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Bareback sex is physical sexual activity, especially sexual penetration, without the use of a condom. The term is a slang word that originated in the gay community and comes from the equestrian term bareback, which refers to the practice of riding a horse without a saddle. It therefore has the connotation of being wild, dangerous, and fun. Barebacking usually refers to a conscious and deliberate choice to forgo condoms.
Initially used for contraceptive purposes, condoms also came to be used to limit or prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), even after other contraceptive methods were developed. As AIDS emerged and the sexual transmission of HIV became known in the 1980s, the use of condoms to prevent infection became much more widespread, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM) who engage in anal sex. At the beginning of the AIDS crisis, in the context of the invention and development of safe sex, the uptake of condoms among Western MSM was so widespread and effective that condom use became established as a norm for sex between men. From 1995, several high-profile HIV positive men[who?] declared their refusal to wear condoms with other HIV positive men in gay publications, dubbing the practice barebacking. While these early articulations of barebacking expressed a concern for HIV prevention, in that they generally referred to dispensing with condoms in the context of sex between people of the same HIV status, the moral panic which ensued was so pronounced that barebacking came to be framed as a rebellious and transgressive erotic practice for HIV positive and HIV negative people alike, irrespective of the risks of HIV transmission.
A resurgence of barebacking in first-world gay communities during the 1990s has been a frequent topic for gay columnists and editorialists in The Advocate, Genre magazine, and Out magazine. Many of these articles express concern over bareback sex's popularity, and liken it to irresponsible and reckless behavior, despite the fact that a third of gay men take part in the practice. An article in the online resource The Body lists no fewer than 22 reasons as to why barebacking has become increasingly acceptable in the gay community. Some of the reasons listed are: the recent perception of HIV as a treatable illness one can live with, insufficient sex education, use of drugs such as crystal meth in sexual settings, and fetishization of bareback sex on various porn and dating sites.
Academic works suggest that barebacking is a way to reach for transcendence, to overcome the boredom of everyday average life in a hyper-rationalized society. Some men are dispensing with condoms in the context of seroconcordant sex (sex between two men of the same HIV status). Early articulations of barebacking generally refer to sex between two HIV-positive men. This poses no risk of infecting an HIV-negative person newly with HIV (though it can cause infection with a new strain of HIV, hastening disease progression). On this account, barebacking could be considered an early harm reduction strategy, similar to serosorting, which was later endorsed by some public health authorities in the USA.
Bareback sex has also become more acceptable since the introduction of pre exposure prophylaxis (PreP). One of the most popular forms of PreP is Truvada, a medication previously taken for HIV treatment that has been shown to prevent HIV-negative users from contracting HIV from infected partners when taken properly. While these drugs do not necessarily prevent the transmission of other STIs, they have stirred a discussion on what "safe" sex without the use of condoms really entails.
A 2005 study by Perry N. Halkitis concluded that the resurgence of barebacking led to an increase in sexually transmitted infections among the MSM community. The study found that of the 448 men who were familiar with barebacking, nearly half reported they had bareback sex in the last three months. In the San Francisco study, fewer men reported engaging in barebacking when the behavior was defined as intentional unprotected anal intercourse with a non-primary partner. Using this definition, 14% of the 390 men who were aware of barebacking reported engaging in the behavior in the past two years. Halkitis and Richard Wolitski also found that HIV-positive MSM were more likely to have bareback sex than were HIV-negative MSM.
An extreme form of barebacking is bugchasing, in which seronegative gay men actively seek to be infected with the HIV virus. These men may seek to contract HIV in order to not have to constantly live in fear of becoming infected.
Bareback gay pornography was standard in "pre-condom" films from the 1970s and early 1980s. As awareness of the risk of AIDS developed, pornography producers came under pressure to use condoms, both for the health of the performers and to serve as role models for their viewers. By the early 1990s new pornographic videos usually featured the use of condoms for anal sex. However, beginning in the 1990s, an increasing number of studios have been devoted to the production of new films featuring men engaging in unprotected sex. For example, San Francisco-based studio Treasure Island Media, whose work focuses in this area, has produced bareback films since 1999. Other companies that do so include Spunk Video, Lucas Entertainment, SEVP, and Eurocreme. Mainstream gay pornographic studios such as Kristen Bjorn Productions have featured the occasional bareback scene such as in "El Rancho" between performers who are real-life partners. Other studios such as Falcon Entertainment and Spunk Video have also reissued older pre-condom films. Also, mainstream studios that consistently use condoms for anal sex scenes may sometimes choose editing techniques that make the presence of condoms somewhat ambiguous and less visually evident, and thus may encourage viewers to fantasize that barebacking is taking place, even though the performers are following safer-sex protocols. (In contrast, some mainstream directors use close-up shots of condom packets being opened, etc., to help clearly establish for the viewer that the sex is not bareback.)
Some bareback pornography studios say that they do not inquire whether their models are HIV positive, but assume that they are infected. For example, Hot Desert Knights (HDK) was one of the studios that initially operated on the assumption that all of their bareback models were HIV positive. However, in February 2008 HDK announced that it would begin testing its models for HIV and engage in a process of "sero-sorting", which match HIV-positive performers with other HIV-positive performers, and negative with negative. Critics suggest that sero-sorting may not prevent the development of a multi-strain "supervirus." By contrast, Bel Ami is one of the studios that claimed from the beginning to test their bareback models for HIV before allowing them to participate in condom-free scenes. A notice on the Bel Ami website states: "all our performers are regularly tested for the presence of HIV or other communicable diseases."
Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation was formed to promote and facilitate STD testing and safety precautions among pornographic film actors.
The term bareback is used less frequently in the heterosexual community. A survey by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that heterosexual women are more likely to bareback when engaging in anal sex than homosexual and bisexual men. Heterosexual bareback sex, as opposed to sex with condoms, not only poses an increased risk of STIs, but of pregnancy as well.
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Fluid bonding is a ritual and protocol, which aims at protecting people from sexually transmitted diseases. It does so absent barrier protection. Its motivation is that unprotected sex is per se safe, provided one knows one's sexual partner is free of infectious disease. Sex without a barrier is also generally held to be more satisfying, especially by heterosexual males in penetrative intercourse; this is a major motivation for barrierless means of STD control. Fluid bonding is an attempt at mitigating the risk of disease transmission via societal, epidemiological means, instead of individual level physical barriers, such as condoms.
The term itself comes from the idea of heterosexual coitus being an exchange or touching of bodily fluids. Since those fluids can carry infectious agents, it then makes sense to limit one's sphere of fluid contact to those who are known disease-free. I.e. 'bond' to one or just a few, who are known safe.
In fluid bonding one follows a number of rules in order to gain trust in one's partner's disease free status. In order to limit unexpected future transmission of venereal disease, one contracts for a long term, small, closed and exclusive pool of sexual partners. Typically one does so with one's heterosexual spouse, although the idea is more general. For instance, in polyamorous or open arrangements, there is usually an agreement in place to practice protected sex outside the fluid bonded covenant.
Once the pool is established, everybody in it contracts with each other for a formal test to ascertain freeness from known sexually transmitted diseases. Sometimes the tests are repeated at multiple month long intervals, in order to make sure that common tests for disease have had their prerequisite time to function right. Sometimes it is also stipulated in the contract that test results can be disclosed to others within the pact, automatically and without further choice. It is mostly understood that between the tests and as part of the process, barrier prophylaxis ought to be used by all participants; especially when two separate STI panels are taken, the practice is called "double-gating".
To be frank, most fluid bonds are committed to without quite such a level of rigor. But properly used, double-gating and like slavish adherence to the protocol will reduce the probability of a person within the pact contracting e.g. HIV to less than 1 in 10,000.
The one drawback to the approach is that it will not detect cheating. Those who go for the pact however counter that you could not detect infidelity anyhow, nor you can really be sure if more effectual prophylaxis is in use during singular acts of intercourse.
Bareback - to engage in sex without a condom.
Whatever happened to that condom moment? 'Bareback', or unprotected, sex is still practiced by up to a third of gay men - because, despite the dangers, it feels liberated, sensuous and like one in the eye for 'sex police'
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Barebacking, the deliberate practice of unprotected anal intercourse, is a new reality for many gay men.
The Gift documents the phenomenon of deliberate HIV infection. The film follows the stories of two ”bug chasers” who sought out ”the gift” of HIV infection. Also interviewed are AIDS activist and author, Walt Odets, PhD, and HIV+ and HIV- men. The film explores the normalization and glamorization of HIV/AIDS and discusses the isolation and division caused by HIV status in the gay community.