Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Click Here If You're Homophobic

I was posting some hepatitis screening events to a community calendar at work today, and came across a website for a program in Minneapolis that provides sexual health education and services for men who have sex with men.

The messages on the site are straightforward, sex positive and appropriately tailored to the target audience. But, there are notes all over the site implicitly apologizing for this content.

This site contains HIV and STD prevention messages, safer sex strategies, information about gay and bisexual men's health, harm reduction strategies around meth, and images that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Not seeking such information? [Click here to] exit this site.

"They just mean, exit here if you're homophobic," my officemate Joe the Banker said.

And I think J-the-B pretty  much summed it up. The people who designed the site were so worried about offending the sensibilities of intolerant hetero-centrics that they felt compelled to put up signs all over the place.

Why disguise it? They should write something like, "Warning: This website will remind you how terrified you are of gay people."

The program is in Minneapolis, which (I'm told by Minnesotans) is an oasis of liberal white thought in an otherwise conservative, windswept Midwestern wasteland. So maybe that warning could say: "This website will remind you that you are blissfully engulfed in a world of white heterosexuals who think they're tolerant about diversity because they've never actually encountered diversity."

But that's just me being judgmental and sanctimonious. Back to the rant at hand.

The site, and the program itself, delivers fact-based messages that de-stigmatize non-boring, non-Biblically-defined, non sexually-repressed-WASPs-in-missionary-position sex. It candidly discusses the risks of sexually transmitted diseases for people who practice any type of interesting sex. For example:

HIV isn't magical (thankfully)... we know exactly how it is spread! Unprotected anal sex (both top and bottom) and sharing needles continue to fuel the HIV epidemic in our community.

But then they undo all their normalization by putting up a bunch of links that let you exit the site while you still have the chance to save your soul. To me, it says that they're not really that comfortable with their own messaging.

This is in the footer on every page: This site contains HIV prevention messages, strategies around safer sex, and information about gay and bisexual men's health. If you are not seeking this information, click here to exit this site. 

On another page they write: DISCLAIMER: If you are not seeking information or images about safer sex, gay and bisexual men's health and other material that may not be suitable for all audiences, please exit this site.

A disclaimer is a statement renouncing responsibility for something. In this case they seem to be saying, look, we're giving you all these chances to avoid seeing things that will potentially offend you, so don't blame us, because we told you so.

By acknowledging that the content is offensive to some people, even if those people are prudish bigots, they are implying that yes, pictures of hot men showing affection for each other, or a shirtless dude with a six-pack pulling on his pants waist to look down his boxers, should be considered offensive.

Hold up, cowboy. Let's do a Find and Replace on that last paragraph.

"By acknowledging that the content is offensive to some people, even if those people are prudish bigots, they are implying that yes, pictures of hot women showing affection for each other, or a topless woman with a gigantic rack pulling down her pants to reveal her hot pink thong, should be considered offensive."

What? That made no sense whatsoever. Certainly no one would ever disclaim that it may not be suitable for all audiences. Audiences have to put up with that stuff all the time. So stop apologizing for images that a few frat boys are going to find too homoerotic to handle.

Click here if you're homophobic: http://www.himprogram.org. Hell, click here even if you're not.

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