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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Bareback Resistance?

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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Graeme said...

'safe' online communities will not work in a post-Wikileaks, post Anonymous attacks world and I find it hilarious that barebackers (some of whom share tips on how to sabotage condoms) want to be left 'unpolluted' by their opponents.

Chris Ashford said...

I agree Graeme that it seems difficult. The logical response to retreat behind walls and become an 'underground' community which is of itself interesting.

Chris Ashford said...

sorry.. 'logical response IS to retreat...'

Chris Ashford said...

Someone just alerted me on Twitter that the post had previously appeared and this was a re-post. Whilst it's interesting that this group has felt the need to make the statement before, it's still very interesting that they've felt the need to make the statement again - and make that decision now.

Elly said...

I am still not sure why this 'community' is so positive. I do not moralise about 'bareback' sex I have participated in enough of it to make that hypocritical of me.

I understand how it's good to go against homonormativity. But surely 'sluttiness' by its very definition is not about 'community' but about a more casual relationship with sex/sexual identity. Feminists have been arguing over the 'slut' identity for years and I find it regressive.

And why is sabotaging condoms good? Isn't the 'bravery' and 'honesty' about not doing things like that? I thought only Catholics sabotaged condoms!

Mark (iBLASTinside) said...

Chris:

When you tweeted to me about this not coming up, I should have noted that this, indeed, was a statement a group of 20+ bareback bloggers released on Jan. 8, 2010.

I regret I have an automated tool that retweets some of my 350+ entries. This one should have never gone out a second time.

I am correcting this error.

Mark Bentson
http://iblastinside.com
Co-Founder, Bareback Brotherhood

P.S. Perhaps you will find it more interesting that my site and that of the Bareback Brotherhood has been the victim of a prolonged cyber-attack. My research now confirms this attack has been going on for months. Interestingly enough, the attack appears to have originated from Europe.

Chris Ashford said...

Thanks Mark - I commented earlier that someone had alerted me it had previously been posted but this clear that up.

What do you mean by 'cyber attack'?

 
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