Notes on Pleasure

With Desire the subject believes it knows what it wants in advance; this determination can render that subject oblivious to those proximate pleasures – those things that might happen in the vicinity of desire, or on the outskirts of desire, or to the side of it – that might effect some real change in the terms of one’s self constitution or effect what some would call desubjectification.

Desire fixes its objects in a situation that inevitably fails to deliver the plenitude it strives to attain in its single minded pursuit; in desire satisfaction is obstinate and insatiable; experienced in and through lack; (of course this is said to be constitutive of desire’s very structure). Desire is the dogged pursuit of an object whose properties and affordances are presumed to be known in advance, according to a list of interests specified in advance that tend to function also as exclusion criteria.

The move to cast desire as a productive force is more promising but still premised on some fixing of objects, if not the effects of this process of striving. Whether productivity is the only name for these effects is a moot point: destructivity would be just as apt as description when the striving is not altered in some way by what it has occasioned.

By contrast, the bid to notice and find enjoyment in the unpredicted event might get you somewhere in the sense of becoming other to the self that desire fixes and keeps in its regulatory suspension. For pleasure is not fully known or determined in advance, it so often relies on an encounter or event that takes you unawares, defies expectations and introduces a disturbance (small or large) into what you thought you knew about yourself and what you wanted. Whatever the identity of pleasure, it is emergent.

If desire myopically leads you along its road of single-minded determination in a desperate hunt for some manifestation of its identified form, pleasure bids that we open ourselves to what is novel, unfamiliar, curious or strange; some thing that moves us in unexpected ways, ways which couldn’t have been anticipated in advance, and that would indeed diminish in the presence of too self-assured an anticipation.  Pleasure is an openness to the unknown encounter induced by some optimism about what that encounter might afford, even if this optimism can be tinctured by fear of the dangers that any encounter might also deliver.

The best example I can give right now of these different orientations is the contrast between two stances that any dance party participant will be familiar with: The ‘circler’, on a mission to find something or someone that will make the night worthwhile; that will redeem an otherwise worthless event by embodying an achievement or personifying a goal whose attainment is thought to structure the meaning and purpose of the event. The quest becomes desperate and the crusader comes to embody that structure of desperation and disappointment, at the expense of other modes of participating in the occasion. This posture overrides any other way of inhabiting the space, engaging with others, connecting with friends or strangers, enjoying whatever occasion might emerge were they to make themselves available to the ‘whatever’ of that occasion.

Quite different to desire – which is presumed to be arrived at through deep self-knowledge or prolonged introspection or the scientific calculation of ones identity, needs, or requirements ….or by ticking the boxes that would claim to tell you definitively what you want or ought to be – pleasure is nothing but an event that happens, whose open-endedness derives from the creative but provisional work of making something of it; of co-inventive labour; of plunging into what is awkward, unknown, risky, exciting, unguaranteed and self-disruptive about any sort of contact with others

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Filed under Affect, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Sexual practice

Party Animals

Party animals:  The significance of drug practices in the materialisation of urban gay identity

Please click on link for copy of the chapter.

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Exceptional Sex

How does crystal meth participate in the continuing experience of HIV among gay men, and how have responses to HIV shaped gay men’s crystal meth use and surrounding practices?  The topic recurs with surprising regularity in gay community discourse:  We’ve had a number of excellent community forums on this issue in Australia in the last few months alone – and seen the production of some useful resources locally and internationally – yet some of the themes, findings and positions taken in these forums have persisted for a decade if not more.

Exceptional Sex was an attempt I made in 2007 to make sense of the evolving construction of “the Tina epidemic”, or whatever you’d like to call it – #WiredPlay, #Chemsex, #PNP, the “double epidemic”.  Each of these terms have tried to do the work of naming, in different geographical contexts, what nevertheless seem to be some common patterns and emerging forms in urban gay scenes internationally.

I’m sharing Exceptional Sex here because I think the analysis if offers remains topical, but the text itself is hard to access in electronic form.  (You can always buy the book  hint hint – Pleasure Consuming Medicine (Duke UP 2009), where the essay was later published).

But I’m also curious – what’s changed?  what’s stayed the same? what’s missing? where do we go from here?

What can we make of this issue?

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Filed under HIV behavioural surveillance, Masculinities, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Policy and programs, Self-medication, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination

“Looking to parTy?”

Drug dogs, hook-up apps and transformations in gay partying practices

My analysis of the changed landscape of gay partying in Sydney has just been published in Contemporary Drug Problems (click here: Complex Events to access the article). The essay looks at the impact of current policing practices (the use of drug dogs)  on the shapes gay partying is taking: its forms, pleasures, risks, contexts and sociomaterial implications – especially in the context of the increasing use of digital hook-up apps for purposes of sexual sociability.  The paper also asks questions about what different methods/styles of drug research and criminological research do, and how drug practices defy the categories and practices employed in some of the more predominant research methods and modes of intervention.  (Skip the first paragraph if you’re less interested in theory than in practice. I just happen to think that theory is practice, and a practice that requires reworking every so often)

The article is now up on my page too

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Filed under Affect, Drug dogs, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Police, Policy and programs, Sexual practice

Public Engagement with Science – symposium today, Melbourne Room 2, 11am – 12.30pm #AIDS2014

There is a long pathway between demonstrating efficacy in clinical trials of new anti-HIV technologies and proving effectiveness in “real world” settings. That pathway is paved with combinations of technological, behavioral, social, political, and economic factors that ultimately play out in the actions of individuals to take up (or resist taking up) HIV prevention and treatment methods and incorporate them into their daily lives. To a great extent, whether and how this occurs is a reflection of public engagement in HIV/AIDS science—from basic perceptions and attitudes about biomedical research; meanings people give to products, technologies, their bodies, and their relationships; participation in and knowledge of the outcomes of research; and communication about scientific processes and outcomes. 

This session will examine how public engagement in science has evolved in the realm of HIV, including issues of inclusion, exclusion, exploitation and benefit, and what constitutes sound scientific research and actionable evidence.

Co-chairs: Judith Auerbach, Veronica Noseda

Speakers: Patricia Kingori, Pedro Goicochea, Kathleen MacQueen, Kane Race

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Party ‘n’ Play

Here is my poster on PNP practices for AIDS 2014.  Fabulous design by Leading Hand design.  You can find a full copy of the draft paper, forthcoming in Sexualities, here.

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Filed under Devices and technology, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Parties, PNP culture, Self-medication, Sexual practice

The Difference Practice Makes: Evidence, articulation and affect in HIV prevention

This paper considers the difference that a conception of sex as social practice has made to the relations articulated in HIV social research in Australia.  In defining sexual practice as “fluid, embedded in specific social formations, and involving the negotiation of meaning” (Kippax & Stephenson, 2005), social researchers put their own research categories and questions at risk by constructing situations in which their objects of research were given occasions to differ.  Taking this risk produced sharp insights about the evolving dynamics of the sexual and prevention fields and produced distinctive, interesting findings.  It enabled the articulation of the practice of “negotiated safety” and later strategies of HIV risk reduction emerging from gay men’s practice, for example.  I draw on Latour’s (2004) concept of articulation to make sense of these innovations and query some of the key distinctions that organise the field of HIV research:  qualitative/quantitative; social/biomedical; subject/object; human/nonhuman; interpretations/evidence.  In the present context, I argue that keeping HIV prevention effective, engaging and interesting will require ongoing attention to the embodied articulation of HIV relations.

[This post is the abstract of a paper of mine just submitted to AIDS Education & Prevention.  Should be of interest to HIV prevention geeks and potential prevention geeks mainly ; )]

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Engagement with medicine, HIV behavioural surveillance, Policy and programs, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination