Research on ‘bugchasing’ or intentional seroconversion generally focuses on the psychosocial motivations for why gay and other homosexually active men engage in such practises, but fails to attend to the question of ethics. Conversely, studies on barebacking rarely consider how sexual ethics are shaped and entangled with other knowledge practises. This paper explores how issues of responsibility and consent (as sexual ethics) are conceptualised and practised in an online forum on barebacking. In particular, I focus on ‘stealthing’: broadly defined as barebacking practise involving the deliberate non-disclosure of HIV-status to intentionally infect or become infected with HIV. Using online ethnography, I explore the relational ties between biomedical practises (e.g. testing regimes, knowledge of viral load, etc), legal apparatuses and normative ethics that frame ethical debates on stealthing, bugchasing and barebacking. I argue that men in the forum construct responsibility as polysemic: some men uphold self-protection; some believe HIV-positive men must take responsibility to protect their partners; while others emphasise shared responsibility by appealing to ideas of community. However, they almost universally draw on notions of consent and choice shaping barebacking and bugchasing as consensual, while regarding stealthing as morally unacceptable. This study aims to attend to the complex and multiple processes that shape decision making in regard to unsafe sexual practises.
- HIV KL01,