Confessions of a barebacker

Published: February 12, 2013

As an avid GrindR, BBRT, and Scruff user, I’ve been noticing that traditional, institutional media, including more contemporary outlets like the Huffington Post, have been expressing dismay at the “growing specter” of barebacking in the gay male community.

This morning, a friend of mine posted the, statistically dubious, GrindR poll story along with his comment, “There is very little benefit from using such scare tactics if you want to dialogue about the negative potential of certain practices (e.g. barebacking) among HIV+ individuals…not to mention the piling on of shame and stigma that inevitably results.” Upon reading his status update, I commented a few times with my own insight and a confession.

I engage in bareback sex.

As an HIV+ gay man in 2013, I take all the information that decades of scientific advancement in relation to STD and HIV prevention have taught me, I assess the statistical significance of being HIV+ and adhering to antiretroviral therapy and transmitting HIV (there is none), and I write and speak about my HIV status publicly. On some of my online profiles used to find sexual partners, I specifically state a preference for other HIV+ guys, and on Adam4Adam, I checked the box that said “Anything Goes” rather than “Safer Sex Only.”

On paper, it would seem that I am in a small minority of gay men who engage in bareback sex. After years of exposure, both literal and figurative, to gay sex in Philadelphia, I can faithfully say that, in practice, I am in a sizable minority, if not the majority, of gay men in that I don’t use condoms when I have sex. The only thing notable about me, however, is the fact that I’m not claiming something else out of shame or worry about what other people might think. Rather, I’m being open about my behavior and the fact that I assess risk and try to reduce it, not eliminate it, in my life.

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