Just recently, U2 minus Bono and several other performers performed a concert on the streets of New York to celebrate World AIDS Day. Some legendary performances were there to be had for those willing to watch the below video:
When AIDS reared its ugly head back in the early-80s, I was still but a teenager, longing for my first romantically sexual encounter with that special woman who I would eventually have enough guts to pursue to the bedroom. I say “have enough guts” because I was way too shy for my own good. I was actually so terrified to ask a girl to my high school prom that I practically dug my head into the sand and pretended that it did not even exist!
But I remember the thought going through my head, “Wow! Never had sex…and now there is this HUGE RISK to doing it.” It was a real bummer for me. Part of this, I justified as God’s punishment for people who broke His rules for sex that violates His own specific code of morality. But the other thing was the feeling that nature had a cruel sense of humor. Rumors abounded that AIDS came to us from Africa from people who chose to have sex with Monkeys…others blamed it on something that formed when gay men had sex with each other. But the only fact was that AIDS was a huge question mark with a figurative gun in its hand, shooting down not just sexual victims, but anyone who came into a specific type of contact with infected blood (e.g. receivers of blood transfusions, people with open wounds exposed to contaminated blood, etc.).
For me, personally, AIDS back then was 50 times more serious then than it is now. Back then, they did not have the medical technology and medicines to effectively fight the disease like they do now. Back then getting HIV or AIDS was surely a death sentence!
Then came the first time I had sex in a Mexican brothel in 1989! I, of course, wore a rubber. I was drunk and out with Marines from my unit whose mission it was to “get me laid”. And the subject of their selection for me was a very overweight, old, and ugly prostitute to whom I had no attraction to whatsoever. But I couldn’t let the guys down! They had to get their money’s worth.
When it came time to do the deed, the liquor had already affected me in a way that made the prostitute very angry and impatient. She began rushing me to finish. Despite my embarrassment at the entire situation, and wondering how in the hell I ended up there, I laughed drunkenly. But eventually I finished. And — at least in the eyes of my Marine buddies — I went into that brothel a boy and came back out a man. Realistically, my transition into manhood occurred a few years earlier at a place called Parris Island in South Carolina. But that is a different story for a different day.
That instance in Mexico, to this very day, is a bit of an embarrassment to me and a stain on a mattress against who I really am. Why do I share it now? Probably because I feel that AIDS is more important than one individual. It affects everyone who wishes to have sex. It does not look at whether you are a virgin, whether you are in a brothel, whether you are a playboy, whether you are having sex on your wedding night…it simply does not discriminate, and it never has. And if allowed to do so, it simply kills.
But the bottom line was that I needed to have a better encounter with sex than I just had. And I would not let AIDS stop me from doing it. But my shyness would still not lend me the confidence to seduce a woman here in America. So my next sexual experiences were overseas at ports I would encounter on a West-Pac float, where the women were more willing when it came to American servicemen. It was explained to me that women in the third-world countries we would be visiting would do ANYTHING to get American citizenship. And I made it my personal goal to sexperience a woman in every port I encountered. I even documented these encounters in my West-Pac journal that has gone missing since I’ve been married to my second wife.
Our first port was Subic Bay in the Philippines, where the beer was just as cheap as the women. We had all been warned about AIDS being prevalent in the area and advised to wear condoms. They also told us about health cards carried by the women in that port. These cards, supposedly administered by doctors on the military bases, would help vouch for their “sexual purity” from having the disease. They got routine checkups and blood-work; and when all and said was done, they would get a stamp of approval that they were safe for consumption by the average Marine or sailor. We needed only check the dates on the cards. I remember feeling that it reminded me of buying milk or eggs or something. Even though many of these women were simply whores, they were more lovingly called “bar-girls”. The servicemen paid their bar-fine in order to be allowed to leave with them. One that I left with actually told me that I could “have” her for the entire stay if I paid her $30 (which effectively would cover her rent for the very shabby dwelling that I recall and then some!). So I eventually did this for her.
She was the very first woman with whom I eventually had unprotected sex (she and my hormones had somehow managed to talk me into it). I remember the feeling too. It not only was addictive, but it was extremely memorable and pleasurable. The most important thing I recall is that I had at least been attracted to her, unlike the Mammoth I massacred in Mexico.
My first terrifying incident in sex came in Korea! This was another port where AIDS was purported to be present in high frequency. My friends and I were in this one bar where the women literally rushed us when we walked in, making me halfway understand what it must have been like for John, Paul, George, and Ringo! One of them was the most gorgeous woman I had encountered yet while travelling abroad. These particular girls were typically paid like any other prostitute, totally different than the “bar-fine” system implemented in the Philippines. So I paid this one girl and had an encounter with her that ended up with a busted condom. My friend was waiting for me downstairs when I came back down, horrified at what had just happened, the fear of getting AIDS more realistic to me than ever before!
“I just had a blowout!” I announced to him when I stepped up to the table where he was sitting. He laughed at me and then started following me as I hurriedly left to find the nearest store or drug store. And South Korea was not a very tourist-friendly location of the world. Their stores, nor their product, had any English labels whatsoever. So I stormed into this one shop looking for soap and towels. The closest thing I could find was some Windex-looking cleaner and some paper towels. I bought them, took them into the restroom, and thoroughly cleaned myself and all my parts off that I thought may have been contaminated.
Now, I cannot help but laugh at the experience! But back then, I was literally in shock and horror at the entire situation. Later, while en route to our next port, they held what they called a “conscience check”, which was simply their way of allowing anyone who felt they may have come into sexual contact with anything unbecoming to come forward to the corpsmen and get checked out. I, of course, decided to do so. And when they punched my bore, I almost immediately regretted having done so. I always joke around, saying that it took them 15 minutes to peel me off the ceiling. But it was no joking matter at all when it happened! That must have been one of the worst pains I could have ever gone on to live without. But in the end I came up clean. And that put my mind at rest!
The whole point of this article was to help you see through the eyes of someone who lived during that time — the time when AIDS was still bigger and scarier than it has ever been! — what it was like to even consider sex. Sometimes, I would try to ask myself: “Does this woman seem like she gets around much from bedroom to bedroom, or does she seem like the type it would be safe to have unprotected sex with?” Nowadays, HIV/AIDS is still scary…but you can actually live a nice, full life with the disease unlike you could when it had first come about.
There are still some loose ends left in my story that don’t much pertain to AIDS. Did I ever get to where I could effectively seduce women? Yes! My first successful seduction had been in Mackay, Australia when some Australian guy approached a beautiful blonde with whom I’d already acquainted myself. As a matter of fact, I had left to get drinks for us at the bar and come back to see this fellow sitting in my stool. I didn’t want to get ugly with the fellow (because it could have caused complications with me being in the American military); so I simply returned, sat our drinks on the table, cut in between them and began kissing her. Her kissing me back gave me safe assurance that the pest would buzz off, and indeed he did. Within an hour, we were off to her house.
And did I continue to pursue women in spite of aids and still have unprotected sex with them? Yes, and yes. I hate to admit that I had become a womanizer after having seen the world, all the beauty of it…everything from the sheer excellence of the Sydney Opera House’s unique architecture, to the sweet alluring taste of passion fruit wine, down to every sexy curve possessed by the various women I had encountered. I knew that unprotected sex was a risk…but just like raw oysters, I loved it all tremendously! And I took the risk, ever the fool. Luckily for me, I’m still here to helplessly right about it.