Category Archives: Erogenous zones

Unharm Queer Contingent Resources

safer_dancing_guidelines

Click here to access the safer dancing guidelines developed by rave researcher Newcombe, way back when….

rover bum

Click here access our analysis of the G care principles we extracted from our research with the ACON Rovers

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My critique of Chemsex discourse: chemsex, a case for gay analysis – where i attempt to reframe the chemsex problem so that it recognises the agency of drug user  (image courtesy of local artist Leon Fernandes ❤ )

 

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Filed under Devices and technology, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Medicine and science, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Police, Policy and programs, Self-medication, Sexual practice, Sexual Sociability

@quitgrindr : constituting wholesome, respectable gays, bit by bit, every day…

Well, I’m devastated to discover that @quitgrindr on Instagram has blocked me!
Was it something I said?? 😱 or, heaven forbid, *did*??
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Luckily I managed to screen cap a few of my personal favourites from among its many, nasty little gems:
Do visit @quitgrindr on Instagram some time if you want a good belly laugh. I can guarantee hours of hilarity 😝
And remember:
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#homonormativemuch ??

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Filed under Devices and technology, Erogenous zones, Masculinities, Online meeting sites, Police, Sexual practice, Uncategorized

UnDEAD!

undeadIn the abysmal UK documentary Chemsex (2015), there’s a horrible moment where one gay man describes his peers who use drugs for sex as “the walking dead.” Let’s think about this derogatory imagery for a moment. What should we make of this abject figure, the queer zombie?

The walking dead are beings whose claim on life is so tenuous and wrong and desperate they’re regarded as a monstrous affront and threat to the living order. In fact, this characterisation of drug users is a well-trodden stereotype appearing in multiple sites, from judicial discourse to popular culture.  Effectively, it demonises people who use drugs by suggesting their lives are unnatural and not worth living.  It’s a callous and demoralising insinuation that is destructive of lives and hopes for the future.

Last weekend, Unharm‘s Queer Contingent decided to bite this bullet hard, and threw an outrageous party to celebrate sexy demons, queer community, the growing movement around drug use, and killer dress-ups. Held on the weekend of the Day of the Dead, UnDEAD brazenly embraced the figure of the zombie, inhabiting it playfully and irreverently, to throw this configuration of abuse back in the faces of those who project it so vomitously. A perverse and confronting strategy, perhaps – not everyone’s cup of tea – but the sort of manoeuvre that has long been critical for queer thinking and queer survival.

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This wasn’t “just a party”, it was serious fun. UnDEAD aimed to pay homage to the role queer parties have played in promoting vital practices for wellbeing: lively communities; cultures of care; and the invention of forms of safety that respect the transformative powers of pleasure.

The gay club scene in Sydney helped build the communities that responded so effectively to HIV and which have continued to devise inventive ways of looking after each other. Queer parties have sparked initiatives encouraging the safer use of substances like MDMA and GHB and led to the development of new ways of taking care of people in party environments.

These spaces and the communities they helped forge have come under pressure lately from lockout laws and a longer history of harassment through drug detection operations. The onslaught is intensifying at a time when more and more people are beginning to realise ‘we can’t arrest our way out of’ drug-related problems, and that communities (rather than law enforcement) are the most effective way forward.

Queer communities have been breaking new ground in this domain, but bad laws and aggressive enforcement are blocking progress, and have the added effect of chipping away at the bonding possibilities that have been so significant within queer party culture and been the basis for care strategies.

UnDEAD was the brainchild of Fiona McGregor; who put the party on with the help of comrades from the Unharm Queer Contingent, their mates and supporters. Legendary Sydney queer DJs Ben Drayton, Steve Sonius, DJ Gemma and HipHopHoe electrified the dance floor with killer beats and sounds. Partygoers were also treated to deadly performances from iconic queer performers  Glitta Supernova, Willow Darling and Matthew Stegh, who brought the house down.

But most of all, UnDEAD was one of those thrilling events that demonstrates how inventive, playful, daring and caring our community can be. We were blown away by the creativity, guts and sheer nerve of all the queer souls who came out in the middle of the night to claim the dance floor and support the growing movement. Renowned photographer William Yang captured some of the magnificent creatures who graced our party – check out his pictures of the event here (further snaps from SXNews here). To summon the ghost of Oscar Wilde, let’s just say that reports of the death of Sydney queer culture are greatly exaggerated.

Unharm is a grassroots organisation that campaigns to make drug use as safe, positiveand ethical as possible. That includes changing laws, like the criminalisation of drug use, that make it harder for people to live well.

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The Unharm Queer Contingent formed in early 2016 and has gone from strength to strength this year, hosting a stall at Mardi Gras Fair Day; participating blocs in public rallies such as Reclaim the Streets and Keep Sydney Open; and convening community events such as Party safer and save our parties, Queer Chemistry, and a public screening of the documentary Rampant: How a City Stopped a Plague that brought key figures in the debate over Sydney nightlife together to discuss how to apply this local history to present controversies.

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The Unharm Queer Contingent wants to turn queer culture’s flair for wicked dance moves into something even more wicked – a dance/community generated movement. It’s happening right now, and it’s thrilling. Rise up, queer creatures of the night, and stake your claims! Let’s make a world where people aren’t criminalised for using drugs. Let’s get drug detection dogs out of our celebratory spaces, and pill testing happening at music festivals. Let’s work out better ways of looking after each other, whether friends or strangers, and put them into action.

If you want get involved, you can find out more by joining our online community discussion forum, or simply come along to our next event, to be determined.

Meanwhile, read this recently published review of some of the research literature on queer culture, drug use and sexual health to familiarise yourself with some of the facts, figures, issues and challenges that inform our work.

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Filed under Drug dogs, Erogenous zones, Medicine and science, Parties, PNP culture, Police, Policy and programs, Uncategorized

Thinking with Pleasure

I’m off to Norway to give some workshops and a couple of talks about my research at the University of Oslo.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to meet researchers and students from the schools of public health and medical anthropology there.  I’ve organised the workshops around my work on pleasure, digital sex, HIV prevention and harm reduction – and I’ve attached the outline here: thinking-with-pleasure-norway-workshops.  It will be a great opportunity to workshop these pieces so I can pull them all together, as they’ll form the basis of the monograph I’m due to deliver by the end of the year: The Gay Science: Intimate Experiments with the Problem of HIV

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Devices and technology, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, HIV behavioural surveillance, Masculinities, Medicine and science, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Policy and programs, Self-medication, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination, Uncategorized

Sensationalising the Night-Time Economy

So, I’ve been thinking about the mass media’s investment in sensationalism as a way of growing its markets; the way this dynamic structures the narratives that get told about drugs, sex, nightlife, crime, etc; and the sense in which sensationalism is also productive – it mediates, amplifies and circulates affects and desires around the law and its transgression.

In this sense, sensationalism could be said to amass publics that ramify the erotic thrill of transgression, even as it intensifies popular investments in the policing of public order (cf. classic moral panic theory).  This process is not merely a matter of representation, but cultural and economic at once, deeply entangled and emanating from the prerogatives of capitalised media.

If we turn to the night-time economy, that object of sensationalised reporting, intense moral panic, and popular entertainment in recent times,  you could argue  that its survival and mass appeal materially depends, in part, on a process that paradoxically also produces it as a problematic object of governance, singling it out as the proper target of authoritarian intervention: an object that requires forceful policing in the name of public order.

Stanley Cohen famously argued that moral panics creates folk devils. I take this to be a material process of production, and not merely a question of discursive representation, in the sense that the world is now populated with folk devils. They are among us, the common folk.  And they come out at night.

The expected response to these figures from the right is to scapegoat them, and from the left, to deny their reality.

But instead of exiling these figures, disavowing their desires, declaiming the processes that produce them and our own implication in them, the only constructive response to this situation – a response that Isabelle Stengers would call diplomatic, in the sense that it does not deny but rather seeks to acknowledge the materiality of media as a generative element in the ecology of desires – is to affirm what is common in the making of folk devils, to account for their presence, and to actively engage these figures in the construction of problems in a way that multiplies and transforms general capacities to engage in public life.

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Filed under Affect, Erogenous zones, Police, Policy and programs, Sexual practice, Theory

The Sexuality of the Night: Violence and Transformation

Draft Contribution to Forthcoming Issue of Current Issues in Criminal Justice on the Sydney Lockout Laws

Abstract

The figure of the resident is privileged in discussions about nightlife governance. But the ‘right to the city’ extends to those who use the city, and popular opposition to the lockout concerns questions of access to public space on the part of those marginalized from these policy equations. Opponents of the Sydney lockout object to qualitative transformations in the cultural atmosphere of the city. This article argues that nightlife is of greater value than governmental measures about the prevention of violence capture. Of particular significance are the constitutive omissions of the category of ‘alcohol-related violence’. A better analysis would investigate the attraction of ‘liminal experience’ that prompts violence on the part of certain participants. It appears that certain gendered identities have not been well equipped to handle difference. At a time of reduced support for sex and gender diversity education, the state must get better at modelling capacities to live with difference.

Keywords: Night-time economies; alcohol-related violence; homophobic violence; licensing laws; urban governance; anti-social behaviour; urban safety; drug policing.

Introduction

On 21 February 2016 an estimated 15,000 people rallied peacefully in Sydney’s CBD under the banner, ‘Keep Sydney Open’. They were protesting Sydney’s lockout laws and their effect on the city’s nightlife and cultural atmosphere (McMah 2016). On 19 March, thousands danced and marched from the city to Star Casino in a bid to ‘Reclaim the Streets’, protesting the apparent hypocrisy of licensing laws that permit the Casino to remain exempt from restrictions that have shut down nightlife in other parts of the city (Roberts 2016). On 27 April, another protest – ‘Keep Newtown Weird and Safe’ – was held in response to a perceived increase in homophobic and transphobic abuse and violence in Sydney’s inner west. Organisers linked this mobilisation to the displacement effects of the lockout laws, which they claimed were dispersing hetero-masculine crowds, attitudes and violence from Kings Cross to the otherwise queer-friendly inner west (Ford 2016).

Taken together, these actions suggest that a significant number of Sydney-siders have sensed a qualitative transformation in the cultural atmosphere of the city since the introduction of the lockout laws. This perceived transformation is linked to the city’s orientation towards cultural and sexual diversity: hence the popular resonance of slogans such as ‘Keep Sydney Open’.

Nightlife, Difference and the Right to the City

The controversy surrounding the lockout laws is about more than the right to drink alcohol in the city at night, or the impact of licensing laws on jobs in the hospitality industry – though the latter is certainly significant (Cooke 2016). It is about the ‘right to the city’ claimed by youth and minoritized groups (Lefebvre 1968, Berlant & Warner 1998; Harvey 2008). Those opposing the lockout are crucially concerned with the cultural transformations associated with the state government’s clampdown on nightlife; the increasingly bullish policing of youth and social minorities in NSW; and the unprecedented increase in police powers that effectively reduce these groups’ access to public space.

Nightlife can be approached as a pedagogical space in which people learn to appreciate and take pleasure in difference (Young 1990, Jacobs 1961).  The value of this space is not captured by governmental measures concerning the prevention of violence. Indeed, cultural opposition to the lockout laws can be taken as an urgent plea on the part of those who use nightlife space for state authorities to diversify their outcome measures.

Nightlife has been an important zone of community-formation for those who have been excluded from family and the cultural mainstream, such as sexual and other minorities (Chauncey 1994, Race 2011). The gradual closure of long-standing queer venues in the inner city represents one casualty of the current approach to nightlife governance: the lockout has effectively eradicated a key space of socialization for these communities, who are often targets – but rarely perpetrators – of nighttime violence

Measures of Violence

The situation is exacerbated by the reductive nature of statistical measures used to diagnose nighttime violence. A key measure has been ‘alcohol-related violence’, but it is unclear whether this category adequately captures the qualitative nature or causes of the violence it enumerates. A significant body of qualitative work in the Drug and Alcohol field questions whether particular effects, such as violence, can be causally attributed to substance use per se (Rhodes 2002; Fraser & Moore 2011; Duff 2012; Fraser, Moore & Keane 2014; Race 2014). This literature demonstrates that the effects of alcohol and drug consumption are contingent on a range of other variables, such as context, cultures of use, affective conditions, and the socio-material arrangements in which consumption takes place, among other factors.

One of the most influential texts for regulatory approaches to night-time economies has been the work of Dick Hobbs and colleagues, which links nighttime violence to the proliferation of markets in alcohol associated with post-industrial urban entrepreneurialism (2000, 2003).   With its focus on the economic conditions within which night-time economies are promoted by urban planners, this research privileges market restrictions (licensing laws, business mix and density, policing) as key components of governmental measures to address nighttime disorder and violence. Hobbs et al. can be commended for their ethnographic attention to the socio-material arrangement of alcohol markets, its implication in violence, and the problems this can create for government. But certain elements of their analysis have been neglected in policy responses that are highly pertinent to current controversies in Sydney.

Liminal Experience

Hobbs et al. (2000, 2003) identify ‘liminality’ as a key appeal of night-time leisure precincts. This anthropological term refers to threshold experiences that involve some suspension of everyday social and sexual norms, and some experience of alterity. Liminal experiences are characterised by time-out from ordinary activities, a sense of play, and a desire for encounters with the novel and the strange. For this reason, they are sometimes characterized by a dynamic of attraction and repulsion; in certain circumstances they may prompt violence in certain subjects’ bid to reassert sovereign identity (Phelan 2001). Gail Mason and Levin Lo have used this category to understand the appeal of cultural events such as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to heterosexual spectators (2009). For certain participants, the liminality of nightlife may be experienced as a threat to sovereign identity that is at once pleasurable and destabilising. Violence emerges as a way of re-establishing the sovereignty of the perpetrator in the moment he commits it: a way of re-asserting domination.

Qualitatively, little is known about the acts of rage and desire that perpetrators of night-time violence experience. Certainly, night-time economies are likely associated with many forms of differently motivated violence. Alcohol is no-doubt an element in the forms of liminal experience that attract huge crowds to party in the nightlife precincts of inner Sydney. But if some of this violence can be attributed to the dynamics of liminal experience, as I have speculated, then its persistence suggests that certain sorts of identity have not been well equipped to handle difference.

Crude measures such as ‘alcohol-related violence’ are unlikely to gauge the qualitative dimensions of these processes adequately.   Nor do they capture the transformation in the affective climates of precincts such as Darlinghurst and Newtown that those who have rallied against the lockout laws complain of. It bears noting that a reduction in foot-traffic – or indeed, incidents of reported violence – in traditional centres of queer social life does not necessarily equate to safety for those most vulnerable to night time violence and abuse on the basis of sex, gender or racial difference (Jacobs 1969).

It is telling that the regulatory measures adopted by the NSW government and NSW police to address public disorder and ‘anti-social behaviour’ tend to take social difference the target, rather than beneficiary, of regulatory intervention. Authoritarian strategies such as the use of drug detection dogs position sexual and racial minorities as suspects rather than citizens deserving of state protection. Police stubbornly defend these strategies despite a wealth of evidence that their detections are inaccurate and disproportionately subject social minorities to invasive intervention (Lancaster, Hughes & Ritter 2016; Race 2014; NSW Ombudsman 2016). But as events such as the illegal policing of Mardi Gras 2013 indicate, police are often complicit in the intimidation, violence and abuse that has come to characterise Sydney’s night-time spaces (Mardi Gras, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Inner City Legal Centre, & ACON, 2013).

Conclusion

The lockout laws can be viewed as the latest episode in the increasing investment in regulatory responses to urban problems on the part of the NSW state. But there is a wealth of cultural creativity among Sydney’s youth and subcultural communities that the state could be drawing on to devise more creative, inclusive, and less authoritarian responses to the problems associated with night-time precincts. Australia’s internationally recognized response to HIV/AIDS demonstrates the value of including the denizens of nightlife in policy responses to social problems that concern them (Sendziuk 2003). It is a policy success story that stands in stark contrast to the state government’s top-down, police-heavy approach to nighttime violence. Certainly, authorities could do much better at modelling practices of handling difference in our urban centres. Authorities ignore the sexuality of the night – and its volatility – at their peril. Sydney’s reputation as an open, diverse, inclusive and dynamic city is endangered in the process.

 References
Berlant L and Warner M (1998) ‘Sex in Public’, Critical Inquiry 24 (2), 547-66
 Chauncey G (1994) Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of Gay New York 1890 – 1940, Basic Books
 Cooke R (2016) ‘The Boomer Supremacy’, The Monthly (online), March 2016 https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2016/march/1456750800/richard-cooke/boomer-supremacy>
 Duff C (2012) ‘Accounting for Context: Exploring the Role of Objects and Spaces in the Consumption of Alcohol and Other Drugs’, Social & Cultural Geography13(2), 145-159
 Fraser S and Moore D (2011) The Drug Effect: Health, Crime and Society, Cambridge University Press.
Fraser S, Moore D and Keane H (2014) Habits: Remaking Addiction, Palgrave Macmillan
 Ford M (2016) ‘Keep Newtown Weird, Protesters Demand in Rally Over Safety Issues in Sydney Nightspot’ ABC News (online), 23 April 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-23/keep-newtown-weird-protesters-demand/7353136>
 Harvey D (2008) ‘The Right to the City’, New Left Review II (53), 23-40
 Hobbs D, Lister S, Hadfield P, Winlow S and Hall S (2000) ‘Receiving Shadows: Governance and Liminality in the Night-time Economy’, British Journal of Sociology 51 (4), 701–17
 Hobbs D, Hadfield P, Lister S and Winlow S (2003) Bouncers: Violence and Governance in Night-time Economies, Oxford Univeristy Press
Jacobs J (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Vintage Books
Lancaster K, Hughes C and Ritter A (2016) ‘”Drug Dogs Unleashed”: An Historical and Political Account of Drug Detection Dogs for Street-level Policing of Illicit Drugs in New South Wales, Australia’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, (online first) DOI: 10.1177/0004865816642826
 Lefebvre H (1996), ‘The Right to the City’, in Kofman E and Lebas E (eds), Writings on Cities, Wiley-Blackwell
 Mason G and Lo L (2009) Sexual Tourism and the Excitement of the Strange: Heterosexuality and the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade’, Sexualities 12(1), 97–121
 Mardi Gras, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Inner City Legal Centre, & ACON (2013) Policing at NSW Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) Events and Venues. ACON https://avp.acon.org.au/sites/default/files/Policing-at-LGBTI-Eventsand-Venues-final-version.pdf>
 McMah L (2016) ‘Thousands Protest Against Lockout Laws in Keep Sydney Open Rally’ News.Com.Au (online), 21 February 2016 http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/thousands-protest-against-lockout-laws-in-keep-sydney-open-rally/news-story/3093c5f3279899db2fd0132e9d10d5bc>
  NSW Ombudsman (2016) Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001, Office of the New South Wales Ombudsman
Phelan S (2001) Sexual Strangers: Gays, Lesbians, and Dilemmas of Citizenship, Temple University Press.
 Race K (2011) ‘Party Animals: The Significance of Drug Practices in the Materialisation of Urban Gay Identity’ in Fraser S and Moore D (eds), The Drug Effect: Health, Crime and Society, Cambridge University Press.
 Race K (2014) ‘Complex Events: Drug Effects and Emergent Causality’, Contemporary Drug Problems 41(3), 301–334.
 Rhodes T (2002) ‘The “Risk Environment”: A Framework for Understanding and Reducing Drug-related Harm’, International Journal of Drug Policy 13 (2), 85-94
 Roberts D (2016) ‘Protestors Literally Hang Shit on Star Casino After Anti-Lockout March’, Pedestrian TV (online), 19 March 2016 https://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/protesters-literally-hang-shit-on-star-casino-afte/b0071ef7-e33a-4ac7-b3b4-3a6f7f626bc8.htm>
 Sendziuk P (2003) Learning to Trust: Australian Responses to HIV/AIDS, UNSW Press.
 Young IM (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton University Press

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Drug dogs, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Parties, Police, Policy and programs, The statistical imagination

Queer Chemistry

queer chemistry

Community Discussion

Monday 4 April, 2016

7 – 9pm

Beauchamp Hotel

Oxford St

Darlinghurst, 2010

Psychoactive substances have long been part of queer subcultural spaces and practices, from the disco culture of the 1970s to ecstasy use at the huge dance parties of the 1980s and 90s to the more recent emergence of ‘chemsex’.
But new contexts of consumption and new substances (such as G and crystal meth) have given rise to new dangers as well as new pleasures.
 
In this community discussion, we explore with queer cultural producers and health professionals how to construct spaces of pleasure and safety and promote queer cultures of care that accept that drug use might be in play.

 

The discussion will be facilitated by Kane Race, author of Pleasure Consuming Medicine and an organiser for Unharm. There will be lots of opportunities for audience participation, input and discussion.

 
For more event details, please visit https://www.facebook.com/events/255888971413198and register your interest.

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Drug dogs, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Masculinities, Medicine and science, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Police, Policy and programs, Sexual practice