S4 E9 From Red Ribbons to Leather Straps: Rodney McCoy’s Trailblazing Tale of HIV Prevention and Pleasure 

In this episode, Rodney McCoy, a Black queer man with over four decades of experience in HIV prevention and education, shares his journey as a Leatherman of color and discusses the intersection of BDSM, kink, and HIV prevention. From his entry into the kink community to becoming a titleholder in the American Leatherman competition, Rodney emphasizes how the kink community provided a safe space for self-discovery and empowerment. The episode explores the link between pleasure, power dynamics, and HIV prevention, highlighting the importance of honest conversations, sex positivity training, and the destigmatization of “risky behavior.”  

Rodney, a health educator, program director, adjunct professor, and researcher, emphasizes the partnership between healthcare professionals and patients in promoting sexual health. Rodney says, “I am about encouraging people to embrace all pleasure: sexual pleasure, pleasure that comes from good mental health, from good physical health and from good social connections. I believe as healthcare professionals, regardless of the field we’re in, we are arbiters to help assist our clients explore and enhance that pleasure, that good health in their lives.”  Rodney shares personal experiences as an HIV/STI testing specialist, addressing the impact of stigma and the importance of open communication. 

Download the transcript of this episode.

Resources from Rodney:

Beyond the Red Ribbon training & other services: https://rodneymccoy.info/services

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Rodney “Rod” McCoy, Jr. brings his expertise of nearly four decades in HIV prevention and education, as well as his real-life experience as an African American gay/queer man living with HIV. An Oberlin College graduate with his Bachelors in Sociology and Black Studies, Rod has worked in a variety of capacities in the field of HIV Prevention, from Health Educator and HIV Counselor to Program Director. As an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University, Rod established the “HIV, Culture and Sexuality” course for the school’s Global and Community Health Department. Rod created a sex positivity training for public health professionals called Beyond the Red Ribbon in collaboration with Louis Shackelford of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. He currently works at Us Helping Us in Washington, DC, as a Research Assistant.