The recent murders of at least seven gay men in Gauteng have highlighted the reality that casual sex may not just be risky when it comes to diseases and viruses, but also to your immediate physical safety, reputation and well-being.
While there’s no firm evidence, it has been suggested that at least some of the murdered men might have met their killers through online dating sites. There’s also been recent press coverage about two homeless men pressing charges of rape against a Pretoria man who allegedly picked them up on the street.
As gay, bi or straight men who have sex with other men, we know that the world at large remains uncomfortable when it comes to man-on-man action. It can lead us to create hidden ways to hook-up with other guys. Other than its ease of use, that’s one of the many reasons the internet dating scene has blossomed within the gay community.
There is, however, a potential problem when these internet hook-ups come into our houses, making us vulnerable to attacks. Picking up someone from the street also opens us up to danger. When you have sex where no-one is around (like your home or a park), the pick-up can attack you. He could also lay false charges against you or blackmail you.
There is admittedly some thrill in the anonymity of casual sex, but do not let this put you in unnecessary danger. On-site sex venues might be a better place to have casual sex as there are other people around and it is a controlled environment.
South Africa is often described as a more violent and aggressive society than most, so be smart. Here are some common- sense suggestions to help make your hook-ups safer. But do remember that when you have sex with someone you don’t know in an isolated environment that there will always an element of risk.
Things to avoid
• When first chatting to someone look out for stories or comments that contradict other things he might have said. Be aware of any obvious lying and deceit. It could be minor, but he could be hiding more serious issues.
• Don’t be naive. Not everyone you meet online is looking for the same thing as you, even if they say they are. Some may be more interested in your money than your body.
• Report anyone that is a catfish (pretending to be someone else) to the site or service that you met him on. Help protect others.
• Avoid giving out your physical address too easily and to just any guy you meet online. Try to get to know him by chatting over a few days.
• Avoid anyone that starts asking for some kind of financial assistance or money (unless, of course, this was something made clear up front and you are willing to pay for sex).
• Don’t go to a hook-up without leaving some record of where you’re going. Ideally tell someone where you’re off to – even if it is just in a text message to a friend (don’t be shy to mention to your hook-up that you’ve done this).
• Don’t leave expensive items lying around if you invite a stranger to your home. Put away any items of value – wallet, laptop, money, iPad etc.
• Don’t get too drunk or high when going out or hooking up at a stranger’s place. Rather do this in a safe environment. If you’re drunk and/or high you are more likely to do things that may not be good for you.
• Don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing. If it feels wrong, scary or dangerous, rather leave the situation.
Things to do
• Exchange phone numbers. Talk over the phone before meeting him.
• Go with your gut and trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t take the risk.
• Organise to first meet the guy in a public place, say for coffee or a drink, before hooking-up. Be seen with him by other people and if you feel comfortable then consider going home with him or taking him to your place.
• If you meet him at a club or bar, introduce him to a friend and let your friend know that you’re leaving with the guy.
• Be prepared. What will you do if the guy arrives and he turns out not to be who or what you expected or hoped for?
• Be aware of your surroundings. Is there an opportunity for you to leave if he becomes aggressive? Are there people around?
• Rather than inviting someone to your home or going to his, it is probably safer to meet him at a sex club or steam bath, where there are other people around.
• Pay attention to where your drink is coming from. Is it being poured out of your sight, is it in an open bottle? Your drinks can be easily spiked leaving you unconscious or vulnerable.
• Make sure that you have plenty of condoms and water-based lube at hand when someone comes to you.
• If you’re going to a guy’s place take your own condoms and water-based lube. Don’t assume that he will have this available.
• Be concerned if the guy refuses to use condoms or water-based lube or won’t discuss his sexual health or history. Just because he’s stunning or you’re feeling hot n’ heavy doesn’t mean you should risk your health.
• If you do end up having unsafe sex or your condom breaks, make sure you contact a clinic (such as Health4Men at OUT) or a doctor for a course of PEP within 72 hours to avoid becoming infected with HIV.
For advice and information on PEP and health services for men who have sex with men, contact OUT on 012 430 3272 or visit www.out.org.za or www.men2men.co.za.