you would seriously never even consider not being safe. Like I have seriously never considered it, and no matter how, ahem, ‘over-refreshed’ I may be.

Remarkably, however, we used to get criticism from some of the bigger HIV/AIDS charities for being too simplistic on the subject.

They would tell us that the issue of safer sex was far more complex and that we should respect everyone’s choice when it came to whether or not they used a condom.

Our response was that we wouldn’t respect anyone’s choice to run out in front of traffic on a motorway and seeing as not wearing a condom in such a high risk period was every bit as dangerous, they could go whistle.


The trouble is that now we have effective treatment for HIV in a way that we just didn’t then. Not that that amounts to ‘trouble’, of course.

And we have PrEP, meaning that a condomless sex life (if you don’t mind picking up strains of gonorrhea that don’t respond to antibiotics, that is) is a reality for many people. Younger gay men soon won’t even know which way up a condom goes.

And that means that my generation now feels a bit like sexual dinosaurs. The brainwashing may have saved our lives but it now feels like we’re out of step with sexual mores.

I still balk at any suggestion of BB/barebacking (as I should: I’m not on PrEP) and seriously don’t like the idea of the whole BB chem scene, but then maybe that’s because I’ve hard-wired my brain to be very uncomfortable around anyone not using condoms.

But I accept it’s a different world with the caveat that just because you’re on PrEP, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get super-gonorrhea or warts or herpes or just a bit, ahem, unhygienic down there.

So, yes, I’m sticking with my original stance on condom use. Just in case anyone is interested.

Simon Gage is behind Jake, whose Big Gay Christmas Party is at London EDITION Hotel in Berners Street, London W1 on World AIDS Day with a contribution to the National AIDS Trust. For details go to

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