Where in the risk are we?

This piece originally appeared in Annals of Gay Sexuality, co-written with Marcus Greatheart and Pan.” See sidebar for titles of posts.

There’s a paradoxical (n)e(u)rotic movement emerging amongst gay men. How we hurt ourselves may in turn be how we learn to heal ourselves. We assert that sexual choices need to be appreciated before being ‘understood’ or ‘influenced’. To begin to understand our deviance from any idealized norm, we look to the patterns of change affecting our lives. The convergence of our histories with biomedical advances, the hyper-prevalence of technological communication, and global crises characterize these capricious times and greatly impacts our erotic abstractions. We’ve been rewriting the sexual risk narrative.

Over the past year we’ve noticed that the gay guys we know, love, and fuck, are having sex differently, particularly in how they relate to/with/away from HIV. We observed multiple discords and envies between poz and neg men within our communities. New epidemiologically inspired identities, their accompanying politics and viral hierarchies have surfaced online within gay circles.6 In light of emerging research on Antiretroviral Therapies (ARVs), Pre- and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP/PEP), and Treatment as Prevention (TasP), we recognized some guys adopting new risk-benefit analyses for sex without condoms.

What we first poetically imagined as a sensual ripeness in the air amongst our friends and lovers is now strutting across gay male sex scenes toward a new sexual (r)evolution. What proof do we have of this? We, as gay men, are finally talking about ourselves again.

We wear ‘Truvada Whore’ t-shirts and participate in online bitch sessions about PrEP. We’re discussing the release of the Partner Study7 which suggests ‘undetectable’ may mean it’s not only safe to bareback a poz person on meds with no viral load, but it may also be safer (statistically speaking) than sex with a negative guy who doesn’t have an up-to-the-last-shag HIV test. Despite real concerns about STIs, many gay men appear to be practicing “all rubbers off.”

Always progressive in the realms of technology, we faggots lead emerging intimacies and technological ecstasies. We flirt with online geographic proximities, choosing to ‘share my location’ on smartphone hookup apps to scout out potential trysts, and where many of our poz buddies are using (+) as a shorthand for self- disclosure. At the same time, ‘transgressive turn-ons’ that are too dangerous for the real world become virtual beat off material with rare consequences. We embrace slut shame and attend group sex parties as if they were neighbourhood potlucks. As we transgress, so we progress.

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