Thursday, March 27, 2008

Scare Tactics, How Dare You, You're Wrong and That's Not Going to Work

One of the wonderful things about working freelance is you get sporadic time off throughout the year. What was going to be a long weekend out on the West Coast snowboarding in Mammoth during gay ski week has turned out to be an extended stay in Los Angeles where I have nothing better to do than keep producing the ideas that have been rolling around in my head.

Two years ago I made a somewhat jarring, somewhat controversial (although I had no intention of it being so) advertisement that deals with second guessing the choices of your sex life when you find yourself at the STD/HIV clinic awaiting the results of your next test. The ad received a mixture of both being well received as well as criticized for its level of "fear campaigning." In the writing, producing and directing of the ad I never once sat down and said to myself, "Ok. How can I scare people?!" Never the case. Not once. I took an experience as a modern, sexually active, sexually positive gay male and translated it to film with the hopes of encouraging others to slow down, think before they act and take their sex lives seriously and responsibly. "Don't let this be your second date" is more or less the tag line for the piece and that's simply all I meant. Know what you're doing comfortably and confidently and be in control of your sex life before you wind up in a testing chair uncertain of a test result which will set a new direction upon your life. If "fear" was a part of my being honest than what can I do? It's a situation I've been through and it was scary as hell and I'm not going to tip-toe around that issue. I needed that feeling to encourage myself to learn from the past to be healthier in the future. If you want to call that a scare tactic or fear campaigning- so be it. It's simply just a catalog from my honest gay life. Now, with the power of youtube and online viral videoing I don't have to ask permission of anyone to make a certain ad, I don't have to go through the bureaucracies of distribution to air my piece and I don't have to use straight people or straight tactics to get at the core issues of gay life and the gay lifestyle and I certainly don't intend on doing so.

So here I am. In Los Angeles about to begin production on my next ad and in pitching the idea to friends, activists, filmmakers, and gay folk of all different ages and cultures I have received wonderful, positive and supportive encouragement as well as the dismissive "you don't know what you're talking about," "that's a scare tactic," "you're wrong," "Why bother?" and the always fist-clenching, but totally expected eye rolling. The truth of the matter is- I'm just going to push on. I love gay men and I love gay sex. I love being gay and I love having sex. Never will it be an intention of mine to scare gay men out of having sex. I want gay men to have sex. I want gay men to enjoy sex and I want gay men to know that sex can exist in it's most hottest and passionate forms when you feel as though you know what you're doing and are in control of what you're doing. It will always be an intention to be as honest and forthright as possible and if fear comes into play while I try to translate certain realities of mine and maybe other's gay experience than all I can say is...So be it.

Link to "Second Date."


Anonymous said...

Telling people to have safer sex is not scary. Hearing your doctor tell you that you just seroconverted is scary. Hearing that someone with whom you had unsafe sex just seroconverted is scary.

Safe(r) sex is hot sex. Anyone who tells you it's not as hot (or as transgressive (or as rebelliously gay)) as unsafe sex is either lying or stupid (or both).

Sex with stupid liars is simply not hot.

Wayne said...

Yes, having to consider the consequences of sex is a drag. But it's a whole lot easier/simpler/more productive to think about the consequences BEFORE sex as opposed to AFTER (or during!)...

It'd be great if we could all have sex without any worry at all. That's not possible for anyone, gay or straight, poz or neg (unless you're nuts). But there is a way to minimize that worry: Think about your behavior in advance.

Isn't that all Eric's trying to say? I'm no fan of scare tactics, but this doesn't seem like a scare tactic so much as a reality check.

(On a side note, check out Eric's meaty fingers on JoeMyGod today. They'll give you all sorts of ideas about very safe things to do.)

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Continue to follow your instincts. I look forward to seeing your next product. Gonna be tough to top the first one.

Dennis said...

I thought the first ad was great and I'm sure this one will be too. I've been in that situation before and I think it's honest reflection of life. As you and others have said, all too often the truth is scary.

ken said...

i just watched "second date" and i thought it was great and extremely effective in getting the message across. follow your instincts, they seem right on target to me.

Scott said...

A couple of years back, I was working with Howard University Hospital here in DC to implement universal HIV testing for everyone that walked through the door. They were hesitant, stating that it would scare off people that needed healthcare, was invasive blah blah blah. DC has an extraordinarily high rate of HIV, especially among women of color. I finnaly looked at the ER director and stated, "It goes like this, 'ma'am, I see you're pregnant, you've clearly had unprotected sex, let's do an HIV test for your health and your babies.'" Fortunately they got it and Howard is doing universal testing with patient consent and an opt out option.

HIV is a nasty disease, but at the same time, I think that we need to normalize talking about it, alas it still seems to be the great elephant in the room

Greg said...

I've seen that ad before, not realizing that you created it. Nicely done. I think being honest about sex and HIV/AIDS can be scary, and sometimes, that little scare is what's needed to prod someone into action. Even if the scare was unintended.

Great ad, Eric.

the zak said...

an idea for another ad...
the strategy of let's get tested TOGETHER BEFORE we have sex,
for A VARIETY of STDs.

A sexual health checkup reduces ambiguity and can be
like anything else that potential sex partners do together

the zak said...

Millions of people in the world begin
sexual relationships where
they don't use any form of protection
against any diseases or pregnancy.

They do that because they have the right feeling
about the person. It removes their anxieties.

They've passed over some threshold of anxiety
about the person.

Something about the person removes their anxieties.
And they have a feeling of trust in the person.

James Figueiredo said...

I saw your video a while ago, and I didn't think it was scaremongering at all.

It packs quite a punch, for sure, but that's the whole purpose of ab awareness piece, right? If people don't feel the impact, they just forget about it.

Great work, man.


ClickThis! said...

great work, dont let others influence you too much. get back to NYC soon, we dont want ot lose you to the west coast yet :)


Mike said...

Great ad, great blog, keep up the good work!

Kevin Roddy said...

I like the ad a lot, Eric.

I keep hearing that gay men (especially younger ones) are seroconverting in large numbers...why?

Any attempt to get a percentage of them to think about the consequences of their actions is a good thing.

Keep up the good work!