Eric Leven

Bareback = Risk: Make Healthier Choices

Filed By Eric Leven | January 15, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bareback, barebacking, HIV/AIDS, safe sex, sex ed

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I commend the effort. I hope it keeps some people healthy. But the question ("why are we barebacking?") is naive or beside the point or at least very easily answered. Guys bareback because they want to put a part of themselves into another human body. "Barebacking=risk" yes, but barebacking also equals intimacy. It also equals surrender. Unprotected sex is a very powerful and meaningful act, and I wish we could be honest about that, instead of equating sex with harm and judging people who have made decisions about risk that are different from yours.

I understand your point but understand that from the point of view of a Lesbian activist who ends up in public forae trying to defend or to deflect charges from the Right that "gays spread disease" or "gays have reckless, dangerous sex" it presents a problem to defend, particularly when they raise the issue of public monies used to subsidise HIV treatment costs

I'm NOT defending unprotected sex...BUT...all you have to do to counter comments from the right about gay men having "reckless" sex is point out the rates of teen pregnancy and abortion in this country, and the resulting social costs.

Straight people have just as much (if not more) unprotected sex as gay people and the consequences are a bigger financial drain on society. Your critics on the right aren't actually objecting to "reckless" gay sex. They're objecting to gay sex, period.

That said, play safe and be careful out there.

OK, then basically most or all gay men will be HIV positive. We will be a community who must take a constant regimen of drugs to stay alive, and all have sunken in faces and no asses. You can have great anal intercourse with condoms. It's a shame so many now negative, soon to be positive guys don't get this.

This is a video all straight and bi trans women should see as well. In fact they should make these directed at the trans community too.

I see so many guys wanting to looking to hook up with trans women, but not wanting to use condoms

A nicely made video ... but unfortunately, it fails to point out that the discussion about barebacking (I mean, there was a discussion about whether they were going to bareback or not, wasn't there?) is most effective if it takes place before they start making plans about my-place-or-yours.

One of the best ways to avoid barebacking is ... don't land up in bed with a guy who insists on barebacking.

I cannot believe we're even talking about this twenty eight years later. Internalized homophobia has had a long run in this community.
At least it's nice that a video like this is allowed. When aids began, anyone who questioned heartless and irresponsible sexuality was smeared and shouted down from coast to coast.
It would be even nicer to see peer group pressure brought to bear on comments like 'barebacking equals intimacy.' Maybe that'll happen in another twenty eight years.

Of course we're talking about this 28 years later. We'll be talking about this until there's a cure or vaccine for HIV. People will always want to have sex, hopefully. You can scoff all you want at the idea that sex=intimacy, and peer pressure works to some extent, temporarily, but I don't think you can realistically ask people to give up real skin-to-skin exchanging fluids sex for their whole lives. Stigmatizing sex works on some people some of the time. Obviously, it worked pretty well on a whole generation of gay men who quickly changed their sexual practices in the 80s. But as homosexuals, our sexuality is already stigmatized -- we're used to that old saw, and after a while we don't even hear it any more.

A more realistic statement would be something like, "Why, with all we've been through and all we know, can't we just fuck for real, just this once?" It's not just kids who are having barrier-free sex, it's older guys, too, who have lived almost their whole sex lives with the spectre of death hanging over every sex act and have been pretty good about using condoms but are just sick of the whole damn thing.

The video reminds me of the Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign from the 80s. It leaves out the fact that people want to do drugs (or have sex) because of the way it makes them feel, regardless of the risk. I think for a prevention message to have any credibility at all, it has to acknowledge the fact that there is a genuine sacrifice involved. Who really believes condoms are sexy and fun? That's so condescending and disingenuous. Condoms are a royal hassle and we all know it. But maybe we can be persuaded to give up pleasure and intimacy for the greater good, for our community, our gay family.

The Gay Porn industry came up with the term "Barebacking" to make porn they are selling more appealing.
As gross and smelly as it may sound to some, "Anal Sex Without Condoms" is a more accurate description.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 15, 2009 11:40 PM

And Charles, it won't scare the horses.

Bruce Parker | January 16, 2009 2:33 AM

I guess my question would be, "Why do we think fear based approaches to promoting safe sex will suddenly start being effective when for DECADES they have failed?" The video was incredibly well done and very visually appealing. It seems pretty clear to me that fear based approaches to promoting safer sex only increase the amount of unsafe sex. Making something taboo makes it hotter. We need to be talking about general self esteem improvement, holistic approaches to lgbtq health, negotiated risk, and other less dire realities of life that all affect decisions to have sex with latex or without. AIDS is terrifying, but you can only be terrified for so many years before you have to develop a more complicated analysis/relationship with the realities of sex in our times.

What I like about this ad is that the people are having fun and the music is upbeat - too much of sex ed relies on scare tactics that aren't effective anyway.

I would suggest, if you were going to change this ad, ending with one partner pulling out a condom and both of them smiling, or something along those lines that shows condoms as fun and sexy.

There are some great sex-positive ads from Germany about condom use at They are mostly in German, of course, but there is one called "Indignant Condoms" that is translated into English and there are several that are mostly visual anyway.

Thanks for the comment. It's smart strategy and just what we need.

Frank Gurucharri | January 16, 2009 8:17 AM

More and More of us have been living with this plague for so long that battle fatigue is becoming more a powerful risk in decisions to protect our sexual health.
And as if that wasn't enough, we need to begin bracing ourselves for a new wave of challenges with some of the information that is coming out of the CDC PrEP research to determine IF anti-virals (ARVs) have any pre-exposure effects on protecting us. Some in the community are jumping the gun and developing dangerously false beliefs that ARVs work and popping them before sex "so that they don't have to use condoms". This could be the most serious prevention challenge we face....after all that we have been trough and all that we are still going through. Preserving our sexual health is central to fully expressing our love, our intimacy, and the sharing of who we are with another. Think of what sero-discordant couples struggle with every day in their intimacy and love for each other! Having to use condoms is a price we already pay. BUT HIV/AIDS is way too big a price none of us can afford to pay. The risks are not worth it. Popping ARVs for protection is one or the biggest risks we can take.

In reference to the first comments from golikewater, I feel that the "bottom" man is surrendering. That's cool. However, why can't protected sex be considered "intimacy" and isn't part of one person being in another person with protected sex still concidered intimate? I have noticed that many men who are hiv positive are on line looking for bareback sex with other hiv positive men. Any health official will tell you that is still very risky since there are so many differnce stages and types of hiv. Gentlemen, this is the 21st century, wake up and accept some responsibility. I am a bottom and always have comdoms with me. No tickie, no laundry. I

Any health official will tell you that is still very risky since there are so many differnce stages and types of hiv.
Serosorting is also associated with the increasing rate of syphilis among gay men in the US, Australia and Western Europe.

Another great video from Eric. If you didn't get a chance to see Eric's other HIV video that caused a stir, be sure to check it out.

Great! Where is this video airing? I always wonder about that....

I heard on the radio this morning that 8-10 spots for ads are still available during the Super Bowl. And they are being discounted, too.

"After all we have been through...why are we still barebacking?"

Um, we? What do you mean "we," white man (as the old punchline goes)?

This ad is icky in it's assumption that "we" have been through all of something, and that "we" are barebacking. It is individuals who bareback, not "the community," and FYI large segments of the so-called "community" have no strong cultural connection to the plague experience. I for one am 34 and don't know anyone who's ever died of AIDS. To someone a decade younger than me (like the models in the ad) how can AIDS be more to them than an after school special?

So, I think this use of "we" is narrow and non-inclusive, and probably misdirects the ad away from an audience that could use a reminder to prepare for safe sex.

But I also don't like the way it assumes to speak for the gay experience. The implication here, whether you mean it or not, is that we've all been through the AIDS plague, lost our friends and lovers or whatever, but we still can't keep ourselves from having risky, disease-spreading, fetishized "bareback" sex, or succumbing to the pressure to have it in order to see any hot action at all. Is this what your life is like? Not mine! Gross! And no wonder my mom cried when I came out, if this is what she thought I was signing up for.

Maybe you're just not the intended audience for the message, thatbob. There are lots of urban gay men whose lives ARE like that. They live in a world where everything is highly sexualized, everyone around them is having a lot of sex, and there is a lot of pressure to have unprotected sex. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of this particular video, but there is definitely a great need to engage this group of men in a conversation about their sexual behavior.

Golikewater: I get what you're saying, but unless things change, we will be a community where most if not all of us are on a constant regimen of drugs, we all have sunken in faces and fat loss in our asses. I wish all those negative, soon to be positive barebackers would realize how wonderful butt f*%#@ing with condoms truly is. I don't want gay = AIDS to be our future.