Monday, 20 February 2012

...2 Bare ..... The Bareback Poll Results Are In .....

...but first.... here is the original post.....

.......2 Know........."Wow - You're Obsessed With Barebacking"............

........... This was one line from a conversation I was having with someone about my most recent poll.....

Am I obsessed with barebacking? Yes. Because I want to understand it. I also reaffirm that here on 2 Cents Worth Down Under, I will never write for or against barebacking. It is not my place to approve or disapprove of peoples' individual choices.

Before I get into it - the simple plain truth is that sex without a condom feels good. End of story. For tops it has enhanced sensation with no need to pause the passion to put a dom on. For the bottom, it is easier to take a cock due to lack of the issue of friction that even a well lubed rubber can produce. Not to mention those with latex sensitivity/allergy. For those in relationships, it is described as the ultimate way to truly physically bond with a partner during sex.

.Now....Once upon a time in the 90's the resurgence of barebacking was a "push back" against a hardline culture of safe sex that was built on a foundation of shaming people who fucked sans condom. It was also somewhat rebellious in the fact that HIV took the "choice" out of whether to use protection or not and now imposed a measure of restriction that some people pushed back against. After the mass deaths of the 80's there was a quick and sharp response to the epidemic in Australia. Whilst the promotion of healthy and safer sex was comprehensive and very target group friendly, the response to those who admitted they barebacked was often harsh and disdainful. This was an approach, I believe, due in part to many educators and HIV health workers at the time who had suffered many losses. However, it was a tactic that ultimately failed.

In the early 2000's the psychology of barebacking shifted to a culture of the "gift givers" and "bug chasers". For me this was an alarming change of paradigm that I am still to fully understand. Whilst HIV treatments had certainly advanced by this time, they were still largely unsuccessful and the death rate was still significant.

Now in the 2010's barebacking has taken on an almost "extreme sport" culture. Just as in extreme sports where there is a significant risk of injury and death, it seems many view barebacking with a similar but morphed type of view. Given the permeation of the community with regards to HIV and STI information via the net, advertising campaigns and word of mouth/peer education, there are very few people who are truly ignorant of the risks. There is also a somewhat false view of the efficacy of treatments. Yes, treatments have advanced beyond what we initially ever hoped for back when I worked in sexual health between 91 & 95, but people are still dying. Non-compliance with treatment regimes. Uneven compliance. Genetic factors. Aggressive strains. These are all still killing people.

In 2009 (as supplied by the Mundi Index / Avert.org) there were 17,000 deaths in the USA, 1000 in Canada, 700 in Britain, and 100 in Australia. I reference these countries as they are countries with sophisticated and long term HIV health education programmes that have significant knowledge penetration into the community consciousness..... These are also countries where barebacking is now - depending on which source you speak to - the RULE not the EXCEPTION... Indeed, in my experience with sexual encounters, more often than not the bottom said I didn't 'have' to use protection if I didn't want to. I did, but was surprised at how few requested a condom. These were people from varied backgrounds, ages, professional and blue collar. Anecdotally, what does this tell us?

It says that at a fundamental, almost primal level, the safe sex message has failed. Why?, given that there are life threatening issues involved, how has this happened? What is it that has resulted in this behaviour becoming so wide-spread? Why have so many men, aware of the risks and consequences of HIV, chosen to engage in this behaviour?

The plain and simple truth is that there is no one answer... the answers - much like the virus itself - mutate and change faster than health education can keep up.

Shalom and Blessings to you all.

D
.

..........OK......... here are the results.....


  • 55 (15%) - of respondents BB'd 100% of the time
  • 63 (17%) - of respondents BB'd Most of the time - rubber-ed up if they had to
  • 13 (3%) - of respondents BB'd About half of the time
  • 38 (10%) - of respondents BB'd Yes but not often
  • 11 (3%) - of respondents BB'd once in the last year
  • 8 (2%) - of respondents BB'd - but it was an accident and the freaked out
  • 98 (27%) - of respondents Never BB'd - unless in a committed relationship
  • 71 (19%) - of respondents NEVER engaged in BBing
(PS Yes - I know the %'s only add up to 96 - but you have to take rounding into account)

So in a MACRO view ....
  • 136 respondents - 35% - have barebacking as their primary or common sexual practice
  • 44 respondents - 13% - have barebacking as an irregular practice
  • 8 respondents - 2% - have barebacking as an accidental and unintentional act
  • 169 respondents - 46% - have barebacking as a restricted and/or non-participatory practice
.........Now I have to say I was pretty surprised by this actually.... Given the anecdotal and qualitative evidence out there - I suspected the rates of safe sex to be lower than reported, especially reading my original post which was based on some 15 years of involvement in gay mens health in multiple capacities.....

...So where does this leave us? Easy - fucked up.

Now that was a pretty flippant remark - but by that I mean simply this... HIV is not going anywhere. It reinforces the belief that our safe sex message has failed and that human beings will truly be creatures of free will irregardless of whatever consequences may or may not be presented to them - even with fatality as part of the equation.....

So......... read this....... think about it.........talk about it........... comment on it.......

.... My parting comment is this - Yes I am obsessed with Barebacking.... because its cultural, social, sexual, psychological and individual impact can not be ignored... After all... it won .. and safe sex lost....

Shalom and Blessings to you all....

D
.

PS Yes this was NOT a scientific survey using any of the standard data gathering formats - but it DOES give pause for consideration...........

PPS - I'm including Sean's comment here in it's entirety and deservedly so..

You make many interesting points and I applaud you for blogging about it. It only encourages people to think.

A few points:
People don't like to talk about sex and it is sorta a taboo to do so. So when sex results in emotional problems, abuse, std's and pregnancy, many just block it out hoping it'll go away.

Sex is like a drug, it produces a high, is addictive and the more you have (especially anonymous) or become addicted the more risks, i.e. BB, you take. Plus, many encounters will involve alcohol and/or drugs.

More eduction is needed about the risks of the medications. Even when the meds work on the HIV a significant number of people will have organ damage that can and does lead to poor quality of life or death.

In the US, meds cost $1,000 - $3,000 a month with out insurance and even if you have it it is still expensive and the quarterly blood tests are very expensive as well.

Hep B and especially Hep C are out of control and not very responsive to treatment yet.

Think about all the people who still smoke, drink, do drugs (both illegal and RX) and anyone who gets into a car. All kill as many if not more people a year then AIDS.

One final point, the percentage of heterosexuals who have condomless sex is probably 2-4x higher then gay men (in developed countries) so they ignore the risks as well (although it is significantly lower).

2 comments:

Sean said...

You make many interesting points and I applaud you for blogging about it. It only encourages people to think.

A few points:
People don't like to talk about sex and it is sorta a taboo to do so. So when sex results in emotional problems, abuse, std's and pregnancy, many just block it out hoping it'll go away.

Sex is like a drug, it produces a high, is addictive and the more you have (especially anonymous) or become addicted the more risks, i.e. BB, you take. Plus, many encounters will involve alcohol and/or drugs.

More eduction is needed about the risks of the medications. Even when the meds work on the HIV a significant number of people will have organ damage that can and does lead to poor quality of life or death.

In the US, meds cost $1,000 - $3,000 a month with out insurance and even if you have it it is still expensive and the quarterly blood tests are very expensive as well.

Hep B and especially Hep C are out of control and not very responsive to treatment yet.

Think about all the people who still smoke, drink, do drugs (both illegal and RX) and anyone who gets into a car. All kill as many if not more people a year then AIDS.

One final point, the percentage of heterosexuals who have codomless sex is probably 2-4x higher then gay men (in developed countries) so they ignore the risks as well (although it is significantly lower).

Damien Oz said...

Sean - a comment that will no form part of the post....

Thank you for your input.