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A blogger recently asked for my thoughts on unsafe sex. Here is my response:

“Unprotected sex” is an interesting phrase. Sex among men is one of the great achievements of humankind, an unthinkably complex and beautiful behavioural language that has been developed over the course of our 85-million-year history as a species. It is one of the essential anchors that ties us both to our own nature and that of the world around us. Regrettably — and perhaps ironically — in this time of eco-awareness, our sexual nature — a priceless heritage — is itself more and more unprotected and in danger of being vitiated (through commodification and control) and forgotten.

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Recently ornithologists did some interesting studies in the rhetoric of birdsong. They recorded the songs of a particular species of birds, broke the songs up into their constituent parts and removed some of the “syllables” of the songs. They then substituted these rearranged and reduced songs for a small group of fledgling birds who otherwise would have heard the complete songs in nature. When these fledglings grew up, because the complexity of the song had been tampered with, they hadn’t learned some of the basics of being a bird. Among other things, they couldn’t fly. The information necessary for this essential behaviour had been in the subtle arrangement of all the parts of the songs: intelligence embedded in patterns beyond the intellectual comprehension of both birds and men.

The same is true for men and their sex. There is meaning in the complexity of sexual behaviour that goes deeper than pleasure and certainly far deeper than pornography’s commodification or public health’s reductive dicta. Constrain the sex, render it rule-bound, dictate it through the artificial and short-sighted social and “health” optimizations of biopolitics or the homogenization of commodification, and you run the very real risk of losing information that enables us to be human and to be the exquisitely calibrated thing called “men.”

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Our sexual culture is currently at a point of dangerous low ebb. Where we once had vital and creative practice, we now have almost infinite access to images of sex coupled with a reduced access to real sex. But our eyes are not substitutes for our bodies.

To my way of thinking, it’s the responsibility of porn to engage the viewer with sufficient reality and sufficient information so as to inspire him to engage in creative and real sex himself. Optimally, porn should aim not only to excite, but also to incite. This requires showing every reality of men engaging with men in ways that are real, creative and honest. This is dangerous because the social order is afraid of what can happen when men learn the power and pleasure of true fucking, true cocksucking, true fisting, rimming, real and unfettered connection. A world of men having limitless pleasure among men is a domain of meaning that’s commensurate with that of any other value system that society deems profitable or stable or politically viable. To put it bluntly, sex is more important, more powerful than money, status or political power.

It’s sad but it’s true that when men form groups and become political they tend to favour simplification. Not only the rights of the individual, but the very meaning of being an individual human are dulled, generalized, lost in the battle for political presence and power. The body politic doesn’t favour the seemingly irrational, complex and elegant drives and needs of the human. When one is fighting a battle for “gay rights” that’s pitched in the context of several decades of recent history, it’s extraordinarily easy — convenient, even — to ignore and lose behavioural truths and subtleties accrued over millennia of sexual evolution.

Now, in order to fully inhabit and own their humanness, men need to do the perilous and the impossible, the far-fetched and unreasonable. We climb Everest despite the fact that one out of six who make the effort die. It’s who and what we are at our deepest and most meaningful: there are those among us who must explore the unexplored, become familiar with the forbidden. Consider Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition (I think the best recounting of his adventure is Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance, a really great book). From the point of view of nearly anyone seeing his absurdly dangerous trek from the outside, what he and his team did was quite literally insane. It would have been more reasonable, safer, for him to stay home and putter in his garden, tend his flowers.

There are those for whom sex can easily be confined to what would be commensurate with a brief and utterly safe garden stroll. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. But then there are men for whom nothing will do but to explore the darkest and most forbidden regions of human sexuality, who are by their nature — yes, from birth — drawn inexplicably into the very wilds of it. And they do this not because they are weak or lust-addicted, but because it is who they are. They are the carriers of the deepest resonances of our human sexual spirit. And as explorers, as courageous men, as climbers of the Everest that’s in every body, they are representative of the best of the species.

I can’t tell you how often in the course of my own sexual life I have wondered if what I was experiencing was survivable. There is a realm of experience in male sexuality — easily attainable sans drugs, by the way — that takes one inestimably beyond what one thinks of as pleasure or even bliss, far beyond the kin of consensus consciousness. If you’ve been drawn to this range of experience and have done even rudimentary exploration of it, you know what I’m talking about. The cultivated everyday self is lost, obliterated by the raw power of nature that one encounters and embodies. And this is nothing less than revolutionarily utopian precisely because it’s the birthright of every man.

The great problem today is that sex is indeed more and more “unprotected.” That is, what we call sex is less and less protected against the rationalist incursions of shortsighted and unwise public and political exigency. As you know, gay men have made great strides in gaining visibility, acceptance, political presence. This is undeniably a positive thing for which we justly feel a great communal pride. But one of the costs has been the near loss of vast tracts of our primal heritage as physical men: our deep exploration of sexuality is under attack by those who deem it irrational, unnecessary, socially unwise or unseemly.

The sex that men have with other men is far more important to our survival as a species than heterosexual sex. It is an art, a philosophy, a way of life, a religion. I call the sex men have with men the hidden fine arts, a repository of behaviours, connections, meanings, acts, patterns and information that enable us to survive and to be complete. The freedom to explore this world of sex and to do so with nerve and passion should be protected at all costs. It is, in a very real sense, that for which a generation of men gave their lives. To fail to protect and exalt it with everything we have would be to fail their faith in us as stewards of their infinitely precious and fragile legacy.

This is why I am a pornographer. It’s why I’ve given myself to documenting “unsafe” sex in an environment that is increasingly inhospitable to the world of timeless meaning and beauty that each man carries in his body, his genitals, his semen and blood, in his very bones.

Paul Morris is the owner of Treasure Island Media. This article first appeared at
Morris’ Photos on FLICKR

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  1. “The sex that men have with other men is far more important to our survival as a species than heterosexual sex.” Basically, what the fuck? And if messing w a bird’s song can keep fledgelings from flying, wouldn’t shaving pubic hair (as repped in the accompanying photos)
    erase a basic drive for sex: That natural signal which represents a human is ready to have sex in the first place. I’m glad the author has transcended bliss via man to man sex, but at least try to make sense in an other wise beautifully written load of crap.

  2. I wouldn’t want to be one of the 50 in 10,000 gay men getting HIV from unsafe receptive anal intercourse. [source: Unlike Mr. Morris, I am not dismissing the lack of safety by putting unsafe in quotation marks. There are, of course, many other sexual acts which carry a far less risk.

    Still, if gay men make up about 3% of the American population (roughly 9 million), and 0.005% are likely to become HIV infected from unprotected receptive anal intercourse, that’s 45,000 men.

    I’d rather have 45,000 healthy men thanks to condoms. Wouldn’t you?

  3. “Don’t worry. Risky sex is like pretty pretty birdsong. Everything’s fine. Buy more of my bareback videos.”

  4. Go Paul …. it is every man’s birthright to explore their sexuality to it’s full extent.
    “Unprotected” “Unsafe” ? 2 totally different things, imo.

    Keep up the good work Paul.

  5. you link a helpful graph that encourages vaginal and oral sex instead of having anal sex, for transmission risk reduction? …and you ignore something very important:

    “medicines for HIV infection) can reduce the risk of an HIV-infected person transmitting the infection to another by as much as 96%. Consistent use of condoms reduces the risk of getting or transmitting HIV by about 80%”

    …that suggests simple condom use, might be a more risky option.

  6. I like what Paul Morris says. Human sexuality–gay, straight, lesbian, or alien–is all about balance, as is the arena of life itself and our quest to understand it. With internet dating, cyber porn, cam-to-cam, selfing, and all matter of new techy venues it IS “ironic” that we are having less sex than more. Remember the good old days when you could walk into a post office and hook-up with someone going thru the lines?
    I always try to have safe sex, but somehow “nature” saw differently and I am now 13 years HIV POS. Mortality has given me a new maturity.

  7. Paul Morris, is a Self serving Greed’y pig, Who exploits, Mental illness, ” I’ve met some of the men,in his videos, as somebody living with an AIDS diagnosis, and A Gang rape survivor. ” Fuck” you know I don’t care what the fuck people do, ‘ But please don’t, turn Degradation, Humiliation, and Torture.; ” idiot Whores, stuffing as much Jizz, into their Rectums, and throats, till it Shoots out! ” Into some Goddamned Spiritual awakening. ‘ He makes UNSAFE SEXUAL PORN; Sells and Convinces, a Population, of Stigmatized, Gay men to; Risk More disease, for a Temporary Fix for Sex Addiction! ” I have a profile on his Personals, I’m not gonna Lie and Safe ” I’m seeking Spiritual, Brotherly Love! That;s fucking Bullshit.

  8. Comparing “unsafe” sex to climbing Everest as they both have inherent risks?

    The slight difference is, by climbing Everest (and then not telling my sexual partner that I’ve done so, or not knowing if I’ve climbed it myself or not) I’m not putting anyone elses health or life in jeopardy. With unsafe sex you are. If you want to take the risk, then go ahead, as everyone has the right to do so. But then you have a responsibility to others so they have the opportunity to make an informed calculated decision wether to climb “your” mountain or not.

    Also I don’t see how “sex” isn’t “true” sex unless it’s unsafe, brutal or aggressive as Morris seems to suggest.

  9. What a load of hooey… Treat all sex partners as they have HIV and
    you wont have a problem, and dont forget the STD’s aswell etc.
    People need to get back to basics…And I dont have sex with birds either ! This guys a headcase… .O)

  10. Face it guys no matter how much people preach safe sex there will always be people who practice unsafe sex. Just read people’s profiles on this site and when asked if they practice safe sex lots say usually. When guys are horny and aroused all they think about is getting off. You probably experienced this the same as I have. Always bring your own condoms when out partying and practicing safe sex will be that much easier.

  11. this kind of thinking has always brought up reactions of extreme fear in people, gay or straight. if you read this article, he answered the question, but he didn’t tell you what you should do.
    the real problem here is that he went beyond the “question” to explore the quality of self…do we dare get over it, get on with it, go deeper even? or do we stop in a frozen fear and condemn, judge, and ignore ourselves…..

  12. Wow. Pretty much the most masturbatory (read post-modern), avoid-the-question way to justify your fetish for unsafe sex for a community that’s already suffering due to unsafe sex.

  13. You Go Ozzie! Please; Go; Go all the way, ” infect, reinfect, get infected, effect others, put you head ass far up, his, your ass; ride that cock ride it hard,grind it bitch, Harder, Faster Bitch, Bitch get those Those Fucking tits up Cunt you cunt! You Think You fucking Hole, take the Whole thing swallow gulp;; Eat it boy, ‘ eat the Shit, pass it on on Dude, Savor it, feel your liver, rebel, feel your Stomach heave. Just remember Asshole, the Legacy men Like you! leave, SPIT! ‘ I don’t give fuck Cunt if you get fucked with a Loaded gun in your mouth! ‘ Just don’t leave a Mess for the rest to clean up.

  14. Justifying the choice for unsafe sex by comparing it to the choice to climb a mountain?? …. Really??
    The real comparison should be do you want to climb the mountain unequipped and unprotected like the few who have died trying or do you want to climb the mountain prepared with the right gear and training as the majority who actually think and learn.
    I wont even go on about the birds ….
    I don’t care how pseudo intelligent you try to make it sound, it’s still a load of crap. A dangerous load of crap…
    Unsafe sex is a personal choice, but its a selfish, self destructive one. And unfortunately the negative consequences do not just affect you alone but those around you, your family, your friends, your partners, both present and future, it affects everyone close to you. And to not take how it will affect them into consideration before hand is being selfish and thinking of your own instant pleasure and gratification. Its like saying, go and blow your brains out if you so wish because its your choice. I cant say that because some one is always going to have to clean up the mess, physically and emotionally, and usually that someone is the one who cares about you the most. But that’s what we’ve come to and that’s who we are or this would have been eliminated a long, long time ago.

  15. FEEDMERAW,did you mention in one of your posts Mental Illness? I think you are the one with the problem.

    As for infecting, reinfecting, spread the disease, check your profile name FEED ME RAW !!!! ???? HYPOCRITE

  16. Is everyone on this site unaware that it is possible for people to actually know their HIV status, and that of a prospective sex partner ??

    The rhetoric on here makes it sound like unprotected sex is a criminal offence ….

    It can be totally “safe”. Just grow up and take responsibility.

    It still sounds like I have stumbled into a meeting of the Moral Majority.

  17. Ozzie you Fucking Turd, ” Shit on someone else you Self serving Fucking Moron. ” I give what I get. and Yes Dickhead, you pissed me off,there was a time, that men yourself. might have brought me close to; blowing your brains out! ” As Asswipe, I didn’t get a choice to live with an AIDS diagnosis. but for the record, I disclose every time; personally I consider it Premeditated murder not to! ‘ Now please consider your Menal illness. And Slither away. on your Pig belly.

  18. first i want to commend the author for pulling out his entire college vocabulary…well done…you’ve made the subject of male sexuality as interesting as a textbook…the whole thing is a giant rationalization for his choices…which makes him sound not so sure about his convictions…having lived, and participated, in the dark alley explorations he speaks of, i can say that those days were bliss…go to the supermarket/hook up, the library/ hook up, burger king…you get the idea…not to mention the dark and dirty places…but then AIDS happened and guys were dropping like flies…those of us old enough to have been there remember waiting to convert at any time…agonizing deaths of so many friends and sad, sad funerals kinda made cruising not so appealing…when news spread that condoms could reopen the door, not many of us said no…i realize that AIDS isn’t the automatic death sentence it once was, but, really, no one in their right mind wants it…at least i don’t…it’s the sensations that make sex great, not where the cum lands…and, of course, if flesh on flesh, taste of cum, jizz up your ass is what you crave, how about considering…i know it’s a taboo subject in the gay world…how about considering monogamy?…or some gay friendly version of it…it’s all a matter of choice, so do what you want, but don’t try to rationalize your irresponsibilty with long-winded hyperbole…just say “i’m horny as hell and i don’t care what i have to risk to get off”…ps…if you feel , like i do, that meeting real people in real places is more of a rush, how about turning the computer off and hitting the road?…

  19. does anyone one else think that this discussion is made really funny by having pics of our dicks doing the talking?…luv ya guys!…

  20. I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading a comparison of bird songs to male sexuality.

    In between remindings, I kept envisioning politicians and religious conservatives defending their parochial points of view — whatever they may be — by selective use of facts and scripture to back up their claims. There is indeed a factoid or Bible verse to support any and all points of view.

    To my way of thinking, Mr. Morris with an opinion is like a tree with a trumpet.

  21. hey all you bloggers — Mr Morris was asked for HIS thoughts on a particular subject.

    He was NOT asked whether or not unprotected sex is OK.
    He was NOT asked to justify his personal choices.

    I feel for the gay men in here who have obviously been affected by HIV ….. BY THEIR OWN CHOICES!

    STOP being fucking precious and self-pitying, and think about the HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of men, women, and children worldwide who have been unknowingly infected with the HIV Virus through heterosexual contact, often never detected or diagnosed due to the complete lack of health care, and frequently die from AIDS without ever being diagnosed or receiving even the minimum of basic medical care.

    Get a grip boys. Have a look outside of your self-obsessed myopic little world, and give a shit about people who REALLY suffer from unprotected sex.

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