Back in February I blogged about the Bareback Brotherhood and inadvertently pissed some people off. Surprisingly, it was some of the barebackers who seemed to assume that an academic must be taking pot shots rather than pro-safe sex groups who were offended. Since then the #bbbh hashtag seems to have exploded on the web/Twitter. Anyone who thinks that bareback sex is the refuge of the ugly, desperate and the few should simply look online. It is an all-encompassing diverse range of people, seemingly of all ages and a heavy transatlantic bias in the membership from what I’ve seen. I’ve been surprised at the young people – under 18 – who identify with that hashtag. I don’t know why I was surprised – perhaps I shouldn’t have been – but I was.

They are forming an online community, of people who use the label ‘barebacker’ as an identifiable characteristic. In using the hashtag and declaring oneself a barebacker it apparently sets you apart from merely engaging in barebacks ex. It re-defines the act as an empowered decision, a choice and with it certain characteristics. Two appear to dominate. One is sluttyness. Something I’ve written about before and find a fascinating counter-weight to the prevailing happy families homonormativity that currently dominates. I’m planning to further develop these ideas in a series of papers to be presented in Australia and the US int he coming months – so look out for details.
With this public declaration inevitably comes a public response. It is perhaps inevitable that people will post comments saying “you’re mad”, “sick” etc. Yet, when does this visceral response become bullying or harassment? It’s a tricky call but clearly some of these barebackers think that point has been reached. A tiny fraction of those defining themselves as part of the ‘Bareback Brotherhood’ published a statement on the iBlastinside blog (NSFW) earlier today stating the following:
‘We, the undersigned bareback bloggers, unify in this statement today.

We believe in the First Amendment and for all people to express themselves. We have chosen to express ourselves through these blogs.

The actions we take are our own and we believe, as consenting adults, we can enjoy the sexual relations in the manner which we choose.

If you find what we write about as offensive, wrong or immoral, we ask you not to read our blogs. If you follow us on Twitter and you consider what we write as offensive, wrong or immoral, we ask you to block each of us. None of our communications is required reading and we do not force it upon anyone.

Since each of us launched our blogs, we all have received vitriolic lies, terroristic bullying, and even death threats.

Our voices will not be silenced. We shall no longer tolerate further cyber harassment. We will not give these threats or statements a voice in our forums.

We thank our supporters. We thank our readers. We thank those who just ignore us and let us live our lives.’
It’s an interesting further step in the formation of this identity, acting as a collective defence and also further defining an ‘island’ of barebacking identity, a them and us, and yet also reminiscent of actions by the gay and lesbian community or the trans community (to a lesser extent) in creating a ‘safe’ space, often in the form of online spaces, but traditionally in the form of ‘Queer Space’, such as Canal Street in MAnchester, the Castro in San Francisco or Boystown in Chicago. This is a safe virtual space but it reflects all of those known ‘safe’ real world spaces that might operate behind a ‘safer sex’ code (eg certain sex clubs).
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