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J Homosex. 2004;47(1):1-16.

"Barebacking": intentional condomless anal sex in HIV-risk contexts. Reasons for and against it.

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HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, Columbia University, Unit 15, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Intentional condomless anal sex in HIV-risk contexts ("barebacking") has been heatedly debated in gay circles, the gay media, and, to a lesser degree, the mainstream media. Yet it has received little attention in the scientific literature. In order to better understand the reasons behind this behavior, we conducted a content analysis of messages posted on an Internet message board following's decision to close a company-sponsored bareback chat room. Individuals posting messages self-identified in their online profiles as being mostly White/ European gay men residing in the US, with an average age of 35 years. Out of 130 messages, 62 (48%) were pro-barebacking, 55 (42%) were against barebacking, and 13 (10%) referred to other topics. The content analysis of the messages showed that both those in favor of and against barebacking felt well-informed about HIV/AIDS and the risks of HIV transmission. Those in favor considered condomless sex more enjoyable than sex with condoms (both in actual experience and in erotic imagery), felt that condomless sex conferred a sense of freedom, minimized the risks involved in barebacking (assuming that practitioners were already HIV infected and that the risk of superinfection was small), and ultimately believed that barebacking was a personal decision and responsibility. Those against barebacking believed the behavior was dangerous, advocated for condom use and personal and social responsibility, and felt barebackers needed to be sensitized to the burdens of HIV disease. Implications of these results are discussed, pointing out the need for further scientific inquiry in this area.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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