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'Pass the Cream, Hold the Butter': Meanings of HIV Positive Semen for Bugchasers and Giftgivers

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It has been argued by some that sexual health campaigns' ignorance of the richness of meanings associated with semen for gay men has actually led to an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS(Rofes 1996). This paper reviews some of these meanings and their employment among a group of gay men who actively want to be infected with HIV as well as wanting to infect others ('bugchasers' and 'giftgivers'). Based on the analysis of exchanges posted on a website used by bugchasers and giftgivers, this research asks if the attitude towards semen of men who apparently actively seek and spread HIV infection, an extreme act, would be equally extreme. It attempts to show that despite the extreme negativity and apparent sexual transgression engaged in by these men, their conceptions of what semen is and does is quite normative - semen causes pregnancy. These findings illustrate both that semen has the same richness of meaning for gay men as for the heterosexual population. Therefore, semen's meanings cannot be ignored when attempting to educate men about sexual practices. Bugchasing and giftgiving as behaviours and discourse that employ HIV infected semen containing the men's DNA are a way of overcoming the sense of isolation that results from 'cold, sterile', protected sex, despite their initial appearance as abject, transgressive and destructive.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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