Today we are launching the FUK!T safe sex project that I have mentioned several times on this blog. This is a Public Service Announcement, and the models/photographer/directors/volunteers who contributed their resources were not compensated for their invovlement. Dr. Terrance Gerace, medical advisor to the project, sits down and explains more about the program. Before speaking with me he had also been interviewed by D.C. Metro Weekly (click to read).
Terrance Gerace: www.DCfukit.org is a community based prevention program developed by men who have sex with men specifically for our community, with the goal of stopping the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men. www.DCfukit.org was developed by members of the HIV Working Group and is supported by The DC Center and private donations.
What is the idea and/or philosophy that motivates this project, and how is it manifested in the final product/presentation/activities involved?
We want to provide honest, factual, sex-positive safer sex information. We use erotic material to capture the audience’s attention, and we seek to eroticize safer sex practices.
What is the goal of FUK!T, and how will you measure success?
The goal is to put condoms where people are going to be able to find them reliably in public entertainment venues. We want the condoms to be in places where people go that may then culminate in leaving to have sex (bars, clubs, restaurants, etc.). That question about success is interesting: Partially we’ll know how much help we’re providing in how quickly we have to restock the dispensers. We would like to do surveys eventually, so it’s more scientific. Right now this is a visibility campaign. It’s important to know that up until the mid-90’s it would be unthinkable in D.C. to go into a gay venue and not have condoms available in a dish or bowl. Now that has almost wholly disappeared, and we’ve been turned away by some gay bars saying, “We’re not that kind of establishment.”
We’ve had very positive pre-launch feedback. In particular, the tee shirts have been a hit. When we wore them to the club and on the beach as a group we had many people approach us.
What types of backlash are you anticipating, and how are you preparing for it?
Because of the expliciteness of the campaign, we expect people to consider it vulgar. But I see it less as explicit and more as honest. Really, to grab the attention of the highest risk population you have to do something that will compell them to look and take notice. The goal is to provide public health information that will be received and not yawned at. The people who would be most critical of this would be critical of anything gay. You’ll never please them. If we sanitize the campaign to the point that it “pleases” everyone we won’t be doing anything any different from what’s been done before. We’ve resigned ourselves to the idea that some will be “offended,” and we’ve prepared another form of the FUK!TS called TOOLK!TS.
What is the difference between a FUK!T and a TOOLK!T?
The TOOLK!T is running parallel to the FUK!T campaing and is designed to be placed in venues where people under the age of 18 may see them. The Tool Kit is the PG-13 version of the NC-17 FUK!T. We recognize that FUK!T is adult in theme.
The goals are to get them into every gay-centered nighttime establishment in D.C. within a year. Because it’s very labor intensive, the packing has to be done by hand. We will be looking for businesses to sponsor us by paying for pre-packaged FUK!TS, so that our volunteers can focus on restocking and outreach, rather than assembling kits.
How difficult has it been to get venues involved, and what strategies are in place to add new distribution points?
The venues have fallen into one of two categories: Extremely receptive and extremely unreceptive. Rather than focus on the unreceptive now, we’re focusing on the receptive and hoping the others will eventually see FUK!TS as an important community resource and agree to put the dispensers in their establishments. I think it’s very important to point out that there is no cost to the establishments for the dispensers: We construct, paint, install, stock, and replinish the FUK!TS at our expense. All the venues have to do is agree to provide a spot.
If this project is sustained and is successful, will you consider helping/guiding/advising people and organizations who want to do something similar in areas outside of D.C? Which places do you think are most in need of a program like this?
I was previously the medical advisor and founding board member for The Great American Condom Campaign, the largest free condom distribution network in the country. So yes, the FUK!T program was invisioned for nation-wide implimentation. In fact, even prior to the launch we have already had an inquiry from Columbia, South Carolina. We would give affiliates the rights to use logos, pictures, and other designed materials, but they would have to find funding in their areas to supply dispensers and condom packets. If we got a major grant we would also supply the physical materials.
In terms of need, any place where there is HIV needs a program. We’re focusing on the city that has the highest rate in the U.S., but it’s important that any place with gay establishments re-invigorate the message that the use of condoms reduces the spread of HIV. HIV without treatment is still a fatal disease.
The models show age, body type, and ethnic variety. Is this intentional?
Yes. In any campaign you want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. We wanted to ensure that all types of men were used, because all types of men are at risk. We didn’t want to alienate any particular group of gay men, so we tried to make sure there were familiar faces and bodies across the spectrum. We plan on including even more variety in the future.
The web site is designed to put healthy sexuality in a context of a healthy life. There are links to other resources that focus on a variety of health and social issues. Sex is an amazing part of life, but it is just one part.