Category Archives: technology

Bareback.com?

So perhaps these websites for men interested in bareback sex have been around for a while, but I have been unaware of them.  Recently, a friend informed me of one such site, barebackrt.com, however several more exist.   At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think.   Upon digesting this concept some more, I came to an initial conclusion that perhaps these sites could serve as an online forum for serosorting i.e. a place where HIV+ men could find other HIV+ to have bareback sex with, and where HIV- men could presumably find other HIV- men for bareback anal sex.

Indeed, this is what bareback.com, the “original bareback only site” envisions:

“Now at BareBack.com you know that we are not AIDS Nazis, condom wrappers or fearful fools! What we are is a community of gay men who like the feel of raw nasty sex and want the whole world to be able to spray our holes!

That’s why we embrace a policy of containment. What does that mean – It’s simple. If poz boys stick to poz boys and neg boys stick to neg boys AIDS will be over. It’s just that simple.”

Or is it?  So although the same site site intro states that “The only drugs you should use should come from your doctor! Nothing makes you more likely to fuck up, get sick or be an asshole than poppers, meth or other party drugs.” So, I can say that I have heard negative men, who know they are negative, fucked up by drugs, tell me that they have used this site to search for men, and HIV status was irrelevant – the bottom line was the negative men just wanted bareback sex and such sites were the easiest place to find it.   Then of course there are the men who don’t really know if they are negative since they haven’t been tested (the site encourages people to know their status), but just like to assume that they are negative even though they have had unprotected sex with everyone under the sun, because it is easier for them to personally accept.  Such “negative” men will go onto to have sex with men who truly are negative who utilize the site.  Also, positive men may not always sero sort, and may have sex with negative men who agree to take the risk of having bareback sex with a positive man, simply because they like bareback sex.

While I am not judging anyone’s sexual preferences (I can not with a clear conscience say that plastic up one’s ass is sensual or comfortable), I guess the thing that irks me about such sites as a physician and public health practitioner, is that there are no sites (at least that I know of) promoting dirty needle use  for IV drugs or unsafe blood transfusions.  While I acknowledge men who want to have bareback sex will, and will find any avenue to do so, why must we create an avenue to directly promote this behavior? Why can we not have a “safe only” site? Upon googling I have found nothing.  While mainstream sites such as Grindr and Manhunt allow users to state their safe/bareback preference, are there sites dedicated exclusively to safe sex?

As bareback.com notes, users need to be made aware that not only can HIV be contracted by bareback sex, but other STDs such as gonorrhea and herpes can also be shared between bareback partners.   I just still can’t see the value of such sites from a HIV eradication/prevention standpoint.  Perhaps someone can comment to offer me some insight?  I know the mainstream porn movement has sought to not glamorize bareback pornography, and this is a battle that is still being fought as one can find bareback porn as easily as they can a hookup on Grindr.  In my ideal corner of the earth, I would hope that everyone using such sites was already aware of their HIV status, understood the risks that bareback sex poses, and made an educated choice which would put both them and their partner at the least risk possible.

Has anal sex gone out of vogue? What does this mean for HIV prevention?

Note: Since posting this article I was able to look at the full text of the study, which does ask participants questions about condom use at last encounter.  Roughly about 33% of respondents state that they used a condom at some point during their last sexual encounter, with almost half of those that have had intercourse stating a condom was used.  However, the article does not go onto the provide more specific analysis on condom use, since it is difficult to extrapolate generalities regarding condom use, based on information about singular encounters

So the Advocate recently reported the findings of a large-scale survey on sexual behaviors.  Apparently, only 37.2% of over 24,000 gay and bisexually identified men indicated that their last sexual encounter consisted of anal sex.   The most practiced activities were kissing (almost 75%) and mutual masturbation (73%).

The survey, entitled  ‘The Gay and Bisexual Men’s National Sex Survey’ was sponsored by Manhunt,  its sexual health affiliate Manhunt Cares (see my past post here about them) and  its research partners,  present the findings in a cutesy interactive graphical form which can be accessed from clicking on the picture on the left (i.e. I found out that 80.8 % of surveyed men have eaten cum at some point in their lives!) The abstract of the study, which appears in the Journal of Sexual Medicine can be found here.

Now before we give up our lube and condoms and other devices we find makes our anal sex experience more comfortable, there a few things to keep in mind.  For some reason, the majority of respondents in this latest conducted by researchers from Indiana University and George Mason University were Caucasian males.  Perhaps results would be changed if there was some diversity in the subject pool.  Also, one should note that the respondents were “self identified” gay or bisexual.  Perhaps if behaviors of non-identified men who have sex with men, (i.e. heterosexual identifying men) were recorded the results would also show a higher indication of anal sex.  However, I like the point that one of the commentators made:   Anal sex does require a lot of effort (much like vaginal penile sex as well) and perhaps people don’t want to go through such effort simply to get off.

First, usually the receptive bottom has to be sure that they have maintained proper ass hygiene – for some folks this means just a thorough cleaning in the shower, however for others this means anal douching (see my past insightful entry on this issue).  Then, both inserter and receptive partner both need to be properly lubricated.  Any condom needs to be applied, towels need to be made readily available to absorb the lube and any other pre and post-fucking products,  and finally one may fuck.  For some individuals this ceremonial ritual just may not be worth it.  I am not one of these people, but I can see the non appeal.  Additionally this survey stated that 40% of men surveyed said that their sexual encounter was with someone who they were in some way committed to.  For many couples anal sex is a special sex act, that does not have to be performed during every sexual encounter.  In my opinion, I seem to see anal sex as the final act in the play of random hooking up (especially bar sex) but I personally tend to think couples in a relationship have generally been with each other so long they have other ways of turning each other on and understand that anal sex is not a necessity.

I don’t think this study can necessarily tell us too much about HIV prevention strategies, or where they should be aimed.  As some may know, receptive anal intercourse without a condom is the most risky sexual activity one can perform in terms of HIV acquisition.  And although we know that only 40% of these Caucasian gay identified men admit to having anal sex, we don’t know anything about condom use (I couldn’t find anything about condom use at last anal sex in any of these graphics).  So, it can be assumed that a portion of those having anal sex (or oral sex) are having unprotected sex.  Additionally, we can assume that many of these surveyed men did either not know their own or their partners HIV status (which is likely given that 60% of the sex acts were recorded to be with people whom the respondent was not intimately partnered with.) So this our crusade most likely should continue.  Even if anal sex is supposedly  not the most common sex act, it is the most risky, and deserved to still receive, in my opinion, the bulk of prevention attention directed toward MSM.  However, additionally since oral sex almost seems to be universally practiced, individuals should also understand the risks of such behavior, especially with an individual one does not know, including herpes and other sexually transmitted infections.

So in my opinion, while interesting, and while it sheds light on the sexually behavior of a self selected group of gay and bisexual individuals, this survey does little to give us insight into HIV prevention. But I guess that was not its intention.  However, I would expect that a survey carried out by Manhunt and partners would include information on condom use. (see note above: it does).

Sex and HIV in the age of GRINDR

So I must admit I am an Android boy in a committed relationship for the past six years, so I have not had the experience of using the iphone application GRINDR to seek out sex partners.  However, from what I understand, if I wanted to, I could find someone with 300 feet of me to suck my dick and fuck me, and know his exact location, all in the span of about 4 seconds.  According to their website, GRINDR “uses GPS technology in your iPhone or BlackBerry and Wi-Fi in your iPod touch or iPad to determine your exact location and instantly connect you with guys in your area.”

This instant sex is not anything new, as we have had sites like Manhunt, Adam4Adam and gay.com (wow I have not visited those sites until now for several years since my single days; visiting them now provokes an eerie spookiness for multiple reasons).  However, this GRINDR business takes a whole unnecessary chat equation out of play.  I don’t have to ask you your location, as I already know it from the phone.  I don’t have to ask you to send a picture, as I already see your picture.  And much like online chat, when I talk to you on GRINDR, much like when I talk to you on gay.com, I will not ask you about your HIV status. Perhaps I will lie about my status on my GRINDR page, saying I am negative when I am not.   While it’s difficult to say if GRINDR has created additional risk for HIV transmission, perhaps, just perhaps, it brought instant sex to a newer generation who had not stumbled upon or used sites like Manhunt. And with sex with strangers, there is always the risk of HIV transmission, unless 100 percent of the people meeting on GRINDR engage in safe sex with their GRINDR mates 100 % of the time.  And perhaps, just perhaps, if I am looking for multiple sex partners, while doing a drug such as crystal meth, I will find more partners more quickly, with the use of a mobile device as opposed to sitting at my computer.

Then of course, there’s my passion, the global tilt.  According to Wikipedia, GRINDR has been reported activity in countries as far reaching as Iran, Iraq, Israel and Kazakhstan.  In such countries, there is indeed potential for GRINDR to contribute to the HIV epidemic.   In countries where homosexuality is taboo, many times homosexual activity is conducted underground in secret without protection. Individuals who have access to cellular networks, but not the Internet and computers will be able to find immediate sex partners and engage in sex.  

What ever happened to going to the bar to find a nice man and getting to know him before getting in his pants? Ah, technology.