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?
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 academia.edu page too
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
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.
I’ve been thinking a lot in this project about the possibilities but also frustrations afforded by online cruising sites/ apps and how they are figuring in the ways gay men are presently organising their sexual and emotional lives. They can function as a great and effective way of hooking up with people (often not as effective as people would like!) but there is an abiding anger, sense of resentment and frustration about what they make us do, and what they don’t do, and how people behave when using this medium. All this even while many people understand the desire for casual or no-strings sex, and use these sites happily for these purposes themselves … often in the ways they complain about in relation to the conduct of prospective partners!
I managed to dig up this old interview from an event back in 2010 hosted by SIDACTION in Paris where David Halperin, Barry Adam and a much earlier version of myself were interviewed in connection with a conference on homosexuality, social science and HIV. Barry’s comments at the end of the interview have stuck with me ever since and I have been thinking about them more and more. He raises the problem of how participants try to negotiate needs for connection and intimacy so evocatively:
“We often live in gay worlds which are quite efficient sex delivery systems but men then have to focus a great many of their emotional needs into this one avenue and that itself creates new risk situations which are again often inadvertent but that we are called upon to manage one way or another”
I love this way of formulating the problem: how to negotiate satisfying intimate lives in the context of hyper-efficient sex delivery systems? It’s an ongoing and active question …