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GaySA Radio, where you are family. You’re tuned in to the Steam Room, proudly brought to you by the South African Nation Department of Health’s Phila project. I am Waseem Imam Saheb and tonight we’re asking the question, what is MSM? We spoke to some people to find out what they thought.
PERSON B: MSM, its men having sex with another man.
PERSON C: Why do you think men have sex with men?
PERSON B: Well I think it’s basically related to our sexuality, the interest how I feel, like I for one am an MSM, so it’s engaging with another man according to your sexuality, and how you feel.
PERSON C: How popular do you think MSM is?
PERSON B: Apparently it’s getting there.
PERSON C: The biggest problems MSM face?
PERSON B: Discrimination. The community not having a clear understanding of MSM.
PERSON C: Do you have sex with other men?
PERSON B: Yes, I do.
PERSON C: How often do you do that?
PERSON B: Frequently, most of the time… all of the time (laugh)
PERSON C: Do you know what MSM means?
PERSON D: Yes, man who has sex with man.
PERSON C: What do you think of men who have sex with men?
PERSON D: Well I am a man who has sex with another man so I don’t think I should be discriminating. I think that’s naturally normal to me, because I think I’m normal.
PERSON C: How popular do you think MSM is?
PERSON D: Well, according to my knowledge, as a black guy in South Africa, it’s not that popular, but wherever we go and get the opportunity to do what I do, the people are so curious to do it, so that’s how popular it is. I would say in a scale of 1% to 100%, it’s about 25%.
PERSON C: What do you think are the biggest problems MSM’s face?
PERSON D: I would think that more than 15% of South Africans do MSM, yeah? But because of what they… people think or their uncles or whatever you call them, relatives, they think oh, I will not actually acknowledge that I am into this, so ja, that’s how it’s affected…
PERSON A: Do you know what MSM means?
PERSON E: Of course. It’s basically just men who have sex with men.
PERSON A: Beautiful, what do you think of men who have sex with men?
PERSON E: I think they are men that are very much in touch with their sexual pleasure because, than for me I just have this mindset of your stereotypical kind of men that feel that being heterosexual, or being just, mainly just identifying as a gay man or just being completely hetero and not understanding what the fine line is when it comes to human sexuality actually is, so I think they’re actually quite interesting people.
PERSON A: How popular do you think MSM is?
PERSON E: It actually is extremely popular, it’s just that a lot of people haven’t actually gotten to grasp exactly what it means to be MSM. A lot of people think that men who have sex with men are gay, but not all men that have sex with men are gay. I mean, there are hetero-identifying men who, I mean, for example, if you were to simply say that every man who has sex with any man for whatever purpose is gay therefore you are deeming the entire prison, which is full of male prisoners, that they are all gay, because it’s mainly for pleasure and people need to understand that sex is just sex, so who you sleep with or how you sleep with people, what you do in bed, does not determine your sexual orientation.
PERSON A: That’s a very interesting one. And lastly, what do you think are the biggest problems or challenges that MSM’s face?
PERSON E: I think the one thing is labelling. That, for me, is the biggest thing, labelling. The fact that the moment a man sleeps with a man, I mean they even have all these titles for them; they call them the after-nines, and so forth.
PERSON A: Referring to the times they’re out?
PERSON E: Like, on the down-low, such situations, and they do not understand the fact that in actual fact these people can be heterosexual, it’s just that the manner in which they prefer to engage in sexual activity is that which is perceived as being gay. And which is wrong in so many ways and it’s unfortunate that without all of this knowledge, most of us then just tend to label a lot.
PERSON A: But what do you say to people who say that MSM’s are just closeted gays who want to fall under a different whatsapp group?
PERSON E: Do you know what I’ve realised, having engaged with the LGBTI community on so many occasions, the one thing I’ve realised is that even if us as the LGBTI community do not have any knowledge, actually we do have knowledge but not enough knowledge to be able to understand human sexuality on its own, we have a gay man who doesn’t even understand what it means to be gay, and a lesbian woman, when you tell them that you can actually sleep with a man, you can actually engage in sexual activities with a man and that doesn’t make you any less of a lesbian it’s still a taboo situation. You speak to a trans woman and you actually tell them that as a trans woman you can date another trans woman, and you can be perceived as lesbian because you are two women in a relationship both perceived as homo, and it is still a bit of a shock, this, for me is an alarming situation whereby you realise that even the community itself doesn’t have sufficient knowledge around this.
Johan Meyer: My name is Johan, and I am the health manager at OUT LGBT wellbeing, a gay organisation in Pretoria, and we are basically a health organisation for LGBTI people.
Ethan: What is MSM?
Johan Meyer: This term was basically, if I can put it this way, coined, at some stage internationally because it was recognised that we do not only find gay men who have sex with men or bisexual men who have sex with men, or even then transgender males who have sex with men, but it was also realised that there is a fairly large group of men who self-identify as heterosexual, and they have wives and children, most of them, and then occasionally they would have a sexual encounter with another man, and to include this group, the term men who have sex with men has come into use. Now these men that I mentioned last, they still do not want to identify as gay or bisexual, they still self-identify as heterosexual and they still prefer to be in a heterosexual relationship with women, and they still love that woman, and they want to have their life with that woman, but they from time to time have the urge, or the need to have a sexual encounter with another man.
Ethan: So one thing that is very difficult, especially for people like us who work in a space that’s trying to get messaging to that last group of MSM’s, the people who self-identify as straight, how do you target them, how do you talk to them?
Johan Meyer: Very difficult, Ethan, because this is probably the most hidden group of men under the term men who have sex with men. Gay men, to a fairly large extent, has already come out of the closet, except for those that has not yet done so, but the ones who are out, they are fairly easy to reach because they are out and proud and they are quite visible. The same more and more so nowadays with bisexual men, the bisexual group in South Africa is starting to become more visible as well. But the men who do not self-identify, they are the most difficult group to reach, and I think for obvious reasons, because their behaviour is already something that they question within themselves and they wonder, are they gay or bisexual? So they are already struggling with those types of questions within themselves, plus one can imagine that the community would not understand the fact that this is a married man and they are having sex with another man from time to time. So it is very difficult for us to reach them and the only way that we are able to do it right now is through accessing certain networks of people. So the key for us is to identify a person who has access to a certain network, and then when that person would allow to also enter into that network for some reason. So we would typically as a person, if we identify one of these people we ask them if they would be able and willing to recruit people within their network to come to us and to access the necessary services that we provide. There are some that do their own research, and when they find out about OUT and the services that we offer, then if they do that via the internet they can make their own appointments and come to us.
Ethan: So, let’s talk about the prevalency of MSM’s, it’s a difficult number to try to pin down, but roughly, in your estimation, how many MSM’s are there in Pretoria, and then maybe in South Africa as well?
Johan Meyer: As you rightly said, very difficult to pin down, once again because this group is so hidden. So if one looks at the prevalence of around eleven percent for gay people, and you apply that to the male people in, say for instance, a city like Pretoria, then one could roughly say that the MSM would add a little bit to that figure, that prevalence of eleven percent. There was a study done and we use this figure for our programming purposes and to apply for funding, and there is a figure of, a prevalence of around forty thousand in Pretoria alone.
Ethan: What are some of the biggest issues that MSM’s face?
Johan Meyer: We all know that we have a very favourable constitution, since 1994, and since then a couple of laws also consequently changed that are very favourable for the whole group of MSM in South Africa. But one thing that we do see is that unfortunately these laws don’t always translate to a level where a typical person on the street would also apply these. We also see that some government officials, from time to time, do not apply these laws and still discriminate, so back to your question of what problems MSM’s face is basically discrimination, stigmatisation and also marginalisation in the process. Some of it is definitely self-imposed, because we have a very high level of internal homophobia against ourselves, when I say we I’m talking about gay people in general. So one could also say that this stigmatisation and discrimination could sometimes be perceived, and is not always necessarily real, but we did a survey in 2015, it was actually a repeat of an earlier study we initially did in 2003. A levels of empowerment study where we measured the levels of discrimination and stigmatisation on health and on a justice level in the country, and it was quite high, so people started asking us, did the levels go down, did it go up? And therefore we decided to repeat this study in 2015, and the findings are quite alarming. There is still a very high level of discrimination. Out of the little over than 2000 respondents, we found that 49% of those still experienced discrimination or stigmatisation or hate crimes perpetrated against them.
Ethan: What are some of the health issues that MSM’s face?
Johan Meyer: Typical health issues are of a sexual nature, one can imagine, so it’s issues with HIV, issues with sexually transmitted infections, STI’s, there’s also some general issues that men who have sex with men would face, and in terms of these they don’t find it very easy to access services for these typical issues. The reason for that is because first of all, they are too afraid to come out, and go to, for instance their family doctor, general practitioner, or to go to a public health facility and then disclose to the public health official there what the issues are. Let’s say for instance, there’s an STI and the person experiences symptoms, it’s not so easy to talk for instance, about anal warts, or something like that, so people don’t find it easy to access sexual health services.
That was Johann Meyer, an expert in the field, speaking to us about the ins and outs of MSM.
SFX: MOODY POP MUSIC Ia la Lana Del Rey
The Steam Room Presents, “KING-SIZE”.
SFX: PHONE RINGING
GREG: Hey! I can’t talk too long. He’s already in his uber.
JESS: (over the phone) He’s on his way! Omg, how are you feeling? You have to tell me everything afterwards!
GREG: I will! I just don’t even know what this is supposed to be!
JESS: Well, it is 11 o’clock at night and he is coming alone. So…
GREG: Ja, but that could mean anything. Maybe he just wants to hang out and, I don’t know, chug some beers or whatever it is that the heteros do when we’re watching Drag Race.
JESS: You saw the way he was looking at you at Kerry’s birthday party. That’s not how friends look at each other. And may I remind you, you were staring right back at him. And he asked for your number! What more do you need!?
GREG: Jess, you’re missing one key point of the whole argument here.
GREG: He’s not even gay!
JESS: Since when do you need to be gay to have sex with a guy? Matty slept with a whole bunch of guys back before we started dating.
GREG: What? I didn’t know that.
JESS: Oh, Ja. Back when we were all at uni… You know, he was playing the field. Checking out what he was into.
GREG: And you don’t mind?
JESS: Not at all! I mean, I did the same thing with a girl or two at res. Sometimes you gotta check it out to know for sure.
GREG: I guess that’s true. Sometimes it just feels like the out-and-prouds are the only people who are even capable of thinking that way.
JESS: Well, don’t judge a book, hey. Kyle’s a nice guy so I say just take it as it comes. He’s already giving you something to work with. Those longing looks from across the bar.
GREG: And that ass! I swear sometimes when he’s wearing skinny jeans I start self-lubricating. And his hands are so big I….
SFX: A KNOCK COMES FROM THE DOOR.
GREG: Shit! I think he’s here!
KYLE: (from behind the door) Hey, dude! It’s Kyle! Open up!
GREG: And so it is! I think I just pissed myself. I’ll call you back, ok?
JESS: Yaaas, boo! Good luck! I wanna hear every little detail later! Take notes!
GREG: (laughs nervously) Thanks… Ja, I’ll let you know how it goes. (to KYLE) Coming!
SFX: GREG GETS UP OFF SOFA, FOOTSTEPS AS HE APPROACHES THE DOOR, SOUND OF A DOOR BEING UNLOCKED.
GREG: Hey there.
KYLE: Hey, bro.
GREG: Welcome. Come on in.
SFX: THE DOOR CLOSES. FOOTSTEPS AS THEY BOTH WALK TO THE LOUNGE.
GREG: So, how’s it going?
KYLE: Nah, bruv. Can’t complain. Just glad you were still up, hey.
GREG: I always am, bit of a night owl myself.
KYLE: Same. And good to know. I’ll keep that in mind.
GREG: Can I hold you to that? I always get bored at night…
KYLE: Well, we’ll see, won’t we?
(GREG laughs a little awkwardly)
KYLE: I brought the weed.
GREG: Aces, dude. I just ran out.
KYLE: Can you roll it, though? I suck.
GREG: Sure. Let me just go get my papers. I think they’re in the bedroom.
KYLE: No need. I’ve got some right here in my pocket.
GREG: Well, hand them over then. I’m dying for a spliff.
SFX: KYLE RUMMAGING IN HIS POCKETS.
GREG: Ah, you use the king-size ones. Same as mine.
KYLE: So, the rumours are true.
KYLE: (As if he didn’t hear Greg) Oh, and Kamo says “Hi”, by the way.
GREG: Wait, you know Kamo are friends? You know he and I…
KYLE: Used to date? Ja. He told me. We used to bartend together at Galoopy’s.
GREG: Oh! Small world.
KYLE: Ja. He’s a cool guy. We’re quite tight actually.
GREG: Cool. He’s great. We a pretty amicable break-up.
GREG: What’s that look?
GREG: So, what did you have in mind for tonight?
GREG: Wow, that joint hit me fast.
KYLE: Ja, dude. This is some good shit. I got it from Bryson.
GREG: Bryson De Louw?
GREG: Are you and his sister still a thing?
KYLE: Nope. Not for weeks now.
GREG: Whoops. Sorry haven’t really been keeping track of things. Work’s been keeping me so busy.
KYLE: Are you seeing anyone?
GREG: Nope. Single as can be, hey.
KYLE: Who was that guy who was all over you at Kerry’s thing?
GREG: Oh, no, that was just a friend. He was just a little drunk.
KYLE: Oh, I see. Well, I was jealous.
GREG: You were?
KYLE: Oh Ja. Just like I was jealous of Kamo when I found out you two had a thing.
GREG: Wait, I have questions now. Are you… gay?
KYLE: Nah. I wouldn’t say that. But, I’m definitely capable of finding most anyone hot…
GREG: Well, where do I apply for consideration?
KYLE: (sniggers) No need…
SFX: KYLE KISSES GREG. GREG MOANS AND THE SOUND OF RUSTLING CLOTHING IS HEARD FOR A FEW SECONDS. A ZIP IS PULLED DOWN.
KYLE: Is this okay?
GREG: Definitely. But…
GREG: I didn’t… prepare…
KYLE: No worries. I did.
GREG: Wanna move this to the bedroom? I have lube and condoms and stuff…
KYLE: Lead the way.
SFX: FOOTSTEPS AS THEY HEAD TO THE BEDROOM. A DOOR CLOSES.
SFX: THE BUSTLING SOUND OF A COFFEE SHOP DURING THE DAY.
WAITER: Everything still fine here?
GREG: It’s all good.
WAITER: Your wrap is on its way.
SFX: GREG TAKES A SIP OF HIS COFFEE.
JESS: Hey, boo!
GREG: Oh, hey! You’re here!
JESS: (suggestively) How ya doing?
GREG: What do you mean?
JESS: Stop toying with me! Spill! Why didn’t I get a call last night? There I was biting my nails, with my popcorn getting cold as fuck and I got nothing but radio silence from you!
JESS: Time to fess up!
JESS: I’m assuming that look means it went well…
JESS: (Getting excited) SPILL!
GREG: We had sex.
GREG: And his dick is huge!
GREG: But, he bottomed… So, that was nice cuz you know. I’m vers top… And my top side came out hey!
JESS: Omg, I can’t believe it actually happened!
GREG: I’m just as stunned as you are. He even texted me this morning to say he had a good time. And… he kinda sorta asked me out for dinner and drinks tomorrow night.
JESS: (Ecstatic) He asked you for a date?
GREG: Ja. I think he did.
JESS: Okay. Hold up. You don’t seem sufficiently excited about dating that tall Adonis. Are you ill?
GREG: No. It’s just…. I’m not sure that that’s what I’m necessarily looking for…from him.
JESS: But, you were literally just saying the other day that you’re fully over Kamo?
GREG: It’s not that.
JESS: What is it? Was the sex not up to standard?
GREG: No, it was amazing. And he’s really good conversation.
JESS: So, what’s the trepidation then?
GREG: It’s just… You know, we hooked up and it was great and all but, I don’t know if I could even begin to go on dates with someone who isn’t gay, but still fucks around with guys.
JESS: What do you mean? I don’t get it.
GREG: It’s a massive gray area and it’s just too… complicated for me. You know, I spent so much time coming to terms with myself and having to backtrack and be with someone who doesn’t know who he is… It just seems like admin that I don’t need, hey.
JESS: Greg… I…. (she struggles to find the right words)
JESS: Greg… I don’t think that that’s entirely fair.
JESS: To say that he doesn’t know who he is.
GREG: What do you mean?
JESS: Well, maybe who he is is exactly what he’s telling you? Maybe he just likes you and wants to see where it goes? I mean, did he do anything to put you off?
GREG: Well, no, he was really nice and all. And, like I said, he’s really good conversation.
JESS: And the sex was good.
GREG: No. The sex was great. He really knew what he was doing. He did this thing with his tongue that made my eyes water…
JESS: And the sex was great. So, as much as I love you, babe, I have to say that it’s kinda unfair that you’re judging him. I mean, queer people have had a tough enough time as it is with being accepted as something that actually exists. So, you know, it’s unfair for any of us to do the same to anyone else. Gay isn’t the only way you can be.
GREG: Jess, did you miss the part where I said I was balls deep in the guy?
JESS: So? Maybe he’s just a guy who likes sleeping with other guys. Doesn’t mean it’s the only thing he’s into. And it really doesn’t mean that we have the right to box him into any category. It’s called erasure. (beat) He’s a “plus”.
JESS: LGBTQ plus.
WAITER: Hi there, Ma’am. Can I get you anything?
JESS: Oh! Hey, can I have an Americano, please? No milk.
WAITER: Sure thing. Coming up.
JESS: What I mean… What I mean is that he’s in the category we don’t talk about. Like my boyfriend is.
GREG: Ja, but does Matty even talk about it?
JESS: Yes, babe. Openly. That’s why I was so surprised you didn’t know. He’s a man who enjoys sleeping with other men. It’s no crime that he doesn’t identify as gay. I mean, sure there are a lot of specific issues that those people have to deal with – you know, health-wise. But, it’s really just as simple as asking him. It’s literally like… I don’t take milk in my coffee. You do. It doesn’t change the fact that we’re still capable of going on a coffee date.
GREG: (Laughing) You’re lactose intolerant.
JESS: (Laughing) It doesn’t change the point. If you guys are still capable of going on dates and having a good time after then why not try it out. If nothing would change even if he were calling himself “gay”.
JESS: (over the phone) So, he’s on his way over now?
GREG: Yip. I just got out of the shower.
JESS: And where are you guys going?
GREG: There’s this new bar that opened in Maboneng that we’re going to check out. I’ve heard it’s pretty good.
JESS: Oh, that sounds like fun.
GREG: Ja, but we’re gonna chill here for a bit first.
JESS: Have you figured out if it’s a date yet?
GREG: Well, I just finished shaving every inch of my body and my asshole is as clean as the day I was born. So…
JESS: Woah Stop right there! I didn’t need the gory details!
GREG: Hey, I’m proud of myself! You could eat your dinner off it!
JESS: OMG, Greg. Too much information!
GREG: (Laughing) Sorry, I’m just really excited! We’ve been talking almost non-stop today. Dude is funny! And hella fucking smooth.
JESS: Well, this is a change of pace. Could you put Greg on the phone, please.
GREG: Nah, it’s just that I’ve been thinking about what you said. And you were right.
GREG: I said you were right. Sorry, is the connection fine?
JESS: It’s perfect. I just love hearing you say that.
GREG: (laughing) Nah, but seriously. I can’t call myself woke and think like that.
JESS: I’m glad you feel that way. But, obviously, no judgment. I wouldn’t have thought like this before dating Matty, and now it seems so obvious.
GREG: Ja. And, you know, he’s a good guy. And he’s a stoner. So, what is there even to complain about?
GREG: I’m just gonna get dressed and stuff quickly before he arrives now.
JESS: You reckon it’s gonna be a late one? Wink wink.
GREG: Haha, maybe. But, not too late, I have to be at work tomorrow.
JESS: Good dick never hurt anyone.
GREG: This one might. We’re talking a eggplant size here…
JESS: OMG, Greg…
GREG: With two wrecking balls just swingin’ round wrecklessly…
JESS: (laughing) Oh my word stop…
GREG: Just like a side of sirloin begging to be…
SFX: A KNOCK ISSUES FROM THE DOOR
GREG: Shit! I think he’s here! He’s early! I’m literally still naked.
JESS: Good. So you’re ahead of schedule.
KYLE: (from behind the door) It’s me!
GREG: Okay, I have to go. I’ll call you afterwards, ok?
KYLE: Hurry up! I gotta pee!
GREG: Coming!! (to JESS) Okay, wish me luck!
JESS: Good luck, babes! And don’t get dressed!
GREG: Do you think I should just answer in my towel?
GREG: (laughing) You’re such a bad influence. Bye!
SFX: FOOTSTEPS AS GREG WALKS TO THE DOOR. HE OPENS IT.
GREG: (lasciviously) Hey there.
KYLE: Oh! Hey! (beat, lasciviously) Hey…
GREG: Care to join me for a quick J?
KYLE: J… BJ… Either way.
GREG: Sounds good to me. I got king-size.
(KYLE and GREG laugh in unison.)
SFX: MOODY POP MUSIC a la Lana Del Rey
Well, we hope you enjoyed that one! That was “King-Size” written by Arlin Bantam for GaySA Radio, where you are family.
Person A: Why do you have sex with other men?
Person B: That’s my sexual interest, I’m gay, I’ve got feelings for another man’s soul. So basically I sleep with another man because I’m gay, and it’s where my interest lies.
Person A: I was going to ask the next question, how do you identify; as straight, gay, bisexual or…
Person B: So gay.
Person A: Where do you meet men for sex?
Person B: We approach each other, social media, social networks as well, they are easy to identify and get another man but there are those people who… I don’t even know, I’m a go-getter, if I see someone I like I don’t mind to approach.
Person A: What is your favourite sex act with another man? Oral, anal, masturbation…
Person B: Anal
Person A: Anal?
Person B: Yes, it’s very nice.
Person A: How do you protect yourself during sex?
Person B: By using condoms and especially, again, remember that anal is something, a part of the body that is very sensitive, so always making use of lubricant is the most important part to being safe with anal sex.
Person A: Why do you have sex with men?
Person B: Oh my God, oh my God! Actually, I don’t know, it just happened.
Person A: How often do you partake in MSM?
Person B: To be honestly, whenever I am ready. There’s no time in my life where there is nobody interested in me, but sometimes I don’t feel comfortable with the guys that want me to have MSM with them, so, whoever I am comfortable with doing it with them, so I do it, Ja.
Person A: Are you straight, bi or something else? Or gay?
Person C: Something else, and gay!
Person A: Can you explain something else to me?
Person C: I would explain something else as people that are bisexual? And have straight partners and are still interested in gay people, ja that’s what I think it is.
Person A: Where do you meet men for sex?
Person C: Actually I don’t meet men for sex…
Person A: They meet you?
Person C: No, I don’t. I meet men for fun.
Person A: Okay.
Person C: Ja, I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t go right in to sex. I meet you, we know each other, what’s your name, what’s your name, I tell him what my name is he tells me what his name is, I’m from that place and I’m from that place, then I’m okay, bye! We exchange numbers, the following day where you? I’m still at my place, then after, two months or so, actually, since it’s Pink lourie, after two Pink lourie’s or so, I’m like okay, can we meet? Then we can meet and have sex. So I don’t have a time, basically for that.
Person A: What is your favourite sex act with a man?
Person C: I would say it’s a blowjob.
Person A: Blowjob?
Person C: Ja.
Person A: How do you protect yourself during sex?
Person C: Condoms all the time. I don’t go into sex without a condom. I cannot trust you because I don’t know you sometimes, you understand? Even though we’ve been dating for a while but I don’t know where you you’ve been.
Person A: Why do you think MSM’s have sex with men?
Person C: I mean, I for one just think it’s a matter of being in touch with your sexual practices. It’s a matter of understanding what you want, it’s a matter of going for what you want, and basically just satisfying yourself sexually.
Person D: Do you think it’s, do you find it to be unconventional, for lack of a better word?
Person C: Not really, I don’t think it’s unconventional in any way, these practices were there even in biblical times, for earth’s sake. How do we call it unconventional while in this very day and age we still have our dearest fathers, and this is the heart-breaking part, using the word unconventional then speaks to all of the men that are married, that are then engaging in sexual intercourse with other men, that are married to women to be precise, that are engaging in sexual intercourse with other men and you call it unconventional for what particular purpose? It’s almost like you’re saying this is wrong, this is not right, it’s not normal, I hate that word with a passion, you know?
Person D: How often do you think, do you know because you work in this field, how often do MSM’s partake in sex with men?
Person C: Wow, I must say testosterone doesn’t help either hey? I feel it’s very much genetic as well, it’s hormone related, I mean, the whole situation around behavioural studies already explains the fact that an individual who is male is prone to want to engage more in sexual activities due to the testosterone and so forth, so it’s, I would not necessarily have a number or a ratio to put it on that men are more sexually active than women, in comparison.
Person D: Would you say, three times a week? If we had to break it down to an amount?
Person C: I’m gonna sit here and I’m gonna tell you nothing less than three times, this is coming from my point of view, I’m not putting this on anybody else, we have men here that are fine with just once a week, some of us, that’s okay, but minimum three times.
Person D: Wow, now most of these MSM’s that you work with, do they identify as straight, gay, bi or something else altogether?
Person C: After most of the human sexuality training that I give, I actually realise that a whole lot of people come out with different perspectives of who they actually are after having gained all that knowledge. It’s quite an interesting situation that you would ask that, and I think they identify as all those, because as soon as one has knowledge then they are able to better, umm, what do you call, I don’t like to refer to it as labelling, but to be able to relate to a particular situation. So it won’t be all, some are hetero, gay and so forth.
Person D: What is your favourite sex act with a man?
Person C: One word (Laugh) Sex act? I can’t give you one where I, but I can tell you what it is? I love when my husband just lays on my chest, simply that. I am very intimate, I’m like that.
Person A: Wow. Lastly, how do you protect yourself during sex?
Person C: As we speak I’m taking, I’m on HIV prevention medication, which is PREP. So, basically it’s the whole one tab a day situation, and we also do use protection, occasionally.
Up next we’ll be getting up close and personal and getting some important information and advice from Aneleh Fourie Le Roux, an expert in the field of condoms and other protection methods useful when engaging in MSM.
Aneleh Fourie Le Roux: My name is Aneleh Fourie Le Roux, I work for an organisation called CABSA, it’s the Christian Aids Bureau for Southern Africa, and we see how we can assist communities, especially faith communities as well as to understand and respond towards the HIV epidemic.
Person C: Awesome, okay so the first question I have is, when it comes to MSM individuals, are there any differences with regards to the condoms and other things that they should use versus potentially straight people?
Aneleh Fourie Le Roux: As far as I know, there is not much of a difference. When I spoke with officials from the department of health it seems that it is mostly the same type of condoms that would be distributed regardless of whether it’s for the heterosexual community of for men who have sex with men. Of course there are more options available if you go to a sex shop or to a pharmacy or so, so people are encouraged to follow their preference. But in terms of what condom should be a good one to use, for us the criteria would always be one that has an SABS approved standards stamp on it.
Person C: Can you talk a bit about the different barrier methods and items that people should be using when they have sex? So we know what condoms are, what else should people be using?
Aneleh Fourie Le Roux: Well, in terms of barrier methods, the one that is most common to me is the condom one, of course with the condom one we also speak about lubricants, and that lubricants will reduce the friction, and just on a practical, scientific level, the less friction there is, the smaller the chance of entry points for HIV. But of course also when it comes to the question of enjoyment and sensation then lubricants also greatly assists with enhancing the sexual experience whereas people are often hesitant, and might say that it’s not the same having sex with a condom as obviously, without it, but lubricants can change that, and therefore we strongly recommend the use of that.
Person C: What would you say to somebody who says I don’t use condoms because I don’t like the decreased sensitivity?
Aneleh Fourie Le Roux: There are two angles, there’s the, I almost want to say, the school teacher approach. Like, if you’re going to have unprotected sex you’re putting yourself at risk, which of course is not the approach adult people like to hear, but on one level, our message to heterosexual or homosexual people would be the same; whenever engaging in unprotected sex, regardless of HIV status or if you don’t know, you are putting yourself at risk. As the school teacher, hard and fast truths, which is part of the reality in South Africa, where we have a high prevalence, but if we take it away from that, if we acknowledge, because it is the truth, sex with a condom is different to sex without a condom, and I would normally say that we need to engage with that question because we cannot just ignore it and then I would refer back to the previous comment about lubricants because what the condom does, it is actually forming a barrier between the body fluids of the two people, and so it could be more clinical with a condom than just to be a more spontaneous act with all the body fluids being part of the intimacy, and that’s where we would say that if it lacks sensation, if it feels dry, experiment with lubricant. Then it also depends on who is complaining, or who is feeling less sensation, because if we only rub lubricant on the condom or on the penis, then there is only the person on the bottom who is the receiver, will feel the benefit of the lubricant, but if it’s the top then of course you need to put some lubricant on the erect penis before you put the condom on otherwise you won’t feel anything. So in a sense I want to say yes, it’s true, it is different, especially in the beginning when we still have to concentrate on how to put on the condom, what to remember. But to play with and experiment with different lubricants, definitely, and also with different types of condoms. Those that are ribbed in also give a different sensation, and different lubricants can cause different sensations. So the school teacher wants to say please put on a condom but the human being, and their understanding of sex and intimacy, would say play with it, experiment with it, and because we understand that’s in our best interest. Then find a way that will make it playful and bring sensation and a feeling of intimacy back.
Person C: One thing that I have seen many people say is that they don’t trust free condoms, and they end up buying super expensive condoms at pharmacies, do you have any insight into the safety of free condoms that are distributed?
Aneleh Fourie Le Roux: Well, the free condoms have been exposed to the highest standards from the South African Bureau of Standards. We trust it, we as an organisation, we distribute them through our programmes and we do the condom demonstrations. We won’t say you have to use the condoms, the government provided ones, but people say that the first thing to look at before you use a condom is to see whether the SABS mark is on it. And when it’s there then you know it has been exposed to the necessary tests to determine its safety, so I can only speak from, for ourselves and our organisation, but that we trust that stamp, and it’s been many years ago, but there was an incident where the government did recall all the condoms because they realised there was a problem, and even though it was worrying that there was a problem about ten years ago, it was also comforting knowing that they followed up, and they didn’t just leave the condoms out in the communities, so I’ve just been online again and you can buy condoms , if you really want to go Rolls-Royce, you can pay over R500 for a packet, I mean if you want to do it and it enhances your experience to go for the very exotic and very expensive condoms, again, if it works for you please go ahead, but from our side we would really want to say that so much is invested from the government to provide condoms that we trust it, and especially in more recent years with the introduction of flavoured condoms, we now get to the point where, when we distribute condoms that people skip the blue ones, because the blue ones are the ordinary ones, so they prefer grape, or banana or whatever flavour and I think that has also contributed to making the government-provided condoms more sexy, a bit more interesting than just the ordinary ones that we have been used to for so many years.
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Now let’s have a quick gab as we summon the cavalry, spilling the tea tonight, we have Rian and Ian. So, just between us moffies…
Ethan: So when did you guys start having MSM sex, let’s start with Rian.
Rian: Shoh, I think when I was about eleven, full on sex at 15.
Ethan: So what was happening when you were 11?
Rian: You know, playing with other boys, writing love letters, kissy kissy, touchy touchy, but full on sex when I was about 15.
Ian: Well I have a similar story, I was caught in the toilets in standard five, which means I was about 11, but full on man on man sex, probably when I was about 18.
Ethan: So when did you guys come out then?
Rian: I came out when I was 16.
Ian: When I was 21.
Ethan: Talk about your coming out?
Rian: My coming out was in two parts actually, the first was to my friends in highschool, everybody knew I was gay, which kind of gave me the hot pass with hot girls, I used to hang out with all the hot girls and all the boys wanted to be friends because you were friends with the hot girls, and then when I just finished I think, my first year of varsity, I came out to my mom and the rest of my family. I was about 18.
Ian: My worst part about coming out was eventually getting the courage to tell my mother that I needed to talk to her about something and the first thing that came out of her mouth was who’s pregnant, and I said sorry mom, you’re not getting any grandkids out of me, but other than that everybody else seemed to know, and you get comments like, Oh it’s about time, finally you’re out.
Rian: When I told my mom as well, I think she already knew, She was sweating for me to come actually tell her.
Ethan: And the final question is how has being an MSM affected your daily life, if anything?
Rian: I don’t think it affects my daily life at all, there’s no discrimination, my life goes on as usual. My life has been this way since I can remember, I guess, in a big way, so it hasn’t had a severe impact.
Ian: People generally know, and if you don’t like how I am then it’s not my problem.
Rian: And the two of us come as a package anyway, so…
Ian: (Laugh) Ja.
Now it’s time for some more expert advice. In the studio with us we have Johan Meyer, who is here to shed a bit more light on the social side of what it means to be MSM.
Ethan: How are MSM’s perceived by the “general” population?
Johan Meyer: That is a very good question. With our constitution being very favourable since 1994 and favourable laws in our country, some of the most favourable in Africa, and sometimes also in the world we could say, one would expect that the general, larger society would be much more tolerant and much more accepting of MSM, but we actually find the opposite. There was a recent survey done, and what was alarming is that the numbers actually went up, of the number of people who perceive MSM in a negative light. This survey was done about four years ago and then the number was around 53%, but the alarming thing is that that number went up to 71%. So, we see then that in society the intolerance and not accepting gay people or MSM then, to use that term again, is actually on the increase. That is quite alarming. On the other hand though, you do see that there are a lot of people who are very open-minded and very accepting, not only tolerant but accepting. One would see that in certain communities as well, so there is this strange thing, it’s almost like the divide between the group who are accepting and tolerant and the group who will probably never be tolerant or accepting is just growing bigger and bigger.
Ethan: Then let’s talk about some of the stereotypes that are associated with MSM’s and how true they are or not.
Johan Meyer: I think we, and I’m hoping I’m right; this is only my viewpoint, and I think we have moved past quite a number of stereotypes that, you know, an MSM must be an effeminate, male per se, or must follow certain careers and do certain jobs, but I do think where the perceptions and stereotypes come in is that MSM’s are still viewed as promiscuous, almost like it’s something dirty that one should not talk about, and that MSM are only out for sex. It’s almost as if society in general do not view MSM as people, but as sexual objects. So I would think that that is where the stereotyping is lying.
Ethan: So where do you think these stereotypes come from?
Johan Meyer: I think it’s coming from religious viewpoints, it’s coming from some traditional viewpoints, and it’s coming from pure ignorance. Most of the people that you find that make comments about MSM and such, as what I said in my previous comment or remark, you would find that they have never even in their life spoken to a gay person, or an MSM. They are not even aware of MSM or gay people around them.
Ethan: Do you have any advice for MSM’s who want to, kind of, break these stereotypes, or is there anything they can do to break these stereotypes? Is it even their responsibility to do so?
Johan Meyer: I think, to a degree it is a person’s responsibility, but when I say that, I’m going to qualify that a little bit. I would not necessarily say that people need to go out on almost a crusade to make people aware or to try break down stereotypes or change them, but I would say if each person in their own circle, where they live, can live out and proud, and more people can be exposed, and can be, almost sort of challenged in terms of their views, or confronted with an MSM person, I think that would serve a lot and that would go far to break down stereotypes. It’s only when we are going to live shy and afraid that we are not going to succeed in breaking down the stereotypes. Having said that though, I think we should bear in mind that there will be a portion of society that will never change their minds no matter how you confront them or with what, and that is the picture we’re seeing, I mentioned earlier that I think the divide between people who are going to be tolerant and accepting, and the ones who will never be, I think the divide is just growing bigger and bigger.