Why Did Sebastian Köhn Get Monkeypox?
A reader sends this gruesome Guardian story about a gay NYC man's experience with monkeypox. The reader highlights Sebastian Köhn's (the victim's) description of the pain of having this disease. Excerpts:
I got monkeypox and it’s been a total nightmare.
When New York Pride festivities kicked off on 24 June, I was aware that monkeypox was an emerging issue – especially for gay men – but I was also under the impression that the number of cases in the city was relatively small. What I didn’t understand was how absolutely dismal testing capacity was: at that point, the city only had capacity to process ten tests a day.
I had sex with several guys over the weekend. Then a week later, on 1 July, I started feeling very fatigued. I had a high fever with chills and muscle aches, and my lymph nodes were so swollen they were protruding two inches out of my throat.
First, I took a Covid self-test: negative. Then I started suspecting monkeypox. I texted a friend: I’m just sitting here waiting for the rash to start.
I’m a 39-year-old man from Sweden, living in Brooklyn and working in philanthropy. For the past decade, my work has primarily focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights, so I followed the outbreak from the very beginning. I had even tried to get vaccinated when New York City launched an initial vaccination drive on 23 June. But like the vast majority of other New Yorkers who tried to get an appointment, I had no luck.
Two days after my symptoms began, the rash started as anorectal lesions – painful sores on my anus and rectum. Initially it was a stinging, itchy feeling. I wasn’t scared at this point. I was told that it would be mild, and I was a completely healthy individual with no underlying conditions. But I had no idea how bad it was going to get.
Ah, so Sebastian understood that monkeypox was a problem, but he couldn't help himself on Pride weekend, because, I guess, what better way to celebrate being gay than screwing several guys over the course of a weekend? It's the fault of the city health bureaucracy, with their "absolutely dismal testing," it appears. The outbreak was worse than Köhn realized! How was he supposed to know it was a bad idea to have anonymous sex while a nasty STD is going around the gay male community? Stupid city health authorities. And he tried to get vaccinated the day before, without luck. What kind of homophobic monster would expect Sebastian to keep his pants up for his own health on Pride Weekend, of all weekends?
Sebastian had it rough:
After I went home, the rash started spreading, and I began to feel anxious. I developed lesions literally everywhere; they started out looking like mosquito bites before developing into pimply blisters that would eventually pop, then finally scab before leaving a scar. I had them on my skull, on my face, my arms, my legs, my feet, my hands, my torso, my back, and five just on my right elbow. At the peak, I had over 50 lesions, a fever of 103F and intense pain, prompting a panic attack. Ironically, the only place I didn’t have lesions was my penis.
The next day I got my STI results: positive for gonorrhoea. But no word yet on monkeypox. That’s when I developed hives everywhere on my body from my neck down, as well as a headache, arthritis pain in my fingers and shoulders and a strange pain in my shin bone that got so painful that I couldn’t stand up. At night, I would wake up going crazy with both pain and itching from the lesions and hives, just sitting up in bed and scratching myself. I was isolated, lonely and frustrated with how unfair the situation was. I was clearly very sick, yet had to cobble together a care plan on my own.
My anorectal lesions, which were already very painful, turned into open wounds. It felt like I had three fissures right next to each other, and it was absolutely excruciating. I would literally scream out loud when I went to the bathroom. Even keeping the area clean, like washing myself, was extremely painful. It was a two hour process each time.
Read the whole thing. Sebastian goes on to blame the public health authorities, saying this outbreak "should not have been allowed to happen." At no point does he take responsibility for his own gross and irresponsible behavior. (Who is Sebastian Köhn? He works for George Soros.)
Meanwhile, the same public health authorities who did not stop Sebastian from poking or being poked by those strangers on Pride weekend have now discovered two cases of monkeypox in children. More:
One is a toddler from California; the other is in an infant who is not a U.S. resident and was 'transiting through' Washington D.C. Neither had contact with each other.
Health officials said both children were 'doing well', but warned children under the age of eight are at high risk of severe monkeypox.
It is thought both children likely caught the virus from 'household contacts'. Dr Rochelle Walensky said the children both had contact with gay or bisexual men — the community where most cases are being detected in the current outbreak.
Bethel McGrew writes a typically interesting piece about whether or not it is "winsome" to speak frankly of matters like this. She begins by quoting Ron Baity, a Christian preacher who unquestionably and indefensibly spoke crudely about gays. But she goes on to say that there are gatekeepers among the "winsome" Christian set who believe that any negative comments about homosexuality or gay behavior is wrong. That's where McGrew, an Evangelical, draws the line. Excerpt:
It is one thing to say that Christians should have the capacity to sing in different “keys” as the context calls for it. Jesus himself displayed the full range of emotions—angry, sarcastic, sorrowful, playful, gentle—according to the dictates of the moment and the circumstances of the particular people he encountered. If Jesus could do all this without sacrificing the convicting potency of the gospel, so can we. But it is another thing to declare forbidden keys. This is what [Evangelical critic Matthew Lee] Anderson does. He declares the key of “Homosexual acts are insanely disgusting, and their perpetrators degrade themselves while corrupting the society around them” to be forbidden in polite public society.
I don’t. I believe there is still something to be said for retaining a healthy disgust at “What Homosexuals Do.” Even if the route I’ve taken to reach that conclusion does look rather different from Ron Baity’s.
Some research background will be clarifying here. Early in my formative years as a social critic, I discovered the memoir writing of then-Catholic blogger Joseph Sciambra. Born in 1969, Joseph spent the 90s fully immersed in the gay scene, in the Castro district of San Francisco. He entered that world as a desperately lonely, obsessive-compulsive, porn-addicted college kid who thought he might find something resembling love. Needless to say, he did not find love. In his writing, he held nothing back about what he actually did find, which was nothing short of demonic.
I already held strongly conservative views, so I didn’t need to be convinced of anything. But Joseph’s unvarnished memories were still a shock to my system. They were almost unreadable. They were horrific, and painful, and sad. And yes, at times, they were disgusting. By his own admission, they were disgusting. By his own admission, he and the other men in this lifestyle were degrading themselves on a daily basis. Sometimes they tortured each other. Sometimes they engaged in bestial role play, where they literally lowered themselves to the level of dogs and pigs. They did all this because, to quote gay journalist Randy Shilts, “there was nobody to say no.”
I encourage you to read Joseph Sciambra's writing. It is searing and it is vulnerable. He writes as someone who has escaped Dante's Inferno and is shocked to find himself, by the mercy of God, on a ship sailing to the mountain of Purgatory, delivered from Hell. What I've found so moving about Sciambra's writing is not his descriptions of what vile people do with their bodies, but the utter spiritual desolation of the whole thing. He's not writing about lesbian communities, but rather gay male ones. The world Sciambra reveals -- a world he was part of for some time -- is a world of men without women, a loveless abyss through which rutting males move like the undead.
When he left the Inferno, Sciambra, a native Californian and a resident of San Francisco, returned to the Catholic Church. This was not a balm for him. In this essay, Sciambra, who is now in his early 50s, begins by talking about how he's facing yet another surgery to repair his anus, which was so damaged from years of anal sex that he has trouble with continence. (On that topic, a friend recently told me that her mother, now a retired physician, told her once in passing that if you've had to deal with gay male patients condemned in early middle age to wearing diapers because of this, you cannot be sentimental about Pride and the rest.) Excerpt:
In Randy Shilts’ groundbreaking study of the early-AIDS era in San Francisco, “And The Band Played On,” he described how city health-officials were alarmed by the sudden rise of illness and disease among the gay male populous:
Between 1976 and 1980, shigellosis had increased 700 percent among single men in their thirties. Only seventeen cases of amebiasis were reported in 1969; now the reported cases, which were only a small portion of the city’s true caseload, were well past 1,000 a year. Cases of hepatitis B among men in their thirties had quadrupled in the past four years.
Anorectal symptoms in men who have sex with men (MSM) may be caused by conditions related to infections for which they are at increased risk (eg, proctitis, perianal abscess/anal fistula, anal warts/dysplasia, human papillomavirus [HPV]-associated anal cancer) or conditions seen in the general population (eg, anal fissure, hemorrhoids, pruritus ani).
In one study among men who have sex with men (MSM), routine screening found that 85% of rectal infections with chlamydia or gonorrhea were asymptomatic. Common complaints of anorectal STIs include anal pain, tenesmus, urgency, purulent drainage, and bleeding.
I am constantly reminded of the excesses of my past. The bathroom has become a torture chamber. Basic biological functions are excruciating and painful. In my case, this is the last laugh resounding from the depths of hell. In the gay world, the public restroom is oddly eroticized. In our youth, that public-private space was sometimes the setting for sadistic forms of persecution and harassment; when I was a kid, an older male student assaulted me in the boy’s restroom at my grammar-school. At a gay bar, a Castro disco, and even in a landmark movie-theater, the restrooms served as hook-up hubs, venues for voyeurism, and semi-secluded places to have name-less quick-sex. When I first showed up in San Francisco, I regarded this practice as semi-disgusting. The propensity of certain bars to only have urinal troughs in their bathrooms was revolting. I swore I would never sink so low. In a few years, I would be sitting on the lid of a public toilet, my feet resting on the edges of the seat, waiting for any man to enter through the open door of the stall.
I suppose that chapter of my story could have had a different ending; I might have drifted out of the gay scene and settled-down with one man; a Catholic priest advised me to do so. I could have died. But I didn’t. Now, I am frequently sick and discouraged. I suffer from the conditions that are oftentimes peculiar to gay men, but with none of the transitory benefits of sexual activity. I would like to think that I gave-up that part of myself, because I wanted to aspire towards something morally virtuous; in reality, I couldn’t go on anymore; my body had given-up.
Now, I sometimes spend too much of my waking moments pondering what happened so long ago. To further drive myself continually to the edge of mental instability, I wonder why I am wondering. For the most part, my almost daily unease is particularly caused by the indifference of a world that ignores my suffering – and the pain of countless others. In the movie “Jaws,” there is a wonderful scene between Quint, Hooper, and Brody. Alone on Quint’s fishing boat, while tracking a man-eating shark, the three men sit at a table, drinking liquor, well into the night. Suddenly, Quint and Hooper begin to compare their various scars – typically caused by some encounter with a shark; Brody has nothing to add. For Quint and Hooper, their male-bonding banter is a way for the two men, who have been at odds with each other, to find some common ground in their shared similar experiences; but for Quint – this moment goes deeper. Hooper notices a scar – a tattoo Quint had removed. The shadow of that tattoo was the only physical expression of Quint’s former service upon the USS Indianapolis during its fateful last voyage in 1945. He tried to erase it, but something still remains – the memories. He can’t wipe away those.
One of the most poignant stories from the few survivors of the Indianapolis were the mass hallucinations suffered by some of the men as they floated in the shark-infested water; forced to drink salt water by the extreme heat and thirst, some of them would swim towards the ship that they swore never sink. They were never seen again.
Although under very different circumstances, sometimes, that is almost how I remember those who were lost – I see them walking away – towards some fabled city at the end of the yellow-brick road. They’re gone. And, like Quint, I bear wounds that won’t go away. I also occasionally reveal the pain that no one can see. Not to draw attention to myself – because the injuries that continue to plague me are awkward and embarrassing to expose. But especially in a Church, crowded with voices trying to suppress those who do not agree with them, sometimes it’s the only way to say: “Look, I am here. I exist. My pain is real.”
As an earthy institution, the Catholic Church has taken part in a deception. They have hidden the truth; in a neurotic need to appear compassionate and sympathetic, a number of priest and prelates abandoned all forms of admonition for total affirmation. They do not accompany – they tell people where to go; if someone experiences same-sex attraction, they are gay. At least when I was growing up, a priest would advise you to play-it-safe and wear a condom; today, they don’t even do that. When a priest tells you that your homosexual identity is indelibly linked to the part of you “that gives and receives love,” how is a desperate and disoriented soul supposed to interpret such a message? In my mind, there are multiple ways in which gay men give and receive love, and one of those is via anal sex.
How many boys and young men turned towards the gay male community – because they were sexually abused by priests, or told by a priest that “God made you that way?” We will never know. Because many of them have been permanently silenced.
After some years, Sciambra left Catholicism in disgust, because he saw that the Catholic Church, at least where he lived, was either silent about the spiritual and physical death-in-life of its gay communicants, or actively served as the convention and visitors' bureau for the Hell out of which Christ delivered him. Not long ago, he became an Orthodox Christian -- just in time, it seems, to raise his voice against some prominent Orthodox voices, academics among them, who are trying to bring to Orthodoxy the same corrupt thinking that has brought Catholicism and Mainline Protestantism so low, and left men like the unrepentant Joseph Sciambra to suffer in their sins.
It's a false choice to say that the church has to choose between Pastor Ron Baity and the pro-gay activist Jesuit Father James Martin. Both do damage. But only one is celebrated by the media, and is a favorite of the Pope. The fact that Sebastian Köhn blames Society (specifically, public health authorities) for his agonizing condition, and says nothing about his own reckless and disgusting behavior on Pride weekend -- the behavior through which he actually acquired monkeypox -- says a lot about the double-mindedness necessary to live that life. Köhn et alia may have to practice ketman to live with themselves, but why should the rest of us pretend not to see what it plainly obvious?
One more thing: Sebastian Köhn is interviewed in this clip from the Open Society Foundation, the George Soros philanthropy where he is an executive. It's promoting a Soros project to celebrate and legitimize prostitution. This is what Mr. Monkeypox does for a living: advocates whoring. This is what George Soros wants the rest of us to believe in.
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UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan tweets out that I am "evil" for asking about the nature of the contact between the gay or bisexual men and the two children infected with monkeypox. I would imagine that one or both kids had close domestic contact with an infected gay or bisexual family member. It could be something as innocent as sitting on a dad or uncle's lap. But given that as far as we know, this disease spreads through sexual contact with infected men, why not wonder? The CDC says:
Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
+ direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
+ respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
+ touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
+ pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
Andrew Sullivan did NOT call Sebastian Köhn's behavior during Pride "evil," or Köhn's blaming the public health authorities for failing him. I'm not sure if Andrew has commented on gay porn actor Babe the Pig Boi's failure to curtail his orgy activities during monkeypox (he got infected), but I'm sure Andrew regards that as "evil." Surely.