Bug Chasers

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

Bug Chasers


An article titled Bug Chasers: The men who long to be HIV+, by Gregory A. Freeman, is the lead story in Rolling Stone's issue of 2/06/03.

It has already provoked a charge of quote fabrication from MSNBC.

[Sorry folks -- three years later, both articles appear to have been scrubbed.]

But whether the author of the Rolling Stone piece fabricated quotes or not, his criticism of the culture of unsafe sex is on target.

Ck out these graphs from Mr. Freeman's Rolling Stone article, and then ck out the article itself:

When I asked about bug chasing, leaders of groups such as Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the Stop AIDS Project, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation weren't interested in providing much education or increasing public awareness. To the contrary, most were dismissive of the issue and some actively dissuaded me from writing the article at all. A spokeswoman for the Stop AIDS Project, Shana Krochmal, characterized bug chasing as "relatively minor acting-out" and aggressively encouraged me to drop the article idea altogether, saying the issue is "not big enough to warrant a trend story." Krochmal cautioned against focusing on "just a bunch of really vocal guys who want to continue this image of being reckless, hedonistic gay men who will do anything to get laid. I think that does a disservice to the community at large." The San Francisco AIDS Foundation labeled the issue "sensational" and would not provide further comment. GLAAD spokeswoman Cathy Renna was more helpful, saying she had heard enough about bug chasing to be concerned, emphasizing that her group's focus would be whether people use bug chasing as an easy way to disparage all gays and lesbians as sex-crazed and reckless. "The vast majority of the gay community would be just as surprised and appalled by this as anyone else," she says.

Bill Weintraub: They'd have to have been brain-dead to be surprised -- the phenomena of bug-chasing and barebacking are both very well-known within the gay commmunity, and both myself and Chuck Tarver have commented on them on this site.

At GMHC, where Carlos [an alleged bug chaser] is one of more than 7,000 volunteers, spokesman Marty Algaze calls bug chasing "one of those very underground subcultures or fetishes that seems to have sprung up in recent years." The assistant director of community education at GMHC, Daniel Castellanos, acknowledges that bug chasing exists but claims there's not much need to discuss it because it involves such a small population. But would he try to talk a bug chaser out of trying to get HIV? "If someone comes to me and says he wants to get HIV, I might work with him around why he wants to do it," he says. "But if in the end that's a decision he wants to make, there's a point where we have to respect people's decisions."

Bill Weintraub: This last quote certainly rings true to me: a safer sex educator endorses life-threatening behavior. For more of the same, ck out my article Risk Reduction or Cultural Change.

What frustrates health-care professionals the most, Forstein says, is that "gay men who are doing this haven't a clue what they're doing," he says. "They're incredibly selfish and self-absorbed. They don't have any idea what's going on with the epidemic in terms of the world or society or what impact their actions might have. The sense of being my brother's keeper is never discussed in the gay community because we've gone to the extreme of saying gay men with HIV can do no wrong. They're poor victims, and we can't ever criticize them."

Bill Weintraub: Once again, the complete Rolling Stone piece can be found at

The MSNBC charge of fabrication is at


Bug Chasers -- A Straight Man's View


bill's note:

these graphs came to me from "luke," the author of Beatific on this board

like everything he writes, they're well worth reading

In a broader context I see this bug chasing as a symptom of our society's uneasy, or rather, unhealthy view of sexuality, period. I'm coming from a perspective that may be a little different but let me just say this. Our society is basically uncomfortable with the expression of sexual desire. Although we have become more accepting of the varieties of our attractions, I think most people are victims of a rather puritanical concept of sex. As a result straight society objectifies woman. Even today, in many ways they are not seen as equal partners in sex, but rather a means to an end, to wit, sexual satisfaction. Women's pleasure in the partnership is denigrated as the natural consequence of such a selfish endeavor. Now that is not to say that is true of the relationship I enjoy with my wife. She would not allow it, but above that, I wouldn't either. It means too much to me for her to experience gratification in the sharing of ourselves to be selfish in my own desire and subjugate her to secondary status in our relationship. I think it is better said that in many ways our culture views sex as stooping to satisfy our baser selves rather than a celebration of our better selves.

So, in a way, it appears the homosexual community has chosen to objectify those persons of attraction and as a result falls into the same trap of self seeking expressed in promiscuity and the ascendency of anal sex as the zenith of male to male union. Because of our naivete, Stephen [luke's boyhood love] and I never were compelled into such an act, and as I have said, I don't think we would have had we known of it because it did not enter our lexicon of sharing ourselves, our experiences and our pleasure in being together. It was a revelation to me at the age of sixteen that another boy could be an object of desire. I am, at the foundation of myself, a very visual creature. That is, I think, what led to the culmination of what Stephen offered in our first encounter. I had never before looked at him in that way and when he stood before me boldly offering himself, I'm not sure I had another choice. And as you have said so well, it created an immediate bond between us. And that bond grew into love. Time and distance have never changed that love even though I have denied it for the better part of three decades. I think that the reaction of our fathers is a sad commentary, driven by the dictates of society, on their view of a relationship that in other times would have been seen as a natural attraction. It makes me very angry that my adolesence was truncated when that door was smashed open and I was forced to sacrifice something precious to my heart for nothing more than the fact that society viewed what we were doing as a violation of ossified morality. It also makes me angry today when I see sex treated by both gay and straight society as something worth so little that it becomes an issue of domination and control rather than an exaltation of our higher selves. This bug chasing is nothing more than courting death in a nihilistic vision of romantic self abnegation and it sickens me.

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