However, for fear of stirring up animus against gay men, officials today may be underplaying the role of sexual transmission in recent monkeypox cases.
Viruses spread as a direct result of physical and social conditions. COVID-19 has a greater chance of spreading in a crowded indoor environment than along a hiking trail. Similarly, monkeypox doesn’t require sexual contact but is prone to spread in situations where people with exposed skin are together in close quarters. Like HIV, monkeypox does not check your sexual odometer; the virus doesn’t count the number of partners everyone has and then latch on to those with the largest number. It does seek opportunities to spread—and some queer spaces, particularly where people meet for sex, have created the conditions that allow that to happen.
The premises where gay people congregate closely have helped define the community. When public-health authorities shut down bathhouses during the early days of HIV, many gay people saw the closures as a violation of their growing liberation. (By contrast, in March 2020, when public-health officials shut down movie theaters and stadiums, many Americans were sad to see these venues temporarily close, but they were not essential to anyone’s fundamental identity.) Although I am not suggesting that governments impose restrictions on queer spaces, health agencies ought to tell gay men that monkeypox may indeed be spreading sexually.