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Bareback is a slang term to describe acts of sexual penetration without the use of a condom. The term comes from the equestrian term bareback, which refers to the practice of riding a horse without a saddle. Barebacking usually refers to a conscious and deliberate choice to forgo condoms; accidental misuse or non-use is not usually called "barebacking."
Initially used for contraceptive purposes, condoms also came to be used to limit or prevent sexually transmitted diseases, even after other contraceptive methods were developed. As AIDS emerged and the sexual transmission of HIV became known in the 1980s, the use of condoms to prevent infection became much more widespread, especially among homosexual men. At the beginning of the AIDS crisis, in the context of the invention and development of safe sex, the uptake of condoms among Western gay men was so widespread and effective that condom use became established as a norm for gay sex. From 1995 several high profile HIV positive men[who?] declared their refusal to wear condoms with other HIV positive men in gay publications, dubbing the practice "barebacking". While these early articulations of barebacking expressed a concern for HIV prevention, in that they generally referred to dispensing with condoms in the context of sex between people of the same HIV status, the moral panic which ensued was so pronounced that barebacking came to be framed as a rebellious and transgressive erotic practice for HIV positive and HIV negative people alike, irrespective of the risks of HIV transmission.
A resurgence of barebacking in first-world gay communities during the 1990s has been a frequent topic for gay columnists and editorialists in The Advocate, Genre magazine, and Out magazine. An article in the online resource The Body lists no fewer than 22 reasons as to why barebacking has become increasingly acceptable in the gay community. The following list includes some of the points made by The Body, but goes beyond it in drawing on some more recent research:
Bareback gay pornography was standard in "pre-condom" films from the 1970s and early 1980s. As awareness of the risk of AIDS developed, pornography producers came under pressure to use condoms, both for the health of the performers and to serve as role models for their viewers. By the early 1990s new pornographic videos usually featured the use of condoms for anal sex. However, beginning in the 1990s, an increasing number of studios have been devoted to the production of new films featuring men engaging in unprotected sex. For example, San Francisco-based studio Treasure Island Media, whose work focuses in this area, has produced bareback films since 1999. Other companies that do so include SEVP and Eurocreme. Mainstream gay pornographic studios such as Kristen Bjorn Productions have featured the occasional bareback scene such as in "El Rancho" between performers who are real-life partners. Other studios such as Falcon Entertainment have also reissued older pre-condom films. Also, mainstream studios that consistently use condoms for anal sex scenes may sometimes choose editing techniques that make the presence of condoms somewhat ambiguous and less visually evident, and thus may encourage viewers to fantasize that barebacking is taking place, even though the performers are following safer-sex protocols. (In contrast, some mainstream directors are conscientious about using close-up shots of condom packets being opened, etc., to help clearly establish for the viewer that the sex is not bareback.)
Some bareback pornography studios say that they do not inquire whether their models are HIV positive, but assume that they are infected. For example, Hot Desert Knights (HDK) was one of the studios that initially operated on the assumption that all of their bareback models were HIV positive. However, in February 2008 HDK announced that it would begin testing its models for HIV and engage in a process of "sero-sorting", which match HIV-positive performers with other HIV-positive performers, and negative with negative. Critics suggest that sero-sorting may not prevent the development of a multi-strain "supervirus." By contrast, Bel Ami is one of the studios that claimed from the beginning to test their bareback models for HIV before allowing them to participate in condom-free scenes. A notice on the Bel Ami website states: "all our performers are regularly tested for the presence of HIV or other communicable diseases."
Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation was formed to promote and facilitate STD testing and safety precautions among pornographic film actors.
Fluid bonding refers to unprotected sex in long-term relationships. The relationships can be either monogamous or polyamorous. This is usually undertaken once medical advice and STI tests have been taken. By anecdotal accounts many couples who intend to become fluid bonded generally only do so when intending to undertake a serious exclusive relationship or even marriage; the method of choice being to undertake a pair of tests separated in time by one year, with either complete abstinence or continuing to use condoms in the intervening time; a practice known as "double-gating". Properly used, "double-gating" will reduce the probability of either person in the couple having HIV to less than 1 in 10,000 if all tests turn up HIV-free. The one drawback to the approach is that this will not detect any cheating that may have been done a month or closer prior to the second set of tests, the maximum amount of time required for HIV to become detectable in the bloodstream, so this approach is not recommended for people who routinely have frequent partners. In polyamorous or open arrangements, there is usually an agreement to practice protected sex outside of those within the fluid bonded relationship(s).
In the sex trade, the willingness to bareback is a selling point for sex workers to their clients, despite the increased risks. The term "girlfriend experience" (GFE) was coined to denote an encounter between a sex worker and a client that could be considered "a real relationship for the moment with a sincere woman who apparently enjoys the experience, not just mechanical sex."
It should not, however, be implied that the GFE automatically includes barebacking; to do so may result in denial of commercial sex services. "
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