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Then two weeks after the last sale, a whole team of police officers came to my apartment to arrest me. Shortly after Gondrez was busted, a Virginia mayor abruptly resigned and pleaded guilty to offering meth to undercover cops he met on Grindr. And across the pond earlier this year, a U. McCabe, president of the National Association of LGBT Addiction Professionals, said despite having no legal obligation, Grindr has a moral obligation to fight drug sales on its platform. However, he said the app creates a unique problem for those trying stop using drugs. Ethan said he fears the prevalence of drug promotion on Grindr and other gay dating apps has led to complacency within the LGBTQ community when it comes to illicit drug use — especially meth.
Sponsored By. Politics U. Share this —. But in this article I hope to complicate this diagnosis by paying more attention to what is actually going on in this space. Methods My analysis of online hook-up practices is based on an insider-ethnography of some of the changing spaces of HIV prevention in Sydney, Australia — a project supported by an ARC Discovery Grant awarded in that is ongoing on insider-ethnography see Measham and Moore, This study comprises participant observation; open-ended interviews with participants in gay commu- nity, service providers and cultural producers; and the analysis of multiple forms of data including quantitative, textual, policy and historical material.
Among the material presented in this article is that generated by my own participation in this sociosexual culture, including screen shots of conversations I have had with prospective sexual partners. These conversations were undertaken for personal rather than research purposes. They would have taken place irrespective of this research.
I have long been interested in how online devices give rise to new ways of negotiating HIV status — indeed, I am regularly faced with such questions in the course of my personal use of these mechanisms. Such records serve various emergent social and personal functions; a source of recollec- tion, speculation, fantasy, gossip, comparison, evidence, analysis, betrayal and ammunition. Indeed, beyond familiar concerns and anxieties around personal priv- acy, the capacities that are emerging from such practices of mobile sexual archiving are yet to be explored in any expansive or inventive detail.
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Looking to play? Play is a key term that motivates and sustains much of the sex arranged between men online. The question does a number of things. Second, it characterizes that encounter as casual, fun, and obligation- free. PNP is a subset of this more general framing of sex. Simmel conceives play as a non-instru- mental form of association in which the exchange of stimulus is the governing principle and in which personality, serious content and substantive ends are sus- pended or displaced in favour of cultivating the pleasures of association. Indeed, the need or desire of an individual for serious results or instrumental ends is deemed by Simmel to interrupt the play form.
To describe sex as play is to dislodge sex from the narrative that emphasizes the mutual development of biographical intimacy. Tellingly, such a complaint has long been levied at gay sexual culture in general!
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Online cruising is thus distinctive as a sexual medium in that it allows users to stage their online presence to their own advantage, gradually releasing information about their appearance, attributes and interests to potential partners Davis et al. This quality is made use of in various ways and appreciated by many users. For example Aaron, a transman I interviewed, explained how useful it has been for him to have a discussion about practices, desires and possibilities in the safety of relative anonymity prior to agreeing to meet up with a prospective partner.
In this respect, Downloaded from sex.
Here I would like to explore some of the ways in which these discussions are unfolding in Sydney, Australia at the present time — While such a disclosure is not inevitable or guaranteed, and the perception of safety is to some extent guesswork, in this instance my disclosure is met with a positive response and a return disclosure of similar HIV status, signal- ling continued interest. In the second example, by contrast, the corresponding parties are seeking to arrange bareback sex with partners who indicate that they are HIV negative, so my response to the question about HIV status disrupts the momentum of the conversation.
This kind of disruption and implicit rejection is a relatively common experience for HIV-positive users of these media. By referencing a practice rather than HIV status, the user is signalling a preference for a practice that is associated with HIV transmission without undertaking explicit HIV disclosure.
But these inferences are not necessarily transparent to HIV-negative users, who may be under the illusion that HIV-positive users reveal their HIV-positive status automatically. In this sense, veiled disclosure reveals much about the conditions that shape the negotiation of HIV prevention: In Figure 3 we see another instance of veiled disclosure in which the user asks me whether I am on bbrt. Veiled disclosure. The use of abbreviations, acronyms, and loaded terms comprises a heterogenous but covert vocabulary that is presumed to be decipher- able to like-minded participants but opaque to outsiders and unsympathetic parties.
Figure 4 demonstrates how gay men are appropriating viral load test results to constitute new HIV prevention identities. HIV-positive individuals have long used viral load test results in attempts to reduce the risk of unprotected sex see Race, , ; Rosengarten et al.
But the appearance of undetectability as an explicit identity mobilized to mitigate any alarm associated with HIV positivity — that is, as a prevention identity in itself — is a relatively recent development; one that connects with discourses of Treatment as Prevention and recent clinical trials that suggest the reduced infectiousness of HIV-positive individuals on treatment.
While undetectable viral load has emerged quite explicitly as a prevention iden- tity in recent years, it is nevertheless not universally accepted as such by all Sydney Downloaded from sex. Undetectable as prevention identity. Figure 5 sets out two conversations conducted in relative close proximity.
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In this approach, condoms are displaced from their once established position as primary guarantors of safety, in favour of a solicitation of HIV-negative status. Here we can see how multiple ontologies of HIV prevention are circulating in this environment. Like the divergent determinations of disease that Mol cites as an example of ontological multiplicity Mol, , these strate- gies may interfere with each other, creating certain tensions or dilemmas. Or they may sit alongside each other non-problematically, or even reference each other in certain formulations.
Taken together, Figures 2—5 thus depict negotiations of various expectations around HIV disclosure in the context of attempts to arrange safe sex. These stra- tegies include veiled disclosure, serosorting and anti-virally mediated sex, though Figure 5. Multiplicity in HIV prevention. These nego- tiations are pursued through more or less conventionalized forms, indicating the emergence of new genres of biomedical disclosure and HIV prevention.
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The ability to chat textually and relatively anonymously in real time has produced a new textual and material space in which sexual activ- ities and desires are not only stated but co-constructed in conversational format, either as a prelude to — or irrespective of — a sexual encounter. Erotic chatting serves as a means by which people select and screen for sexually compatible partners. See Simmel, Sexual speculation enables participants to experiment with ideas about what they might want, as well as learn about sexual possibilities and set parameters; constituting a space in which fantasies materialize into more concrete opportunities, desires, and intentions; or else remain in the realm of chat and fantasy.
Adam et al. Particularly interesting here is the suggestion that sexual desires, inten- tions and even identities do not precede the online encounter in any simple sense, but can be understood to emerge from it through a process of eventuation on eventuation see Latour, ; Race, b. This tells us something about the generative properties of this sexual infrastructure.
Since online media are not simply spaces of representation but also vehicles for interaction — that is, devices that serve as the material means of arranging sexual encounters — they produce new proximities between chat, pornography and the sexual encounter that may generate new amalgamations of fantasy and practice.
Here, viewing pornography may be interspersed with practices of sexual searching, in an arrangement that produces new relays between pornographic scenes and material practices of arranging sex. This is where the use of drugs often comes in though not necessarily for all participants. I am making a case for further attention to the sociomaterial devices that come together in the construction of such occasions. Rather, what is valued is the capacity to maintain focus on various sexual possibilities and activities, and the staying power or stamina required to sustain these erotic engagements. Crystal functions as a baseline drug for this purpose, usually smoked through a glass pipe, or sometimes injected, often during time-out from sexual activities.
The drug GHB a depressant that enhances sensuality is typically used to initiate or reinitiate sexual activities, such that an extended session typically goes through various temporal phases — sex, chilling, chatting, smoking, taking G, sex — which correspond with the high that GHB produces which can last up to an hour. Because methamphetamine compromizes the ability to maintain an erection, erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra or Cialis are often used in tandem see Holt, The promise of instant sexual availability may clash with the sense of non-delivery that is actually a common experience of online sexual searching, and this may compound residual feelings of despair and isolation.
What is being experimented here? Often it is masculinity see Dowsett et al. This may give rise to further sexual specula- tion: In either case, what we have here is a suspension or extenuation of enjoyment: Together these embody a will to sexual sociability that manifests as a basic tendency of this sexual assemblage. As this instance suggests, collective activities and expansive relations are a distinctive feature of this constellation of practices, and may be regarded as an immanent attribute of this sexual culture.
Conclusion In this article I have sought to describe some of the distinctive features, activities and modalities of sex arranged between men online. I have argued that these activities can best be understood as a form of play and sexual speculation in which men experiment with bodily possibilities so as to produce more expansive experiences of pleasure and masculinity.
It allows people to sort for preventive identities and desires; to co-construct fantasies; to arrange multiple forms of sexual encounter and enact fantasies derived from multiple erotic sources. That is to say, this sexual infrastructure is generating new modes of material participa- tion in gay sexual culture, new forms of community and speculative practices on material participation see Marres, While some studies have usefully char- acterized intensive sex partying in terms of its pleasures Hurley and Prestage, , they have not explored how online devices serve to facilitate these encoun- ters and provide new opportunities for the enactment of HIV prevention.
Promoting Downloaded from sex. Browsing online profiles. Another aim of this piece has been to experiment with practices of acknowledge- ment: As a form of play, online hook- up practices exist somewhere on a pendulum between playful exchange and instru- mental ends, which means that they may not resolve into the private couple form easily or readily. This gap is a primary target of my intervention. At a time when marriage and monogamy increasingly monopolize the public discourse of gay desire, the capacity to maintain a loose web of fuck- buddies is perhaps more available, more accessible, and more widely accessed than ever before.
The mechanism of the buddy list — a feature which allows participants to keep track of their favourite members — lends itself readily to the arrangement of repeat encounters. Online devices and apps thus present the possibility of arranging sexual encounters in real-time that are relatively casual and spontaneous but also recurring, such that they might involve known acquaintances, or relative strangers, or some combin- ation of these, depending on who is online, who is looking, who is nearby, and who makes themselves available. Acknowledgements The author would like to thank the community of informants who have shared their experi- ences and impressions of changes to sexual community and gay sexual culture.
Notes 1. Though largely resisted by community-based HIV agencies in Australia and the UK, such tendencies are evident at numerous discursive sites: Although crystal meth is the most common drug involved in PnP, Viagra has been used as well because of its effect on sexual stamina. Mephedrone, which goes by the street name "Meow Meow," is more common in the U. Similar to meth, it's a stimulant that can bring on feelings of euphoria, and it can be purchased cheaply. Liquid ecstasy or GHB is also used.
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Stimulants keep a user alert, which partly contributes to prolonged sexual encounters. Drugs can provide courage and the physical relaxation that's required for successful and enjoyable anal sex. But barebacking, particularly among strangers with unknown pasts and health histories, increases the risk for HIV infection.