Pope OKs Condoms for Male Prostitutes, Still Appears to Hate Women

After the Vatican's 40-year stance against contraceptives, Pope Benedict XVI reversed his stance on condoms over the weekend, admitting they could be protective against the spread of HIV. Weirdly, though, he only bestowed his blessings on... male prostitutes. In an interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, the vicar known as God's Rottweiler noted, "There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility."

While convoluted, certainly this statement is important–a year ago, he said condoms “exacerbated” the problem of AIDS, an irresponsible stance that he partly, at least, seemed to revoke. However, he also seemed to reflect a Reagan-era view that HIV is the disease of gay men, which is patently untrue. According to the U.N.'s AIDS prevention task force, only 4 to 10 percent of sexually transmited HIV infections are the result of sex between men. In Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, HIV is not just primarily transmitted through heterosexual sex, it disproportionately affects women. So the fact that Pope Benedict would effectively sanction male sex worker condom use but make no mention of the rest of the population reinforces the viewpoint the church has held since 1968: essentially that procreation is more important than individual health, particularly that of women. Never mind the fact that procreating, without a condom, with HIV, potentially results in HIV-infected babies. In his book he writes, "How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?" We might as well be shooting craps in Vegas, Benedict. It's this distorted, contradictory stance on “the sanctity of life” that wins out here, to the detriment of humanity. 

And anyway, most male prostitutes aren't likely adhering to the Catholic Church's dictum, as theBoston Heraldnotes in interviews with actual male sex workers.

“The pope is behind the times,” said “James,” a sensual massage therapist who advertises online in the Boston area.

“It’s too little too late,” James told the Herald. “Condom use should go without saying. HIV and AIDS came out in the 80’s. Where was the pope with his message then? That’s when he should have said it was OK.”

Some right wing church leaders frantically tried to clarify the Pope's statement, including one writer who asserted that “some homosexual prostitutes the use of a condom may indicate an awakening of a moral sense; an awakening that sexual pleasure is not the highest value, but that we must take care that we harm no one with our choices.” Interestingly, though, they all ended up on the same page as Andrew Sullivan:

Yes, I know Benedict is talking of a prostitute; but once you introduce a spectrum of moral choices for the homosexual, you have to discuss a morality for homosexuals. Previously, it was simply: whatever you do is so vile none of can be moral. Now, it appears to be: even in a sexual encounter between a prostitute and his john there is a spectrum of moral conduct.

And so Pandora's box opens. If it represents a "moralization" when a male prostitute wears a condom, would it be another step in his moralization to give up prostitution for a non-mercenary sexual and emotional relationship? In such a relationship, would it be more moral for such a man to disclose his HIV status or not? If he does, would it not be more moral for him to wear a condom in sex than not?

 Read more at The Atlantic and MSNBC.


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at November 22, 2010, 4:27am

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