Buzz Bense

1949–2016

Buzz Bense was an ardent activist, seasoned performer, avid theater director, and sex-positive force in San Francisco throughout the ongoing AIDS crisis. He championed safe sex and community during times when those terrains were particularly fraught. Buzz passed away on November 19, 2016 at the age of 67, leaving a legacy of sexuality activism and special, smutty collections that include safer sex posters, erotica and performance art.

Buzz worked as a graphic designer, and in addition to helping produce safer sex posters for local organizations, he collected more than 150 posters from San Francisco and around the world. The Center for Sex and Culture presented a showing of his collection, entitled "Safe Sex Bang," in 2013.

"These posters do more than chart the tragedy of an epidemic, of an outsider community reeling from grief, loss, and the decimation of a blooming culture of sexual liberation. The history of these posters is a story of a fight against stigma, hatred, and ignorance; of a community stepping up to take care of its own; of finding a way to extinguish fear and build pride and self-esteem; and of devoted efforts of committed activists to communicate a path to health and survival." -Buzz Bense

Buzz' complete archive is part of the Robert Lawrence and Carol Queen Center for Sex & Culture Collection at Harvard Libraries: https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton

The larger art Buzz collected, including the collection of psychedelic sex art by an anonymous person, is part of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries: https://one.usc.edu

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