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February 22, 2008

Barebacking and XTube: A Window Into Our Sex Lives
FILED UNDER: "Gay Men's Health & Culture"
TAGS: barebackHIV PreventionXtube
By Trevor

So how amazing is XTube? For the unfamiliar, XTube is pretty much a variation of YouTube, but for porn. It's just incredible to see all these guys from across the world fucking. We've had porn for ages, but it's not a stretch to claim that porn is hardly a representation of what really happens when we turn of the lights and climb into bed (or, perhaps, into an elevator or rest-stop). The glistening muscle bodies; the hairless crevices; the strained grunting and groaning. It's performance art.

Now, XTube has a bit of that, of course. Anytime you turn on the cameras, you're bound to get even amateur folks in their bedroom doing a bit of acting. But this happens even without a camera around, so I take much of what I see on XTube to be a reflection of what's actually going on in queer men's bedrooms.

So, now that I've praised XTube's democratic potential, I think it's also very interesting to look at the kinds of porn that are making it to the coveted "Top Favorites" block. Basically, members can after watching a video push a button to indicate to save it as one of their favorites. The videos with the most number of folks adding it as their favorite get added to the "Top Favorites" page. Makes sense.

It may come as no surprise to most of us that the *vast* majority of these videos are guys fucking without condoms. More precisely, of the 20 vidoes from the top 25 that feature anal sex, only one explicitly shows condom use. Two are ambigious, and the rest (18) are explicitly bareback.

So this tells us something about barebacking, I think. Many of the folks I know who say they enjoy bareback sex put sensation at the forefront. Condoms reduce sensitivity, and also make it difficult for some guys to keep an erection. But the fact that some many guys are pushing these bareback videos to the top tells us that fantasy is a *big* component of what the drive for unprotected sex is all about. After all, why does seeing a condom in a video seem to be such a huge turn-off for many guys? It's about ruining that fantasy.

Now, curiously, there are a few dominant scripts that seem to be playing out in these barebacking videos. One is the "boyfriend" script (see photo below). These include videos, like the one from the top 25 titled "Enjoying my Boy Friends Horse Cock," basically alluding to the fact that the two men in the video are romantically involved. Another script is the one of the "buddy" or "friend" -- with videos titled "My New Pal" or "Bike Dude fucks his buddy's hair ass in garage." Again, the titles suggest a level of familiarity and intimacy, although somewhat reduced from the boyfriend narrative. And finally, we have the casual encounter hookup scripts, which vary in explicit language about the nature of the encounter. Some rely on a kind of controlling / S&M-light kind of rhetoric ("Big Dicked Punk Twink Fucks Young Skater BareBack"), while others rely on scripts about anoynmous sex ("me getting fucked in public toilet").

The point of this all is to say that, although XTube is allegedly just video clips of the sex gay men are having, users are relying on and constructing porn-like narratives to background the video. This is obviously about fantasy. So I think we should be paying attention to the kinds of stories that guys on XTube are enjoying, since I think that tells us a fair amount about what's generally "hot" right now in the minds of gay men.

And right now, the hotness is barebacking. There is no question about it. I think the fact that bareback porn is so prevalent and popular dispels the idea that barebacking is popular primarily because of sensation. It's about fantasy construction. We can use this as a potential prevention tool. Making hot amateur porn for XTube that features safer sex practices may very well be a tactic that prevention organizations will want to consider.

So my prevention message today to all you hot sexy guys out there with a exhibitionist streak: Make some porn!

xoxo

Trevor

PERMALINK | Posted at 1:08 PM | Post a Comment (4)

4 Comments

Hey Trevor, it's Cole! I was just wondering if you've seen either of the Trannywood films. Besides normalizing transmen in the gay scene, another goal of ours was to eroticize safety and consent.

Cole | March 1, 2008 11:39 AM

Hey Cole! Thanks for the note. I haven't seen either of the films, but since several of my good friends in San Francisco are transguys (and I used to recruit for CAPS outside of Eros, where I believe one of those videos was filmed), I've certainly heard of them. And I think I met one of the stars from Chicago...

Trevor Hoppe | March 2, 2008 2:36 PM

I just sent this note to the XTube people before reading your note.
----------
Can I just make a comment?

I love XTube - please don't get me wrong. I also respect all sorts of sexual variety - and lord knows we see it here on XTube, and I enjoy a seeing a lot of it!

But ... I am getting really offended by all the barebacking I come across here on XTube.

I just had ANOTHER friend tell me he is HIV+ because he was barebacking with his BF who was barebacking with someone else.

It just isn't funny anymore!

As much as I agree that people make their own decisions, HIV really is a sad and nasty condition.

I feel terrible at what my friends, and others, are going through - from the discomfort and sickness, to doubting themselves, to feeling shunned by society and feeling sexually uncomfortable around potential partners, to the long-term doubt about where life will go, to all the huge expenses involved when our public coverage doesn't cover medication anymore (do you know HOW expensive it is)?

To me, it is horrible that HIV happens, and therefore activities that lead to getting HIV (or giving HIV) are disturbing to come across and really are not "entertainment". It certainly isn't educational when outcomes are not shown (actually, it is dis-educational since only the
fun side is shown).

Yes, I can choose not to watch these episodes (if barebacking is obvious in advance) - and yes, this is the typical answer in defence of free speech.

At the same time, showing barebacking in a casual and fun way - and so much of it - leads to a general acceptance that it is standard behaviour, and is acceptable and okay.

I understand that not every barebacking encounter leads to HIV. Still, watching real-life Russian Roulette is pretty creepy.

And think of the less-educated-about-sex around the world, and younger people, exploring their sexual feelings through XTube. It worsens our world condition (in many different ways) the more people that get HIV.

...

Respectfully.

NotFunAnyMore | August 19, 2008 3:16 PM

And congratulations to "Cole" and Trannywood for their work to "eroticize safety and consent".

NotFunAnyMore | August 19, 2008 3:35 PM


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