From my analysis I found that both macro and micro conditions affect communication and negotiation in sexual encounters, that this communication and negotiation is fluid within any given situational context and varies from one context to another, and that the range of variability of communication and negotiation in sexual encounters was large. Whilst acknowledging that the range was large (from no discussion and negotiation to full discussion and negotiation in a sexual encounter and the transition from no discussion to discussion within the one encounter), the evidence suggests that for most respondents there was very little verbal communication and negotiation in sexual encounters. I found this to be especially true in sexual encounters which resulted in the occurrence of unsafe sex. Most of the communication and negotiation (if any) was of a non-verbal kind and I believe it is very difficult to negotiate safety from a position of silence. Yes, you can push an unclad cock away from your arse if you have the presence of mind, if you want to, if your conscience tells you too, but this action requires a conscious awareness within the respondent at the time.
Personally I believe some gay men just go for it, want to forget their troubles, their levels of self-esteem, their body image for example and just feel the passion, the heat of the moment, fucking with a body image they desire more than anything else, having no concern for their personal safety. The reality is that some gay men like the feeling of an unclad dick up their arse or fucking an arse without a condom and have just got to have it that way, in full knowledge of the possible consequences of their actions. Known as 'barebacking',1 this phenomenon is a reality of contemporary male2male sex.
case most incidences of unsafe sex occur through non-verbal communication,
i.e., through body positioning and body language. He likes fucking without
a condom so he would be more not less predisposed towards undertaking
such sexual activity. But whether all of his partners are as aware of
the issues, all the options open to them or are as skilled in the art
of sexual communication is debatable. David for example, feels he lost
control of a sexual encounter where unsafe sex took place because of his
inexperience in communication and fucking:
The issue of unsafe sex was a non-verbal communication, with no joint
negotiation of safety, for Sam ("There was no negotiation, it
just happened ... A condom didn't matter"), Ben ("No
communication about having unsafe sex - it just happened ... Nothing was
spoken with these guys about having unsafe sex") and Stuart
("Fell in love on first meeting him and would do anything to
have him. All non-verbal, through body positioning, etc., ... he didn't
say anything"). Although there was no joint negotiation of safety
in these cases between the individuals concerned I believe there is a
form of negotiation within the individual respondent regarding what they
will allow to happen in a sexual encounter prior to or during the course
of each encounter. Respondent Gavin's case was interesting because Gavin
didn't want to use condoms even before the issue was discussed because
it happened anyway, and when it was discussed towards the end of the weekend,
when his partner told him he was HIV+, Gavin still
didn't want to use condoms.
His partner was silently laying the onus on Gavin to bring up condom use, and Gavin was laying the onus back on him because, as he says, if nobody pricks his conscience about condoms then unsafe sex proceeds until it has finished. Such a lack of communication and negotiation may be a retreat from an acknowledgement of responsibility, of care for yourself and your partner, and also perhaps a fear of rejection by him as well. The evidence seems to indicate that a lack of communication based on the belief that the partner is going to broach the issue of condom use may be quite prevalent in male2male sex within the gay community. A larger quantitative survey would have to be undertaken to substantiate this observation.
issue surrounding communication and negotiation in sexual encounters is
that of the possible disclosure of HIV status. Among
respondents who were HIV+, the range of variability
in the communication of HIV status to other men
in situational contexts ranged from full disclosure to non-disclosure
and this varied from one situational context to anther and even varied
within the same sexual encounter. Some respondents said they always disclosed
their HIV status. Other respondents siad they only
disclosed their status under specific circumstances and conditions, and
varied from encounter to encounter.
range of variability of communication and negotiation skills in sexual
encounters is large, being fluid from person to person, one situational
context to another, and fluid even within one situational context. The
range is dependent on the intersection and interaction of both macro conditions
and micro conditions that occur within specific contexts. Macro conditions
might include such things as life experiences, masculinity, social context,
environment, comfort, levels of generalised self-esteem, and trust, for
example. Micro conditions might include such things as availability of
sex with partner who has body image ideal, levels of communication skill
including non-verbal communication, approval of others, fear of rejection,
levels of local self-esteem, HIV status, willingness of partner to have
unsafe sex. Communication and negotiation in a sexual encounters is reliant
on the negotiation of power that takes place between the participants
in that encounter. As Damien Ridge has noted,
From my analysis of the interview data I found that most respondents made an assessment of risk (See footnote 6 for a definition of risk) when engaging in sexual activity. I believe that an assessment of risk for many respondents was an unspoken part of the (sub)conscious decision (that is, a decision made by both the conscious and the subconscious) to undertake certain activities while having sex. As in the definition of what respondents thought was safe or unsafe in sex the assessment of risk varied from person to person, from context to context and under different macro and micro conditions. I believe an assessment of risk is of primary importance in the occurrence of (un)safe sexual activity and can be dependent on such things as perceived HIV status based on a person's appearance, the relationship with the person involved, body image, context, environment, passion, desire, drugs, the absence/presence of care and responsibility of the self, to name but a few. As John McLeod and Phil Nott have observed,
"Many men made quite detailed assessments of the risks they were taking and they made a judgement of whether the risk was reasonable given the context and the information they had."7
good example of this personal assessment of risk that gay men make based
on the context and information available to them can be seen in the
case of respondent Anthony's ex-lover:
Of course, this judgement can only be based on the context and information
that is presented and available to them at the time of that assessment,
and a gay man may not be aware or informed of all the risks, hidden
or otherwise, that face him in a sexual encounter. For example, as we
have seen in the section on communication and negotiation skills above,
disclosure of HIV status by prospective sexual
partners is not always probable, possible or even taken any notice of
if it is made known to the partner, and this knowledge or lack of it
will or will not impact on an assessment of risk depending on the persons
and contexts involved.
In other words Chris made an assessment of risk (even though he does not name it as such) of what he was prepared to do in sex, based of his level of desire for his partner's body image and fear of infection in the first instance. In the second instance Chris thinks that his assessment of risk would have changed because his level of desire for his partner's body image had increased because his partner's body image was closer to Chris's ideal, so much so that it overrode his concerns about the consequences of his actions. This is a good example of an assessment of risk changing from context to context, from partner to partner due to changing levels of desire for a partner's body image and how close that image approximates a respondents ideal.
range of variability of assessment of risk among the respondents was
large. Some of the respondents would never have unsafe sex because of
the risks involved based on such conditions such as personal knowledge
of friends and lovers who had contracted and died from the HIV/AIDS
virus, safe sex campaigns, and responsibility and care for the self.
Other respondents made an assessment of risk based on the information
placed before them and their levels of desire for their prospective
partner which could include such things as personality, intimacy, connection,
body image, dick size, etc., ... which I believe may well negate any
responsibility, care and concern that they have for their own health
and well being. Most respondents were aware of the risks involved in
undertaking unsafe sex and I believe that the decision to proceed with
unsafe sex was based on a (sub)conscious assessment of those risks in
relation to the person they were about to have sex with.
1. I came across this site recently. I think the text of the site highlights some of the reasons why barebacking is a growing trend amongst gay men. Jeff does not care that it is unsafe for himself or others - he just wants to feel his sexual pleasure as the most important pleasure in his life and world.
"What's the deal with fucking without a safe. Shit man its heaven ... like ... how can you make contact through a rubber ... feel the man skin without barriers ... slide unrestricted. A man's hole is a treasure chest and a cock is the key. Once you slide in its a contact undeserving of borders or restrictions. I love the feel of a mans ass hole ... tight ... moist ... warm ... and willing to take my whole cock. I love a cock inside me ... this masculine mass just thrusting for me. Sliding in and out ... oozing with precum and getting harder with each thrust.
When a guy blows his load up my ass its like a gift ... and I like to give it back. Love to blow my load up a nice warm hole. The final thrusts ... that last shot of my hot juice ... its a gift and I love to give it. Grab a guy by his hair and fuck him bareback doggy style ... in and out. Shit, nothing like it in this world!
Hey boyz ... I am a young dude (25) and I am starting this new site dedicated to what I love ... fucking and getting fucked bareback. I know there are some of you out there that will tell me that I am stupid and being unsafe ... fine ... fuck off and go to another site. BUT I know there are a lot of guys that share my passion ... this site is dedicated to you!"
Jeff. BAREBACK. NET (gay barebacking). Located at: http://homepages.gayweb.com/barebacknet/index.html. Internet. Sighted by Marcus on 19/11/1999.
2. Interview with David, 38, 5'8", 100kg, Maltese/Scots, working class. Melbourne. 01/12/1997.
3. Interview with Gavin, 34, 6', 70kg, white, middle-class. Melbourne. 03/11/1997
4. Interview with Richard, 27, 5'5", 61kg, white, retail, lower/middle-class. Melbourne. 16/10/1997.
5. Ridge, Damien. "Queer Connections: Community, 'the Scene' and an Epidemic," in Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. June 1996, pp.20-21.
6. "Risk [is] a term which only comes into being in the modern period (* The word "risk" seems to have found its way into English in the seventeenth century and probably comes from a Spanish nautical term meaning to run into danger or to go against a rock). The notion originated with the understanding that unanticipated results may be consequence of our own activities or decisions, rather than expressing hidden meanings of nature or ineffable intentions of the Deity. "Risk" largely replaces what was previously thought of as fortuna (fortune or fate) and becomes separated from cosmologies."
Giddens, Anthony. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990, pp.30-31.
7. McLeod, John and Nott, Phil. A Place to Belong. Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations. Sydney: AFAO, 1994, p.23.
8. Interview with Anthony, 32, 5'10", 69kg, Australian, no-class. Melbourne. 23/09/1998.
9. Interview with Chris, 29, 170cm, 78kg, South American, engineer, middle-class. Melbourne. 09/10/1997.
10. Strauss, Anselm and Corbin, Juliet. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1998, pp.98-99.
11. "Unless the taboo is observed with fear it lacks the counterpoise of desire which gives it its deepest significance ... in the act of violating it [the taboo] we feel the anguish of mind without which the taboo could not exist: that is the experience of sin. That experience leads to the completed transgression, the successful transgression which, in maintaining the prohibition, maintains it in order to benefit by it."
Bataille, Georges. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. New York: Walker and Company, 1962, p.37-39.
Author: In other words by maintaining the prohibition of unsafe sex the desire is there to violate it. If the taboo wasn't there no one would have the need or desire to violate it - what would be the point? By maintaining the taboo there is anguish when we successfully transgress it.
12. "AIDS-related thought processes which are present during actual sexual encounters (the types of thinking that occur 'on-line') may differ appreciably from those that are present in the cold light of day (those which occur 'off-line')" through the application of 'motivated reasoning', that is, reasoning that is specifically designed to enable unsafe sex to proceed."
See Gold, Ron and Skinner, Michael. "Judging a book by its cover: gay men's use of perceptible characteristics to infer antibody status," in International Journal of STD & AIDS. 7. 1996, pp.41-42.