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 academia.edu 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

Provocative Objects

Things are moving fast in the world of HIV prevention and sexual practice, with the introduction of new techniques such as Treatment as Prevention and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (billed as ‘a pill a day to prevent HIV infection’) being purposed for prevention purposes.  While the latter is not yet available in Australia, it has been the subject of a whole lot of controversy as well as some very provocative and creative cultural production in North America, including the My Life on PREP series by blogger Jake Sobo, who gives a fascinating account of how his perceptions, experiences, practices and theorisations of risk change as he starts using the drug for HIV prevention.  He really accounts for himself as a sexual subject “in process” and the result is both fascinating and informative.

promiscuous

If that wasn’t creative enough, check out this recent  Youtube clip, “The Key” adapted from one of Jake Sobo’s blogs, that positions PREP as an intervention into the forms of shame, sexual judgement and aversion to stigmatic identification that circulate in gay male domains like the online world and which could be seen to hamper effective HIV prevention.  Most of us know the territory, but as far as confronting these things, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an intervention this bold.  There’s much to admire about this clip – the funky  beats, the uncompromising confrontation of online dynamics and interaction, and the sharp analysis of how investment in normative ideals of intimacy can precipitate forms of self-deception around risk and sexual practice.

What I am less sure about is the invocation of PREP as THE key  – as though an exclusive – way of solving this problem of sexual stigma, shaming and aversion. I have huge admiration for this intervention, and I  have also been very interested in the provocative powers of PREP,  but I’m  keen to hear people’s responses to this clip.  How well does it handle your concerns about PREP?  What does and doesn’t it deal with?  What else might one need to know to consider engaging with this preventive strategy?  What issues or concerns does PREP raise for you?

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Devices and technology, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, HIV behavioural surveillance, Medicine and science, Self-medication, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination

When sex delivery systems don’t deliver

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 …

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Online meeting sites, PNP culture, Sexual practice