black people and money

Dr. Boyce: The HIV-Spreading Pastor is Not the Only Man Who Might Infect You

Dr. Boyce: The HIV-Spreading Pastor is Not the Only Man Who Might Infect You

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

One of the topics that S. Tia Brown and I discuss in Financial Lovemaking is what I would call “The wolf in a dreamboat’s clothing.”  This is where a woman is so enamored with a man’s money, power and “swag” that she forgets to ask him simple questions, like “Have you been screwing everything that moves?  If so, can I please see a full STD panel to make sure my health is not at risk for sleeping with you?”

These questions go out the window in exchange for the fantasy that just won’t quit.  We all know that ignorance is bliss, and I’m intrigued by how many people will sleep with an attractive person and know absolutely nothing about them.  This financial lovemaking topic is intriguing to me, because where we invest our heart, our time and our bodies is one of the most important decisions that you can ever make.  If you look at how people go about forming romantic exchanges, you’ll notice just how little thought that people put in this critically important investment.  The sad thing is that not thinking carefully about where you invest your body can end up creating chaos down the road.

To be honest, it’s easy to see why people don’t ask hard questions when they meet someone attractive.  Being all technical and stuff is a great way to spoil the mood.    I am convinced that the most interesting events in the black community happen in the dark, and that’s where a lot of lives are ruined.  The church-lady isn’t exactly going public with her freaky side, and there are a lot of men who play their cards close to their vests.  This is not a judgement of all of this, just an honest assessment from a man who has also spent some time on the dating market.

I spoke to a friend of mine, an attractive, educated, church-going, 32-year old professional black women about the “non-communication” thing to get her take on it.  I explained to her that I’ve known guys who keep a binder full of women and sleep with a lot of them, with few of those women asking questions about where the man has been.   I admitted that I have personally been astonished when I’ve even met women who wanted to sleep with me just because they’d seen me on TV or thought that I was rich.

She explained it to me quite simply. “By talking too much, you might ruin the fantasy and the beautiful image she has in her mind,” she said.  “Some women just need you to be quiet and remain perfect the way you are.”

I thought long and hard about what she said, and then thought about my daughters.  When I speak to them about men and relationships, I try to keep it extra-real so as not to allow my own discomfort to keep me from telling them what I know about men.  So, even though I don’t always like digging into this space, I’m going to endure this awkwardness for the sake of all of my sons, daughters, brothers and sisters out there who might care about what I have to say.  If you don’t care what I have to say, then please ignore me.

Here are a few thoughts that came to mind when I read the story about Craig Lamar Davis, the pastor recently convicted for spreading HIV to members of his congregation.  I also took notice of the story about Michael Johnson, the 22-year old wrestler who was caught allegedly doing the same thing.

First, let’s be clear that men should always be intelligent and responsible about their own physical health.  No one excuses the “playa” or the fact that he may not have been to the doctor since he was a newborn baby.  This is to say that, even though we want everyone to be careful about their choices, we then have to be careful to avoid those who make bad decisions themselves.   I have to make this comment so as not to spark the on-going blame game that sometimes occurs between black men and women, where we think that the other party’s irresponsibility takes the spotlight off of our own poor decisions.

Secondly, women don’t exactly advertise the fact that they’ve been infected with an STD.  The bold church ladies who came forward after being infected by the pastor in Atlanta are rare and brave in their willingness to admit that they’d done something that probably would never have been revealed otherwise.  This black tradition of “It ain’t nobody’s business but my own” leads to young women making the same mistakes that the older woman right next to them made 10 years ago.  If no one talks honestly, then information is not transmitted.  The snakes in the pulpit (and elsewhere) rely on the fact that women don’t talk to each other.  That’s how the pastor can sleep with half of the woman in the church before anyone finds out.

Third, black men are the most marginalized, incarcerated and unemployed human beings in this country.  Not only does this lead to a mental and physical health crisis, it can also cause some men to put healthcare at the bottom of the priority list.  A pile of meaningless relationships with a list of random women can be both a source of power and an escape mechanism to deal with the stresses of living in an oppressive society.  As a friend of my father once explained about a man who had 32 kids by 22 different women: “There was a time when the only power that a man had was the power of his d*ck.” So, the same comfort that a lot of black women get by being with their kids and going to church every Sunday is what a lot of men get by sleeping with different women or living in the liquor bottle.  It’s all about finding your coping mechanism of choice.

Fourth, black people aren’t getting married like they used to.  I’m not one to preach marriage one way or the other (I’ve chosen not to get married myself, but I did pay 18 years of child support for one biological daughter and have supported other kids along the way).  But the reality is that an unmarried person is going to have a lot more partners than a married person.  In the lives of some people, this creates a series of relationships of less than one year (sometimes as short as a month, with some relationships between simultaneous), adding up the number of people you sleep with in your lifetime.  Also, in many cases, people are sharing partners because the need for honest commitment of any form has declined over time. In other words, there are a lot of people who have intimate relationships who don’t ask or care what the person does when they leave their house.  Sadly, even if you ask, some people might lie to you anyway. 

Fifth, some men are heavily influenced by a media culture that encourages men to “get around.”  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black men and women are among the groups most likely to have slept with more than 15 partners during their lifetimes (46 percent of men and 13 percent of w0men).  If you choose to believe that the CDC has some kind of conspiracy to paint black people as sexx fiends, then that’s up to you.  But if you know anything about the cultural influences that exist in black America right now, it all makes perfect sense.  Our kids are the only ones who are inundated with music from the age of 6 that has us repeating mantras about going to the club, poppin bottles with the “shawtys” and “having freaks on speed dial.”  This DOES impact how young people view physical intimacy.

Let me end by saying this:  I am not your pastor, I am not being judgmental and I’m not trying to be anybody’s saint.  At best, I might be considered to a person who woke up at 7 am this morning with the desire to share what’s on my mind.  When I speak to my daughters, I try to be honest with them, and that’s why I’m being honest with you right now.

The truth is that the good Pastor Craig isn’t the only man out here with a pile of STDs infecting a lot of women who are hypnotized by his swag and asking no questions.  Also, if you’re convinced that wearing protection helps you avoid any form of accountability, there is evidence that STDs are also transmitted when both parties are wearing protection.

So, this article is for people who want to have serious conversations on a serious topic so we can all make intelligent investments with our lives.  But for those who want to live in denial, there is nothing I can do for you.  I just hope that when you meet another Pastor Craig in the club after a long day at church, you won’t catch a dose of what he’s carrying.  Believe me…..he’s always got room for another “shawty” in his Rolodex.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Financial Lovemaking 101:  Merging Assets with Your Partner in Ways that Feel Good.”  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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