There is a coming cultural crisis. Bareback sex, as I’ve previously commented (see for example here and here), is apparently on the increase and bareback porn companies are key players in changing the socio-cultural narrative around bareback sex, normalising and celebrating the raw or authentic act of condomless anal penetration. With that shift come new legal pressures and conflicts.

Dr David Bull – the Conservative (capital and small ‘c’) doctor has written the usual safe sex garbage in the new issue of GT (Gay Times). He trots out the usual lines about have fun but stay safe which sounds like your Dad giving you a lecture – and is about as effective. It could have been written any time in the last twenty years and we know that those messages have been of questionable effectiveness.
Earlier this month, the brilliant and occasionally batty, Larry Kramer rode once more into the AIDS/bareback debate. His work is incredibly powerful stuff. His speeches are a must read but he seems an increasingly loud and angry old man who people have given up listening to. Sure, they stand there, politely clap, mutter the right platitudes and then go and do the complete opposite – negotiating a complex fuck strategy that is often beyond the binary safe/unsafe categorisation. Kramer’s plea’s and warnings – such as “one day the HIV drugs won’t work” is absurd. One day they might, but so too might lots of drugs such as anti-biotics (which do show increased cases of resistance) and then let’s be honest, we’re all screwed.
Set against this backdrop of well-meaning men shouting and getting no-where, enter Treasure Island Media (link NSFW). Celebrating bareback sex, defining it as an authentic ‘raw’ experience, bareback sex defined as sexual truth. The ongoing project, Ryan Sullivan’s Island – a blog with a film that’s been touring film festivals and due for release later this year – sets out to document the company ‘behind the scenes’, and the latest video (ep 57: HIV Boy) is apparently (the authenticity cannot be assumed) a video of TIM founder, and movie maker, Paul Morris interviewing a cute guy who is HIV positive. It’s an interesting intervention from one guy living with HIV, and the comments by guys who have viewed the video are equally fascinating. I was struck that of the commercial venues that could be mentioned, Folsom Gulch was the one that they went with, how the sexual acts there took place, and how oral and anal sex are regarded by the interviewee (there’s a rather sweet moment when he describes oral sex as being a nice way to say hello). This is guy HIV positive, fucking with condoms sometimes, sometimes not, conscious of his status and yet negotiating an existence in which keeping his job and getting good grades are his concerns. This is the type of guy Bull and Kramer are talking to, but the intended audience would rather listen to Morris and carry on fucking bareback.
And why not? The answer in some jurisdictions is “the law”. Law that seeks to criminalise HIV transmission inevitably impacts upon bareback sex and serves to create extra force to the warnings from Bull, Kramer and Co. It also serves to undo much of the progress in encouraging people to be tested, and divides HIV campaigners. The House of Lords review into HIV transmission later this year may kick-start a wider debate in the UK about the criminal transmission of HIV. For what it’s worth, I’m against such a move.
Yet, the activities of many gay men continue to scare the hell out of others in our ‘community’. The Naked Sword blog (NSFW) posted a link yesterday to a post on ‘How to manage a Bareback Gangbang’ that had been posted on the popular bareback site of Raw Top (NSFW and which I think I’ve linked to before). Naked Sword blog editor Zach offered the following commentary:

‘On the one hand, AIDS is not the death sentence that it once was. On the other, have fun taking pills (and enduring the side effects) for the rest of your life. On the one hand, why should taxpayers be burdened with health care costs due to irresponsible behavior? On the other, taxpayers already pay the health care costs for the obese, smokers, and drug users. And on the one hand, these are adults engaging in consensual, adult behavior of their own volition. On the other? Jesus fucking Christ’.

The commentary is typical of the view of many – it is quite simply “what the fuck?”, “this doesn’t compute.” That’s precisely the point.
That’s why we’re heading for a cultural crisis. A queer community is becoming increasingly disconnected, and the ‘elite’ in news, media, and much of academia are in the Bull/Kramer “WTF” camp, whilst an increasing number of men are in what I’d call the ‘Fuck Off’ camp. At some point, the nicey nice will end and a cultural war will be upon us. Don’t kid yourself that the law won’t be a character in that war.