The Right To Hate: The Trial Of Michael Johnson

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Over the past few days, the story of an HIV positive man having condom-less sex with over 30 sexual partners has gone viral. What enveloped is a debate around HIV criminalization laws – essentially laws that prosecute HIV positive people who knowingly transmit HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 33 states currently have one or more HIV-specific laws that criminalize the exposure of HIV.

We live in a nation that is arguably not sex-positive. What this case has shown is that a sizeable minority of black gay men subscribe to conservative pedagogies that promote an erasure of sexual positivity.  Sex without condoms is pleasurable — so why are we so surprised that people forgo using condoms, because they trust someone they, presumably, just met? Why is it a surprise that Michael Johnson prefers having sex without condoms knowing that he has HIV? Why are we hell-bent on this man being prosecuted and found convicted of doing something, which for many of us, seems so natural?

Here’s what we know about Michael Johnson and his case:

  • He’s 22 years old.
  • He had sex with people while knowing his HIV status.
  • Unbeknownst to them, he recorded the sexual acts.
  • Authorities also believe he didn’t disclose his status, or all together lied about it.
  • He had 31 sexual partners – all men.
  • And, as far as one can discern from the reports, the sex was consensual.

If the facts are right, Michael Johnson is no guiltier of transmitting HIV than any of us are when we decide to engage in consensual sex with condoms.  The way the media – and the generated conversation within – has disseminated the story only sensationalizes an already nuanced debate, and, subsequently, facilitates and aggravates stigma, homophobia, and discrimination against people living with HIV. What is this collective obsession to sexually terrorize racial and sexual minorities? One can understand the tragedy of the story – and can’t be insensitive to the HIV negative sexual partners who were lied to, but to refer to them as victims is essentially mocking their sexual health practices. To refer to them as sexual victims is at the very least a dramatization that doesn’t do anything to neutralize debate.  They are not victims – and he isn’t a culprit. We can’t continue to persecute HIV positive people who engage in consensual condom-less sex, even after one lies about their status. We can’t continue to make HIV a sexual weapon.

But to some extent, this response goes beyond the victimization of Michael Johnson or his partners. What became palpable was this country’s fundamental thirst for punishment and retribution. And in this case, a thirst that is unjustified and disingenuous. This epidemic continues to disproportionately impact the lives of young black gay men. It is this fact that should have us outraged. We collectively should be angry at how the intersections between poverty and racism continue to amount to health disparities for communities of color. We should be angry at the lack of public will and consciousness about eradicating HIV/AIDS. We should be angry at a criminal justice system that prioritizes the erasure of black bodies rather than fair laws and restorative justice.

So, it must be asked if that is what people are really mad at? And what does the fact that this is a young gay man of a dark complexion have to do with our anger? Is it “justice” that we are fighting about? Because if we want “justice”, then there are a whole lot of other issues that need to be injected into this conversation. If our anger is not coming from our desire to see our communities healthier, than the question that we must ask ourselves is, what are we really angry about? So, put an asterisk on your critical judgment, and get on to the business of finding out what you’re really mad about.

(Image Source)

What are you thoughts? What are you ‘really’ mad at?

  • Zakhele Nkosi

    Amen!! Finally someone with a good sense between their ears. You should have seen the comments I got when I posted this article on my FB wall. A great deal of commentators on my wall were all too quick to pass the guilty verdict against this young-man due to his alleged actions, without much critical reasoning as to how they have reached such a ‘verdict’. And I guess that is what is deeply disturbing about our society… reasoning, logic and debate are all too often relegated to the fringes of their thought process (not taking any moral high ground).

    My thoughts when I first came across this article:

    Even if he knew that he had the STI and did’nt disclose the fact. The onus for one to take care of themselves can not be shifted to another person. Sexual activities between two (or however many) consenting adults, means both parties partake in the act knowing what the consequences are, especially when protection is not used. Unless the other party can prove that they were deliberately coerced/ or under some form of duress from this guy; then they must accept the consequence of [their] reckless behavior. This is dangerous territory, the state cannot now police the sexual activities of individuals even in this scenario.

    • The Man With No Name

      You can’t have it both ways: “Wow!!! Barebcking with a sexy hunk.” (Slobber, slobber.)
      WTF??!!! HIV-positive!
      It’s a weasely way of wiggling out of responsibility and a complete lack of self-respect.

      • gnaG floW

        Ever hear the term too good to be true? It’s better for your health than yolo. Consent means just that. You consent to contamination of your flesh. Results may vary.

  • Johnny

    Thanks for this piece

  • Antonia Clifford

    Thank you for this article, a well-written counterpoint to the many articles on this case.

  • Sean Smith

    While the individuals who chose to engage in the behavior knowing possible risks of engaging in said behavior are not victims, Mr. Johnson very well in this case is a culprit. The responsibility of sexual intercourse lies with all parties involved, but while condoms may reduce the risks of transmitting STD/STIs they do not 100% prevent them. Thus, when Mr. Johnson made the cognitive decision to avoid disclosing his status and recording the individuals he had sex with, he in this case, lost all credibility of not being labeled a culprit. Yes, we should be outraged at the astronomical numbers of HIV rates among Black men and women, but we should also be outraged when we as individuals do not take into consideration the harm and devastation we may inflict upon those with whom we are sexually active.

  • AJ

    These laws and their applications need some serious serious debate and re-examining. It is quite perplexing how they can apply to consensual sexual activity, aren’t all sexual participants responsible for the exposure to HIV? Knowing your status should be a good and healthy thing always…not something used against you…when it comes to consensual sex.

    I totally agree with the writers’ points. The man in this case is on the unjust side of the “law” because on the surface and with the allegations against him he is the assumed “exotic yet monstrous and feared, hypermasculine, hypersexual, sexual predator criminal” incarnate to many. This horrible stereotype lies behind so much hate for men that are gay, black, masculine, big, physically strong, DL, poor, promiscuous and in more recent decades HIV positive.

    • AJ

      i forgot to agree and add that his dark brown complexion definitely plays into the stereotype

  • Aaron

    “Michael Johnson is no guiltier of transmitting HIV than any of us are when we decide to engage in consensual sex with condoms.” This is one of the most irresponsible statements I’ve ever read. Asserting that knowing your POSITIVE HIV status and making a conscious decision to have unprotected sex is the same thing as making the decision to protect yourself and your partner makes absolutely no sense. How are they the same? And where exactly does the problem lie with having protected sex? Explain this, please.

    Reporting like this defeats all the work that we do in the field of HIV prevention and education. Yes, we need to rework and rethink the conversation about criminalizing HIV. We also need to create a more sex-postitive community. What we don’t need to do is give people carte blanche passes to be irresponsible with their sexual health and behavior.

    This was disappointing. I am disappointed in Mused for publishing this.

    • AJ

      I think most would agree that video taping sex with someone without their knowledge is in no ways honorable. It is obvious that the accused was not very considerate nor had the best interests of his partners sexual health in mind when he engaged in sexual activities with them. But It seems that his partners are the ones being given carte blanche passes to be irresponsible with their sexual health and behavior. It is terribly unfortunate that he was dishonest/and or deceptive about his status but they had a choice to consent to condom-less sex or consent to sex with a condom.

      To say “Reporting like this defeats all the work that we do in the field of HIV prevention and education” is simply not true. I think reporting like this brings to light that we all have to take responsible for our own sexual health and decisions, which is one of the major points in HIV prevention and education. The responsibility shouldn’t solely be on the person who is aware of their HIV positive status.

      Your other statement about creating a more sex-positive community is what the writers of the article are also insisting on and is definitely a big part of the solution. We know men are having sex with other men without condoms. Let’s try to understand why and not demonize them. Let’s have a conversation about other risk reduction tools. There are disproportionate effects of HIV/AIDS in the black community and also a disproportionate number of black men in the legal system.

      A big problem is that there is still such a level of negative stigma attached to being promiscuous, attached to being HIV positive, attached to being gay, attached to having dark skin, and attached to being a masculine black male… Have all the above and you become an easy target for hate and judgement.

      • Alex

        Knowingly transmit HIV to 30+ people and you become an easy target for hate and judgement! Come on! This rhetoric of victimization has to end.

        • AJ

          I do understand your idea and opinion.
          But are we certain that all his partners are now HIV positive as a result of consenting to have condom-less sex with him… and did not contract it from some other partner if they are indeed HIV positive. If and when it is shown/proven that his intent was to knowingly transmit HIV to 30+ people I will have a much different opinion about the case.
          Aside from the video recording, it is outrageous that 30+ other people consented to have condom-less sex with him and he is the only one being deemed as reckless and irresponsible.

        • ace

          I have to agree. Where is the personal responsibility here. If someone had consensual unprotected sex with him, how are they not responsible for their own sexual health, I don’t get it. Sure, I guess he could be prosecuted under reckless exposure, but prosecuting clearly won’t do anything to help solve the greater issue of HIV in our community. These laws have been on the books for years and the numbers continue to rise.

  • Alex

    HIV discussion aside, the fact that the writers are jumping to defend a man who secretly videotaped his sexual encounters makes me question their own intentions: is this article really about Michael Johnson or have the authors seized upon certain attributes of Johnson’s (his HIV status, his “dark complexion”) to feed into a discourse about stigmatization? Either way, they’d be wise to choose a better poster-boy. Beyond being exposed to HIV, Johnson’s partners were exploited and abused – would the authors like to be secretly videotaped while having consensual sex? Johnson’s partners consented to the sex, not a role in an adult film. It’s truly disgusting how ideologues abandon their moral compass to appear intellectually superior. Michael Johnson is not reprehensible because he’s HIV-positive, dark-skinned or black, but because he deceived and took advantage of other people. This piece is embarrassing.

    • http://www.32Life.wordpress.com/ Baldwin Bradshaw

      I don’t think its about having a poster boy as much as it is about thinking critically abut how the media skews the truth. The truth is that this guy did have raw sex with 30 something dudes and the truth is that he videotaped these guys without their knowledge. Those are the facts so far. The allegation is that he may not have disclosed his status or may have lied about it to the guys he hooked up with. The fact that he videotaped them without their knowledge lends itself to the idea that he was deceptive in these encounters and that makes it easier to believe that he may have been deceptive in other ways such as his status.

      I don’t see the author as defending this man for whatever actions that he may have taken that were “reprehensible.” I see the author as exploring exactly why we find these actions reprehensible; however, if you remove the HIV there would be no media sensational story because then it would just be another bunch of sex tapes, which we can see any day of the week on Xtube, MyVidster, and those other sites that basically serve up amateur porn, hidden video movies, sex tapes, etc. So the question has to be asked, is this really about “public safety” and “morality” or is this man, himself being exploited. Just because we detest what he may have done, it does not give us the right to crucify, vilify, or condemn this man. And it does actually affect the growing efforts of trying to remove the fear and stigmatization of HIV positive Black men. It just does.

      I appreciate you for being very specific about why you find the man reprehensible; however, I have to take argument with that as well because while I don’t support his videotaping these guys without their consent and I definitely wouldn’t want to be videotaped without my consent, we also have to look at the context that these men put themselves in for that to happen. Let’s be very candid and realistic. It’s Black (men) gay culture. We know that people fuck without condoms. We know there are people who openly state their preference for fucking without condoms (they have sites, special sections of sites, and specific sex parties for this). We all know hookups happen. We all know that a good portion of the time they happen with little connection, conversation, or information shared between both parties. We have to take responsibility for the situations and contexts in which we place ourselves. If you are going to meet up with a stranger (because a few minutes or few weeks even of online messaging does not mean you know a person) and have sex with them how can you know what to expect? You don’t know this person. Maybe you feel like they’re a cool, honest, genuine person but let’s take the rose tinted glasses off and admit that you can know, date, or befriend a person for years and not know them if they don’t intend to let you know them. That being said, why the hell would you be fucking that person raw, if you’re not prepared to deal with the consequences. Some of those consequences are STDs/STIs, being videotaped, running into that person in another social setting, having that person tell everyone about your sexual exploits, having that person show your pics or point you out in public as someone they “had,” or even being videotaped.

      So yes this guy dude something that’s not cool by videotaping them. And if he did knowingly engage in unprotected sex with them knowing that they were negative and he’s positive then, yes, he’s dead ass wrong for that (hence he is on trial to obviously be punished for that act should it be determined to be true). But we as Black gay men have to stop scapegoating and shrugging our own responsibility for the positions in which we place ourselves. And more than anything we shouldn’t take glory in seeing some guy being burned at the stake whether agree with what he did or not. That’s reprehensible to me. It’s not about defending this guy. This is about how America’s pasttime has become watching us shame, degrade, exploit, and destroy each other, especially Black men.

      • Alex

        Thank you for your thoughtful response.

        1. I don’t see how the media has skewed the truth in the case. The facts that you mentioned are enough to provoke outrage – actually they have provoked it. The facts follow: he had unprotected with 30 men and women (while knowing his status, you failed to mention) and he secretly videotaped these encounters. These are the facts that have been reported. A lot of the skewing is happening in your own minds, and you are projecting that onto the media.

        2. Without the public health component, this would still be a news-worthy story. The idea of being covertly videotaped during a one-night stand frightens most people, arouses public interest. These tapes are not the same as amateur porn vids, in the sense that they are tantamount to sexual assault (consent was not received)! I’m trying to type calmly, but what is wrong you guys? Why are you normalizing this man’s behavior? He is a not victim. People are not scared of Michael Johnson, they are scared of HIV. It is a natural fear that should not be reduced under the shroud of “stigma” or “ignorance.” Johnson’s failure to disclose his status is a legitimate public health concern. His thirty partners could each have thirty more, and so forth. This problem is bigger than protecting his black masculinity.

        3. The risk of being videotaped is real, but not acceptable. Stop accepting it.

        America’s favorite pastime is publicly destroying PEOPLE, period. I’ll admit that the proliferation of Johnson’s shirtless picture is problematic, but don’t allow his blackness or HIV status to blind you to the fact that he is a reckless, selfish individual. You claim that the media can’t see past Johnson’s race, but they are primarily relying on the facts – it is his DEFENDERS who are more concerned with his identity as a black HIV-positive man than they are with WHAT HE HAS ACTUALLY DONE. Focus on the facts.

        • Alex

          *What is wrong with you guys?

          *He is not a victim.

        • http://www.32Life.wordpress.com/ Baldwin Bradshaw

          I understand that this situation is scary for you and that it incites you and I commend you on responding back to me in a very intelligent and thoughtful manner. However, I still think fear is getting the best of your reasoning here, which is exactly what the media intends to do and the legal system is going to use as leverage. I did not fail to mention that the man had sex with 30 partners and did not disclose his status. I intentionally didn’t state it because it has not been proven and therefore is not a fact. The fact is that he slept with these people because most are videotaped, that makes that a fact. Whether or not he disclosed is still yet to be seen and/or proven. So therein lies my point. It is not to make him a victim but to emphasize how we are allowing the media (just as you stated about the shirtless pics) to manipulate this man’s image and skew the facts to such a degree that intelligent people like yourself are overlooking the fact that all of these things are allegations and not yet proven facts (except maybe the number of partners if they have 30 different people on tape).

          The video taping as sexual assault, I’m not sure if that’s your opinion or some legal fact you have discovered. if it is the latter please share the source with me as I cannot imagine it being anything like sexual assault. The act of sex was consensual and being video taped in a consensual act while deceptive and maybe down right trifling, is not assault in my opinion. That might be arguable if he was sharing this videos online or charging for viewing on some amateur porn site…that would take things in a different direction. However, that has not been stated. The fact is that the videotapes were discovered by law enforcement during their investigation. And I know you’re saying people aren’t scared of this guy they’re scared of HIV. I feel they shouldn’t be afraid of either but that’s a whole other conversation. Part of what happens when the media portrays this guy as the face of the deadly HIV that’s coming to infect you unknowingly is that majority don’t make that differentiation. They see him and the disease as one thing, one event, one danger. That is why this guy isn’t the first to be prosecuted for this and yet, here we are with people still not scared enough to not have sex without condoms. So, obviously fear tactics are not the answer.

          And yes, it is a public health risk that he has infected these people and they may be infecting others unknowingly, but again this has little to do with him or his actions as much as it has to do with those victims and their actions. Why are you excusing them from all responsibility? It is their irresponsibility that makes the greater public health risk. We caught him. But are those people still having unprotected sex and are they excused because they were unknowingly infected and because they are infecting people unknowingly? I’m certain we can’t say that their actions are malicious like this young man’s should it be proven that he did not disclose; however, the road to hell is paved with good intentions…it’s still ends in hell though.

          The risk of being videotaped is real and is not acceptable, but it is not assault. Accept that.

          So, again, the major points that the media and people who are vilifying this guy are relying on to justify their actions are not concrete facts. At this point they are allegations at best. Speaking for myself, I am not defending what this guy did. I can’t because all of what we are sure that he did is unknowingly videotape his partners, which is not cool but is not an incarcerable offense as far as I know. But yes I am defending him because he is the citizen of a country who declares that a person is innocent until proven guilty and the media is painting him guilty and the public is stirred in fear against him and the prosecution will use that leverage to convince a jury that despite the objective facts, he is a scary villainous dark skinned gay Black guy that needs to be off the street before they ever prove that. And beyond him and this incident is the fact that if we support the way this is being conducted out of fear or righteous indignation or any reason other than fact based legislative directed reason, then we are supplanting justice and handing the legal system the keys to do whatever they want as long as they scare everyone into not disagreeing with them. That is the greatest danger to the public I can think of.

  • Mashdemdwn

    The indoctrination most men of color endure concerning the
    HIV pandemic, its history, its stigma, (even its prevention, contraction and
    reduction into a chronic-illness) is fear based. We tend try to frighten young
    people who are already dealing with the dysfunctions of a society that does not
    recognize them, by presenting them with a disease and syndrome that, add guilt
    and a sliver of paranoia, is deemed ‘tailor-made for them.’ Working in an HIV
    prevention center as a teen,
    clients who often found out they were positive also said they felt ‘relief’,
    not that they had contracted the disease, although we know and met people who
    admitted to this as well, but relief from the fear, paranoia, anxiety they were
    constantly facing. Its 2014 but How many of us have a friend who gets tested
    almost monthly even though most test ask for a 3 to 6 month window period? How
    many of us hear people whispering about friend so and so who has ‘the gift’. Is
    it really self-care to order an ora-sure test every time you think the condom
    might have slipped? It is that fear, that cycle of non logical , sometimes
    magical, thinking, that makes it harder to tell the truth about status, that
    fear is what makes a crowd hungry to hang the disease in effigy and in metaphor
    in this young man. He is the monster incarnadine that we are all told to watch
    out for: the able body, seemingly masculine, athletic hinting at down low thug
    who can transform you from negative to positive. And most posts calling for his
    incarceration seem to feel as if we will bury the phobia and the disease with
    him. But we better don’t we. We know that that is not the truth. Truth is: It
    will temporarily and erroneously, erase the irrational conundrum in our minds
    but HIV will still be there, because truth: people get sick. Fact. And always
    will one way or another. Sickness is a human behavior. I am not excusing the
    misleading. And I totally disagree with the statement ‘

    If the facts are right, Michael Johnson is no guiltier of transmitting
    HIV than any of us are when we decide to engage in consensual sex with condoms.’

    There are numbers, science, that says that statement
    isn’t true. Sex with condoms reduces the risk of contracting or passing HIV. If you know you have HIV and decide to
    have sex without a condom your risk factor goes up. But how to get us to have
    that conversation with our young people without making every person who wants
    to have sex without condoms a wolf or a liar? Sure, there was some ‘no fair
    play’ here. But sounding the alarm and rallying round does not help diminish fear
    long enough to think. In order to counter-act the Salem like frenzy all around
    us we must deal with the true devil, FEAR.

  • Conscious Black

    its crazy because people prefer condomless sex, maybe because they were never sex educated in school. it was a clear choice, not a rape. they saw a dude with a nice body and dick, and decided that it was worth. but forreal, he probably was meeting specifically with people who wanted raw.

  • Conscious Black

    the media is on it, because of the ‘sex tapes’. everybody wants to SEE that shit. not because the dude has HIV, or that anybody came forward to litigate him for not disclosing. these people were not retarded, they hooked up (32 people) off the internet and they wanted to be fucked raw, but the fetish is “i’m clean” in their minds. sorry for anyone who suffers this kind of situation, but unless he forcibly raped – the ‘sex tape’ is the real story because he looks like the type of guy everybody wants to fuck.

  • http://www.32Life.wordpress.com/ Baldwin Bradshaw

    Brilliant article. I think the author is on the right track in how we should be critically analyzing this event. We, as Americans, especially Black Americans, most especially gay Black American men tend to live in this euphoria of social trends and cliches. We constantly take things at surface value and in doing so miss the bigger implications. This article digs into the heart of what is happening with this young man. There is more going on here than the big bad wolf and the 30 something little pigs he slept with. However, the media supported by the public’s righteous indignation are getting away with demonizing a young Black man and reinforcing stereotypes about gay Black men.

    I commend the author for this piece because a lot of people don’t want to come down from their moral high horses and stop casting stones from their glass house long enough to see beneath the surface. RESPECT.

    • Nick Dufour

      “…tend to live in this euphoria of social trends and cliches.”

      Your phrasing is fanastic. Striking and evocative.

      • http://www.32Life.wordpress.com/ Baldwin Bradshaw

        Thanks

  • http://thestateofwest.blogspot.com/ reggiewest

    Nice article. I understand that this situation can be misconstrued in many ways — being tugged by both supporters of the victims and/or the assailant; but I really don’t feel that race should even be considered a factor in this case. The fact that this young man knowingly had HIV yet whether disclosed or not, still decided to have unprotected sex with people while recording it is absurd. What happened to “spread the word, not the virus”? Now, I am not saying that those who “consensually” had sex with him aren’t at fault as well, but a line has to be drawn somewhere.
    I just feel that he was a dirty individual and the person that infected him, hurt him so that he felt that he needed payback. But my friends say that I am looking to far into the situation. I just hope that those infected are found and that the disease is caught early so that they can begin treatment. Then again, good luck with that.

  • Kevin

    I believe the authors of this article are way off base in their assertions. It seems they feel we have criminalized people who have HIV, but clearly this is not the case. Being HIV+ is not a crime, but acts that compromise another’s health or safety usually are, whether it be poisoning, shooting, or transmitting a potentially deadly disease. All too often we tend to seek ways to rationalize our own bad decisions, but there is little excuse for Michael Johnson’s reprehensible behavior. Don’t get me wrong, on a moral level, I absolutely believe each of Johnson’s partners had a responsibility to engage in safe sex practices, which they did NOT do. At the same time, I also understand why the poor decision making of his “victims” cannot be criminalized. For Johnson, and other HIV+ men, they too have a moral responsibility, and while they may not appreciate it, they also have a legal one to disclose. I am unclear why the authors of this article have chosen to spin it in such a way as to make Johnson appear as the victim. It is his own actions that paint a picture of him as predator. For us to co-sign with him on such actions is a huge affront to civility everywhere.

    • Mashdemdwn

      These laws, enacted in 33 states, say that people who are infected with HIV and know it, must act, every time they are asked, as if they are on the witness stand and have taken an oath to tell the truth. That is unfair. He denies a person, an adult normally but children too, the ability to be HUMAN. PEOPLE LIE. We know this. It is apart of who we are. His ‘victims’ all know/knew that people lie, yet they still decided to have sex unprotected. (If the facts remain facts.) These laws pressure frighten and yes criminalize people who have HIV. No one is excusing his actions or theirs. But punishing someone for lying when they are not under oath … slippery slope. Next they’ll be making it mandatory to tell people who if you are gay, or were once a man, or …

      • kevin

        You are correct that humanity is flawed, and certainly many, if not all of us are guilty of lying to some degree. But I do see a phenomenal difference between lying about your whereabouts, or about some infidelity vs. lying about your HIV status. In the former situations, we may suffer emotional damage, but we can heal over time and move on. In the latter, we will suffer emotional damage, but we will also be relegated to years of medications and side effects. Is this not unfair? I know it’s difficult deciding when and how to disclose. Years ago, I was diagnosed with a potentially deadly disease that is not infectious, and I struggle with how and when to disclose. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is with an infectious disease. But we can’t give each other a pass every time something is difficult or scary. I believe morality is a universal system that we should all abide by, and sometimes there are gray areas where the correct behavior is extremely difficult to determine. I do not feel this is one of those gray areas. If we desire to live in a civilized society, we should all make an effort to look out for one another, and to ensure that our actions are not lessening the experience of those around us. This, we should strive to do from our own sense of human decency. In his heart of hearts Michael Johnson knew it was wrong to videotape those people, just like he knew it was wrong not to disclose. If we’re going to live in a better world, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and the example that Michael Jordan set is not to be applauded or even excused.

        • Mashdemdwn

          Kevin, really, sincerely thank you for that well placed and
          earnest reply. Nothing about this case is great or good but this discourse is filling somehow. And my heart goes out to you; my guardian was HIV positive and
          had to disclose all the time. It was a harrowing experience for everyone,
          watching someone you love go through that is not fun. That’s why I think the
          laws over reach.
          I agree with you, morally, we would have our social standard ‘bend
          toward justice.’ But just because you and I agree on something as a moral fiber
          doesn’t mean it should become the law of the land. We cannot force people to
          disclose. Especially when disclosure may put them in harms way. They have a
          right to protect themselves. What if the government said, “fine, you don’t have
          to disclose your status just wear this special tattoo that lets everyone know
          that you have the disease until a time when we come up with a cure?’ Do you
          really want that kind of intervention from states? Can you see how the fear and
          supposed wellbeing of the greater good starts to demonize the few? When we
          begin to police those intimate decisions again we run the risk of demanding a
          specific moral code not based in the civil contract we have signed as citizens.
          In no way do I excuse lies being told. But we have to weigh the entire balance.
          I argue that because of the stigma that comes with HIV we make the greater
          crime with the person who did not disclose. His none disclosure to partner is wrong but should not be illegal.

  • FED UP WITH CRAP!

    Only a dumb stump thinks that its impossible for him to get an illness while engaging in unprotected sex. Granted I believe he should have told his partners of his status and the camera, I don’t think hes the only one lacking responsibility. If you are so thirsty where you want bare-back sex with someone in which you do not know their sexual history or status then you CONSENT to all consequences….Ha!!! you CONSENT to all consequences if you know their history and status and continue to have unprotected sex…DOUBLE HA!!! YOU CONSENT TO ALL CONSEQUENCES(WHETHER YOU KNOW THEIR STATUS OR HISTORY) EVEN WHEN USING CONDOMS BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT 100% PROTECTION!!! . Soooo…to limit this from happening to you, USE A CONDOM ALWAYS no matter if you known them for 10 min or 10 yrs. Also, to TOTALLY PREVENT this from happening to you…START JACKING OFF ON YOUR OWN IN PRIVATE SOMEWHERE….HAVE SEX WITH YOURSELF AND HAVE MORE HEALTHIER DAYS IN YOUR LIFE! HELL…GET A DOLL OR SOMETHING OR SOME TOYS THEN HAVE AT IT.

  • Underweight Lover in the House

    This case certainly opens up a can of worms. But, despite all the concerns of the doubters, the media has clearly presented this story as a big, dark, and scary black man who preyed upon innocent victims. As a matter of fact, the story has been so biased that in many articles you are forced to search and learn if the victims where female or male. Why? Vagueness gets people to read the story. If the headlines were that gay men were the victims of Johnson, the readership interest would have dropped significantly.

    I think Johnson was wrong for what he did, but the victims are no less responsible. To get the BBC that Johnson had, they chose to let him bareback. Really? If he wore a condom, they would still get the same BBC. So, why let him hit it raw? They are just as responsible as Johnson for this situation.

    Next, I have used the word “victims,” be we simply do not know that all of these men contracted HIV from Johnson. What Johnson did was EXPOSE these men to the virus. Many of them will remain negative, that’s ASSUMING they were negative before having UNPROTECTED sex with Johnson. Think about it.

  • Sherrod

    man this is crazy…. i just spit water every where. This story hits home for me(never had sex with him) because the kid is from my city I see him all the time when I go out. Indianapolis has small gay community we all know each other. He’s actually a good guy minus the spreading HIV of course. The story is crazy but I do think his partners should’ve protected themselves. He’s dead wrong for not disclosing his status tho it is the law.

  • Avon High School Alumni

    Sherrod, it’s cool that you know him. I’m impressed that he is out, considering he is from small Indy. Though, I meet a brother a few years ago from Indy who is out and is now a huge HIV/AIDS educator. I went to a couple of Michael’s wrestling matches when he was in college. The man has body. Wrestling is the gayest and sexiest thing known to sports. Hard-ons and butts visible to the eye everywhere. I think that some of the dudes that slept with Michael were on the wrestling team with him and are afraid of their secrets getting out, especially the white guys.

  • Quadee

    All these drawn out paragraphs defending this man are not only disturbing but redundant.. This guy KNOWINGLY was HIV positive and still decided to have raw sex. Regardless if his partners didn’t take the next step to protect himself, he should have informed them of his status or wrapped it up himself.

    It’s not about these people who got infected being victims, because they could’ve contacted the virus from someone who didn’t know they were HIV positive. It’s about a man who knowingly had the virus and still having unprotected sex. Just like his partners should’ve been responsible in protecting themselves, he had a bigger responsibility in protecting not only his partners but himself as well.

    • Cincy45214

      I was beginning to think that I was the only person who felt the way you did. I am shocked that most feel he is the victim.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ZionMarQuiese.Devereaux Zion MarQuiese Devereaux

    Was he having sex with mutes?!
    Was he having sex with handicaps?
    From the videos I saw of him NONE of them were void of a mouth to speak nor hands to use so I will not place 100% blame on this dude when he was being the typical black gay male of this generation.
    He’s dark.
    He’s fine.
    He has body.
    And from what I was told he was blessed.
    So why should we be mad at him?
    We create the beast but get mad when the beast does not do as we wish?
    This whole case in an indictment against those who only look to the outer appearance and hold these men up as gods who can do no wrong.
    If I had been one of the people who slept with (whether I had contracted HIV or not) I would have been too embarrassed to even mention his name.

    • St Martyr

      The way you think is so….depressing.

  • whoyou

    listen. This is nothing new. black gay men do this all the time. they
    don’t care about status when you are a man who look like that and wants
    to get freaky. All they see is being a part of the freakness without
    thinking about the consequences. Was the 22 year old wrong? yes, but hes
    not alone on this. We put men like this of a god like level where we
    think they can do no wrong and be upset when some crazy crap comes up,
    but it’s OK because hes muscular, masculent with from what i hear a good
    D!
    They are not god, they with get you into some crap just like
    anybody else. Like the other guy said, don’t create a monster and think
    you can control it , & b*tch about it when you can’t. I’m sorry, but
    if you looking for a victim in this case you wont find one because ALL
    of them are wrong!
    Like I said, People do this crap all the time in
    my community & its been far more worst situations that the light has
    not been put on to. Conversations needs to be brought about about
    things like this, but nobody wants show our community for what it is
    right now.

  • http://www.maplekoyo.tumblr.com Blu Mood

    In reading this article and the comments that follow it, I am slightly disturbed and unequivocally concerned. Yes, I think we can all agree that the media sensationalizes, not just this story, but everything; words like victim, massacre, epidemic, are all social drugs to get us to induced in the story. The ultimate question is did he do this on purpose? Was he video tapping his sexual encounters on the premise of watching himself, and potentially, transmitting his disease to his, not victims, but his sexual partners? Now of course, many can look at him, and consider him a “top” (based on the comments I believe that people do) and presumably his partners are bottoms. Now I feel, the victim tagline is frowned upon because of the fear that it could happen to you or have have had similar situations happen to you. The fear of knowing that at one time having unprotecting sex could have had you as a “victim.” Is he to blame? Yes, I do believe that what he did was completely wrong and unfortunate, not in his case, but for the community at as a whole. Based on the comments the word victim is being said and valued, not by the physical act happening, but mentally blaming his partners as being the bad guys, the sluts, the ones who have sex with random men without using a condom. This is not just our black gay community, this happens in white and straight communities as well. The difference is, that our community is the leading case of HIV contractions and we are black and have always been sexualized, eroticized, and blamed for spreading this disease, of course the media will headline this story and placed bloody fangs underneath the header. That is one of the problems, but him knowingly spreading a disease that is plaguing our community: our friends, our relatives, ourselves, yes, we should hold ourselves accountable, but also hold him accountable. I’m not going to use the word “Monster” because the media probably has done enough of that, however, this wasn’t right. We all know that, no one is perfect either, but some people feel very close to this story due to the fear of it being close to home.