Surfing on the web lately I've seen that ad space on many gay-themed sites has been dominated by a really effective "protect yourself"-ish campaign from Harlem United Community AIDS Center. Although Harlem United's page has a pretty mellow (okay, maybe a little lame) site that seems designed for easily intimiated old people, the landing page for the ad campaign ( has a wholly Manhunt-esque vibe that talks explicitly and quite colloquially about sex and sexually transmitted infections.

See below the cut for some examples (NSFW):

- HIV Loves Tops
- Tom, Dick & Harry
- Top, Bottom, Vers

(All of the banners are also viewable on the Man-Find site. If your browser has Flash installed, you should be able to open these files directly through your your browser.)

I really applaud the Community Center for not only having the guts to really do something much more explicit than their other, more innocuous web presence in order to reach certain gay subcommunities...but also for rectifying some heresay about the spread of HIV. Most sex-ed campaigns will just advise "be safe!". I feel like those campaigns, for some groups of people, have kind of lost their effectiveness. Where gay identity has divided into many, many subcommunities, the simple "be safe" is not as effective -- certain subgroups of gays have justified unsafe practices because they might identify with a subgroup they think is not at risk. Take a look at the "HIV Loves Tops" ad above -- just because research shows that tops can catch some STI's less frequently than bottoms does not mean that they shouldn't practice safe sex.

I also think that it's really quite great that dating/sex web sites for gay people are now really becoming public spaces. It used to be that sites like Manhunt and were used because they were good places for closeted people to hook up without too much risk that they would be exposed. Not so much the case anymore. I'm all for creating safe spaces for people who are closeted to work through their issues, but when it comes to sex and safe sexual practice, I just can't see from a social policy perspective how an environment like that is really good for mental and bodily health.

The explosion of acceptable dating sites for straight people -- and particularly's advertising campaign that paints their service as not just a site for relationships but also quite explicitly for sex) -- makes a list of individuals' online images and actions more of a public commodity with each passing day. People have to recognize that almost all of their online activity, with a little work, can be exposed. I think that his exposure can create more opportunities to educate people for the better, like with the AIDS Center's ad campaign.

I understand that exposing communities to a critical public eye can allow all sorts of bad things to happen when the public doesn't like you, but maybe I'm optimistically naive in thinking that this could be really good.

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