by Dan Savage
on Mon, Jan 5, 2009 at 3:40 PM
In this week's Savage Love—online only in Seattle—Jeffy Lube asks if "saddlebacking" is the name of a sex act and, if it isn't, perhaps my readers could come up with a definition in honor of Rick Warren. I challenged my readers to come up with a definition. "Saddlebacking" sounds vaguely dirty already, of course, thanks to the term "barebacking," which means unprotected anal intercourse, which has prompted a lot of readers to offer up this possible definition:
If "barebacking" is unprotected sex, "saddlebacking" is sex with a condom. Plus what pisses off Evangelicals [and Catholics] more than birth control and preventing HIV?
Stuck In Boston
"But isn't it better for all that plain old sex, under the current scheme, is presumed to be protected?" I wrote back to SIB. "There's sex, and then there's bareback sex." SIB wrote back...
It would be good... if that presumption under the current scheme was accurate. But as we've all seen, barebacking has gone from being a deviation from what was seen as a restrictive norm of condom use, to a frighteningly normal behavior. At the last International AIDS Conference I saw an abstract that showed LESS THAN A QUARTER of men who have sex with men surveyed in San Francisco used condoms.
Which brings us back to "Saddlebacking." I think one of the problems that gay men (like myself) face in a sexual world where condoms are increasingly seen as optional, is the implicit assuption that sex without a condom is somehow more fun and more exciting. I understand intellectually that part of this excitement comes from the danger associated with unprotected sex, though personally it's hard for me to get excited when thoughts of KS and lipodystrophy start running through my imagination (and as a neurotic Jew who works in public health they inevitably do). But beyond the danger element of barebacking, the other terms used to describe sex without a condom—"uninhibited," "raw," "wild" [as opposed to mild]—reinforce this idea of protected sex as humdrum. "Barebacking" is perhaps the most elegant way to express these sentiments; it connotes an imagine of some rugged man bracing himself on top of a bucking bronco against a vast South Western vista. There's even a playfullness in the use of employing a cowboy term sexually.
I'm not trying to suggest that by coining "saddlebacking" to mean an act of protected sex, concientious condom users will somehow have conferred upon a new aura of intense, visceral, sexual abandon on their use of condoms. However I think it would provide a counter-weight to the language and assumptions built around "barebacking." It would give us some slang-parity if you will. And while saddles take away some of the thrill of riding bareback they do come equipt with stirrups, straps, and ropes.
Love your column and podcast,
Stuck In Boston
SIB makes a good case for at least including this possible definition among possibilities in my column a week from Thursday. Want to propose an alternate alternate definition for "saddelbacking"? Email it to me at email@example.com by tomorrow at five.