"We need to talk..."
By Craig Young
6th April 2009 - 11:47 am
Could one unacknowledged problem related to the current resurgence of HIV exposure within the gay male community be attributable to the absence of skills related to intimacy and interpersonal communication in bed?
Australia's DNA considered this in a recent issue. It focused on intimacy-focused group therapy for gay men at the AIDS Council of New South Wales (ACON).
How might problems with intimate interpersonal communication lead to HIV risk and exposure? ACON's Ann-Maree Rundle and Curt Mason say that gay men may have imbibed unhealthy messages about competitive and aggressive forms of masculinity and lack positive role models, due to paternal, male sibling or male friend rejection after coming out. This may lead to trust and intimacy problems when it comes to relating to other gay men in the contexts of sexual interaction and/or committed relationships, leading to communication difficulties, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and problems in negotiating safe sex with partners as a result.
In therapeutic contexts, such problematic behaviour and relationships can be examined, and alternatives can be suggested and actively explored, whether individual, or within a group. It may not be for everyone, and Rundle and Mason suggest that unacknowledged mental health, addiction or antisocial violence problems may require prior attention and exclusion beforehand.
How can one tell if one has problems with intimacy issues? Noel Posus raises several concerns. If one is in a relationship, do you withhold emotions from your partner? Are you too humorous? Do you cry often? What about personal self-esteem and self-confidence, or self-destructive behaviour?
If we examined the above in depth as a community, would we then be able to make much more progress in reasserting the need for safe sex and getting HIV risk and resurgence levels within our community back down?
Curt Mason and Ann-Maree Rundle: "Inside Intimacy" and Noel Posus: "Do I Have Intimacy Issues?" DNA 110 (March 2009): 65-66.
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