Pleasure and HIV Biomedical Discourse: The Structuring of Sexual and Drug-Related Risks for Gay and Bisexual Men Who Party-N-Play – International Journal of Drug Policy – article

Pleasure and HIV Biomedical Discourse: The Structuring of Sexual and Drug-Related Risks for Gay and Bisexual Men Who Party-N-Play

Rusty Souleymanov, David J. Brennan, Carmen Logie, Dan Allman, Shelley L. Craig, Perry N. Halkitis | International Journal of Drug Policy

2019-10-22

Party-n-Play (PNP) is a social practice that refers to sex that occurs under the influence of drugs. This study critically examined the risk and pleasure discourses of gay and bisexual men who PNP to explore how epistemic shifts associated with advancements in HIV biomedical sciences influence gay and bisexual men’s perceptions of HIV risks and their sexual and drug-related practices. This study also aims to provide a more nuanced understanding of how sexual and drug-related risk practices of gay and bisexual men are entangled with their search for pleasure.The study was framed within poststructural Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) methodology. In-depth one-hour interviews were conducted with 44 self-identified gay, bisexual, queer, or Two-Spirit men, who lived in Toronto, and who reported using drugs before or during sex with another man.The findings from this study demonstrated the capacity of biomedical discourses to affect respondents’ HIV risk perceptions and practices. The transition from condom-centered prevention to today’s context where new highly effective biomedical tools for HIV prevention are available created possibilities for greater intimacy, increased pleasure, and less anxiety about HIV tranmission, while challenging many years of preventive socialization among gay and bisexual men. However, this new context also rekindled deep-seated fears about HIV risk and viral load verifiability, reinforced unequal forms of biomedical self-governance and citizenship, and reproduced practices of biopolitics. While discourses on risk and pleasure were interwoven within complex PNP assemblages, the notion of pleasure was mobilized as a discursive tactic of self-control, and the division between normative and non-normative pleasures highlighted the consequence of biopolitical forces governing the production of discourses on sex and drugs.Future HIV social science research needs to attend to the fluid nature of the discursive environments of HIV prevention science, and consider how both the material context of PNP and its social/discursive elements operate together.

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